Friday, December 7, 2012

Is Tim Cook the new Steve Jobs? No, but that’s okay.

If you haven’t checked out Business Week‘s interview with Tim Cook yet, do yourself a favor and read it.
It’s long but well worth the read, especially considering Apple’s influence and the insights into Tim and the “new” Apple. And if you don’t think that Apple influences you, pull out your mobile phone and then get back to me. If it’s a smartphone of any kind, then Apple influences you. Without the creation of the first generation iPhone, the whole smartphone industry wouldn’t be where it is today – not even close.
I’m glad Tim stepped up to do the interview. Any PR pro or journalist will tell you that Steve Jobs “got” PR better than most executives. Ask Walt Mossberg or any of the other handfuls of journalists who received personal phone calls from him on a regular basis. I’m not telling every CEO to go call up journalists this second on a whim (not all can be Steve Jobs) because for most, calling requires strategy and a good reason. That said, kudos go to Tim for his in-depth interview with Josh Tyrangiel, and understanding its importance. It seems especially fitting considering that Business Week was the first publication to put Steve Jobs on its cover.
In the interview, Josh did a nice job of asking personal and business-related questions. Personal questions aren’t appropriate for every executive interview, but Apple is unique. Its fans are so loyal that they truly care about who’s running the ship – Josh and Tim both know that. Tim didn’t get overly personal, and knew to bring the responses back to what’s most important – his Apple business philosophy. In my opinion, we finally got to see something in Tim that I’ve wanted to see for a while – his passion for the company and its products. No, he’s not Steve Jobs and no one realistically expected or wanted him to be. But we did want to see – no, us Fangirls and boys needed to see – is that Tim Cook absolutely loves Apple. He does.
What impressed me most was how much some of Tim’s responses channeled part of Steve Jobs’ business mantra. For example, Tim Cook stated that, “we’ll keep disrupting and keep discovering new things that people didn’t know they wanted.” This sounds eerily similar to Steve Jobs’ famous quote, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” It’s not exactly the same, but was just similar enough. In addition, throughout the article Tim praises his coworkers as if they are the best thing to happen since sliced bread. He went to an absolute hyperbolic extent to describe the best, smartest, most creative business people in the world – working with him at Apple. Steve Jobs did this often, dramatically describing how ingenious his people and products were. Tim has definitely taken on this trait. That’s not a bad thing at all. As CEO, it’s critical to have confidence and respect for the people you hire.
I also need to give props to Tim for his JFK quote – not just the quote though, but his meaning behind it. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Tim spent some time explaining Apple’s desire to give back through charitable donations and employee match programs, but also to set a good example. Apple would still be wildly successful whether or not they were more transparent regarding supply chain practices and conditions for workers in overseas factories. By no means do they have to do this. But Tim’s right, they’re a corporate and tech superpower, so why not set a good example?
Tim Cook isn’t Steve Jobs, not even close. And as Steve told him before he died, he shouldn’t try to be Steve – that’s no way to run a successful company. He has his own way of stirring the creative process and leading, and that’s okay. But he did learn a lot from Steve, and I think this interview proves it.
Check out the article and let me know what you thought in the comments. Was Tim channeling Steve? Was he way off the mark? By the way, if you’re looking for a cliff notes version of the article other than this fantastic one you just read, check out Jon Mitchell’s article from Read Write – he provides a great analysis of Tim’s responses.

A version of this post appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chairs Are Not Like Facebook

Thanks, Facebook, for starting my day off with a laugh. As Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle wrote, Facebook hit 1,000,000,000 users and what better way to celebrate than with the social network’s first ever advertisement. Now, I didn’t laugh at this video ad because it’s meant to be funny, I giggled because of all the things they could have compared themselves to, they chose a chair. You read that correctly – a chair. The idea behind it is that Facebook connects us all, and all of us sit on chairs. I’m sitting on an office chair as I write this post, maybe you’re sitting on a chair reading this and kids across the globe may be sitting on chairs in classrooms. Makes a bit more sense now, but they actually spelled out for you  that, “Chairs are like Facebook.”  What a terrible analogy.
I get it – chairs are universal, we all sit on them. Facebook is trying to compare itself to something that is used every day by literally everyone. The title of the video is actually, “Things That Connect.” But I’m sorry, Facebook does not equal chairs. We all have access to chairs, whether it’s in the form of a tree stump that a kid in Africa sits on or your dad’s recliner. Not everyone has access to connect on Facebook, not everyone even has Internet access or a computer. If they were going for buzz, they go it. But were they really expecting this to be a success? Did Zuckerberg watch this video and say, “Yes, chairs are like Facebook, this makes total sense.” It’s meant to be one of those videos that makes you think about the bigger global picture and gets a bit emotional. Maybe if the whole video was focused on the second half of the ad that talks about how people are connecting, it would have had that effect. Unfortunately, I don’t have any emotional connection to chairs. I also think the narrative could have been better, a little less obvious. It really spells it out for you and tells you what’s happening instead of showing you in the ad and letting your come to the conclusion on your own.
Don’t get me started that I think a Facebook ad was completely unnecessary because of all the free publicity they get with every journalist writing on it and almost every small, medium and large business telling consumers to go “Like” their brands on Facebook. Perhaps Facebook should spend a little more time focusing on how to get brands to advertise on Facebook, and less time comparing themselves to boring things like chairs. That’s just my humble opinion, what did you think?
As we tell our clients every day, you need to resonate and connect with your audience. Facebook missed the mark on this ad. As much as I was annoyed with the chair analogy, I can only think about how many times a  day I access Facebook via my mobile device or a laptop where I may be sitting on the couch or a chair. It’s the same as when people shout out and claim “this is the best thing since sliced bread”—you’re missing the connection to your audience and importance of your brand.
Should they have made an ad in the first place? And was comparing the network to chairs a clever analogy or a failed marketing tagline? Check it out here, and let me know your thoughts.
A version of this post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog from PAN Communications. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mobile Monday Boston Highlights

Last night I attended any mobile maven’s favorite monthly event in Boston - Mobile Monday Boston. A short walk to Ned Devine’s from our State Street officemy colleague and I head over early to network and prepare for the event. We met interesting people, doing cool stuff in the mobile gaming, mHealth and mobile ad network spaces – pretty much who you’d expect to be at an event like this. One company I met is doing something really cool in mHealth that I’m eager to learn even more about. They’re creating a means for patients to speak with physicians in real-time to talk about health concerns, dietary adjustments, exercise needs, etc. I’m one of those who doesn’t make it to my annual check-up every year, so I can say for certain that I would find value in an app like this, knowing that I’m still on my doctor’s radar even if I don’t make time for a visit as often as I should.
Kicking off the demos for the night was TalkTo - hands down my favorite technology of the night. How often do you call your friends, family or significant other? For a lot of us, it’s probably not as often as you text them. So why shouldn’t we do the same for businesses we connect with? TalkTo provides and app that lets you text any business a question and they’ll respond to you via text. Seems unlikely that every business you interact with would be on board with this technology, right? Then you type in the business, send the text anyway and TalkTo will call the business for you and send you the response via text. Much easier than waiting on hold, or waiting till business hours to get your question answered. Obviously, I had to try this app out, so I downloaded it on the spot. I made up a fake question – sent a text message to our neighbors at the New England  Aquarium to ask what time they open  today, Oct. 2. Sure enough, I got my response back within five minutes (the average TalkTo response time) – they open at 10:00 a.m. I highly recommend you check this app out, I was definitely impressed.
There were definitely other cool technologies there, including gaming apps like Owlchemy Labs and Summer Camp Studios, but TalkTo was certainly my fan pick of the night. Timbre was another favorite 0f mine, considering I love live music. Timbre lets you find all the live music that’s around your current location so you can check out local bands.
What was missing from the night? Industry insights. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing demos of start-ups who are doing innovative things or things that just make business sense. But these people were here to pitch their products. It would have been  interesting to hear more about insights into the industry and where these mobile savvy professionals think the next big thing is. As people interested in mobile, we all have an idea, but I would have been interested in hearing what other people think, even if it was in the form of a debate. The event sponsor Kinvey talked a bit about how difficult it is to build an app, and why they now concentrate on the back-end of apps, but in general there weren’t interesting trends that were discussed. As passionate as I am about mobile, I wish I could see a little more than the latest app and hear what the industry thought leaders are saying. If you are demoing at the next event, be sure to take your presentation into the next level and discuss what you’re seeing in the market and why your app/demo helps to solve a problem. If you’re into mobile start-ups and networking, definitely check out the next monthly event.
If you attended Mobile Monday, what was your favorite technology that was demoed? Let me know in the comments, or Tweet at me @BostonMarki with the hashtag #momoboston.
A version of this post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog from PAN Communications. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

iPhone 5: Why It’s Not the New iPhone

For months, we’ve heard rumors that the iPhone 5 would be called the “New iPhone.” Of course, I doubted this and hoped it wasn’t true, but I let it play out. Hours before today’s Appleannouncement we learned that it would be iPhone 5, and then hours later at the conference we learned why that is: it’s not new. Okay, there are some pretty cool features in the new device and iOS 6 has functions I’d like on my current device (iPhone 4). Steve Jobs was one of my heroes and Apple is my obsession, so you can trust that it’s not easy for me to say this – don’t rush out and buy the iPhone 5.
The Good.
  • It’s pretty. The big thing Apple is trying to push is that it’s thinner and the screen’s bigger. This is pretty significant considering it’s the first time Apple has ever made its screen bigger. It’s longer and not wider. This isn’t a huge deal for me because I don’t play a ton of games or watch movies, but I do think it was a necessary update for them. All my Android friends (yes, I still hang out with non-Apple folks…sometimes), tell me their device is better (it’s not) and their big selling point is the screen size. Well, I don’t pay extra to see movies in IMAX and I’m not paying for a phone because it has a bigger screen. Big is big enough. Still, a lot of folks did want this, so I say it was a good move for Apple. And oh yeah, this phone is thin – 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S, which was already pretty thin. The folks at CNET observed that it looks to be about as thin as the current metal strip on the sides of the iPhone 4/4S. Speaking of that metal strip, the iPhone 5 is made entirely out glass and aluminum. The aluminum finish is different on the black and white models – silver for white and slate for black.
  • It’s fast. The iPhone 5 will run on iOS 6 (more on that later) and will have an A6 chip – which is fast. And now Sprint will get LTE too, not just AT&T and Verizon. So this iPhone should be two times faster than A5, with faster graphics too. Word on the web from folks who were there is that the graphics looked incredible during the demo. Software on the phone has been updated as well, which means more email and web pages in Safari. Not sure I needed these, but it’s fine to have.
  • Great photos. I love a great photo as much as the next gal, and I’m definitely one of those who has replaced my digital camera in favor of my iPhone. In fact, when my camera recently died, I took photos of the Collessuem in Rome with my iPhone and I have no complaints about the quality. But, even better quality is always welcome, so I’m excited about the new camera features. There is “dynamic low light,” which enables better photos without flash. There’s also spatial noise reductions, a smart filter and a lot of other technical stuff that make photos better. As Mashable put it, “bottom line, pics should look better and be captured 40% faster.” The coolest feature of the camera though, is the Panorama feature. There are apps out there that do this, but now it will be built in to the iPhone’s camera. It takes photos in real-time and stitches them together, with 28 megapixel panoramics.
The Bad.
  • Lightning. I was praying each day until this announcement that the rumors about the power connector were wrong. Unfortunately, they weren’t. All of your iPhone, iPad, and iPod car charges, wall chargers and USB connectors will be useless on their own, ditched in favor of a smaller cord. Now, it does appear that Apple will sell you a small connector so they’re not useless, but good luck keeping track of that small part when you probably have power cords hanging around in several rooms in your house and your car. And, oh yeah – what about my iHome, where I charge my iPhone every single night? The connector is reversible, which is…interesting, but altogether unnecessary. It’s not that difficult to turn a cord around. The worst part of the new connector, they’re calling it Lightning. I love Apple and almost all of its branding, but is it really necessary to name your power cord? Maybe they’ll prove me wrong.
  • App overload.  Turns out that the iPhone 5 will have five rows of apps on the home screen instead of four…why? Is there really a need to crowd my home screen with 24 apps (including the bottom stationary row)? I’m not sure if the designers were trying to say we’re too lazy to swipe to our next page of apps or not, but this is not an update I’m excited about. I get that the screen is now longer and the size of the app icons may not be all that different, but it does seem too crowded to me. The other unfortunate part is that any apps that aren’t updated will remain the same size as they are on the 4 and 4S, so app developers are strongly encouraged to update the apps. The good part is that they won’t be stretched or scaled, but the user will see a black rectangle to offset the size difference. Supposedly it won’t be that difficult to update apps, but I’m curious to see how quickly this all happens.
 iOS 6
I have nothing bad to say about iOS 6, and it might be the only reason I consider buying the iPhone 5. Here’s why:
  • Siri.  Now, I have the iPhone 4, so I don’t have Siri and that’s never bothered me much. But version two, as with any major feature or product update, will be better than version one. In iOS 6, much like the rest of the first world, Siri’s on Facebook. This could be potentially disastrous for late-night posts after a few cocktails, but it’s a cool feature. For sports fans out there, Siri can also now give you sports scores and recaps. And if you want to check your Fantasy League, no worries there, because Siri can now launch apps – a much anticipated feature from yours truly. Siri better not be a Yankees fan though, or we may have some SIRIous issues.
  • Maps. I like Google Maps, they’ve always gotten me where I need to be. That doesn’t mean I love it, it just did its job. For obvious reasons, Apple got rid of Google Maps to replace it with its on version. I used to have a Tom Tom and I truly miss having a voice physically tell me where to turn while I’m driving. After all, it is better for safe driving. Apple’s new Maps feature uses Siri to tell you where to go with turn-by-turn directions and it’s in 3D, which is pretty cool. The major bonus that Google didn’t do is that this Maps feature integrates from Waze to include real-time traffic information – super helpful. Oh, and Maps has a print option displayed so you can easily be old school if you choose.
  • Passbook. Welcome to Apple’s virtual wallet app. CNET said it right, too: “other apps do this, but having it centralized and improved really will be useful. This is the virtual wallet most people will use for the first time.” You can integrate movie passes, Starbucks cards, concert tickets, sports tickets, flight information, store loyalty card, etc. It might not be a fully loaded virtual wallet, but it’s one step closer and I’m all for that.
  • 196 others. Yes, there are over 200 new iOS 6 features and a lot of them seem pretty cool. For example, you can now Tweet from whatever app you’re in. One thing I still haven’t seen though, and maybe I missed it, is better Facebook integration. I complained about iOS 5 because I couldn’t share photos to Facebook directly from the Photos app, and I really hope they fixed that for iOS 6.
Those are the gist of the things that everyday Joe should care about for the iPhone, in my humble opinion. A few other things to consider are that FaceTime is available over cellular data now, but some carriers will charge extra for this  - I’m looking at you, AT&T. The earpiece is 20 percent smaller as well, for more noise cancellations. There’s also a five-day week view in calendar, for those of us (everyone, right?) who has ditched appointment books for digital calendars. Of course, I have to give a shout-out to CNET andMashable, since I got my information and photos as quickly as possible from their live-blogs.
My recommendation is not to run out and buy a brand new iPhone. If you have an upgrade available and you want it, then go for it. But certainly don’t pay full retail price for it and if you have an iPhone 4S, consider hanging on to it a little longer. The improvements aren’t revolutionary and there were no Siri-like game-changers this year.  It’s nothing new, it’s just updated. Considering the mobile world makes product and feature updates more often than my tween cousin updates her Facebook status, you probably won’t have to wait long for an actual game-changer to come along. Let me be clear though, I still recommend iPhone over any other mobile phone on the market so if you’re thinking of the switch from Android then it’s time to stop thinking and do it already – 400 million people can’t be that wrong. (Apple sold its 400 millionth iOS device last quarter).
I’m interested to hear other people’s thoughts, will you be buying the iPhone 5? Let me know in the comments section.

A version of this post also appeared on prSPEAK, a blog from PAN Communications. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Too Young For Facebook? Social Network Says Yes to 13 Year-Olds

Hey ’05 high school graduates, remember when we first joined Facebook? Fresh out of high school, it was the cool new network to connect with other freshmen we met at orientation, as well as our high school friends to see where everyone was headed in the Fall. You had to have a “.edu” email address and you couldn’t update your status every 10 seconds. Facebook arrived just in time, too, because MySpace was getting “too emo,” and we were all tired of the sappy songs our friends put as their away messages on AIM. We couldn’t chat with friends, we didn’t plow our fields and we didn’t have to worry about our grandparents commenting on our photos from Saturday night parties. Facebook was meant to replace the actual physical Face Books that college freshman received to learn about their new classmates as a part of orientation. It was simpler then and I miss it.
From an advertising and revenue-generating perspective, it makes sense. And I’m not saying the expansion of Facebook’s almost all-inclusive user base is entirely a bad thing – I enjoy connecting with multiple generations of my family from all over the country. Yesterday, however, the social networking revealed that it is exploring ways to let children under 13-years old join the network – with parental permissions of course.  Is this necessary? Who do they need to network with exactly? If it is for a gaming perspective, there are plenty of other tools and platforms out there. Additionally, there is the risk. There are parental controls, but there are also ways to get around those controls. With all the issues cyber bullying causes, do we really need to provide children with another outlet to potentially taunt one another?
This announcement certainly isn’t helping Facebook’s PR given its advertising problem, arguably its biggest issue right now. How will marketing to children on Facebook help brands? I'm pretty sure their purchasing-decision influence is very low. It seems that Facebook is set on ignoring the advice of almost any tech reporter or blogger out there telling them to stop with all the feature updates. Its simplicity made it popular; its increasing complexity annoys its users. But more importantly, this announcement to potentially include young children goes back to something I blogged about last week, regarding Facebook’s obsession with pleasing the end-user. As end-users, we don’t make Facebook its money – advertisers do. So here’s my message to Facebook – stop ignoring your advertising problem. If it focused as much on its B2B strategy as it does with its B2C strategy, major brands wouldn’t be pulling their marketing dollars from this social giant – poised to be a great ad platform, but failing to capitalize on the opportunity. That’s my PR thought for the day.
A version of this post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Facebook 's Got 99 Problems, And Advertising's One

For those of us who pay attention to social media news, we’ve all heard it – Facebook needs to figure out its advertising platform or else their advertisers will jump ship, just as GM announced it was this week. This is bad for Facebook because it will lose the $10 million in advertising revenue GM spent with Facebook last year, but it’s far worse because of the publicity this move is generating in the media. GM executives didn’t achieve the ROI they expected from Facebook. If a well-known brand like GM is spending a ton of dough and not seeing consumer impact, it will prompt other companies to second guess how they spend their marketing dollars, too.
From a consumer’s perspective, one might think that it doesn’t affect me if advertisers are opting out of Facebook’s platform, except that I may see fewer ads. The issue though, is that much like a PR agency’s success relies on client revenue and making sure we deliver results, so does Facebook rely on its clients. Although we want to believe that we, as the consumers, are its clients – we’re not. That role belongs to the advertisers that pay the social network’s bills. And as Forrester Analyst Nate Elliot blogged this week, companies across several industries are deciding that Facebook isn’t the best place to spend their social marketing budgets, regardless of its massive user base. As Nate states, if Facebook paid as much attention to its advertisers as it did to enhancing the end-user experience, it may not be in this pickle, right on the eve of its IPO on Friday. 
Facebook’s Mobile Experience
Even if Facebook figured out its advertising problem on desktops, there are still major concerns regarding its mobile platform. I don’t even recall when the last time I saw an ad on my Facebook mobile app was, let alone what it was promoting. Of course, for me it has more to do with the fact that I rarely use my Facebook app, due to its incredibly slow load times that GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel addressed in a post this week. For those who do use it regularly, what’s the last ad you saw in the app? Did you engage with it – do you even remember what company or product it was for? I can’t stress enough how much of an issue this is for Facebook and its advertisers, considering that users spend more time accessing Facebook via mobile apps per month than by the traditional website. It seems that Facebook makes a new advertising announcement about how it’s enhancing its platform every six months. Well, the next announcement desperately needs to address its mobile marketing strategy, and it needs to be better than sponsored stories. 
Fortune article on Thursday details how Facebook can collaborate better with Apple and Google, who manufacture the two most popular mobile operating systems. The article expresses concerns about Google integrating supposed Facebook competitor Google+ into its devices. Here’s why this doesn’t concern me – no one would care. It would probably get a lot attention from the tech press, some critics and some supporters. But this integration would follow in the footsteps of everything else in Google+’s short history: a lot of talk and no engagement. All these people would have Google+ easily accessible on their smart devices, but much like its 170 million users now, there would be little activity and engagement. Then again, maybe this mobile integration would prove me wrong and drive more usage out of its members. Google+ would still have to tackle the millions of mobile Apple consumers, and I don’t foresee Apple agreeing to Google+ integration on their devices. After all, they won’t even let me share a photo to Facebook directly from the iPhone photo app yet, which is incredibly frustrating, by the way.
Maybe Facebook’s IPO tomorrow will kick its mobile ad planning into high gear, since they’ll critically need to maintain current advertisers to remain profitable, as well as sign new ones. For now though, we’ll sit back and watch Zuckerberg fumble his TV interviews while the IPO hogs the tech media outlets tomorrow. Down the line, we’re hoping for big things from the Facebook mobile team. The number of Facebook end users is unparalleled to any other social network, so the advertising potential is there; it just needs to be capitalized on much better than it is currently. That's my PR thought for the day. 
A version of this post also appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Want to Connect on LinkedIn? Tell Me Why, First.

This week, I got to chat with a class of seniors from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. As a part of their Public Relations Management course, taught by PAN Communications President Phil Nardone, they spoke with a roundtable of us younger employees here at PAN. We addressed topics such as nailing an interview, networking, salary negotiations and what to expect your first day on the job. While addressing networking, it’s only natural that social networks, particularly LinkedIn, dominated a portion of the conversation. It got me thinking about my own LinkedIn connections, and how I’m pretty picky about it. Here’s the gist of it: if you’re going to request a connection with me, I better know why.

That’s not to say that I only connect with people I’ve worked with in-person on a professional level, or that I attended school with. There are plenty of people out there that have interesting backgrounds and there are a lot of opportunities for us to connect on future projects. What I’m saying, is that if you’re requesting a connection out of the blue, make your intentions clear. Explain to me why you’d like to connect in the message. Was it something that sparked you interest in my profile? Did we have a connection in common that mentioned we might be interested in connecting? Is there a specific project or opportunity you’d like to potentially collaborate on? Give me some insight into why you want to connect. If you don’t, then I probably won’t accept the connection. 

That being said, there are many who argue against my philosophy. I respect and welcome those opinions as well. For example, there’s my colleague Katelyn D’Eramo, who believes in connecting with almost everyone she meets in person, via email or on Twitter. As she says, you need to connect with people you’ve met, worked with, exchanged emails with because you’re both in similar fields – you never know where the next opportunity lies or where people are moving in the market. Some reporters just connect to search for sources, while client contacts can jump from company to another company that may need PR. For the record, I absolutely agree with Katelyn in regard to connecting with clients. LinkedIn has also become a valuable resource for news. For people like me, it’s more about the LinkedIn Today feature that brings me news that’s relevant to me. For Katelyn, it’s more about following the feeds of her connections, what articles they are updating, and learning more about the news that’s most important to them, or where they’re headed on their next venture.

Is one way better than the other? Not necessarily, like most social networking, it’s about what you make of it. That’s my PR thought for the day. What are your philosophies for connecting on LinkedIn? Are you more liberal about it like Katelyn, or are you even pickier than me?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Public Relations Redefined…Supposedly

If you’re in the PR industry, then you probably didn’t miss this New York Times article by Stuart Elliot regarding the latest official definition of public relations. As Stuart’s article states, this initiative to redefine public relations began this past November out of the supposed need to redefine out practice in the era of social media and “spin doctors” – his words, not mine. The initiative drew a lot of interest from PR professionals, organizations, critics and the general public. Gerard Corbett, the 2012 chairman and chief executive of the Public Relations Society of America, led the initiative that resulted in three final options to be voted on this past February. Those three definitions are below, and the second definition was declared the winner:

  • “Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.”
  • “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
  • “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

Most PR practitioners would agree that all three are solid definitions of our field and what we do every day. Particularly, I’m glad to see that ‘strategic’ made it into two definitions, and ‘relationships’ into two as well. Still, I need to beg the question – what has changed? To be fair, I only graduated from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University less than two years ago, so maybe the difference is unclear to me because I learned it so recently. For the veteran PR pros out there – is this not what you learned was the definition? Has it changed all that much?

That being said, has the rise of digital and social media actually created the need to redefine our industry? Our role remains the same: we are the communications professionals that develop and maintain relationships with our clients and their publics. It’s true, how we communicate with those publics has changed. It’s not all about picking up the phone anymore – though we don’t forget the importance of that tactic as well. Often, these relationships are built through social media and engaging in new ways – over Skype, through a Tweet, group discussions on LinkedIn, etc. Our role has not changed and therefore, the definitions above are not as evolved as this attention makes it seem.

That’s not a bad thing; it’s because the time-tested best practices of public relations will always remain effective – the medium to how we implement those best practices and build relationships may change with new media, but not the practices themselves. That's my PR thought for the day.

What do you think – has the rise of social media created the need to redefine our practice? And if so, did the chosen definition fulfill that need? Drop a line in the comments and let us know.

A version of this post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog from PAN Communications.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Election 2012: Staying Informed via Mobile Apps

I guess you could say I love apps, well all things mobile. I'm fascinated by all the opportunities it brings to innovators, marketers, entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone who chooses to pick up a mobile device and have an idea. Some of these ideas come from great brands who already have an established fan and/or client base. But they're improving how they interact with consumers by leveraging mobile as a channel.

So today, let's talk about the New York Times. I have their mobile app, and I like it. I prefer the layout and design of's app, but I'm not too picky about it - it fulfills it's main purpose by providing me with the top stories while I'm on the train or waiting in line somewhere. But what I am a fan of, however, is the NYTimes' Election 2012 app. It's an election year, and I've vowed to be more involved in the issues this year so that by the time November comes around, I'm not calling my best friend and asking her to tell me about all the candidates. This year, I'll make an informed decision. Sure, my best friend and I have similar political views, but we're not the same person and she shouldn't be my only source for the issues and candidates.

What's great about this app is that it aggregates the stories for the top six topics - not just the top six stories, but the top six topics and then the top issues for each topic. Unless you're a NYTimes digital subscriber, you can only access the top six stories in each topic, but to be honest - that's plenty of news for me. Admittedly, the flaw of this app is that the stories only come from one source - the NYTimes. An even cooler app would be an election 2012 app that aggregates all of the top stories, sorted by topic, from across a variety of sources. Still, I'm not complaining.

Here's why I think this is an app worthy of attention. Too often, many people that vote don't make informed decisions, and I'll lump myself into that at times. We focus on the party we identify with most, or the issues that are important to us. We don't pay attention to all the candidates and their stances on a variety of issues that affect Americans. This app is a way to get a high-level overview of all of the issues and each candidate's stance on them.

I try to stay away from my political opinions on this blog, so I'm not giving an opinion on the issues or the candidates, just that I think this is a great app that provides real value. I've checked it out and have been using it for a few weeks now, so I recommend it to anyone looking to make an informed decision this election year. That's my PR thought for the day.

Anyone else have any app recommendations, without party bias, that are useful for staying informed?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Another Blog About Super Bowl Commercials: Mobile Versus Social

Are you sick of hearing reviews and trends about Super Bowl commercials yet? Apparently not, because you're here, reading this blog even after you checked out the title. I felt it was time to add my two cents. Prior to the the big event, I had my own thoughts about mobile's play in the Super Bowl. I agreed with experts who said it would be a huge factor, and that brands would use TV commercials to drive awareness of both their mobile and social campaigns. I thought we'd see some "Download the App," or "Visit our website" to view more. I didn't see that. I saw a few short messages to send texts and even fewer QR codes. I thought these would have a bigger play, even though I wasn't sure how effective they would be. Don't get me wrong - as I stated in my last post, I think QR codes can be very effective. But maybe not so much during commercials. Consumers have approximately 30 seconds to reach for their smartphone, find the scanning app - likely one out of many apps - open the app and then scan the code. The timing just might not be ideal.

What we did see this year, however, was a lot of brands driving awareness of their social channels, often with the use of hashtags. Audi cleverly played on the hot topic of vampires to engage consumers. The commercial was alright to start, but not my favorite - and that's coming from a reluctantly self-proclaimed Twilight fan. But what drove it home for me and made me laugh was the ending, driving the message home with the hashtag, #SoLongVampires. It's quick, witty, relevant and most importantly, easy to remember. That's the key for using hashtags.

If mobile and social were in a fight over who would get more attention from brands this Super Bowl, I'd say social beat mobile out. In my opinion, the reason is that brands had to outwardly choose to promote one or the other. It's clear that brands see social as a bigger priority to mobile right now, though I don't see that being the case next year. Though these brands outwardly promoted social channels, the majority of these consumers likely accessed these social brands via their mobile devices - since they likely didn't race to a desktop to Tweet about cars and vampires.

Brands need to stop thinking about mobile or social, and combine the two. Of course, we're seeing this in different industries, but often times there's a larger focus on social. Here's what needs to happen - brands need to think about how consumers access their brands (mobile, desktop) just as much as they think about where consumers access the brands (Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Integrating them will be key, of course, but don't leave mobile in the dark. Mobile creates an opportunity for brands that we've never had before - the ability to deliver timely, relevant messages. Next Super Bowl, I'd like to see two things, and I think we will see at least one of them:

1. Better integration of mobile and social campaigns.
2. The Patriots defense learning how to block and tackle, leading to a Patriots championship. Did I mention I'm based in Boston and a die-hard Pats fan?

Next Super Bowl and throughout the year, there needs to be better integration with mobile and social channels. There shouldn't be two separate campaigns for brands - one for mobile and one for social. Today's average consumer isn't choosing one of the other, so why should brands? That's my PR thought for the day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting Publicly Embarrassed? There’s an App for That – Fun with QR Code Marketing

If you’ve ever taken public transportation, especially the Green Line in Boston, then you know there are a lot of “interesting” people you have the opportunity to interact with. What you don’t know, however, is that I’ve been one of those people. You know, the ones people stare at wondering what the they’re doing? Oh yeah, that was me. And a QR Code is to blame. After my experience on the T (more to come on that later), I needed to do some extra research on the guilty party.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that smart devices, particularly smartphones, are poised to take over the world – sorry Pinky, maybe you should have bought an iPhone to get the job done. These powerful devices are changing everything about B2C marketing and communication. Marketers are having a field day, with mobile marketing budgets expected to soar in 2012. There’s still a lot of valid skepticism, however, for QR codes. There are kinks to work out and innovations to be made. But the benefits can certainly be worth it, especially for those really innovative companies who come up with creative campaigns to drive this interaction and increase purchase potential. For those ready and creative enough for this, I recommend keeping the following tips in mind:

1) Offer an incentive. But make it clear what the value is. It’s not likely that I’ll pull out my QR Code app to scan something if you don’t tell me what I’m getting out of it. “Scan this to win a prize!” I’m curious, but not curious enough to be motivated to action. Try something like, “Scan here for 15% off your next purchase.” Now that interests me.

2) Keep it simple, interesting. Motivating users to scan the code is only half the battle. Have the scan take them to a mobile-friendly website that does two important things:

a) Brings them immediate value, like a discount code or entry into a contest.

b) Prompts them to do something else, like downloading an app or signing up for a rewards card, email or newsletter distribution list. They’re already there, keep the relationship going.

3) Measure, measure, measure. Like any good campaign, set goals and determine how you want to measure the success. Determine the number of scans, the number of purchases from the scan (if applicable), how many people signed up or downloaded something else, etc.

4) Be where your audience is. Here, we come back to my traumatizing T example on the Green Line. A lot can be said about location-based marketing. So when I was at the T and saw the QR code for having your groceries delivered to your home, I was impressed. Who needs groceries delivered? People in the city, who may not drive as much or have cars. Who takes the T? Those same people. While this scenario didn’t actually apply to me, I love a good marketing campaign, so I pulled out my iPhone and tried to scan the code…that was on the other side of the tracks. It wasn’t possible to get over there; it was just a wall with ads. I got as close to the yellow line as I could…then I got closer to the edge. Before I realized it, I was leaning so far over the edge that I was nearly falling, and then as I slipped a little, I jumped back in fear, combining it with a frightened yelp! I looked around to 30 or so commuters staring at me with odd looks of judgment. I was that girl. So when thinking about location, don’t just concentrate on where your consumers are, remember that if they have to scan something, they need to be able to get close enough to do so.

Before any of this can happen, however, the mobile marketing community needs to come together and help promote this so that people are downloading the scanning apps. Maybe the iPhone 8 or something will have it built in, but right now there’s an issue of consumer adoption. ScanLife, one of the scanning apps, did a cool campaign in December, where every scan – no matter what brand – entered you into a contest for an iPad. This could have encouraged users to scan more for this purpose, but as they were doing so they would realize the value and keep on scanning even after the campaign. Unfortunately, it wasn’t heavily promoted, but the idea was there and maybe set the stage for additional campaigns. By the way, if you’re looking for a QR Code app, ScanLife is the one I recommend. Easy to use, free, fast and it keeps a database of scan history in case you want to scan now and peruse later.

For the consumers out there, I’d say mass adoption is still a few years out, but I don’t think it’s a passing fad. For the marketers out there, especially for start-ups or those with a low-budget, I say get on board. A QR code campaign is inexpensive, simple and easy to measure through analytics. Get moving marketers…literally, I’m saying you need to go mobile.

Drop a line in the comments if you’ve seen or done any really cool QR code campaigns, we’re all ears.

This post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications.