The Matchbox.

Feb. 09

The Daily – Changing the Face of Journalism?

By now, you’ve probably read some type of review for The Daily, unless you just fell off a turnip truck. (For those who have, it’s The News Corporation’s (Rupert Murdoch) tablet-only newszine). Undoubtedly an incredible PR success for the iPad with an exclusive national news brand launch, The Daily promises to change the face of journalism.

With roughly 100 employees for 100 pages of exclusive daily content including video, amazing photography and graphic design, it’s an intriguing change from the ever-moving always-on new digital platform.

I love the touch and feel of the newspaper but sadly cancelled my daily subscription to the Cincinnati Enquirer two years ago in favor of grabbing online news on the go. But it’s a chore to comb and search online news sites to find relevant content. The Daily is a relatively cheap model that promises to be a nice hybrid approach for those who want to enjoy reading content in the digital age but don’t want it served up between bathroom breaks (or with 15 updates to a single story throughout the day).

It’s way too early to declare The Daily a winner – relatively cheap for the reader at $39.99 a year or $0.99 a week, but for national advertisers and brands, the advertising model is quite attractive. However, limited social sharing between subscribers may actually dampen overall adoption. And will people really pay for their news when so much is free? Already technical glitches are being reported so only time will tell. Have you tried it? What do you think?

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Feb. 04

“When does work end and personal begin?” Social Media Employee Guidelines Tell All

Whether it is airing professional grievances or corporate secrets, personal social media use can be both a public relations and a security issue for companies. Yet, a Deloitte LLP Ethics & Workplace Survey found only 17 percent of companies with 1000 plus employees had any social media guidelines in place – most of which support “expression” but rely on an employee’s responsibility to use personal “judgment” about content.

The future of employee social media policies, however, will become much more definitive as a company’s reputation and security can too easily be harmed with little recourse except firing an employee. Some companies are even restricting, blocking or banning personal social media activity at work. According to a survey conducted for Robert Half Technology, a staffing company, 54 percent of companies are curtailing personal social media activities on company time.

No matter the circumstances, the “we vs. them” approach does not work. Addressing workplace social media behavior must be a holistic effort. To be successful, guideline preparation, dissemination and adoption should be created and promoted by a cross-functional team: key management, legal, HR, communications, IT and employee representatives, among others. Social media – and its use or misuse – is not going away and the PR implications are as serious as they are in crisis communications.

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Jan. 24

Twitter-Phobia?

Perceptions about social media participation are relative. In some circles it’s an automatic and daily communication medium, while others still wince at the mention. I’ll come clean and admit to being a regular social media participant, having seen the benefits of strengthened relationships (business and personal) and up-to-date sharing of the latest news and commentary in a largely unedited format.

The skeptics have their reasons. Anecdotally they range from security (Facebook could one day be breached or the company could decide to share personal information more liberally) to reputation sensitivities (don’t reveal anything that makes me look like I have less knowledge than my competitors or that exploits my weaknesses).  There’s still also a healthy debate about the value social media participation to a business’ bottom line.

It’s a tricky thing, being willing to take a calculated risk and participate to thoroughly judge whether or not it is worth continuing to pursue. Certainly a public Twitter presence should be taken seriously. For example, a company should portray itself the same way on social platforms as it does via its website or in other public corporate materials and not reveal sensitive information. Trade secrets aren’t the focus of social platforms; rather, social media should enable the company to participate in a larger conversation about their industry and show that they are engaged, whether by retweeting/reposting relevant industry news (including their own), commenting on an interesting conference presentation or posing a question weighing on the minds of colleagues. This type of dialogue is rarely harnessed during the course of regular workday conversations or email and can be a powerful supplement to core business communication. It fosters valuable relationships and bolsters a company’s reputation and marketplace visibility.

To those still holding out, I challenge you to dip a toe in, explore and connect. You might just find your tweet being retweeted because folks thought you had something great to say or share. That sounds an awful lot like thought leadership, doesn’t it?

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Jan. 11

Snow, Ice, Local TV and Social Media

It may have taken a few years to get the hang of social media but local television stations now know the power of Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other interactive tools to bring its constituency to the screen.

We knew conditions would be icy this morning. For the North Carolina Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding areas), this has already been a dramatic winter with record-breaking snow. Watching local ABC station, WTVD Channel 11, I am once again impressed with viewers’ Facebook and Twitter reports, many with attributions by the station. Along with photos, videos and Skype coverage, local viewers are adding a “from the trenches” perspective. Viewers also watch their on-the-scene photos on-air, a la NCIS, brought up from a montage to full view by a finger-dragging anchor. Social media has its issues, but for bringing a community experience to all, it is impressive. And, local TV obviously knows the power of participatory media…and ratings.

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Jan. 10

Quora: A Twitter-Wikipedia Mash-up

The recent buzz from the technology community around Quora, an online Q&A service created by former Facebook employees, is causing many top brands and their PR agencies to ask what is Quora and should it be incorporated into PR strategy? Anytime a new social network emerges PR professionals must quickly evaluate how the site can be best utilized for their organizations or clients.

First, is the site legit, here for the long-term and worth the time to dedicate resources to develop a presence? Early indications and a reported increased number of sign-ups show that Quora is another social community that PR pros must keep on their radar.

How does it work? Formally launched in June 2010, Quora is a collection of online questions and answers about various topics that can be developed and edited by any online user.  My initial impression is that Quora is a Twitter-Wikipedia mash-up where you can follow people you know, follow and search topics that interest you and also provide answers.

Quora might turn out to be a great learning forum if it can gain critical mass. Right now, it appears that early adopters are somehow connected to the tech community.  From a PR standpoint, just like any other social network, companies must monitor what is being said about them on Quora and when appropriate post answers that are relevant to their organization.

We think Quora is definitely a social media tool to watch in 2011.  Stay tuned for more best practices as the site evolves.

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Dec. 17

Remember 2010 Lessons Learned in 2011

As Christmas approaches I am feverishly trying to decide which of my two-year-old twin boys’ toys I can hide away or recycle for 2011 to help make room for the toy extravaganza next week. While there are some obvious recycle candidates, Mr. Potato Head, AquaDoodle and puzzles are great for continuing to hone the boys’ developing skills. Similarly, I am reflecting on what we, as an agency, learned this year that will help us continue to develop and grow in 2011. Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Social isn’t everything. Certainly social media has changed the PR profession, but exactly how much is up for debate. We strategically extended our clients’ social media efforts in 2010 and got positive results, but traditional PR strategies remained vital in helping our clients increase their overall visibility.
  2. Don’t forget the basics. In the mad dash of today’s news cycle and numerous organizations growing at a dizzying pace, it’s hard not to get caught up in the rush. However, don’t lose sight of the importance of a strategy, e.g., how to best leverage a sequence of announcements, and the basic do’s and don’ts, e.g., allowing time for internal and external approvals, discussing the all important positioning of a press release or byline with the subject matter expert before drafting, reviewing key message points prior to an interview.
  3. Be flexible. Agencies often see accounts come and go; however, with an above-average client retention rate (50% have been clients for 3+ years) we aren’t accustomed to it. Taking on more project work in light of the economy and more companies testing the PR waters means frequent client roster adjustments, but this has enabled us to take on different industries, diversify and extend our experience during the past year.
  4. Utilize internal resources. One of the benefits of a smaller agency is the ability to do more creative team collaboration. New challenges and a staff meeting format that regularly includes brainstorm time helped us flex our creative muscles to develop new account strategies and try different tactics for reaching objectives—with success!

Happy Holidays! We look forward to sharing more Y&A insights in 2011.

 

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Dec. 03

The Power of Oprah’s Favorite Things

Oprah. Her name alone conjures up images of media dominance, star power and worldwide generosity in the form of big-ticket audience giveaways and large charity donations. The show is on during my workday so I rarely catch it, but when I do, it sucks me in for sure. And as part of her “farewell” season, the two-part show featuring her much-anticipated “Favorite Things” recently aired. As expected, hysteria, jumping and screaming ensued among audience members. And the social media-sphere lit up like Christmas with tweets like “wiping my tears” to “Caaaashmeeeere soooooooocks for EVERYONE!!!!!”

The clout that Oprah has with millions of consumers is astounding, so the selected products immediately fly off the shelves after each “favorite things” show. It’s an interesting PR situation– there were surely some negative online customer reviews or even critical mentions in media stories about these items prior to the show (hey, nothing’s perfect), but once Oprah gives her blessing, it erases any possible doubt in people’s minds as they flock to buy 20 of whatever she has deemed a favorite. The only way a company could fail would be if they weren’t equipped to field the mass influx of calls and website orders, which is a real possibility if they haven’t made plans for extra personnel and server bandwidth. The show even brought Groupon down for a few minutes with the Nordstrom Rack offer (a few of us Y&A’ers bought a few too).

By the way, my favorite of Oprah’s latest picks wasn’t the Breville Panini Press or even the seven-day Royal Caribbean cruise. No, I was salivating over the Beecher’s World’s Best Mac & Cheese.

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Nov. 17

Best iPad Apps for PR Pros

After some not so subtle hinting, I finally received an iPad last week as an anniversary gift from my husband.  While the personal features are great, I started exploring how I can use the device as a PR tool since there are many news, social media and business apps available.  Here are a few of the best apps for public relations professionals.

Flipboard easily organizes my favorite media outlets, Twitter users and groups  – as well as my personal social media feeds – in a magazine-style format that is very pleasing to the eye. You can share articles socially and provide comments.  The free app is beautifully designed and fully customizable.

I’ve also been impressed with apps from Mashable, The New York Times and The Washington Post (just launched last week).  These apps are a cross between the online and print publications because the app gives a more authentic paper-reading experience but without the clutter. You can read a headline and lead paragraph and then choose whether or not to read the full article. You can also jump quickly from one beat to another.

For organization, Instapaper saves articles to read later when you are offline. This app is also helpful for sorting research, collecting several articles related to a beat or written by a specific reporter for future reading.

Dropbox syncs documents in real-time between desktops, laptops, mobile devices and your iPad.  It also helps you easily share and store files including documents, music, photos and videos.  All files can be accessed from any web browser.

Bad memory?  Try Evernote, an app for saving notes in text, jpg, or video format and syncing them across all platforms. The coolest feature — Evernote allows you to tag notes by client or project name for organization and automatically makes text (even in snapshots) searchable.

What are your favorite iPad apps?  Please post in the comments below.

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Nov. 11

PR on the High Seas

After spending a long weekend with the entire family sans electricity or modern comforts in the Tennessee mountains, my thoughts turn to those on the disabled Carnival Splendor cruise line just pulling into the port of San Diego today after four days without electricity. Unlike my brief trip, these vacationers left expecting a luxury voyage, only to weather unsavory conditions including lack of hot food (SPAM became a staple) and water and – worst of all – waste disposal problems. One word: peeeeuuuuu.

After a fire in the engine room broke out on Monday (day two of seven) and the ship lost electricity, Carnival – so far – has successfully navigated a PR nightmare by turning its media page into a crisis communication hot spot for the Splendor. They’ve issued four news alerts, held two press conferences and used social media to keep ahead of the news with continuous updates on Facebook and Twitter and the Cruise Director’s blog. Then yesterday, in perhaps the best PR move yet, the CEO announced that all Splendor passengers would receive a complete refund, a free trip redeemable until 2012 and complete arrangements for travel home once the ship docks.

Unlike BP CEO Tony Hayward, who was completely disconnected from the lives of the Gulf residents during the oil spill, Carnival’s CEO acknowledged that this accident had ruined their clients’ vacation and was truly compassionate to the situation (I realize this comparison is not exactly apples to apples given the far reaching impact of the Gulf). And even though the news is a ‘”twitter” interviewing passengers by phone and text messages to show the ugly side of the ship, most reporters and stories have had to acknowledge Carnival’s quick and positive response. Carnival could have simply pointed to their “accident waiver” and performed the bare minimum to get the passengers safely to shore, but they rose to the occasion and – in my book- the company showed itself as a PR leader.

BTW – the true PR winner in all of this is SPAM. A new phrase has been coined – Spamcation. You go SPAM.

 

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Oct. 25

Reconnecting with the D.C. Digital Crowd

Last week I attended TechMedia’s Digital East event as a client was participating in the first session. The long drive for an early morning panel battling the DC commuters wasn’t appealing, but I got there without a hitch. (Note to self: You must get of the office to more of these events.) The content was great – kudos to TechMedia. Here are a few of my takeaways:

Mobile – Channeling Kevin Costner
We’ve all heard it: mobile is here in a big way, but Scott Suhy, CEO of PointAbout, said it best: “Mobile apps are not a field of dreams…if you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come.” So what does that mean for PR? Mobile-driven companies, especially those focused on reaching consumers, need PR more than ever. Apps, as one panelist explained, are disposable and 99.98% won’t make it. Remember: while a beta launch is key to working out the kinks out before you go live, it also is prime time for a stealth PR effort to gain traction before the big launch. This may include targeted media and analyst sneak peak briefings, a blog or Twitter program geared to your end user audience, and getting some test users on board so you have results to show at launch time.

Online Advertising – Kill the Click
Most of the panelists talked about killing the click. Sure, being able to track clicks has been a great ROI point for advertisers but it has become a crutch. If it takes at least three different ads or exposure points to really resonate with an end-user, the “last click” shouldn’t get all the credit. In PR we have similar issues – how do we prove value of a media placement? Just as there isn’t a direct line from PR to sales, it isn’t a 2+2 calculation. Some of the things we look at include media outlet’s reach, the sentiment of an article and how the placement met our initial PR objectives to measure value.

All in all it was a great day to get out of the office for some face-to-face time and even to spend some time in the car by myself to think and brainstorm. Please drop me a line if you have tips on other great DC-area events – I’m psyched to get out there more.

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