HC+T Update: Stories Everywhere

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: Stories Everywhere
Date: January 5th 2018

Happy New Year! The Briefing is back! As usual, the stories I have chosen to include here are drawn from those I saved to my link blog, which you are welcome to follow.


You'll soon be able to embed Snapchat Stories on your website -- Stories Everywhere is a new program that will let third-party publishers embed Snapchat Stories on their websites. Takeaway: Stories was so massively popular a feature that Instagram copied it, then WhatsApp, then Facebook. Several other apps adopted the feature, too. It wouldn't be hard for the same appropriation to happen with embeddable stories. Whether it's Snapchat or someone else, though, this could be a huge deal. Companies struggling to add fresh content to their websites could now have content that's updated several times a day, offering behind-the-scenes and other images and videos. Gini Dietrich and I talked about this for Monday's "For Immediate Release" podcast.Read more

The battle to reinstate net neutrality is underway -- Since the FCC's repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, several efforts are ramping up to resurrect the restrictions on Internet Service Providers that prevented them from blocking, slowing down, or favoring content. These include court challenges, efforts to implement rules at the state level, and Congressional action. Takeaway: Given that three out of four Republicans opposed the FCC decision and grassroots protests are likely, I'm hopeful we haven't seen the end of net neutrality. Read more

ANA acquires WOMMA -- The Association of National Advertisers will acquire the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. WOMMA was a groundbreaking organization when it launched 13 years ago in the early days of social media. ANA's chief executive said the acquisition will enhance the organization's "already robust benefits portfolio. Takeaway: Color me skeptical. Word of mouth is about far more than advertising, but this acquisition strikes me as a way to absorb the concept into a pure-advertising play. It may not work out that way, but I'm sad to see WOMMA lose its independence. It did some great work in its day. Read more

Microsoft will push Stream -- If you're an Office 365 shop and you're looking for an internal YouTube, you may already have it. Stream -- which replaced Office 365 Video -- hasn't gotten a lot of attention and you may not even know you have access to it. That could change. Microsoft's CMO told a podcast he sees Stream as one of the company's "hidden gems." Stream includes an auto-captioning option and will let users search within a video for information like a person's name, then "take the searcher directly to the place in a video where that name is mentioned." Takeaway: The number of Office 365 features that are only sporadically used by employees who chance upon them is undoubtedly huge. Communicators working in Office 365 companies should familiarize themselves will all of these tools and employ those that serve their communication strategies, ensuring they are quickly accessible and that employees are broadly aware of them Read more


  • NBC News launched a Snapchat Discovery show, "Stay Tuned," back in August and now has 4 million subscribers. The show airs twice every weekday and once daily on weekends. The show is attracting "tens of millions of unique viewers every month." The show has a staff of 30 producers, writers, editors, and graphics people. Read more
  • Instagram is testing a feature that lets users post their Instagram Stories directly to WhatsApp as a WhatsApp Status (a similar Snapchat-like feature). Note: I talked about this with Gini Dietrich for Monday's episode of the "For Immediate Release" podcast. Read more


It pays to oppose sexual harassment -- Not that there are any companies that are pro-sexual harassment, but a study finds that there's value in speaking out against it. More than 62% of survey respondents said they would pay high prices for products and services if they knew the company was taking a strong stand against sexual harassment. Conversely, only 37.5% said they would keep doing business with an organization whose position was unclear, even if its prices were lower. Takeaway: A lot of companies are speaking out internally. The company where I work was vocal in driving employees to complete online harassment training, explaining that nobody here wants to be the cause of the company winding up in the harassment headline hall of shame. I hear fewer companies speaking externally. At the very least, a harassment-free environment should be a highly visible part of your employer branding.Read more

Companies will focus on employee experience -- With 90% of businesses indicating that they compete based on the customer experience, employee experience is going to be a bigger and bigger priority. Too many companies don't really understand what that means but when it's done right, according to research from Jacob Morgan, companies that invested most heavily in employee experience were included 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor's Best Places to work, listed 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn's list of North American's Most In-Demand Employers, 28 times more often listed among Fact Company's Most Innovative Companies, listed 2.1 times as often on the Forbes list of the World's Most Innovative Companies, and twice as often found in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. These companies also earned four times the average profit and twice the average revenue. Takeaway: My new model for employee communication focuses heavily on the employee experience; communicators have a big role to play that goes well beyond simply reporting company news and activities. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

Officer Alexa to fight crime -- British police are considering how Amazon's Alexa platform could be used as a crime-fighting tool. Among the tasks the smart speaker could perform: distributing crime bulletins, missing person reports, and wanted suspect lists. Alexa is also being considered for internal use "by blasting out reports of recent offenses, internal briefings, incident alerts in real time, and daily crime logs. Takeaway: Anyone who tells you Augmented Reality goggles are the next big interface needs to see this. I love AR and its potential, but the use cases for the voice interface is much, much bigger. Just consider the next item.Read more

Will this be the year chatbot conversations get real? -- While there are still some obstacles to widespread adoption, "conversational commerce" is coming into its own. It even has a hashtag: #ConvComm. We're still not at the stage of true conversations and the walled-garden ecosystem (similar to the days of AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe as opposed to the open web) will create headaches, but we'll see far more bots that perform better are already in place (even at the Mall of America) and more people are interacting with them. Takeaway: I talked about this for Monday's "For Immediate Release" podcast with analyst Olivier Blanchard, who rolled his eyes at the "2018 is the year of..." bit, but he definitely sees the growing ubiquity of bots over the next three years or so. Read more

Here come voice-interface IoT devices -- The proliferation of Internet of Things devices is underway. These screenless connected devices require an interface and a lot of people (me included) believe voice will be that interface. As if to prove the point, GE is introducing a ceiling light and light switch with a speaker in the middle of the light that supports voice controls for Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant platforms. It'll also be able to play music. The in-wall switch includes the same features, along with built-in motion, temperature, and humidity sensors. Takeaway: While the success of this product line -- set for release sometime in 2018 -- is in question, the concept is one we're sure to see repeated in hundreds, maybe thousands, of devices. As a communicator, you could soon be writing interactive scripts for all kinds of devices your company manufactures. Read more

Inevitable advertising coming to Alexa -- Amazon is employing a full-court press to bring advertisers onto the Alexa platform. Initially, it'll be just a few companies. Amazon is talking to Clorox and Proctor & Gamble, for example. Unlike radio or TV commercials, Alexa ads will be subtle and well-targeted. "If you use your Amazon Echo to re-order Clorox brand cleaner, for instance, Alexa could suggest you tack on another Clorox product to your purchase, confirmed with a simple yes or no voice confirmation. If you look for instructions on how to cook a recipe or how to remove a stain from fabric, Alexa could similarly offer suggestions for products you may find helpful. In some cases, Amazon will use your past shopping history to inform what types of ads and products to suggest." Takeaway: Useful advertising is still useful. If Amazon sticks with this approach, it could be a hit rather than the new dose of awfulness so many of us are expecting. Read more


  • I know my friend Steve Crescenzo got an Amazon Echo for Christmas. It appears he wasn't alone, with the Amazon Alexa app rising to the top of both the Android and iOS app store download charts in the U.S. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

TIME magazine publishes an AR issue guest-edited by Bill Gates -- The issue, available on newsstands on January 5 (that's today, folks), features "special AR experiences powered by RYOT Lab, including behind-the-scenes videos, infographics and animations. The cover features an animation narrated by Gates which tells the story of Mohamad Nasir, an Ethiopian boy, who Gates first met shortly after Mohamad’s birth in 2012." The "Optimist" issue also features an AR activation from U2 front man Bono. It works in both Android and iOS using the LIFE VR app. The issue is the first to be guest-edited in TIME's 94-year history. Takeaway: This is why AR will kick VR's ass: Bringing print pages to life with your smartphone is far easier and more accessible than donning a headset for an isolated VR experience. It's not the first time I've seen a magazine with AR functionality, but it's the first created for that purpose targeting a mass audience. The potential for your own organization's print materials should be getting clearer all the time.Read more

Count holograms among AR's capabilities -- Holography as a user interface is already with us in training and customer experience applications (such as IKEA's AR app -- "Why not point your phone at an IKEA shipping box to be holographically guided through the assembly process when it's delivered?"). Our vision of holograms is usually based on an approach using lasers to put an image in front of you. Instead, it's being delivered through smartphones. Takeaway: The key advantages are simplicity and utility. As AR-based holography becomes more common and more vendors deliver the services required to produce it, we'll see prices drop and more holograms created. Not that the laser-based holograms aren't cool, but what you can see on your phone -- or through mixed-reality googles like the Microsoft HoloLens -- is far more useful. Read more


Burger chain stock soars on blockchain announcement -- The company that owns American Burger Co. and Little Big Burger announced a new rewards program in which customers would earn units of a proprietary cryptocurrency for use exclusively on future meals. The program runs on the MobivityMind blockchain platform. The company's stock rose up to 95% before settling back down to 48% over its pre-announcement value. The cryptocurrency will be called Mobivity Merit. The company's CEO said you can "use your Merit mined by eating at Little Big Burger to get a buffalo chicken sandwich at American Burger Co., or trade them with your vegan friend so he can get a veggie burger at BGR. And that's just the beginning." Takeaway: We have gone from "what's that?" to "that's awesome!" with blockchain. And when blockchain comes to burger joint loyalty programs, you just know it's time to start figuring out where your organization's opportunities are.Read more

January 5, 2018
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A New Model for Employee Communication, Part 16: Engaging Managers

Managers are, at best, an inconsistent communication channel. Yet engaging managers are one of the most important drivers of engagement. As a result, it is incumbent on employee communicators to help managers communicate effectively. Read more

The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

Lots of episodes to cover since the break, but no "For Immediate Release," which took the holidays off. The latest episode gets posted on Monday, and it's a whole new format. Among other things, it's way shorter! Please tune in and let me know what you think. Here are other FIR Podcast Network shows to keep you going until then:
  • So you have an employee advocacy program. Your people are fully engaged and active and they are driving loads of traffic to your social sites, your website and more. What next? What do you do with that traffic so that it has a value-add beyond brand awareness. You need to create leads. Listen in to AMPlify episode #13 as Jason Sibley, CEO and Head of Campaign Strategy at Creation Agency shares five of his top tools to turn traffic into leads. Listen
  • In the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, company reputations are constantly at risk. On episode 28 of "Circle of Fellows," recorded on December 21, four IABC Fellows explored the challenges of managing reputation in social media, the crucial role employees play as reputation ambassadors and the financial value of proactive reputation and risk management. FIR host Shel Holtz moderated the panel featuring Lee Hornick, George McGrath, Barbara Puffer, and Cindy Schmieg. Listen
  • Employee advocacy is on the rise. But what does that mean for companies like yours and how will it transform the way you work? On episode 14 of AMPlify, Jen McClure, one of the original authorities on digital and social media and CEO of JEM Consulting & Advisory Services, shares insights on the factors that affect the growth of employee advocacy and engagement. Plus, she gives her advice about what it takes to make employee advocacy a core business initiative and get everyone in your company on the same page. Listen
  • Episode 133 of Digital India focuses on free digital and social tools and resources for business, how effective they are, and why they shouldn't be ignored. Listen
  • The year-end episode of Digital India is a look back at 2017. Suresh and team highlight the progress that India saw in this sector. We talk about Paytm, Uber-eats, Alexa, Google Tej, and everything that contributed to 2017. The team also discusses what India needs to look forward to in 2018 and how to keep up with the changing trends. Listen
  • On Inside PR: A Toronto-based marketing firm created a chatbot that led to a partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival. Smart marketing. Listen
  • Another Inside PR episode: Artificial intelligence was a hot topic amoung communicators in 2017 and it's something to continue watching and exploring in 2018. Read more
  • In this episode of Thought Leader Life, Mitchell Levy exchanges insights with thought leader Eran Levy, the Executive Director of Connected Futures and the head of Cisco's C-Suite Thought Leadership group. This TLL episode focuses on the importance and impact of thought leadership and thought partnership in today's world. 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. Details
  • On March 14, I'll speak at Ragan's annual social media conference in Orlando. Details
  • I'll speak again at IABC's World Conference in June on the communication implications of an emerging technology. The conference is scheduled for Montreal from June 3-6. Details
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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