Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

The Paperless Office…In Our Lifetime?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

logo_aiimIt seems like we’ve heard about the paperless office for many years now. Will it happen in our lifetime? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Our friends at AIIM just published a very interesting report about how companies are incorporating paper-free projects into their business. What I find interesting about the report, Winning the Paper Wars, are the reasons for and against going paper-free.

Many of the companies involved in the research indicated that their legal departments and some executives are not comfortable using 5-more-simple-tools-for-a-paperless-office-508f814ec9electronic signatures and electronic documents due to legal issues. The reality is that e-signatures and e-docs are 100 percent admissible in court. Conversely, the growth of mobile workers and mobile devices/applications has helped spur the need for the paper-less work environment.

mobile worker - man on his phone and laptop in a fieldFor those who work in PR and marketing, do you find that your clients like to publicize the fact that they are paper-free or that they’re using workflow and business process technology to reduce the use of paper and increase worker productivity? From a business perspective it makes a lot of sense to go this route, but does it help from a communications standpoint?

Content, Content Everywhere…But Is There A Plan?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

I read many industry publications each week to make sure I’m up to date on my clients and their markets. Lately I’ve been reading quite a bit of marketing pubs and Content Management Systems websites and I must say that I’ve seen a ton of discussion about content marketing. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute recently wrote an article called “34 Essential Research Reports for More Effective Content Marketing”. You read that correctly…there are 34 reports to check out solely about content marketing.

5-Link-Building-Strategy-EssentialsOn the one hand the growth of social media has given companies new channels to tap into to reach their customers and potential customers. Yet at the same time, it’s important to realize that simply pushing out content across many different channels can be annoying. What’s important is that your PR and marketing leaders understand that simply publishing vast amounts of content isn’t going to move the needle. You must build a strategy which clearly defines your goals so that you can use your content to support those goals.

As our client, e-Spirit, discussed recently in their blog – When It Comes To Content, Don’t Simply Throw Darts At The DartboardDarts_in_a_dartboardSuccessful marketing executives are the ones who understand that content cannot be created in a vacuum and a well thought out content marketing strategy can mean the difference between success and failure.

Transparency and Social Media Puts CEOs on the Defensive

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Over the past few years we’ve seen some pretty amazing examples of the power of communication, specifically, the ability to share events in real-time on a global level. Protests like the ones in Tahrir Square in Egypt and now in Gezi Park in Turkey clearly demonstrate that the Web’s ability to share information in real-time truly empowers people in David vs. Goliath situations. Closer to home even President Obama’s call for government transparency has helped show people that transparency promotes accountability.

Don-Thompson-of-McDonaldsBut when companies implement social media strategies, are they truly ready for what might come their way? Did McDonald’s CEO really think that a question from a 9-year old during its annual shareholder’s meeting would cause such a headache?

1369333180000-hannah-with-chart-1305231917_4_3_rx404_c534x401“I don’t think it’s fair when big companies try to trick kids into eating food. It isn’t fair that so many kids my agare getting sick,” she said — blaming McDonald’s for unfairly targeting kids with advertisements for food that isn’t good for them.

Nine-year old Hannah Robertson to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson

Or what about Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries, whose insensitive comments about the company’s target market back in 2006 in Salon Magazine recently resurfaced?

104738_story__9ba“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said in the article. “We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Sure, most people have figured out the power of social media and the ability for any piece of news to go viral. As noted in a blog post on Forbes about A&F, “But unfortunately, with the internet, embarrassing articles do not die – they just go into hibernation until they are resuscitated.”

Of course, corporate leaders and politicians still seem to stick their collective feet in their mouth—check out Oklahoma state representative Dennis Johnson’s recent comments—by not being prepared when information is posted online or goes viral via YouTube.

Most executives we have work with understand that systems must be put in place to not only field inquiries via social media channels, but that damage control and crisis communication plans must be in place as well. The transparency of the Web has empowered people to share information on a global level. Sometimes the information is positive, sometimes it’s negative. But I’m sure that the VP of Marketing at McDonald’s or A&F have realized that following the Boy Scout’s motto, be prepared, has to be taken seriously.

So when your company dove into the social media world, did you map out a lines of communication diagram to up-level feedback to senior executives in real-time? Thinking this through ahead of time can not only save your company, but it might save your job as well.

Question-“When did Noah build the ark?”

Answer-“Before the flood.”

 

 

 

 

Channel Surfing

Friday, May 17th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I find it overwhelming to channel surf on my cable system. As I tell my son, “hundreds of channels, nothing to watch.” But when we’re talking about marketing and we say “channel”, it’s a whole different ballgame. Traditionally the channel refers the various outlets you use to share your product or message with potential customers such as the retail channel, reseller channel, or mail order channel, just to name a few. But in today’s world, thanks in part to social media, the channel has grown.

It used to be that you could get a story published in a magazine or newspaper about your company or product, but now there’s the world of online media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. For marketing and PR pros it can be overwhelming.

If you want to learn more about how to manage all of your marketing channels, take a few minutes to read an article that one of our clients, Oliver Jaeger at e-Spirit, recently published. The article recently appeared in Marketing Executives and it’s titled Six Ways to Improve Multichannel Marketing.

Marketing and PR pros often wear many hats and, at times, managing so many channels can feel like you’re drinking from the fire hose. The key is having a strong Web Content Management system in place to not only manage all of your online marketing materials, but to help improve your customer’s experience.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet, That Is The Question

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Putting aside personal beliefs and party preferences, the presidential debate on October 16 night was a real yawner for someone like me who actually wanted to hear some substance. While a good “he said/she said” argument is always entertaining, the funniest parts of the evening didn’t come from the campus of Hofstra University, but instead came from the blog-o-sphere. While the first debate brought us discussions about the importance and cost of Big Bird in our society, the second debate put binders at the forefront of Wednesday morning water cooler talk. Personally I was disgusted by the focus on attacking each other and the lack of quality answers to the questions, but that’s fodder for the political blogs to hash out.

Today’s topic is about the extensive reach and the impact of social media. We’ve seen the impact that social media can have on sharing images and issues that can bring about change – see the Arab Spring. But social media can also give us a pulse check on what voters are thinking at any moment as well as put into perspective the sheer volume of participants. Let’s take a look at some numbers circulating around the Web about the debate:

  • By the time the debate was even over, Romney’s description had spawned a Facebook page (which had more than 275,000 “Likes” by mid-morning on Wednesday), a Twitter handle and, perhaps best of all, the website bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com…” KFMB TV
  • Twitter said the conversation peaked at 109,560 tweets per minute when Romney was asked about immigration. In an hour-by-hour count, the site’s “cheermeter” recorded 116,000 tweets favoring Romney to 94,000 for Obama and the Republican leading 111,000 to 101,000 in the second hour. Phys.org
  • The 90-minute nationally televised exchange between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney generated 12.24 million comments on Twitter and Facebook according to Blue Fin Labs, an analytics firm that studies social media’s reaction to televised events. Politico

But social media isn’t just about tossing around opinions and mocking opponents. The idea of micro-targeting specific groups is a very powerful idea. Attensity, a social analytics firm stated that “the most revealing insights related to viewer sentiment and voter intentions came from the swing states: Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.”

So what can we in the corporate communications world learn from all of this? When you design a campaign for a product launch or corporate event, do your homework and determine the best way to not only reach but to actively engage your audience which. When used correctly, social media can help establish a multi-way dialogue with your target audience rather than simply using one-way communication techniques that hinder a company’s ability to engage in a more meaningful way with their audience.

That said, I leave you with one of the funnier Tweets that I read from the debate courtesy of CNN – “I feel like Obama’s staff stabbed him in the chest w/ the adrenaline needle from Pulp Fiction.”

Shareholders, stakeholders and Apple

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

There’s been a long, raging debate among business school types about whether a business should optimize for shareholders or think more broadly about all of its so-called stakeholders like employees and the local community.  The argument on the shareholder side goes something like whatever is good for boosting profit is ultimately good for the business.

While there’s no doubt truth in that statement over the long term, a short-term focus on optimizing shareholder value can have negative consequences. That’s not really shocking news, but unfortunately it’s still happening.

The most recent victim of myopic, shareholder-first thinking was – of all companies! – Apple. I’d submit that most people when they look at the cute Apple logo on their spiffy iPad or iPhone want to think of Apple as a happy company, sort of like the Disney of computing.  Sure they can cost an arm and leg, but there’s a lot of value in gadgets that look cool and work like a dream.

Apple stores boom — employees not so much

But the reality of Apple is much different. Underneath that shiny veneer lurks a shareholder-centric greedy beast. This was exposed with a NY Times report that Apple works it retail employee hard while paying moderate wages at best (but reaping enormous profits from each store).  Similarly, Apple squeezes its suppliers in China so hard that factory workers face the type of conditions that have been outlawed in the US since the ’20s and ’30s. 

 What Apple is doing, of course, is perfectly legal. It might even be good business for a normal company. But this is Apple. It’s possibly the most successful and profitable company to date.  It’s also the happy company we all want to love.  It’s bad PR not to spread the wealth and fail to make the world a better place.  Especially when it could be so easy. Ironically, the shareholders might not even have noticed.

The shareholders will notice when people start thinking twice about buying Apple products, however.  After hearing a story about Apple factory workers on NPR’s This American Life, my wife was disinclined to purchase Apple products in the future, although I’m not sure workers at Samsung or Dell factories are much better off than those at Apple plants.  Most consumers probably don’t care in any case about a rotten core if the fruit is ok.

From a PR perspective – and here’s where you want to listen to outside counsel – perhaps the biggest loss for Apple was the missed opportunity.  By giving lowly store workers nice salaries and making life better for Chinese factory workers, Apple could have created a massive perception boost – one far greater than the comparatively minor incremental cost of doing the right thing. Apple isn’t completely tone deaf, and recent reports indicate that nice pay raises are due to store workers.  It’s a step in the right direction, but it never should have come to this in the first place.  We expect better Apple.

Plan ahead for social media results

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Plan ahead for social media results

So how big has social media become? Check out these numbers.

• As of March 2012 Facebook had over 901 million users worldwide.
• As of February 2012 Twitter has over 500 million users worldwide.
• As of April 2012 Google + has over 170 million users worldwide.
• Out of the 6 billion people on the planet, 4.8 billion have a mobile phone and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. (Just threw that in there for fun)

To put it in perspective, Russia has a population of over 142 million (census 2010), Brazil has 190 million (census 2010), and the United States has of over 313 million.

The growth of social media has been unstoppable. How many times do you walk down the street or stroll through the airport and see people staring at their smartphones or iPads? More often than not, they are posting photos via Instagram to Facebook or glancing at their Twitter feeds to keep tabs on what’s going on. To be sure, these technologies are having at least some impact on the way we conduct business.

The cynic in me says that social media is just another diversion and a way to occupy time. But in reality, social media is having a significant impact on the business world:

• 56 percent of consumers say that they are more likely recommend a brand after becoming a fan
• 34 percent of marketers have generated leads using Twitter
• 30 percent of B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars each year on social media marketing

But simply arranging for your company to have a Twitter account or a Facebook page doesn’t cut it. Before jumping on the bandwagon companies need to ask themselves, “what are we trying to accomplish by leveraging social media tools?” Is it a lead generation tool or a customer service portal? Are the lines of communication within the company designed to troubleshoot customer problems immediately before they snowball into a PR nightmare? Does customer feedback get routed to the product development team? Does any of the information bubble up to the executive team?

If you don’t think these issues are real, go ahead and ask United Airlines how they felt about the “United Breaks Guitar” fiasco. Better yet, read this brief article titled “Why Social Media Means Customer Service can Make or Break your Brand” to get a better understanding of the impact that customer feedback can have. Better yet, work with a strategic communications firm to develop and implement a well thought out social media strategy instead of simply opening a Twitter account. Remember, just like the man said, “Question: When did Noah build the ark? Answer: Before the flood.”

 

Social Media…Enter At Your Own Risk

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Crisis: any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society. Crisis is deemed to be negative changes … especially when they occur abruptly, with little or no warning.

Many PR pros shudder at the mention of “crisis management.” Whether it’s a product recall, an embarrassing misstep by an executive, or a poor decision made by the leadership of a group or company, a crisis must be handled very, very carefully as it can impact a huge group of people, shareholders or political groups. If you don’t believe me, think back to the Tylenol scare, and the
recalls by Honda and Toyota.

Recently the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® cut funds to Planned Parenthood which generated an outcry from abortion rights advocates blaming “political pressure” and praise from an anti-abortion group. This announcement created quite a storm of heated blog postings, interviews and written opinions, some attacking the Komen Foundation and some attacking right-wing activities.

Putting politics aside, there are a few core PR issues to examine in this debacle that are highlighted in these comments from other blog posts.

Mistake #1: Why didn’t Komen/Planned Parenthood hash this out beforehand?

Yet the two organizations had been in talks for weeks beforehand!  In other words, there were plenty of red flags raised along the way to know things could get touchy.  Lesson: have a crisis plan ready; this could get ugly. PR Squared blog

Mistake #2: Who controls the story?

Komen has let its opponents, and Planned Parenthood, control the story. Seemingly caught completely off-guard by the backlash, their entire strategy has been defense, and pretty poorly executed defense at that. Forbes

As Komen for the Cure Foundation found out the hard way, in this digital age of instant communication one does not define itself, but is subject to the definition placed upon it by others. O’Dwyer’s

Mistake #3: Ignore it and it will go away.

What matters is they’re sticking their heads in the sand and pretending no one is upset by the decision by deleting the negative comments from their Facebook wall. Spin Sucks blog

Mistake #4: Backtracking

After the self-induced PR disaster, the breast cancer organization wants everybody to “pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women.” It should have done that in the first place. Rather than dishing out the self-serving apology, Komen should have just said, “Sorry. We made a mistake in cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. It won’t happen again. Thank you for your support.” O’Dwyer’s

Mistake #5: Who planned this?

The story of how Komen got consumers seeing red, rather than pink, says a lot about how social-media wildfire can singe even the most fireproof of brands. But it also demonstrates how inconsistent communications can fan the flames, and illustrates how quickly sponsors can become engulfed in controversy. AdAge blog

What’s most interesting to me is how social media, such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook, not only fanned the flames of outrage, but shared the messages with such a vast audience. Whether it’s blogging from Tahrir Square in Egypt during the Arab Spring or congratulating fellow New York Giants fans after their Super Bowl win, the ability to communicate on a global basis is truly amazing.

So the question is…how have you and your clients adopted social media as part of your planning or campaign process?

 

 

The Purpose-Driven Show Rolls On

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

We had another successful event in San Francisco featuring John Seely Brown as part of the OpenText Purpose-Driven Speaker Series.

Brown is a visiting scholar at USC and the independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. During the talk he shared his thoughts and research on intrinsic motivation, incentive systems, learning organizations, organizational design and facing new challenges.  He had a touch of laryngitis, but was able to carry on. His voice isn’t normally quite this gruff. The video below contains a few highlights.


 
 

What Can We Learn From RIM?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

By now just about everyone knows about RIM’s little mishap last week with Blackberry email. Outages like these can hurt the reputation of any company, but for a tech company I think it’s much worse, especially for a company like RIM that is all about connectivity. Just to pile on a little more, it’s even more problematic for a company like RIM that has been losing market share for a long time.

While I haven’t followed every aspect of this story nor read every blog post that is available, it’s clear that RIM made some mistakes in handling this crisis. And believe me…it is a crisis. Years ago this issue might have gone unnoticed but in today’s world, where social media rules, how come RIM wasn’t better prepared to handle the crisis?

Just like the Boy Scouts say, you need to “be prepared.” Most companies I’ve worked with have policies and procedures in place in the event of a crisis, and I’m sure RIM does at some level. Considering that RIM has experienced outages before, you’d think they would have been better prepared. And I’m not talking about being better prepared to address the technical issues but being better prepared in getting their message out to customers in a more timely way.

Why did it take three days for the CEO to post a YouTube message concerning the problems? Did RIM monitor customer reaction on Twitter or Facebook? Did the company proactively address the issue or reactively reach out to customers? I’m not sure about the answer but from an outside observer’s standpoint they didn’t seem to be prepared at all.

A few thoughts about getting your crisis management plan mapped out.

  • Be prepared. Have a crisis communications plan in place and update it each quarter.
  • Make sure that you now have plans in place that address social media outlets.
  • Investigate the issue and get your facts straight. Guessing doesn’t make the situation any better.
  • “No comment” won’t cut it. And I’ve heard that RIM takes a “we don’t want to talk to the media about anything” stand which makes the situation even worse.
  • Have a chain of command of spokespeople ready. You don’t want the wrong person sharing the wrong message with the public.
  • Empower your communications team to move quickly and cut through the layers of opinion and second guessing so the response doesn’t take days to materialize.

In this day and age I find it highly unusual that companies still can get caught off-guard when a crisis hits. So how should companies like RIM approach these types of very public problems? Do you think that RIM addressed the issue effectively enough to minimize the damage to their reputation?


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