HC+T Update: Does your employer brand align with reality?

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: Does your employer brand align with reality?
Date: December 8th 2017

You're welcome to follow my link blog, which is where I collect the stories from which I choose the contents of the HC+T Briefing.


Video game aims to replace prescription medications -- An ungodly number of children take medications for ADHD but the developers of a video game have demonstrated that playing it delivers the same benefits without the side effects. "In a study of 348 children between the ages of 8 and 12 diagnosed with ADHD, those who played Akili’s action-packed game on a tablet over four weeks saw statistically significant improvements on metrics of attention and inhibitory control, compared to children who were given a different action-driven video game designed as a placebo. The company plans next year to file for approval with the Food and Drug Administration." Takeaway: The idea of a video game getting FDA approval as treatment for a medical condition is mind-blowing. It's also not the only game being put to this purpose. A VR game in a winter-like landscape has been shown to give relief to burn victims. Once these treatments go mainstream, expect more to follow.Read more

YouTube reveals four-step plan for providing brand safety -- After a host of companies suspended YouTube advertising after their ads were published alongside pedophile-friendly videos, the company announced a four-step action plan for ensuring brand safety. "The action plan includes hiring more people to review content, expanding its use of machine learning to vet content, creating a regular report that will provide more transparency around how it goes about removing videos and comments that violate its policies, and implementing stricter advertising criteria to give marketers more peace of mind about where their ads are running." Takeaway: One hopes this is just the beginning. Companies selling advertising by algorithm will face increased scrutiny from companies concerned about their reputations. If your company advertises online and hasn't looked into where your ads are showing up, now's the time. Read more

Walmart drops "Stores" and hyphen from its name -- Effective February 1, Wal-Mart Stores will officially be just plain old Walmart. The legal company name is only used in a few places, but the decision to formalize the Walmart name is based on the increasing volume of business the company does online. Takeaway: Renaming to expand the definition of what a company does is nothing new. AARP used to stand for American Association of Retired Persons, but with memberships available to anybody 50 and over, the organization serves a lot more than just retirees. My own company recently dropped "Builders" from its name; it's just Webcor, leaving room to engage in related activities beyond just construction. Read more

Facebook introduces messaging app for kids -- Messenger Kids is for the under-13 set, letting them text, send videos and photos, draw on pictures and add stickers. Parents have to okay whom kids engage with and Facebook swears data collection will be limited and kids won't be advertised to. The company worked with children's advocacy organizations (among others) to develop the app. Takeaway: Like it or not, kids under 13 are using apps of all kinds and knowing how to engage online is a skill they should have in hand by the time they reach that age. Parents should take a very active role in their kids' messaging activities, but banning it outright just doesn't make sense anymore. Read more

Instagram is moving Direct messaging to a separate app -- A new standalone app from Instagram will separate Direct Messages from the main app. Users in six countries will participate in a test, including Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. The app has a heavy Snapchat vibe: "When users open it, the camera pane will open, emphasising the app's focus on creating new material (photos and videos) to share." Takeaway: This app adds a third messaging app to Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp. You might be inclined to think that Facebook recognizes the shift to messaging is a big deal. Read more


  • Google has withdrawn support for YouTube on Amazon streaming-media devices like the Echo Show and the Amazon Fire TV. It's retaliation for Amazon's decision to include the YouTube app you find on Amazon devices aren't made by Google and Amazon doesn't sell some Google products like the Chromecast or Google Home. Read more
  • Stories Highlights is a new Instagram feature that lets users showcase collections of their old Stories on their profile pages. The new feature will show up in a horizontal carousel near the top of your profile page. "There is no limit on how many Stories Highlights can be displayed on an account's profile page." Read more
  • Facebook has a test running in several countries allowing people to log in using a QR code. Read more


Hollywood is using promoted tweets to link to earned content -- Marketers have used an interesting technique to promote new movies: They're promoting tweets from the studios, but rather than link to a ticket-buying site, they link to articles about the movie. The promoted tweet for "The Disaster Artist" links to a Variety cover story; the one for "Lady Bird" links to a Glamour piece. "Using earned media coverage in paid ad campaigns has grown in popularity over the last few years." Takeaway: Why aren't more PR people doing this?? The "P" in PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media) can be applied brilliantly by drawing attention to the credible reporting of mainstream media about your company or product.Read more


Think employee communication is working? Think again -- Only 19% of employees worldwide believe that their life at work is aligned with the picture the company paints. A Weber Shandwick report paints a dismal picture that could affect reputation, the employer brand, and the ability to recruit and retain key staff. There is good news in the report, though. Seventy-four percent of employees report "marginal alignment" between their employers' branding and their real-world experiences while only 7% said there is no alignment at all. Takeaway: There's room for improvement in these numbers, but clearly internal communicators need to take action to move the needle. What we've been doing up until now is not producing the kind of results our companies need.Read more

Don't read internal communication and drive -- More than 40% of drivers admit they use their phones while driving and the reason is often the need to consume and respond to company communication. An employee who is in an accident because they're on the phone for work could lead the company to be named in legal action. Takmisalieaway: If we claim to value employees' health and safety, we need to make sure they understand that the company expects them to put the phone down while they're driving. That sounds like a communication campaign to me, which should also include managers who need to know that calling or texting employees when they might be in the car is a really bad idea. Read more

Disney rethinks marketing based on research about dads -- Media and advertising portray dads as hapless, overworked, and absent. Research found differently, that dads play an important role in the family. The fact that Disney's marketing was out of whack with dads' perceptions of their role has led The Walt Disney Company to realign its advertising and marketing to recognize that role. Disney is also urging other companies to follow suit. Takeaway: It will be heartening to dads everywhere to see a more positive image conveyed in marketing, which could deliver greater revenue. I'm more impressed by the fact that Disney is sharing those research results with other companies (including competitors) as a way to address an inequity. Unilever did the same with research into gender stereotyping in advertising. More companies behaving this way could result in serious shifts to more positive public perceptions across the board. Since the research was done in Europe and Asia -- and explained by Disney's chief marketer in the UK -- I can only hope that the North American operations get the message. Read more

What do first-time Internet users do? -- Twelve percent of American adults still haven't connected to the Net. So what do they do when they first get online? In addition to taking the Pew Research survey that brought them there, 33% played games, 26% got news, another 26% took pictures or videos, 21% used an app, and 19% browsed the internet. That means access did not generally lead people to do more online exploration. Takeaway: First-time internet users are an interesting group to consider attracting. If you can target messaging that will get them online in the first place, your content could be the first thing they see, just as Pew's survey was the first thing this group did. Read more


  • Nearly 40% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets next year. Only 5% say they're reducing influencer marketing budgets. Of those marketers who currently use influencer marketing (86% of those surveyed), 92% found it effective. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

Pinterest has a chatbot on Messenger -- Messenger users can search Pinterest for specific pins without having to leave Messenger. You'll be able to pick a category and see a carousel of related pins or type a search query as a message to the bot. Additionally, if you click on a pin sent through Messenger, that pin will now open in Messenger rather than open a Pinterest session. Currently, people share about 1 million pins weekly from Pinterest to Messenger. Takeaway: It is increasingly evident that you'll be able to do pretty much anything you want from within messaging apps, with chatbots providing much of the functionality. There is word that Facebook is also working on an Alexa competitor, which means you'll be able to interact with Messenger simply by talking, with visual responses sent to your phone. The transition to a whole new interface to data and information is well underway.Read more

Most Messenger bots suck, but... -- Only 4% of people who engage with a Messenger bot are still engaging with it a week later. Blame a lot of bots that were rushed without a strategy just so a company could claim to have a bot. It doesn't have to be that way. A DIY site for homeowners called Hometalk delivers a home improvement idea weekly (more if you want). You're invited to connect with the bot when you visit the company's Facebook page. The bot's one-week retention rate is a jaw-dropping 83.61%; after a month, 46.62% of users are still sticking with it. The secret really isn't a secret, according to the company's CEO: Deliver high quality content that people find interesting and compelling. Takeaway: The disappointment over the early batch of bots shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, how many awful websites are there? A good chatbot will attract and retain users who engage with your brand one-to-one. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Bitmoji from McDonald's steals a McCafe -- Bitmojis (animated personal emojis) are hot. McDonald's has jumped into the bitmoji world with the first use of the fad on Snapchat. The AR feature is designed to push McCafe products. Users can have the bitmoji avatar they've created sneak onto the screen and steal a cup of McCafe coffee. Takeaway: Another example of worlds colliding: bitmoji and Augmented Reality. We'll see lots more of these mashups as the various consumer-focused technologies get more and more common. George Carlin once said that if you nail together two things that have never been nailed together before, some schmuck will buy it. Be the first to mash two technologies together as McDonald's has and you'll get some serious first-move attention.Read more


  • A Snapchat AR lens like the one employed by McDonald's (mentioned above) costs between $500,000 and $1 million per day. Read more

December 8, 2017
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The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • David Spark and Ryan Williams joined me for this week’s FIR podcast to talk about a few of Henry Blodget’s 14 predictions about the future of media; a few of David Spark’s list of 10 ways companies annoy us that they don’t know about (or do they?); whether internal communicators still need to keep proving their value; how one media company managed its digital transformation by recognizing that being digital means giving people a voice; and what Salesforce is up to bringing high-profile speakers to Dreamforce who have nothing to say about CRM. In his Tech Report, Dan York reports on Snapchat’s new design, Twitter’s introduction of Twitter Lite, and Mozilla’s annual report (and its focus on its work for an open Internet). Listen
  • On episode 85 of FIR B2B, Ray Grady, President of CloudCraze, discusses findings from his company’s recent survey that found that B2B organizations are significantly growing their e-commerce presences and expect online sales to be the principal driver of future growth. Listen
  • You will not be the digital marketer in 2018 if you still follow the same old methodology. Google, Facebook, Amazon are already using AI and Machine learning in their day to day operations and activities. Get the story on this week's Digital India. Listen

On the Calendar

  • I'm delivering the closing keynote talk at Ragan's 2018 Internal Communications and Culture Conference in Chicago on March 8.
  • On March 14, I'll speak at Ragan's annual social media conference in Orlando.
Shel Holtz is director of Internal Communications at Webcor in San Francisco. For 21 years, he was principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. He has also held communication leadership positions in two Fortune 400 companies and spend five years working in the communication practices of two global human resources consulting firms. He blogs at blog.holtz.com.

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