Pass the Mic Blog

Strategic Communications for a Changing World

Archive for January, 2012

SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act or Shortage Of Proficient Advocates?

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

January 31st, 2012

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) have been items of hot debate in the tech world this month. According to Christina DesMarais of PC World,  this may “possibly be the most contentious uproar seen on Capitol Hill and in the tech world ever.”

Originally, the bills provided a primary means of fighting online piracy. By forcing service providers to block infringing domain names, it would be more difficult to access file sharing hubs or other copyright violating websites. Furthermore, according to Jared Newman of PC World,  the bills would seek court orders “requiring payment providers, advertisers, and search engines to stop doing business with an infringing site.” Although this may hinder many online pirates from downloading with ease, it would also open the door to a new type of online censorship. Governmental control over Internet access could snowball into general censorship over opinion, content creation and social media. After public discovery of SOPA and PIPA, protests flooded many blog sites, Twitter, Facebook and news channels as technophiles around the world voiced their opinions. The uproar culminated into a 7,000-site blackout on January 18, 2012 and support from the Internet hacktivist group Anonymous.

What specifically caused the commotion and how it could have been handled differently? I believe that there were two core fallacies behind SOPA and PIPA that created a whirlwind of bad press. These fallacies could have been easily fixed by applying very basic PR principles.

Communication Failed From the Top Down
Those of us in PR know how quickly opinions can sour if communication is not handled in a professional way. SOPA and PIPA supporters were at a loss with communicative explanations for the bill and its intended purposes. Mel Watt (D) North Carolina, ranking member of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee stated that he was “not a nerd and didn’t understand a lot of the technological stuff.” This sentiment was soon followed by Zoe Lofgren (D) California, Darrell Issa (R) California and Jason Chaffetz (R) Utah, who all stated that they were not enough of a nerd to understand the issue. One step that could have helped mitigate the social upheaval would have been better communication with stakeholders. Obviously, congressional members had spoken with lobbyists from Hollywood’s powerhouses, but hadn’t discussed the issues with bloggers, online journalists or the technology industry at large. Worse yet, congress retaliated to the protests with public name-calling. The generalizations were astonishing. Apparently, all those in the technology industry, anyone who publishes online content, as well as general Internet end-users are, for all intensive purposes, “nerds.” Jon Stewart,  host of the Daily Show and news comedian, stated it perfectly when he responded, “Really? Nerds? You know, actually, I think the word you’re looking for is ‘experts.’” Communication is key. Communicating professionally, early and often could’ve alleviated this issue.

Research Didn’t Exist
Another PR101 lesson that would have helped the SOPA and PIPA bills would have been better understanding of the dialogue and audience. Had the congressmen understood the terminology in the bill and read the bill as a whole, they would have better grasped the consequences and the possible infringement on the 1st amendment it could cause. One of the first lessons learned in PR, either in school or on the job, you must understand what your client does. How can you represent your client if you don’t understand what they do? How can a congress represent the citizen-base if they don’t understand what we do? Lack of research and comprehension can be devastating in any field.

Through research, shared vision and communication SOPA and PIPA could have helped prevent the expansion of online piracy, along with protecting the rights of online content creators. According to Eugene Lee, the CEO of Socialtext, SOPA and PIPA identified and targeted the wrong side of the issue. Lee asks, “how would we solve the problem if it were analog? Would we shut down video stores if an independent film company made a movie that violated copyright? We need to start with a rational assessment of the problem and propose solutions that make sense for both the protection of copyright and the protection of innovation.”

With thorough communication around the issue and research backing the solution, PR basics (and a little common sense) can make problem solving more effective in any field.

—Majhon Phillips


The Super Bowl Goes For A Hashtag Hail-Mary

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

January 26th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, three teams will be gearing up for Super Bowl XLVI. You read correctly, three teams. Not only will the New York Giants and New England Patriots be battling it out at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, another team will take to a different field – the social media field.

This past Monday, the Super Bowl committee announced that the most watched sporting event will have the first-ever Social Media Command Center. In the lead up to the game, a local digital marketing firm will send a team of roughly 50 strategists, analysts and techies to monitor the digital fan conversation on various social media channels. The people in the command center include college journalism, public relations and telecommunications majors from Ball State University, Butler University and Indiana University and they will work out of a 2,800-square-foot space facility that utilizes over a mile of Ethernet cable.

You might be asking what are these people going to do all day? Troll around on social media channels? Essentially, yes. But there is very good reasoning behind this approach. This social media super team will monitor the Web for the 150,000+ football fanatics who will descend on Indianapolis for the game. The team will specifically be looking for key words and phrases to help the out-of-towners maneuver around Indy, providing directions, parking information, things-to-do around town provide alerts should an emergency arise.

The super team concept is pretty novel, if you ask me. Indianapolis is effectively utilizing the social media super team as virtual tour guides. With cash-strapped cities looking to lure visitors in order to jump-start local economies, this is a cost-effective tool that can be used for future events as well.  If well-executed, it could have a profound effect on the people attending the event and enhance their experience. The super team concept could very well catch on with other major sporting event such as the Olympics, World Cup, World Series, and NASCAR – all major events with significant online interactivity. The beauty of the super team concept is not limited to just sporting events as it could also be applied to big tradeshows such as the Consumer Electronic Show, or even multi-day music events like Coachella and Stage Coach.

Many of you may be shaking your head and saying sure, this is a great concept, but the mobile networks will get bogged down, fail to support the increased online traffic and kill the experience? Not so fast. Recent reports indicate Verizon and AT&T have spent millions of dollars to prepare their networks for the influx of data usage in the Indianapolis area. AT&T has also deployed nine COW’s  (Cell on Wheels)  which will boost high speed 3G and 4G LTE service to the surrounding area to help alleviate the added stress on the networks. The city of Indianapolis will most definitely benefit from these advances in the long run.

Sports fans are without a doubt that are the most rabid in social media posts as record-setting Tim Tebow tweets clock in at a solid 9,420 tweets per second  and last summer’s Women’s World Cup finals approached that with 7,196 tweets per second. The Super Bowl’s groundbreaking Social Media Command Center is more proof that people, especially sports fanatics, prefer to communicate via social media than any other outlet available today.

Do you see Social Media Command Centers catching on? What events do you see this concept being adapted for?

— Marta Weissenborn


M/P Welcomes Open Networking Foundation, Open Networking Summit, New Worldcom Partners

Posted by Jon Bloom under Clients, Public Relations, Tools

January 20th, 2012

We’ve been busy in the first 20 days of 2012 at McGrath/Power Public Relations!

We are proud to welcome the future of networking to our client base.  We have won two new clients critical to the next generation of this industry – the Open Networking Foundation and the Open Networking Summit.

The Open Networking Foundation was founded in 2011 by Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo!  ONF is rethinking networking and collaboratively bringing new standards and solutions to the market, including the highly topical OpenFlow. ONF is accelerating the delivery and use of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) standards and fostering a vibrant market of products, services, applications, customers, and users.

The 2nd Open Networking Summit is the premier official /Software Defined Networking event of the year.  The two-day Summit will highlight the latest SDN developments and bring all stakeholders from the networking and cloud computing industries into an intimate, focused and high-energy setting.

M/P won these two related, yet separate networking entities based on the agency’s work in the SDN market on behalf of other clients including IP Infusion and ConteXtream along with an extensive list of event and association clients including Digital Living Home Alliance (DLNA) and The Video Electronics Standards Associations (VESA).

We are also proud to welcome two new partners to the Worldcom Public Relations Group family.

Com&Sense is based in Tel Aviv, Israel and focused on finances, law, publishing and B2B. We are excited about this new partner as many of our technology clients are beginning to market in Israel and Com&Sense will allow us to extend our programs into this region.

Oxenstierna & Partners is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden and specializes in B2B and investor relations.
Both of these agencies demonstrate the global reach and strength of the Worldcom partnership.

–Jonathan Bloom


Think CES Works For Your PR Program? Why?

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

January 12th, 2012

I’ll bet you one of my children that numerous exhibitors at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show are standing in their booths today asking “why?”

“Why am I here?”

“Why did we think this show would be a good vehicle to announce news?”

“Why are we not getting any attention?”

“Why should I do this again?

To the last query, I would answer: You shouldn’t.

While I think CES is a fun show to wander, I am not a fan of CES to communicate company news.  In fact, I am not much of a fan of any large-scale trade show as a place to be heard at any level.

Yes, we have clients attending the show and, yes, we are communicating on their behalf before and during CES.  But it wasn’t our first choice.

And it shouldn’t be yours.

Literally hundreds of companies thought issuing news and doing some level of promotional activities at CES would pay dividends.  The majority of them wasted their time, energy and budget because they believe that they will be rise above the boisterous conversations at this industry event.  Sure, it would be nice to capture the industry attention while everybody is in one place but that is a dream for the vast majority of companies that flock like lemmings to Las Vegas.

The days of the tradeshow are numbered in my opinion and I am not alone.  Apple long ago pulled out of CES and Microsoft announced plans this year that the 2012 CES would be its last.  Hey, I am not dogging CES alone.  I’ve been attending trade shows for nearly 30 years and we have represented several events including a five-year run with the RSA Conference and this year’s forthcoming Open Networking Summit.  Industry events have a definite place in the landscape.  For certain (read: large) companies, they can be effective as communications’ vehicles.  For the majority, however, not so much.

Back in the day, major shows like CES and Comdex were “must drop” events, meaning every company no matter what size or how important would drop news at the show.  Period.  Also back in the day, we did some pretty wild things to break through the growing clutter at shows including conducting an actual funeral for a product that competed with a client’s offering.  As recently as last year, we did sky writing over an Apple industry conference.  Both were effective but for different reasons.

The funeral was a hit because we broke the rules and created a stir on the show floor.  ‘Nuff said on that.  The sky writing was a huge success because it was in the physical world outside the show and the event was concentrated on a single venue.  Venue “creep” ultimately helped doom Comdex and it makes it hard to break through the noise.  Noise and size doom attention seeking small and mid-size companies.

When it comes to maximizing communications activities at shows, we counsel clients to view them strategically:

> Don’t use a show to communicate long-form information – you will only get brief attention spans from influencers and you run the risk of not being heard.
> Don’t make the show your focal point.  Think of it as the period at the end of a sentence.
> Plan to get heard by influencers or other target audiences in advance of a show.
> Use that advance buzz to attract your audience during the event.
> Consider a two-pronged news approach in which the primary announcement drops 2-4 weeks in advance and a follow up “show announcement” reiterates the key points in a show wrapper
> Consider using social media as a means to connect with show attendees on site and build further buzz onsite – but don’t rely on at-show social as the primary vehicle for the same attention span challenges mentioned previously.
> Only undertake a creative attention-getting if it is actually creative and actually capable of gaining attention (most aren’t).

Of course, if you have a highly recognizable brand with a highly newsworthy announcement, a show like CES can be an effective part of your marketing mix.  Few companies can claim that mantle and many of them are unfortunately left asking “why?” long after the event has concluded.

–Jonathan Bloom