• 30Jan

    I have been working with more start-ups and smaller businesses who have been trying to harness inbound marketing using press releases as well as other strategies. News releases still carry a lot of weight with search engines for SEO, and they can be useful for blog fodder and to feed social media channels. However, not every press release is newsworthy, although they really should be.

    In the drive to promote search engine visibility, companies, or more specifically the marketing executives within those companies, have forgotten the first rule of press release writing; ask yourself, “Is it news?”

    Recently I have been receiving more requests for non-news news releases, such as having a “cool” product or adding a new social video to your website. While these types of events may have great import to your company, you have to ask yourself if anyone outside the organization will find the news of interest. If not, it ain’t news.

    Inbound marketing is driven by good content, which means good storytelling. There are any number of formats you can use to tell a good story: a case study, blog post, opinion piece, “how to” article, etc. And while all press releases should tell a good story, not all stories make worthy press releases. Here are just some of the criteria that journalists use to determine news value:

    1. Timeliness – It it’s now, it’s news. Events that are interesting and happening now are newsworthy. When you release a new product, for example, it’s newsworthy the day you release the product, not two months later.

    2. Something new – A new approach, a new standard, a new product, a new hire, a new headquarters; these are all newsworthy because they are new.

    2. Conflict – Industry conflict or the fact you or your company takes a stand that is the polar opposite of an industry leader could be newsworthy.

    3. David vs. Goliath – I hear a lot of clients say they want a David and Goliath story, where they want to take on the big guys and do something they can’t. In the minds of the media, the David vs. Goliath story usually takes the form of fighting for the underdog. Reporters often see themselves as protectors of the truth, and the voice of the disenfranchised, so David needs to be wronged by Goliath to make the story newsworthy. If you are looking for a B2B David-and-Goliath story, then you need to prove that you did something significant that the big competitors could not.

    4. Statistics – Reporters love statistics, particularly if they highlight a trend or shed light on a hot industry topic. If you have statistics that demonstrate market or thought leadership, or make a case for your market strategy, a news release is a good way to get the word out.

    5. Milestones – For public companies, industry milestones such as mergers, earnings, etc., need to be disclosed to the market, and press releases are a good way to do that. For private companies, sharing insight about new customers, earnings, and business operations make you look like a public company, and often get published.

    6. Something that impacts your world – If the news has an impact on your customers or industry, then it is press release-worthy. For example, a new industry standard, or a company acquisition, or even a webinar with insights about what the future might hold will be of interest to someone out there, and so it’s worth disclosing.

    There are a number of other events that reporters love to cover, but most of them involve scandals, disasters, and bad news that you wouldn’t want to package in a news announcement (although you should be prepared with a crisis communications plan).

    Remember that people don’t share sales pitches, but they do share stories. Make sure your news release has a story worth hearing and worth sharing.

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  • 19Jan
    Social Media Theorist Clay Shirky addresses the broader implicaitons of SOPA and PIPA

     

    Okay, I ripped off this video to share with you here. I am not going to make money sharing this content, but if the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation pass, my sharing this information would become illegal.

    I have some thoughts on what Clay Shirky offers in this particular TED talk. Whether you agree with what Shirky has to say or not, I do know that mainstream media producers are rabid about protecting their intellectual property. As they should be! As a content producer myself, I understand the value of copyright and being able to protect your ideas and your work so someone else doesn’t steal it for their own gain. However, as I understand it, the new SOPA and PIPA legislation now before Congress will do more than just protect IP, but it will eliminate the ability to openly share a lot of the information we exchange today. Social media and the Web as we know it may disappear.

    During my formative years as a trade journalist, I watched the copyright wars play out in the home video business, in the satellite TV business, and elsewhere. Video advocates like Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America were incredibly threatened by new technology such as Betamax, the VHS video recorder, DVDs, and computers. Digitization of entertainment made it easier to disseminate over channels such as the Internet, and led to the birth of whole new sub industries, both legal and illegal, to address content protection. I was part of the rise and fall of the home satellite industry which boomed when home owners miles from the nearest cable link or TV station suddenly discovered they could get TV signals direct from the satellite, until the content owners like HBO and ESPN decided to scramble their signal to prevent theft. That led to the birth of the underground black box industry, as well as new industries like DirecTV. Technological progress has often been the result of the struggle between information dissemination and content protection, but where do you draw the line?

    What constitutes fair use of IP? In my mind it has to do with profit. If you are not stealing content for profit, or maliciously trying to undermine someone’s copyright for illicit purposes, then if you purchased the content, it should be yours to use as you wish. Apple has been progressive in this regard; they figured out a way to sell you music that you can play on your computer, on your portable music player, or burn to a CD for your car and still protect the artist’s copyright. If I buy a movie, I want the license to include the ability to watch on my computer, on my TV, or on my phone if I choose without having to buy the same product multiple times. It would be nice to share parts of that content with family and friends, assuming I am not undermining the artist’s rights to earn a profit from their work. But where do you draw the line?

    I believe in protecting IP, but not at the expense of locking down all freedom of expression. As Shirky notes, consumers like to share as well as consume, and creative sharing will actually increase profit from IP, not limit it. What the “old school” media have failed to grasp is the power of the Internet, especially social media, to sell their product. I buy music, movies, books, and other digital products because I get to sample it; because people send me clips or I found online sound bites that inspire me to purchase the original work.

    If you take away the freedom to share content, then the flow of information will slow to a trickle and we all will suffer, including the media companies behind SOPA and PIPA. If sharing digital content becomes illegal, then we all run the risk of becoming criminals.

    Let’s all work to defeat legislative stupidity and promote a fairer, wiser alternative.

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  • 29Nov

    TED always has something interesting to share. Here is a new presentation from Roger McNamee, a follower and investor in disruptive technology. Here are some interesting insights posted on TED earlier this month, with six big “aha” ideas he predicts will shape Internet business. McNamee’s prediction is that the future will be all about engagement, with Apple leading the charge. Here is a synopsis:

    1. Windows is dying. (Okay, you can stop cheering now). McNamee’s point is that workstations and enterprise software are become dinosaurs that will be made extinct by the meteoric rise of handhelds and other devices that can access the Internet.

    2. Google and Indexed Search is on its way out. The index has become full of garbage because the web is full of garbage. Now search is becoming specialized with destinations like Wikipedia, Yelp, Twitter, Tripadvisor, etc. The point is that Google’s dominance in search will be eclipsed by specialty resources that don’t serve up garbage with the index. Google commoditized content, but users are looking for more than commodities. Index search doesn’t work well on smart phones.

    3. Open source, i.e. the Web, has migrated to branded, value-added content. Apps rule over freeware. Apple will ship 100 million Internet-enabled devices, and those device users will be hungry for copyrighted apps.

    4. HTML 5 is coming,and it promotes engagement. With this new programming language you can construct a web page with embedded interactivity and video and audio without Flash and other clunky bolt-ons. Now you can create a differentiated and complete experience in one native language that works on various browser platforms.This is the key to total engagement, and you don’t need the commoditized providers.

    5. Tablets are dominant. McNamee predicts that the Apple will sell more iPads than they sold iPods and it will become the dominant engagement platform. The iPad revolution is another reason Windows is dead.

    6. Social is a sideshow. Facebook has won the social media race and the rest of the social starters have to follow Facebook to pick up the crumbs, like Zynga which has built its market on Facebook’s dominance. But McNamee sees social as a feature, not a platform. What’s coming is a new means of engagement.

    So we are looking toward a world where everything is an app, and every advertisement becomes a store. You can create and satisfy demand in the same place, through immersive engagement.

    McNamee may be totally wrong. I believe enterprise technology will continue to prosper as long as there is a need for closed network systems. Everyone has been talking about the cloud recently but it’s value and security has yet to be truly proven. And will handhelds really replace laptops or computers? They certainly will pick up market share, but who knows if they will become dominant anytime soon. I don’t feel qualified to talk about HTML 5, but I know that before there was Blu-ray the television industry had been talking about HDTV since I started writing about it in 1978.

    It will be interesting to see how accurate McNamee’s predictions are. Share and enjoy!

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  • 21Nov

    There are probably still a few skeptics out there who question the value of social media. For those naysayers, I will point you to recent news reports that companies are demanding to retain social media contact from fired employees. Clearly some companies see real value in social media intellectual property.

    I recently rand across a post by Cynthia Boris, who blogs under The Marketing Pilgrim, that poses the question, “Are Twitter twitter-confidentialfollowers a company asset?” Are social media contacts considered proprietary information, like a customer list or competitive information? Apparently that premise is being tested in the U.S. courts, as Boris explains:

    But what about your Twitter account? In the case of an employee whose job it is to update the company Twitter, it’s an easy call. It’s not so easy when you’re talking about journalists or other Tweeters who blur the line between business and personal.

    Such a case is currently being tested in court, but it’s not going so well for either side. The case in question is between PhoneDog and Noah Kravitz, who used to work for them as a reporter. The object of desire is a Twitter account with 17,000 followers formerly known as @PhoneDog_Noah.

    According to the original news report, “a federal judge in San Francisco refused to dismiss news site PhoneDog’s complaint which argued that a Twitter password and the identity of followers was a trade secret.” Apparently Kravitz merely changed the name of his account from PhoneDog_Noah and kept tweeting. So who owns those contacts? Is it the same as a journalist’s sources, which go with him when he leaves a job?

    lockedoutThere is a similar case for LinkedIn contacts being tested in the U.K. for the first time, a British court is reported to have ordered an employee to turn over his LinkedIn contacts to an employer. According to the report in the Telegraph, this case “highlights the tension between businesses encouraging employees to use social networking websites for work but then claiming that the contacts remain confidential information at the end of their employment.”

    Now it’s one thing if you were hired to promote the company using social media as one of your forums. I can understand where it becomes part of your job description and the content, including the contacts, would revert to the company. But what if you are using your own contacts and your own network as an extension of your job? Does that mean you have to surrender your contact information for Aunt Millie or the High School Class of 1985 because you got fired?

    Commenting on the UK case for Forbes, guest columnist David Coursey notes:

    Meanwhile, more and more companies are issuing policies, and asking employees to sign contracts and agreements, that spell out who owns social media contacts. According to a recent study by DLA Piper, a third of employers have disciplined employees for something posted on a social media site. The research also found that 21% of employers had to give their employees a warning for posting something derogatory about a colleague or about the business itself.

    One thing is clear, it’s time to start updating your contracts, whether you are working as a full-time employee or as an agency or consultant. Intellectual property is becoming increasingly valuable, and they could be an increasingly valuable asset that should follow you as you build your personal network to further your own career or advance your business. If you are going to use social media as part of your job, be sure you understand who owns the social media content and the contacts. If there is a doubt, duplicate – create a professional social media persona and a personal persona and keep them separate (although you might enlist the same followers to track both accounts). But whatever you do, be sure you know where you stand with your clients or employers. If you aren’t sure, ask! It’s better to come to an understanding now rather than getting into a tussle later.

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  • 03Aug

    I am sure you have heard the old adage from the peacenik sixties, “What if you held a war and no one showed up?” My mind came up with a variation on that theme over the past few weeks as I have been watching Google+ take off, and as I have been getting notifications from a myriad of other social networks.Too-Many-Social-Networks-595x600

    It seems that the Google empire has successfully expanded into the social media realm, or at least the initial foray has been a success. According to Reuters, Google+ is attracting more than one million users a day and is the fastest social media site with more than 25 million visitors to date. But is this a flash in the pan or does Google+ really have legs?

    Some of the early critics of Google+ note that since this is Google’s social network, everyone will give it a try but who knows how many people will stick with it. As noted by Cynthia Boris in a guest blog on Marketing Pilgrim posted today:

    What’s interesting about this monumental number [25 million visitors] is that I don’t see any difference in the site than I did when I joined. Actually, it’s worse. As of today, my entire Google+ stream, all the way to the bottom of the page is nothing but posts from the very informative and fun Darren Rowse of ProBlogger. Yes, he’s a talkative guy, and granted I don’t have a lot of people attached to my account, but I have to go back several weeks to see a range of posts from people.

    So maybe Google+ will be a flash in the pan; yet another online destination that has been abandoned by users.

    I also received email this week with invitations for other social networking opportunities. A few of the invitation are to forums on Facebook where experts gather to discuss topics I actually am interested in. I have been following a new thread on web content curation with some interest. And apparently my Facebook friends have been busy on Branch Out, which is the latest entry into the online career management space alongside LinkedIn, Jobster, eCademy, Spoke, and countless others. Just as Google+ has the power of Google behind it, Branch Out is making the most of its affiliation with Facebook so we will have to see if it has legs moving forward. (For my money, LinkedIn continues to be the “go to” resource for people really looking for professional connections, and it will be hard to unseat, at least in the foreseeable future.)

    And I received another invitation last week from a social network I never heard of, Elixio. Taking a page from the Google+ launch strategy, Elixio is an exclusive, “invitation only” social network; a private online club. Call me a skeptic but I can’t see any value in a network I haven’t heard of, especially if they send me a blind invitation to join an exclusive club. It’s akin to any number of Who’s Who directory invitations I receive where I can be included in a directory of influential personages for only a small gratuity. My ego doesn’t need that kind of stroke.

    So how many social networks can you realistically use effectively? If you are doing nothing but networking all day, I suppose you can stay on top of quite a few. I find my social networking time pretty much consumed with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I also browse a few vertical networks that serve niche client markets, like BankInnovation.net. But can the market really sustain all these new social networks? After all, isn’t the idea of social networking to connect as many like-minded people as possible? If you fragment your markets too much, you can’t attract a large body of followers. At the same time, the market can only sustain one or two social networks with the reach of Facebook or LinkedIn. So it will continue to be a marathon race, with different candidates entering and dropping out. Since I value my time, I don’t tend to be an early adopter for new social networks (although I will dabble; I confess to being one of the first 25 million to check out Google+), but I will sign up and use something that delivers real value.

    So let me leave you with a recent blog post from satirist Andy Borowitz’s column, The Borowitz Report, which inspired this post. The headline reads, “No New Social Network Launched Today – Silicon Valley Stunned”:

    Across this tech-heavy hub, Internet-savvy insiders were checking their Blackberries, Droids and iPhones for an announcement of the next Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare or Google+ — an announcement that, to everyone’s astonishment, never came.

    “We’ve been averaging between 500 and 1000 new social networks a day,” said Carol Foyler, head of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. “So this is definitely a little weird.”

    While there was no shortage of finger-pointing as tech-watchers across the Valley bemoaned the absence of a new launch, many blamed Tracy Klugian, 24, a website incubator who has created over 1800 social networks and was expected to launch his latest, MeetCircle, today.

    “MeetCircle will totally change the way people meet, interact, shop, stream movies, buy cars and have sex,” Mr. Klugian said in a TEDTalk earlier this year. “It will be the biggest game-changer since the fall of Communism or the birth of Jesus.”

    Somebody please wake me in time for the next social media revolution.

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  • 27Jul

    We seem to be up to our ears in media scandals these days. From the News of the World hacking scandal to the latest bad-boy behavior in Washington, D.C., the market seems ripe for experts in crisis communications.

    Which is why I was heartened to read in Entrepreneur magazine’s “Daily Dose” this week profiling the proactive action that Blake Mycoskie, founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” of TOMS Shoes, took to deal with his own communications crisis. Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes

    It seems that following a successful presentation at this year’s SXSW Interactive Conference, Mycoskie was asked to speak to a Christian organization called Focus on the Family. During his SXSW speech, Mycoskie talked about launching TOMS shoes as a socially responsible company that has been providing free footwear to impoverished children around the globe. After speaking to Focus on the Family, Christianity Today wrote an article suggesting that TOMS Shoes had forged an alliance with the Christian group, which had a firm stance against abortion and same-sex marriage; positions that were in direct opposition to Mycoskie’s equality message, and the foundation message for TOMS Shoes.

    Here’s where Mycoskie demonstrates that he and his PR team are on the ball.

    Rather than trying to sweep the accusations under the carpet or point fingers at Christianity Today, Mycoskie took to the web to issue an apology and get the attention, and ultimately support, of his critics.

    He turned to Facebook and Twitter to listen to outraged customers and hear their complaints, and respond.

    He worked with Ms.Magazine to launch a petition to Change.org in favor of , coincidentally on the eve of passage of same-sex  marriage law in New York (a large market for TOMS). Mycoskie was quick to issue his own apology to set the record straight.

    He issued a written heart-felt apology on his own blog, stating:

    When I accept an invitation for a public speaking engagement, my purpose is to share the TOMS story and our giving mission. In no way do I believe that this means I endorse every single aspect of the organization I am speaking to. That may be naïve, and you may disagree, but it is my sincere belief.

    TOMS and I have made mistakes internally and externally over the past several weeks, and I am deeply sorry for letting you down. We have learned a lot and are taking steps so that they do not happen again. I regret that I, and many of you, have been pulled into this issues debate as a result – which was never our intention. However, my biggest regret is that the controversy has disrupted our effort to convene people of good will around our similarities rather than our differences, so that we can join together in serving those in the greatest need while inspiring others to do the same.

    Once he inadvertently put his foot in it by speaking before an audience with a contrary political agenda, Mycoskie did everything right in extricating himself from the mess:

    • He immediately started talking to his followers and his customers to gather information and get feedback. Social media has become a terrific forum to establish immediate customer dialogue.
    • He was proactive in taking charge of the crisis, admitting his error in judgment, and setting the record straight, without laying blame or finger-pointing.
    • He took personal responsibility, stepping forward to face the music and accept responsibility without hiding behind corporate mouthpieces or minions.
    • He was sincere and empathetic in his apology to his followers.

    The result has been positive to Mycoskie and TOMS Shoes. The executive comes across as a straight-shooter and a mensch who made an error in judgment. The response was cogent, rational, and appropriately apologetic and sincere. If anything, this crisis has strengthened TOMS Shoes’ brand image and brought in even more customers while restoring the faith of his followers.

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  • 14May

    Once again, it seems we are getting flacks for being flacks, and rightfully so. You have no doubt seen this week’s news that two PR executives at Burson-Marsteller were engaged in a whisper campaign to undermine Google over privacy issues. The so-called “Googlegate” scandal has given one of the biggest PR firms in the business a real black eye, and it doesn’t reflect well on client Facebook either. The media pundits are once again pointing at the PR profession as a whole, noting that we engage in questionable practices in pursuit of the billable hour. While misdeeds and questionable ethics plague most professions, this one baffles me on a number of levels so I want to see if we can break this down to see how one of the biggest names in PR venture so far off the ethical reservation.

    Mercurio and Goldman of Burson-MarstellerFirst, let’s look at the two instigators of the smear campaign, former CNBC reporter Jim Goldman and political reporter John Mercurio. Both of these guys are seasoned journalists who know the ropes, and understand the rules. They have been pitched by other PR professionals over the years and they should understand the ethics of both the journalism and PR professions. Just because you have gone “to the Dark Side” by switching from journalism to PR doesn’t mean your ethics should change, and they both must of known that. I suspect that they were under some pressure from their Burson bosses to take on this assignment and make it shine for high-profile client Facebook. What’s astonishing is that they lied and distorted the facts to achieve their objectives. It’s too easy to check up on the truth in the age of the Internet and that conduct is inexcusable.

    (Note that I have some empathy here. During my days as a journalist I once was told to run a smear story for my publisher who had a grudge against one of his competitors. Although I argued that the story had no place in our magazine, served no real purpose, and could land us in hot water, I was told in no uncertain terms to run the story or look for another job. I ran the story, but I made damn sure it was airtight and my facts were sound. To this day I resent having been put in that position.)

    Now let’s look at how the media handled this. The USA Today reporter, Christopher Soghoian, who received the initial pitch knew that something wasn’t right so he decided to make the PR firm the story. When he asked who was paying for the project they said that they couldn’t reveal their client and that’s when he smelled a rat. Kudos to Soghoian for calling out these Burson boobs. He even posted the email exchange online. All Soghoian had to do was call the so-called PR pros on their request, reveal the communications thread, and he had his story. There was no need to skew the facts. This also highlights the power and value of the web – there is no need to wait for declassification of documents a la the Pentagon Papers, just post the material for all to see.

    Now what about Facebook’s involvement? Early on, speculation was that the mystery client was either Microsoft or Apple, but Facebook finally stepped forward and admitted it was their project, but that it had not commissioned a smear campaign, but rather had engaged Burson-Marsteller to highlighting a problem with using Facebook information for Google Social Circles. This from Forbes quoting a Facebook spokesperson:

    “Instead, we wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles—just as Facebook did not approve of use or collection for this purpose. We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst,” says the spokesperson. “The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”

    So in the words of “All the President’s Men,” this is a “non-denial denial.” Facebook gave Burson-Marsteller the assignment but didn’t call it a smear campaign. I can imagine the meeting for this assignment where the client makes an unreasonable request and basically says, “I don’t care how you do it.” No culpability here, but Facebook doesn’t come out smelling too good, either.

    Now let’s look at the aftermath.This from the Atlantic Wire:

    The two Burson executives responsible for the much criticized campaign, former CNBC reporter Jim Goldman and former political reporter John Mercurio, will be reprimanded, a company representative told PRWeek today. The punishment? Not a punishment at all: more training on company guidelines. Evidently, the two one-time journalists who switched to the other side of the press release fairly recently believed it was a bit darker than it actually is.

    Facebook has yet to announce any major retributions or staff shuffles in the wake of the scandal. However, Burson confirmed that they will no longer work with Facebook on the smear campaign against Google. (Good idea!) It’s unclear how damaged the relationship between the PR giant and the tech giant might be, but this most certainly compromises Burson’s recent announcement of their new specialty in tech PR.

    So reading between the lines, I suspect what we are seeing here is a combination of the agency trying to keep a big-named client satisfied, being unwilling to say no to the client when that was clearly appropriate, and not providing enough adult supervision to two senior managers who clearly should know better.

    What lessons does this offer to us as a profession?

    • All PR professionals need to understand the ethical rules of engagement. As a profession, we need to make a stronger commitment to ethical training, and apply more common sense to PR work.
    • Transparency is important. You have to be forthright about the assignment and who hired you. I have always been a firm believer that our role is to help the reporter as much as we help our clients. Whenever I have a client ask me to do something stupid, unethical, or deceitful to media sources, I explain to them that my media contacts are my bread-and-butter and long after that client is gone, I will have to call on that reporter again so why would I risk that relationship?
    • More collaboration and watching each others’ backs is called for. One of the great things about working as a team is that you can draw from the experience and knowledge of the group. If someone suggests a questionable tactic for a campaign, it’s up to the others in the group to challenge it. All too often I see in agency settings where the junior team members blindly follows the wishes of the clients and their superiors, without question. We need to nurture more independent thinking and open dialogue to keep us all honest.
    • More adult supervision. Even the most senior PR professionals can make mistakes in judgment or tactical errors. If someone had been keeping tabs on Goldman and Mercurio, they might have been able to head off this disaster.
    • PR agencies need to be prepared to say “no” to the client. Just because they pay you doesn’t mean they are right. Sometimes you should say “no” to an assignment, especially if the task is unreasonable or unethical.

    What will be the long-term implications for Burson-Marsteller? This firm has made ethical faux pas in the past, and will probably make similar mistakes in the future. Whether they will be able to redeem their reputation or whether they will continue to be an agency you can turn to for a questionable campaign has yet to be seen, and probably doesn’t matter. However, this kind of scandal does lasting damage to everyone in the PR profession. It’s up to all of us to show the world that ours is an honorable profession, despite the few flacksters who make the rest of us look bad.

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  • 11May

    When I saw Eli Pariser TED presentation on  has come up with a concept called the “The Filter Bubble,” I was reminded of the old Outer Limits television show and their opening sequence: “We are controlling the transmission… We will control all that you see and hear…”

    What Pariser points out is that your Internet experience is being monitored and, more importantly, managed. Okay, this isn’t really news. If you have a subscription to Netflix or shop on eBay or Amazon you know that they have built algorithms into their systems to offer suggestions based on past shopping patterns and preferences. That actually seems, well, helpful. However, what Pariser points out is that by controlling what is delivered online, we are actually creating islands of Web experience that insulate us from other areas of the Web that may challenge our thinking or desires. Apparently, with the help of search bots and search algorithms, we are all creating our own gated communities of web experience where the online vendors and search providers are serving as the gatekeepers.

    For example, it never occurred to me that Google, Yahoo, and other search engines are tailoring search results based on what they know about me. Apparently the search results are filtered based on IP address (work or home), computer you are using, time of day, and other criteria. Okay, I expect that from advertisers, since microtargeting consumers is not particularly new. However, I am appalled that my search results are being filtered to provide a more personalized and thereby insular experience.

    I was fascinated by the example Pariser offered to prove his point. He had two friends search Google for the term “Egypt,” and one friend retrieved the latest political news while the other retrieved vacation and travel information. Huh? You mean web search is not a neutral playing field? You mean when I look for online information I will get data customized by some robot based on what it “thinks” I am looking for?

    Pariser is correct in his assessment that this kind of controlled experience is dangerous. We need to be challenged regarding our world view and we need to be able to share opposing viewpoints. I know my liberal spouse has spirited debates with her conservative compatriots on Facebook, but everyone appreciates the dialogue. What happens when those conversations get filtered out because those conversing are not “like minded”? Then we all lose. The Web should be used to promote the open exchange of information and understanding – that’s what Tim Berners-Lee envisioned.

    More importantly, Pariser’s observation’s demonstrate that you can’t rely on the web for objectivity. It is not a neutral news source, and the organizations that are promoting the news are for-profit, which means they are tailoring their data to keep you coming back as a user and potential customer. As Pariser notes in his presentation, in the past we have had editors as watchdogs of journalistic standards, to help promote informational integrity and promote fair reporting and access to information. With the free-for-all of the web, bloggers are now being treated like journalists but they are not held to the same standards, and now apparently the webbots are acting as news editors and determining whether we should receive the facts according to the New York Times or Page Six.

    I, for one, like to make my own determinations based on all the available data; not just the information some computer algorithm thinks I might find interesting. How about you?

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  • 06Apr
    From today’s CNBC TV feed

     

    Yesterday I posted a blog about GoDaddy’s current communications crisis. Today, I received an email from CNBC asking me to comment. This story continues to escalate, and clearly it’s time for GoDaddy’s management to step forward and say something positive and proactive to restore some of the company’s lost reputation.

    In his recent CBS interview, CEO Bob Parsons said”

    “I couldn’t be any better,” he told CBSNews.com in an interview. “The blowback – you’ve got to look at who it’s coming from: a small but very, very vocal group that moves in unison, inspired by PETA. Very few of them are our customers.”

    Due to the viral nature of the web, this story is indeed touching GoDaddy customers and they are abandoning the domain registry in droves. The blowback is turning into a firestorm as this kind of ongoing coverage demonstrates. Clearly it’s time for the communications team at GoDaddy to step forward, muzzle their CEO, and start rebuilding their reputation. It’s not enough for Parsons to commit to no longer hunt big game. He has to apologize and make amends to the people he has offended, especially his customers.

    And if they don’t act soon, GoDaddy is going to lose much of its business to aggressive competitors that are willing to kick Parsons when he is down. Consider the launch of the NoDaddy promotion from Venovix. It’s time GoDaddy gave up this fight before all their customers switch.

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  • 05Apr

    Undoubtedly you have already heard about the major major macho faux pas committed by GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons. He posted an online video profiling his exploits killing an African elephant. The video went viral and has shone a negative spotlight on Parsons, and by association GoDaddy. PETA and other animal lovers are outraged, and there has been a huge backlash. Social media guru Peter Shankman put a call out to his social media following (which is sizable) to switch domain providers. Even Hollywood stalwart Cloris Leachman launched a Twitter campaign to hit Parsons where it hurts – in the pocketbook – by directing followers to rival Network Solutions.

    In response to his critics, Parsons remains adamant that his actions were innocent and even altruistic. It’s not that he was hunting elephants. He was helping the natives by taking down rogue wildlife that was ruining the crops of the locals and promoting starvation. This from a recent post on Entrepreneur.com:

    “Parsons, 60, told CBS News he believed people’s "hearts were in the right place" in criticizing him, but they misunderstood his intention, which was to help starving people and stop elephants from destroying crops in Africa.

    “Several comments posted to the video questioned why the cameras zoomed in on villagers wearing orange Go Daddy hats. But the video wasn’t part of a company marketing initiative, a company spokeswoman says, adding that it was "something Bob, the individual, edited and posted." After complaints, the close-ups of the Go Daddy hats and still photos of Parsons posing with the dead elephant were removed.”

    Sound a little disingenuous to you?

    Parsons violated one of the first laws of crisis communications – show empathy. He completely missed the boat in empathizing with his critics. And he missed a golden opportunity to take the high road, admit that he may have been wrong, and find ways to make this right which would create a whole new cadre of loyal customers. Instead, he became defensive, evasive, and pointed to his critics saying that he was misunderstood.

    In fact, Parsons created this crisis by being stupid, then tried to cover his error by being arrogant. He created the crisis and then violated a number of the basic rules of crisis communications:

    1. Apply conclusive action: Be decisive and affirmative and move quickly to head off collateral damage. Instead, Parsons entered into a Twitter war that fueled the flamers rather than calming things down.

    2. Bring unassailable behavior: In a crisis, the element of surprise often catches executives off-guard, which leads to foolish behavior and mistakes. Parsons didn’t take a beat and assess his situation to make himself unassailable. Instead he attacked his critics, which reinforced his wrongdoing. He didn’t accept responsibility for a mistake in judgment.

    3. Use humane words and be empathetic: He totally missed the target here by being an apologist rather than empathetic. He is so busy defending himself that he continues to alienate his customers and potential customers by not acknowledging their position. By standing his ground his is alienating himself from his audience.

    I couldn’t help but recall the old Grouch Marx joke, “One morning I shot an elephant in my Pajamas and how he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.” In this case, Parson and his crisis communications team seem to have been caught napping, and as a result, it looks like the emperor has no clothes.

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