Pass the Mic Blog

Strategic Communications for a Changing World

Archive for June, 2011

Hits and Missives

Posted by Jon Bloom under Employee Musings, Public Relations

June 30th, 2011

Here are a collection of small-bite thoughts to lead into the big July 4 BBQ weekend:

We’re At War!
Apparently, I get the news late.  As my colleague Katie Peterson pointed out this week on Pass The Mic, PR people are at war with journalists, and we are all slimes.  The common battle cries of both truly entertaining articles are that PR people now outnumber journalists about 3-1 and that Facebook’s just-plain-wrong approach to anti-Google communications makes all of us in PR “brazen, urban foxes.”  Well, then.  Hey, I agree that antics of Facebook and its PR team make the entire profession look bad.  I also understand exactly why both media outlets would attack based on those antics.  But war?  Really?  The Economist piece doesn’t really offer any new fodder in its blow back on PR.  All of that has been said before, some of it is true and some of it is off.  I expect there really are more PR people than journalists these days.  There are definitely fewer media folks around today than five years ago.  Some of that is the fault of the media itself.  But, notice that I didn’t say PR professionals?  Important distinction.  Not everybody in every profession is good at what they do.  PR has its fair share of not-so-good practitioners.  Unfortunately, bad work in our world is much easier to see than work done in a back office.  I was taught from Day One that the role of the PR professional is to make the life of a journalist easier.  Not all of us do that well and it’s not always easy to do.  Doing stupid things deserves to be called out.  But I don’t think that makes me an urban fox.  Naturally, a doubleheader attack on PR draws rebuttals.  It was too bad those in our line of work couldn’t have mustered a better counter.  Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed by the response from practitioner Wendy Marx in Fast Company.  While it may be an “exciting time” to be in the field, Marx’s rebut is shallow and doesn’t address the main points of either.  If I have to be at war with anybody, I’d rather do battle with those who pull our profession down than overly-amped media people who rightfully point out our missteps.
 
Two More Reasons Journalists Are Outnumbered
We recently welcomed two new members to the McGrath/Power team – Ana Fort Walker and Marta Weissenborn.  Ana comes on board as a director with diverse technology and agency experience and Marta joins us as an account coordinator after working in event communications for the City of San Jose.  We are fortunate to have both of these new team members and I can assure you that neither is a slime or an urban fox.

And Two New Clients As Well
Welcomes are also in order for two new McGrath/Power clients – Electronics For Imaging and Crowdflower.  We are excited to work on behalf of both companies.  EFI, a Silicon Valley mainstay for years in the digital printing market, is poised to eliminate some big headaches for all of us who rely on smart devices at work.  Crowdflower is the leading provider of on-demand crowdsourced solutions serving some very big name companies.  It is a cool market and a great story. Thanks to EFI and Crowdflower for letting us join their teams!

Let’s End With Drink
The Australian wine industry has battled its own PR problem over the past five years.  Once a darling of those who enjoy big wines, the Aussies were doing quite well in the early part of this decade with well-made Shiraz.  I bought into (literally) the style and overall vibe of the region and enjoyed drinking the wines and visiting the winemakers on a great trip down under.  Then the bottom fell out due to over production, greed, drought and some poor efforts by good producers.  Like many, I stopped buying Australian wines for all the reasons just mentioned and because my palate changed.  The mark of any wine region or producer is how gracefully the product ages.  While many Aussie wines were made to drink upon release, the high end producers (and many reviewers) promised a reward for cellaring.  Other than Penfold’s epic Grange blend, I had my doubts if many of my purchases would hold up at the 10-year mark when real character emerges from great wines.  I opened three 10-year-old Shirazes over the past six weeks and was very pleasantly surprised by the transformation of the 2001 E&E Black Pepper, Jim Barry’s Armagh and Torbreck’s Descendant.  The Aussie wine industry has launched a new PR campaign to restore interest and faith in its product.  It may not bring me back to my previous purchasing habits but I remain a believer in wines from this part of the world.

–Jonathan Bloom

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Slime-slingers, Foxes, The Dark Side…That’s Not What PR Is Made Of

Posted by Katie Peterson under Employee Musings, Public Relations

June 28th, 2011

I have always thought of myself to be a likable individual. It probably has something to do with the way I was raised into thinking that I was made of sugar, spice and everything nice. Never once have I thought of myself as slimy or sneaky, so you’d have to assume that I was quite surprised when I read the headline, “Public Relations: Slime-slinging Flacks Vastly Outnumber Hacks These Days.” That’s a little harsh if you ask me, Economist.. 

I will prompt this post with the fact that Burson-Marsteller messed up in the way they handled their media outreach; they could have gone about pitching their client in a different manner. But I am here to neither defend their actions or carry forward the seemingly endless and tiresome battle between “Hacks and Flacks.”

If you read between the lines of this article, the bigger story here is about the clear power shift between PR professionals and the journalists with whom we work. The consolidation of media and the direct nature of today’s conversations have truly shifted the control away from media “gatekeepers.”  The balance of power is no longer solely in the newsroom, but rather it is in the hands of individuals. We are in an era where we communicate in different ways, because people consume information in different ways. My colleague Roger Fortier attributed the shift to the fact that the channels of news distribution have changed. Today, the internet is the third most popular platform for news, and has changed the way we get our news, ultimately creating a 24 hour news cycle. Unlike traditional television broadcasts and daily newspapers, the internet is able to update us instantly. This is the new world of communications of which we speak.

In addition, social media communication has changed our lives and how we interact with one another and the world around us. In her response to the Economist article, Wendy Marx said that that there has never been a more exciting time to be in public relations. As a PR professional just coming into my career, I have to agree. With the shift in the power of communications, the landscape of PR has expanded. No longer do we need to rely on a just handful of reporters.  There are multiple influencers on blogs, web forums, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and more that get the word out.

Interestingly enough, as PR professionals, we still do acknowledge the importance, power and legitimacy of the traditional media. We use both channels, traditional and social, for our clients and continue to build relationships with members of traditional media and social media influencers alike. It’s all about creating a balance between the two, and successfully leveraging their capabilities.

–Katie Peterson

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Using Research Reports To “Choose The News”

Posted by Roger Fortier under Clients, Media, Public Relations, Strategy

June 22nd, 2011

Having represented more than a dozen IT security firms of all sizes over the years, I can tell you this. I have never seen an industry more bent on flooding the market with research surveys.  For a time it seemed like they would be released one per week from vendors big and small.  The interesting thing was, in a content starved world, reporters and bloggers alike would flock to cover the information as “news.”

Now over time, the less valuable ones have fallen by the wayside, while reports like Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report and Cisco’s Visual Networking Index have become industry mainstays. This might lead you to believe that only brands with household names and billion dollar marketing budgets can create research reports considered viable and newsworthy.  On the contrary, it’s less about who is telling the story, and more about what’s the story being told.

While not in the security space, our client Bytemobile is a perfect example of a smaller brand that has made huge strides in establishing industry thought leadership through a quarterly market research report that is timely, topical and relevant to both people in and outside the technology world.  Now let’s be clear, within the mobile market, Bytemobile is indeed well known. The company’s Smart Capacity solutions have been deployed with over 125 operators in 60 countries, including 8 of the world’s top 10 tier-one carriers.

This vast customer base is the goldmine that the company has been able to use to create the quarterly Mobile Analytics Report (formerly called Mobile Minute Metrics.) The Mobile Analytics Report is generated from the company’s own mobile data traffic reporting solution, which means it’s not only a source of great information on trends relating to Mobile Operator networks, but a showcase for the value they can bring to their customers. The Mobile Analytics Report anonymously sources data traffic statistics from the 3G and 4G networks of Bytemobile’s global tier-one customer base and provides insight into the current state of the mobile ecosystem. Its findings have been cited widely by industry market research firms and the media. You can read the most recent Mobile Minute Metrics report here. Please note registration is required for download.

When considering whether or not to dedicate the significant resources required to create, market and sustain an industry research report of this nature, there are several things you will want to take into consideration:

> Find a specific and timely topic – if a topic is considered old news, or there are simply dozens of reports already covering it, nobody will show interest. Carving out a niche that is applicable to a wide cross section of relevant media and influencers will ensure that there is a captive audience predisposed to consuming your content.

> Make it relevant to your business – often companies will create “research” that leaves reporters asking “Why would I want to talk to your company about THAT topic?” Resist the temptation to try and create a market research report just because you may have one product in a given market. If the research is more relevant to other companies’ businesses, reporters and bloggers will look to those firms first for information.

> Have a documented and repeatable methodology – nobody likes wondering where and how a firm gathered its information. This is an important issue of transparency. You may be able to get away with a faux report once, but eventually someone will start digging into the methodology. The more people understand about how the information was gathered the more credible the source will be viewed.

> Make sure to add context and POV to the story– don’t rely solely on the numbers to tell the story, or for reporters to come up with their own analysis of the data. Add company POV to place the research data into the context of broader trends. This is where the thought leadership truly begins.

> Don’t be commercial – the research data can point to a need in the market that the company’s products address, but the research itself should be void of promotional company content in any way, including vague references to “solutions” to problems that are identified. If the research is good, they will understand why you are promoting it.

> Be consistent – once you get people hooked on your research, make sure they keep coming back by delivering a report that is consistent in look, feel, sections and information. The specific data can be different, but one of the most powerful opportunities with research reports is to show change in the same trends over time.

> Socialize The Content – a simple PDF report is no longer enough. Social media communications demands thinking about the type of content you create to promote the research in a different way. Create a 2 minute summary video from a corporate spokesperson. Have multiple charts and graphs available for download in web-friendly formats. Create a quote sheet so bloggers can pull from a variety of company “opinions” to create their posts.

Here are some of the great articles we were able to secure for Bytemobile which demonstrate how powerful of a tool a good market research report can be in creating thought leadership that supports your company’s business objectives.

Bytemobile Gives Update on Mobile Video Traffic Trends
Video is still wreaking havoc on carrier networks
High-quality video bogging down wireless networks

iPhone Video Data Consumption Tops Laptops, Android Phones
TV and video grab lion’s share of mobile network traffic

–Roger Fortier

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Social Currency – Beyond A Game?

Posted by Cynthia Horiguchi under Public Relations, Tools, Trends

June 20th, 2011

In a recent blog post about gamification, I mentioned the “social stock market” Empire Avenue which allows you to trade virtual currency. I’d like to revisit the concept of social currency, as I think it has the potential to become much more than just an online game.

So, what is social currency? I would consider social currency to be anything that you can exchange online for physical products or services. Probably the best and most viable example of this right now is Facebook Credits, which Facebook defines as “a virtual currency you can use to buy virtual goods in many games and apps on the Facebook platform.” With the launch of the Facebook Deals service, the use of these credits is being extended to actual real-world goods.

With businesses increasingly using Facebook, these Credits have the potential to become just as valuable as real currency. For example, JCPenny recently launched an application that supports purchases directly within its fan page. It’s not too hard to imagine a scenario where consumers buy goods directly through Facebook—or even in the “real world”—using Facebook credits.

I see three options for how Facebook Credits play out logistically down the road: they become the equivalent of credit cards, they become a sort of specialized currency through which marketers offer deals, or they simply don’t succeed offline and remain limited to social currency used for online games.

Option One: Facebook Credits become the equivalent of credit cards
With more and more discussion about using cell phones as payment methods, it seems reasonable that Facebook Credits could be used to purchase offline goods. I can especially see this happening if people begin to use Credits online for more than just game playing. If Credits are used online to trade services, consumers might look for convenient ways to merge their “online” and “offline” bank accounts instead of cashing out their Facebook credits in order to purchase real world goods. In this scenario, Facebook would become the equivalent to a credit card processing company.

A major hindrance to this, however, is that Facebook plans to “collect 30 percent of currency spent by users.” Credit card transaction fees are typically percentages in the single digits, so there would have to be a significant upside for merchants to accept Facebook Credits. Which brings me to…

Option Two: Facebook Credits become a specialized currency for marketers to offer deals
In order to justify Facebook’s 30 percent cut of all purchases, merchants would have to view Facebook as an outlet that reaches an audience that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. Remember, Groupon generally takes 50 percent as businesses are willing to deeply discount their goods or services in exchange for volume and exposure. Similarly, Apple, Google and Amazon all get 30 percent of all purchases made through iTunes, app stores, or Amazon’s eBooks store. All of a sudden, 30 percent doesn’t sound so ridiculous.

Again, however, there is a main difference. Apple, Google and Amazon all have actual stores through which they sell goods (albeit in the form of electronic data) such as music, apps and books. With Credits, Facebook is looking for physical merchants to accept a new form of payment in their own stores. So, for merchants to be able to justify losing 30 percent of revenue, Facebook as a platform must be so beneficial that the exposure or volume will be worth it. This is why I can see Credits becoming useful for promotions; in the same way that merchants wouldn’t offer a Groupon deal every day, Facebook Credits could be used in specific circumstances for well-suited promotions.

Option Three: Facebook Credits remain limited to social currency used for online games
Starting July 1, all Facebook games will be forced to accept Facebook Credits as virtual currency. Facebook hasn’t released very many statistics about Facebook Credit usage so far, but with social gaming company and Farmville creator Zynga’s imminent IPO, it’s probably safe to assume Credits and in-game purchases are quite successful. In fact, some estimate that Zynga makes 80 percent of its $17 million revenue per month from gamers using real money to buy virtual goods. When you’re dealing with virtual goods, 30 percent seems a lot less consequential. Even if they never take off in the physical world, as long as people keep playing games on Facebook, Credits will have a place in the world of social currency.

What do you think will happen with Facebook Credits? Have you ever used them, and would you trust Facebook enough to use Credits for offline purchase? Let us know in the comments!

–Cynthia Horiguchi

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Brand Advocates – A Breed Apart

Posted by Roger Fortier under Public Relations, Trends

June 16th, 2011

I have a friend, we’ll call her Jill, who just lives to give her opinion online. She is a chronic Yelp community participant, and always has Facebook posts about this product or that product. At first I thought this was a cute fad she was going through when social media was coming into its prime. But it never seemed to stop. Of course, if I ever had a question about a product I wanted to buy or a place I wanted to go, Jill was the first person I turned to for an advice. Then I realized, so did everyone else in our group. It was not until recently when I read an interesting study that I realized exactly what I was witnessing.

Jill was a bona fide Brand Advocate.

According to the report, Brand Advocates are people who habitually review products and share their opinions with others around them. The sharing can be done in-person around the water cooler with a few close friends or it can be done online with email or on social media networks where advocates can reach many thousands of peers almost instantly. The product being discussed may have been purchased at retail or it may have been provided as a free sample. The opinions are authentic and the advocates are not paid or compensated in any way. They lead frequent online discussions about brands and prefer to use social media to tell others. They are important for any type of company, regardless of what industry, because Brand Advocates have the power to spread the word about your company and its offerings around the world.

By the numbers, here are some interesting things to know about Brand Advocates.

>Brand Advocates write more than twice as many communications about brands as the average Web user

>Brand Advocates are 50% more likely to create a post that influences a purchase

>Brand Advocates are 3 times more likely to view the sharing of information – their advocacy – as a form of relaxation

>Brand Advocates want to be viewed as a good resource – they value having the perception of being a good resource 150% more than the average Web user

>Brand Advocates use forums, eCommerce sites and social networks not only for advocacy, but for information. They are twice as likely to get information about new products in these forums

>Brand Advocates are three times more likely to share product information with someone they don’t know.

So what does all of this tell us? The report lists 10 tips that I highly advise reading, but here’s my take on working with Brand Advocates.

First, start looking for your brand advocates immediately. They are out there; you just might not be looking in the right places. Stop looking for them at the tradeshows that you attend, and start mining your own company forums, peer interest groups related to the products your company markets, and above all, places like eBay and Amazon.com.

Second, have an engagement plan. Brand Advocates want and need to be heard, and they want this engagement on their own turf. Know what you want from them, and what you are prepared to offer them to cater to this desire to be a valued source of information. Can you offer early sneak peeks at new products? Can you show them their input/comments/recommendations have impacted the future development and direction of a product?

Third, help them help you. All they want is to be heard. If your social channels are properly functioning, use them to amplify the opinions of your Brand Advocates, even if those opinions have nothing to do with your own product. Become an extension of their communications platform, and the kindness will be returned.

If managed correctly, 10 good Brand Advocates can become 100, and 100 become 1000. It is a methodical two-way process that truly reflects the new world of communications that we talk about with our clients every day.

Are you a Brand Advocate? We’d love you hear your insight on what it’s like and what you expect from the Brands you follow.

–Roger Fortier

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Facebook Accounts for More Than Half of All Online Sharing

Posted by John Kreuzer under Public Relations, Trends

June 14th, 2011

Goodbye United States Post Office. See you later email! There’s a new sheriff in town when it comes to content sharing. You’ve got nothing on Facebook when it comes to content sharing.  A recent study by ShareThis entitled “Sharing, More Than Just Friends, Fans and Followers” has found that more than half of all the content that’s shared online is posted to Facebook. That’s right, Facebook. Not Twitter. Not YouTube. Facebook. But really…are you all that surprised?

After studying the social and browsing habits of 300 million people, the study found that 56 percent of all shared content was posted to Facebook, versus just 8 percent for Twitter. The figures for shared-content referrals were similar where Facebook accounted for 38 percent of all socially generated traffic, compared with 11 percent for Twitter.

Some highlights of the study from the ShareThis blog include:

> Sharing is bigger than fans, friends and followers. Sharing generates almost half of the traffic for websites and brands that is created by search — 10 percent of website visits come from sharing. Sharing also accounts for 31 percent of referral traffic.

> Sharing is about scale, not virality. Shared links are, on average, across all sharing channels, clicked on 4.9 times each, so content shared by large groups of people reach a wider audience than content passed along from others.

>Everyone who shares is an influencer if the subject is important to him or her. Instead of one person being universally influential on a wide range of topics, the study found that many people are influential on only one or two topics.

> Sharing is about moments of opportunity and relevance. The study proves that sharing is a viable marketing solution for reaching audiences when they are most receptive to a particular category of advertising, such as CPG, Business & Financial Services, or Consumer Electronics.

What I found interesting about the study, other than the fact that Facebook ranks so much higher than the Twitter, is that sharing isn’t really as viral as most people have been led to believe. It turns out that links are far less likely to be clicked beyond the initial set of people they are shared with. For example, if you were to share a link with me and I am someone that you personally know, the odds are pretty good that I will most likely click on it. But, if I then pass that link along to my friends, family or others, the chances that they will click on the link fall considerably.

What this demonstrates is a need to ensure that you are targeting the correct social networking sites, and the content that you are sharing is relevant to those people that you’re trying to reach. When sharing links on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this is key because your fans or followers trust you to share content that will be important to them. This is why they will click on the link. We must also understand, though, that there are limitations of these websites. So many times we get carried away about the game-changing potential of social media that we forget that it is only as powerful as the content that is provided and then shared. If your content isn’t shared, what’s the point of creating it?

So, what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things for those of us in PR and our clients? What are the takeaways for a company’s outreach strategy?

Above all else, the key take away from this study is that sharing interesting and most importantly, personally relevant content via social channels is a major factor in driving web traffic. If you have good content, your fans and followers will want to share this content, thus bringing more attention to your brand.

So, which website do you find to be the most popular to share your content? Where do you receive the most content from? Are you a Facebook sharer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

–John Kreuzer

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Innovation On My Mind

Posted by Roger Fortier under Employee Musings, Public Relations, Trends

June 7th, 2011

I am constantly amazed at how we sit at the center of innovation. As practitioners in Silicon Valley, we’re almost spoiled. We live at the epicenter of technology. We see innovation every day. Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. It lurks around every corner. It knows no age limit and has no half-life. It is the perpetual hum of the Valley that drives us.

At the end of the day, though, true innovation has to solve real world problems for real world people. One of our newest clients Electronics for Imaging is the type of company that does just that – innovate to solve real problems. It has a long track record of bringing innovation to the commercial print market to solve some of that industry’s biggest problems. And, later this year, the company is poised to do so again. Now while I can’t let you in on exactly what they are up to, but I can tell you, this is innovation at the core. Why can I tell you this? Because we have seen this before here at McGrath/Power.

Perhaps the most well known example of this is with TiVo. Yes, that’s not just a logo on our website. I remember sitting in the conference room brainstorming company names because the original name Teleworld had to go. I can remember someone wanting to position this marvel of technology as the “pause button on the remote.” Yeah, no…we weren’t gonna take something this innovative and let it go down that path.  So this new innovation allowed people watch “What you want, when you want it” was born. In today’s jargon filled world that sounds like one of the most overused clichés no?  But in 1998, it was innovation.
 
When PDAs first came out, people loved them, until they ran smack into a real problem that needed an innovative solution. How do I get all of my contact and calendar information off my computer, onto my device, and then make sure I can put all of the new stuff back on my computer? The new concept of personal data synchronization for the world of mobile devices was born with Pumatech, which later became Intellisync. You have to remember, mobility in 1995 was not what it is today. Nothing worked together, everything was proprietary.  Intellisync solved this problem.  Then people started using webmail like Yahoo! and wanting to sync data between the web and their desktop. Intellisync innovated to help consumers do just that.  Finally, entire corporations wanted to have enterprise-wide sync capabilities for information.  And at each step along the continuum, Intellisync innovated to help the emerging mobile world solve the data sync problem.

One of my all time favorite innovation stories comes out of Wyse Technology.  And I think it’s one of my favorites because it truly was a David vs. Goliath and category creation stories.  We were at the height of the PC era.  There were PCs everywhere, on every table, office desk, check in counter, you name it.  And mind you, PCs were not the cheap $499 fully loaded, LCD capable systems they were today.  They were bulky, expensive, and hard to manage on distributed networks.  So Wyse came up with a clever idea – take all of that compute power, all of the real brains, and put it back on really powerful servers. Then let businesses give everyone who wasn’t a knowledge worker a $500 device that walked, talked and acted like a windows computer. It worked, and thin-client computing was born, saving companies millions in IT infrastructure costs over the years.

I’m excited that we get the chance to help EFI in this next chapter of innovation here in the book of innovation that is Silicon Valley.

–Roger Fortier

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Well, I’ve Now Been To Spain….

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

June 1st, 2011

“Well, I’ve never been to Spain
But I kind of like the music…”

- Three Dog Night

Well, I’ve now been to Spain and I really do like the music.  I just got back last Friday from two weeks there where I attended the Worldcom Public Relations Group’s Annual Group Meeting in Madrid, conducted client planning sessions with our Barcelona-based partner and generally ate and drank my way through two dynamic cities. In the same fashion as the tasty small dishes known as tapas, here is a selection of small bites from the journey.

A Different Kind of Multinational

With 107 partner offices in 91 countries spanning six continents not to mention thousands of employees, and many, many millions of dollars of combined revenues, the Worldcom Public Relations Group stacks up very against the world’s largest public relations firms.  The Worldcom advantage, of course, is that clients receive best of breed service from leading agency minds in any given locale as opposed to having to accept less with other solutions.  It was great to see the combined strength of the organization on display at the meeting where we focused on further strengthening service across ever-changing geographical, geopolitical and cultural boundaries.

Like any thriving organization, Worldcom regularly evaluates the overall direction of the Group as well as each of the 100+ partners.  The discussion was a lively one over a three-day period with emerging regions such as China, and India rapidly becoming key growth areas for client programs that stretch across continents.  As McGrath/Power has extensive experience bringing client companies into the US from the Asia Pacific and EMEA regions, I was asked to participate in a panel discussion moderated by Worldcom’s EMEA Region Chair, Corinna Voss of Munich’s HBI, in which client service across borders was discussed.  Additionally, virtually every partner firm in attendance went through a Peer Review – a vigorous examination of business practices and client service delivery that enables high quality standards to be upheld.

Measuring That Quality

Accurate measurement of communications programs has always been a hot topic.  In the changing world of communications, the topic is white hot.  In Madrid, Worldcom partners discussed adopting the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles put forth by the Institute of Public Relations.  The seven-principle Declaration encompasses traditional and social media, eliminates outdated measurement methods such as ad equivalency, places outcomes above opposed to outputs and focuses on business impact (just as we do at McGrath/Power).  Our agency fully supports this Group-wide move to the Barcelona Declaration.

Being In Barcelona

We moved on to Barcelona from Madrid to spend time with our partner there, LF Channel, and its founder Imma Folch-Lazaro as we look to bring them on board for a global client program.  We had some great discussions on the state of communications in Spain with a backdrop of student protests against government corruption and the general status quo.  It was interesting to get a local perspective on these protests and compare it to the CNN view of things pumped into our hotel room.  CNN played both the big protest in Madrid (in which hundreds of people in their 20’s were camping out for days/weeks in a public square) and the smaller one in Barcelona as the Spanish version of the “Arab Spring” uprisings.  In contrast, the local resident feedback was much different.  “Too idealistic with nothing likely to happen,” said our Worldcom partner.  More blunt was the manager of the high end sushi restaurant, Parco, who told me that “the same people who are protesting are also my customers; they live off their parents and really don’t want a job.”  After dropping triple digits at Parco myself and watching many trays of high end fish being served to others, those 20-somethings must have some well-to-do parents!

And, Finally…

My friends would fall over if I didn’t comment a bit further on Spain’s food and wine scene.  In a word: fantastic.  I am now a huge tapas fan – baby octopus sautéed in garlic, deep fried sardines, ham on just about anything – and the wines pair perfectly.  While everybody raves about the reds (and there were some very good ones), I was more taken with the whites.  Coming home after living on the crisp, fruity and light whites that went with everything, I almost had to take a knife and fork to a glass of Rombauer Chardonnay that seemed fat, clumsy and over-oaked in comparison.

–Jonathan Bloom

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