The art of the business tweet

Wednesday

A question I used to hear a lot from people in business is “How do I tweet?” Today, that question has evolved into “How do I tweet effectively for my business?”

The response is quite a bit deeper than answering the question purely in terms of writing out a text in 140 characters or less and hitting ‘tweet.’ Participating on Twitter is as much about listening to what people are saying as it it about adding your tweet to the conversation. Twitter itself has some great how-tos and tutorials.

It’s also about what to say and when to say it, two topics that are the focus of a neat video that Twitter has just published. Simple in its concept and execution, this video is one of the best I’ve seen that will give you a good and clear sense of some simple steps you can follow that will give you confidence in using Twitter effectively in your business communication.

The video will help you understand these five key points:

  1. Make a plan: what’s your goal and how will you measure its success?
  2. Be clear on who your primary audience is: in this case, your customers.
  3. Create a calendar: decide what you’ll tweet on which day.
  4. Think about what you’ll tweet: is the content relevant to your audience?
  5. When people in your community respond or ask questions, make sure you reply.

And the best advice of all:

How you tweet and how you respond to your followers matter as much as face-to-face interaction. So be friendly, be helpful and be yourself.

Using Twitter effectively in business may not be a science. But it is an art.

Would you be happier without Facebook?

99 Days of Freedom

If you were not happy – outraged, even – with how Facebook behaved over the mood experiment they conducted last month, an experiment from a Dutch creative agency might be right up your street.

What Facebook did was manipulate information posted on nearly 700,000 users’ home pages that showed that the social network could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of emotional contagion.

Now Dutch creative agency Just has come up with 99 Days of Freedom, a call to action for Facebook users to demonstrate their disapproval of Facebook by switching off from the social network for 99 days.

[...It] asks users to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness. The initiative’s website, 99daysoffreedom.com, provides a set of simple user instructions, which include posting a “time-off” image as a profile picture and starting a personalized, 99-day countdown clock. From there, participants are asked to complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66 and 99-day marks, with results posted to the initiative’s website as they’re compiled. The initiative will also host a message board through which participants can post anonymous accounts of how an extended break from Facebook is impacting their lives.

It’s a kind of mood experiment in reverse.

It’s also a cool initiative that gets Just a lot of attention for its imagination and creativity, as well as for the initiative itself. If it gets traction, it could focus considerable public attention on broad issues of online behaviours, manipulation of those behaviours by social networks, what companies do with our personal information, how we spend time online, etc – all hot topics today and great ones for ongoing public debate and discussion.

In its press release announcing 99 Days of Freedom, Just also talks about the amount of time people spend on Facebook:

[...] According to Facebook, its 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes per day on the site, reading updates, following links or browsing photos. Over a three-month period, that adds up to more than 28 hours which, the initiative’s creators contend, could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities – learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.

The subjective conclusion will appeal to many users, to be sure. My view is that many other users will be quite comfortable from an emotionally-fulfilling perspective – or any other one – with spending 28 hours on Facebook during any three-month period.

You could apply the same argument to Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… Horses for courses.

Still, 99 Days of Freedom is an interesting experiment and it will be equally interesting to see how it goes, how many people sign up to do it – 16,748 when I looked at the website just now – and what conclusions arise at the end of each person’s 99 days. I’d love to see a brand try it!

Give it a go?

Enjoy life!

 

The only way is ethics #PRethics

The debate in Committee Room No 10 / pic by Kate Matlock

Committee Room number 10 in the House of Commons in London was the setting in the evening of July 7 for a vibrant debate on a big topic, formally titled “Wearable technology is an ethical nightmare for the communications, marketing and PR professions.”

Organized by The Debating Group and sponsored by the CIPR, the motion was proposed by Stephen Davies and seconded by me; and opposed by Stephen Waddington and seconded by Claire Walker.

About 100 people formed the audience, many of whom contributed opinion and running commentary on Twitter as each of the four speakers made their cases for the motion and against it. Once the formal addresses had been made, debate chair Alastair McCapra opened the debate to the floor where 18 people offered their perspectives to the debate.

It was a most interesting few hours. Opinion during the motions seemed pretty evenly divided, which seems to me to be fairly reflected in the commentary on Twitter. But when it came to the moment of voting, we were firmly defeated – 55 votes against the motion with only 28 for it.

Yet those stark numbers hide one reality, which is that it’s clear to me that this topic is not as black and white as it seems, offering only agreement or disagreement as your options. It is phenomenally nuanced, with so many shades of grey, and where almost everything you might say needing to start with “It depends.”

It’s also clear that the two opposing sides to the motion were far closer in thinking and belief than it may seem. Closer in the view that the topic is largely about people’s behaviours rather than about the wearable tech – meaning, what the tech enables people to do and so what they do or don’t do with it – and largely about providing codes of conduct that would be the roadmap for PR practitioners’ behaviour in how they use wearable tech.

I wholly support that idea although I’m far less optimistic that PR practitioners will simply abide by a code of conduct and not do bad things. If some PRs can’t get even the basics right, why should I have confidence that they can be trusted to do the right thing on their own with something far more important? Having a code is great, but it needs by-example leadership and professional behaviour to make it work at all.

Hence the “it depends” idea where I firmly believe that there won’t be an ethical nightmare as long as we – the profession, consultancies and clients, and individuals – take firm and clear steps to make the landscape anything but an ethical nightmare. We must do this, actively and proactively, collectively and individually.

Unlike my fellow speakers in the debate, I didn’t make a prepared speech. Instead, I prepared talking points from which I highlighted my perspectives to support Stephen. For the purpose of this narrative, let me highlight the bottom line of my argument:

Is there (or will there be) an ethical nightmare for PR, marketing and communication professionals?

I have 3 answers…

Yes, if…

1. Yes, if we do nothing to raise awareness and educate our publics on the SWOT of wearable tech.

2. Yes, if we fail to recognize the critical importance of the trust consumers place in our clients, in our employers and in governments that their behaviours are ethical.

3. Yes, if we fail to take advantage of the opportunities to advance our profession at the vanguard of understanding the ethics, scope and scale surrounding the enabling technologies that are before us, and what they will do – and do not – for our clients, our employers, consumers and businesses, and society at large.

Will we do this?

You tell me.

And here’s the argument in detail by the lead debaters:

My complete notes on Scribd:

I’ve seen some great reports and commentary about the debate, notably:

And of course, the curation of all the tweets, etc, in Storify by Gabrielle Laine-Peters:

And finally, credit where credit’s due – hard to resist a pun on the word ‘ethics’ as I use in my headline above. “The only way is ethics” is a play on “The only way is Essex,” a popular (?) reality TV show in the UK. So, full credit to Wadds for first use in the debate!

Brand management is the new marketing

Procter & Gamble

AdAge reports on the disappearance of the word ‘marketing’ from job titles at Procter & Gamble as the world’s biggest advertiser – $9.7 billion ad spend in 2013 – and owner of some of the world’s most recognizable and valuable brands restructures its marketing organization:

[...] Brand Management at P&G now encompasses four functions — including, of course, brand management (formerly known as marketing), consumer and marketing knowledge (a.k.a. market research), communications (known as public relations at some companies and up until a couple of years ago as external relations at P&G), and design (known as design pretty much everywhere, except where it’s called visual brand identity and such).

[...] The marketing director title has existed at P&G since 1993, when the company did away with the more linguistically restrictive “advertising manager” title in a world that clearly was moving beyond advertising as the only way to build brands.

The change gives the new Brand Management function “single-point responsibility for the strategies, plans and results for the brands,” says AdAge.

AdAge: It’s the End of ‘Marketing’ As We Know It at Procter & Gamble.

PR spam on an industrial scale

Spamalot

When done well, PR pitching can be almost an art form.

If your pitch meets the criteria of the recipient of your outreach, its likely your message will be well received and may even produce the action you are aiming for.

The opposite is also true when a pitch is as thoughtless in its creation as it is mindless in its execution. You know the kind of thing I mean, email pitches in particular.

What if such pitching were to be automated, where the targets of your pitch weren’t individually assessed to see if each were the “right” target for your message (and for your client or employer)?

Instead, what if you created a hit list of thousands of email addresses and hit them up with automated email pitches on the basis that if you hit a large enough quantity, a small but sufficient enough number will respond to make your effort worthwhile.

Sound familiar?

That’s what PR Hacker is doing in the US, according to a report in The Holmes Report quoting PR Hacker founder Ben Kaplan describing the business approach from his previous experiences in book promotion that he’s bringing to his PR firm:

[...] His model relies on A/B testing and 1% conversions from massive media blasts to generate lots [of] media coverage quickly for clients – without the status reports, weekly update calls and other administrative overhead of traditional agencies.

Here’s how that works. The PR Hacker team blasts pitches to a database of 7,000 tech media and expects a 1% conversion to land its client, at least, 70 hits. Kaplan also keeps databases on money/business media and relationship/romance media that each have upwards of 5,000 contacts – so a multi-vertical pitch, by his estimates, should yield close to 200 hits assuming the minimum 1% conversion. To keep the pitches from seeming too much like spam, he personalizes various fields within each pitch.

“We A/B test our pitches on the lower tier guys first,” he explains. “Then we go to the top-tier with what’s been tested…And a great story will trump all. So rather than focusing too much on personalizing, we focus on getting the story right.”

Looks to me like an approach to spam on an industrial scale. At least, a “by the numbers” game.

Is this what this element of public relations practice will become? A percentage return on a massive database-blast investment? It doesn’t look like it will fit well with professional standards of behaviour defined by the PR establishment, not in the UK at least.

Yet Kaplan’s approach is clearly outside such standards – perhaps the clue is in the name of his firm – and goodness knows some poor PR behaviour may benefit from a shake-up that Kaplan could well be responsible for.

In any case, get your email spam filters up-to-date.

[Picture at top by Coast to Coast Tickets who have lots of tickets for Monty Python Spamalot performances across the US this year. I thought the Spamalot metaphor works well for this post.]

Is wearable technology an ethical nightmare for PR?

The Borg

Amongst the buzz and hype surrounding Google Glass, health and fitness monitoring wristbands, smart watches, implantable devices, talking cars  and the rest of the burgeoning field labelled ‘wearable technology,’ an important aspect is largely overlooked if not ignored.

That aspect embraces multiple issues, from privacy of personal or confidential information to ethical behaviours we expect from companies and brands who may use wearable technology in their marketing, communication and other activities that let them reach out to consumers and employees.

It seems to me that, too often, we’re overlooking a key point that technology, wearable or otherwise, is about what people do or not do, not the shiny new objects themselves.

So I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss such concerns as part of a debate that will take place in London next month at the House of Commons, organized by the CIPR:

On the evening of Monday 7 July in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons, the CIPR will be hosting a Debating Group event to debate the motion ‘Wearable Technology is an ethical nightmare for the communications, marketing and PR professions’.

Chair: Lord Clement-Jones

Proposing the motion: Stephen Davies, Founder, Substantial Digital Health

Seconding the motion: Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com

Opposing the motion: Stephen Waddington MCIPR, CIPR President, Digital and Social Media Director at Ketchum Europe

Seconding: Claire Walker FCIPR, Chief Executive, Firefly Communications

This a red-hot topic, in my view, one that’s swimming with “It depends…” elements, and one that we must debate and get on the attention agenda of public relations practitioners.

The debate is free to attend but you must request an invitation. Details on how to do that are on the CIPR’s event page.

Hashtag: #CIPRdebate.