Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Will Twitter Die or Outlive Us like Fleas and Cockroaches?

According to a recent poll conducted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation, Twitter's popularity will drop in the next two years. Are they right? Did the Wall Street people predict the coming crash? Personally, I'm not sure yet.

IABC's online poll received more than 450 responses from communications executives around the world. A few highlights:

* 67 percent of respondents said Twitter will not be as popular two years from now as it is today. Of that group 64 percent said Twitter will still be around, but less popular, while 36 percent predicted Twitter will fade away.

* 28 percent of respondents said Twitter's popularity will continue. Of those, 56 percent said Twitter would be used even more frequently while 43 percent said it's popularity will stay at current levels.

The study pointed to Twittering from Iran and about Michael Jackson's death as illustrations of how the micro blogging site continues to gain new users and ways of sharing information.

In another IABC survey, 1,500 communications professionals were asked if and how they used Twitter inside a company to keep employees engaged.

* 52% said they were not currently using Twitter nor did they plan to use it in future

* 27% said they planned to use Twitter in future

* 21% said they are using Twitter now.

The survey found that social networking sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer were the most popular among corporate users for internal communications.

FULL DISCLOSURE - I had no clue what Yammer is. So here's an explanation for all of us neophytes. It's their words not mine.

Yammer is a tool for making companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you working on?”

As employees answer that question, a feed is created in one central location enabling co-workers to discuss ideas, post news, ask questions, and share links and other information.

The basic Yammer service is free. Companies can pay to claim and administer their networks.

Oh and one more IABC survey highlight. If you're the CEO of a company no matter what size, chances are you've not delved into social media just yet. 56% of top executives told IABC researchers that they don't use any social media. Maybe they're just too busy collecting big paychecks and trying to stay afloat in this lousy economy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Marketers Salute Michael Jackson

Here's a great YouTube Video done by prisoners as a tribute to MJ. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK25cfzdTTg

Like everyone else in the world I'm writing about Michael Jackson today - his passing is a loss for all. His music spanned decades and generations - recently my nine year-old daughter heard "I'll be There," and I explained to her that this was Michael Jackson when he was close to her age - that he had a long history with music. She knew who he was but had no idea of his history - to her he was just an MTV star.

Despite all his troubles, Jackson was a brilliant marketer. He put MTV on the map with Thriller which sold hundreds of millions of records and was a staple at every teen party throughout the 1980s. Kids sat and watched the video a 100 times, copied his moves and danced to his songs.

One of the smartest things he ever did, which evidently kept him afloat as he continued to bleed money, was buy the rights to a couple hundred songs by the Beatles. Although the price tag was $47 million plus he knew that the value of that music was priceless. He understood the music business and what would sell.

What made Michael Jackson an amazing marketer was his creativity - his penchant for changing styles, for experimentation, for taking chances and getting them right. Like Madonna who is also of his era and not much older, he made choreography and dance a staple in the music business and brought it to the stage. There would have been no Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Paula Abdul and hundreds of other performers who used dance to enhance their shows without Michael Jackson. Rock and roll was just a band before he upped the ante.

As a dancer, I have always admired his courage and the freshness of his work - it's mastery really - he doesn't just sing and put on a show - he marketed a concept, a feeling, a way of thinking about the world that's crystal clear. More power to him.

Of course, the pedophile accusation was dreadful for his career, but I read that he was about to make a comeback with a series of sold-out shows in London. The Europeans are much more forgiving, particularly when you are found innocent. I do think he was a bit wacko (not an original thought) but beyond that I just don't know. I wasn't there.

Traveling and don't want to stay on too long but that's my thought for the day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why Do Most PR People Play it Safe?

Always good for me to go to DC Ad Club event – it’s so hard to find really creative people in this market. New York was flush with them but DC is so cautious, much of the PR is words like effective, appropriate – PR people are into consultant speak.

I put out a call for designers recently and the stuff I saw was not just boring, it wasn’t creative. Stock photos, dull headlines, a tribute to safeness.

Come on people – we live in a world of clutter. If you want to cut through you have to think no I will not say “outside of the box.” You just have to think.

Don’t people know the difference between good and bad design? Good writing and fluff? Don’t they care?

Anyway went to a lunch to see this year’s DC area Addy award winners and it was an eye opener. The grand prize winner was a real breath of fresh air.

Glorified Spies

The grand prize winner was the Redhead Companies, and two young, enthusiastic redheads presented. They did a campaign for the Spy Museum, sort of a take-off on the Cold War but with modern day imaging, bold colors and very striking.

Their creative plan of attack was very simple “Be conspicuous.” They created “Metro Station Domination.” When you got off the train at the Spy Museum’s metro stop you couldn’t miss them. The ads were everywhere. Some of the best headlines:

Most Museums Contain Donated Treasures – Most of Ours are Stolen

This is the Only Museum that Requires a Fake ID to Get In

An actual CIA spy called and asked for posters of the ads. Ticket sales were up 18%. Web traffic was up 57%. And what happened? They got canned.

Fun of Playing the Lottery

Another winner was Smith Gifford which did a series of “Dodge Ball” ads for the Virginia lottery. The idea was to get across the fun of playing but not the fun of winning – which was a departure from the traditional lottery ads which push “You’ve Gotta Be in It to Win It.”

When they presented the creative a scientists stood up and said “Technically you win when you don’t get hit.” That provided some inspiration, they realized it was not about hitting but about watching someone else get hit. Favorability ratings shot up.

National Train Day

This campaign was done by Arnold Advertising for Amtrak and it was clear that they spent a fortune creating National Train Day. Seven different artists created materials in four different cities: NY, DC, Chicago and LA. Thousands of man hours were expended. They gave away a week on a train on Wheel of Fortune. Ninety three stations across the country held train station events.

Some of the results – 140 stories in 28 markets, more than 70 videos on YouTube, yada, yada, yada. If you give me a couple million bucks for a campaign I can make a big splash too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Twitter is Boring or is it just Celebrities?

Don't you just love my Twitter bird?

Nobody mocks Twitter better than the late night comedians. Conan O'Brien, in his first week as host of the Tonight Show, demonstrated just how mundane and ridiculous it can be.

Do I really need to know that my high school boyfriend's wife, who we both went to school with, is off to get her car cleaned? Or that an acquaintance has taken some bogus quiz defining what wild animal they would be? Or that a friend is in a hotel room listening to the couple next door have sex? Will this enrich my life? I don't think so.

Most of my Twittering is pretty boring too but I try to keep it business related. What am I working on - what is the big question of the day - what frustrates me - in just a few characters it's hard to rant. That's for blogging.

Anyway this clip is about celebrity Twittering and if you didn't know that they were just like you and me you will soon. The trouble is I have to question who is really Twittering for them - some publicists intern perhaps? Does Miley Cyrus really wait in line for a latte or is just her PR reps way of showing she's a regular teen? Does Ashton Kutcher go to the supermarket to shop for salad fixings - and would he tell the world about it?

Enjoy this - it's very funny.


And this just in from the Online Examiner:

"Faced with complaints about impersonators, Twitter said this weekend on its blog that it intends to launch a verification system to identify the real celebrities on the site.

The company intends to test the service this summer, but beyond that, many details aren't yet known. Such a program might help the site -- but might also expose it to further liability. One critical detail that's still unclear is whether Twitter intends to charge for the service."

Does that mean the publicists will have to pay?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Media Coverage during the Apocalypse – How it's Changed

Over the last 18 months I have become a student of media – a witness to the apocalypse of traditional media – print, broadcast, radio – and a student of the new. When it comes to pitching today's media - we are all just babies - figuring it out as we go along. Maybe with more crying on our end.

In my areas of expertise – healthcare, education and science – I’ve seen entire departments in the world’s most prestigious organizations – the Washington Post, the New York Times, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, AP, Reuters, CNBC, the networks - all have all shrunk their ranks dramatically.

If you think that the online versions of name brand media have remained well staffed while the others have shrunk – you are wrong. Online is where much of the new staffing went – the reporters, producers, editors, etc. – were young, dynamic and expendable. Many of those departments are decimated - it's all gone to freelancers who they try to portray as on staff. The bad part for PR people - finding them is really hard and 99% of the stuff you send doesn't get passed on.

Here’s some of the things I’ve learned about the new media reality:

Regional newspapers, though hard hit, have kept beat reporters to maintain reporting on important local issues – the Chicago Tribune is much less likely to let a healthcare reporter go than is USA Today. These are a great source of potential hits – if you can find a local angle. And these days anything that appears in print also shows up online.

Blogs are the best resource for those who want quick and widespread coverage. Blog reporters have winnowed down to two types – the seasoned journalist and the newbie who is trying to make a mark for herself. Both have to fill a lot of space. And be provocative - the goal is to stimulate debate.

Story pitches have gotten really simple – If you thought story pitches were getting simplistic before – now they’re a reality TV show title. Editors and producers want quick, hard hitting, why now and why should I care. In the length of a tweet. The days of page long story packages with explanations of why this trend is important or why this product is the newest and greated should be covered are dead and gone. No one cares. Go to HARO and PR Newswire to see what people are covering. Very instructive. Also follow reporters on Twitter.

Scrap your long media releases. If it can't be said in under 600 words you shouldn't be saying it. And the long quotes make the client happy but the reporter could care less. Your headline and first paragraph are key word sources - but don't sacrifice content. Better to include a second quote or name with the story pitch of someone who can validate it and has no apparent vested interest in doing so. If you don't know what I mean, you're in the wrong business.

The economy is the story and will be for awhile to come. Something that saves money, creates jobs, shows teamwork, helps others in need are all good stories. If you can make them come out of a human interest story or adversity – more the better.

Entrepreneurship is back. If someone is starting a business in this new economy turn it into a story. Figure out how it links to today’s market, come up with a human interest angle and you’ve got something salable. Saw recently a query from a Nightly Business Report producer on HARO looking for a small business in New York City that is struggling in this economy. The producer had to post that? People aren’t doing their jobs if she didn’t have a stack of possibilities.

You have to pick up the phone. The days of email pitching are over. Oh you may get lucky – I have in the last few weeks – but you have to hit someone you know is hungry and young with a good story. But otherwise you must be persistent. And have patience. And not a pest. And don’t put kids who don’t know what they are doing on the phone to pitch as most PR shops do. They will piss off anyone over 25 if they don't know the subject cold.

Social media cannot replace traditional - There are alot of pricey consultants running around selling social media policy work, integration, setting up pages, strategy, etc. Well the word media is overrated. Unless you are Ashton Kutcher with his one million plus followers on Twitter your reach in social is pretty limited. You need to be in that space and to post things there. But traditional media still brings in the mass numbers.