- The annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival is ground zero for the social media scene.Kerry Gorgone shares her six takeaways from SXSW 2013, including the need to empower employees as brand ambassadors. I think this is a big one, and a missed opportunity to extend social reach for a lot of companies.
- Here's a useful infographic on building the perfect Tweet– including the need to stay under 120 characters so folks have enough characters to retweet!
- The Wall Street Journal reports Facebook is looking at adding #hashtags to make keywords and topics searchable. "Bring 'em on," said Natalie Burgwin, senior manager, public relations at 1-800-Got-Junk? "Visibility is the name of the game on social media and hashtags are going to increase that," she notes. I agree.
- At PR Daily, Rebecca Benison gives us eight phrases to eliminate from press releases, and I could write a 5,000 word blog post with many more candidates. My shortcut tip: eliminate almost every adjective in your press release, and you’ll be much better off.
- Lego recently announced stellar 2012 results – 25% growth. But even a brand as successful and beloved as Lego has its PR challenges. Forbes interviews Lego Group communication manager Jan Christensen about those PR challenges, including accusations of sexism in its Lego Friends line and charges that its Star Wars Jabba the Hut Palace is too similar to mosques in Beruit and Istanbul. Global brands face unique challenges as products create different meanings in different cultures.
- McDonald’s kicks off an innovative mobile campaign rooted in the photo-sharing app Instagram. Innovative stuff and a unique approach to driving brand engagement via smartphones. its pushes to extend its reach in the photo app.
Entries in pr (14)
This just in: Apple is pretty good at marketing.
But even Apple can make a PR mistake.
Last week, Samsung launched its latest iPhone competitor, the Samsung Galaxy IV. Apple put together a couple of initiatives in an attempt to drain away some of the hype. On one front, Apple attacked Samsung. That went poorly, as competitive attacks often do for category leaders. On another front, Apple talked about its product leadership and did very well.
(By the way: You can argue that the iPhone isn't the category leader, because there are more devices running some form of Android out there than iOS. But when you make 70% of the profits in the smartphone category, you're the leader.)
A public relations misstep for Apple
In an unusual move, Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal just before Samsung's announcement. The first sentence written in the story?
Apple is on the defensive.
Schiller's attack backfired, because his attack was the story. His message points were completely lost because the PR move was so out of character for Apple. When a leader attacks, it sends a message that it is feeling jumpy about a competitor. Apple lost the narrative.
Framing the conversation on its own terms
Then Apple did something well, something that marketers for category leaders can learn from. They crafted a page on their web site called "Why iPhone?" It's a textbook example of how a leader should respond to competitive messaging to lead the conversation in an advantageous direction.
The page launched on the heels of Samsung's announcement of the Galaxy IV smartphone, and stole some of the buzz away from Samsung at a time when Apple doesn't have any new products to announce. Just releasing the page gave the press something else to talk about besides Samsung. It worked.
Evidence of leadership
Apple doesn't just claim it offers the world's best and most popular smartphone. Instead it reinforces its position with data points throughout the page, such as:
- Eight straight J.D. Power and associates awards for customer satisfaction
- The top three cameras used on Flickr: iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 5
- 800,000 apps
If you're the category leader, then you have evidence of that fact. Use it to add credibility to claims.
Framing the conversation
Apple uses the page to frame the conversation from its point of view, not to respond to specific competitor messaging points. You won't, for example, read a lot about technical specs on the page -- and specs are something heavily emphasized by competitors. In Apple's view, customers only care about features and benefits, not things like specific computer chip speeds.
So when Apple tells you about the iPhone 5's chip, it doesn't talk about clocking speeds. Instead you read about the benefits of the fast and energy-efficient chip: smooth games, fast browsing and better battery life. Competitors like to tout their latest spec advantages over the iPhone; Apple refuses to play that game and stays focused on customer benefits instead. That's the conversation Apple wants to have and believes that's what customers really care about.
Category leaders and the critical importance of how a conversation begins
Being in front comes with privileges and responsibility. A leadership position affords you extra attention which must be used wisely. What your company does will drive the conversation for the space -- for better or for worse. Apple showed us two great examples of that. When the company acted out of character and attacked the #2 player, it came off looking defensive, nervous and unsure of itself. But when it framed the conversation in its own way, focusing on the benefits of its products and supporting its leadership position with evidence, it received much more favorable coverage -- the kind of coverage a category leader wants.
No, marketers and PR pros don't own the conversation anymore. Which puts even more importance on the way a conversation is started by communications professionals.
- Brian Solis and Chenting Li put out a terrifc report this week on The Six Stages of Social Business Transformation.
- Shel Holtz shares useful tidbits from the Ragan Communications Best Practices in Internal Communication Summit this week.
- In travel, Christopher Elliott, travel writer and noted pain-in-the-rear to the TSA, tells us that America likes the TSA and its processes. Really, America? Really??
- Oh by the way, the TSA let a federal agent carry a fake bomb all the way to Terminal B at Newark Airport. But at least you got a thorough pat-down because you left your belt on.
- Speaking of travel, the @linkedintravel Twitter feed is a good one for business travelers to follow.
- Business Week has an interesting piece on how Disney acquired LucasFilm (Star Wars). Disney CEO Bob Iger's strategy is to add high-value franchises, like Marvel Comics and Star Wars, to help it compete in an era of infinite entertainment choices. Iger's quote about Disney's strategy is true for marketers, too: "It’s a less forgiving world than it’s ever been. Things have to be really great to do well.”
- GigaOm has a good reminder for us: Facebook isn't a platform for you to use, you are a platform for Facebook to use. True of almost all social media services, right? Google, too. We are not the customer -- we are the product.
- Speaking of Facebook, the company announced a big news feed redesign is coming. Prepare for mass outrage and declarations of pending Facebook exits by your friends. Then, in three weeks, all that will be forgotten. It sounds like Facebook is going to emphasize visual elements like photos and video, and reduce the focus on text. Sounds like a move toward the Google + layout, and that would be a good thing.
- And finally, a double-header on Foursquare, a favorite app of mine. It's getting better all the time at making good recommendations for me, based on my check-in history, when I'm on the road. Here's why: Foursquare updated its app to directly take on Yelp! in the recommendation space. And it's easier to check-in now, too (just hold down the location and you can check-in with one click). Meanwhile, TechCrunch asks if the check-in is dead. (I don't think it is.)
Here's a new feature: A weekly collection of useful and interesting links for busy marketing and communication pros. We'll cover business topics, sure. But will also mix in some useful travel info and other items.
- More restaurants now offer "secret," off-the-menu items, promoted through social media and mobile apps. Not only do secret menus create customer loyalty by making people feel like insiders, but they offer a cheaper way to add new choices. "Secret" items don't require expensive menu or signage changes.
- Is LinkedIn a sleeping giant in the publishing game? The business networking site Is behaving that way. The company curates articles from over one million publications and sends them to its 200 million users, and also produces unique content through its influencer network.
- Christopher Penn reminds us: be where the competition isn't. He looks at the explosion in usage of the term "digital marketing," and wonders when he last got a high-quality, glossy direct mailer, for example. Digital marketing isn't really a descriptive term, anyway. Nearly all marketing is digital at some level -- even a glossy mailer.
- ESPN had a great piece this week on the integration of college football. In the 1960s my alma mater, Michigan State, took African-American players southern teams would not. The Spartans won championships, and soon everyone followed MSU's lead. (#humblebrag)
- As communicators and marketers, we've heard it before, but can't hear it too much: you have to tell a story.
- How to avoid looking like a stalker on LinkedIn, and a bunch of other useful tips for the site.
- Learn from how Southwest Airlines handled four social media crises. Among the learning: sometimes it's better to let folks sort things out themselves online. Also: targeting news to a handful of influential blogs can be just as effective as a press release.
- Speaking of airlines, aren't the majors generous to not charge fees for carry-on bags? Wait, what? Oh. It's really because airlines fear the potential add-on labor and liability costs of more checked luggage.
When an organization is blasted with criticism, it has three choices:
1. Decide the criticism is justified, make amends, and communicate changes with a sense of humility. This allows an organization to turn a negative into a positive by showing it is responsive and willing to do the right thing.
2. Bury its collective head in the sand. Controversy moves lightning-fast these days, and folks will eventually move onto the next scandal involving Lindsay Lohan or pit bulls or Pitbull. The brand takes a hit, but it may not be too detrimental depending on the scale of the issue and the outrage.
3. Double down and push forward against the criticism. Extend the controversial position to demonstrate that the organization clearly believes its position and direction is correct.
Enterprise Florida, the official economic development organization for the State of Florida, is doubling down.
In early February, Enterprise Florida rolled out a new brand campaign with the tag line, "The Perfect Climate for Business."
Fine. But the new logo? It has many people tied up in knots:
Susan Stackhouse, chief executive of Stellar Partners of Tampa, which runs retail concessions at airports, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal:
"Isn't that special? It's clearly a strong visual that business and men go together."
Wait, building a state's business logo around a man's tie doesn't convey a progressive and forward-thinking image? News to Enterprise Florida. The organization has now invited participants to print out a picture of the tie, wear it and share photos via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #floridabiz.
The logo sends a terrible message about Florida's business climate, reinforcing damaging stereotypes that the state's culture is far behind the times.
I am glad, however, that Enterprise Florida is progressive enough to embrace social media. Here's my contribution to their tie-centric #floridabiz campaign: