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Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Is “Gamification” Just a Buzzword or the Next Best Investment for Marketers?

Posted by Jon Bloom under Trends

May 17th, 2013

Have you ever received a gold star, or a token in my case, in elementary school for good behavior or producing good work in class? The star system is an effective incentive mechanism in which teachers have implemented a reward system to promote achievement and encourage positive behavior. Students would work hard to achieve the most stars in order to be listed the highest on the ladder; I sure did.

Similarly, marketers are implementing these game mechanics to encourage more customer engagement and influence behavior. Businesses are also finding this strategy effective in the work place for driving employee productivity, personal development and innovation. This psychological motivation is exactly what the “Gamification” trend aims to succeed in a non-gaming context. So is this strategy worth the investment?

Industry analyst firm Gartner says that it is a highly significant trend and predicts more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one “gamified” application by 2014. Agreeing with Gartner, if implemented correctly, Gamification can be more than just a buzzword. It has the potential to develop a positive interactive experience for customers and transform work into an enjoyable environment for employees. Especially with consumers today increasingly online and on social channels, this presents a new opportunity to engage on another level.

What is needed to implement a Gamification design?

It’s important to remember that Gamification does not mean converting your website into a game of Angry Birds or Tetris, but rather an interactive website that motivates customers to use and engage with your products. This can be done by offering rewards and driving competition among consumers. Some good Gamification design elements and implementations from organizations include:

  • Adding a leaderboard: With IActionable Engage engine, Salesforce employees were able to manage their own performance and view the performance of other team members. This drove direct competition and motivation to increase lead generation, customer support and sales numbers.


  • Offering badges: Foursquare incorporated game-like tactics by allowing its users to claim mayorships, unlock badges and receive discounts to specific retailers while tracking against friends through a leaderboard.


  • Incorporating challenges: Scvngr and Buffalo Wild Wings created an engaging app that allowed users to complete online challenges and unlock rewards.

Buffalo Wild Wings

  • Tacking progress: American Airlines developed a progress bar that allowed its users to track their Elite Status Qualification. The more flights purchased the higher the bar increased for users to earn more points and miles. People are often driven to reach the 100 percent completion mark; I sure felt this drive when I was developing my LinkedIn profile.


These are many more Gamification examples begin implemented by businesses, and I anticipate seeing new implementations in the coming months. For marketers considering implementing a Gamification strategy, it’s important to define first business objectives as well as a strong design. Industry analyst, Brian Burke of Gartner wrote an article that validates this point in his article titled “The Gamification of Business,” saying “We predict that by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily due to poor design. This design includes defining business objectives, as well as application definition, deployment and adoption. In the longer term, as design practices improve and organizations focus on defining clear business objectives, Gamification will have a significant business impact and become an important means for organizations to engage audiences at a deeper level.”

If there is an opportunity to incorporate Gamification into your marketing strategy, take the risk and test this approach. If implemented, companies should be innovative and think about how this benefits the company and its consumers. The opportunities in the end may be rewarding.

- Raquel Prieto


Is Word of Mouth Marketing For B2B Companies?

Posted by Jon Bloom under Clients, Public Relations, Strategy, Tools, Trends

March 21st, 2013

wommaLOGOOur agency is a proud member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). If you haven’t heard of WOMMA,  I recommend you take a look at their website, and browse some of the content they have developed. (In case you missed that, you’ve just been WOM’d.)

All kidding aside, word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective communications vehicles of all time. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you heard a rave review about a new product from a friend, family member, spouse, colleague or acquaintance, and didn’t at least Google the name to take a look?  That is the power of WOM in action.

While it isn’t new news that word of mouth recommendations are effective (here is some research if you need proof), a recent video from one of our favorite beers, Heineken, got me thinking. Many of us think of Heineken as just a brand of beer. But, a recently developed video showed a whole new side of that brand, the people and their personality. The video centers on a fun search for an intern from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants.

Did you click on that link?  I’ll bet you did.  While that click-through may not immediately make you feel you’ve been marketed to, think about what you wanted to do immediately after watching it. Did you IM it to a few co-workers and friends? Maybe even post it to Facebook or Google+? If so, the video is serving its purpose. Even though you weren’t sending something that directly tied to the beer itself, passing on Heineken content is essentially the equivalent of recommending the beer itself to your peers. You have just helped make their WOM campaign effective. Are you thirsty for a Heineken now? I know I am!

While consumer brands have no problem seeing the benefits from word of mouth marketing campaigns, B2B organizations struggle more with quantifying the ROI. This isn’t because word of mouth marketing can’t have a positive impact for those in B2B.  It’s more about the longer selling cycle than that of consumer brands. B2B technologies are far more complex (you aren’t just buying a pack of gum or shampoo) and the sales process involves many more stakeholders.

So, how can B2B organizations use word of mouth marketing techniques and campaigns? We only need to look to back to the Heineken example for something all B2B companies can capitalize on – tell your company’s story.

Many B2B companies often place a tremendous amount of focus on telling their product story and often far less on telling the company story. This is a huge opportunity missed. Telling a company story isn’t just for vanity. In fact, if done in a creative way, it can lead to greater brand awareness and a better understanding of the company and its people, thus making it more memorable, approachable and engaging. In the end, B2B word of mouth marketing campaigns around a company’s story further implants the brand in peoples’ minds, giving you a greater chance of being considered in the next sales cycle. While ROI requires a longer time in this scenario, it does often positively impact the sales funnel.

McGrath/Power has seen the power of WOM first hand for both our B2B and B2C clients. Two examples, respectively, include the SMART Storage Systemsnand-band-111x150 NAND Band campaign (website, Twitter, YouTube) and Burgerville’s BV-TV campaign, because we were able to move beyond the product to show a new side of the company and the faces behind the brand name and products. Both initiatives spurred discussion at the industry and customer levels, ultimately gaining the client additional mindshare and traction in new conversations. What more can you ask for?

– Derek James


Billboard and YouTube Metrics Don’t Add Up

Posted by Jon Bloom under Employee Musings, Tools, Trends

March 15th, 2013

MariahCarey 2She’s an 18-time Billboard No. 1 artist with five consecutive Billboard No. 1 singles. She’s none other than singing superstar Mariah Carey.

Talk about a powerful introduction. Recognizing an artist as a Billboard chart-topper is something that has credibility and prestige to it.

Those times have come to an end, unfortunately. Send the “Thank You” cards you always felt forced to write to YouTube. It’ll help their ego.

Billboard chart position now includes YouTube plays as a metric. At first glance, adding YouTube plays to calculate the chart position seems like a good idea. Music videos are uploaded all the time and YouTube has 800 million active users, according to Business2Community.

But viral videos came in and screwed everything up. “Harlem Shake” and “Gangnam Style” are two of the most recent viral videos to crash this party like a pair of drunk, college kids starting a fight.

There’s no place for that here. As I write this, Baauer (definitely a household name, right?!) is sitting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Harlem Shake” and “Gangnam Style” are videos that were primarily viewed for humor purposes, not for actual musical talent.

Metrics are made to track success and credibility (or lack thereof). As public relations professionals, almost everything we do for the client is being tracked by some sort of metric. Metrics help C-Level employees and the agency receive accurate measurements (if done right) of where the company stands on a large scale of competition.

Metrics are great when used right and like the Billboard charts, are terrible when used incorrectly. Being a No. 1 Billboard chart-topper has lost its creyoutube-logo 2dibility. The whole purpose of the Billboard charts was to show success of musical talent by number of albums (or singles) sold. Adding YouTube plays into that equation also diminishes the credibility of the metric YouTube plays. Artists should focus on album sales, not YouTube views.

As an agency, it would be like telling C-Level employees that the number of Facebook “Likes” is a direct reflection of the sales of his/her company. Sure, Facebook “Likes” are a good way of tracking how much visibility that company is getting, but it doesn’t add up to sales – nor should it.

Since the music industry has evolved, Billboard has added radio play and music streaming metrics to its equation of chart position. These metrics make sense. Users aren’t going to the radio to see a group of clowns and superheroes dance with no rhythm, wearing next to nothing. They listen to the radio because they want to listen to the actual music. Apparently, these metrics alone make too much sense for Billboard.

And I’m sure Mariah Carey doesn’t mind either.

–Marshall Hampson


Why Your Brand Should Be On Tumblr…Yesterday

Posted by Jon Bloom under Clients, Public Relations, Strategy, Tools, Trends

March 7th, 2013

tumblr logoTumblr. It packs the photographic punch of Instagram and the networking notability of Facebook into one real-time stream of magnificence.

While social media content is shared and passed around fast enough for everything to warrant the phrase “so five minutes ago,” an actual social network takes years to gain steam. Just take a look at nine-year-old Facebook and seven-year-old Twitter. They’re ancient in dog years, not to mention social media years. Tumblr is no different.

Founded in 2007, Tumblr is another social network that slowly crept up on us. The last thing any company wants to do is jump on yet another social networking bandwagon, but the numbers are starting to speak for themselves. With nearly 97 million blogs, 44.6 billion blog posts, and 74,206,541 posts pushed out today alone, this is one social network that may sting a bit if you ignore it. In fact, it might even be phasing out your Facebook page.

A recent study found that teens and young adults prefer Tumblr over Facebook, and Facebook even noted in their annual Form 10-K that “some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook.” The cherry on top? How about the unprofessional departure of Facebook’s Director of Product, Blake Ross? He announced in a Facebook post that the reason behind leaving the company stemmed from a conversation with some kid who told him Facebook was no longer “cool.” Ouch.

As the younger generation migrates to Tumblr, we have to ask – have you? If you’ve already considered setting up “shop” on Tumblr but have been held back by the return of that pesky voice from earlier social media days – “What will we truly get out of this?” – here are some brand benefits that might convince you:

> Tell Your Story: Through creative, short-form content, brands are able to build their identity and tell their story, tease and reveal products, highlight behind-the-scenes activities, promote sales or coupons and share relevant user-generated content. This last one is great if you don’t have a consistent flow of your own content.

> Reach New People: It’s the same with any social network. There will always be new audiences to reach that are unattainable on other social websites. This one in particular caters to the young crowd of 13-to-25-year-olds.

> Promote Through Mobile Advertising: In addition to ads on the website, companies will soon be able to promote their posts and blogs to larger audiences via Tumblr’s mobile application.

> Take Full Advantage of the Best Part: Step aside Facebook Timeline. Tumblr lets you customize everything from colors to your theme’s HTML!

> Don’t Let Its Current Audience Turn You Off: While Tumblr is currently set up to better cater to consumer-facing companies, there is potential for B2B to get involved, as well. When will that be? Only time will tell. For now, we’re keeping a weather eye on the horizon.

If that still hasn’t convinced you, maybe these guys can. Here are some brands that are making a home on this increasingly popular website:

> San Diego Zoo: Forget goats and kittens. The San Diego Zoo uses Tumblr to highlight all beasts found on the Zoo’s grounds. From baby pandas to orangutans, followers can catch a glimpse of what’s new at the Zoo, one adorable image at a time. They can also submit their own zoo images for posting on the feed. Talk about some wild user-generated content!

> Sharpie: With the Tumblr tagline “Uncapped and unplugged. Bold and behind-the-scenes.” it only stands to reason that their stream is going to be a kaleidoscopic of color. From posting crafts to fan artwork, Sharpie is making a permanent mark on Tumblr.

> Norton by Symantec: How exactly does an antivirus software company position itself on Tumblr? With customer feedback driven surveys and eye-catching photographs and videos, like a hand grenade made out of computer keys.

> Target: Need we say more?

The list goes on and on! Feel free to peruse and gather more intel for your own Tumblr account because, hopefully, we’ve convinced you it’s the next best place to be. Is your brand game?

— Rory Mohon


A Clash In Credibility’s Crosswalk: Tesla’s Musk vs. NYT

Posted by Jon Bloom under Clients, Events, Media, Public Relations, Strategy, Trends

February 22nd, 2013

I saw this collision coming far more clearly than the New York Times.  Two major forces in a head-on collision – smack in the middle of the cross walk of credibility.  Neither came out of it unscathed.  And, one has to wonder if journalism and public relations will ever be the same in the aftermath.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk publically took on The New York Times and iconic auto reviewer John Broder after the Gray Lady published a less than flattering review of the new Model S.  Broder’s test drive recap painted a poor picture of the flashy Model S’ battery range a few days prior to Telsa’s quarterly earnings call.  With the electric car industry (and Tesla’s credibility) at an inflection point, Broder’s review was a potential match to the fuse of a firestorm for the company, sales of the Model S and Musk’s vision of the future.

Soon after it ran, Musk aggressively and openly fired back at Broder and the Times, asking the publications’ senior staff to “please investigate this article and determine the truth.”  Musk also claimed that Broder was attempting to “sabotage” the test drive, the electric car industry, and all that went along with it.  And, surprisingly, the Times both listened and responded.  I say surprisingly because bad reviews appear all the time often with little recourse for a course correction on behalf of the company/product in question.

This time, however, the editor of the NYT, Margaret Sullivan, weighed in with a response entitled “Problems with Precision and Judgment but Not Integrity in Tesla Test.”  She cleared Broder of purposely undermining the test drive but, also raised questions on his “judgment” regarding how he went about formulating his opinions on the Model S, his “casual and imprecise notes” and decisions he made while on the test drive that negatively flavored the article. That is pretty strong stuff from the editor of what is widely considered to be one of, if not the leading, daily newspapers in the world.  It is also something I have never seen before in 30 years of public relations and hundreds of product reviews.

Of course, it didn’t have to get to this point.  The situation represents a combined failure on the part of Tesla’s PR team, the reviewer, and the product reviews process in general.  Product reviews – especially high stakes product reviews – need to be properly handled by all involved and that means a company’s PR team and a reviewer.

How exactly does Broder get himself stranded in a vehicle drained of its battery life during a make or break test drive?  I doubt he purposely did this and I also fully believe that it was avoidable.  If Broder was the problem in this equation, he should have taken responsibility.  Certainly he could have prevented the NYT from running his review with a sensational photo of the car being pulled onto a flatbed tow truck.  I believe he should have known better.  He got called out by Musk – perhaps in an overly petulant sort of way – and perhaps rightfully so.  Broder’s “little red notebook in the front seat” clearly didn’t capture everything that took place on the test drive and paled in comparison to the data collected by the digitally recorded driving logs in the Model S. One also has to wonder if Broder read the manual (the bane of a PR person’s existence during a product review) or even listened to instructions that most surely had to have been given to him prior to the test drive.

As far as the Tesla PR team goes, they have a hand in this as well. I don’t know them, but I have to assume that they solid.   Musk is one of the Valley’s most ambitious visionaries. He wouldn’t settle for a poor quality communications department.  However, something surely stalled in the PR team’s work with Broder.  Communications pros generally can feel (or know) that a bad review is forthcoming and could have likely prepared for it differently.  They also could have attempted to rein Musk in a bit as his ongoing digital protestations didn’t paint him in a fully flattering light.

In my career, the product review process has remained pretty consistent.  But that doesn’t mean that it always runs well.  Companies want the attention, writers want to write and provide opinions.  Rarely is everybody happy when reviews reach the public eye.  Virtually every company believes their product is a game changer.  Virtually every reviewer believes their opinions are spot on.  Unless you are Apple, the two often do not coalesce. This is especially true in Silicon Valley where hubris over today’s next biggest thing can cloud reality in the minds of those who gave birth to the product in the spot light.  As a former journalist, I believe that reviewers have the right to give their unvarnished views.  As a communications professional, I have seen gross irresponsibility in the product review process too many times. Over the past five years as social media has enabled broader, open discussion on just about everything, additional scrutiny has been placed on the opinions expressed in the review along with opinions on those who disseminate them.  That scrutiny, regardless of what product, company or service is in the spotlight, often leaves ruffled feathers and jammed comment boxes all over the Internet.

The Tesla-NYT kerfuffle is an example of a social media “conversation” spilling out into the street and resulting in a fight for all to see. That has happened quite a bit in the last few years but the participants this time around and associated volume level created a seminal moment in communications.
It makes one question is this will become “the new normal” in the product review process.

On one hand, I sure hope not.   On the other hand, I sure hope so.

Neither Musk or the NYT looked particularly great in the aftermath of this public dust up.  Musk came across as the ranting and raving stereotypical Silicon Valley CEO up in arms because somebody called his baby ugly when he felt it wasn’t.  Some could argue that Musk only brought more attention to a bad review (although given the reach of the NYT, I would say he couldn’t let this one lie).  Others could argue that there was a more refined way Musk could have handled this, say taking his gripes (assuming legitimate) to a news outlet with equally broad reach and credibility – perhaps CBS’ 60 Minutes – where he could have reframed the issue.  Broder, well, he looked like a reporter who may want to reconsider his “little red notebook” approach.  More of all of this doesn’t do anybody any good.

However, open communication is a good thing and generally welcome in most quarters today.  Social channels and today’s social mores allow everybody an opinion and that too is generally a step forward.  Companies have every right to defend their products, especially if facts are not fully present.  Nobody is ever too old or too important to change how they do things and that includes reporters. Any change that serves the greater good for the largest number of people is positive.  Even the biggest of collisions can result in beautiful outcomes.  A more accountable product reviews process would be a welcome change. That would be a huge victory for the new age of communications and that would be a positive for everybody involved.

–Jonathan Bloom


No Fun League Throws Flag At Social Media Use

Posted by Jon Bloom under Employee Musings, Media, Trends

October 12th, 2012

The most profitable professional sports league, the National Football League, is taking a page out of the Olympics’ social media playbook. After introducing a social media policy in 2009, the NFL is now in a position of enforcing it – this time on a referee. As most NFL fans know, the league started out the first few weeks of the season with “replacement referees.” While many fans felt the replacements were lacking in overall knowledge of the rules of the game, it appears the referees were also unaware of the NFL’s social media rules they were contractually obligated to follow.

NFL replacement referee, Brian Stropolo recently posted multiple photos taken of him at a preseason New Orleans Saints game and listed himself as a fan of the team on his Facebook page. As it turns out, Stropolo was scheduled to referee the Saints versus the Carolina Panthers the Sunday following his posting the fan-photos. When I first read this story, I couldn’t help but think Stropolo couldn’t officiate that game and be impartial.  The NFL – also known in some quarters as the No Fun League – agreed.  Stropolo was not allowed to be part of that contest.

In a recent post here on Pass The Mic, we looked at how the International Olympic Committee planned to regulate athletes’ use of social media. During the Games, a handful of uncouth athletes were disqualified from the competition for social media guideline violations. Unlike other sports, the IOC set precedence for social media guideline violations and didn’t allow the offending athletes to buy their way out of the mess via a paid fine.  They were sent home from the Games.

In the case of NFL replacement official Stropolo, you could argue that he is not an actual player. True, but as a referee, he is expected to uphold the standards of the league. In fact, many social media guidelines in professional sport organizations, include personal not on the field of play, including cheerleaders.

The actions taken by NFL against Stropolo pushed me to take a closer look at the social media guidelines in various sports. Here’s a look at those used by the top U.S. three professional sports and some offenders:

Major League Baseball

Policy: The MLB enacted its social media policy in March of this year updating its “electronic equipment use guidelines” from 2006. MLB has both are time restraints on posts and rules prohibiting content denigrating a major league umpire or other derogatory or insensitive comments based on, but not limited to, race, color, sex, age, disability, or religion.

Offenders: Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was fined $20,000 and suspended two games for a post-ejection tweet that was offensive towards the ejecting umpire.

National Basketball Association

Policy: The league’s policy is applied to players, coaches and operations staff and also includes MLB-like restrictions on the appropriate timing. The NBA treats social media commentary in the same manner as comments made in the traditional media, meaning league personnel can be fined for posts that are deemed out-of-bounds by the league.

Offenders: Perpetual NBA headache Gilbert Arenas, then of the Orlando Magic, was fined for his insensitive and profane comments made on Twitter.

National Football League

Policy: The NFL’s social media guidelines are very similar to the NBA. Time restrictions are in place for for players, coaches and operations staff. Like the NBA, the NFL is the arbiter of what is deemed offensive. The NFL can penalize a player for distasteful comments made on social media in the same fashion it punishes players for off-color comments made to traditional media.

Offenders: Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 by his-then team, the San Diego Chargers, for a criticizing the team’s catering spread.

All of the aforementioned guidelines are open to interpretation by each league and teams. The guidelines established by the Olympics, left no room for misinterpretation. If an athlete posted an offensive, off-color, or tasteless comment on social media, that athlete was ejected from the remainder of the Olympic Games. If professional sport organizations in the U.S. implemented stiffer penalties like the Olympics, players could comprehend the gravitas of their actions. Offering players and personnel social media training would be a step in the right direction to ensure that they further understand the rules and ramifications of their posts. Being a professional athlete comes with the responsibility of representing the established sport organization. Professional athletes have long been revered as role models and they need to act like it both on and off the field – including social media.

— Marta Weissenborn


#London2012 – The Olympics of Social Media

Posted by Jon Bloom under Employee Musings, Events, Public Relations, Tools, Trends

July 11th, 2012

Like many sports fans throughout the world, I am gearing up for the upcoming Summer Olympics in London.  Unlike the athletes, my training for the Olympics is researching the possibility that this event could shatter some social media records. What has now been dubbed by the media the “Social Media Olympics” is expected to bring the biggest social media activity of any event in social media’s short history.

This may not seem shocking to some but when you take a look at the numbers, the likelihood that this year’s Olympics could destroy social media records is a good possibility. Let’s take a look back at the social media numbers of the last summer games in Beijing. In 2008, Twitter had six million users while Facebook had 100 million users. During the last summer games, athletes, coaches and other participants were prohibited from social media activities surrounding the Olympics. This time around, the flood gates have been opened and Olympic participants will be able to address over 900 million Facebook members and over 140 million Twitter members. The increase in users is astonishing: 800% growth in Facebook subscribers and 2,233% growth in Twitter users.

While the International Olympic Committee is aware of the pitfalls of social media, they also know this year social media will have a profound effect on the Olympics. What kind of an impact could this have? With society increasingly becoming more mobile with tablets and smartphones, it will be interesting to see which companies and advertisers take advantage of this opportunity to launch social media campaigns and incorporate mobile strategies. Big name sponsors of the Olympics such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Visa are all expected to rely on event sponsorship or affiliations to generate an impact via social media.

To offset some of the pitfalls made by athletes and celebrities previously on social media, the committee has issued a set of guidelines that participants must follow. Below is a sample of the guidelines

> Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic Spirit and fundamental principles of the Games as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.
> Participants are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a posting, blog or tweet or otherwise on any social media platforms or on any website.
> Guidelines for persons staying in the Olympic Village include: any posting, blog or tweet must be in first-person, diary-type format only; photos of the athletes or other accredited persons in the Olympic Village can be posted, however if additional people are in the photo, permission must be obtained by the person posting such picture. Video taken inside the residential area can only be used for personal use and not broadcasted or posted to any social media platform.

While some feel these guidelines silence Olympic participants, some of these guidelines are to preserve the integrity of the games, as well as broadcasters and advertisers’ investments. Some of the guidelines are clear-cut and leave little room for misinterpretation however, there are some of the guidelines that leave a gray area and left to interpretation as to what may or may not offend the committee.

And if you violate these guidelines, the consequences are steep.  If found by the IOC in violation of these guidelines you can be withdrawn from the games without notice. Although it seems like a pretty tough punishment, in today’s catalog of social media blunders it makes sense. Let’s also keep in mind that being an Olympian is a privilege not a right; a privilege that can be revoked at any time. Some can argue public figures have jeopardized or in some cases, jumpstarted their careers with careless and provocative posts. The list of social media faux pas is ever growing and includes the infamous Charlie Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and most recently Chris Rock.

Could similar guidelines become adopted by major league sporting organizations? What is your view on Olympic participants using social media? Are the Olympic guidelines too rigid? In the coming weeks this blog will take a look at the impact this year’s Olympics are having on social media. Will social media strike Olympic gold? We will soon find out.

-Marta Weissenborn


CTIA Wireless: What It Is, What It Isn’t and Why You Should Care

Posted by Jon Bloom under Employee Musings, Events, Media, Public Relations, Strategy, Tools, Trends

May 28th, 2012

(Editor’s Note: We have been reflecting on the recent CTIA Wireless show since we built a presence for a variety of clients at the event earlier this month.  Today, we have a two part post on the conference providing two sets of perspective on the event itself and how to maximize industry events in today’s world of communications.)

I recently had the opportunity to attend the CTIA Wireless show in New Orleans. Events like CTIA Wireless and RSA Conference are like Mecca– you have to go at least once if you are truly serious about the industry. I have been to half a dozen RSA Conferences in my life (disclosure: McGrath/Power represented the RSA Conference for several years) and never attended a one where I didn’t come away fired up about the security market. I was hoping to come away from CTIA Wireless equally energized. But after spending three days at CTIA Wireless helping out in client’s booths, managing interviews and talking with more than 50 people as part of an informal survey I was conducting, I came away feeling, well, a little bummed and a lot tired. There was so much negativity that I really wondered why people were even there. After reflecting on what I had heard, and reading the coverage from the show, it became clear to me why I felt this way. I had the wrong expectations for the show, as did a majority of the people with whom I spoke.  So to make sure you don’t set the wrong expectations about CTIA Wireless, or any show in the future, here’s my perspective (and the industry’s) on what CTIA is and isn’t and why this should matter to you.

CTIA Wireless is about big issues, not big booths.  I said not big booths! Though I can tell you, there were plenty of exhibitors that clearly thought taking a booth approach that resembled COMDEX circa 1996 was the right way to go. But I digress. Tara Seals of Vision2Mobile hit the nail on the head when she wrote  “there’s no doubt that CTIA remains an important, dare I say critical event when it comes to North American policy and carrier strategy…it was a successful event from the point of view of advancing the industry conversation around a few key themes: spectrum policy; small cells and heterogeneous networks (HetNets); the value of wireless to economic development; T-Mobile’s future plans; carriers’ relationship to subscribers in a post-smartphone world; and mobile payments.” As a highly regulated industry, it makes sense that there would be a large focus on government’s plans for the wireless industry and the issues impacting the major carriers from a policy and business perspective.

At CTIA Wireless, the real value was in the sessions that took place in the mornings and evenings, not the activity on the show floor. What you didn’t see at the show was a vibrant, business-driven show floor, at least from what I experienced and the conversations I had with people in attendance. Seals also noted “Some industry-watchers have opined that CTIA is simply ‘one trade show too many’ after the hugeness that CES and Mobile World Congress bring to the event schedule, and the foot traffic did seem a little light.” Let me weigh in here Tara. I would say extremely light, especially if you were there after 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday (show ended Thursday at 2:30 p.m.)  There seemed to be more people approaching vendors on the show floor to pitch their own services and events than there were people looking for actual new solutions to evaluate or purchase. I had one conversation with a vendor who told me that he did not have a single good conversation with a prospect. Ouch. The resounding sentiment from everyone I spoke with on the show floor was that they really didn’t feel like much was getting accomplished, that there wasn’t much buzz on the floor, and that most companies were seemingly just going through the motions of “yet another tradeshow.”

So what does this all mean to your company?  For starters, when planning your communications activities around a tradeshow, you have to take into account factors beyond the size of a show’s brand, the number of attendees and the names on a media and press list. You must align your communications objectives to what is actually achievable at an event. If it’s a show where the only meaningful result is gathering new content that can be used as part of future PR activities, then make that the goal and execute as creatively as possible.  It’s also critical that you define metrics for success that go way far simple deliverables like the number of briefings you secure at a show. At McGrath/Power we believe that briefings at a show that have no chance of netting tangible results (coverage, future media or blogging opportunities, stronger 3rd party endorsement) are a waste of time for the company and not fair to the influencers.

To close on CTIA, if you read the industry coverage, you get a sense that the show served its purpose.  If you talk with people that were walking the show floor, you get the sense that the show was more or less a fail. So it appears one group clearly had a set of expectations, and those were met, while the other group had the wrong expectations, so they could never be met.
For a great take on the winners and losers from the show, I recommend this analysis from the editorial team at FierceWireless.

–Roger Fortier


What’s All The Interest in Pinterest?

Posted by Jon Bloom under Public Relations, Tools, Trends

May 2nd, 2012

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part discussion on Pinterest.  Earlier this week, Katie Peterson discussed why “Pinning Is Winning.”  Today, colleague Marta Weissenborn gives her point of view.)

Call me crazy, but I have no interest to go on Pinterest. Honestly, I don’t get what the excitement is all about. For those of you who don’t know, Pinterest is a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to a virtual pinboard. Don’t get me completely wrong, I think Pinterest is an intriguing idea, but before I jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, there are two aspects to this new social medium that bother me.

Take a look at some of your friends Pinterest pinboards – you’ll learn a lot about them. In fact looking at a friend’s recent pins, I was able to predict she is expecting, before she was ready to announce it to friends. This is a perfect example of my main plight with Pinterest: Why can’t pinboards be set to private? I get that the whole concept is about sharing content and ideas, but some things you may want to keep private. Really ladies, do you want your boyfriend to know you secretively scope out wedding ideas on Pinterest?  I mean I don’t want him to know that our hypothetical wedding is virtually planned from bridesmaid’s dresses down to the cake flavor.

My other big pet peeve with Pinterest is there is no context as to why someone pinned something. Sure there is a caption at the bottom of the picture that usually says something like “WANT!,” or “Cute idea!” but that really doesn’t tell me why you pinned it. Sure it is cute, but what about it caught your eye? What made this of interest to you? What about it warranted a pin? Every picture has a story behind it. Pinterest gives you 500 characters to describe the context in which you like the photo. Even though what you are pinning is not your original content, you can still give it personalized context as to why it was pin worthy.

Even though I may not be a fan of pinning, you probably are. Here are some signs you or your brands pins are just empty holes.

> Web site not found: It’s as silly as a typo, but linking to a dead link is counterintuitive to why you are pinning in the first place.

>Enough about me, let’s talk more about me: Self-promoting on Pinterest is like being that annoying, Debbie-downer poster on Facebook. You know who I am talking about, the one who posts all the horrible things that happen to them. It’s annoying and usually leads to blocking from news feeds. You don’t want to be “that guy.”

>I speak no Americano: If the 500 character descriptor is misleading or has wrong information, this can lead to misconceptions. Brands need to be especially aware of this as it can spread misinformation like wildfire.

While I am still trying to find my interest in Pinterest, I do see some benefits and specific use cases for the site such as event ideas, interior decorating and recipes. Heck, I have even been known to waste my lunch break on Pinterest. I am just not what I would call a full-fledged pinner. If you, on the other hand are an avid pinner and don’t want empty pin holes, take a look at these 8 Rules of Pinterest Etiquette. How do you feel about Pinterest? Has is sparked your interest? Share your thoughts with us.

–Marta Weissenborn


Pinning Is Winning

Posted by Jon Bloom under Public Relations, Tools, Trends

April 30th, 2012

I, like many of my friends, have a slight obsession with Pinterest[]. I wouldn’t go so far to say I spend hours upon hours on the new social network, but I do like to pin craft ideas, try new recipes, link to travel locations and give kudos to some of my favorite websites or brands. (Disclosure: I do not have a pretend wedding or unborn child board on Pinterest)

For those that don’t know, the website has a very large female demographic, appealing to women ages 25 to 44. It actually does have a growing male following, with men rounding out the users at 32 percent. The site gets about 1.36 million users a day, and has grown by 2,702.2 percent since May 2011. (Take a look at this neat infographic from Mashable for more fun facts about Pinterest) Bottom line: Pinterest is growing, growing quickly, and has a nice demographic of users for marketing potential.

Using the site to link back to original photos, products, blogs, and more is a great way for businesses to engage with the users and get pinning. One thing to keep in mind though is the core demographic. This isn’t a site for B2B marketing. It is a social medium that B2C businesses can utilize, so long as they understand the audience and aren’t trying to sell table saws or hand knives.

While the majority of brands on Pinterest have a focus in interior design, crafts, travel, fashion, food, event planning, etc., there is also a handful of online publications, non-profits, and even consumer facing tech brands that have pages on the site. This is a social medium that when used correctly and creatively can be a significant aspect of marketing campaigns.

If you are a consumer brand then pinning is winning and I encourage you to explore the opportunity for your business. I’ve seen some brands that are utilizing Pinterest really well, including GE, Glamour Magazine, Nordstrom, Panera Bread, Southwest, the Today Show, the Travel Channel, and Whole Foods.

What are these brands doing right and what should you do to achieve a similar level of pinning success? It’s a mix of the things. Here are some tips on things to do to effectively engage on Pinterest:

> Pin items from around the web, and do not just self-promote your website
> Connect with top brand evangelists and utilize guest Pinners for alternate perspectives
> Correctly attribute images and include original descriptions on all pins
> Know what your customers are looking for and tailor boards accordingly
> Engage with your audience by re-pinning and hosing contests
> Showcase the lifestyle of your brand and represent the brand promise, not just the products
> Use high quality images and videos
> Tell a story through themed boards

–Katie Peterson

(Editor’s Note: Please check back on Thursday for an alternative view of Pinterest)