Archive for October, 2010

Become a Digital Native

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Much has been made of the Millennials, or digital natives, about to descend on the workforce. These are the next generation of workers, typically those born after 1985, who have grown up in a connected world.  Numbering some 78 million in the US alone – more than the 73 million baby boomers – this group will have a profound impact on the world of work and entertainment as it ascends to prominence, much as the baby boomers have had.

One of the big concerns is that this generation will kick the daylights out of previous generations because of their inherent proficiency with technology.  This group, so the story goes, is more social and connected and just better with technology then the boomers. This will give the up-and-comers a big advantage over the rest of us.

There’s no doubt that advanced ways of communicating and collaborating like Facebook, texting, video chats, etc. trump snail mail and email. But the social tools aren’t that hard to use. It’s more the set-in-my-ways mindset that distrusts technology and blocks meaningful collaboration. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I would submit that anyone can become a digital native.  I know that in my case I’ve been using digital tools – some very primitive – since the 1970s. As every new generation of technology came along, I immersed myself in the tools and embraced the new way of working.  Email was a radical shift from the world of paper memos, and certainly just as significant as going from email to social collaboration.


My message to everyone 35+, go get yourself an Android or iPhone,  set up Facebook,  set up a Twitter feed, or collaborate on a Wiki page.  And open up. Speaking of which, I just upgraded from a BlackBerry to an Android.  While I still need a laptop and email, the real-time always-connected, always-located nature of the latest devices is a revelation.  Go ahead. Become a digital native.

The author of this post downloading social media apps for his new Android.

Building Brand the Old Fashioned Way…By Earning It

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Recently a good chunk of the world watched in nervous anticipation as the Chilean miners were rescued. After 69 days of captivity stuck in a tunnel a half-mile below the surface nobody really knew what to expect. As my family was glued to the TV watching the capsule rise out of the ground with the first miner, we expected him to be weak, emaciated and generally in poor shape. But much to our surprise each miner looked pretty good, had a smile on their face and wore a pair of really cool sunglasses.

But it was nighttime so why the sun glasses? Since the miners were underground for so long they needed the protection for their eyes to properly adjust to the light. As luck would have it, a Chilean journalist had contacted Oakley, explained the situation, and the company promptly donated 35 pairs of glasses with special UV ray protection. I assume that Oakley donated the glasses out of the goodness of their hearts, but what an impact it may have on their wallets.

Oakley reaped a staggering $41 million worth of media exposure for this altruistic gesture. Front Row Analytics broke down this number and even gave estimates for the financial impact in each county that ran the footage. It’s really unbelievable when you think about it.

We’ve talked a lot about brand and building brand equity in this blog over the past year. Assuming that Oakley donated the glasses and didn’t view this simply as a product placement, then they deserve all the free publicity they get. Brand is not simply about having your product on display. As define in Wikipedia, “The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.” In this case Oakley is reaping the benefits of securing worldwide exposure. But in building their brand through this act of kindness, Oakley gets positioned as a company that helps people who are in trouble, and I bet you that people who wear Oakley sunglasses will reference the fact that these are the same glasses that the miners wore when they had their first taste of freedom in over two months.

There Seems to be a “Gap” at the Gap

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the Gap’s release of a new logo, which the company said intended to “modernize” the brand. Unfortunately, the brand fell prey to the powers of social media, with thousands of customers complaining about the new logo and asking for a return to the original.

There was a reactive effort to crowd-source the logo after the complaints started rolling in, but it appears the decision was already made by the public that Gap should return to the original blue box design. What a missed opportunity! Had they started with community engagement, they could have created an incredible relationship with their customers- particularly with a younger demographic, whom based on my observation are not as connected to the brand.

In other Gap news, NPR recently ran a report on the Gap’s move into China and how its approach is raising question as to whether they will be successful. While in days past American brands would be accepted as is, many countries now want personalization. Even Starbucks, which is all about brand consistency, has created a Coffee Jelly Frappuccino for China to appeal to the popularity in this local market. The Gap, on the other hand, believes it must maintain the same consistency worldwide and is making little modification (with the exception of sizing).

Time will tell on this one, but this could be a very interesting case study on brands that failed to embrace the new era of socialization, customer engagement, personalization and localization.

On a related note, if you’d like to create your own “modern” Gap-like logo, visit Crap Logo Yourself (one of many sites poking fun at the company).

Bloggers Speak Out: Give Us Substance and Hold the Hyperbole

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Engaging bloggers is a careful art, particularly those who are not affiliated with the media. PR professionals have been ostracized for sending bloggers spam mails and press releases, and several brands have been blasted over the years for sending “gifts” that were perceived as “bribery”.

The simple rules of blogger engagement over the years have been:

1.       Be transparent on who you are and who you represent

2.       Read the blog thoroughly before engaging

3.       Blogger relationships should not be approached as transactional; Make the engagement conversational versus a pitch (specifically with those who are not journalists)

4.       If you’re sending product, make sure to make it is super clear there are no strings attached

5.       Avoid buzzwords

6.       DO NOT SPAM

Recently, two bloggers added some thoughts to the list I found interesting.

The Reinvigorated Programmer wrote a piece called “How to Render a Press Release Tolerable”. Their advice: pull out all the adjectives and get to the point.  Examples used:


PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 01, 2010 – Newburyport, MA. October 1, 2010 — eZuce Inc. has          developed strategic alliances with several of today’s leading technology vendors to enhance its open       unified communications solutions portfolio. Through collaborative development efforts and ongoing      integration testing and certifications, eZuce delivers next generation technology innovations that         address the demanding, complex requirements of enterprises and enables customers to seamlessly             transition from their existing legacy (IP) PBX systems.

Don’t your eyes just slide right off this when you try to read it?  Now let’s get rid of the adjectives:

PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 01, 2010 – Newburyport, MA. October 1, 2010 — eZuce Inc. has             developed strategic alliances with several of today’s leading technology vendors to enhance its open   unified communications solutions portfolio. Through collaborative development efforts         and ongoing integration testing and certifications, eZuce delivers next generation technology     innovations that address the demanding, complex requirements of enterprises and enables customers             to seamlessly transition from their existing legacy(IP) PBX systems.

[I was generous; I allowed “technology”, “solutions”, “integration” and “technology” (again) to         survive.]

Mark McLeod Hendrickson also recently wrote about how to pitch the likes of TechCrunch, GigaOm, VentureBeat or ReadWriteWeb. His advice- carefully craft your narrative and make sure it’s thought provoking. Simply sending facts won’t get anywhere.

Hendrickson outlines six types of the most common types of narratives and recommends crafting pitches around one or more of these types of angles.

  1. Competitive or Political Drama – aka “company X releases product Y to kill company Z”
  2. Gossip – “CEO of company X gets tangled up in Y”
  3. Insight – “trend X will change the world because of A, B, and C”
  4. Evolution & Confluence – “service Y is like X for Z, capitalizing on the recent developments of A and B”
  5. Success – “company X has created super impressive technology Y, is growing fast, or has made lots of money”
  6. Failure – “company X is dying or has messed something up”

In many ways, this follows the same rules as pitching business media. They aren’t interested in the product announcement (unless it is a breakthrough or from one of the major players). They’re interested in new trends, controversy, competitive tension, customer stories and the bigger picture impact.

The moral of the story: If you lead with a product announcement, aren’t clued into what the blogger cares about and don’t think through a compelling narrative, you’re wasting your time.

Oh, and hold the adjectives!

How HEROs Can Make Or Break Your Brand

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Have you ever heard of the term “hero”? No, I’m not talking about the NBC series HEROES that went off the air back in February. The term HERO stands for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives.  HERO caught my eye when I was reading an article in Mashable about how people (employees and customers) are using social media to shape the way companies are perceived and to give the customer a voice against the big, bad corporate giant. As Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff wrote in the article, “Consumers can take a stand against poor business practices, and brands can empower their customers like never before.”

I often find myself acting nostalgic with my kids about how things were different when I was their age. Ok, ok, no more stories about me walking 10 miles uphill in the snow both ways to school. Back then if something was wrong with a product you bought or you couldn’t get past the customer service department then you were pretty much out of luck. Customers were at the mercy of the company and there wasn’t much recourse available.

But now, social media outlets (like Facebook’s 500 million users) offer consumers and employees the chance to share their views (both positive and negative) about the company. For the company it can be a great way to show how proactive they are wrt customer support. For the consumer it’s a great way to finally have some leverage against the big corporations of the world. Check out this blog post from Econsultancy about how social media can impact customer service. Also, look at home some of Europe’s airlines took advantage of social media to address customer issues when the Icelandic volcano erupted and disrupted global travelback in April

But for PR and marketing the rise of social media has forever altered the way we work. Social media has the ability to establish instant dialogue and, using an older PR term, “create buzz.” Now, when you plan a product launch or big announcement, you need to factor in the social media avenue. How can I spread the word? How do I engage industry influencers? How do I write a crisis communications plan that includes social media? All legitimate questions which showcase the power that social media now has.

The rise of the Internet in the mid-1990’s forever changed the way that PR works. No more waiting around for the weekly tech publications to come out to see if we secured coverage. I truly believe that the advent of social media has also forever changed the way that we work in the PR and marketing world.

What about you? Have you found that you are incorporating elements of social media into your PR planning process?

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