Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

Social Media or just “Media”?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

It caught the attention of many folks around the web. Mine as well. And from a PR agency perspective – let alone a corporate perspective – it is more critical than most of us likely imagine.

For the past three months, I’ve been consumed by my new role – that being to help guide H&K’s digital corporate and public affairs offering across both the US and Canada - commuting 3 days a week to Washington, DC – and learning a lot through exposure to new colleagues and new clients. At the same time, I’ve noticed that some of the same challenges exist that I faced in my Canadian-only role, challenges encapsulated by Adam Tinworth of One Man and His Blog in his October 7 post: “On the web, social media is just media“. In it, he expounds on a recent Tweet where he stated:

Officially bored of the phrase “social media” now. I’m just going to call it “media” and everything else can be “anti-social media”.

An off-the-cuff comment in under 140 characters perhaps. But when viewed through the lens of our industry, the importance of it cannot be understated. The past few years have been tumultuous as consultants and corporations, governments and media attempted to navigate this minefield of new behaviours, expectations and technologies. “Hype” and the myriad missteps along the way could – for the most part – be forgiven.

However, if communications agencies are to survive and thrive in the years ahead, the thinking that social media is something different from what we have traditionally done must be leeched – from corner offices to cubes. We must start thinking of it in the context of “media”… mainstream, social or otherwise. It must be holistic, it must be integrated, and it must be informed. If we don’t, it will remain sidelined, a novelty, the last slide within a deck, the last page within a proposal or RFP, bereft of substance, misinformed by hype, and the realm of junior consultants. As a consequence, our own relevance will likely, and all too soon, be seen as equally “optional” and throw-away.

The “hype” and novelty is over. It is a call-to-action that must now be heeded.

Who cares about the future of media? We should

posted by Brendan Hodgson

There is a real and serious debate taking place among media-types about the future of “professional” journalism in this 2.0 world. Declining readerships, the 24-second (vs 24-hour) news cycle, the rise of Twitter are – among others - challenging media to re-define their role in an increasingly inter-networked world. And this is only being further exacerbated by the current economic brouhaha. The debate is often visceral and it is not all about trying to save what once was. As Mathew argues in his recent (and certainly daring) post for the Nieman Journalism Lab, the bloodletting overwhelming many in the mainstream media may even, in fact, be a good thing.

As a PR practitioner, it’s an issue that we need to pay very close attention to, and yet I fear we’re not (too often our strategies remain fixated on traditional media at the expense of all else). From a brutally simplistic standpoint, and if the current maelstrom continues, it will certainly diminish the impact of our “media relations” efforts. Fewer publications or news broadcasts. Fewer journalists. Fewer stories. Lower quality stories. Fewer eyeballs. Minimal impact on public perception or behaviour. Simple. Or is it?

At the same time, and in addition to considering how a calorie-reduced mainstream media will impact what we do from a pure “media relations” perspective, it forces us to pay attention to what will emerge in place of these media, regardless of whether we define it as ‘mainstream journalism’, ‘citizen journalism’ or ‘personal media’.

It begs some interesting questions: Once released, where will these journalists end up, and in what capacity? Will they join the ranks of the millions of ‘amateur’ bloggers and simply blend into the noise?  Will there be concerted efforts to create a totally different model of reporting?  Or will this re-structuring simply result in an engorged army of ‘professional’ freelancers feeding into massively scaled-down versions of what were once mighty media behemoths? Will the concept of a hyper-local media finally get off the ground in a meaningful capacity?

The answers matter. Because they could easily change (as social media already has in many respects) how we shape our strategies for reaching and influencing the people our clients care about. How does a business, government department, or not-for-profit communicate its message in a world where all media is becoming inherently personal, and where traditional filters are virtually nonexistant?

Terry Heaton speaks of the ‘personal media revolution’ in his recent post on Malia Obama filming the inauguration, and how our individual perspectives of the world are being re-shaped by the collision of personal and traditional media content.

“…it’s important to acknowledge that our view of such things is shaped by what we’re saying to each other in addition to what the people on TV are saying. This is the leading edge of the personal media revolution, and we’re increasingly seeing the mainstream press working with the people formerly known as the audience to help form the “official” record of the day. This is a good thing, and I think everybody agrees.”

It is a good thing. Now what the public relations industry needs to do is figure out what it means. Our business depends on it.

New H&K survey highlights growing impact of digital on purchasing decisions

posted by Brendan Hodgson

A short while ago my tech practice compatriots – in Canada and globally – released the results of a survey on the information sources technology decision makers (TDMs) relied upon most to drive their purchasing decisions. The results are compelling, and certainly speak to the growing influence of social media on business outcomes.

In an interview with Robert Scoble that took place earlier this month, my colleague and H&K’s global technology practice leader, Josh Reynolds, offered some insightful context around the numbers: that TDM’s continue to place strong emphasis on the credibility and reputation of vendors; that consumer-generated media is becoming as influential as traditional media in shaping reputation; and that purchasing decisions are increasingly being driven by a mix of traditional and non-traditional sources – media, analysts, and (today) bloggers.

You can review a summary of the findings here. I’ve also included my thoughts on what these findings represent:

  1. As Josh explains so eloquently, the evolving communications climate is pushing companies to “shut up and listen”. Without question, listening is vital. But at some point, the decision to jump in and participate has to take place - and yet be done in a way that (as the survey shows) is credible, transparent, and adds value to the debate, discussion, etc.
  2. It’s also interesting to note that while the influence of third-parties (traditional and non-traditional) is growing, a sphere of influencer that might need to be more closely analyzed are those who represent the technology vendors themselves – the subject matter experts such as the engineers, developers etc. who are able to take the conversation beyond “spin” and sound bites. 
  3. This is important, more so given that as many as a quarter of survey respondents indicated that they would not verify facts with a vendor if they read unfavourable information on a blog or elsewhere about that vendor and its products or services (see slide 8-9). Companies must be proactive in addressing misinformation – intentional or not – or else risk decision makers looking elsewhere if negative assertions are left unchallenged / unanswered.
  4. And while it is certainly encouraging to see that a number of Canadian tech blogs are identified as trusted sources for Canadian TDMs, the fact that a sizeable number of these influential blogs are also situated in the US and UK (the usual suspects: TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Slashdot, the Register etc.) raises some interesting issues – particularly for organizations that are headquartered in the US or elsewhere, but have branch offices spread across the world, each with their own marketing mandates. Communications and marketing teams at both the global and local levels will need to be much more closely aligned in light of this increasingly ‘borderless’ information landscape where influence is not bound by geography.

"A case of one-dimensional data being represented by two-dimensional objects"

posted by Brendan Hodgson

As one who is fascinated by the collision of mainstream and social media, imagery and interpretation, transparency and ‘truth’, there’s so much here in this tidbit of a blog post to enjoy and dissect, where even to start?

  1. It (once again) highlights the power of the visual image over the written and spoken word to communicate a message or point of view (no matter how skewed, while further acknowledging that, for the digital native, the web is all about graphics before text).
  2. It nicely encapsulates today’s journalist / blogger / reader relationship (or what today’s relationship should be, meaning mutually respectful)
  3. It reinforces the entertainment value of ’smart’ dialog (and not simply that of the journalist)
  4. It is politely scolding to them’s that tried to ’spin’ it (vs degenerating into the usual orgy of condemnation and holier-than-thou-ishness)
  5. It shows that by admitting your mistake, you will be forgiven (or, at best, ignored)
  6. And nothing here seems to take itself too seriously

It’s like a breath of fresh air… that is, if the bigger issue being represented in the visual wasn’t so depressing.

Hat tip to Inner Diablog

Dialing the noise up to Eleven… US Airways Flight 1549 and citizen media

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Yesterday, my colleague David Jones pointed to an animation created by Niall Cook, H&Ker and fellow blogger, showing the rapid transformation of Wikipedia’s entry on the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 on Jan 15. By itself, it highlighted the extraordinary speed by which citizens are increasingly able to match and, very often, surpass the speed of media in accessing and distributing new information around the incident.

As a companion to that animation, H&K Canada’s digital team also captured (as the event unfolded) screen caps of key sites – search engines, blogs, social networks, corporate sites, aggregators etc. – that I believe further demonstrates and reinforces the sheer dynamism of the communications environment in which we now exist; as it relates to the speed by which information on an incident is communicated and shared (e.g. via Twitter), the competitiveness as well as the synergy shaping the relationship between traditional and citizen media, and the actions taken by corporations to respond within this new environment.

Not all the timestamps on this slide deck are accurate or absolute, although they are certainly captured within minutes (if not seconds) of the event occuring – particularly during the first hours. Nor is the deck intended to be an exhaustive summary of all activity simply those that we felt captured this landscape, and these new issues, most effectively. Most importantly, these slides are not intended to comment either positively or negatively on the actions of authors, witnesses, posters or organizations involved.

Canada’s first ‘embedded’ blogger?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Update: Mr. Brooks is on the ground and (sort of) reporting.

Impressive, indeed… and a further sign that pockets within the Government of Canada really do get social media, and can see the PR value in making this sort of thing happen. Likewise, it acknowledges the increasingly important role of well-written, widely-read and respected blogs such as the Torch in guiding and influencing complex issues – military, political or otherwise.

Things that I’d be interested in learning more from the authors include specifics on the rules of engagement (if any), approval processes of posts (if any), and the Department’s own positioning of such an initiative, specifically, why now?

Most importantly of all, however, I wish the author a safe yet rewarding on-the-ground experience. I believe firmly that Canadians are not exposed to the full reality of the Afghan mission. I hope this helps shed a broader light on the good works our men and women in the forces are doing.

Are "Tweets" News? In times of crisis, the debate is meaningless

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Much is being written about Twitter’s coming of age, particularly as it relates to information sharing during times of crisis; the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai being the most recent example (see trend chart here). It is, without question, a powerful and highly immediate vehicle for broadcasting and sharing news as it breaks. Although, as CNN so succinctly states: “as is the case with such widespread dissemination of information, a vast number of the posts on Twitter amounted to unsubstantiated rumors and wild inaccuracies.”

From my perspective, and as one who works closely with clients in adapting their crisis plans to this new world order of twitter, blogs and citizen journalism, the ensuing argument around what is ’news’ or not, is moot. It is simply the new reality in which organizations must be prepared to communicate.

It is indeed fascinating to watch as these thousands of new voices sweep across the media landscape, amplifying, contradicting, and enhancing traditional media reports with their own eyewitness accounts and points of view. At the same time, it is also frustrating to witness the ease by which rumours and speculation spread during the acute stage of any emergency or crisis.

It has simply made our job, and that of any communicator in a time of crisis, that much harder. It means we must start now to adapt our processes to reflect this new reality, and focus even more aggressively on the principles that guide effective crisis and emergency communications. Quite simply, it speaks to what I and others in the crisis space are already espousing:

  • the need to accelerate the processes by which an organization creates, approves and distributes content, yet avoiding adding to the speculation and rumour-mongering, to ensure that it remains a credible source of information
  • the importance of an organization’s own web property to communicate information and messages beyond traditional (1.0) mechanisms – but to consider integrating their own Twitter feeds, RSS, video and audio, real-time information updates, and efficient cross-platform sharing of content.
  • the importance of direct stakeholder communication (via all channels – not just web) to ensure your message is received and understood, not simply delivered.
  • the importance of robust internal communications supported by meaningful guidelines around what employees can or should communicate via their own networks – digital or otherwise.
  • the importance of clear rules of engagement when it comes to engaging with external voices and influencers – understanding when it is right and appropriate, and under what circumstances, and when it may result in only further damaging an organization’s reputation and ability to communicate through an emergency.

More so now than ever, no organization can attempt to “control’ the information environment around any significant crisis. They can and must, however, ensure that their communication acknowledges this new environment, without compromising privacy, confidentiality, ethical principles or simply attempting to fill an information void with soundbites and messages that lack substance, credibility, context and concern for those affected.

Are “tweets” news? Who cares? It’s a meaningless debate. What it means and what impact it may have(if any) are the questions we should all be asking as we watch it, and all forms of social media, transform crisis communications forever.

H&K’s Niall Cook brings Enterprise 2.0 to Canada

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Author, colleague, fellow Collective Conversationist and H&K’s worldwide director of marketing technology, Niall Cook, has finally realized where the action is and will be joining the Canadian digital team in Toronto on October 7 and Ottawa October 8 to chat about his new book, Enterprise 2.0.

In addition to speaking to colleagues and clients during his brief jaunt through the colonies, Niall will also be shilling his new book… erm, I mean graciously sharing the insights of his research to interested social media afficianados… over beers at Third Tuesday events taking place in both cities - check out the deets for Toronto (October 7) and Ottawa (October 8).

227 words about Niall Cook (in his own words)

I am the Worldwide Director of Marketing Technology at communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton, with responsibility for the agency’s online marketing strategy and internal systems to maximise marketing and new business efficiency. I created the industry leading blogging policy for the firm and set up Collective Conversation, the first blogging community from a professional services company.

I frequently advise the agency’s Fortune 500 clients on the effective use of technology to support internal and external marketing strategy, having recently worked on projects for Allianz, HSBC and LG.Prior to joining Hill & Knowlton in July 2000, I held positions at the online currency, Answerthink Consulting Group, UBS and Reed Elsevier. I am also the founder and chairman of Cogenz Ltd, a company providing social bookmarking software for the enterprise.

I hold an honours degree in Typography & Graphic Communication from The University of Reading and live in Suffolk with my wife, daughter, two Hungarian Wirehaired Viszlas, one Tibetan Terrier, two cats and five chickens.

I am a frequent speaker and author on the topic of social media and social software, and was invited to address the Singapore Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts in 2006. I have also led the Ark Group’s Social Software in the Enterprise Masterclass. Other speaking engagements include the Institute of Fundraising’s national convention and the 2nd Annual Internal Communications Measurement Conference.

About Enterprise 2.0

Social software has taken the Internet by storm, fuelling huge growth in collaborative authoring platforms (such as blogs, wikis and podcasts) and massive expansion in social networking communities. These technologies have generated an unprecedented level of consumer participation and it is now time for businesses to embrace them as part of their own information and knowledge management strategies.”Enterprise 2.0″ is one of the first books to explain the impact that social software will have inside the corporate firewall, and ultimately how staff will work together in the future. Niall Cook helps you to navigate this emerging landscape and introduces the key concepts that make up ‘enterprise 2.0′. The 4Cs model at the heart of the book uses practical examples from well known companies in a range of industry sectors to illustrate how to apply enterprise 2.0 to encourage communication, cooperation, collaboration and connection between employees and customers in your own company.Erudite, well-researched and highly readable, this book is essential reading for anyone involved in knowledge, information and library management, as well as those implementing social software tools inside organizations. It will also appeal to marketing, advertising, public relations and internal communications professionals who need to exploit the opportunities social software offers for significant business impact and competitive advantage.


David Jones talks Digital PR and H&K’s Approach

posted by Brendan Hodgson

My colleague David Jones is in Vancouver this week on behalf of his client Molson. He also made time to speak at the traditionally any-day-but-Tuesday Third Tuesday social media gathering (lovingly organized by Tanya, the Netchick herself, and Monica).

Gathering from what I’ve been reading from some of the bloggers in attendance – thanks in particular to Rebecca and Tris for their insightful summaries - he appears to have given a good showing, and articulated a number of important points with respect to how H&K approaches the social media space on behalf of our clients such as Motorola, Intel, Molson, and others, including:

  • the importance of continuous learning within H&K itself,
  • the challenge of communicating in an environment where every employee is now a potential communicator, whether they know it or not,
  • the fact that social media is rarely, if ever, a ”quick fix” or a campaign that can just be turned on and turned off (and we ensure our clients understand as such), and
  • that listening to and making sense of the conversation is more about hard work versus relying too heavily on the myriad shiny new tools that might only do half the job…

Ultimately, it’s about getting past the hype, and focusing on what’s real, achievable, and makes sense to our client’s business or issue… and it’s something that Collin, David, and myself attempt to evangelize every day.

Good judgment / Poor Judgement … what do you think?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

… in the wake of last week’s barbaric murder on a Greyhound bus. 

Good judgement… Greyhound pulls its ad

Poor judgement… Peta creates one

Good judgement… Portage la Prairie’s Portage Daily Graphic refuses to run it.

Poor judgement… Peta’s attempt to justify it: A group spokesperson is unapologetic. “Like human victims, animals in slaughterhouses experience terror when they are attacked by a knife-wielding assailant,” Lindsay Rajt explains in a statement. “We are challenging everyone who is rightly horrified by this crime to look into their hearts and consider leaving violence off their dinner plates.”

“A clever way to make a point – or extremely bad taste and terrible timing?”… You tell me.