Pass the Mic Blog

Strategic Communications for a Changing World

Archive for December, 2011

The Realization of Being Mobile

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

December 15th, 2011

My phone recently called it quits on me. While it may not have been the end of the world, it was the end of my mobile world; for a week at least. After the tech specialists deemed my phone unfixable, I had to get a new one. Lucky for me, I had insurance. Unlucky for me, my phone model was no longer sold in stores and a replacement had to be ordered. ETA: One week.

While this was quite an inconvenience to live through, it was also an eye opener to see how much one person relies on that little electronic we toss in our purse or tuck in our pocket. I was left without any form of mobile communication or information flow, and I quickly realized how much we rely on our smartphones to interact with people and the world around us. I also quickly realized how hard it is to find a payphone, but I digress.

When I say communicate, this not only includes voice calling, but extends to sending emails, posting on Facebook, shooting out text messages, checking in on Foursquare, browsing the web, Tweeting and more. While I was out and about, I had no idea what was going on and nobody knew where I was. I wasn’t able to call my mom from the road to tell her  I was on my way to visit and I couldn’t text my boyfriend to let him know I would pick up dinner. I couldn’t check my emails so I felt a little lost as to what was happening at work while I was away from my desk. I wasn’t able to login to Facebook, and as odd as it is, I missed a dinner invite from one of my girlfriends.  I couldn’t browse the internet for local news, traffic and weather updates, and I wasn’t able to “check-in” to my current location.

Earlier this year, Pew Research released a report on how mobile phones have become a near-ubiquitous tool for information seeking and communicating. The research revealed that 83 percent of American adults own some kind of mobile device. Text messaging and picture taking topped the list of ways that Americans use their mobile phones, shortly followed by content sharing and going online. A similar report from Current Results showed that people spent half the time on their smartphones to keep in touch with others through emails, text messages and phone calls.

The shift towards mobile in the way we communicate and consume information has had a direct impact on how professionals interact with each other and how businesses engage with consumers. People being mobile and constantly online have influenced when and where we can communicate with other professionals, whether they are colleagues, clients or journalists. We can answer urgent emails from the grocery store and take conference calls from the airport. I have even received text messages from a reporter about a meeting.  Moreover, news outlets themselves have begun publishing stories differently and creating apps so they are more reader friendly on the gadgets we view them on, thus creating a direct impact on the way information is packaged.  From a business perspective, there has been a shift toward mobile marketing because consumers are acquiring their content differently through mobile devices. This includes couponing, advertising, QR codes, app development and social media.

There is a lot of information online about mobility, smartphones and the way we communicate. I highly suggest that you check out this great roundup of infographics that shows just how big the world of mobile marketing and communications is, and how fast it is growing. You may be surprised to find that two hundred trillion text messages are received in America every day.

–Katie Peterson


What’s In A Label? The Pros, Cons Of Changing An Icon

Posted by Jon Bloom under Public Relations, Strategy, Trends

December 7th, 2011

Every holiday season, the iconic soda maker Coca-Cola issues the traditional holiday edition soda cans. This year was no different.

For this holiday season, Coca-Cola decided to create an attention-grabbing campaign by putting regular Coke in winter white cans with polar bears roaming the can. Coca-Cola has stated the design was in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund to highlight global warming’s threat to polar bears’ Arctic habitat. While the cause is commendable, the color change has left Coca-Cola out in the cold.

Historically, regular Coke has been packaged in the classic red can while Diet Coke has been packaged in the polar opposite silver can. Consumers have been conditioned to visually understand the difference between the red and silver cans without having to read the label. This holiday season, diabetics across the nation are seeing a spike in their blood sugar all because of a little fun with color.

The Coca-Cola faithful have taken to social media to express their displeasure with the holiday cans. The main issue at hand is how strikingly similar the holiday edition regular Coke and Diet Coke cans are. Since the uproar over the can color, Coca-Cola has decided to scrap the white holiday cans and quickly replace them on store shelves with red holiday edition cans as early as this week.

While changing an iconic label is not unheard of, there has to be a substantial reason behind the transformation. Let’s explore a few reasons:

You should change a label if:
> The business is growing – As a business evolves so does the consumers. The business needs to be able to adapt as it progresses to their consumers changing needs and perspectives.
> Product repositioning – Brands often need to realign or redirect company goals. In this case designing a new identity with a logo or color scheme change is an effective way to come across as modern and fresh.
> Your brand is outdated – Ever look at an old picture of a Campbell’s soup can? What if they never update the soup pictures or the layout of the label? They wouldn’t exist. If your label looks outdated, your brand probably is too. Labels need to transform with society.

You shouldn’t change a label if:
> Your brand is having an identity crisis – So your brand hasn’t caught on just yet, that is not a reason to up and change the color scheme or logo. Changing your brand’s identity too often can make the brand seem unstable.  Consumers like consistency.
> You want to create buzz – Changing your brand identity to create buzz, can have serious backlash. In the social media world, how a person expresses their pleasure or displeasure of a brand on social media channels has a trickledown effect.  Consumers’ are highly influenced by their peers and social media gives them a soapbox to stand on.
> Everyone else is doing it – Just because your competition is changing or altering their brand does not mean it is the best decision at the time for your brand. Have your own identity.

Brands evolve and change over time; they have to in order to stay relevant. But it is how the company executes the change that makes it a smooth transition or an epic fail. Could you imagine if one day, McDonald’s went from golden arches to green arches?

Do you have an example of how a brand successfully or unsuccessfully changed their logo? Share with us in the comments section below.

–Marta  Weissenborn


It Is A Small World After All!

Posted by Jon Bloom under Public Relations, Trends

December 1st, 2011

According to a new study, this holiday season people are closer connected than they have ever been before.  You may still have to travel hundreds of miles for grandma’s homemade holiday pies, but you may only be a short distance from Peru. I’m not suggesting a pseudo-universe by any means. However, the digital landscape has paved a better road for a different kind of distance—Degrees of Separation.

The famous Small World experiment by Stanley Milgram in the 1960’s coined the popular term “Six Degrees of Separation.” His attempt to quantify social networks by a range of distance between two people intrigued the general public. His findings showed that six links in a social network could connect any two people in the world. Although the research received criticism, his findings paved the way for a new consciousness in social networking.

For many people in my generation, the idea of social networking didn’t exist before the Internet and sites like MySpace and Facebook. What has social networking in the digital landscape done to change Milgram’s idea regarding degrees of separation? According to Facebook and the Università degli Studi di Milano, social media sites have built direct highways, helping to connect people with shorter travel time than we have ever seen in history. In fact, according to this new study, the average Facebook user is only 4.74 degrees away from any other Facebook user around the world, and possibly only 3 links away from another Facebooker in their home nation.

This is exciting news for those of us interested in communications, networking and Public Relations. Not only has the world gained another billion people since Stanley Milgram, but we’ve also lessened the degrees of separation! This means that all we have to do is connect to a friend on Facebook, who will connect us to someone else, who will connect us to whoever we want—and then we’re done, right? Err…not so fast.

For those of us in PR, we have learned about and applied the phenomenon of Social Media in the workplace and in our own personal lives—sometimes to the point of forgetting about RL (Real Life). We tend to neglect RL connections (remember your extended family and friends in Ohio?), RL communications (what’s that strange device hanging on the wall with numbers 0-9?) and even RL community (you mean people used to get linked via other methods than LinkedIn?).

Social networks have worked wonders by building bridges to connect people around the world with ease of use, speed and shortened degrees of separation, but what they gain in simplicity, they lack in sincerity and personalization. Although it’s easy to send a FB message or DM via Twitter to those media contacts, analysts, clients and customers, a call or face-to-face meeting remains the only way to build lasting memories and connections. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Remember that time we were DMing…OMG! Epic!” It may happen, but it’s rare. Far more often, we recall parties, events, mishaps and mayhem that took place on a personal level, with physical presence in time and space.

This holiday season reminds me that social networking and social media have helped our career by simplifying introductions and creating a landscape of casual interaction. I think we can all be thankful for that! However, as professionals in communication, we shouldn’t let it stop there. For the upcoming month and New Year, I plan to focus on using the tools technology has provided to find connections and build bridges between my social networks, but that’s just the journey. Once I’m there, I hope to build real connections and memories with the friends, colleagues and people who matter the most. My 2012 resolutions revolve around being a part of a wider community, building media, analyst, client and colleague relationships and growing them through RL efforts.

It may be a small world after all—growing smaller all the time. And travel time between connections will consistently shorten as technology grows. This time of year, however, I’m reminding myself that often I can take a quicker, simpler route to get from one place to another, but sometimes it’s the long holiday journey to Grandma’s for that homemade cherry pie that I remember most.

–Majhon Phillips