September 22, 2017
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Two quick notes
So I got a note from a colleague and reader who asked why I dropped "The Takeaway" from this weekly update. I explained that I was putting the stories about which I had a point of view in the top section, "The Big Stories." Not good enough, he said; "The Takeaway" was what differentiated this bulletin from all the other curated wrap-ups. So I'm going back to it while adding short items that are worth sharing without a takeaway. As always, I'm deeply grateful for your feedback. I'll keep tweaking this thing until I get it right.
One more note: On Wednesday, I'll moderate two panels as part of a full-day Conference Board seminar on the latest results of research on the state of employee advocacy. If you're in town and interested, join me. Details and registration
Equifax inflicts another injury on itself -- If you're having difficulty convincing leadership to invest in a comprehensive crisis plan, replete with regular crisis response drills, Equifax is busily building a world-class case study. The latest blunder: The Equifax Twitter account has been directing people to a fake lookalike website that was created to expose the company's "reckless response to the breach." Takeaway: If Equifax had a crisis plan, leadership has ignored it. It's more likely they simply didn't have one, which isn't surprising since around 30% of companies don't. You might as well have all your entire C-suite run everywhere with scissors. Read more
See what people in your Twitter network are reading -- A new Twitter feature, "Popular Articles," shows you the articles people in your network are reading, sharing, and engaging with. The feature is available on Twitter's Android and iOS apps. Takeaway: The New York Times Labs used to offer a tool called Vellum, which showed you only the tweets in your network that included a link. I loved it and used it daily. After all, most of the people in my network are communicators or are interested in communication. Vellum because a must-read for finding content I wasn't seeing elsewhere. I was saddened when Vellum disappeared without a word, but "Popular Articles" could be the replacement I've been jonesing for. Read more
Apple breathes new life into QR codes -- Half of the billion Apple devices just upgraded to the latest operating system got an active QR code reader in the camera app. Open your camera app, point your phone at a QR code, and it just works. Among those getting the active reader: pretty much everyone in China, a market Apple really wants to crack. Takeaway: QR code naysayers should prepare to eat their words. The list of things you can do with QR codes is long. They never took off because of the hassle of using them, not because they're ugly. With an active reader in your camera, the hassle has been eliminated. Communicators should reconsider using them. Read more
American Horror Story has started discussions about a phobia -- One of the characters in this season of AHS suffers from Trypophobia, a fear of clustered holes, bumps, and the like which afflicts some 15% of the population. It's not much talked about, but ads for AHS: Cult have produced panic attacks among those with the fear and sparked conversations, including complaints voiced on Twitter. Others, though, have said they no longer feel like they're the only ones affected by those images. Takeaway: AHS's producers or advertisers could take advantage of this by providing online resources for those who discover they share a phobia with millions of others. Read more
The EU buried a report that showed piracy doesn't hurt -- The European Commission paid nearly half a million dollars for research on the irreparable damage piracy does to owners of intellectual property. The results, delivered in mid-2015, showed no "robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect." Unhappy with those results, the EU tried to hide it. Takeaway: The EU, which also invented "the right to be forgotten," is learning what many of us know: Secrets are hard to keep these days. Burying research with results you don't like may seem like a good idea at the time, but in the end, the deception is likely to be exposed and the outcome worse than if you just owned up to it. The research results don't necessarily mean you have to take a new position on an issue; you just have to justify it based on other data or circumstances. Read more
Nike introduces "Connected Jerseys" -- NBA fans will be able to buy NFC chip-enabled team jerseys that, when tapped by a smartphone, delivers real-time content about the team and players, "such as pre-game arrival footage, highlight packages, and top players' favorite music playlists," along with exclusive offers and experiences. Takeaway: We've been hearing about smart clothing for a long time, but this concept, called NikeConnect, is promising. Imagine production workers wearing company uniforms embedded with a chip that allows them to tap their phones to their shirts to get updated work information without having to open an app or search for a site. Read more
Think the FTC isn't serious about influencer marketing? Think again -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has announced a settlement with social media influencers who didn't disclose their relationship with a brand and sent 21 warning letters and more than 90 educational letters to reiterate that it's not kidding about its disclosure rules. takeaway: Self-regulate or be regulated. It's not rocket science. Read more
The advertising industry isn't happy with Apple -- One of the digital capabilities that excites the ad industry is the ability for an ad to follow you around. (I saw an ad touting Steve Crescenzo's employee communication master class on at least 15 websites not too long ago.) Apple's iOS 11 for mobile devices includes a default feature for the Safari browser that prevents some websites from tracking users, blocking ads that follow you. It'll also be part of Apple's High Sierra update to its computer OS. Six advertising consortia have written an open letter to Apple protesting the feature, saying it "sabotage(s) the economic model for the internet." Takeaway: While I got a little annoyed at Steve's mug greeting me on just about every site I visited, I do understand that there has to be a way to pay for the content we all access at no cost. Until something better than advertising comes along, and as long as the ads comply with IAB standards, I have to agree with the consortia on this one. Read more
Google is buying part of HTC -- HTC was a big player in the smartphone industry early on but has been on a downward spiral for years. One bright spot has been its deal with Google to manufacture the Pixel phone. Now Google is shelling out $1.1 billion to by that group, bringing 2,000 HCT staffers into the Google fold. Takeaway: Owning the company that makes its hardware is a good idea. Microsoft has succeeded with this approach with both its XBox and Surface lines. Google bungled an earlier hardware deal with Motorola, but probably learned enough from that experience to get it right this time around. Read more
Snapchat loses favor with female influencers -- Female influencers don't consider Snapchat the most important social network, according to a poll of Collective Bias's influencer network. Instagram was at the top of the list, followed by Pinterest. Snapchat's decline is attributed to the difficulty broadcasting to a large audience. Takeaway: Paying influencers probably isn't the best approach for reaching Snapchat's loyal base of young users. Having a stable of micro-influencers, on the other hand, could help if they are enthusiastic about your brand and willing to talk about it organically with their narrower groups of "select recipients." Then again, managing a group of micro-influencers who share your content for reasons other than compensation is a smarter play across all network, since you'll get better engagement while avoiding competition with the nearly-saturated world of paid influencers. Read more
Small businesses flock to Facebook and Twitter -- Small business owners are gravitating toward social media as the target for their limited marketing budgets, with 80% of respondents to a G2 Crowd survey saying they used Facebook for marketing and 51% relying on Twitter. While they could be spending money on the platforms, it's also likely they are employing low- or no-cost features like Facebook Pages and tweets to customers who are following them. Few were using more costly approaches like Google AdWords and banner ads. Takeaway: Small businesses may be able to entice loyal customers to follow them but it's no guarantee content will reach those customers' news feeds. Small businesses need to consider at least paying to boost posts. Read more
Your company probably isn't doing all it could with social selling -- Research from Forrester reveals that B2B businesses know customers are using social media; 36% believe social selling will become "the default way to engage with buyers in the future." Among the study's findings: Despite recognizing the power of social selling, and many have "optimized individual social selling program objectives, very few sellers are executing on all critical activities that constitute a comprehensive social selling approach. Only 20% of marketers and sellers indicated that their sales teams typically execute all of the (six) social selling activities we asked about." Takeaway: This should be obvious. Only 18% of survey respondents have adopted a social listening platform. That sounds like a great place to start. Read more
Google Play is the largest app platform -- Google Play's app download frequency reached 82 billion in 2016, making it the top app platform. Its growth has been pushed along by "the increasing popularity of Android-based smartphones, established Android ecosystem and improving users' familiarity with the platform." Takeaway: If you persist in believing you only need an app for Apple's store, think again. Read more
Venues are tapping mobile data to market better to fans -- When fans entering Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium send pictures via social channels, stadium staff will track it via WiFi and proximity beacons and use the data to improve the fan experience and improve marketing. It's not the only data-centric stadium. Other features venues are employing include app-based parking assistance, ride-hailing pick-up zones, and paper-free ticketing, all of which "get people to and into the stadium more effectively." Takeaway: It's all about the experience. If delivering more personalized and useful (and non-creepy) services and content based on mobile data creates an experience that gets people to come to the game instead of watching it on a 60-inch 4K TV, you can expect more of it. Brick-and-mortar retailers should take note. Read more
Board cuts CEO's bonus after public rant -- I have been writing for some time about the transition to a values-based marketplace where CEOs speak out on social issues. The public wants more of this, according to research. But that doesn't mean public outbursts never have consequences. Homebuilder KB Home is cutting its CEO's bonus by 25% after a video of an outburst directed at his neighbor, comedian Kathy Griffin, went public. Takeaway: One, always assume you're being recorded. Two, think about what you're going to say before you say it. Especially if you're a CEO, where your actions represent your company. This is why CEOs need communications training and counsel. Read more
The latest thinly-veiled news site is political -- There are news sites from companies that help promote the company's agenda by delivering news and do a good job at it. My favorite example: Alabama News Center from Birmingham Power, which focuses on news about Alabama business, community, and innovation. It looks like a mainstream media outlet; Birmingham Power's branding is barely noticeable. The latest example is more troubling, though. The Republican Governors Association has launched a site called The Free Telegraph that takes a heavily partisan approach to what it calls news. It added a disclosure that the RGA was behind the site only after the Associated Press inquired about it. Takeaway: I'd be disturbed by this if it were from the Democratic Governors Association. Propaganda masquerading as news so people will be fooled into thinking it is and sharing it has already gotten us into enough trouble. The Alabama News Center, with its benign and upbeat coverage and disclosure of its owner is a great idea. The RGA project is a terrible one. Read more
- Big brands like Unilever are turning to consulting firms to handle work traditionally awarded to advertising agencies. Not all brands, though, have figured out how or why to work with an Accenture or Deloitte, which have been buying up agencies. McDonald's hired Capgemini for its digital shopper marketing in August. Read more
Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Smart Audio
How the news business will use voice AI -- A long but fascinating read from the Nieman Journalism Lab looks at how the news industry will inevitably use voice AI. The author, from the BBC, notes BBC news has formed a working group "to rapidly develop for new forms of digital audio using voice as the primary interface." Takeaway: Media relations practitioners in particular should pay attention. It's not radio, but pitches with audio angles to mainstream media may pay off. Read more
The Mayo Clinic comes to Alexa -- The Mayo Clinic was a healthcare pioneer in social media. It looks like they'll do the same for smart audio, delivering first aid advice via Amazon's Alexa. Just enable the skill and ask for help treating a wound or evaluating someone who isn't breathing. Takeaway: Talk about a no-brainer (except no other healthcare organization has beaten Mayo to it). If your kid comes running into the house bleeding from a gash in her arm, it's a lot faster and easier to ask Alexa what to do than sit down and Google it. Where does a voice skill on one (or more) of the smart speaker platforms make sense for your organization? Read more
Coca-Cola has gone all in with AI -- The CPG giant's global director of digital innovation has said that "AI is the foundation for everything we do. We create intelligent experiences. AI is the kernel that powers that experience." AI-powered bots will reside in vending machines, delivering personalization, for example. AI data analysis will help the company develop and sell healthier foods, as well as to gain insights into consumer behaviors (which includes using image recognition to spot pictures of its products shared on social networks). Coca-Cola is also testing AI-driven Augmented Reality glasses in its bottling plants. Takeaway: A recent article about AI's potential for PR noted that none of the big agencies have embraced it; meanwhile, mid-sized Shift Communications is doing amazing things on its clients' behalf. AI will be a core communications technology. Read more
- Facebook is working on an AI camera that will let your phone read the physical world. "Imagine a persistent, shareable social layer on the physical world, a specialized Facebook that's escaped the feed." Read more
- The rumor mill says Google will launch a smart speaker to compete with the Echo Dot. Smaller than the Google Home, it'll be called the Google Home Mini and sell for $49. Read more
- Roku also may be working on a smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo. The company has listed open jobs for people with the requisite skills, like Senior Software Engineer, New Products, Audio (Expert). Read more
- Meanwhile, Amazon has added a hands-free Alexa voice assistant to its newest 10-inch Kindle Fire tablet. Read more
Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality
Microsoft sends invites to a Mixed Reality event -- A handful of journalists have received invitations to a Microsoft event in San Francisco on October 3 where the company will reveal its MR strategy. Takeaway: There have been several big MR moves from Microsoft, with inexpensive Oculus headsets coming very soon from Dell, Asus, and Acer, among others. The way to avoid being steamrolled by AR is to move beyond it. We could see MR gain big-time traction sooner than the analysts are predicting. Read more
AR will be a battleground -- The addition of Augmented Reality to Apple's iOS 11 is just one reason AR is poised to take off and become a battleground between different tech platforms (including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft). Other reasons: social media platforms will adopt it, the number of people using it is on the rise, and apps like Ikea's -- which lets you envision how a piece of Ikea furniture will look in your home. Takeaway: In addition to all the good stuff, there will be a lot of shiny-object me-too AR introduced by advertisers and marketers, which will dampen some of the enthusiasm. Eventually, though, AR will be as routine as banking apps. Employ it strategically and you'll be fine. Read more
- AR, VR, and Mixed Reality are marketers' lowest priorities -- That's according to a MediaPost survey of 600 marketers across industries, roles, and levels. Read more
- Burger King and Sainsbury's have used Snap Spectacles to shoot ads for distribution on Snapchat. That's a first. Read more
- Shasta Ventures has launched a fund to accelerate AR and VR app development. Read more
- The messaging app WeChat -- which pretty much owns the China market -- is developing its own AR platform. Read more
Etc., etc., etc.
- Facebook is putting an end to untraceable political ads. Read more
- Snapchat is accusing Apple of creating a loophole in its new iOS that lets people record other people's Snaps. Read more
- Jay Baer writes for the Observer that you have to answer every single negative review. He makes a strong case. Read more
- The Internet Advertising Bureau Tech Lab has established a Blockchain Working Group for advertising. I keep telling you: Blockchain is going to be the most disruptive technology we've seen in decades (and that includes the Internet). Read more
- Pinterest will let users create sections within their pinboards. Read more
- Twitter removed 300,000 accounts that promoted terrorism or endorsed terrorist-related violence during the first half of the year. Read more
- The Internet of Things is going to change marketing. A lot. Connected devices will give marketers a channel for whole new types of content that focuses more on experience. This piece is a good overview of how marketers and communicators should approach IoT marketing. Read more
- Never Stop Marketing has introduced the first-ever Blockchain Marketing Technology Landscape. Read more
- More Blockchain news: Ethereum -- the public blockchain of choice for business - will match Visa in scale in just a couple of years, according to its founder. Read more
- Microsoft's Bing search engine has introduced a "Fact Check" label to its search results "to help users find fact checking information on news, and with major stories and webpages within the Bing search results." Read more
- Small brands are having a hard time getting verified on Instagram, which is "become more secretive and selective" about who gets the verification badge. Read more
- You know that old saying that information wants to be free? The Chinese government cracked down on bitcoin has driven Chinese cryptocurrency fans to Telegram and other encrypted messaging apps banned by China. Read more
- Instagram now autoplays video sound on for every video after you turn the sound on once. To get it to autoplay with the sound off, you need to close it and launch it again. Read more
- If more of Twitter featured content like that shared by two museums engaged in a "who's better" spat, I'd probably spend more time there. Read more
- You know the subtitles fans add to movie clips and images from TV shows? In Sweden, it's now a copyright violation. Read more
- You can now launch the Instagram app directly from within the Facebook app. Read more
Fear of technology erodes trust
A study finds that a lot of people are very worried about drone swarms, Artificial Intelligence, lab-grown organs, and a host of other technologies. The businesses behind them are rushing headlong into these fears and the backlash could be significant. That's a job for good PR people. Read more
The latest from the FIR Podcast Network
- Neville Hobson and I got together for the September edition of The Hobson & Holtz Report to talk about the self-inflicted downfall of the UK PR agency, Bell Pottinger (and kudos to the PRCA for putting teeth in its ethics code); how various fields will be affected by speech recognition (including PR and communications); Mitch Joel’s plea to the advertising industry to not mess up ads for voice; the proliferation of fake scientific journals (and what it means for the PR industry); Pew research that identifies five “types” of people who search for facts and information, with implications for content marketing; and the killing of British English by Americanisms (and whether it matters). In his Tech Report, Dan York explains why “Gutenberg,” the WordPress editor, may take longer than expected to appear. Dan also talks about the launch of the new Internet Society website. Listen
- On FIR B2B #81: Use and abuses of analytic tools, whether CEOs should have their own social media accounts, and understanding the real value of social media to your business. Listen
- Passport, our new podcast for travel PR and marketing professionals, features an interview with Andy Levine from Development Counsellors International about working with destinations. Listen
- Mark Dollins, head of executive and Global Employee Communications for DuPont, talks about driving change through communication in this month's episode of EE Voice. Listen
- On Digital India, Kavita Singh and Suresh Babu discuss a recent article from the Economic Times about how Amazon is going deeper into the hinterland with a gambit based on a unique blend of the offline and online. Listen
- In the newest episode of Thought Leader Life, host Mitchell Levy and Brett Labit, Chief Empowerment Officer of WEVO Global, exchange insights with Don Boyer, a filmmaker, motivational speaker, author of the bestselling book series, "The Power of Mentorship," and founder of Carnegie Principle. This TLL episode focuses on being successful both on the inside and the outside, and how important it is for entrepreneurs to be open and teachable. Listen
- September’s Circle of Fellows panel — an hour-long conversation among a group of IABC Fellows — explored alternatives and approaches for advancing careers in communications across multiple generations. Brad Whitworth moderated a panel that included Tamara Gillis, Mary Ann McCauley, Mark Schumann, and Brenda Siler. Listen
On the Calendar
- I'm giving multiple presentations at the Professional Speechwriter's Association on how speechwriters can use social and digital media. It's set for Washington, D.C. on October 16.
- I'm speaking at the Social Media #Mashup at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which will be held October 23-25.
- On November 1, I'll present a pre-conference session on the four key focus areas from my new employee communication model at the Great Places to Work conference at Genentech in South San Francisco.
- On November 16, I'll present the opening keynote address as well as a breakout session at the Library Marketing and Communication Conference in Dallas.
- On December 4, I'll be in Cambridge, MA, speaking at an Intranet Best Practices conferences at IBM's offices.
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