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Working with influencers has been a hot topic in the PR and marketing community for a number of years, yet it still feels like a mysterious topic and “nut to crack” for many companies. In fact, it’s the number one topic people want to chat about when they ask to meet up with me for coffee – how to find influencers who might be interested in their brand and how to actually build meaningful relationships with them. As someone who works with clients to build influencer campaigns, and as a blogger myself, this is a topic I’m very passionate about and love exploring.

At WCG, we work with global brands to identify influencers who are relevant to their business and engage with them in a meaningful way. Key word = meaningful. One of the biggest keys to working with influencers is to think of building long-term relationships, rather than a quick way to get someone to mention your product or company online.

This means doing your homework to find the right people who might want to engage with you, study them and get on their radar (begin building that relationship) before you pitch them. Do they talk about topics relevant to your brand? Search for your company name or product within their blog to see if they’ve covered your company or anything like it before.

influencer define 2We look at the Reach, Relevance and Resonance of online influencers to determine if they are appropriate for a specific brand. Most people start and end with reach – how many people follow the influencer? But that’s just the beginning. If they aren’t talking about topics relevant to your brand, then they likely aren’t a good influencer for you. Resonance is how often their content is shared – do people engage with and respond to the influencer? You want to work with someone who has a passionate following who will help spread the word.

Once you’ve identified your target influencers, it’s important to study them for some time and get to know them before you ask them to do anything. Engage with them online – “like” a tweet here or there. Ask a sincere question about something they’ve written. Retweet them from your personal and/or brand accounts if you genuinely feel it’s good content and will appeal to your readers.

The most important question to consider before reaching out to any influencer is, “What’s in it for them.” Unlike journalists who are constantly looking for news topics to cover, bloggers are typically only interested in talking about topics they are truly interested in and passionate about. This requires a lot of thought on the brand’s part – discover how your company aligns with the blogger’s passions and then connect the dots for them.

Here is a link to a presentation on SlideShare I recently created which delves deeper into this topic and shares some specific tools and best practices.

Interested in talking more about your influencer goals? Feel free to reach out to me via email or on twitter @MissyVoronyak.

We are living in a time where we are ‘always on’ with multiple devices providing us with information but also distracting us and exhausting our time. Technology has become a natural part of our daily life, where having different multiple online personas for work, life, and play is common. It has also become a source of angst.

With an influx of new information and online digital platforms almost daily, the digital landscape is evolving and consumers are now more empowered than ever. Brands can no longer fully control their narrative and need to find and understand the people who are most relevant to their future determining how they consume and share information as well as how they listen to each other as individuals.

This rapidly changing world can sometimes feel both like a massive headache and an incredible opportunity for marketers and communicators. C-suite leaders must be able to adapt to these changes if their organizations are to survive. Staying nimble and being able to predict how the industry will evolve before it happens is all part of the job. What we see from working with our clients and helping them stay one step ahead of competition is that regardless of which industry you are in or who your audience is, we are all facing similar challenges when it comes to digitalization. Being so imbedded in our client businesses is what allows us to build the community where innovators and leaders can come together and share their best practices and learnings.

Breaking away from your everyday routine and meeting those who are walking in the same shoes as you, is a proven method to generate new ideas or new solutions. Following on the success of last year’s Social Intelligence Summit we are excited to host our second annual thought leadership event – PreCommerce Summit London 2015.

The event, coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, will bring together experts from across industries to discuss how we work, live and create in the digital world. We will be considering the impact and opportunities of the mobile generation and will provide perspectives and host panel discussions with key leaders, such as:

I’m hopeful you are able to attend this important forum. Don’t miss the last chance to register to attend the summit on the 14th of September in London via livestream or in person!

More information on the event and the speakers can be found here www.w2oevents.com.

Navigating the future takes more than just educated guesswork. It combines knowledge, adaptability and a willingness to garner new inputs from new sources.

The W2O Group Pre-Commerce London Summit is your personal GPS to succeeding in the future!

Social media is my quickest way to discover my world daily. I use it as an aggregator for work-related knowledge, client monitoring, traditional news, my personal interests for everything from tech to fashion, my boys’ schools and sports teams, networking, my close friends and more. There is a reason behind each like or follow.

I always tell people to consider the websites they visit each morning. Maybe you go to the New York Times, Amazon to see the deals of the day, your kids’ school page and ESPN. If you have all of those in your Facebook feed and/or a Twitter list, you would have one source to see all the things that interest you. Build out your interests in one place. It’s a huge time saver – think your news in real time.

As social media became popular, billions of people shifted their habits. For example, as Facebook became a go-to, brands wanted to be there telling stories just like the Wall Street Journal is. And brands can have a two-way conversation with people versus marketing via TV, for example, which is one-way. This was all fascinating to me and quite relatable. I see social media for brands as the modern newsroom to create stories – perfect as content consumption is still on the rise. And for one’s personal brand, brands have a unique opportunity to give the nine-percent sharable content.

For context, I initially hated that my major at Xavier University would be in “Electronic Media.” What’s electronic media? I was focusing on television and radio, but “electronic” seemed so odd. In the years to come, I would simply tell people that I majored in communications with a focus on television to avoid the confused look on their faces. Now electronic media makes total sense. So ironic.

Television news was perfect for me right out of school. I can remember the high of constantly scouring the newspaper and feeds for a story – thinking it through to make the content relevant to our audience. The news feed was never-ending and in real time. There was always something to read and learn. Who knew how this would prepare me for a life in digital marketing of the future? And I’m especially grateful for the skills that I honed using video and pictures to help tell my stories.

Like news, social media happens in real time. Brands can’t wait until tomorrow to react, because the trend will probably be old news or in modern terms “not trending” anymore. I help brands to plan out their posts in an editorial calendar, but leave room for agile, responsive content. Think of it in terms of how CBS has “60 Minutes” for stories that they have more time to develop versus the evening news each night. Both are important. Both are agile though.

A newsroom approach is a shift for brands who are often still chained to traditional marketing mindsets full of TV commercials, banner ads, etc., or working in silos within the organization. Telling stories with a newsroom approach partially means not just telling stories about yourself. Nobody “likes” that guy, brands; he gets defriended. It’s more about working the conversation at a cocktail party, or with your boss, asking the right questions and adding to a great topic with your point of view or related experience. If your story is good enough, others will want to go research it more and share it. Think water cooler conversations. Influencers talking about a brand is always better than the brand saying it themselves.

For activation of the influencer, there is not a day at work that goes by that I don’t utilize my television newsroom skills, which led me into PR, marketing and technology. I need the story or point of view to be sharable to live on. When social media was born, I felt like somebody rolled together all the things that I loved into one. Brands are still evolving with the change in mindset. I feel lucky to coach them on thinking social and digital first as the social assets can’t just be chopped from that multi-million-dollar TV commercial. For influencers and targeting of content, social also now requires the funding that traditional marketing has paid for years for influence. Yes, that means paid social that’s smart thanks to analytics for a laser-focused ROI. And shifting marketing dollars for social because you get what you pay for even in social. And what about employees as brand advocates – have you tapped them?

It’s a very exciting time to work with brands. They are being reborn in a new space that changes quickly. Early adoption and being flexible to try new things has never been more prevalent and necessary.

The fruits of my efforts are literally at your fingertips for you to consume while second-screening during a movie on Netflix, while waiting to pick your child up from ball practice, picking a restaurant from a food blogger, while Googling brand info during that pre-commerce moment and so many other places. I love change. My job won’t be what it is today in five years, but it’s my duty to be ahead of wherever we go. Influencers will continue to influence more as people consume more content than ever. I’ll find new ways to serve creative whether that’s on SnapChat, Tinder, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or who knows what. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up each day and the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I’m watching and thinking about what we should do next.

On September 14th, during London’s Social Media Week, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. If you’re on that side of the pond, don’t miss it. Thanks for learning how social media has forever changed my world and your world through our clients. Keep evolving. You’ll always have a new story to tell.

headshotColleen Hartman, a 1993 “Electronic Media” graduate from Xavier University, can be found on Twitter at @Miss_Colleen and on various other social channels. Be sure to see her LinkedIn profile which documents her journey from newsroom to PR to marketing to sports to technology to the combination of all of those which she now calls social media. She is a director for W2O Group where she finds success helping brands use sharable, visual social media with a newsroom mindset.

Determining the impact of a fresh manuscript delivered to inquisitive audiences is an elusive pursuit, and difficult to quantify. Traditional methods consider the impact factor of the journal in which the work is published, or the number of times the findings are cited by others. The former serves to imply value by association, while the latter proceeds slowly, over time.

albert photoNew metrics are emerging, however, as rapid and telling indicators of impact at the level of the manuscript itself. Modern criteria such as downloads and shares are becoming increasingly relevant in today’s digital environment.

Thus far, the generally accepted moniker for these emerging measures is Altmetrics; often misinterpreted as “alternative metrics,” the term is actually speaking to “article-level metrics” that explore the activity surrounding a single manuscript, in lots of different places, in real time.

Publishers today can track how often an article is downloaded, or bookmarked as particularly worthy. Discussions of a manuscript on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Wikipedia can be similarly tracked. Indices that might have held only passing interest a few years ago are now finding increasing significance. For example, high “tweetations” for a manuscript may serve to increase an author’s “twimpact factor.”1

Suffice it to say that specific nomenclature within the field of altmetrics is a work in progress. Nevertheless, a study of more than 1.3 million scientific papers found that 22% of all publications received at least one tweet. A fairly intuitive secondary finding was that shorter titles, and shorter documents in general, attained a higher degree of visibility.2

It also makes sense that this study found social science and biomedical papers were far more likely to be shared than papers concerning, say, mathematics. This finding, however, also leads to an important limitation; altmetrics cannot be used as a comparison of impact across different fields of science.2,3 A mediocre paper in a popular field may receive far more attention than a first-rate paper in some more arcane branch of study.

Because of findings like this, it is important to note that altmetrics serve as an emerging standard of audience engagement, and do not necessarily reflect the true impact, or even the quality, of the science itself. In some instances, quite the opposite. Seminal literature from bygone days will receive scant recognition in this arena, while exceptionally high marks will be awarded to the bustling conversations (and schadenfreude) that inevitably swirl around a retracted manuscript.

Many are also quick to point out that the system can be gamed with relative ease. Artificially inflated likes and tweets are readily available to those who might wish to accumulate them by any means possible.

The growth of altmetrics seems likely, the applications less clear. Funding agencies are starting to take note, however, and some academians are starting to incorporate altmetrics scores into their performance reviews.3 As noted by altmetrics.org, scholars are moving their work onto the web in growing numbers, essentially self-publishing by way of scholarly blogs or other forms of social sharing. This conjures up a strange new world in which peer-review is essentially crowdsourced, and impact may be assessed in real time by hundreds or even thousands of conversations that can all be tracked.4

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For a company like W2O, steeped in communications and hard data, there is certainly value in capturing and quantifying the buzz around a given piece of media beyond the halls of the research community. Determining what that buzz actually means, and how to best extract its value, are the next steps as we follow the evolution of this burgeoning measure of impact.

References:
1. Eysenbach G. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13:e123.
2. Haustein S, et al. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0120495.
3. Kwok R. Nature. 2013;500:491-3.
4. Priem J, et al. (2010) Altmetrics: A manifesto. http://altmetrics.org/manifesto.

Lifecycle of a Technological Revolution_today

With the revolution of media and technology disrupting the marketing industry, and business models altogether, marketers are trying to navigate through the storm. On the communications side, TV dollars are shifting to digital. But, digital ads aren’t nearly as effective nor transparent as we want them to be. The traditionally distinct and siloed roles of marketing communications (once upon at time, just known as ‘advertising’) and PR are converging.

Because of the advent of social media, and the frustration with traditional and digital advertising, marcomm is moving into earned media with influencer marketing, native advertising and more responsive campaigns and editorial content teams. Because of the rise of the new influencer – everyday people and celebrities using blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, SnapChat, Periscope and other platforms to create personal media companies – PR is expanding beyond traditional media relations and ‘the pitch’, and into influencer marketing, sponsored content and responsive editorial content teams as well. It’s a race to the middle where the lines are blurred. That’s why agencies and publishers are partnering to create wholly new content companies that service brands.

If we take a step back from the race, though, things haven’t changed much since 2009. The big three: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had launched and matured as three distinct and valuable social communications platforms for users. Since then, other social platforms have launched – Foursquare (and Swarm), Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, SnapChat, Meerkat and Periscope being the most touted. But, each of these just feels like an iterative evolution of the discontinuous leaps that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube made. Platforms, and the content they enable, shifted to become more visual, shorter and ephemeral. When Meerkat and Periscope launched, didn’t it feel like they already existed? And, the fundamental rules for how to engage audiences on those platforms is the same; we must adhere to the Reciprocity Theory.

So, I actually take a contrarian point of view: innovation has slowed in media technology. We’re at the tail end of our current technological revolution’s lifecycle, moving past the discontinuous revolution and into the iterative evolution. While folks in the industry are making claims that: “Advertising is dead.” Or that, “Data will tell us what content to make, so we don’t need creatives anymore.” I’m claiming that we need creative more than ever. The discipline just needs to evolve too. As the roles of advertising and PR converge, storytelling becomes an even more critical discipline for marketing.

Just pushing the message through TV and radio and print and display ads is lazy creative and lazy advertising. Great creative has always been about great storytelling. Now we just tell that story across new media platforms/channels in partnership with the new social influencers and in partnership with our customers. Sometimes those influencers and customers are the same. Great creative (‘the story’) is the glue that holds the story together, wherever we’re telling it. It’s what inspires people to participate.

In the late 2000s in the entertainment industry, we began exploring transmedia storytelling. This is where we would develop a core story – characters and the world in which they lived. And, then we’d plan out those stories across media (books, graphic novels, movies, TV, web series). It was a shift away from the linear model of: writer publishes book –> studio buys book and makes movie –> network turns movie into TV series. Instead, we developed it all at the same time. They lived together as extensions, or chapters, of the same story instead of separately as different and distinct adaptations of the story. This style of storytelling became particularly popular in the fantasy/gaming/comics genres, as we could delve deep into the story of a world we were creating.

Now, in marketing, we have the opportunity to take the same approach. How do we create a core story – the story of our brand, which reflects the story of our customers and employees – and tell that story through new (and traditional) media platforms and people? Like a vision, the story we tell requires an intuitive leap of faith. It must inspire. It must create new possibilities. Is that so different from great advertising fifty years ago? Maybe. Maybe not. But, in an increasingly ephemeral world, wouldn’t it be nice to have some moments that impact and last?

—–

This post originally appeared on The ReciprocityTheory blog.

If you’ve been in a communications role for a decade or more, chances are you have lots of experience in traditional comms. In recent years, there’s no question that social media has had a significant impact on communications. While social media has overwhelmed many communicators with a dizzying array of platform choices and a firehose of data to make sense of, it also provides them with new ways to connect with reporters, influencers and customers more efficiently than ever.

Over the years, one thing hasn’t changed: communications is fundamentally about building relationships. To me, social media augments ways communicators can build those relationships. Like I’ve said before, it doesn’t replace phone calls, email conversations with or face-to-face conversations with reporters. But many times, a brief back-and-forth discussion on Twitter or via the comment thread in a blog post can go a long way to answering questions from reporters (and many times, your customers too). This is especially true if your company uses its social presence to respond to news-related items.

One thing that has changed: press releases aren’t what they used to be. While there’s still a place for them (company earnings information, acquisition news, corporate reorganization updates to name a few), social media platforms provide companies a more efficient way to communicate news. The problem is that not enough companies use social media to communicate and respond to news.

I’ve blogged about what I think it takes to be an effective communicator in 2015 (see here and here). Hint: combine that newsworthy sensibility with a little bit of tools and technology. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but doing so will yield solid results.

One example: a tool I mentioned before called Nuzzel. It’s a website/ mobile app that highlights articles people you are connected to are sharing. While that’s useful on its own, the real power is that you can use it on any public or private Twitter lists you create. See my Pioneers private list in the Your Custom Feeds section near the bottom right in the image below. In my view, that alone makes creating Twitter lists worth the hassle. Imagine clicking on one link to see the stories that 25 of your top reporters are sharing, or the 17 strategic topic influencers, or the top 15 subject matter experts in your company. All it takes is to create those private (or public) Twitter list, then connect your Twitter account at Nuzzel.com. From there, you are one click away to seeing what’s being shared most on Twitter or Facebook at any point in time.

Image for Lionel's Summit Post

 

If you’re not sure who the online influencers are, or if you need help identifying the topic conversations that are most relevant to your brand, W2O can help. Our analytics services are built to help communicators and marketers understand the online conversation that’s happening about your brand, identifying strategic topics that affect your brand (and that you can impact) as well as identifying individuals who are most influential about your industry, your competition and your brand even as they change over time. Those are people you need to foster relationships with. In many cases, those influencers are reporters you already know. Engaging them via social will deepen the existing relationship—especially when you focus efforts to adding value to their online conversations.

On September 14th, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. Social media has forever changed our world and it’s our responsibility to evolve with it! More on what to expect from the event here. Register for free here, or by clicking on the image below.

London Summit

It would be nice if every PR professional could confidently state that nothing goes wrong when we pitch a journalist. But that’s about as realistic as the likelihood of a lengthy book about Donald Trump’s humility. A more fruitful exercise is to examine what most frequently gets in the way of a successful interaction with reporters, editors, writers and producers.

It’s volume. No, not the kind on an amp that goes up to 11, a la “Spinal Tap.”

One thing I know for sure – beyond 1980s pop culture references – is that journalists are flooded with emails and phone calls from PR people. Many of those emails and phone calls are horribly targeted, as you can find out from one of my guilty pleasures, PR Newser’s “Pitch Please” blog.

Survey Said

The blog’s cheeky writing prompted me to start asking reporters about the pitches they received.

  • A reporter covering science and medicine for a southern daily newspaper told me she’d received five pitches that day before 9 a.m. She too received misdirected product pitches. “I had one chewing gum pitch that drove me nuts,” she said.
  • A Wall Street Journal reporter covering the pharmaceutical business said he gets 40-50 email pitches a day. “I probably consider three to five per day that are worth pursuing or at least learning more about,” he said.
  • A Washington-based reporter who covers health care policy says she kept getting pitches for “healthy flavored water” among the 30-40 pitches a day she would receive.

The most stunning answer came from Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News. She receives up to 150 emails a day, about five of which she considers worth a reply and another 10 are worth considering as potential parts of larger stories. Lest erstwhile flacks think Rovner’s answer means we should start calling her instead, she said, “I hate phone calls even more…Phones should be reserved for actual breaking news.”

Email, calls and what really works

Email, at least according to one survey, is still the way most journalists prefer to get pitched. But beyond knowing that, the actual lessons from my informal and not scientific survey are:

  • Some of you are ruining it for the rest of us. It’s so much harder to convey a client’s news if PR people are clogging inboxes with eye-rolling off-target pitches that wouldn’t be sent if just a little time was spent on research.
  • Relationships matter. Please work at understanding what makes news to a particular journalist. That doesn’t mean every pitch leads to a story – I wish! – but it certainly increases the chances of success if you aren’t seen as a total waste of someone’s time.
  • Realism is best conveyed to clients early. The ranks of journalists are dwindling and the ones still in the business are busier than ever. Even the most properly directed pitches are increasingly likely to not yield immediate success.

A key solution to the volume/clutter problem is for more organizations to take advantage of additional ways to engage with customers, influencers and allies. So many of them have great stories to tell, so they should be using the PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) strategy. This is true even for those on small budgets, as they can develop owned and shared content without waiting on the results from that perfect email pitch. W2O Group president Bob Pearson built out the potential for owned content in June in PR News here.

Of course, we’re always going to pitch reporters. A PR agency’s clients expect it, and more importantly, a story by a credible journalist matters. That’s why it’s worth the time invested to develop better relationships and equally valuable to give counsel to clients about the right – and wrong – targets for stories.

We all know it will never work perfectly. Some reporters are going to complain about PR pitches no matter what happens. And, if we’re lucky, we will run across an approach like the one employed by a UK-based reporter, who replied, “I love you” to pitches he received. After all, doesn’t the world need more love?

Something about changing one’s environment — whether it be in a different city, state or country — always has a way of impacting perspective. It could be the architecture, the food, the temperature, different dialects or foreign languages. Some of it is psychological as we are bombarded with new stimuli that our brain isn’t used to. Often it is a combination of things but at the end of the day, it can lead to new breakthroughs.

Photo Credit: Simon Ling, W2O Group
Photo Credit: Simon Ling of W2O Group

Recently, I had the luxury of spending the better part of two weeks in London. For several of those days, I worked out of our 45 person London office. While I had met most of the folks from the office at least virtually and another handful in person, I had never had the chance to hunker down and interact with them in their native environment. Nor had I had the chance to break bread with them, drink coffee with them, visit clients, grab a pint, sit through team meetings or listen in as they tried to explain to one another the exact meaning of American phrases like “navel gazing.”

While I knew that the team there was exceptionally smart and hard working, I didn’t realize to what degree this was true until I had the luxury of invading their space. Fortunately for me, they were kind hosts and went to great lengths to make sure I was able to get the most of my trip there. The good news is I did… and then some.

If you’ve been to London before, you know just what a global city it is. Our office is a true reflection of that. With members from Spain, Lithuania, Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia and a dozen other places I’m leaving out, there is a real international feeling to the office. Most of the conversation happens in English but occasionally you can hear French, German and Russian spoken — sometimes to colleagues, often to clients. I occasionally caught myself listening in… not that I could catch much of what was being said (my french is decent as is my Russian but I only know about 20 words in German so I was dead in the water there). It was fascinating.

During my London stay, there were numerous lessons learned. Some were inferred from my time in our London office, others were taken from interacting with clients, friends and colleagues while I was there. In no particular order, here we go:

  • If you work in London (or EMEA for that matter), you work a long day. While the mornings may start off a little more casually than in the States, people are generally in the office between 8:30 and 9:30 and then are often expected to be on calls until 8:00 or 9:00 PM at night to accommodate New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It gets worse if one’s book of business includes clients in Asia.
  • To the last point, there ends up being a weird lull in the first third of the day in between the 30-45 minutes of email cleanup in the morning until about 2:00 PM when the east coast starts to come on line. It took a couple of days to get used to this lull but once you do, it is an incredibly productive time that can be used for local meetings, client work and thought leadership. The closest thing I’ve seen to it is on the west coast around 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM where ET and CT have wrapped up and the UK still sleeps.
  • I mentioned the international piece before when I was describing our office but I am truly amazed at how international London is. And it’s not just tourists. Business people on the Tube, street vendors, waiters. You hear a dozen different languages and can see from the clothing, hair styles and culture that you are living in a true melting pot. I know NYC is similar to this but to me at least, it feels like more of this is driven by the service industry and its natural employment of so many immigrants. If you want to be global, a London presence is a must have gateway into EMEA.
  • The Subway or “Tube” as it’s called is the lifeblood of the city. While NYC is similar in its dependence on public transportation, I was amazed at the profound impact the Tube strike had on my first couple of days in London. Part of the problem is that the roads in London are so narrow, traffic is bad even with most of the commuters using public transport. When one of the major people movers shuts down, traffic grinds to a halt. Worse yet, estimates show that the shutdown causes £50 million in lost business revenue. Ouch!
  • Due to the “global” first approach (particularly in our office), better thought through frameworks and processes seem to arise. This is a necessity as any work done needs to potentially scale into dozens of other markets and languages. If the process is flawed out of the gate, it only gets worse through iteration and repetition. A great example of this is an easy to understand statement of work (SOW) template that my colleague, Laura Mucha, put together that clients love AND it contains a staffing plan making it easier for teams to kick off new projects.

There are easily ten other things I picked up on my travels but these were a few of the more obvious ones. I should be back in the UK in September so keep your eyes open for more observations then.

And just like that, the social updates you knew from June are tweaked, more defined and bound to change again before next month. It’s a beautiful world of social that we live in, but you’ve got to keep up with the trends. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube have made some big changes to their platforms in July and we’re sharing the Social Scoop here!

Facebook: ‘See first’ -Good for Users, Bad for Marketers?

What It Is

Last month, Facebook announced it was launching a new feature called ‘See First’ in which users can select who/what they want to see at the top of their News Feed. The concern for brands, is will your Page be on users’ ‘See First’ list

How It Works

  • ‘See First’ allows users to prioritize up to 30 Pages, friends, and/or groups they want to see first in their News Feed
  • Everything is set up through the user’s News Feed preferences, where they can:
    • ‘prioritize who to see first’
    • ‘unfollow people to hide their posts‘
    • ‘reconnect with people you unfollowed’
    • ‘discover new pages’

What It Means For Brands

While this new feature is great news for consumers, it’s not so great for brands. Quality of content is always key, but brands will have to revisit their social strategies and step up their game in order to avoid falling by the wayside. Getting content in front of your followers will be the challenge, but once your brand has made it into your followers ‘See First’ list, you’ll know that your content is impacting the right people. While brands cannot tell their followers to list their Pages as ‘See First,’ there is a twist here. This new update brings changes to Facebook’s algorithm, in which Facebook’s “Discover New Pages” will choose similar pages as suggestions for users based on the Pages they have liked. Brand recommendations are based on user experience now, so targeting the “Discover New Pages” section should be part of your strategy.

Facebook: The Floating Video Has Arrived

What It Is

Video, on video, on video. Facebook understands the power of the video and they’re letting everyone know. This month Facebook is testing out a new feature that allows users to detach a video from their News Feed and move it to a different location within the browser to view while scrolling through other content or to save for later. This is only available on desktop as the feature rolls out to some users.

How It Works

  • The option will be built into the video player so that when users click the icon, the video will detach from it’s original source, and allow users to drag the video to a different/preferred section of the website browser
    • Users select the small box, within the larger box on the video screen in the lower right corner to detach the video and enable it’s relocation

What It Means For Brands

Users can watch more videos at one time, as they can continue to scroll through their News Feed, and pull out the videos they want to reserve for later viewing. This feature encourages users to view longer and remain on Facebook “video” for all of their video viewing needs, so the more video content you produce and share on Facebook, the great chance you have that consumers are watching all of your content.

Facebook: Taking Another Step Forward In E-Commerce

What It Is

Facebook is building shops within Facebook Pages that allow brands to showcase their products directly on their Page. This is another part of Facebook’s push into e-commerce, which also includes money transferring through Facebook Messenger and the buy-button, introduced earlier this year to increase the online experience, from discovery to purchasing on one platform.

How It Works

Within the “Shop” section of the Facebook Pages, businesses now have the opportunity to showcase their products directly on the Page. Users can make their purchases without leaving the site.

What It Means For Brands

This new feature gives brands a secondary platform to connect with its primary audience. Users spend roughly 80% of their time on mobile apps, smartphones, tablets, or computers and Facebook has created a way for brands to utilize this by putting buying options on the Pages platforms.

Snapchat: Talk About Updates!

What It Is

Snapchat is making a LOT of moves (at once)! The days of ‘hold-to-view’ is a thing of the past, users can now “Add Nearby” friends (in bulk) to their snap contacts when in close proximity of others, and a new two-factor security authentication feature makes it harder to hack another user’s account.

How It Works

  • Viewing: Users can simply tap on a snap they want to view without holding down on the picture for the entire viewing time. Users can also tap through snaps or swipe down to close the story.
  • “Add Nearby:” Under ‘Add Friends’ there is now a tab called ‘Add Nearby,’ which allows users to add contacts (either one at a time or in bulk) who are in close proximity to that user.
  • Security: The newest security feature can be enabled from the ‘Login Verification’ menu in the app’s main settings.

What It Means For Brands

This new update makes it easier for users to view content on Snapchat. Again, content is key – advertisers don’t want to worry about their ads being skipped over because users can tap through or swipe down to exit their content without actually viewing it. The ‘Add Nearby’ is a nice opportunity for brands that are using Snapchat to connect with users who are in close proximity to their businesses, and in return, users can discover brands that are on the platform that they may not have realized have a Snapchat presence. Additionally, the new security authentication should be built into a brands social strategy and required for all community managers and admins to keep accounts safe and hack-free.

Snapchat: ‘Stories’ Has A New Look

What It Is

Snapchat has redesigned their Stories section, prioritizing content from media partners over pictures from a friends.

How It Works

  • When users open Snapchat, the updated Stories ‘tab’ features (in this order) personal stories, ‘Discover,” ‘Live,’ recent updates and all stories
  • Users will still see friend content, but they will have to scroll down to find it
  • “Discover’ content still exists on its own tab

What It Means For Brands

Now media content very hard to ignore. Snapchat is continuing to find ways to monetize its app and this is their way of boosting engagement without disrupting the activity from it’s core user base. Surfacing content in more areas of the app will help with ad revenue (more viewing opportunity) as well as boost user interest in branded content.

Twitter: Are Your Tweets Being Indexed On Google?

What It Is

In May, Google and Twitter announced their partnership, enabling tweets to show up in Google search results on mobile devices. Since then:

  • Stone Temple conducted a study that looked at several factors which may be influential in Google’s tweet selection
  • The data showed that tweets from profiles with higher follower counts were appearing more often in Google search results
  • Tweets with higher social authority based on Followerwonk’s metrics for social authority also showed up more often

What It Means For Brands

Of course it wasn’t going to be as simple as just tweeting and having your content show up on the top of Google search results! Google has made it clear that a brand’s Twitter presence and authority will provide major value to SEO. It also means that handles with a lower following and less authority may still be missing out on having their tweets indexed.

Twitter: Say Hello to Auto-Expanded Link Previews

What It Is

Twitter continues to strive for visual excellence, rolling out auto-expanded link previews (to a small amount of users) that will show content previews automatically for links provided in tweets.

How It Works

  • Expanded previews are a new Twitter card opportunity that the platform has rolled out to advertisers (Summary card with a large image)
  • Advertisers must enable the card in order for users to see the auto-expanded links

What It Means For Brands

Brands have a higher chance of engagement when posts include a large image. Tweets with auto-extended links will allow brands to tweet out richer content that’s more visually appealing to followers, but keep in mind, it’s going to cost you!

Twitter: What’s With All the White Space?

What It Is

Twitter has removed wallpapers from users’ home and notification timelines – everything is white. Users can only see background images while logged-in and on public pages (i.e., Tweet pages, list pages, and collection pages).

What It Means For Brands

By removing the ability to have user’s change their background, Twitter has taken away the uniqueness of each user. They have essentially unbranded everyone – so once again, your content is key. There is nothing else that drives people to your Twitter Page at this point, other then your content and brand interest.

YouTube: Mobile Videos Are Lookin’ Good

What It Is

YouTube is focused on ‘mobile, mobile, mobile’ and their latest update reflects just that. They have redesigned their mobile app to optimize a vertical video mode to display better content. In addition, they have streamlined their app to include tabs that focus on a user’s homepage, videos users subscribe to, and account pages.

What It Means For Brands

More than half of YouTube’s views come from mobile devices. With this new update, brands have the opportunity to engage more users with mobile friendly versions of their videos, keeping users on their channels longer from their mobile phones, and giving them the freedom to continue to explore brand channels directly from their mobile device. YouTube (and the rest of the video sharing world) has discovered that vertical videos better fit the aspect ratio of smartphones and now brands have the ability to utilize this to optimize video viewing. But just keep in mind – you’ll have to size your videos to ensure they match the new mobile sharing specs.

Special contributions to Chantelle Patel, W2O Shared Media Intern

 

 

ASCO profile on Periscope
ASCO profile on Periscope

Last week 37,000 scientists, oncologists, PR pros and others attended the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago. It brings oncologists/researchers together to highlight more than 5,000 abstracts with over 150 presentations of ground-breaking data.

Among the groundbreaking data has been a commitment to groundbreaking use of social media in medicine. Over the course of the conference #ASCO15 has been tweeted over 65,000 times. And while photography and live streaming, however, have never been consistently embraced by medical meetings organizers in general, ASCO has often jumped in with both feet.

This year, the grand experiment was Periscope, the live-streaming app launched by Twitter this spring that allows users to broadcast from anywhere in the world with just a click of a button.

The brilliance is that within a live broadcast the audience can interact, ask questions and be a part of the conversation. The catch: If you don’t follow someone, you miss out on the instant phone push notification. Or you can catch the replay but only for 24 hours.

Periscope attracted a handful of “streamers” during ASCO 15, including ASCO, TheStreet.com senior columnist @AdamFeuerstein and CNBC reporter @MegTirrell.

And while the Periscopes number didn’t match the volume seen with Twitter, there was enough experimentation that we came up with a key takeaways on the Periscope game at #ASCO15:

FIRST: It’s all about your audience.

The first step is to build a large audience ready to engage. That’s easier said than done, but those who have pulled off the trick were successful at ASCO. Adam Feuerstein did well, in no small part because of his followership of more than 42,000 people on Twitter and Periscope combined.

Step two is remembering Rome wasn’t built in a day. You need multiple touch points with your established audience. On March 30 Adam announced via Twitter he was speaking with the ASCO folks about how Periscope could/should be used at the meeting. On May 12, Mandy Davis Aitken (@davisa20, Director of Annual Meeting and Conference Center @ASCO) confirmed via Twitter that all ASCO participants can stream on Periscope. Game on.

Step three: Execute. There were about 20 streams during the conference that included the #ASCO15 hashtag. Adam made up about a quarter of them, Meg Tirrell (along with her producer @jodigralnick) held her own with roughly 200 followers and four posts. The official ASCO handle totaled two streams and over 500 followers—not too shabby for their pilot year.

SECOND: It’s about quality, not quantity. Like any good piece of content, good Periscopes were rich, engaging and had a purpose. That’s the reason I and so many others tuned in to Meg’s and Adam’s streams. They weren’t streaming their coffee run; they put me at the center of ASCO. I could hear the presenters, see the posters, the packed conference rooms. It was absolutely fantastic.

THIRD: Keep your chin up. The human element was often the best and most “real” element of the experience. The awkward camera selfie flip and seeing Adam’s mug for three seconds, catching Meg mid-hair flip before the interview started, the camera shot turning down a bit because the person’s arm started to get tired holding their phone … that stuff is golden. All those moments strung together made for good entertainment.

Periscope use at medical meetings has potential to be the future of medical meetings. If you’re going to take the plunge and start streaming you need three things: the right audience, engaging content and the right attitude. After all, if you fall on your face while live streaming and it’s up for 24 hours… you need to at least have the good sense to laugh about it for a full 23 hours and 55 minutes.

For most of us, the idea of “big data” is either terrifying, utterly overwhelming, or both. What does big data even mean? How are we supposed to make sense of infinite amounts of information? Once we’ve made some sense of it all, how can we make cents from it all? Stop. Take a deep breath. Let go and let analytics.

Here at W2O, we have an extraordinarily talented analytics team working hard to answer the big questions. We’ve built an industry-leading team for a few very important reasons. We believe a creative brief is not enough. We believe building content strategies on foundations of analytical data is a more intelligent approach. We believe the evolution of digital data provides us an opportunity to develop programs that identify the right audience, understand their interest areas, and reach them with the right content, at the right time, in the right channel. Do you know what else? Big brands believe as well. In fact, the smartest brands are stepping their content marketing up a notch by finding needles in giant haystacks of data because they’re asking the right questions and making sense of the data first.

Analytics Information

 

At W2O’s event with Sprinklr on Monday in Santa Clara, executives from major companies in Silicon Valley will discuss how they’re using analytics to deliver more innovative content experiences to their current and potential customers. The panelists will explain their greatest challenges in reaching their audience with content that matters and what they’re doing to overcome these challenges with the power of data.

If you’d like to attend the event, register here. See below for our esteemed list of panelists – we hope you’ll join the discussion.

Greg Eden – Vice President, Brand & Communications, Autodesk

Judy Yee – Executive Vice President of Marketing, Crystal Geyser Water Company

Stacey Wu – Vice President, Marketing Operations, Analytics and Automation, Avaya

Niki Hall – Vice President of Marketing, Polycom

Jack Richard – Director of Marketing, Customer Experience & Storytelling, Hewlett Packard

Michael Brito – Head of Social Strategy, WCG, a W2O Company

 

“You have to get your on-base percentage (OBP) up, or else you better be making every single play defensively.” – New York Yankees Announcer.

When I heard this quote during a Yankees game, I couldn’t help but realize Major League Baseball (MLB) and W2O Group firms approach their “sports” similarly.

We both leverage analytics to identify, assess and “recruit” people to enhance our offensive capabilities.

While the MLB recruits top athletes to build winning teams, WCG, tWist and Brewlife use analytics to “recruit” active and trusted industry thought leaders who share a topic of interest with our clients. We analyze online conversations and trends that are relevant to our clients’ businesses to understand who is contributing to dialogue and influencing the most people on the subject. As a result, this informs our decisions and strategies with the intent of building relationships to form a winning “team.” Answers to key questions help us build the best team, including:

How active are these thought leaders on social channels? What is their reach and relevance? What types of content do they create and share? How many people share their content, or value them as thought leaders?

Our goal is to find and subsequently build relationships with people who are respected in a particular field and may be interested in engaging with and sharing content we develop with our clients. Their support positively impacts overall company performance and, over time, its corporate reputation. We refer to this process as influencer engagement, and use it to hit homeruns for our clients.

For a recent influencer engagement program, our Analytics and MDigitalLife teams compiled and leveraged data to build a team of online thought leaders (including physicians) among specific areas of health: epilepsy and mental health. Over a three-month timeframe, our Media & Engagement team built relationships with them via Twitter by engaging with their content and sharing program-specific content on behalf of the client. The influencers eventually engaged, which opened relationship opportunities for the client. Results of this program exceeded key performance indicators, such as number of identified influencers who engaged, and content reached thousands of relevant followers, including physicians. The most rewarding moment, however, happened when the chairman of the Department of Neurology at a major medical center retweeted our content; that was like having the Derek Jeter of our sport hit a homerun!

baseball

Just like baseball teams look for a return on investment from their players, we (as well as our clients) strive to provide a return on engagement from identified thought leaders. In other words, the more players or thought leaders that the MLB or W2O Group firms respectively can “get on base,” the more OBP or engagement will increase.

At the end of the day, analytics are the foundation of strategies and decisions across multiple organizations, beyond MLB and W2O Group firms. Incorporating insights that data reveal can be the difference between successfully building a winning team and failing to accomplish this goal. Build your offense with the goal of reaching home plate to help shape your reputation before you’re forced to defend why you’re a thought leader.

As organizations become increasingly analytics-driven, how will you use analytics to hit homeruns?

Let’s begin with an oversimplified summary of marketing macro-trends from the past five years. Advances in technology have led to rapid innovation cycles, an open door to startups, and greater competition in virtually every major industry. Increased competition places greater pressure on marketers to successfully position, target, and reach new (fickle) consumers, thus leading to increased budgets but greater scrutiny. Concurrently, channels of distribution and social media proliferation have reduced the overall effectiveness of traditional paid media (TV, radio, print). Investments in digital media continue to rise, but these tactics run the risk of becoming just another billboard until a standard measurement scheme is adopted…impressions no longer count, folks. Marketers find themselves faced with too many options but the same old dilemma…how to reach the right eyeballs with a relevant message to drive funnel activity? Relax, you don’t have to do it all alone…

Your Brand is No Longer Yours

As mentioned above, the proliferation of digital media has become an open invite for informal journalism and product critique. Consider your personal news feed, anyone with a Twitter handle, Pinterest page, or YouTube channel can pose as a resident authority for a given topic. Combine this with a human tendency to seek recommendations from trusted networks at the speed of “fiber”, and all of a sudden pay-for-play review services like Zagat, Forbes, and Michelin become a little less relevant. Similarly, a brand’s ability to tell their own story objectively is in itself oxymoronic. Consumers yield more power than ever in curating brand experiences for rebroadcast with greater organic reach than any single brand or network can provide. So how can you make heroes out of your customers and are you comfortable with passing the mic?

beck song reader site(ex: Beck’s Song Reader)

Never Discount Vanity

We are all a few clicks away from becoming professional storytellers, kickstarters, and journalists…and some clever folks make a pretty good living doing so. Since we all now have the ability to live in bits and bytes, we also own digital brands to build and protect. Consumers tend to curate the best of themselves in photo, video, and text, and if advocating your product or service can help them in their quest, you just earned more efficient advertising than you could ever pay for. Yes, altruism still exists and deep-down most of us share information with the hope of helping others. But there is also selfish pride in being viewed as a source of discovery for news, humor, products, or deals, which can double as brand sponsorship. Do you have the ability to locate your top advocates, make them feel special, and hand off something exclusive enough to share? Does this help them build their individual digital brands?

warby parker 2

(ex: Warby Parker’s Home Try-On)

Just Cause

If traditional media effectiveness is in perpetual decline, you no longer own your brand, and customers control their own path to purchase, how can you win? The most progressive brand marketers recognize that modern consumers, specifically digital natives, want to elevate beyond the transaction and require their share of wallet contribute to more than corporate profits. This can be a win-win for both brands and consumers, with corporate cause efforts (CSR) are perpetually constrained by resources and priority, when aligned with marketing they can build brand equity and also contribute to customer acquisition. As mentioned above, if this also helps consumers attach altruism to their digital profiles with minimal keystrokes, they will support your cause through commerce.

toms

 (ex: Toms Improving Lives)

In the grand scheme of advertising, digital media is still in relative infancy. This is precisely why I find it so valuable to study patterns of communication and subliminal intent to predict behavior. One thing is for certain, no single brand can afford to continue feeding the diminishing returns meter, a.k.a. traditional paid media. In order to scale your brand message in the most organic way, you must enlist your customers (and their respective networks) to participate. Word-of-mouth still happens largely offline, but online sharing platforms are fertile ground for brand advocacy. However, this must be a true value exchange, whereas if a consumer offers you a piece of their digital real estate, your product or experience must deliver incremental value in their personal brand building campaign.

Google cause

 (SOURCE: LBGT Advertising, How Brands are Taking a Stance on Issues)

 

One of the things I expected to miss when I made the transition from journalism to PR was the part of my job where I got to tell other people’s amazing stories in my articles. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so concerned — more and more companies are realizing they can, and should, do this themselves as part of their public relations efforts.

A few weeks ago famed Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran announced he was leaving the newspaper after 20 years to form his own production company, partnered with coffee giant Starbucks. In an interview with Columbia Journalism Review, Chandrasekaran said he would focus on long-form “social-impact content,” such as documentaries on veterans. The collaboration sprung out of a book about veterans he co-authored with Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz , “For Love of Country,” published last year.

Chandrasekaran says in the interview he’s not going to do “PR or marketing work.” If the goal was anything but tell good stories, then it wouldn’t likely work anyway. People don’t flock to sales pitches; they want to be sucked into something they can’t look away from.

Credit: The Economist — http://www.economist.com/node/3353315

Blue chip companies, such as SAP, IBM and GE have realized this as well, which is why many of them employ “Chief Storytellers,” or people who’s main job it is to ferret out internal stories worth sharing externally. GE, in fact, was doing decades ago — in 1947 it hired a young journalist with a scientific background to hunt around their Schenectady facility for good stories to tell. That reporter was Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut, third from left, is taking notes during a VIP tour of GE’s Schenectady plant. The photo was preserved by Mary Robinson:http://www.gereports.com/post/78009878650/kurts-cradle-kurt-vonnegut-was-ges-pr-man

Vonnegut described his gig as “visiting the scientists and talking to them and asking them what they were up to. Every so often a good story would come out of it.”

Companies are waking up to the fact that the traditional approach to media relations — put out a press release, wait for coverage — isn’t as effective as it used to be. There are fewer journalists who cover much of the route business announcements that would have likely been picked up by some poor wire sod (like me) in the past. The Associated Press now has robots covering financial news; it’s a recognition that while these things are important to record in some neutral fashion, they don’t attract many readers (media outlets know now because they can count the web clicks). Better to have reporters focus on features, scoops and hot breaking news items.

Corporate storytelling shouldn’t replace legitimate reporting by independent journalists. But it can help a company earn more coverage by virtue of demonstrating it has something interesting to say.

A good example of this is Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, which started writing its own “brand journalism,” or articles with helpful info for patients. As a result of this effort, the hospital started getting much more attention from media outlets from bloggers to broadcast, according to Christine Kent, writing for Ragan’s PR Daily.

“We’re averaging nine times the media placements we’d get several years ago — but we’re also hearing from national media looking for sources on news that we haven’t pitched to them,” said Pam Barber, Nationwide’s director of media relations, according to Kent’s article. “That tells us that they’re seeing us as a trusted source.”

Since this is one of the goals of media engagement — raising your profile, gaining the trust and attention of journalists — it only makes sense that more and more companies will expand their storytelling efforts.

Daina (1)

As I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Next up is Daina Middleton, Head of Global Business Marketing at Twitter. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Prior to joining Twitter to run global marketing, Daina was the CEO of Performics, the performance marketing division of Publicis Groupe. A pioneer in the digital marketing space, Daina is known for creating “participant marketing”. Prior to joining Performics, she served as SVP of Insights, Trends, Innovation and Research at Moxie.  Prior to that, Daina spent 16 years working at Hewlett-Packard in key marketing positions across the company, and was running advertising for HP’s $28 billion global Imaging and Printing Group immediately prior to her departure. Daina serves on the boards of Marin Software, Healthwise, and the Teton Valley Community Foundation.  She is a regular industry speaker.

And now on to the interview:

[Aaron Strout] I’ve heard you have a slightly unorthodox major/minor combination. How did this come to be?
[Daina Middleton] Yes, it’s true. I have a journalism degree which has been more beneficial than you might think — especially in today’s world where there seems to be an overabundance of communication. My skills there help me digest and sort through what’s relevant and what’s not. The “unorthodox” part you are referring to is my minor which is in fisheries and wildlife. The back story there is that while I was at Oregon State, they required a technical minor. I had so many credits from different technical fields, including archaeology, zoology and many others — even computer science.  Finally,  I decided to pick a minor by counting the area where I already had the most credits because I could not decide.

[AS] Daina, you worked with Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) of HP while he was running the print division. Tell me a little about that relationships and what you learned from VJ.
[DM] I was running advertising while VJ was running Imaging and Printing. We were experimenting in measuring everything in marketing — these were the early days when analytics were more of a promise than a reality and pushing the envelope with partners, particularly Google who would produce a 200+ page report including data and insights every week. VJ was really fascinated with the idea of measuring marketing and I think he read every page every week.  I learned this because after I forwarded the report on to him he would give me a call and ask me a question from one of the charts.  I never knew exactly when the call was coming. After a few calls, I decided that I had better do my homework and understand the story behind the numbers, along with the business impact in order to be fully prepared when the phone rang.

What I didn’t know at the time was that VJ’s expectations and passion for data was setting me up for my  job running the largest performance marketing company in the world: Performics. My interactions with VJ were instrumental in insuring that I was immersed in all facets of the data and performance. To that end, I still passionate about data.  Mapping everything marketing does to direct business impact is just common sense.

As I said, we were working really closely with  Google at the time to break new ground in marketing analytics. VJ was on Yahoo!’s board of directors at the time and was so impressed with what we were doing with Google that he insisted I come along with him to one of the Yahoo! board meetings to explain to them how they were falling short.

[AS] Like a few of our other speakers, you’ve written a book. Tell us a little about, Marketing in the Participation Age, and what some of the key themes are.
[DM] Yes, I did write Marketing in the Participation Age back in 2012. It was a great experience. There are three parts to the thesis:

  • Traditionally we were all trained that marketing is about persuasion.  Today, persuasion is no longer enough.  Marketers need to understand participation.  Every customer has a computer in his or her pockets.  And the goal of marketing is to get that customer to take some form of action on your behalf.  We are all measured on these actions.   And actions are the manifestation of participation.
  • There is a science behind participation. It hasn’t been applied to marketing before now because there was no reason to do so. The science is based on intrinsic motivation or self-determination theory which has been applied to education and HR but hadn’t been applied to marketing, until now.
  • The last chapter of the book focuses on the idea that more fundamental changes within a company are required for success today.  Historically, all marketing metaphors have been based on war.  If we want our customers to participate, then I think gardening is a better metaphor, and if a company can adopt “nurturist” values they will have success in the Participation Age.

[AS] How are you using your philosophy to help evolve the way that twitter as a platform is experienced for businesses/your customers?
[DM] Numbers help us make decisions today and better prepare me/us for tomorrow. How do we prepare for tomorrow?

  • Explaining how and why Twitter is so much bigger than just a platform.
  • Knowing your customer, and using data in smart ways to REALLY know them and invite them to participate.

mike marinelloAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Next up is Mike Marinello, Head of Global Communications, Technology, Innovation and Sustainability at Bloomberg.  For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Michael is a member of Bloomberg LP’s corporate communications team, currently responsible for a cross-platform positioning and reputation effort that he created for the Technology, Innovation and Design organization at Bloomberg (R&D and Office of the CTO). He recently also created and now leads Bloomberg’s Brand Integration efforts, working more strategically and pro-actively with the entertainment industry. Before moving to Bloomberg LP, Michael managed the brands and created the communications operations and social and digital platforms for both Bloomberg Philanthropies and the C40 Cities Climate Group (at the time Chaired by then NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg). Prior to that he was at Microsoft for four years, working in communications for Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), and then running communications and analyst relations for Office (enterprise).

Now onto the interview:

You’ve had an interesting journey career wise including stints working in politics and a VERY large software company. Can you tell us about your journey?
It has been an interesting journey. I never started out with a specific plan. Well I actually had one initially. From the time I was in seventh grade I wanted to be an architect. I took private study and all types of classes and went to Lehigh University as an architect major… But when I actually started to study to become one – for real – I didn’t like it at all. So I dropped it and moved to International Relations. Yeah, that was the last time I ever had a real defined career plan. But I digress… Seriously though, while my path does not look linear on paper, each experience led to the next either directly or indirectly. So for me it has felt like a natural career path from the US Senate, to a Microsoft consultant, to building my own agency practice at GCI and then head of Corporate Development, to starting the corporate PR function for Becton Dickinson, to being in-house at Microsoft and now my transition from creating and running comms for Bloomberg Philanthropies and C40 to my current job at Bloomberg LP. While not initially intended, the one constant has been creating, building, growing and expanding a communications operation. Those experiences have really taught me the business – and business value — of communications. Not a lot of people get that chance. But I have led a professionally entrepreneurial career, love that part of my work and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. My Mom once asked me why I do what I do, and I told her “because I get paid for being me.” Which doesn’t suck. (That was her response…)

Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on turning communications outcomes into business values. Can you give a preview?
Well, it goes back to what I was just saying. Having had a long history of building and running communications operations, I have learned great lessons about the business of and business value communications brings to a company, a brand or a client. And I think that gets lost a bit. I stumbled on it, so trust me I’m no genius. Maybe just fortunate to have learned it early. Our discipline – primarily those new to it – should think of ourselves as business units not strictly service centers. So I hope some of what I talk about will get folks – even if just a few – rethinking their approach to creating business value, not just communications outcomes.

What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
Well you know me, and I have always been a huge fan of storytelling so it is not new to me or more important than say a decade ago. However, what is exciting to me is that we have so many different ways to tell stories and reach our audiences directly and unfiltered. That is exciting and something that constantly challenges me and my team – to be more creative and innovative in our approach because we now have so many tools and outlets to tell our stories. The trap to avoid however is telling the same stories on multiple channels, or at least trying to tell them the same way. What works on Twitter, might not work on our blog or Facebook, or it might work but it needs to be retooled for that audience and platform. That is the challenge we face every day – what’s the platform, what’s the audience, how do we tell the best story keeping both in mind…

How do you see the world of communications evolving over the next five years.
Wow. No idea. Really… What I’d like to see though in five years is a whittling down of social media platforms. There are too many right now, and I think there is a lot of noise and activity and not a lot of outcomes. So I’m hoping in the next five years we have a shake out of the platforms that really matter and those that don’t. Sure there will always be disrupters. I love that. But I just don’t want to see more of the same… Honestly though as practitioners –no matter the number of platforms– we still have to understand the different platforms and utilize the ones that are most relevant to us either because of audience or business objective. So even though I’m hoping to see fewer platforms (does that make me lazy? old? both?) our need to understand them and utilize them accordingly won’t change.

I know you attended SXSW last year since you were at a number of our events. What was your biggest takeaway?
My biggest take away – and I’m serious here – is that the Pre-Commerce event proved to be a great “community event” re bringing like-minded comms professionals together to listen to and learn from one another. That was great.  So I would love to see a “comms startup” community spur from this year’s event. Quarterly maybe? Bloomberg/W2O sponsored? Also, my biggest takeaway was that I should have paid more attention to the gaming thingy going on in the room. I paid no attention and ended up coming in like second place. Had I actually paid attention maybe I would have beaten that dude from Coke. Did I just say that? Is this mic still hot? Wow, I’m just riffing now and failing miserably at everything I ever taught in media training classes… Next question.

What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
Not sure, but I just pray it isn’t “Big Data” – I’m “Big Data-ed” out quite frankly…

chuckAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Third up is Chuck Hemann, head of analytics at tech giant, Intel. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Over the last 10 years, Chuck has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining Intel, he was Executive Director, Analytics at Golin where I was responsible for leading digital analytics across the agency. Before Golin he was Group Director, Analytics for W2O Group where he was responsible for leading teams in New York and London, in addition to key client relationships with P&G and Verizon.

Now onto the interview:

[Aaron Strout] How did you end up in the field of analytics?
[Chuck Hemann] Probably like a lot of people in the field of analytics I ended up in it sort of by accident. My undergraduate and graduate work is all in political science, and during graduate school I did do some of that work both in DC and at home (Cleveland Rocks!). If you love the study of human behavior, you would love to witness the political environment every day. What I realized, though, is that profession had a limited shelf life for me. Twenty hours a day for weeks on end didn’t sound like much of an existence. When I moved back home I sent my resumes to a bunch of communications firms thinking there were some natural parallels between the political world and communications. During that process Dix & Eaton brought me in for an interview and said they were looking for a research assistant for their media research team and, because I needed a job, I took the opportunity. Two years later is when the social media listening boom hit and the rest as they say is history…

[AS] I’ve heard you’ve written a book. Tell us about that? Anything you would go back and change if you could?
[CH] It is true. I have written a book. Ken Burbary and I set out on the journey to give marketers an analytics book that they would feel comfortable reading. To that point most of the analytics books on the market were written for people like us and while they were valuable, they weren’t terribly useful for the marketer who wont be diving into Google Analytis and doing deep web analytics anytime soon. It’s a great question on whether or not there is anything we would go back and change. If I had to answer I would say there is probably two things in particular: 1. We had to talk about tools but discussing digital analytics tools in this sort of environment is a crapshoot. Most of the tools we talked about are still around but in varying degrees of stability; 2. I wish we would’ve talked more about digital media measurement. We do have a few chapters on it, but I think we could write a whole book on that subject – how to develop the framework, how often to measure, what should you measure, how should those insights be applied, etc… (No, before you ask, we’re not contemplating a book on this. My authoring days are over).

[AS] Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on going global and some of the challenges associated. Can you share some pre-session thoughts?
[CH] One of the big challenges that my boss gave to me was help drive the idea of being a data driven organization. Intel (like a lot of brands) has more data than we could ever reasonably use, but what we needed to start doing is figuring out how we got insights into the hands of people executing media programs on our behalf. And oh, by the way, do it across digital media, paid social, organic social, SEM, SEO and Intel.com. That’s not a small job in and of itself, but it was made even bigger when she said, “everything we do needs to scale to our geographies.” Crap. How do we go about tackling that problem? During the session I’m going to talk a little bit about that problem, a little about how we’re thinking about it, a little about what we’ve already done and a little about the challenges we still face. I wish I could talk more about these things, but I only have 10 minutes.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[CH] I’m not sure I would use the word “rising” because I think Storytizing is already here to stay. If you cannot tell your brand’s story across paid, earned and shared channels then your digital story falls flat. Integration in particular isn’t a “nice to have” anymore. It’s mandatory.

[AS] If you attended SXSW last year, what was your biggest takeaway?
[CH] I did attend SXSW last year and I think the biggest takeaway for me is similar to what many said following the event which was it feels like it’s getting more intimate. Events like PreCommerce are sprouting up all over the place, and I for one am not planning to spend much time at any big parties. I’d rather the networking be more focused.

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[CH] I would love to see the trend above continue as it makes for a much better event experience. To be honest, I’ve not been keeping up with the buzz around SXSW leading up to it (I’ve been busy scaling globally) so it’s a little difficult to answer… My guess though is we’ll see as much if not more chatter around the proliferation of mobile and the (seeming) retreat on the rapid expansion of catch all social platforms. There are new social platforms popping up all of the time, but the ones that are popping up are very niche to fit a very particular use case.

mike edelehartAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. First up is Mike Edelhart, CEO of Pivotcon.  For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

If you don’t know Mike, he is the lead partner for the Social Starts moment-of-inception investment fund and CEO of the Tomorrow Project, producers of the Pivot Conference in NY. Mike is an experienced media and Internet start-up executive. Mike was Managing Director and founder of First30 Services, a launch accelerator for early stage companies. Mike has held CEO and executive positions at numerous start-ups including Inman News, Zinio,Third Age Media and Olive Software. Mike was a partner at Redleaf, a VC firm. Earlier in this career, at SoftBank, Mike directed content for the Seybold, Interop and Comdex conferences and launched new businesses.

Now onto the interview:

[Aaron Strout] What is innovation? How do companies adopt and scale within their companies.
{Mike Edelhart] We need to think about innovation on two very different scales. One is innovation within the norm: the better mousetrap. This happens all the time and can arise when companies pay attention to the details of what they do, solicit ideas for workers and best customers and operate obsessively at perfecting their internal processes. But there is a second, deeper kind of innovation. This is tech disruption. When fundamental new technologies–such as social and mobile today, and the IoT tomorrow–emerge, they create change slowly, but with inexorable force. Because they often negate long standing fundamentals, company’s can’t respond simply by being better at what they do; they have to learn to do something utterly new. That is the challenge companies face today: How can they strip down the house they live in and completely rebuild it in recognition of fundamental change, while still keeping the current business going? That is very hard and most businesses fail. Which is why tech change often ushers in new market leaders who approach what they do in radically different ways, ala Netflix and Uber. And we’ll see many more of those to come.

[AS] What do you do to keep your company fresh in the business?
[ME] We are an unusual business, being a moment-of-inception fund. Our job is to be out front of change. We compel ourselves to recognize that no company, especially a small one like ours, can understand everything going on in a complex, high-velocity world like ours. So we compel ourselves to radically focus and in our focus areas to see literally thousands of new companies, so we always have been context for making our decisions. The enemy is our personally held views of what the future will be. It doesn’t matter what we think; all that matters is what customers are doing and are likely to do. We need to stay single-minded on that.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[ME] Stories have been fundamental to human communication since we squatted in caves. They remain so today. In the old days, everyone was a story teller, but the range of impact of stories was quite small. More recently, stories could travel worldwide and have huge impact, but only at great expense and complexity, so the story tellers became a professional caste–TV and movie producers, authors and publishers, newspapers. Now, we see an era emerging where everyone can be a story teller again, the traditional mode returns, but with a worldwide impact that individuals have never hard before. We believe the impacts of this on media and marketing will be profound.

[AS] If you attended SXSW last year, what was your biggest takeaway?
[ME] I wasn’t there last year. But what I heard at a distance was that popularity has made the event so big and so noisy that only huge expenditure could get a company/product above the noise. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out this year.

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[ME] I hope to hear a lot about how companies now can and should interact directly with their customers/fan bases/employees in new ways. Value, in marketing, should flow directly to the people whose actions moves markets. The role of all the middlemen in the market–all media, all platforms, all channels–should be deeply re-examined. It can’t hold that a platform like Facebook can generate billions of value from the behaviors of its members, with none of that value flowing to them. That inequity must be changed and the rising generation of millennials seems determined to make that happen. Is business ready for this yet? I hope to get a sense of that from SouthBy this year.

We look forward to hearing more from Mike on March 12!

On my first day in PR, there was no rest for the newly initiated.

“Great to have you here – can you do some pitching today?” I was asked within an hour of being shown my desk.

This was the moment I had been dreading. After spending 13 years as a journalist, having PR people cater to me, now I was the one who had to sweet talk reporters into taking meetings with clients or ginning up interest in announcements and news.

But funny enough, it didn’t seem that different from what I had already been doing – in fact in many ways it was more enjoyable. Now that I’ve been doing this PR thing for half a year, I can say there are a lot of parallels between the professions (even if some journalists would be loathed to hear that). In particular, three areas stand out: cold calling, pitching and social media.

1) Cold calling: journalists cold call new sources all the time. Sometimes you’re working on a breaking story and need to just get a quick quote from anyone, other times you’re trying to match what the competition has already published. Just like PR people are tasked with harassing journalists until they get a response, so too do journalists have to continuously bother PR people as well as executives, analysts, companies and others to confirm news, get a quote or feel out if a potential scoop has legs.

These types of calls inevitably lead to awkward exchanges. Sometimes you don’t really know what you’re asking about – an editor tells you to make calls ASAP for a breaking story off of your beat. Or you call someone you don’t know and ask what seems to be a relevant question and they shoot back – “don’t you know who I am and what I’ve done?” Other times sources just aren’t saying anything useful or quotable, so you try ask them the same question over and over again in a variety of ways, hoping to get a sound bite.

Then there are the situations when you’re calling about bad news and have to ask personal or private questions – such as: did they have an affair with a subordinate? Or cheat their company out of money? The worst interviews are when you have to contact someone that lost a loved one. I’ve covered 9/11, military funerals, school shootings and other horrible events in real time. Understandably, it’s not uncommon to be hung up on or called horrible names.

When it comes to cold-calling journalists as a PR person, you don’t always have a deep knowledge of the company you’re pitching, or the journalist you’re contacting. We work as a team, so when my teammates need help getting press for a client with breaking news, we flood the zone with calls and emails to dozens, if not hundreds, of media people.

There’s usually a spreadsheet with names of reporters broken down by segments such as national news, local news, bloggers, industry reporters, trade pubs, TV and radio. We’ll all take a page of names and get to work. Sometimes the information about the journalist or outlet is outdated and a lot of times they don’t respond. Occasionally people will berate you for not knowing that they don’t cover what you think they do. Frankly, it’s a lot more pleasant talking to journalists, even the disinterested ones, than questioning a source that’s media-shy or even hostile.

2) Pitching: PR people aren’t the only ones pitching stories. As a reporter, I constantly had to pitch my features internally to get them published. It’s not always good enough to find a trend or feature idea that either hasn’t been written by the competition or tells readers the story in a new way. It also has to be deemed worthy of space.

At Bloomberg News, where I worked the past seven years, this meant features were often subject to many layers of approvals, from an editor, team leader, bureau chief, feature editor, managing editor and potentially others. It wasn’t unusal for each editor to take a stab at rewriting the story to reflect what they thought should be the focus. Other times they wanted more reporting, sometimes a lot more (one time a feature editor emailed me more than 80 questions on a 700 word feature).

And after all that time and work of rewriting, re-reporting and winning over numerous editors, someone high up could express skepticism on the newsworthy-ness of the story, effectively killing it. That was always a bitter pill to swallow.

If, on the other hand, the story did get published, the next step would be pitching it to editors at the magazine, radio and TV departments, to get it more airtime. I’d also try to bring it to the attention of industry leaders other experts outside of the company, with the goal of being invited on TV, or included in a forum or panel, or having someone else point to the story as important. That also could be a fruitless and frustrating process.

Same goes for PR. One of my favorite activities here is to continue doing what I did as a journalist, but for clients. So I’ll spend a day at a company, interviewing scientists, engineers, executives, and touring the facilities looking for feature ideas and anecdotes that normally wouldn’t make it out of a marketing meeting. I then come up with story lines and ideas of how to position a company as part of a trend or affecting the world in a unique way.

These are ideas I honestly think are interesting and news worthy, but they still need to get approved by several divisions at the client company before I can approach journalists with them, including their own communications department, legal and regulatory, and whoever manages the executives themselves.

Some clients are excited about these ideas and give me the go ahead to pitch them to the media. Other times, even relatively simple story lines get nixed or dramatically changed because of concerns over any potential of a negative or less than favorable article. It’s less frustrating than getting a story killed as a journalist, but it’s still not fun.

Once these story ideas are approved, I then have to do my main job and get journalists interested. Some reporters like the pitches and take meetings with my clients and write articles about them, while others don’t bother to even respond.

3) Social media: As a journalist, I felt constrained in what I could say on Twitter and other social media sites. For years, I never posted anything political or items that hinted of a personal opinion about subjects I wrote about, even on my non-public profiles. I felt free to tweet articles from colleagues and competitors and tried to spur conversations around the articles I wrote. But most of the time I felt like I had to bite my (digital) tongue.

In PR there are other concerns. My social media output has become much more opinionated about a wide-range of subjects, from sports, parenting, health topics, and politics, as I’m trying to build my influence, actively engage people and retain an audience that mostly followed me because I was a reporter at Bloomberg. But I’ve also felt much more constrained in terms of discussing industry news.

You want to be authentic in what you say on social media, but now that I’m in a client-serving role, I don’t want to be seen as endorsing anything that puts a client in a negative light or something that says a competitor is better. Many times I find myself ready to tweet out a good feature but hesitate at the last second, wondering “will any client be offended if they see I’ve tweeted this?”

These are just a few of the parallels I’ve found between the two professions. Despite my concerns that a career as a communications pro would be completely different from that of a journalist, I’ve found the opposite to be true.

Hello W2O,

Please see below for more insights coming out of the W2O Go. Ahead in Health Summit.

W2O Public Affairs (Kieran Fagan)
Kieran Fagan joined us to discuss W2O’s outlook for building out our public affairs offering. He pointed out that we can apply our analytics, creativity and public affairs practices to target and engage key decision makers of legislation and public policy, which will give us the opportunity to become more involved with legislations that impact our clients. By synthesizing data gathered through analysis of conversation, influencer identification, and the congressional digital database, we can use this information to help our clients stay ahead of issues and address them appropriately when they arise. The congressional digital database is a data set of all public online communications from all members of congress that allows us to know who is talking, listen to what they are saying and how it is trending, where they are saying it, and to what depth.

W2O has also partnered with a DC-based public affairs and lobbying firm based in Washington D.C. The firm brings senior-level participation in key executive branch and legislative processes that develop and shape public policy and regulatory decisions. This partnership will be a huge part in driving our public affairs efforts moving forward.

Panel: Affordable Care Act
Moderator: Elise Trent
Panelists: Jared Danielson, Brian Reid, John Osborn
Elise Trent prompted panelists to discuss the Affordable Care Act and its potential effect on our nation and company as a whole. Setting political views aside, the conversation opened up to the audience and our W2Oer’s asked some pertinent questions. All we know for sure is that there are still alot of lingering questions when it comes to how successful the ACA will be. Our wise panelists agreed that it will be the citizens that will determine the outcomes of this new Act.  Ultimately, whether we like or not, the ACA is enforced and we have to find a way for all parties to deal with it.

Clinical Trial Recruitment (Dorcas Lind)
Dorcas spoke about the changing landscape for clinical trial recruitment and how to address the current challenges with new, innovative approaches. With access to information increasing and patients and caregivers becoming more active online, it is more important than ever to ensure that patients are educated about treatment options and their benefits. Looking forward, companies will need to use analytics to drive strategy, engage key influencers and create awareness with customized content, implement multi-channel engagement, and activate study site coordinators on social platforms. This will help lead to better, qualified patients, accelerated enrollment and fewer dropouts.

Best Integrated Account (Greg Reilly and Danielle Whitney)
Merck – EMD Serono won this year’s Go. Ahead in Health Award for best integrated account. Greg Reilly and Danielle Whitney joined us to discuss how their team approached the challenge to deliver a multi-pronged program to coordinate digital strategy on a global scale. They explained that collaboration across multiple disciplines depends on team dynamic, relationships and execution. If we are providing diverse offerings then our client contacts should be diverse as well. Developing senior-level relationships and holding integrated planning meetings with our clients will help develop stronger partnerships and create more efficiency in driving our plans. From an internal standpoint, clarity of roles and responsibility, and flexibility are essential for operations. Discuss business problems frequently to come prepared with solutions.

Overall, the Go. Ahead in Health Summit energized and aligned our practice heading into 2014. We left the summit prepared to tackle the challenges ahead and continue to do great work for great clients.