What implications will Facebook’s latest updates have on marketers?

April 26th, 2016 by Jessica Bettendorf

facebook eyeballFacebook has made some new changes to its News Feed. The changes are so subtle that, like a gentle breeze, you may not have even noticed.

In an effort to improve overall user satisfaction, Facebook asked thousands of people daily to rate their experiences and make suggestions on how the News Feed can be improved. The survey was called the “Feed Quality Program.” After collecting and analyzing the data, Facebook discovered that what people share, comment, click on or like on their News Feeds doesn’t always tell the whole story as to what they are interested in viewing.

For instance, if a family member dies or there’s been some horrific natural disaster, those stories will be meaningful and important to a user; but he or she is not going to “like” the content. This does not mean the person won’t want it on their News Feed.

In an effort to better determine what stories, posts and articles are important to users Facebook is now factoring in the amount of time a user spends reading a post.

To make the process even more streamlined, Facebook can also take into account the time between clicking on an article and reverting back to the original News Feed. For example, if that time is a matter of seconds, that would suggest that the article wasn’t what he or she expected.

In addition, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the post or video has loaded to better gauge how much time is actually spent on one post. With all this data, Facebook will give users more of what they’re actually reading and watching.

Users will no longer need to weed through the uninteresting posts to find something appealing to their own personal tastes. Everything of interest will be there from the moment a user logs on.

The update could have positive and negative implications for marketers, as well. For one, marketers can rest easy knowing that information pertaining to their products or services is only being viewed by those who actually care about it and are interested in it. In short, marketers will be able to target their specific client base.

Here’s the caveat: marketers could be losing out on potential customers. There will be some people who will never hear about your product or service, people that might have turned into customers if only they saw your post.

If you want Facebook users to see your post, we suggest creating an enticing and eye-catching headline complete with rich content. This will not only get users to click on your post, but also continue reading. It’s easy to get clicks, not so easy to get people to keep reading.

That’s why at McKenzie Worldwide we work hard to develop content for our clients that is interesting to readers and compelling enough to promote brand engagement.

Bottom line, the longer people read your Facebook posts, the more news from you they will see.

Instagram’s new change will force brands to focus on quality content

April 11th, 2016 by Jessica Bettendorf

InstagramIn the next few months, Instagram will be unveiling a slight “timeline tweak” with a new algorithm. Don’t panic! This change will actually be a good thing for brands.

Currently, the photo and video sharing platform employs a chronological timeline. This format optimizes a post based solely on its popularity, which is great for people who only look at the number of followers and not the quality.

The new algorithm, on the other hand, will take into account the relationship between a poster and a viewer and reward them for interacting with each other. Oh, the horrors! You mean that now we actually have to engage with our audience? Seriously… communicating with each other is obviously a great thing for brands. This change will encourage marketers and brands to produce high-quality content that speaks to their audience.

However, many people in the blogosphere and on social media are not too happy about the extra work this Instagram change will entail. Let’s face it, creating quality, compelling content that engages your audience is no easy feat. But, at McKenzie Worldwide we are extremely happy about this change and the end of the “filler” posts that some companies think will work on Instagram on other social media platforms.  Why are we so happy? Because at our agency we specialize in creating high-quality content that’s compelling and engaging. We also specialize in developing overall social media programs that increase the level of engagement with your customers.

Look at it this way: If you have 5,000 Twitter followers, but the majority are scams, fake or are irrelevant to your brand, does it really matter that you have that many? Isn’t it much better to have 1,000 loyal followers who are engaged and active with your brand or company? What’s needed most and seriously lacking these days for brands is loyal, interactive and engaged followers.

Like a great teacher, Instagram is not letting people strive for mediocrity. The social media company is forcing brands to get more creative, produce high-quality content and engage with their audience. Perhaps we will start seeing less “junk” on the Web. One can only hope.

Here at McKenzie Worldwide we have a team dedicated to producing high-quality, engaging and compelling content for your brand. Give us a call to see how we can help you build trust in your brand!

Twitter is now 10 years old, but where’s the innovation?

March 23rd, 2016 by Jessica Bettendorf

twitter birdTwitter celebrated its 10th birthday on Monday this week but it left many experts asking, “Where’s the innovation?” A decade ago Twitter exploded onto the social media scene. Since then seemingly everyone from millennials to journalists, entrepreneurs, celebrities and even world leaders like President Barack Obama, have been tweeting their thoughts non-stop, all within 140 characters or less.

However, in recent years, Twitter has struggled to grow. The fledgling San Francisco-based company has seen its stock plummet, a chief executive leave and its staff slashed. This year Twitter’s stock prices hit an all-time low—nearly half of its price after going public in 2013. What’s even more troubling is that even as its revenue grows, the company is still racking up losses.

So, how could a company that has more than 320 million users be doing so poorly? First, that number of users has been stagnate since the end of 2015. Second, the company can’t seem to keep up with its fast-changing, ever evolving rivals, like Facebook.

Facebook is consistently updating, changing and improving, which has kept it relevant and exciting for the past decade. I had a Facebook account when that company was still a baby, roughly nine years ago. Back then Facebook was primarily just for college students. The layout of the site was entirely different. It was bland and lacked all of those colorful emojis. Also, instead of typing in whatever status you felt like, there was a drop down menu where you would select which emotion you felt at the time. For example, if I was feeling tired I would select “feeling tired.” Those words would pop up next to my name. I could also choose from a pretty limited selection of “bored,” “sad,” “happy” and “hungry,” among others. Back then Facebook was, well, uninspiring. However, it was the best social media tool available at the time.

If Facebook had stayed that way and never changed, it might never have surpassed the one billion user mark. Facebook’s evolution throughout the years has kept the brand in the forefront of everyone’s daily lives.

If Twitter wants to get its mojo back, it needs to change; it needs to improve and find a way to stay relevant. On the other hand, it’s clear that with all the users and celebrities on Twitter, some people do love the social media tool. Twitter is a great tool for business people to share their thoughts during tradeshows. Politicians use it to tweet their campaign strategies or to announce upcoming events and celebrities use it to give their loyal followers a peak into their personal lives.

However, for a growing number of people, it appears Twitter isn’t the top choice. Flight VC partner Lou Kerner noted recently that Twitter has been showing signs that “people have tired of it.”

Although, according to Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, Twitter isn’t dead yet. “Watching all the metrics, you see they are not getting a lot worse but they don’t seem to be getting better either.”

Based on the numbers and what people have been saying, it’s obvious that Twitter needs to do something to not only grow, but to also stay in business.

What do you think Twitter needs to change to stay relevant?

What is the brand impact of a CEO Statesman?

March 22nd, 2016 by Rob Goodman

In a recent article titled “On the Stump,” the Economist positions CEOs from tech companies as the new CEO Statesman. “He is an evangelist, out to persuade theStriped_apple_logo world of the righteousness of his chosen causes.” The genesis of the article came from news about Apple CEO Tim Cook who is garnering headlines about privacy and government regulations with regard to unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone. While media-savvy executives and CEOs who seek the spotlight have been around in the tech industry for many years— think Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison—I started thinking about the impact their actions can have from a PR perspective.

“The CEO-statesman is not content with just accepting a job in the government; nor does he simply lobby behind the scenes. He is an evangelist, out to persuade the world of the righteousness of his chosen causes.”

Taking a stand on a legal or socially responsible issue, such as child labor laws, partner benefits or equal pay, is seen as a noble effort. Similarly, Mr. Cook’s issue with the government isn’t about the technology behind the iPhone. Rather, it’s about personal privacy vs. governmental need for security. He’s taking a stand on behalf of his company which, to me, is a noble gesture. Are his efforts helping or hindering sales of the iPhone? It’s hard to say. However, what he is doing definitely has an impact on Apple’s brand.

I see Mr. Cook’s efforts in a positive light. He’s doing what he believes is right, regardless of the consequences, and I applaud him for that. But, what if he was leading a charge against a hot political issue like abortion? Would I stop buying products from Apple because I disagree with his political stance?

Starbucks_Coffee_Logo.svgLook back at what Starbucks head honcho Howard Schultz did last year. At his request, baristas were asked to write “Race Together” on paper and plastic cups in an effort to get people talking openly about race relations. While the media backlash was quite negative, I thought it was an interesting move by Mr. Schultz to get people to start having an open dialogue about an important social issue.

From my perspective, the CEO Statesman can have a huge impact on a company’s brand and I applaud those CEOs who take that role seriously regardless of the impact it may have on their company. For instance, outdoor retailer REI gives employees paid days off to get outside or volunteer in the community and this makes me want to purchase their products. Part of building a brand is about what the company stands for and if I know that a CEO is willing to stick his or her neck out, as well as their company’s stock price, I am inclined to support them and their company.

What do you think about having a CEO Statesman for your company?

Do e-commerce sites have phablets to thank for building brand trust?

January 15th, 2016 by Jessica Bettendorf

phabletsAs mobile device usage grew last year, so did online shopping. According to GeekWire, 40 percent of online sales took place through mobile devices. A huge part of this growth was due to the smartphone/tablet hybrid or “phablet,” such as the iPhone 6s Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which begs the question: Without the ease and convenience of smartphones, phablets and the corresponding apps, would e-commerce sites like Wanelo and Etsy be able to increase customers and therefore build trust in their brands?

Phablets are essentially super-sized smartphones with, typically, 6 to 7-inch screens or slightly smaller tablets. With their enlarged screens, phablets enable users to check email, complete work assignments, with apps like Microsoft 365 and shop online. It’s much easier to do all these things with the phablet’s larger screens as opposed to the roughly 4 inch screens on traditional smartphones.

Take the massive, “digital mall,” Wanelo for instance. The online shopping site features 12 million products that are posted online by users from more than 300,00 stores, ranging from big brand retailers to individual sellers.

Wanelo is simple to use and slightly addicting. One may find themselves spending hours glued to their phablet, browsing the millions of different products available, from clothing, makeup and jewelry to home décor. The Wanelo shopping app has made it, dare I say, too convenient and too easy to spend money. With the wide selection and vast array of eye-catching goods, coupled with ease and convenience, Wanelo is a retailers and consumers dream. However, would the e-commerce site have been able to blossom had it not been for mobile devices and their corresponding apps? Maybe not.

Let’s take a look at the e-commerce site, Etsy for example. Etsy is an online shopping site that offers handmade and vintage items, such as art, clothing, jewelry, home goods, toys and much more, with all vintage items being a mandatory 20 plus years old. The site is essentially an online craft fair, offering sellers their own personal storefronts. Etsy has been around since 1998. But, it didn’t break the one-million-dollar mark until 2007; that’s roughly around the time that smartphones began to gain popularity – coincidence? As of December 31, 2014, Etsy had 54 million registered users and growing.

So, what do you think? Are online shopping apps like Wanelo and Etsy trustworthy because of their reputation, or do they have phablets and apps to thank for making it easier to shop?

Does PR Overhype Unicorns?

November 30th, 2015 by Rob Goodman

unicorn8Interesting article in a recent Economist about the hype surrounding high tech start-ups. The article, The Fable of the Unicorn, discusses a Silicon Valley darling called Theranos. The company has created a new type of blood test technology that could possibly turn the industry on its side. According to the Economist, that is a $75 billion a year industry so we’re talking about big money.

_76894099_theranos-logoThis article, and many like it that I’ve read over the years, highlights a big issue in the public relations industry—What responsibility does a PR manager have to give honest feedback and perspective to both the company’s executives and to the market in general? If the goal of a CEO is to build the valuation of the company, how much hyperbole is allowed? Lying can get you in to trouble, but is it a lie to merely hype the new company or product and paint a vision of where the company can eventually be?

“Yet in other ways Theranos evokes a central theme in today’s tech industry: startups which promise to disrupt lucrative businesses and become valued on the basis of fantasies about their potential, rather than present reality. Investors are so keen to get a piece of any sexy-sounding startup that they lap up entrepreneurs’ hype—and anyone who asks awkward questions risks being cut out of the funding round in favour of someone more trusting.”—The Economist

Our industry is full of examples of companies or products that were over-hyped only to crash and burn. The issue of FUD is also a part of this but that will be for another blog post down the road.

Promoting a company or product in order to gain attention and build valuation or secure investors is part of our job. To me the question becomes, who are we responsible too? I know that if I was working with a CEO or CMO who wanted us to over-promote something, or outright lie about it’s potential, I would have a problem with it. We always counsel our clients to be ethical and we expect them to behave the same.

Anyone who has had to give someone constructive criticism knows how awkward it can be. Imagine if you were working with a CEO or CMO and you knew they were bending the truth or outright lying, what would you do? Have you ever had a similar experience?

Why is it so hard to get sales and marketing to play nicely together?

November 19th, 2015 by Rob Goodman

I’ve never quite understood why it’s so hard to get the folks in the sales department to work closely with the PR team. I’ve worked with many big technology companies, including Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple, and rarely have I ever had an easy time engaging with the sales team. It’s a very strange relationship even though it’s really a symbiotic relationship—both sides can benefit from working with the other.

One theory I’ve heard is that the people in each of these departments are fundamentally different personality wise.  Chief Marketer Magazine had an interested article that focused on what each side brings to the table, using a Kirk and Spock analogy:

Spock represents the logical, data-driven (machine-like) approach to decision making, while Captain Kirk Kirk and Spockrelied mainly on his training, experience and instincts to get the crew out of a tight spot. Ultimately, the Enterprise completed its mission because Kirk and Spock often collaborated to find the right answer together—demonstrating how successful man machine collaboration could be.

The key to success is collaboration. When I’ve run into roadblocks with sales reps refusing to share customer examples, it’s usually because they don’t want to lose control of the relationship with the customer. Plus, they don’t want someone from the PR team messing up the company’s standing with the customer—both of which I completely understand.

When I work with sales reps I go out of my way to outline exactly what I would like to do with the customer, how it would benefit both the customer and our company, and include them on all communication. It sounds pretty simply but, in fact, it takes discipline to make sure you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture beyond your PR needs and the sales reps’ needs—the importance of keeping the customer happy for the long-term benefit of the organization.

UDWhile I’ve had success placing customer stories for our customers—Urban Decay and Geberit come to mind as recent examples—and with placing customers as speakers at industry events, it’s critical that the PR team takes the time to develop a relationship with the sales team so that they trust what you’re doing and believe that what you’re doing is in the best interest of the customer first and your company second.

Do you have any good success stories about working with your sales reps and customers?

How to communicate effectively when “you know too much”

November 17th, 2015 by Anne Schneider

presidential debateWatching the presidential debates, I have found the diversity of communication styles from candidate to candidate to be a fascinating study in spokesperson strategies and how they represent a brand. What traits make a spokesperson successful and what may not work in front of the camera or a journalist’s pen?

When you set aside the issues, what’s left are the basic elements of communication, or the strategies a spokesperson employs to convey their point of view and influence their audience while representing the company brand (or party image, in the case of presidential race).

Although public relations has evolved dramatically during the past 10 years, the basic guidelines for being a good media spokesperson have remained the same (with some tweaks). Below are some of the basics that you may already know but I hope they serve as a helpful reminder to anyone who plays the role of spokesperson, whether it’s a quick answer to a few questions or a longer, in-depth interview. As a spokesperson, you represent the company brand at all times, so how do you stick to the key tenants without going off track?

  • Remember, you know too much. You are an expert about your subject matter. So much so, that you likely have a level of understanding that is many levels deeper than the journalist. If you try giving them too much information, you will probably bore them and they may pick up a tangential point you may have mentioned instead of the topic you imagined would be the focus of the article. So keep the conversation simple and focused. This leads me to the next point…
  • Stay on message. There are many strategies for doing this, but in short: Say what you want to say, and then say it again. In other words, identify your core message and supportive key points before your presentation. Then, keep your core message simple and repeat it often so it sticks. You may give a lot of examples and scenarios to help explain your point, but always return to your core message. Another good way to wrap up your interview is to use numbered steps to outline your key points. For example, “ … the three main things I want to leave you with today are 1) …. 2) … 3) …” It may seem obvious, but reporters often appreciate the clear, concise recap.
  • Engage them in the conversation. This seems self-explanatory but when you have a lot to explain, it’s easy to start lecturing. If you feel this is happening, ask questions to make sure you’re not losing or boring them with too much detail.
  • Act as if you’re talking to your most important customer. Although you may be talking to one person, the end result may be an article describing your comments to a majority of your customers. You want it to sound respectful and concise.
  • Silence is golden. Don’t babble on uncomfortably if you get flustered when they stop asking questions. Just stop talking. This gives pause for questions and gives the journalist time to take notes. Also, remember that the questions the reporter asks reveal where he/she is going with their article and may flag areas of concern that you will need to address.
  • Set expectations accurately. No one likes to be let down or lied to, and it’s a real bummer when products you purchased don’t work as described. Be honest and deliver on your promises. Otherwise, you’ll start to sound like a presidential candidate and no one will trust you – OR your brand.

How do you represent your brand during media interviews? If you need help, give us a call! We have media training experts ready to help.

Enterprise transformation – Is it real this time?

November 11th, 2015 by Editor

Over the past 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in the enterprise software industry, I’ve heard endless predictions about how the industry is going to dramatically change and how this technology or that technology, or new delivery models like software as a service are going to put the established vendors out of business.

As far as I can tell, not that much has actually changed. Sure enterprises are using some cloud apps and improving mobile device support. But where the rubber actually meets the road, enterprises are still running their own infrastructures and closely guarding their content and data behind layers of IT administrators. The players aren’t changing much either, with Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP accounting for the lion’s share of revenues.

IDC FutureNow, for its 2016 industry predictions IDC is saying that converging technology forces – primarily mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking – will lead to wholesale digital transformations that will essentially blow up everything we know about enterprise software today. As enterprises embrace emerging technologies, IDC predicts we’ll see the creation of what it’s calling the “DX economy.”

According to IDC, besides determining the winners in nearly every industry – the companies that embrace the new technologies will win while those who don’t will lose – the DX economy will fracture the enterprise software industry. Per IDC’s press release about its research:

Nearly a third of today’s IT suppliers will be acquired, merged, downsized, or significantly repositioned. In this environment, enterprises will have to constantly monitor and assess the solutions offered by their suppliers and partners and be prepared to realign these relationships as needed.

Talk about disruption.

But the big question is whether IDC is right. Is this the moment when the enterprise software industry truly changes, or is this just another hype cycle?

Both sides have a case. On one side, you have the massive investments enterprises have already made in hardware and software which simply aren’t going anywhere. On the other, you have increasingly tech-savvy customers demanding a more cohesive and personalized experience than ever before. There’s also the much-discussed Internet of Things (IoT) that IDC says will be a “fertile area” for DX.

There’s little question that digital transformation is one of the hottest topics in the enterprise space today. But is it real or just another passing fad? Let us know what you think.

In your spare time, be sure to head over to IDC’s FutureScape landing page to soak in a series of 33 on-demand presentations covering many different industries and market segments. Full disclosure: I have not actually watched them all, but many do look promising. I’m interested in learning what’s up with wearables, for instance.

Too soon for holiday cheer?

November 9th, 2015 by Jessica Bettendorf

Starbucks has officially unveiled its bright red holiday cup, which begs the question: Is it too early for brands to begin pushing out their holiday products?

starbucks

Other companies are jumping on the bandwagon with early holiday promotions as well. If you peruse the mall or shop at Target you’ll inevitably see holiday decorations popping up everywhere. On the other hand, some companies like REI are skipping the Black Friday madness altogether.

Where do you stand? And what could early holiday marketing do for a brand? Some believe it could make a brand appear greedy by pushing holiday-inspired products on the consumer too soon as a way to boost sales. However, from a business perspective, it does appear to work. Early holiday promotions seem to inspire people to begin their holiday shopping much earlier than they normally would. Also, some people actually do prefer to get all their holiday shopping over and done with early.

On the other hand, some individuals and companies feel it’s way too much too soon. Let’s take a look at REI. The outdoor giant is choosing to close on Black Friday and give their employees a day to go outside and play in order to honor what their brand represents.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, it appears that pushing holiday products early has never seemed to hurt a brand’s reputation. So, consumer brand companies continue to do this even though we as consumers may not like it on an individual basis.

With the case of Starbucks, the bright cheery red cup flicks on a switch in some loyal coffee drinkers’ brains, signaling the start of the holiday season. That cup is genius from a marketing perspective; people see it and think Starbucks and holiday cheer as one entity. They are pulled like a magnet into shelling out four to five dollars for a peppermint mocha, gingerbread latte or any of the other holiday-inspired beverages.

Throughout social media there’s a variety of different opinions. Many people think it’s way too soon, while others are excited for the holiday to begin. When did a bright red paper coffee cup signal the start of the holiday season? It took years, but this is just one example of effective branding. People see the red Starbucks cup and think delicious, comforting, warm holiday cheer. It’s so simple and yet so devious.

Then there’s REI. A company that’s being applauded by some for essentially boycotting Black Friday.

Where do you stand on early holiday promotions?

 


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