October 27, 2017
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After 21 years as an independent consultant (which followed 19 years in the corporate world), I have re-entered the corporate world. As of Tuesday, I am director of Internal Communications at Webcor, one of the largest commercial construction companies in California. I am excited about what lies ahead for me in this role. As for this newsletter, I plan to keep it going. It may be shorter, given that my time has become much less flexible, but cranking out HC+T Briefing is how I stay current on the kind of news and information that's important for me to know, so for now, I plan to continue with the Briefing. Some weeks it may be shorter than others, based on how much time I have. It may come out later than usual (as it is today). But as long as you want to keep reading, I'll keep publishing.
Facebook test makes it harder for publishers -- In a new test, Facebook has split publisher content into its own feed, separate from the default feed containing posts from friends and family (and, of course, advertising). To see content published to Pages, users will need to click (or tap) to a separate feed, a form of segregation that threatens to erode already tumbling publisher reach. Facebook says its goal is to see how people react to non-paid content from Pages they have liked. At the same time, they will watch to see if publishers start paying to boost their posts (and thereby get them into the primary feed). Takeaway: Hoping your Facebook Page content will obtain any serious organic reach is a pipe dream. That doesn't mean you should abandon Facebook. (You're not a teenager, after all.) A destination for customers is important and there ways to make a Page a destination. Read more
BuzzFeed tests Stories feature for its mobile app -- Instagram and Snapchat Stories have taken off like a rocket; even Facebook Stories is starting to get some traction. Now Buzzfeed is getting into the act, applying the format to a digest of articles on the mobile app. Takeaway: The Stories concept may well become a standard approach to content on all kinds of apps. Does your organization have an app where a Stories-like feature would appeal to your users? Read more
Adobe's Project Cloak removes and inserts objects in video -- Adobe gave users a sneak peek of Project Cloak, which lets you remove objects (including people) from a video, as well as insert objects into a video. Takeaway: Fake news is about to get a whole lot faker. It'll soon be necessary to keep an eye out for fake video and debunk clips that paints your organization in a bad light. Read more
Facebook introduces "Sets" to take on Pinterest -- Another Facebook test, underway in a few countries, lets users create sets of posts, photos, and videos for friends who want to follow those sets. These themed collections are clearly an assault on Pinterest. Takeaway: While Pinterest users are bound to remain loyal, those who have never taken to it but are immersed in the Facebook experience could start creating sets, representing a real threat to Pinterest. In the meantime, if the test turns into a full-blown feature, brands would be nuts to ignore it. Read more
Twitter has been overstating user numbers -- For the last three years, Twitter has been including users of third-party apps in its total monthly active user count. That resulted in the company's first reported shrinkage of users in two years, noted as part of Twitter's third-quarter earnings. The current active user count is at 326 million. Takeaway: Know your audience when you use Twitter but don't bank on it becoming as dominant a player as, say, Facebook or Instagram. The company continues to struggle, though it is moving closer to profitability. Read more
United's CEO bickers with analysts, stock falls -- United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz "sparred with Wall Street analysts on a contentious conference call," after which the stock plummeted 10 points. Takeaway: Media training should extend to conference calls. Assuming CEOs know how to handle challenging or confrontational questions is a mistake (as I pointed out in a previous edition showing poor stock performance resulted from CEOs who mangle English while trying to weasel their way out of sticky questions. Read more
- Facebook's surging Workplace gets new features -- With 30,000 organizations using its enterprise tool, Workplace, supporting about 1 million groups, Facebook is adding a desktop app for Workplace Chat that includes screen sharing; soon it will also include group video chat. Read more
- Snap Spectacles may have been a flop -- For all the hype around Snap's Spectacles -- glasses that shoot POV snaps for Snapchat -- the demand just never materialized beyond the initial hordes chasing this particular shiny object. According to one report, there could be hundreds of thousands pairs sitting in warehouses. Read more
- Instagram adds zoom-ins to Stories -- You can now use Superzoom to create zoom-ins for your video loops in Instagram Stories. You can even add dramatic sound effects. Read more
- YouTube users stream 100 million hours daily -- over TV sets -- YouTube isn't just for computers anymore. The company says viewers are watching 100 million hours of YouTube clips daily on television sets, an increase of 70% over last year. Read more
- Facebook drops chronological order for notifications -- Using an algorithm, Facebook will show your notifications based on importance to you rather than by the order in which they were received. Read more
User experience is vital for media companies -- Facebook's "Watch" video streaming service, which promises a streamlined viewing experience with community engagement built-in, suggests that the content streamed over "Watch" isn't as important as the groundbreaking viewing experience. "Ultimately, the winners and losers of the new media landscape will be decided by technological prowess. Whether or not a company embraces that future, is up to them." Takeaway: Great content still matters. Nobody will want to engage with crappy content just because the interface is awesome. But as companies increasingly become media companies, addressing the technology over which the content is viewed is vital. Read more
Some companies see marketing success with memes -- Denny's, Gucci, and Nickelodeon are among companies that have been able to successfully incorporate memes into their marketing. Memes -- "any fad, joke or memorable piece of content that spreads virally across the web, usually accompanied by a clever caption" -- are typically dismissed as frivolous. But more brands are embracing the idea, demonstrating that memes can boost engagement and shake up marketing. Takeaway: It has been at least three years since I first suggested memes have a place in organizational communication. There were some early adopters, but now the idea seems to be catching on. Are you willing to give it a try? (I'd even like to see it used in employee communication.) Read more
Who's doing Instagram Polls well? -- Last week I reported that influencers were running with Instagram's new Polls feature for its Stories. That doesn't mean there are no brands getting on board. In fact, within 24 hours of Polls' launch, a hummus company polled its followers on a preference for roasted red pepper or garlic herb hummus. Sports leagues are on board, including the NBA and Major League Baseball. Takeaway: If you have an Instagram and you're not using the Stories feature, why not? And if you produce Stories and you're not using polls, you're missing a massive opportunity not only to engage your followers but to collect data from them! Read more
- Steady flow of new emojis stymies efforts at standardization -- Every language has a Unicode set for its characters, a form of standardization that makes it easy to produce consistent online content using the characters that comprise the language. Not so with emojis, where the introduction of new emoji sets is making it impossible to codify. Given the rising importance of emojis as part of language, that could be problematic. Read more
Consumers expect more and better personalization -- Marketing continues to hone its personalization chops, leading consumers to raise their expectations of what they want. Research from McKinsey & Company finds consumers want relevant recommendations they wouldn't otherwise have thought of (rather than more products like the one they just bought), brand outreach while they're in shopping mode, reminders of things they might not have been keeping track of, knowing the customer and her preferences, and sharing value in a meaningful way. Takeaway: Make this article required reading this week. Mass communication and entry-level targeting won't cut it for long. And consumers will expect personalization in more and more of their media. Even employee communicators should be thinking along these lines. Artificial Intelligence will increasingly become a preferred tool for helping get the right information to the right people at the right time. Read more
A snapshot of a distributed news environment in Americans' day-to-day lives -- The Tow Center for Digital Journalism conducted focus groups across the U.S. to determine what "the increasingly distributed environment looks like in day-to-day media lives." Among the findings: convenience is key to consumers' continued willingness to engage with news via social media platforms, local news doesn't surface enough
s), people aren't careful about what they share (redistributing misinformation and fake news), consumers blame the platforms where they find fake news for its existence, people are resigned to platforms' data collection practices (even though they have concerns), and they feel guilty for not paying for news even though they have strategies for avoiding payment. Takeaway: This is a long, detailed study with a lot more data, some of which represents opportunities for brands and PR. Companies with local stores, for example, can consider ways to get local news into consumers' hands since platform algorithms are falling down on the job. Read more
What do influencers want? -- As companies continue to increase investments in influencer marketing, research is starting to emerge on what motivates influencers along with other data points. One study found that most influencers either want to do their influence work full-time or they already are. Only 18.2% said they're fine with part-time influencing. Most important to them are authenticity and creative freedom (63.7%) followed by high engagement rates (59.9%) and reach and follower count (40.6%). Sixty-four percent say they wouldn't promote a brand they don't genuinely believe in. They want to be able to demonstrate their value through follows and likes, views and reach, and other metrics. And there isn't much consistency in how influencer rates are developed. Takeaway: I have to admit I was surprised at how many influencers are making a living at it. I don't see that changing anytime soon. There may be money in starting the American Influencers Association. Seriously, start to think of influencers as a trade. Read more
- Companies don't address financial risk of climate change in CSR reports -- A KPMG study found that 51% of the largest (by revenue) U.S. companies don't address the financial risk of climate change in their annual corporate responsibility reports. What's more, none of the companies that acknowledge the risk have quantified it. The summary of the report covers other trends in annual CSR reports. Read more
- Experts split on whether fake news will get better or worse -- A study from Pew Research Center asked more than 1,100 technologists, scholars, practitioners, and strategic thinkers (among others) whether methods to block fake news will prevail over the next 10 years. 51% said it won't improve, suggesting that peoples' worst impulses will be aided rather than stifled by technological advances. Read more
Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots
Premium Alexa skills are coming -- A "skill" is basically a program for Amazon's Alexa platform. The Mayo Clinic's first aid guide on Alexa is an example of a skill. Now, Amazon is planning some skills that will come with a price tag (except for Prime members). For example, $1.99 per month will get you six additional Final Jeopardy answers in the Alexa version of the game (unless you're a Prime member). Takeaway: You were wondering how smart audio could be profitable? Here's one way. Expect Amazon (and Google) to make it possible for companies to sell skills, too (for a cut of the fee). Read more
Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality
Facebook tests VR in its News Feed -- Facebook is "testing a way for developers to produce web-based VR experiences that people can interact with through posts in Facebook’s News Feed." Employing the company's React VR framework, the test presents users with a 360-degree video in the Feed that "previews the VR experience. If people tap on the post, the full-screen VR experience will load within Facebook so that people can pan around and top on objects within the experience." Takeaway: I'm not convinced Facebook will succeed with its VR push, but the idea of integrating it into 2D channels has promise. Read more
Microsoft studio leets customers create holograms -- Microsoft has opened a third studio for customers to create holograms for use in Mixed Reality experiences. The San Francisco facility joins studios in Redmond and London. The idea is to make it easier for customers to create top-notch immersive content for the company's HoloLens platform. Takeaway: With lower-priced headsets coming from a host of manufacturers, Microsoft wants to make sure there's plenty of mind-bending content to consume once people start buying them (and to encourage more purchases). For a while, it'll be easy to get attention with solid MR experiences, which I suspect will become the standard, pushing AR and especially VR into the background. Read more
Eleven herbs and spices -- In case you missed it, KFC produced a brilliant bit of guerilla marketing. The company followed only 11 people on its Twitter account. They never said a word about it, waiting for somebody else to discover it and share it. Once somebody did, it went viral. KFC is following only all five former Spice Girls and six guys named Herb -- that's 11 Herbs and Spices. Tell me that's not insanely great. Read more
The latest from the FIR Podcast Network
- With me away at a conference, Dan York served as host and brought in Joe Thornley and Sallie Goetsch for a lively discussion on the latest episode of "For Immediate Release." Topics included Facebook’s latest change with an “Explore Feed” that seems to decrease Page visibility; a new report on fake news and misinformation – are there any answers?; blockchain ideas for WordPress; social media policies at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal; the BBC and AI; CNN gets permission to fly drones over crowds, and more. Listen
- On Passport, the podcast for travel and tourism PR and marketing professionals, Chris and Leif talk with Sheila Scarborough, a speaker and trainer specializing in tourism, travel, and social media. Along with Leslie McLellan, she's part of the Tourism Currents team, offering online and in-person training in social media for tourism and hospitality. Listen
- On Inside PR, Gini Dietrich, Joseph Thornley and Martin Waxman talk about why they attend conferences. What are they good for? How do you get the most out of them? Should conference organizers offer a different experience, based on facilitated discussions drawing on the expertise in the audience? Listen
- Paul and David have been producing podcasts for more than a decade for themselves and for their clients. On FIR B2B #83, they offer tips B2B marketers can use if they want to get into this rapidly growing medium. Listen
- Google algorithm updates were the topic of discussion in this week’s Digital India podcast. Aman and Suresh discuss the history of Google’s first algorithm to latest algorithm and what we can learn from it. Listen
- The latest episode of AMPUp Your Digital Marketing features Brian Fanzo, founder of iSocialFanz and host of the podcasts FOMOfanz and SMACtalk. Brian talks fast and tweets faster and his philosophy, #ThinkLikeAFan, has powered many first-of-their-kind storytelling campaigns for various companies leveraging the power of a variety of social platforms. He likes to push the envelope when it comes to digital marketing and we get a small taste of his fast-talking ideas in this interview. Listen
- The latest FIR on Higher Education was a rare live show in which host Kevin Anselmo interviewed three different public relations professors who were in attendance for the EUPRERA conference in London (EUPRERA is the European Public Relations Education and Research Association). Listen
On the Calendar
- On November 1, I'll present a preconference 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 9, I'll deliver a virtual presentation to the Bose employee communications department on my new model for employee communication.
- 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.
Shel Holtz is director of Internal Communications at Webcor in San Francisco. For 21 years, he was principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. He blogs at blog.holtz.com.