Thursday, August 14, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ban Politicans From Social Media And Content Marketing?

 Should we ban politicians from social media and content marketing for the sake of transparency?

I'm a content marketing fan.  But there are dangers when governments use content marketing to go direct to voters. It may be attractive for Ministers to craft content and use social media to release information, but essentially what they release is a formulaic, sanitized version of events.  

The core of the content marketing movement is directly engaging people of interest to you.  It is easy to see why that would appeal to bureaucracies.  It gives them a chance to control the message and avoid the spotlight traditional media might shine on their story. 

Social outlets are news sources for more and more Americans and Australians, and administrations frequently use them to go directly to the masses.  It may appear democratic to release information through social media but it is easier than standing before a hungry media pack asking pesky questions. 

Even if the pack reports what our leaders say, that information can be filtered and viciously edited for the evening news or tomorrow's paper. Social media and its cousin, content creation, let leaders meet people directly through digital chats, hang-outs, meet-ups and tweet ups.  

But remember these forums are imperfect platforms for ideas. A Government can choose not to answer questions or respond to comments and there is precious little time in such cyber sessions to question a President or Prime Minister.  And online questions can be vague and without the context and history a seasoned correspondent can throw around an issue. 

In Australia Tony Abbott uses Facebook and Twitter to broadcast policies more than to  interact with Australians.  Reading his Twitter account this past week you'd never know about the firestorm of protest over Tuesday night's budget. Yet traditional media - for all their faults - extensively reported the story. 

In the US the White House Correspondents Association have lodged concerns with the Obama Administration's use of digital to bypass news outlets and go direct to the public.  A recent edition of On The Media explored the issue in detail and it is worth a listen. 

Let's be cautious about proclaiming social media as a force for democracy even in Western societies.  In some cases it may mean governments have a communications channel that let's them control information while seeming to be open.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Australian Media Five Years On

Malcolm Farr from News Limited
Question three respected Australian journalists about the future of Australian media and you'd be surprised how similar their views are.

IABC Canberra recently hosted a discussion with News Limited's Malcolm Farr, Karen Middleton from SBS and ABC Political Editor Greg Jennet.   The three Canberra Press Gallery veterans shared predictions about the media in the next five years, with communicators at the National Press Club.

The media landscape may be changing but all agreed newspapers will remain important and be influencing opinion well into the medium term.  Viewers will have less appetite for traditionally scheduled news bulletins and will press TV networks to deliver a great variety of news formats via their digital channels. And new technologies will allow Australians to self select information and build their own news pipelines.

ABC TV's Greg Jennett and SBS' Karen Middleton
Which means fresh challenges for PR professionals.  How do we reach our audiences when the media landscape is so fragmented and how do we judge success?

Farr, Middleton and Jennet were unanimous that tomorrow's reporters may use different technologies, yet their journalistic instinct to seek out information and hold institutions accountable will be as strong as ever.  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Social Media in Campaign Communications

Are political campaigns living up to the promise of digital technology?  

Professor Jenny Stromer-Galley, Associate Professor at Syracuse University, explores this in her book 'Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age'.  She concludes digital is pushing politicians to reconsider how they reach and involve people yet there is still a long way to go.

Jenny Stromer-Galley
Obama's presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2014 showed the technical infrastructure to shrink the distance between candidate and community is with us now. The social media platforms we use every day offer the chance for electors to be more involved in the political process.  Never before have voters had access to so much information to share, re-interpret, re-purpose and organise.  So has digital delivered a new era of political emancipation?

The theory is good, right?  Digital should spell a rebirth in political conversations, yet Stromer-Galley thinks the promise is still to be met.

Perhaps because digital is about sharing, interaction, connection while politics is about control.  Control the numbers, control the cash, control the message.  And of all places in the political realm control is central in campaigns.   

I must win ... so craft me the right message, target the right group, bring in the cash and round up the vote. 

This makes most candidates reluctant to relinquish control preferring to use social media as a one way channel. We need to be into this stuff, but we don't really believe it.

Which of course runs counter to the two way world many of us live in, with friends, business and not for profits. It seems politics is slow to innovate when it comes to connecting.

To be fair, engaging in the digital age involves willingness plus patience, energy and time.  Consider how much time many of us devote to staying close to Facebook friends. But those resources are in short supply when the next election looms closer each day. And, many of the senior staff behind political campaigns are still old school intent on using traditional methods and media.

Campaigning like other forms of communications is at the cross roads.  Politicians need to innovate and experiment with the new technologies or risk coming across as old, outdated and one dimensional.  The ballot box prize in future may well go to the clever campaigns unafraid to experiment and really connect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Will Media Use Your Photo?

Last week the Central Connecticut Valley Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America hosted a luncheon with top media executives who shared ideas on the shifting role of imagery in media.

Provide media with newsworthy images
For starters they all agreed social media has drastically altered how journalists operate. Outlets are under continual pressure to get out the news first and fast.  Which means accuracy of information often suffers.  We know Twitter can break news at lightning speed but spare a thought for the editors and producers who need to monitor and react to tweets and simultaneously check their accuracy in a breaking news story. 

Today devices abound.  Anyone with a smart phone now sees themselves as a photographer.  Which makes the job of traditional newspaper photographers and TV crews more difficult as they compete at media conferences and other events with amateurs jostling for the perfect pic snapped from their Androids or Iphones.  

Of course many outlets, especially smaller ones, capitalise on the smart phone trend and invite readers and viewers to share their imagery. After all it is just more grist to the continuing content mill. But only a foolish editor or producer would use something without due diligence.

In recent times most media outlets have evolved guidelines for absorbing user generated content into their coverage simply to keep up with the new wild, wild West where citizen reporters can scoop  news faster than gumshoe journalists.  

So the typical questions media outlets ask when offered content include: 
  • Firstly and most importantly: is it breaking news or otherwise newsworthy?
  • Can we verify where the information or imagery comes from? Who owns it?
  • Quality-wise can we use it?
  • Does the image 'have a verb'.  In other words does it tell a story, show something happening or someone reacting to something happening?
  • Can we use it freely or are there limitations?
  • Does it show children or other groups for whom explicit permissions are needed?
Content marketers want to see their imagery widely spread online and in traditional forums.  But before offering up something consider the media filters an editor or producer will apply before deciding to use it.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

American Conference Scores Content Points

Sometimes you can easily overlook how serious you must be to succeed at content marketing. 

Once you begin a conversation with clients, customers, citizens or fans it takes time, effort and energy to maintain the connection, keep things fresh, build audience and generate loyalty.

For example take the newly established American Athletics Conference which is staging its inaugural Women Basketball Tournament this weekend.  A dedicated digital team is communicating the match-ups between 12 teams who have traveled across the US to compete.  Located court side and venturing into locker rooms, the digital team opens up the tournament to fans beyond the arena through scores, updates, images, video and interviews.  And all done at sizzling pace.

Pre-game the Conference provides mountains of player, game and season stats that would satisfy the most passionate fans of women's basketball. 

During each of the tournament's nine games fans can follow the action live on social media through scores, video and images.  

Following each contest they can either commiserate or celebrate their team's performance with post game notes, video highlights or after action quotes from players and coaches. 

The digital team runs the Conference's 10 dedicated or personal work-related social media accounts supported court-side by a video cameraman with backpack technology and a  photographer.  Which means as fans in the stadium sip beer and enjoy the game, the team is splitting eyeballs between hoops and laptops to create a treasure trove for fans over the next four days.

Of course small business, not for profits and most government agencies will never be expected to work at such intensity.   But the American Conference offers up a content marketing lesson for each.  Get serious about engaging because you need skills, firm focus and an awful lot of stamina to succeed with the people who are most important to your organisation.

For the record the digital team at the American Conference  is @, @ and  @ They synchronize efforts with other PR and marketing staff managing traditional media arrangements including live TV coverage of each game.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marketing By The Coffee Cup: A Tale Of Harvard And Yale

I collect coffee mugs of places I've been. 
Sometimes they measure the marketing experiences I have had.    

First impressions count in content marketing, just like they do in the rest of life.  That first encounter is the point from which a customer either grants or withholds permission for you to have a continuing conversation with her.  And those conversations can stall or blossom into a relationship that benefits you both.  

But do first impressions count in the academic world?  Absolutely and here's a small example.

Harvard and Yale are two of America's long standing and most prestigious schools.  Both have produced US presidents, esteemed diplomats, corporate leaders, pioneering researchers and generations of blue chip lawyers.  I recently toured both campuses to saw first hand how they introduce their brand to the world. 

Yale traces its roots back to the 1640s but its marketing is as fresh as anything corporate America  serves up today.

It is a bitterly cold New England morning when I arrive at the Yale Visitor Centre, a colonial building on busy Elm Street in New Haven. Straight away I feel welcome. I'm guided to the restrooms, shown where to park downtown and invited to inspect the highly visual displays throughout the Centre.  

Dead on time a welcome video comes on to tell me about student life.  Theater students at Yale have been assigned the task of turning what could be a dry topic into a music video. Blending facts and stats with great imagery and a dollop of fun, they create a video that just screams energy. A hat tip to whoever has produced this.  They obviously know something about communicating.

Then I am out in the cold for a one and half tour of Yale's historic buildings.  My guide, a student from Singapore, is informative, easy going and punctuates history with talk on current happenings and stories about student life. I like the guy.  His energy and enthusiasm leave the feeling he is excited about being at Yale ... and if he's excited then I am too even though I'm only visiting. 

When tour time ends, I return to the Visitor Centre, ask some follow-up questions and leave clutching campus newspapers and a bag of literature (which I read).  I have had a good experience and want a  Yale memory to take back home.  I buy a $6 branded cup for my coffee mug collection. I leave happy. I've been engaged and informed so if for some reason Yale should ever contact me ... hey I'm ready to listen.  

More importantly Yale has set up a positive platform for future conversations with the parents and high school grads on my tour looking at places for a college education.


The coffee cup I don't have
A few days on and I'm at Harvard.  Again it's brutally cold if anything Boston is colder than New Haven. Harvard was established in 1636 and now has around 2,400 faculty members and 21 000 students. It's world famous.  Like Yale I sign up for the free campus tour.

I do so in a sparse, barren shopfront opposite the old campus. The staff are efficient but lack the warmth that attracts visitors and counters a cold day.  A corporate video grinds away to the side.  A continuous loop shows authority figures like deans and professors talking about how important they, their research or their courses are.  The acoustics are poor, the walls are bare and I'm not paying attention.

The tour commences. An undergrad student takes us around.  While my Yale guide snakes me through alleyways and squares, my nice enough Harvard leader sticks to a tight script moving me quickly from site to site. I certainly don't get that special backstage feeling I get at Yale.  The weather is cold and the experience is marginally warmer.

When the walking ends I search out a Harvard coffee cup for my collection.  At Harvard's official shop I can't find one and the staff have not much interest in helping either.  Later I spy one in a nearby bookshop but it's expensive and still it's freezing so I need to move on.

So .... Harvard leaves an impression but not enough to register a coffee cup.  On the other hand every time I use my  Yale mug it will always bring back memories of communicators who put personality in their marketing.  

Harvard and Yale give me a free lesson.  Put personality into your content marketing and you're off to the best start possible in building a relationship.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who Do Aussies Really Trust?

2014 Edelman Trust Barometer - Global Results from Edelman Insights

Trust is critical in content marketing or any other form of communications. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows who people around the globe trust. 

The Australian results are interesting.  Overall there has been an increase in the trust levels of Australians over the past 12 months. Specifically trust in:
  • Not for profits is marginally up.
  • Trust in media is up six points.
  • Business has taken a 10 point leap in trust levels.
  • There is a higher level of trust in government.
Interestingly Australians trust business slightly more than they do governments. 
Globally people want CEOs to communicate in a clear and transparent fashion, tell the truth regardless of the situation and regularly engage with employees.  For a clear majority these behaviours count more than CEOs being active in the media.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mobile Phones More Important Than Sex?

Who would have thought mobile phones could be more important than sex.  

Obviously not the 9% of people who use their mobile phone during sex.
Infograph courtesy of Statistica

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why America Pioneered Marketing And Invented The IPAD

Ever wondered why the US leads the the way in PR, advertising and marketing? 

And why it is that Americans pioneered the great communications breakthroughs of the past 100 years?   Radio, TV, the Internet, smart devices, Google, Twitter, Facebook.  The list goes on goes on and on.

One simple but rarely mentioned reason could be that Americans love to chat, and two events this past week illustrate this. 

Jay Leno, the all American TV compere, retired last Thursday.   I did not know much about Jay.  His 22 years of TV never crossed the Pacific to Australia. Yet judging by the goodwill surrounding his farewell Jay was successful and popular. He could tell a joke and gently encourage his guests to share their stories with the rest of America. He made a career out of talking.  In a country which invented the talk show host Jay leaves as one of the best. 

A couple of days after Jay left TV, I met Jeff, someone else who enjoys a chat. 

On Saturday my wife Barbara and I were visiting historic Wethersfield in Connecticut.  We love the colonial architecture of New England which is so different from Australia. Walking down Wethersfield’s main street we ended at The Cove, a large frozen over section of the Connecticut River. Small groups huddled against the cold and were ice fishing.

I have never seen ice fishing so I ventured onto the ice to take a look. I came across Jeff who has fished The Cove for 30 years.  After a brief introduction he showed off his equipment, displayed his skills and explained why ice fishing is his preferred way to spend a Saturday in winter.  It was a free and easy (and for me an informative) exchange between two strangers.   

Americans love talking.  Whether it is watching Jay or talking to Jeff it is easy to be part of America's conversations.  The British are reserved, Parisians may demand you speak French and Australians often hold back until they know you better. By comparison Americans enthusiastically share their thoughts ... and conversations in America are easy to find. 

Wait in line at a grocery store and someone will start bantering about the weather, the price of eggs or why their team won or lost their last game. In a bar on any Main Street in America you stand beside a stranger and within minutes the two of you quickly work out your common connections through family, work or even going back to school days

Perhaps Americans are the most talkative when it comes to eating. Conversations start early and flow smoothly across the nation's restaurants, cafes and diners.  The waiter introduces himself or herself when you arrive and then patrols back and forth throughout the meal checking on your progress.  Patrons who overhear a snippet of your conversation will chip in, offering directions, advising what sights you should see or proclaiming who should win in the upcoming Oscars.  

We should all value that Americans love to chat.  Perhaps their love of talk is the real reason the great communications technologies and disciplines of the past century all bear the stamp made in the USA.