Announcing Hill & Knowlton’s New Social Media Principles

23 September 2009

Almost a month ago, I asked for help to update Hill & Knowlton’s social media principles.

This afternoon, our CEO sent out the final version to all staff worldwide. We’ve already updated our public principles on our website, but I also wanted to share the full document here and explain a little about the process we’ve been through, what we’ve changed and why.

Summary

Our principles are split into three sections: personal use of social media; professional use of social media on behalf of our company and clients; and use of our official social media platforms. You might say this separation isn’t necessary, but we have found that not all of our staff operate in all these spaces so we want to make sure they can quickly identify the bits that are relevant to them.

You might also say that this makes them too long, and the only guideline should actually be “use your common sense”. That is undoubtedly a valid approach but if we are talking about being accountable to ourselves, our clients and the social media community, that simply doesn’t wash.

Our principles are centered around encouraging staff to participate appropriately not restricting their ability to do so. As communications professionals, it is essential that we are able to explore, understand and participate in social media in order to credibly advise our clients how to do the same.

A few other things worthy of note:

  • We have a 24/7 email hotline – as well as our extensive digital practice – where staff can ask questions about what is/isn’t appropriate. Again this is designed to help, not hinder.
  • We have defined a complaints procedure designed to be fair to everyone. Too often, we see knee-jerk reactions that don’t look at the issue objectively.
  • Unlike version one, this time we have asked all staff to click a link in order to confirm that they have read and understand the principles.

The Process

For those of you trying to conduct a similar exercise in your own organization (or with clients), you might be interested in how we did it. If not, skip to the next section. Bear in mind that this was an update to existing guidelines not creation from scratch.

  1. We put the existing guidelines on our internal wiki platform and invited everyone to edit or comment on the different sections.
  2. Someone took all the feedback and created an updated version of the guidelines
  3. This was circulated as a draft to that community, socialized with senior management for comment and shared externally on this blog
  4. Final feedback was incorporated (mainly clarifications) before being signed off by the CEO, COO, CMO and digital practice head.

The Principles

Links to the text of each section of the principles can be found below.

Please feel free to use, copy or adapt these principles as part of your own social media policies. It would be nice if you could let us know if they’ve been helpful too.

Augmented reality, part two

16 September 2009

I keep getting drawn back to the topic of augmented reality and how it might impact on marketing and communication. When I wrote my first post on the subject I was beginning to explore some examples of the technology. After a period of reflection, I’m left with two questions:

  1. How to describe it in layman’s terms
  2. What the applications to marketing/PR might be

For the first, I think I’m getting close. Get people to think about a physical object (reality) and data about it (or data about that data) that could exist online. These are the two core components.

Augmented reality is the technology that connects the two together. This technology has to do a number of things:

  • Provide the user with a way of capturing the object
  • Recognise the object
  • Search for the relevant data about the object
  • Display the data in a way that augments the physical representation

Let’s take the simple example of a painting in an art gallery:

  • User points device at painting
  • Software recognises the painting
  • Software searches for information about the painting or artist
  • Device displays data to user as an overlay on the image

So with description, let’s turn our attention to the applications for marketing and PR. The first question to ask is what the physical objects are. People, products, buildings, headlines, newspapers, etc. all spring immediately to mind. Now let’s think about the associated data. Profiles, reviews, comments, articles, sentiment, etc. all come into play. So augmented reality applications that can tell you whether a headline in a newspaper is positive or negative and what people are saying about it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

The key technology challenge is recognition, and this is where I expect to see developments in the future. I’m already imagining a world where every object – animate or inanimate – can be recognised (visually, aurally or otherwise) and given a unique identifier. If that happens, then the process of tagging information and looking it up becomes as straightforward as sending an email is today, opening up a whole new world of augmentation.

Is Enterprise 2.0 a crock?

27 August 2009

Dennis Howlett thinks so (although he doesn’t say whether his hypothetical crock is full of gold or some other raw material).

I started writing a brief, witty response to his ZDNet post whacking anyone who dare use the term Enterprise 2.0 over the head with his stick of experience (and a touch of hindsight, which as we all know is a wonderful thing). Then I realised it would have to be a more reasoned and tempered response. After posting, I guessed that like most comments on blogs owned by big media it would be unlikely to be seen by many so here it is for your delectation. I’d be interested to know if you agree.

Yes, Enterprise 2.0 is a label. So was Groupware. Remember that? New things will always be given labels by the people trying to educate the market. Get over it.

So is Enterprise 2.0 trying to solve a problem? No. Because it’s just a label. Is it a thing you can go and buy? No. Because it’s just a label. Is it going to change the world? No. Because… you get the idea.

But the tech that sits under this label isn’t just about creating community, as this article seems to be implying. There ARE real business problems that this tech can HELP solve (but like any tech, not solve in itself).

Things like streamlining internal communication in businesses when information overload is the norm – in order to ensure employees are informed, engaged and motivated.

Things like getting sales people to share best practice from the field with the product and marketing people – in order to keep the product line relevant.

Things like improving collaboration amongst people who have never spoken to each other before, or work in different countries, cultures and time zones – in order to secure that vital piece of business.

Things like connecting people with each other and information (answering questions like “do we work with this prospect anywhere else in the world?” that no other piece of tech I have seen can do quite as well), and between information – in order to ensure that the company knows what it knows, what it knows it doesn’t know, and what it doesn’t know it knows.

Should tech vendors in the space start focusing on how their products solve some of these real business problems and stop evangelising Enterprise 2.0 as if it is some kind of panacea to cure all ills? Absolutely.

Is Enterprise 2.0 a crock? No. Because it’s just a label.

Help us write our social media guidelines

24 August 2009

In May 2005, Hill & Knowlton wrote and then published our first personal blogging guidelines. Two years ago, as we started to give our clients more and more social media marketing advice, we updated these to create a wider set of social media principles.

Now it’s time to update these again. We’ve consulted widely internally, and would now like to hear what the people we might encounter online whilst representing our clients think.

So we’ve published the current version of our internal draft. You can review it below or on Scribd.

Please leave a comment here or on Scribd and let us know what you think, what works and what doesn’t, and what your experiences of PR and marketing agencies participating in social media have been.

We’ll review all the comments and the end of the week and update as necessary, before adopting internally and publishing the final version here.

Augmented reality: the next killer marketing technology

10 July 2009

Since becoming the proud owner of an iPhone 3GS I’ve annoyed family, friends and colleagues silly be flashing it around and telling them which direction North is. I’ve also been marveling at the ecosystem of third party applications available (which, apparently, would cost over $140,000 if you bought them all).

But the apps – as these programs are called – that currently exist only just scratch the surface of what is going to be possible now that the iPhone knows where it is and even which direction it is pointing.

Welcome to the world of augmented reality.

Whilst at the time of writing there are no true augmented reality applications available, there are a number in the pipeline – and their developers have not been slow to post videos showing what they can do online.

The first I came across is Nearest Tube, and app that will quite literally point you in the direction of the closest London Underground station when you hold up the iPhone. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Today I discover TwittARound (geddit), or at least a video of the first beta version. In the words of the developer, “it shows live tweets around your location on the horizon. Because of video see-through effect you see where the tweet comes from and how far it is away.” Again, seeing is believing:

So why I am suggesting that augmented reality is the next killer marketing technology? Quite simply because as these apps show, the physical and virtual worlds have just moved closer together as a result of devices like the iPhone 3GS and the ingenuity and creativity of application developers.

How long then before we have augmented reality apps that do things like:

  • Show messages left by others at the same location (in fact, there are map-based apps that already do this)
  • Display internet ratings or reviews (or alternatives) for products in shops
  • Call up news/opinion about a company when you pass by their premises
  • Provide interactivity to any outdoor ad by pointing the mobile device at it
  • Help you find the nearest outlet for a particular brand (in fact, ING Direct already did this on Google’s Android platform with their ATM Finder)

To paraphrase the ad, there’s bound to be an app for that soon.

I for one am going to be watching this space with interest over the coming months. If you have examples of companies using AR as part of their marketing or communications, please let me know.

Update: Just discovered that Apple has already filed a patent for something called ID App for identifying objects in the user’s surroundings. Mashable has more on this.

Helping executives get things done

25 May 2009

Over the last three weeks, I have had as many conversation with senior executives about how they can cope with the constant barrage of incoming information, mainly via email.

In various lengths of windedness, I tell them rather smugly that my inbox is empty 95% of the time. Not because no one ever sends me anything (although that may well be true) or that I just delete it, but because since January 2008 I’ve followed David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system.

Now I don’t know why it works for me. Maybe it appeals to the left side of my brain, maybe I just like process, or maybe it just works. But I highly recommend it to any senior executive whose inboxes control them rather than the other way around. If they can get it working (and you do need to work at it for a couple of months) I can guarantee they will feel more productive, less stressed and more in control.

In fact, I think there’s such a big internal market for this I’m considering offering one-on-one coaching to H&K’s elite.

Social media influence cannot be measured

22 May 2009

A few different projects have got my mind focused on influence this week. The first is planning the research design for the centrepiece of my book on social media in B2B (can we measure the influence that social media platforms have on the different staging of the B2B buying cycle?). The second is connected with our cooperation next month with Twitter at the Cannes Lions.

In both contexts I am reaching the conclusion that influence cannot be measured, and thus is a futile metric for exploration. Sure, you can ask people how much influence something has or has had, but do they really know? And what is influence anyway? In my mind it is a power that makes someone do something, not a property that any individual possesses. Invariably when an individual does have influence, it is only over a specific thing. Even the most influential people in the world (politicians, one could argue) have no influence over whether I will buy a Sony or a Panasonic television this weekend.

In a public environment, you might (just) be able to attempt to measure influence by looking at people’s networks, the re-communication of their utterances, but to me this is just reach. Someone who says something that reaches 100,000 people is no more influential than someone who reaches just 100, if all of the latter act on that communication but none of the former do.

In short, influence needs to be measured in context and at the receiving end not the transmitting end. That is not something you can do by looking at their blog posts, tweets or Facebook profile.

So do we continue to try and measure things that cannot be measured, or do we measure things that can be measured and can give us as marketers comparisons that we understand.

I think it’s the latter.

Calling all business marketers

24 April 2009

Not content with burning myself out last Christmas finishing my first book, Enterprise 2.0, I have just signed a contract to write my second. And this time on an even shorter timescale!

For this next title, I’ll be focusing on consumer marketing’s ugly step-child, business-to-business marketing – and specifically the application of social media principles to what has in many cases becoming a rather formulaic aspect of the communications mix. Yet when you consider that roughly one-third of searches on Google are business-to-business in nature and more than 50% of Google’s and 39% of Yahoo’s advertisers are business-to-business companies, then the importance of the Internet in the purchasing cycle cannot be overstated.

It follows then that it is no longer an option for business-to-business marketers to dismiss social media as a consumer craze, and my aim with this book is to raise the profile of successful business-to-business use of social media and help companies discover, select, integrate, exploit and measure these techniques as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

Wish me luck! And if you have any great stories of business-to-business social media marketing you would like to share, please feel free to comment.

Here comes the recession… and B2B spam!

07 April 2009

Spam is obviously a fact of life these days, but I can’t help but notice a subtle increase in the amount of unsolicited email hitting my work inbox.

And it’s not just the quantity that is grabbing my attention, but the content too.

You see, this isn’t the usual Viagra or Rolex material but people – I’m guessing salespeople – desparately trying to hit their lead generation quota.

Now I have every sympathy for anyone trying to make a decent living in such uncertain times, but sending unsolicited and untargeted email actually has two effects on me.

Firstly, it’s annoying. Business-to-business marketers think they can get away with email marketing tactics that have been pretty much outlawed for self-respecting business-to-consumer equivalents. Even in this market (the UK) there are some gaping loopholes that allow emails marketing products and services to other businesses a free ride. If we don’t have a relationship that I initiated, then you shouldn’t be sending my email. Period.

Secondly, it’s irrelevant. By casting your net wider I pretty much guarantee that your response ratio will drop. I have no plans to review my developer headcount (none suits fine, right now) or upgrade my IP telephony. Just because your product might save me money doesn’t mean I’m going to be hitting that reply button.

Business-to-business marketing needs to learn a few lessons from its consumer marketing brethren, and realise that its market is in control when times get tough. And that means spending less time selling, and more time listening.

The language of the web

11 March 2009

This is a topic I am just starting to explore, so bear with me. I have a couple of hypotheses to play with:

  1. The distribution of languages used for content – especially in social media – does not correlate with the distribution of languages of internet users (see chart below).
  2. The prevalance of non-English languages online is much higher than most English speakers think.

Discuss.