HC+T Update: The Voice Opportunity

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: The Voice Opportunity
Date: June 16th 2017

On the Calendar

  • On July 21, I'll be back in Chicago to give a presentation on the technologies that will impact PR in the near future. It's part of a two-day Ragan Communications event.
  • On August 15 and 16, I will be working with staff at the Asian Developmenet Bank in the Philippines on using social media strategically in the Bank's communications.
  • On September 17, I'll give a talk at the Association of Women Communicators national conference in Dallas.
  • I'm speaking at an Igloo Software user's conference in Nashville on September 20.
  • 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.

June 16, 2017
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The Briefing was MIA for the last two weeks due to business travel, so there's a lot to catch up on. I'm also toying with a modified format, putting the stories I want to comment on at the top and sharing shorter items through the rest of the update. So let's get to it, but not before I remind you that extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you're welcome to follow.

The Big Stories

Amazon is buying Whole Foods -- The $13.7 billion deal gives Amazon access to a nationwide food chain that will most likely become a venue for retail experimentation. (Amazon has been adding retail veterans to its board and management team.) The takeaway: Brick-and-mortar isn't dead, despite all the bankruptcies and store closings that have been in the news lately. It just needs to be more effectively merged with online commerce. At a nationwide chain of stores, Amazon can let customers pick up Prime purchases, use the stores as delivery hubs, and take advantage of customer data (building on the online information Amazon already has). Read more

Amazon could also buy Slack -- Amazon is the only one of the big five tech companies without a messaging platform, but acquiring work-focused messaging app Slack (which could cost $9 billion) would fix that. The takeaway: Nobody has mentioned it, but an integration of Slack and the Alexa platform could be a game changer. Of course, it's also worth noting that nobody at Slack has expressed an interest in being acquired. Read more

Politics led 25% of Americans to boycott brands -- An Ipsos survey has found that a quarter of Americans have stopped buying or using a brand's goods or services because the brand's politics rubbed them the wrong way. That's 80 million people saying politics has a role in their purchase behavior. The takeaway: As Ipsos puts it, "Marketers can't always avoid the political fray anymore, and are well-advised to at least know their consumers' political leanings. Read more

Instagram takes steps to ensure influencer posts are labeled as sponsored posts -- A "paid sponsorship with" feature will be rolled out in the next few weeks, which will make it easier for influencers to identify who's paying for a post while also making it harder to hide the fact that the post was, in fact, sponsored. For now, using the tag will be voluntary, but the company noted that it will issue a policy and put enforcement efforts behind it sometime in the future. The takeaway: With regulators getting more active in policing unlabeled sponsored posts (or those where the sponsorship is hard to discern), Instagram is taking steps before it suffers regulatory consequences. Companies paying influencers should encourage (or require) influencers to use the tag. Read more

Delta Air Lines wants to attract entrepreneurs with experiences -- Delta is partnering with Vice Media to introduce the Delta Launchpad, "an entrepreneur-geared series of free public events in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle and a collection of videos with content from those events, which focus on film, music and food." Young business travelers are choice targets; they're also the demographic that consumes Vice content. They'll learn about the workshops and musical performances through Vice's video channels, its cable network, its Snapchat Discover takeovers, and Vice's presence on other social networks. The takeaway: Organizations that once attracted business with TV spots and other traditional advertising have to consider experiences as the way to get new customers or members started down the loyalty path. As a longtime IABC member, I'm convinced that building the member base won't happen by marketing professional development and networking. The big sell will be from highlighting the experience of membership. Read more

New York Times introduces a Reader Center -- Having done away with a public editor, The New York Times has introduced a new Reader Center that will "infuse reader-centered thinking across the newsroom: the standards desk (which issues corrections and editor's notes), the marketing team (which promotes New York Times initiatives) and the audience development team (which engages with users)." The takeaway: This is a no-brainer role for businesses, but I have never seen anything like it in a company. In the new model for employee communications that I unveiled at the IABC World Conference earlier this week, the customer experience is one of the four key areas of focus for internal communicators. I love the idea of employee communicators infusing customer-centered thinking across the enterprise, using existing channels and innovating new ones so customer ideas, concerns, and expectations reach the right employees in the right way. Read more

Marketers aren't preparing for voice search -- A survey from BrightEdge found that marketers don't see mobile as the new normal; for many, it's still the "next big thing." As for voice search, which is already normal for millions using Apple's Siri, Google Assistant and Google Home, Amazon's Alexa suite of voice apps, and others, 66% of marketers have no plans to prepare for it. Fifty-seven percent have no plans to implement any use of Artificial Intelligence this year. The takeaway: The failure of so many marketers to recognize that these technologies are not over the horizon, but rather are here now, presents those with some vision with an opportunity. And if marketers are behind the curve, you can bet PR practitioners are even further back. Your company can be among the few that have taken steps to be found in the exploding voice tech space, and AI can help you better target audiences and engage with customers and prospects. Read more

Google releases open-source visual recognition tool for mobile devices -- Watch for a flood of apps that let you use your phone for "classification, detection, embeddings and segmentation," according to the Google Open Source Blog. Designed to run on mobile networks, the open-source MobileNets can be adapted for networks of just about any size. These machine vision neural networks use Artificial Intelligence to detect objects, analyze faces, gelocate photos, and even perform granular activities like determining the species of a dog. The takeaway: Developers will build this visual capability into their apps, which means you should consider how visual identification could enhance the usefulness of apps your business offers. Read more

Seniors drive growth in mobile news -- Most of the growth in the use of mobile devices for getting news has come from Americans over 50, according to the Pew Research Center. More than 80% of Americans are getting their news from mobile devices, including two-thirds of Americans 65 and older, an increase of 24 percentage points over the previous year. Among those 50-64, 79% use their mobile devices to get their news. Still, those 65 and older prefer to get their news on a computer. The takeaway: Keep this in mind when considering how to deliver content at work. Don't assume older workers are unwilling to adopt mobile news delivery. Read more


Facebook lets advertisers blacklist sites as part of increased transparency about where ads could appear. "Pre-campaign transparency" means advertisers can prevent their ads from appearing sites that contain content they don't like. Read more

Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo closed on Tuesday, giving it the potential to become the "third giant" of online advertising, offering competition to Google and Facebook, which currently account for 85% of all online ads. Read more

Twitter adds action buttons to Direct Messages that will make it easier for brands to encourage users to do something, like follow an account, link to an external site, or tweet out a message. Brands can add up to three buttons to a single DM. Read more

Google's Gchat is shutting down on June 26. Gchat was one of the first online chat tools, the first one a lot of people used. Google is prompting users to switch to its other chat apps, including Hangouts, Allo, Duo, Android Messages, and Voice. Read more

Facebook is making Groups more prominent in its apps as part of a test. The Groups section is showing up for some users alongside notifications, friend requests, and news feed sections of the mobile apps. CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees Groups (both public and private) as essential to Facebook's future based on their ability to create meaningful connections. Read more

One consequence of a crisis is heightened awareness. Just as the airline industry, which has seen complaints jump 70% in the wake of the infamous United Airlines customer dragging incident. The U.S. Department of Transportation's data shows customers filed 70% more complaints in April than they did in the same period a year ago. All the more reason you should deal with a crisis quickly and prevent recurrences. Could somebody please pass that advice on to United? Read more

Apple will give podcasters insights into listeners as part of an update to its podcast app. The analytics go well beyond downloads, the only metric podcasters (and advertisers) have been able to use up to now. Podcasters will be able to see which individual episodes people play, which segments of the show they listen to, and where they exit. Apple's podcast app dominates the field, so the data will be important to any podcaster. Read more

The Washington Post is experimenting with audio articles for smartphone users, tapping into Amazon Polly, which converts article text into human-sounding speech. The monthlong experiment, which began last week, lets users listen to four articles from the newspaper's business, lifestyle, technology, and entertainment sections. Companies may want to duplicate the effort for their content marketing efforts, given the increasing amount of time people spend consuming audio (and the fact that they can listen to audio when driving or engaged in other activities during which they can't read text or watch video). Read more

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is blocking users from his Twitter account, reminiscent of President Donald Trump's habit of blocking people he disagrees with from his RealDonaldTrump account. Blocking is a Twitter feature and Bevin's office claims only people who post obscene materials or "repeated off-topic comments" get the heave-ho. Because Bevin (and Trump) are elected officials, however, blocking access to their messages is viewed by some as a First Amendment violation. Expect the debate to continue. Read more

WiFi and Alexa are being built into the walls of new homes as South Florida builder Lennar is the first to adopt a new set of construction standards. Amazon Echo speakers will be included in each build, along with devices on Samsung's SmartThings IoT platform and activation and service from Amazon Home Services. If you prefer Google Home, it'll work, too. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Voice Tech, and Chatbots

Your Amazon Echo or Google Home can tell you how late a store is open thanks to Retale Go, a voice-activated assistant that provides information about 320,000 retail locations. Information includes hours, phone number, and address. Your company's retail locations are part of the network, aren't they? Well, aren't they?Read more

Bots are about to get more human as Facebook unveils research about its efforts to train chatbots to negotiate with humans, which requires them to think a few steps ahead. The bots were trained by watching negotiation dialogues between real people. In tests, people didn't realize they were negotiating with bots. Read more

Amazon introduces a barcode scanner with Alexa built in. The "kitchen assistant" lets you scan barcodes on food packages to order the item while also adding items by voice, asking questions, and controlling home lighting. The Dash Wand includes a magnet, so it can hang on your refrigerator just like a can opener. Read more

A social network for voice recordings is gaining some traction. "Hear Me Out" limits recordings to 42 seconds, designed for people who need to get messages out while driving, though people are using it for far more. You can select the categories of content you're interested in and follow users you like. The content shared is fascinating and the opportunities for brands are endless. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Snapchat global daily active users have declined 6% year-over-year, according to third-party app intelligence service Apptovia. Read more

Traders are betting against Snap, with a 1.7-to-1 ratio of bearish put contracts to bullish ones. Snapchat's declining growth (see the item above) is fueling Wall Street's pessimism. Companies like JPMorgan have lowered their price target on the company. Read more

McDonald's is accepting "Snapplications" as part of an effort to recruit 250,000 people to work in more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants. The Snapchat-based applications were introduced last month in Australia, with prospective workers auditioning by making short videos using a filter that puts them in a McDonald's uniform. McDonald's responds with a link to the application process and career page. Given Snapchat's dominance among the age group most likely to seek work in a fast-food company, it's genius to let them make contact through the app. Read more

AR may be part of Snapchat's next Spectacles release, according to a source with inside knowledge. Back in 2015, parent company Snap applied for an AR glasses patent and the Snapchat app already has an AR feature, World Lenses, which allows users to place digital objects around them. Read more


Video could lead to tripling of online bandwidth consumption over the next five years, according to Cisco forecasts. Video made up 73% of online traffic last year. Read more

Facebook is adding closed-caption capability to Live broadcasts by letting broadcasters use the Live API to add their own subtitles (via third-party providers). Earlier this year, Facebook added real-time, automatically generated captions to videos appearing on brand Pages. Read more

Vertical video is gaining widespread acceptance, according to a survey that found 78% of first-time viewers generally liked the vertical format; 65% of respondents say that brands using vertical video are "more innovative." Among first-time viewers, 84% said vertical video is best for social media; 85% of experienced viewers agree. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Now there's a VR sports league, thanks to a partnership between Oculus, Intel, and ESL, which have launched the VR Challenger League. So far, there's $200,000 in prize money available for players competing in the games The Unspoken and Ender's Game. Read more

Virtual Reality shopping could become a big deal and possibly spell the end for a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses. Even though real-world retailers are beefing up the in-store experience with technologies like beacons and interactive window displays, improved VR capabilities could lead to virtual shopping that duplicates the in-store experience without the hassle of leaving your home. Read more

The Values-Driven Marketplace

CMOs are getting in on the act as evidenced by JPMorgan Chase, whose CMO yanked ads from Megyn Kelly's new show (and all of NBC's news programs) in response to Kelly's interview with right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Kristin Lemkau joins a growing number of CMOs who "have all become outspoken on everything from political issues to social stances to diversity causes." According to one CMO, it's a matter of "exercising their voices in a way that’s showing the fact that they operate in service of both customers and employees." Read more

Most global PR chiefs see the uncertain geopolitical climate as good for the industry, according to PRWeek's Global Power Book. As Conagra Brands CMO Jon Harris put it, "With great uncertainty comes great opportunity." Not everyone agreed: 130 CMOs see the uncertainty as good but 25 said it's bad. Read more

Just for Fun

Smirnoff is trolling President Trump with advertising that pokes fun at the ongoing investigations into Trump's Russia connection. A bus stop ad, for example, notes displays a photo of a Moscow Mule with the text, "Made in America, but we'd be happy to talk about our ties to Russia under oath." Read more

Google's Gboard lets you draw emoji, then finds the closest emoji match to what you drew so you can use it in your message. The update also adds full phrase prediction rather than just guessing the word you're typing. Read more

Did anybody ask Facebook to bring back Poke? Because that's what the "hello" button, which began showing up in the UK, seems to be. When someone says "hello" to you, you see a waving hand, a burst of confetti, and the opportunity to say hi back. Given Mark Zuckerberg's aspiration to create more meaningful communities and connections, this seems like an unwanted step in the wrong direction. Read more

Blog series on a new model for employee communication

At the IABC World Conference on Wednesday, I unveiled my new model for employee communications during a standing-room-only two-hour session. On my blog, I will begin sharing longer explanations of each element of the model. Watch this space for notifications of new installments of the series.

The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • Terry Fallis and Donna Papacosta joined guest host Dan York on For Immediate Release for a lively discussion about podcasting -- where it has been, where it is today and where it is going. Along the way they discussed Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, NPR’s new ad platform for podcasts, how and why to podcast out a novel -- and thoughts about creating podcasts for clients. Listen
  • On Inside PR episode 477, Mary Meeker tells us about the Internet Trends that are shaping our world. Pinterest acquires Delicious and will preserve it as an archive. Martin Waxman provides a primer on social listening for business. Listen
  • On the latest episode of FIR B2B: The Conference Board recently published a report that defines the circular economy and offers examples of how it’s changing the way some businesses work. Thomas Singer, who authored the report, joins us to summarize its findings and discuss the long-term impact on businesses and marketers. Listen
  • The Digital India team discusses the importance of local SEO for small and local business. When we search for any local business, the first thing we come across is the business listings on the map or on the right-hand side. So how does a Business get into that listings? Listen
  • In the latest episode of The Voice, Jody Brian, a veteran communicator who has made a couple big career pivots, shares with Tina Barton her transition, and how her communications experience both prepared her for the role and continues to enhance her perspectives and contributions she is able to bring. Jody also offers advice to communications professionals considering a similar move. Additionally, we learn about the range of eating disorders affecting youth (particularly young women), the shortcomings of Ontario’s health system, and the support Hopewell makes available to those suffering and their families. Listen
  • In this month's Circle of Fellows, four IABC Fellows — Amanda Hamilton-Attwell, Ned Lundquist, Brenda Siler, and Angela Sinickas — explore the upfront research required to engage diverse audiences, what we can learn from the experiences of others, practical on-the-ground advice, and how to address a miscommunication that threatens the company's relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders. Listen

Does your team have the right digital competencies?

I continue to read about problems organizations have because their communications teams don't have the right skills to execute the digital and social media strategies they have created. My colleague Richard Binhammer and I have indexed the required skills and developed a way to figure out where the gaps are in your team, how they align to your strategy, and how best to fill them. Email or call me for more information on how we get your team up to speed.
HC+T provides a full range of services for large organizations, from speaking and training to communication audits and strategic plan development.

Visit us at Holtz.com.

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