HC+T Update: What Visa Sounds Like

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: What Visa Sounds Like
Date: January 19th 2018

The stories I have chosen to include here are drawn from those I saved to my link blog, which you are welcome to follow.


TWiT is suing Twitter -- TWiT -- Leo Laporte's podcast network anchored by This Week in Tech -- has filed a lawsuit against Twitter alleging breach of contract and trademark infringement. Laporte says he and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams came to an agreement of Twitter's name based on the fact that Twitter would not venture into TWiT's market. (TWiT existed before Twitter.) But Twitter is now distributing content including video, which Laporte says is a violation of that agreement. Takeaway: Laporte seems to have a solid case and ample documentation, yet it's not likely Twitter will wind up changing its name. More likely: They'll pay Laporte to go away.Read more

The perfect ad to deal with Facebook's News Feed change -- Facebook was clear that the update to its News Feed would hit brands and publishers hard. BuzzFeed responded brilliantly, buying a paid ad on Facebook inviting users to download its own app. "Facebook is breaking up with news," the ad's graphic proclaimed. The text read, "Facebook is taking the news out of your News Feed, but we've got you covered. Download our award-winning app. No word on how many downloads the ad produced. Takeaway: Downloading the native app is the new version of drawing visits to your own website. The ad is great; getting users to regularly open the app will be another challenge altogether. Read more

Facebook, YouTube removing Tide pod challenge videos -- In what may be the stupidest trend ever, people are recording themselves ingesting Tide laundry pods. "Thanks to the #TidePodChallenge, a colossal flow of idiots have willingly ingested these toxic unedibles because someone on the internet passively dared everyone to do it." The trend has led to a surge in calls to poison control centers. Tide threw together a video of an NFL player Rob Gronkowski telling people not to eat the pods. Now, Facebook will remove videos that include the hashtag and YouTube will remove them because they violate policies. Takeaway: I have no words. Read more

CVS will stop airbrushing beauty shots -- The largest drugstore chain in America will stop "materially" retouching photos of models in ads used for its branded beauty products. The president of CVS Pharmacy explained, "The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established." Takeaway: This is a tangible example of a company taking action based on its values. There's a direct connection between the value, the action, and the nature of the company's business. Bravo. Read more

Slack introduces private shared channels -- You love Slack within your business but wouldn't it be great if you could use it to engage people in other companies with whom you're working? Such channels exist in Slack but a new update lets you set them to private. Takeaway: Slack aims to be the messaging app of choice for work and features like this make it ever more desirable. Read more

More group chat control coming to WhatsApp -- A feature WhatsApp is testing will let you "dismiss" members of a chat group, effectively demoting them from admin roles. Currently, you have to delete someone from a group altogether. The "dismiss as admin" feature comes as WhatsApp gives more control of chats to admins. Takeaway: Group chats could offer a viable real-time alternative to Facebook and LinkedIn groups for organizations. Read more


  • Google will punish site that load slowly on phones -- Google knows people care about how fast a page loads and doesn't want to present links on search result pages to sites that don't meet that criteria. As a result, pages that load slowly will be demoted in search results. Read more Twitter is rejecting claims that its employees monitor users' private data, including their
  • Direct Messages. The claim was made by right-wing sting operation Project Veritas. Read more
  • WhatsApp is at work on a feature that will flag spam messages so you can avoid being taken in by them, which is a growing problem. Read more
  • Following up on last week's report on the dismal state of Snapchat, here's more bad news: App store reviews of the Snapchat redesign are generally awful. Only 17% of reviews of the app since the redesign are five-star. Snapchat is dismissing the complains, arguing that it takes time for people to get accustomed to big changes. (Or, they could not wait to get
  • Add transparent GIFs to your Instagram Story images -- Giphy is making a library of GIFs without backgrounds available for Instagram users to add to the images they add to their Stories. Take that, Snapchat. Read more
  • And, as if Instagram isn't eating enough of Snapchat's lunch, Instagram is now adding the ability to let users share text-based clips along with videos and photos. You get several fonts to choose from when you add your text message. Read more
  • But wait, there's more from Instagram, and it's creepy. Now you can see when your friends were last active on the app. It's a feature that already exists on Facebook's Messenger app. Read more


Visa has launched a signature sound -- It took a year to come up with three notes users will hear whenever they complete a Visa transaction, in person or online. The recognition that audio is growing in importance is leading a lot of companies to explore sound as a way to connect customers with the brand -- also known as "sonic branding." Visa will unveil its sound during the Winter Olympics. Takeaway: Consider how a sonic brand would work when someone opened a company's Alexa skill, for example. The fact that we're entering the era of the voice-driven user interface means we'll see (or hear) much more of this. Incidentally, I spoke with Gartner's Augie Ray about this for next Monday's FIR podcast.Read more

Investor insists companies contribute to society -- This values-based market is getting more real all the time. The most recent evidence: The Founder and Chief Executive of investment firm BlackRock -- one of the most influential in the business -- sent a letter to the CEOs of the biggest public companies in the world informing them that, in addition to making a profit, they need to contribute to society or support from BlackRock will evaporate. "Society is demanding that companies both public and private serve a social purpose," the letter reads. "To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society." In addition to losing potential BlackRock investment, companies that fail to contribute to society "will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders." Takeaway: If you cannot communicate openly and authentically about your company's contribution to society, something is amiss in your organization. Communications should serve as the company's conscience. Add this to your to-do list. Read more

How communicators are coping with Facebook's News Feed update -- PRWeek asked a group of communicators how they planned to deal with Facebook's new focus on friends-and-family posts that inspire interation. Responses fell into two general categories. One, create great content that inspires conversation. Two, increase your budget for sponsored content since organic reach has been a futile endeavor anyway. Takeaway: You should employ both strategies, along with drawing visits to your Page as a destination (through Facebook Live and other activities that make a direct visit appealing to your audience. Read more


One-third of humanity uses social media -- One-third of all people worldwide used a social network last year. That's 2.48 billion people. Most of the growth has come from developing countries via mobile devices. Takeaway: Lots of data on worldwide social media use in this eMarketer report, much of which can be used to support plans to use social media that might be running into objections based on the misguided belief that members of the target international audience aren't using this stuff yet.Read more

Growth in time spent on apps slows -- People spent 6% more time on apps in 2017 than in 2016, down from 11% in 2016 over 2015. "The declining growth in session activity means users are reaching a point where they can't give up much more time out of their day to using apps. Instead, they're shifting activity from older apps to newer ones. They're spending time across a diverse variety of apps, too." The use of shopping and media apps grew significantly while lifestyle and gaming apps lost steam. Takeaway: You need a website but you don't necessarily need an app. The decision to deploy an app has to be based on knowing that your audience will want to use it and, in a growing number of cases, they probably won't unless you ride the wave of entertainment or shopping. Read more

Consumers are hard-pressed to name a neutral news source -- In 1984, 58% of Americans believed the news media take care to separate fact from opinion. Today, that number is 32% with 66% believing that most media do a lousy job of letting audiences know what's fact and what's opinion. Forty-five percent find a great deal of bias in news coverage. "With perceptions of bias so pervasive, it is perhaps not surprising that less than a majority of Americans, 44%, say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively." Takeaway: The results of this Gallup poll are troubling at a fundamental level, but PR practitioners have to address another issue: Will their successful pitches be tainted when they appear in the media because of the heightened bias in the media where they appear? Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Smart Audio

AI reads better than people -- For the first time, Artificial Intelligence has outperformed humans at reading comprehension. Given resources like Wikipedia, the algorithm can answer countless questions. Said one scientist involved in the test, "Objective questions such as 'What causes rain' can now be answered with high accuracy by machines." The scientist added that the applications cover tasks like "customer service, museum tutorials and online responses to medical inquiries from patients, decreasing the need for human input in an unprecedented way." Takeaway: Don't anticipate widespread layoffs, since the immediate impact of this technology is shifting human interaction to more judgement-based interactions. That is, the nature of work will leave objective Q&A to machines while people are freed up to address more subjective questions and problems.Read more

AI finds its way into the enterprise -- One in 25 CIOs claims to have AI actively working in their companies, according to data released by Gartner. Tech companies are not surprisingly farthest along in the adoption of AI, but more companies are ready to jump on board: Six in 25 are either piloting AI or have it in their short-term plans, while five in 25 have it in mid-term plans. Takeaway: AI is coming to your organization if it's not already there. This will require considerable communication with employees and customers, especially around ethics concerns. Read more

Bumps in the road to hotel adoption of smart audio -- The utility of Alexa-like smart speakers in hotel rooms is fairly obvious. Getting there is going to be a challenge. Protecting privacy is uppermost in hoteliers' minds, along with the infrastructure to support the devices, among other issues. Takeaway: I'm sure the challenges of adding checkout to TVs was once a challenge, too. As people get more accustomed to these devices, they will be less wary of always-on microphone arrays, too. As these devices come to the workplace, will employees worry that the company is always listening? Can't they already do that with bugs if they want to (as could hotels)? Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

AR as a feature -- Businesses are finding that the best way to apply Augmented Reality is not as the sole purpose of an app, but rather as a feature of an app that serves a larger purpose. Amazon has embraced the idea, adding "AR View" into its primary shopping app so people can see how various products would look in their home (or, you know, wherever). "By adding the AR as a feature, Amazon was able to create a new layer of value to the shopping experience for its customers, without having them leave the app to open a separate tool." Takeaway: Exactly! AR's best use case right now is as a tool, not a toy. AR as a feature should inform everyone's thinking about how to take advantage of the technology today.Read more

StubHub adds AR as a feature -- Ticket reseller StubHub is adding an AR model of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where the Super Bowl will be played, to its app "to give ticket-buyers a way to better plan their Super Bowl experience well before they ever set foot in Minneapolis." It's StubHub's second AR effort, following an experiment that let app users get a virtual view from their seat before purchasing a ticket. Takeaway: I am no fan of ticket resellers or the whole rancid ecosystem that allows them to exist. But if you're going to make yourself more useful to customers who hold their nose while they do business with you, adding AR as a feature is one way to do it. Read more


IBM, Maersk form blockchain joint venture -- The goal of the business is to create a global trade platform "built on open standards and designed for use by the entire global shipping ecosystem." Takeaway: This kind of disruptive change to the global shipping ecosystem will require a lot of communication, don't you think?Read more

January 5, 2018
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The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • This week's For Immediate Release conversations featured Deirdre Breakenridge on the ROI of ethical behavior and PR's role in serving as the company's conscience, Marshall Kirkpatrick on American's love-hate relationship with social media (as documented in a new Harris Poll), and Phil Gomes on Kodak's announcement that it would introduce a blockchain-based photography registry and a cryptocurrency for purchasing rights to images. Also in this episode: Facebook's latest News Feed update focuses on friends and families to the detriment of brands and publishers; Facebook is also introducing a local news and events section to its mobile apps; Marriott International ran afoul of the Chinese government prompting a shutdown of its website; Snapchat data leaks and it isn't pretty; and a slew of smart audio reports confirm that voice is the new user interface. Listen
  • What's ahead for B2B sales and marketing in 2018? Justin Shriber, Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions, put together a series of predictions, and in this discussion he expands upon them and tells of the role that LinkedIn will play. Listen
  • This week, the Inside PR hosts discuss the approaching deadline to implement the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), Pew research on television news consumption, and finding time for creative thinking. Listen
  • In this week's show, the Digital India crew talked about Facebook's latest news feed algorithm, where Mark shared an open letter. 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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