Our Path to Unique Value

Our Path to Unique Value

This post originally appeared in the Council of Public Relations Firms blog, the Firm Voice. As strategy gurus have told us for years, any business will have difficulty thriving if it struggles to identify and deliver unique value to the marketplace. The same is true for entire business categories, such as public relations. For several decades the unique value PR brought to companies was media relations or, in today’s jargon, generating earned media coverage. Even long after agencies and internal departments expanded well beyond that important function, media relations was the one thing no one else did well or wanted to do.Fast forward to today. The PR discipline is defined much more broadly and integration with other marketing communications disciplines is required. So is it important to bring unique value? It’s more important than ever and here’s why: With the land grab going on around social media, PR runs the risk of getting lost in the mix as others attempt to influence “the conversation.” More importantly, brands run the risk of damaging their equity and reputation if they turn only to the paid media side of the house to engage with consumers. So what should be public relations’ unique value right now? A very compelling answer to that question came from Marc Pritchard, Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer of Procter & Gamble, last week at the Council’s Critical Issues Forum. P&G is the largest and one of the most influential marketers in the world, with a budget of $2.9 billion generating $80 billion in sales. Pritchard said that the PR function should “stake its claim” and own real-time marketing that targets communities while paid media continues to reach the masses. He called paid mass media “event-based marketing” (think the Super Bowl) and said the real action and traction for brands is at the more granular level reaching individuals and small communities in real time. 

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Just Like Individual Human Beings, Countries Are Open Only to Multinationals That Are Listeners, not Broadcasters

Just Like Individual Human Beings, Countries Are Open Only to Multinationals That Are Listeners, not Broadcasters

At the Ketchum Global Media Network conference last week (Twitter #Ketchumgmn), a panel of four public relations experts from the BRIC countries were asked “What is the biggest mistake clients are currently making in your local markets?” To a person, Russia, India, China and Brazil answered “Multinationals need to stop thinking their global message has any meaning in the local market. People don’t care about your global thinking. They are only interested in information that is relevant to them in their local situation.” While this is certainly useful for multinational brands to be aware of, as a learning professional, I find it the same human issue between individuals – Does that other person speaking to me have any interest in my situation or what might be of value to me? Or is the other simply talking aloud about ideas that interest him/her and using me as a dumb receptor? We all are acutely aware of this difference when another is speaking to us, but we can sometimes be unaware, when we are speaking, how it is coming across to the other.

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Subscribers vs. Views – How To Best Measure and Create Engaging Online Video Content

Subscribers vs. Views – How To Best Measure and Create Engaging Online Video Content

In my last blog post, I talked about the fact consumers are watching less online video than many of us may realize. The other issue we content creators – and if we’re in PR, we should count ourselves in that camp – are facing is: how many of those views are accurate?

There was a great post on GigaOm by Liz Shannon Miller this week that asked, “What should matter more on YouTube: Subscribers or Views?” 

It started with a simple question: if views can easily be sold, manipulated, etc., is there a “better metric for determining online success?”

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Five Suggestions for Truly "New" Media

Maybe I am under the influence of one of Italy’s top tech trade shows that was recently in full swing. Or maybe it’s the barrage of iPad apps that every publisher is putting out. Or maybe I’m just becoming old and ill-tempered. But that’s why you have a blog, right? Innocuous venting.  If I see one more triumphant announcement about “new,” I swear I’ll puke. And instead of taking pot shots at recently announced “new” media (Wired, lavitanòva, New York Times or others) I thought it would be more constructive to explain why I am dissatisfied with ALL of them and why I will probably never use them much.  What makes new media “new”?Novelty in my honest opinion is not in the slickness of the interface, but in a different relationship between publisher and reader. In other words, the first and foremost change is in recognizing that your reader has a more active role than before. Without this, the “new” media is nothing but the stale old in a shiny new package.  Request #1: Give me a newspaper-like container like Pulse or Flipboard.Let’s start with that — the new package. What was wrong with the old one? Where are the studies proving that the newspaper format, known and familiar to almost half a billion users worldwide (that’s circulation, the number of actual readers is probably five or six times that) needed a change? Show me someone, even if barely literate, anywhere in the world who DOES NOT KNOW how to read a newspaper. I will concede the headache those mosaic interfaces give me is probably age-related, but the smartest “new” interfaces I have seen are essentially evolutionary vs. the newspaper rather than revolutionary.

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A Tuk Tuk Caravan for Room to Read

A Tuk Tuk Caravan for Room to Read

When in (Rome) Cambodia, one travels by tuk tuk. Tonight I participated in the welcome dinner for the first-ever Room to Read communications summit. More than a dozen of us were asked to assemble in the hotel lobby as we waited for our chariots – I mean, tuk tuks — to arrive and carry us across town. It was a site to see as we all climbed into the vehicles and one followed the other to the restaurant. What was the occasion? Representatives from seven of the nine countries in which Room to Read operates arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a week of communications training. (The countries represented include Laos, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Cambodia.) For most of us, this is our first time in Cambodia, and we all have high expectations for the summit. 

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Social Cred Scorecard

Here (below) is my response to the “Big Agency Social Cred Scorecard” that Peter Himler has started to develop over at The Flack, his thoughtful blog about digital PR. In it, Peter lists some social media stats (number of followers on Twitter, for example) for people in digital leadership positions at some of the big PR firms, Ketchum included.

On a related note, I notice that Peter doesn’t count contributions to agency blogs, such as this one, as a meaningful part of our social graphs. Perhaps he might be persuaded to include them in round two.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I would have simply posted my response in the comment box below Peter’s blog entry, but it was rejected by the Blogger platform for being too long. Instead, I will comment there with a bitly link back to this post here on the Ketchum Blog.

In any case, I encourage you to take a look at Peter’s post, read my reply, and weigh in with your perspective.

MY RESPONSE:

Hey Peter,

I get the meme, and like you, I feel the weight of the emphasis so many around us place on quantity — whether that’s the number of site visits, fans, friends, followers, tweets, or even impressions or column inches, among other data points. Quantitative measures are no doubt a part of the equation – and an important part, at that. (I’m not sure how my 879 Facebook friends factor in, but FWIW, you can feel free to add them to my scorecard.) The beauty of the digital era is that we have access to just about any data point we could possibly want. It’s a quant jock’s paradise!

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The Social Media Space: Advertising vs. PR

I posted the letter below in response to an Oct. 13, 2010, Ad Age article by Tom Martin titled “Why Ad Agencies Should Own Social Media.” If you’ve got a point of view on this topic, please join the conversation by commenting at the end of this blog post. We’d like to hear from you. Thanks!

Without a doubt, expanding bandwidth and the socialization of the Web have forced a blurring of the lines between the established marketing disciplines. That, together with the ongoing demise of traditional media outlets, has compelled ad agencies to re-focus their disruptive creativity on the Web’s free and shared spaces – social media. At the same time, PR pros are strategically complementing earned approaches to online engagement with paid, online search and display ads. Digital has caused us to reconsider all the old assumptions about who does what, and it’s got everyone lathered up in a frenzied land grab.

As an optimist, I’ll bet there’s enough work, talent and energy out there for everyone to get a slice of the ever-expanding pie. I doubt any single communications discipline will ever be able to claim outright, exclusive ownership of the social space. But for either PR or advertising to be successful in social media, it’s going to have to learn a thing or two from the other.

Advertising has the corner on creativity. But — Old Spice notwithstanding — it still has to figure out how to shift from a one-way broadcast to a two-way or multi-party conversation. It’s got to learn how to seamlessly, unobtrusively seep into an existing dialogue. And it needs to bring down the high cost and time of production if it’s going to compete.

Public relations has the relationship and relevance parts nailed. And it’s got a head start in influencer marketing from years of pitching reporters to retell their clients’ stories. But PR needs to borrow the best creative, disruptive talents from advertising if it’s going to get its clients’ messages heard above the online din. And it needs to more rapidly make the leap from words to images. In a world of hyperlinks and microblogs, text is shrinking and visual storytelling is king.

It’s doubtful that any single discipline will own social media. Good ideas can come from anywhere these days. Besides, the social Web belongs to the people, right? But agencies – PR and advertising, alike — will fail if they don’t quickly adopt a more nimble, responsive, audience-centered approach, in step with the new ways people consume content and engage online.

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Hold On a Minute There Budding Filmmakers . . .

Hold On a Minute There Budding Filmmakers . . .

I could throw amazing stats at you about how many YouTube videos are consumed every day. Or how many TV shows are watched on Hulu, via iTunes, etc. And on the PR/advertising/marketing side, I could talk about the insane numbers surrounding the Old Spice commercials, YouTube videos, etc.  But guess what? Most people have short attention spans when it comes to Web videos and aren’t watching as much as you might think they are.

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Does Health = Wealth?

Does Health = Wealth?

This was the overarching question recently put to an advisory board serving the World Economic Forum – the Swiss-based organization behind the high-octane annual conference in Davos, with an ambition of nothing less than improving the state of the world.   I’ve had the privilege of representing Ketchum on this board for a few years now, and it now includes experts from the worlds of business (e.g., Accenture, Dell, and Beckton –Dickinson), academia (Harvard School of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), and international organizations interested in global health (Gates Foundation, World Bank, and World Health Organization) among others.

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Facebook Groups and New Privacy Features

Facebook Groups and New Privacy Features

What was announced? Facebook made three announcements this past Wednesday, but one of them was more important than the others by leaps and bounds. The latest game changer is the launch of a revised version of Facebook “Groups”. Facebook Groups allows you to build a space for important groups of people in your life – and share information with only them. You can now interact amongst your various groups of friends – family, work, clients, fantasy football league – and keep the conversation focused on the topics that group usually talks about. The new Facebook Groups will also allow you to post photos, chat with members, and use the group to send targeted e-mails. By default, all groups are closed (searchable but the group administrator needs to approve all members), but you can choose to make them secret (non-searchable) as well as open (fully public / anyone can freely join).

What are the business and client opportunities?

The fringe benefit of Facebook Groups is that it strengthens Facebook as a business platform. Facebook Groups now provides companies and organizations with the ability to facilitate the sharing of information with groups of individuals both internally and externally.

Mark Zuckerberg said yesterday: “‘For brands, we have Pages.” He added, “Going forward, there is nothing stopping them [brands] from making a group,” but, “Pages are much better for you to build a massive open ended community.” However, you will see companies create private, customer only groups, and use the platform as a way to share information with this group. This tool will also surely be used by companies as a way to privately share information internally.

A handful of concepts come to mind on how Groups can be leveraged for our clients and business:

Customer Loyalty Groups – Create a private Group for your most loyal brand advocates; i.e. Customer Loyalty Groups. Empower your brand advocates to meet each other and share information and opinion about your brand in a setting controlled by the brand. By doing this, brands can create an enhanced sense of community as well as a forum for idea generation and sharing amongst customers that are most familiar with their brand.Customer Focus Groups & Feedback – Leverage Groups for obtaining feedback when a brand is launching a new product or service by creating a closed customer Facebook Group and inviting loyal customers to share their feedback. Loyal customers will be see that the brand takes their feedback and ideas very seriously.Employee Community / Intranet Enhancement – Empower employees to share information within a company by creating a private Group. Companies as a whole, departments and internal committees can all create a Group that focuses on their particular agenda. Other services like Yammer and Chatter offer these services but since Facebook has such a massive user base, the employee will likely not have to sign-up to a new service. Furthermore, this group can be utilized as an enhancement to a company’s Intranet to keep employees in the loop on company information. Your employees may not remember to visit your Intranet every day, but a well-placed, well-timed update to the Facebook Group can be sufficient to win awareness. Internal Customer Service Group – A Group dedicated to logging customer service issues could assist in making sure that any issues that arise from Facebook be posted within the group. This way, the issues can be logged for follow up and will keep managers in the loop; making sure all issues are dealt with. This concept would also provide a rich archive of past issues that can be updated regularly to track recurring issues.Live Chat – As part of the Groups launch, Facebook is also now offering chat functionality that could make for opportunities to instantly crowdsource opinion from consumers as well as brainstorm with employees from branches across the world. No matter the use, chats will create further engagement within Facebook itself.

Facebook Groups can be created by going here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/

Facebook’s other announcements from Wednesday, 10/6:

Download Your Profile’s Data – You can now quickly download to your computer everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook and all your correspondences with friends: your messages, Wall posts, photos, status updates and profile information. This feature offers the ability to back-up and have a record of the entire life you’ve shared online.

Access Hub to How Applications Access Your Personal Data – Facebook launched a new dashboard to give you visibility into how applications use your data to personalize your experience. In your Facebook privacy settings, you will have a single view of all the applications you’ve authorized, and you’ll be able to change the settings for an application to make less information available to it, or you can even remove it completely.

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