If you attend one comms event this summer, make it #FutureComms14

FutureComms14

A really good conference for communicators takes place in London next month, and plans are well advanced for a day of valuable professional development, strongly focused on the question “What’s the future of communications?”and how to address it:

The disciplines of PR, marketing, social media and digital are converging and evolving at a breathless pace. Modern marketing communications is real-time, multimedia and multichannel. The challenge we face is to learn new skills, master new technologies, while maintaining focus on the key business goals of reputation and performance.

FutureComms14, organized by MyNewsDesk UK, takes place on Wednesday June 18 at The Crystal in London’s Docklands. The themes for the day that underpin the agenda are pretty compelling:

  • Where is PR, communications and social media heading?
  • What does your brand need to do to adapt?
  • Content marketing versus the Big Idea
  • Do brands need to think like media companies?
  • How can brands tell more compelling stories?
  • Which skills, technologies and platforms are critical for success?
  • How can we measure more smartly?

And the speakers who include three stand-outs for me:

  • Deirdre Breakenridge, who delivers the opening keynote on the future of communications (she expands her thinking on this topic in a post yesterday on the MyNewsDesk blog). The author of five business books, Deirdre is an influential voice in US communication circles, and a frequent speaker on PR, marketing, and social media communications. I’m really looking forward to meeting her next month.
  • Robert Phillips, ex-EMEA CEO of Edelman, and the author of “Trust Me, PR Is Dead,” a forthcoming book that’s already prompted some debate. Can’t wait to see Robert in action at this PR event!
  • Tom Foremski, ex-FT journalist and founder of Silicon Valley Watcher,  who famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) proclaimed “Die, press release, die! Die! Die!” back in 2006 – could this futuristic call finally be answered eight years on? – and advocated in 2009 that every company is (or should be) a media company. Is that a viable call today?

Just three in an eclectic speaker roster that also features Daniel Dodd, Director of Communications and Content at the National Trust; Betony Kelly, Head of Digital Outreach for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills; Danny Whatmough, Associate Digital and Social Media Director at Ketchum; Paul Sutton, Head of Social Communications at PR and content agency BOTTLE; Vikki Morgan, Head of Social at TMW agency; and many more. I’m also speaking (and working with MyNewsDesk on event development).

If I look at the conference and event landscape for communicators during the summer and into early autumn, FutureComms14 is the attention grabber. So if you’re looking for a good investment for your time and your money, this is the one.

Book your ticket early to be sure of a place. And if you book before May 18, there’s a discounted early bird rate.

Check the hashtag #FutureComms14 for the latest conversation. And connect with those on the FutureComms14 Twitter list created by Paul Sutton.

See you in London on June 18!

FIR Interview: Therese Manus and Stine Jarmund, Norwegian Communication Association

#komdagen selfieAttracting record attendance to an annual conference is no small feat, but is one achieved by The Norwegian Communication Association (NCA) which saw the highest number of its members take part in Communications Day, its annual conference in Oslo at the end of March.

What attracted 600 NCA members to take part in Communications Day 2014 is one of the topics discussed when FIR co-host Neville Hobson – who was an invited keynote speaker at the event – sat down with Therese Manus, managing director, and Stine Jarmund, training and events adviser, of the NCA to talk about the communication landscape in Norway.

The conversation addressed hot topics that concern communicators and professional associations everywhere – professionalism, for example, ongoing education and training, transparency and trust – that are issues that the NCA is also debating and discussing with its stakeholders in Norway, and on the broader international stage via its affiliation with the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.

The final part of the discussion looked to the future of communication – the theme of this year’s Communication Day conference – and the profession, and what that might look like in Norway during the next five years.

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About our Conversation Partners

Therese ManusTherese Manus is the Managing Director of The Norwegian Communication Association. She has previously worked as Head of Section at the National Library of Norway, Communications Advisor at Energy Norway and Journalist and Editor at Budstikka Media.

Therese has a Master of Management module in PR Management and Strategic Communication from BI Norwegian Business School, a Bachelor’s degree in Media Studies from the University of Westminster, and has several subjects from the University of Oslo.

Stine JarmundStine Jarmund is an Advisor for training programs and conferences at The Norwegian Communication Association. Stine has previously worked as a Consultant for SHL Norway and as an Advisor for JCK Communication.

Stine has a Master’s degree in Social Sciences with a specialization in psychology from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and a Master of Management module in PR Management and Strategic Communication from BI Norwegian Business School.

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This FIR Interview is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years. Information: www.ragan.com.

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(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Redefining today’s communicator in Norway

Communications Day 2014When I look at the landscape of the communication profession around Europe, I see similar issues that concern communicators, most notably how strategic are communicators (and the profession itself), abiding by codes of conduct and practicing ethical behaviour, and being professional.

It’s a topic in the front of my mind as I finalise plans for a keynote presentation to the members of the Norwegian Communications Association on March 27.

The devil’s in the detail, of course, and what’s hot in one country isn’t necessarily at the same temperature in another.

In the UK, for instance, a current strong focus is on professionalism following the findings published by the CIPR last month in its ‘state of the profession’ survey and a clear call to action by CIPR President Stephen Waddington who asked, “How serious are PR practitioners about putting their ambition to be considered a professional into practice?”

I do wonder at times how serious people really are: behaviours people say they want to emulate too often don’t match what I see people do.

Actually, I think this is a very hot issue everywhere even if many individuals may not realise it is. You only have to read the Edelman Trust Barometer 2014 – the results of a survey of 33,000 people in 27 countries – to get a sense of why it’s hot.

So while professional associations like the CIPR and the Norwegian Communications Association look at the big picture and ways to galvanize action among its members, I’m focused on what individuals can and must do to be professional, whatever their role in organizational communication and whatever their level in their organizations.

On March 27, I’ll be in Norway at Communications Day 2014 (or, rather, Kommunikasjonsdagen 2014 – hashtag #komdagen) to deliver a keynote presentation that I’ve titled “Redefining Today’s Communicator.”

From the description on the event website:

Today’s communicator must, as never before, have clear vision and understanding of how communication and the communicator are key strategic assets that support measurable business objectives. Today’s communicator has a key role to play in the rapidly-changing landscape that embraces organization change, behavioral change and technology change; and the online world where the three intersect.

In an age where anyone can claim to be a communicator in business, Neville Hobson will illustrate what professional communicators must do to prove their relevance and context in what they do for their employers and clients.

A pretty broad brush, but I intend to speak to that big topic of professionalism and present some ideas on what we all need to do. I want it to be a relevant piece of the jigsaw, the whole of which will be revealed by presentations from others on the day – Michael Murphy, for instance, talking about the challenges, disruptive influences and opportunities which are shaping the communications functions of the future; and Sigbjørn Aanes, State Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, talking about “communication, sausages and politics” (can’t wait to hear that one!).

The organizers tell me that over 520 communicators will be there on March 27 – a really great representation of the communication profession in Norway.

There’s still time and space to sign up if you haven’t yet. And right below is a bit more information – an ad that was published in a Norwegian magazine last month.

Looking forward to being part of your day!

 Kommunikasjonsdagen 2014

Can marketing become an enabler for genuine engagement?

Social in the Enterprise Today

A key underlying theme of the Social@Scale Summit in London last week was what I might call “social marketing” – the use of social media as a means unto achieving a marketing end.

Organized by Sprinklr, an enterprise social media management system vendor, the by-invitation-only Social@Scale Summit on December 10 was hosted by Microsoft and attracted some 70+ participants by my estimation. Sprinklr said it was their first such event outside the US.

What is ‘social at scale’? Sprinklr defines it thus:

Combining cutting-edge technology, corporate governance and a disciplined operational framework, social at scale enables brands to engage in a timely and relevant manner with their global audience from a single platform across multiple corporate functions and multiple social channels.

We heard from Microsoft, Dell, Intel and Medidata Solutions with case studies and presentations as well as from Spring Creek Group and Sprinklr, And there was a lively panel discussion on social media marketing campaign management best practices.

You can get a very good sense of the day from the tweets, images and other content that connected conversations via the #SocialAtScale hashtag, as this Storify timeline illustrates.

On answering the big question – can social scale? – the presentation by Georgina Lewis at Microsoft in particular showed that, yes, you really can when you align the planets, as it were, to create a framework and organization environment to enable it to happen, as suggested in the modern marketing manifesto by eConsultancy (a good model).

Foundational aspects of social business, it seems to me.

The panel discussion on social media marketing campaign management best illustrated a dilemma that confronts marketers when they talk about social media in the context of marketing.

While not everyone agreed on the role and how social media is used in the marketing mix, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind on the overall purpose of marketing that, very broadly speaking, is about delighting the customer. Or, as Wikipedia drily has it, “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.” (I couldn’t find a definition of marketing  on the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s website.)

And here’s the dilemma – what if  ‘the customer’ is no longer interested in being delighted in your  brand? And if marketers don’t see that shift in attitude – or just don’t believe it – and continue pumping out messaging in the brochure-speak ways of yore that the customer continues to lose faith, belief and trust in, and lacks desire in listening any more? Worse, if the pumping now also takes place across social channels, sometimes masquerading as ‘engagement’?

And worse still, the customer listens to others in his or her trusted peer group for messages about you and your brand, rather than listen to you, and makes recommendation and purchasing decisions based on that engagement activity?

If that’s the situation, then no amount  of ‘social at scale’ will make any difference to changing customer attitudes or behaviours. If anything, the picture will get uglier.

I tossed this damp squib into the discussion by mentioning the 2013 Meaningful Brands study from French marketing and communications group Havas, published in June 2013.

The underlying finding from the firm’s study is bleak and stark:

[...] Most people worldwide would not care if more than 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow.

Think about all the money spent globally on marketing, communication and public relations. Then think that for more than 73% of the companies who are spending it, their brands wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared entirely.

Only one in five brands are perceived as making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

We see a wide difference in attachment among markets with a strong polarisation between developed and developing markets. In Europe and the US, people would not care if 92% of brands disappeared. In Latam it’s 58% and in Asia it’s 49%. In Latam and Asia people are attached six times more to brands than Western markets.

Expectations in the West are largely unmet, fueling growing lack of trust and indifference towards brands.

And also see what 20- to 25-year-old university graduates in Europe – all studying communication-related subjects – think about marketing and marcomms in a survey earlier this year.

When I wrote about Havas’ study, I mentioned three foundational steps marketers can take to convert customer indifference into curiosity and interest:

  1. Think and act more like people.
  2. It’s about other people; it’s not about you.
  3. Be honest, open, genuine and imperfect, like everyone else (aspires to be). No one is perfect.

Simple, I know – but I saw much of that on display in London last week.

As Brian Solis would say, though, social channels do not represent a means, they are enablers for engagement across every aspect of the business.

That’s the mindset required in much more than just a handful of large companies (Richard Stacy, one of the panellists in Social@Scale, has a clear message for marketers: understand and respect the difference).

Who’s going to knit it all together?

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Twitter on the launchpad #TWTR

We just priced our IPO...

Today, Twitter is on the cusp of becoming a publicly-listed company with an initial equity valuation of $18 billion, according to some analysis.

At 9.30am US Eastern time, 2.30pm GMT, the sound of the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange will mark the moment when shares in Twitter – at an initial offer price of $26 each and identified by the NYSE symbol TWTR – will become listed on the Exchange and public trading will begin.

It’s worth looking at what it is about the microblogging service (how quaint that moniker now sounds) that makes it, arguably, one of the most valuable tools for communication professionals and marketers, politicians and celebrities – in reality, just about anyone with a Twitter handle – to engage influencers and customers, broadcast news, manage reputations, and drive communication and marketing for individuals, causes and organizations of every type imaginable, in every country in the world.

You can acquaint yourself with today’s Twitter by checking the facts and figures on the company’s new ‘About‘ pages, redesigned and updated this week as the IPO nears.

About Twitter

You can also check any of the myriad online publications, from mainstream media to informed (even just opinionated) bloggers, all with commentary and opinion about any and every facet of Twitter and a business event that undoubtedly will capture imaginations globally from the sound of that bell ringing in New York City.

An article that caught my eye this morning is How Twitter changed the world, hashtag-by-hashtag by BBC News that assesses Twitter’s history, growth and other compelling metrics in a highly-readable timeline form.

Hashtag debut

The specific section on the history of the hashtag is especially interesting as it will give you insight into a tool that rapidly has become highly useful for connecting and measuring conversations, etc, on Twitter, that will help you see why this little symbol (#) is so significant today.

Some quotes from that history (with some added hashtags):

  • Hashtags are now the definitive way to group tweets on the same subject.
  • Hashtags can be a remarkably effective way of making a company change its policy. Whether it’s getting rid of offensive t-shirts, or forcing “gay best friend” dolls to be removed, there’s no faster way for consumers to well and truly kick off.
  • Twitter has cemented itself as a digital soapbox, and a place for #politicians to engage directly with people, making major announcements along the way. It is arguably one of the most effective campaign tools – particularly in reaching voters that are unlikely to pay attention to a party political broadcast.
  • #Newsrooms the world over have taken to social media, using it as both a source, but also a broadcast platform. Newsrooms are awash with positions that simply didn’t exist five years ago. The real challenge, of course, is to make sure what is tweeted is in fact true – and news organisations don’t always get it right.
  • In the English Premier League (#EPL), all 20 clubs are now on Twitter, with more than half of all first-team players having verified accounts. It means that fans are closer than ever to their heroes.
  • #Celebrities on Twitter are huge, and can perhaps be credited with bringing a more mainstream audience to the service.
  • During the uprisings in #Egypt, Twitter was a key channel for protesters to disseminate material, and to also organise gatherings.
  • Television executives the world over are implementing ways to make the most of the #secondscreen – your mobile or tablet – while watching their content. Often this is being seen as a way to fling more adverts at you.

Mainstream activities for something definitely not mainstream just a few years ago.

The #businessmodel has shifted. #TWTR.

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Exuberance, imagination and style on display at #somecomms Awards

Award winners!

If I’d been a keen fan of Arsenal football club, I’d have been in seventh heaven last Thursday evening.

I was at the Emirates stadium – Arsenal’s home in north London – for the huge shindig that was the UK Social Media Communications Awards 2013. It was an event that attracted not far off 300 people who mixed, matched, dined, congratulated and partied the evening away in one of the most enjoyable and well organized events I’ve taken part in in a very long time.

A different seventh heaven!

The UK Social Media Communications Awards is an annual programme of recognition, founded four years ago by Andy and Nicky Wake of Don’t Panic Projects. This was the first time it’s been held in London, having previously been a Manchester affair.

The purpose of the awards dinner and ceremony is clear:

This evening, we’re celebrating the very best in social media communications and recognising the individuals, companies and organisations that are transforming the use of online to communicate in fresh and innovative ways.

As one of the awards judges, I can attest to those sentiments. There is much imagination and creativity alive and flourishing in the UK digital communication space as evidenced by the nineteen award-winners:

  • Best Use of Twitter: Defra – News and External Communications Team, Defra
  • Best Use of Facebook: NHS Blood and Transplant – 100,000 donors in 100 days
  • Best Use of YouTube: NHS Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit – Hand Washing Gangnam Style
  • Best Business Blog: TopLine Communications – B2B PR Blog
  • Best Community Engagement: We Are Social – Heinz: Grow Your Own
  • Best Use of Social Media to Research and Evaluate: MEC – Next Generation Social Insight Initiative
  • Best Use of Social Media in a Crisis: O2 – O2 Network Outage
  • Innovation: Greater Manchester Police – ‘GMPolice’ Smartphone app
  • Low Budget Campaign: The University of Nottingham – A Fresh Start
  • Public Sector: East Sussex County Council and Cobb PR – Go e-Sussex
  • Best Viral Campaign: Manning Gottlieb OMD – Should’ve gone to Specsavers & the ball boy
  • Charity / Not For Profit: Cancer Research UK – Research Kills Cancer campaign
  • Best Social Media Campaign: Hope&Glory – Meantime’s True Brew of London (AKA: Hops in a Box)
  • Mark Hanson Award: Joanna Halton – McCann Manchester
  • Best in House Team: MTV Marketing Department
  • Best Small Agency: Hope&Glory
  • Best Large Agency: We Are Social
  • Grand Prix Award: NHS Blood and Transplant – 100,000 donors in 100 days
  • Outstanding Contribution to Social Media: Stuart Bruce

The razzmatazz as each award was presented was terrific (each time I presented one, I was sorely tempted to say, “And the BAFTA goes to…”). While we wait for the professional photos to be available (check the awards website for news on that - the photos are up on Flickr, 170 of them: UK Social Media Communications Awards 2013), I think this collection of pics I took with my Galaxy S4′s excellent camera do convey a good sense of that razzmatazz.

(If you don’t see the slideshow embedded above, view the photos at Flickr.)

There’s more razzmatazz in some very cool pics by many of the participants themselves enabled by headline sponsor UKFast via the Pictures are Power photo booth.

Imaginations writ large!

There’s still more – check this Storify curation of tweets, photos and other content expertly assembled by Gabrielle Laine-Peters:

I was thrilled that my good friend Bryan Person and his wife, Stella, could be there while they’re over here on a visit from Texas. Thanks to Andy Wake for enabling Bryan to be part of things, even presenting an award.

So a great evening, expertly organized and leaving you with a sense of great pleasure for not only having had a good time, but also from experiencing the exuberance, confidence and sheer enjoyment of everyone there, award winners and participants alike.

Great work by the Don’t Panic team, led by Andy in particular. I first met Nicky and Andy in Sunderland in 2005 in those early days of social media when it was all about blogging. Indeed, it was Nicky’s and Andy’s early days with Don’t Panic.

Since then, they’ve come a long way on a successful journey. Well done, all!

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