Archive for September, 2012

A Warm Welcome to Victoria Shaw, New SHIFT VP in San Francisco

This week marks the start of a new chapter in SHIFT’s San Francisco office.  On Monday we welcomed a new VP to the fold, Victoria Shaw, who joins us with more than 14 years of integrated communications and marketing experience, working with organizations of all sizes – from startups through Fortune 500 companies.

VbsVictoria’s career highlights include a stint as Director of Interactive Marketing at New Line Cinema in Los Angeles, where she oversaw full-scale interactive campaigns for films including the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Rush Hour and Austin Powers franchises. (Should I just stop there?  Are you already impressed and jealous?  So cool.  “Yea, baby.”)

Victoria has also served as vice president of integrated PR at AMP Agency in Boston and as director of client services at Schematic/WPP in New York.  Most recently, Victoria was the founder of A Tiny Coalition, a full-service communications agency with clients in the Bay Area and Boston including City Sports and TIBCO.

It was a long process finding the perfect fit for the SHIFT-SF team. We had a laundry list of “must-haves” for each candidate we interviewed.  Would they understand and embrace our vision?  Did they bring something extra to the table beyond “typical” PR agency experience?  Starting a new team to bring in more revenue is a worthy enough goal, but to that objective we added: Could we learn from the new VP?  And last but not least: they had to be nice. They had to be cool.

Victoria fit the bill, and then some. In my interactions with her thus far, each time I walked away thinking, “Thank god we got her.  She’s whip-smart, she’s intuitive, she’s nice.  She’s gonna rock it.”

Welcome aboard, Victoria! Go on. Rock it!

 

Industry Icon Martin Nisenholtz on Digital Journalism, Today & Tomorrow

As noted earlier, as part of SHIFT’s work for the Pivot Conference, I’m talking to several industry luminaries.  The guest star of this post, Martin Nisenholtz, is – well, the man’s an icon.  Before we progress to the interview, here’s a blurb from the NYTimes article announcing his recent departure from the Gray Lady:

Martin A. Nisenholtz, a senior vice president at The New York Times Company who helped start the Web site for the company’s namesake newspaper and later carried out a plan to charge online readers, is retiring at the end of the year, the company announced Monday.

In a message to the staff, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman, and Janet L. Robinson, the chief executive, noted Mr. Nisenholtz’s role in shaping The Times’s Web strategy from its infancy. When Mr. Nisenholtz joined the company in 1995, they said, “we had zero Web page views. Indeed, we had zero Web users. Further, we had no Web revenue. Today, thanks in large measure to Martin’s vision and leadership, our digital numbers are dramatically different.”

Mr. Nisenholtz, 56, was involved in virtually every major digital initiative at The Times, from the creation of the Web site to multiplatform projects involving mobile phones and tablets.

See? An icon.

An edited version of the lengthy chat I had with this genuine world beater is below, and is cross-posted at the Pivot site:

Q: Martin, can we talk about the 24 hour news cycle?  Do you think this “always on” style of reporting has helped or hurt the journalism profession?  Now you can read only the news you agree with, with little regard for competing views…

Nytimes120406_3_560A: I think it’s done both. It’s certainly helped in the sense that it’s made the news product a lot more vibrant, in real time.  It’s exciting to have a product that’s continuously updated and changing.  The whole point of the web is to be always on and so I think that’s been a big positive. The problem is that it introduces a very significant level of risk; you have to work doubly hard to make sure that that the stuff you put out there is true. 

It’s easy to idealize the Walter Cronkite days a little bit: it was easier to create a sense of community because there were only a handful of sources; there wasn’t a lot of diversity in news production.  The danger in today’s environment is that you can lose a sense of serendipity.  One of the problems with having such a kind of directed, niche view of the world is that you don’t see stuff that you don’t care about; that’s something to be pretty mindful of and I think it’s something that the Times does particularly well. Part of the reason that people read the Times is because of that serendipity. It’s not so much because readers are looking for stuff that they know they want, but because they’re looking to be surprised with that editorial overlay.  That’s a valuable thing and it will be for a very long time.

Q: From a business perspective, journalism has been on a bit of a long, slow slide for a while now, with many theories about how the industry can save itself, etc.  Let’s pick one area of discussion, the role of SEO and advertising.  Should journalists care about the number of clicks one of their stories might get?

A: That’s a great question.  Do I think people should care about how many clicks they get? No, in essence I don’t think that is something reporters should care too much about. Here’s why: in a great news organization it is not just a popularity contest; rather, the job is to make sure that the folks reading the product have a breadth of worthwhile content available.

If you look at the stuff that gets tons of clicks on websites, often times it is very interesting stuff, there’s no question about that, but a lot of it is the opinion and health content – how to lead a healthier life, exercise more, etc. What you won’t see in those cases are stories about the war in Afghanistan or the revolt in Syria because frankly people just for whatever reason aren’t as focused on that stuff.

Let’s assume that a story about the “ten most important exercises” gets 20x the number of clicks as the story about Tunisia.  Does that mean that the health story is 20x more important or interesting than the story on Tunisia? No, and that’s my point: the reporter who is writing the story about Tunisia shouldn’t have to feel that they’re a failure because they didn’t get the number of clicks that the health story received.

The end result of a website that is single mindedly obsessed with driving clicks in order to get more advertising revenue is a narrowing of a content to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  I don’t want to sound like an idealistic fool in saying that it doesn’t matter whether people see that content or not. My point is that in a great news organization you have that diversity of content and the more popular stuff makes up for the less popular stuff. 

Q:  You’ve talked about the importance of engagement in some of your keynotes and addresses. What does the media industry need to think about to continue to reach the digital reader?

A:  First, “engagement” is probably an overused word.  Let’s talk about getting and keeping customers, because that’s what counts, especially as we’ve talked about the business needs of the industry.  And the metrics that people have used over the years to measure and define success have taken people in an odd direction.  Media companies are kidding themselves if they think they have customers because ComScore or Nielsen has told them they have X number of users a month:  someone who clicks a link on Google, reads your article without really knowing where they are, and then hits the Back button is not a customer.  Once you start to actually charge people for the stuff that you do, that’s when you know whether you have customers.

What are the techniques to ramp up those customers interactions?  A lot of the current techniques used in news sites have come from e-commerce (e.g., Amazon) and that is positive but the industry is now experimenting heavily with techniques in the social space.  Clearly the folks in the social area understand engagement probably better than anyone else. So, to the extent that the media and the news industry in particular can take advantage of that they should. 

But there is no silver bullet.  Look at Facebook.  They have a billion customers.  They have more engagement than anyone else.  Look at their metrics; they’re amazing; no news organization will ever be as large or as engaged as Facebook.  Yet even Facebook is having trouble justifying its valuation because these advertiser-only models are very difficult to make work.  Facebook is fine, Facebook is going to be very successful but keep in mind, no one is paying for it.  It’s very challenging to create sustainable engagement models that also lead to sustainable businesses.

Q: Anything that particularly worries you about the future of journalism?

A: The one dark cloud is that so much of the content that people have put into aggregators comes from traditional news organizations that are funded in large part through offline businesses.  More than anything the local news industry is like that so the one thing that we need to be somewhat mindful of is that in most local places, most cities, the major news organization is the newspaper and those places have been in crisis now for several years.  You don’t really want a situation where a city isn’t adequately covered by journalists. It is possible that in some places bloggers or citizen journalists are trying to make up for that, but it’s hard for a citizen journalist to do a deep dive over a long, sustainable period.  To cover a municipal corruption case, for example, takes real resources and it’s not clear to me that citizen journalists are going to be able to do that in a consistent way. I’m not saying that they can’t do it, just that it needs to be done day after day, year after year – not once or twice.

Q: You’re an industry legend.  Is there anything in particular from your experience that you hope the industry learns?  Do you have any predictions about the way people will consume news in the future?

A: The most important thing is quality.  I don’t mean quality just in terms of the writing or the editing, but also the overall user experience, the overall feeling that the product gives you.  The guy proved that for retail is Steve Jobs: look at what he was able to do in a completely commoditized industry.  To the extent that I’ve been able to learn anything about business, I learned from Steve Jobs and Apple to focus on quality and usually a lot of the other stuff takes care of itself.

With respect to the future, nobody has a crystal ball, but directionally, just consider what people use today to read the news.  Thinking back, most of these modes of consumption didn’t exist a few years ago; a few years ago there would have been other things that now seem archaic.  The general rule has always been it will get more and more diverse and fragmented.  That’s been the trend for the last twenty years and I don’t see that stopping.  Not only is there a whole lot of content available globally that’s of very high quality, but you can organize it and read it in ways that make that content so much more accessible and easy than it was twenty years ago or even five years ago.

From a user perspective, it’s kind of a golden age. 

… The more I speak to folks like Martin, who have made waves with Social and are willing to share their experiences, the more excited for Pivot I become. If you are interested in hearing more from Martin and others of his caliber, I encourage you to register for Pivot. As a special thank you to readers, you can receive 20 percent off registration fees by using code: SHIFT20.

Doctrine for the Public Relations Professional Remains Unchanged

220px-Edward_BernaysIf you work in marketing, you must have heard of Edward Bernays. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays is known as the leading figure behind the public relations industry and for the use of “propaganda” for demand generation. Focusing on this work in the 1920s, he used the power of psychoanalysis and symbolism to unlock the desires of the masses.

While the world of marketing and PR has drastically changed from the reality in the 1920s, there are some gems in Bernays’s philosophy that deserve to be revisited. In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays discusses the origins of the public relations profession along with its responsibilities and rights.
This blog post highlights some of the key characteristics of the PR professional, according to Bernays:

The public relations expert may be known as public relations director or counsel. Often he is called secretary or vice-president or director. Sometimes he is known as cabinet officer or commissioner. By whatever title he may be called, his function is well defined and his advice has definite bearing on the conduct of the group or individual with whom he is working.

    1. “The counsel on public relations must maintain constant vigilance.”
    2. “The counsel on public relations must be in a position to deal effectively with rumors and suspicions.”
    3. “He does not accept a client whose interests conflict with those of another client.”
    4. “He does not accept a client whose case he believes to be hopeless or whose product he believes to be unmarketable.”
    5. “He should be candid in his dealings.”
    6. “He functions primarily as an adviser to his client, very much as a lawyer does.”
    7. “The counsel on public relations is not an advertising man but he advocates advertising where that is indicated.”
    8. “His first efforts are, naturally, devoted to analyzing his client’s problems. His next effort is to analyze his public.”
    9. “He is not dissociated from the client in the public’s mind.”
    10. “His function may include the discovery of new markets, the existence of which had been unsuspected.”

Do you agree or disagree with Bernays’s philosophy on PR? What are some things that you think have drastically changed since the 1920s and some things that have stayed relevant?

 

This is a blog post by Magdalena Geogreva, an inbound marketing manager at HubSpot, all-in-one marketing software company that helps you get found and convert leads into sales.

 

DISCLOSURE: SHIFT launched HubSpot back in the day, and still provides occasional counsel to its executives.

10 Steps to Reinvent Media Strategy

In today’s communications landscape, Paid (advertising), Earned (PR) and Owned (branded) Media are converging like never before.

Of these media types, which is the most valuable?

Not “the most expensive.” The most valuable.

If what you value most as a brand is the trust of consumers and prospects, then the answer is obvious: Earned Media is far and away the most effective influencer of consumer trust.

Of course, historically it’s also been the most difficult to measure — and of the three types of media mentioned above, despite being the most valuable, Earned Media also bears the dubious distinctions of also being the least controllable and least expensive. Thus the “red-headed stepchild” syndrome that’s attached itself to the PR industry since the Mad Men days.

However, the value of Earned Media is only growing, especially if by “earned media” you include in your definition the unbiased, 3rd party citations of consumers themselves, a.k.a. Word of Mouth. And why wouldn’t you include “Social” under the “Earned Media” banner?

Historically, most people think of Earned Media purely as “traditional PR results in mainstream media.” Even if we stopped there, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing, as it is demonstrably true that in today’s deluge of content, the 3rd party, unbiased and credentialed voice of mainstream media is more critical than ever. Traditional media, by far, is the most trusted by consumers. However, at SHIFT we embrace the idea that Earned Media also spawns from the Social realm (you can see below that it’s a fast growing trust factor). After all, if an independent consumer says something nice about a brand (on Twitter, Yelp, etc.), it constitutes an earned opinion about the company; it was not paid for like an advertisement; it was not sponsored as branded content:

Trust

See how in the Edelman research above, “traditional” news is not only the most trusted source of information, but also is growing? See how trust in Social Media, a.k.a. trust in “someone like me” is growing at the fastest rate? The latter point is driven home even more, below:

Credibility

So, if the research is accurate regarding the source of consumer trust — Earned Media related to mainstream PR results and to the Social Media activities of independent 3rd party consumers — we are in pretty good shape when we promote the idea that Earned Media is positioned to be the most valuable component of a client’s communications strategy.

In other words, this ain’t just the PR guy being biased. This approach is based on research.

After all, why would you promote a strategy based on media that is not trustworthy? Just because it costs more money to produce or place? Pshaw! Now, I am not suggesting that Advertising and Branded content are unimportant to the marketing mix, only that Earned Media has more implicit trust across consumers, and that its role cannot be sidelined or dismissed.

Now: how might this work in practice? Let this graphic be your guide as you walk through the steps below:

THE EARNED MEDIA HUB STRATEGY:

You (the client) have an idea; you have a product or service to sell … in this example, obviously, you’ve tapped SHIFT to help out!

  1. RESEARCH: SHIFT conducts research on the industry opportunity, the competition, the social media and mainstream media buzz, and, the influencers in the space. We determine what types of content are most often shared across the social graphs of your stakeholders.
  2. MESSAGING: With these findings, we conduct a messaging session for the corporation and/or product, coming up with clear points of differentiation that also reflect your brand and culture — and which, critically, we can “sell” to the media, to prospective customers, and the world.
  3. CONTENT CREATION: On an ongoing basis we create content in support of the message — maybe it’s a video, or an infographic series, or a microsite, etc. Maybe it’s as simple as an email pitch to a handful of top reporters. Sometimes that’s enough.
  4. SEO & OWNED MEDIA: As appropriate, the zingy new content is SEO-optimized and shared across your company’s owned channels: your blog, Twitter, your Facebook page, your Google+ page, etc. It pings across the social nets of your current fans and friends.
  5. EARNED MEDIA: More importantly, SHIFT is working to ensure that content is motivating influencers to share that content, whether in the mainstream media or on influential industry or consumer blogs, and/or across individual Social Media influencers’ social graphs … Hey! What’s that, again? SHIFT nailed down an article about the company in USA TODAY!? Awesome. That’s third party, credentialed and unbiased credibility from a respected source with huge readership. It doesn’t get much better. Let’s call this “The Big Hit.” In the old days, that’s when we’d stop. Maybe the client would post the USA TODAY article on their site, but that’s typically as far as it would go … Leading inevitably to the “what have you done for me lately?” syndrome that has plagued the industry. Today, at SHIFT, that earned media “Big Hit” is where things start to get interesting.
  6. EARNED MEDIA > OWNED & PAID MEDIA: In addition to sharing The Big Hit across your owned social channels (Facebook Timeline, Twitter, corporate blog, etc.), we’re going to advocate making sure that millions of additional eyeballs view this awesome content, via paid promotion strategies.
  7. EARNED > PAID: Let’s syndicate the content. We can guarantee that The Big Hit you got at USA TODAY is also seen by readers of contextually-related articles on other mainstream media sites, ranging from CNN and Newsweek to TMZ and PC Magazine. We even perform A/B testing on the headlines to further boost relevant traffic. (By the way, yes, mainstream publishers love this approach: while you may be featuring a media competitor’s content, they will get paid for the link. And the reporter who wrote the original piece certainly appreciates it when you send millions of new readers their way!)
  8. MORE EARNED > OWNED & PAID: Now, let’s take the “Awesome story! Love this product!” Facebook post by an influencer who “liked” The Big Hit and turn that post into a Sponsored Story that pings their social graph and beyond. Now you have the added validation of an influential kudos attached to that already-awesome Big Hit! If that kudo happened on Twitter, instead? Cool: we can create a Promoted Tweet, featuring the influencer but pointing readers to The Big Hit itself. Again, you’re using Paid Media to drive eyeballs to Earned Media, earning a double-whammy of credibility.
  9. EVEN MORE EARNED > OWNED & PAID: And if we didn’t note an influencer giving the thumb’s-up to The Big Hit? No problem. It just means we might use more conventional social advertising strategies to drive traffic to that earned media hit.
  10. AND IT CONTINUES! EARNED > OWNED & PAID: It need not end there. Some clients understandably worry about sending traffic to USA TODAY vs. their own website. But once prospects read that great USA TODAY hit and come for a website visit, we can create banner ads (or use clients’ current inventory) and deploy Ad Re-Targeting technology based on those website visits. In laymen’s terms: if the prospect visited your website, we can serve them targeted banner ads across a vast network of external, mainstream media sites, reminding them throughout their subsequent surfing of their original interest in your company.

See how the credibility-boosting power of Earned Media can become the hub of a broader marketing communications strategy?

It wasn’t possible before. It’s possible now. All you need is a different way of thinking. It’s not all about Social for Social’s sake. It’s about taking full advantage of Media Convergence, and using the most valuable, trusted content assets as the central spoke in your strategy.




Show some social media love would ya?





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