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Column published in the November 23, 2015 issue of PRNews

It’s relatively easy to anticipate macro trends in technology for 2016.  It is much harder to predict how those trends will change the communications profession.  Based on work with large brands and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes, here is a list of top trends that will matter most for the Chief Communications Officer and his/her team.

  1. Audience Architecture Starts to Replace the Coverage Model: We now can see exactly who our audience is online (all social media channels and mainstream media), so we can listen to its needs, align our story with its desires and measure our success in reaching the target market for our brand or topic. Getting coverage is only one piece of this puzzle. Why? Blogs and Twitter drive 2/3s of content flow. Mainstream media has become a catalyst that blogs and Twitter drive. Think of the audience as becoming more important than the outlet. When you get coverage, the PR pro’s job is just beginning.  He/she needs to ensure that this coverage reaches the audience; the job calls for sharing it via social channels so it gets to the right people.  The end game used to be coverage itself. No more.
  2. Responsive Experience Replaces Responsive Design: Since more than 50% of content is consumed via phone and that figure will rise to more than 75% in three years or fewer, we have to provide the right experience the first time our customer looks for it online. If we direct people to a website and make them hunt for the desired information, we will lose most people and they won’t come back. We have to deliver the exact content right away.  Since people tell us what they want via search, e.g. “company x, product y pricing”, we can deliver this exact content on the first visit.  The search words serve as a trigger for the right content, which you have pre-packaged, to show up.  Imagine preparing for ten types of customers to visit your site.  Once you know who they are via their search terms coming into the site, the content changes to meet their needs.  This is simple technology we can all use today.
  3. We are Entering the era of the 9%: In the 1,9,90 model, fewer than one percent of people create content, approximately nine percent share the content and 90 percent lurk and learn, benefitting from the 1 and the 9. The first ten years of social media have been about the 1 percent. Now, technology advance has made it super easy for the 9 percent to share content, add comments and continue the conversation in any channel and on any device.  This is the second sales force for a brand.  We must know who they are and start building far better relationships with the 9 percent.  They are the best friends of the one percent and should be of us as well.
  4. We Have Fewer Than Three Seconds to Make an Impression via Video: Facebook boasts 8 billion video views per day, so it knows a thing or two about how users react to video. Its data show that we have fewer than three seconds to grab the viewer’s interest. The result is how we produce video must change. We need to create a strong first impression and should be investing in a wider range of lower cost video, not longer, expensive video.  Disagree? OK. But I usually avoid arguing with what we learn from 8 billion views per day.  That’s a big enough focus group for me.
  5. Internal Communications will Start Learning from External Audiences: We have long made the mistake of examining only internal metrics to measure internal satisfaction of our employees. Now, we realize via new models that we can identify what matters to specific employee groups by analyzing their external activities: where they hang out (social channels, forums, blogs), talk, share and learn from each other.  The answers to how better align with employees can be found outside of our walls and inside their tribes.
  6. The Full Story of a Brand Must be Delivered to the Customer: We can now use technology platforms to deliver the full story of a brand (think 4-6 articles and 2-4 links) directly to our customers in any social channel. We can then watch what they like, what they share and dynamically change the content in all channels in seconds. Interactive storytelling is emerging as a new discipline, since we can deliver content anywhere, any channel, anytime.  It’s time for us to go to the customer, not ask him/her to visit us.

As I finish my first week at W2O I’m keenly aware that every client, every employee, every intended customer and audience is touched by technology every day in some way. And, it also strikes a chord with me that we are witnessing the end of an era in technology as well. The filing of chapter 11 by a landmark in technology, RadioShack. Yes, change is inevitable.

But would we have the technology we have today if we were stuck with the original ‘RS Walkie-Talkie’ or if they never sold you your first RC car? Or, even better, if Jobs and Wozniak had not gone to RadioShack for some of their first transistors and diodes? If the salesperson there hadn’t been explicit about what would work and what would not? It’s human interaction that drives innovation and change, the desire for something better, more useful or new. However, innovation, just to create something new, is useless if it’s not intuitive. In other words, if it’s really cool but too complicated to use, or really SIMPLE but not interesting, no one will care.

New media is innovative, it’s all about digital, algorithms and code. Yes marketing is changing, segmentation has taken on a whole new meaning when we think about people’s digital footprint. But is it intuitive? What hasn’t changed? Marketing and communications still depends on emotion, need and simplicity.

The questions I’m faced with in relation to the tools available today is, are they simply enough to explain and understand to the end user or client? Do they truly understand the need, value and why they should care about the new services available to them? In other words, does the emotional response resonate, rather than is it just pure logic – zero’s and one’s.

Marketing, communications, advertising and public relations are still fundamentally the same as they were a generation ago. Our business is as much about art as it is about science. Analytics, insights-driven content creation, and thought leadership only work if people care and you can explain the “wow behind the how.”

The “wow” part brings me to why coming to W2O Group is such a great opportunity. The “wow” means storytelling. Since drawings on caveman walls to the modern digital content, one thing drives purchase consideration: the story. The analytics that W2O offers are like no other in the industry. They help write the narrative, create the story and offer sound business strategy and inform better media planning and communications. Having come from the client side of the business recently, I know how hard this is to do in-house.

W2O finds the right people in the right places to tell the story to. As I like to say, sounding the intended audience where they work live and play with more accuracy and better insights than any group I know.

My approach is based upon both sound business planning and creative design strategy. I use analytics and insights that assumes pure rationality and objectivity for ROI measurement. It’s clean, economic, results oriented and assume most answers are simply right or wrong just like many of the tools we offer. But, augment it with a designers approach based upon iteration, human interaction and experience (the UI and UX if you will) for services, ideation, products and brand. It’s always a bit “messy” and instinct is as much a part of the decision process as research or facts.  Answers are not always about right and wrong as much as they are about better or worse. Failing faster comes to mind for me here. Art vs. science.

It seems odd to me that marketers and agencies alike are beginning to think that traditional media is dead. It’s not dead. It’s just metamorphosed into something different, more unique, and more complicated even. But let’s not let those old forms of storytelling go the way of RadioShack, where the human, emotional side of the business that helped launch Apple receded, leaving only aisles of cables and tiny drawers of diodes: technology, with no narrative.

*Posted also on tWist Mktg’s blog.

Jon Maron

 

BrewLife has the best clients. Seriously… take Coravin.

Pour, enjoy & repeat without pulling the cork.This is an ingenious product that allows you to pour wine from a bottle without removing the cork, without oxygen entering the bottle and thus without compromising the wine still inside. It’s perfect for wine lovers at home, as well as for restaurants and wineries that want to offer amazing wines by the glass.

Coravin engaged BrewLife early this year to develop the brand, create marketing materials and plan the launch with their PR firm. We created the logo, website, videos, print ads and more. The list is exhausting but gave us a great excuse to enjoy wine at our desks—these projects always demand a lot of ‘research.’

Coravin launched July 29th, with huge success, changing the way many people think about wine. Currently it’s only available for purchase at Coravin.com/shop and NiemanMarcus.com but it’s been endorsed by the biggest names and finest palates, including Robert Parker who called it “the most transformational and exciting new product for wine lovers that has been developed or invented in the last 30-plus years.”

We very much enjoy working with the Coravin folks, including Howard Leyda, the VP of Marketing at Coravin, who kindly took the time to let us get inside his head.

 

Howard LeydaWhat attracted you to join Coravin and your work here?

I met with the Vice President of Engineering, Mike Rider, for lunch and when he showed me Coravin’s Wine Access Technology I knew Coravin had a revolutionary product that would change the way people enjoyed wine.

 

What sets Coravin apart?

Coravin is the first wine access technology in history that allows wine enthusiasts to enjoy a bottle of wine glass-by-glass over weeks, months or longer.

I expect Coravin to radically change how people think, both about enjoying a bottle of wine and shopping for one. In the past you’d think deeply about the price of the bottle because once you opened it you’ve committed to drink it that night. Now, the math has changed from the price of the bottle to the price of a glass of wine from that bottle because you no longer have to commit to the whole bottle. You can drink it a glass at a time over weeks, months and even longer.

 

Coravin Facebook pageHow has BrewLife helped you build and tell your story?

BrewLife has been instrumental in developing and building the Coravin brand from name, to brand identity, brand positioning and the go-to-market strategy. BrewLife has been a partner.

 

How has the proliferation of digital channels and digital consumption changed audience engagement?

Digital channels are changing peoples’ (both young and old) lives profoundly and how marketers reach their customers. Marketers now need to listen to and converse with their customers not just broadcast messages.

The best part of the new medium is that customers and non-customers now have a voice. If you listen, it allows the brand to quickly evolve and meet their needs, thus building value for both customers and the brand.

Coravin website

 

What about your work do you find most rewarding?

I love marketing and building brands that make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives. I have been very fortunate to be part of the introduction and building of several brands that have transformed peoples’ lives—the Iomega Zip, Jaz and Ditto, Magellan Roadmate, iRobot Roomba, Scooba, and Braava. And now I am part of the team that is changing wine enthusiasts’ lives with the launch of Coravin Wine Access System.

 

What are you working on now that is most exciting?

Coravin just launched its revolutionary product. We have only begun to scratch the surface of the brand’s potential. What’s exciting is all the possibilities. There is so much more to come.

 

If you could high-five anyone, who would it be?

Jimi Hendrix. His music reaches me at the most profound level. His first three albums are three of the best albums ever: Are you experienced?, Axis Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. His short time on this earth was magic.

 

12/31/13 CNBC interviews Greg Lambrecht, Coravin founder, and shows how this device works.

“It’s not me, it’s you” – a familiar relationship phrase you’ve either used or perhaps even had spoken to you, except you might notice it’s significantly altered. In a different type of relationship, that of a client and an agency, the altered phrase should be the one that clients hear from their agencies.

For the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of working on the client side with some of the most-loved brands in the nation. Yoplait, Cheerios, Progresso, Nature Valley and others at General Mills, as well as Reese’s and the many brands at Hershey, have legions of dedicated consumers. During my time with these brands, I worked with several agencies and had some great working relationships and some that were just okay.

There are lots of lessons to bring back to the agency side, but probably none more important than the philosophy that the clients’ goals have to be first, so to clients I say, “It’s not me, it’s you.” Sounds very elementary, I know. However, the most successful agency relationships truly put my brands’ goals first. Those agencies weren’t blatantly trying to grow their business by always pitching to do more work and meet more potential clients within the building. Ironically, these successful agencies did receive more work and meet more potential clients within the company.

Agencies should deliver great ideas or strategy and then follow up with excellent execution, all while putting the brands’ goals first. What results is trust, which most people agree is the foundation of successful relationships. And, trust grows over time.

One of those successful agency relationships was with WCG. A phrase I heard from one of my main contacts was, “whatever’s right for your business.” So, in addition to being ahead of the curve with what’s next in digital, WCG put my brands first. I also liked that WCG had one P&L, which meant it was easier to do the right thing for my brands.

Back to the title of this post, today I’m pleased to announce that I have joined that agency, WCG, to lead our soon-to-be opened Midwest office, located in the Twin Cities. I’m really looking forward to helping brands achieve their goals because it truly is about “you,” not “me.”

 

This summer I embarked on a crazy road trip adventure.  I left New York headed to Los Angeles (solo) where I’m living for the summer, before turning around and driving back home; this time with my family in the car.

Along the 3,900 mile journey (I took the long way, through Austin) I had a lot of time on my hands to reflect; here are the top lessons learned, applicable to business, while driving west:

1)      Undivided Attention is Key

OK, sure – you could say I was driving and talking, but when you’re on long stretches of roads with no cars anywhere (hello Route 10), it was the perfect time to have 1-on-1 calls with clients and staff.  Too often in meetings I’m constantly interrupted by incoming emails or other distractions; rarely do we unplug entirely and devote  100% attention to person on the phone.  I did some of my best thinking and provided the best counsel/advice when all attention was on the person I was talking to, and I vowed to myself I will do more of this more often when I’m back at my desk.

2)      Face Time > FaceTime

I’m very fortunate to work for a company with multiple offices; plotting the drive where offices are stay-overs turned out to be a great decision.  I spent quality time with my team and “pop in” visits with extended teams who have nothing to do with my business.  I learned about things they were working on, immediately saw how their thinking could be applied to my line of business.  Too often we’re caught up in our own worlds; going outside our comfort zone can result in great new POVs and incremental business.

3)      Go the extra mile

I’ve done this x-country drive before (4 times, actually) and even the best plans require a change when opportunity strikes.  In my case,opportunity to meet a new business prospect was a 200 mile detour, which was not only a scenic drive, but could result in more business.   In this example, I literally drove the extra mile, but it reminded me that going the extra mile for current clients is what it’s all about in a service industry.   With nothing but asphault ahead of me, I pushed myself for new ideas that no one else is thinking about and looking at things from a totally different POV.  Back at my desk now, I keep asking: what more can be done to go that extra mile?

The journey back to the east coast begins in a couple of short weeks, with the wife and the kids in the car together.  I can’t wait to learn what my family teaches me along the 3,500 miles home; it may prove inspirational for part 2 of this post.

I know what you’re already thinking. Absolutely. Where else can I get 7 million+ hits on a piece of owned, branded content, if not on YouTube before the big game? It’s a hard argument to convince anyone otherwise, as I don’t know any other time of the year when consumers are more open and willing to invite branded commercials into their leisure time. For that alone, the answer is probably yes.

But all the controversy around this years’ ads got me thinking. If you spent $4M to air a commercial during the game, would you put it on YouTube in advance and give critics the opportunity to pick it apart? Or, wait until it’s shown in its regular airslot without all the pundit’s comments? I know the rule of controversy – a healthy debate adds fuel, and thus, more people watching.

The commercial for Mercedez Benz featuring Kate Upton was probably filmed knowing it wouldn’t ever air and it would ride the publicity. But in defending the ad, Kate created a bigger “oops” by admitting that she doesn’t even own a car.  Compare this to the 1992 Pepsi commercial featuring Cindy Crawford which is revered as one of the best commercials in Super Bowl history.  Obviously, in the pre-YouTube era, Pepsi didn’t exactly have to wrestle with such a decision to syndicate it ahead of time or not.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcroQsUN60s[/youtube]

Given their history of past ads, GoDaddy.com played their cards early this year. But wouldn’t a supermodel kissing a tech nerd receive more online buzz for its “shock value” had it first broken during the game? The fact that the controversy was the story lead, the effect has all been diluted before the game-time commercial. Same can be said of the Budweiser ad featuring the Clydesdales. I’d have been more interested in the storyline and it would have resonated more for me, had I not seen it already.  Maybe that’s why I loved the Jeep ad so much.  It packed an emotional wallop and it debuted during the game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FadwTBcvISo[/youtube]

And finally, there’s Volkswagen who practically wrote the book on the pre-airing concept in the YouTube generation. “The Force” (still one of my favorites) received 13 Million views before it aired on the big game. I don’t believe VW deserved the unnecessary negative spotlight for this year’s ad, so I’m glad to see it air during the game. But I have to wonder if its shelf life was cut short merely because it was released so far in advance that pundits could pick it apart.  I really hope not.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H0xPWAtaa8[/youtube]

Only time will tell if this year’s crop of ads that waited until game day to air will outrank the ones that chose to release it early.  But I have to wonder, given the response of this year’s critics, if ads of the future will continue to release their spots so far in advance or if they’re better off waiting until game day to put them up on YouTube.

No, I am not describing a recent crafting session for Michaels. Or asking the final bonus round question for our Olympic Trivia games.

I am referring to an article I read recently about an Exec who became CMO at a PR firm and left fairly quickly to get back to his roots at a well-known advertising agency he admired for years.

When asked why he did the “ad agency-to-PR-back-to-ad agency” thing he said that he missed the industry that he considered his craft and its distinct process of creation, expression, people, and way of thinking. While he met a lot of nice people at the PR firm that recruited him to re-invent it, he stated,  “ We were just not similarly wired.”   He went further to say, “I will look back on the venture as a bit of post grad work to expand horizons, globalization and respect for integrated communications.”  Culturally it was time for him to go home.

As someone who left the advertising world to join a company steeped in PR at its roots I admit that I read this article several times. The PR agency had no comment at the time the article went to press.  I really wonder what they thought of him?

Does the successful blending of advertising and PR together (so you cannot tell where one stops and the other starts) come down to wiring?  Is there a red wire and yellow wire and if they are connected just so the light goes on?  Or maybe an explosion goes off?

In the year and a half these two worlds collided for me I have seen the light (and some mini explosions).

Conceptually it is really a no brainer why you’d want these callings and all the related practices (social media, consumer, professional, medical education, digital, analytics and global) to converge.  Strategy, creative, platform, and communication streams can effectively and seamlessly saturate their respective ecosystems. When this connectedness happens, it is game changing for the client and the agency. Every discipline becomes modernized and the kinds of products, programs and services that are invented through this mash up are masterful and meaningful.

Who wouldn’t want innovation and value?

I do think that people are wired differently based on their experience set and the demands of the professional environments they grow up in.  Its like baby’s formative first years—we are all shaped by what we know and who our work parents were. I would have to say that the wiring comment is true on many levels.

PR is an intense singularly focused and highly scrappy endeavor where you are often reacting or “handling in the moment” with steadfast calmness and know how.  I liken it to an emergency room where the attending doc is stitching you up and telling you a story at the same time to distract you from the pain.

Advertising/marketing is a compilation exercise of intensive, sometimes protracted and circuitous planning with extended teams and highly (sometimes well) orchestrated building, bobbing and weaving.  Eventually you get this patchwork of programs and strategies and services that are stapled or duct taped together to have a semi-enduring quality about them but can be undone if necessary and reshaped using some other glue to get to goal should market dynamics dictate.

While I am sometimes frustrated by the differences between PR and MKTG/ADVTG, more often than not I am smitten with the resourcefulness, richness of ideas and calm problem solving approach.  I hope that my PR colleagues are equally smitten with the ability to cobble together the big picture story or create dimension and depth by bringing teams of people together who might not have found each other in another life.  I see it that we all live in a world that could be called RP:

  • Real Problem solving and Reaching People.

We collectively achieve RP in a place we cohabitate and call home by whatever means it takes— hard-wiring, stapling, stitching or taping.  It’s an evolving art; and a brave new world. To live and flourish in it you have to roll up your sleeves and craft well with others…

Marketing Girl in a PR World is part of a weekly series written by Laura Fusco, leader of our W2O Group’s Health 360 practice. 

Last week at SXSWi I had the opportunity to listen in on two different panels talking about social television and transmedia – the art of telling stories across multiple devices, often known as the “second screen”. The first panel featured representatives from Nielsen, ESPN, Oxygen Media and MTV with the subject “integrating brands into social television.”

During this discussion, the broadcasters unilaterally agreed that social opened up new revenue streams giving brands additional avenues for sponsorship and advertising. They also agreed that broadcasters are leading the way in social television. This point is hard to argue – broadcasters are finding clever ways to maximize fan engagement during live broadcasts; ESPN greatly benefits from live event programming, while MTV succinctly said “we know what happens next” and therefore match online content to fulfill the needs of their fan base.

And, where broadcasters are treating their shows as brands themselves, they’re winning – reaping the benefits financially, and creating fan advocacy/loyalty too. Take, for example, Bravo TV where also at SXSW, Lisa Hsia, EVP of Digital Media of Bravo gave impressive stats surrounding “Last Chance Kitchen” (the online competition allowed fans to vote back eliminated contestants). Hsia proclaimed that 26% of the audience who watched “Top Chef: Texas” were actively involved in “Last Chance Kitchen,” and the reveal episode (where Bev won) was the season’s highest rated episode. Further, she said that social engagement shattered all kinds of records for NBC Universal, and left me with one of the more memorable quotes of the day regarding content: “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”

Two terrific panels, overall. In fact, a great Time Magazine article was written last week about the Bravo case study, saying that broadcasters stand to reap the most rewards if they continue to drive fan engagement, increased ratings…and lucrative sponsorships.

So, this keeps me wondering: why aren’t brands rising to this level too? Today’s consumer brand has every opportunity to become broadcasters themselves – creating relevant content and [ultimately] driving social commerce to reap the rewards. Through clever content and fan engagement, brands can become their own media channels. In fact, one brand that’s clearly risen to this challenge is Red Bull, as illustrated by a recent Fast Company article. They’ve completely immersed themselves in content its customers crave – and they’re reaping the benefits, financially.

Through advanced analytics, brands have more insightful knowledge about their customers than ever before, but even better – direct access to their fans is only a few keystrokes away. What an enormous opportunity. So while it may be true that broadcasters are leading the charge right now, it seems to me it’s only a matter of time before brands rise up and move from looking at social as another sponsorship/integration opportunity and shift their attention to creating or co-creating transmedia content that builds real advocacy and brand loyalty which will turn into real commerce, too.

Aside from Red Bull, what other brands do you think are doing a great job of rising to the challenge? Would love to know your thoughts on other examples.

It only took 1 second for me to give Clint Eastwood my undivided attention during halftime at the Super Bowl. This is what I was waiting for all day – not the farcical ads, the spoofs, the cameo celebrity appearances. I wanted to be wowed, to be impressed with smart thinking that makes me believe in a product.

The reason I tune into Super Bowl commercials is because of the precedent set by Apple’s 1984 ad. It was unlike anything you’d seen before: that’s what the Super Bowl commercial is supposed to do. Chrysler moved us last year with Eminem and the “Imported from Detroit” theme, but this year they did themselves one better. They transcended beyond the brand – and evolved the campaign to stand for the American Auto Industry as a whole, brought to you by Chrysler. It packed an emotional whallop that made you believe in the power of innovation and was a rallying cry for the American spirit which has stalled in recent years. Hear our engines roar. Powerful copy, a great story – delivered poignantly and powerfully by Clint Eastwood.

I can’t remember the last time a brand achieved all that in 60 seconds. As I started up my Jeep this morning, I felt more connected to Chrysler than I had since I bought my car. Well done.