Best Practice: Disclosure by a Journalist

In the world of native advertising, sponsored content, journalists supplementing their income with paid speaking gigs and the freelance economy, it’s hard sometimes to know where “news” content is coming from and what has influenced it. The personal disclosure statement is a helpful tool in identifying potential sources of influence and conflict of interest.

Trust matters

David Akin

David Akin

David Akin is a capable journalist who found himself, along with 200 others, out of a job when the Sun News Network ceased broadcasting last week. I’ve followed his Twitter feed, Facebook profile  and online writing for several years. So, when news broke that Sun News Network, where he hosted a nightly news program, had abruptly shut down, I wondered how this would affect him. Yesterday morning, he posted a piece on the Maclean’s site about Sun News and its controversial programming. And at the bottom of the post, he included a link to DavidAkin.com. I clicked on it out of curiosity to see what is there. Basically, it’s an online business card site. But with one very important distinguisher. One of the clearest disclosure statements I’ve seen from a journalist. Here’s Akin’s disclosure in full:

DISCLOSURE: I am a freelance journalist and, as result, the journalism I do is paid for by the news organizations that purchase it. I receive no fees, considerations, etc. for organizations or individuals I write about or speak about. I may, from time to time, accept speaking engagements from non-news organizations. I will endeavour to keep a list of those here. I am not, nor have I ever been during my 30 years as a professional journalist, a member of any political party. No member of my immediate family is a member of or campaigns on behalf of any political party. Neither I nor anyone in my immediate family own shares or equity in any corporation or business. Any investments I have are in widely-held mutual funds. If you think other disclosures are appropriate in this space, I’d like to hear from you. All of my contact details are always at www.davidakin.com.

Pretty clear. No equivocation. Akin clearly draws a line about what he does and doesn’t do. The man’s not for sale to corporate interests. In this era of equivocation about journalistic standards, David Akin’s disclosure stands out like a breath of fresh air. I wish every journalist could be this straightforward in their disclosure.

Context

Jay Rosen has taken a diary approach to his disclosure.

Jeff Jarvis discloses business and media ties, investments and a wide variety of potential sources of influence on his views.

Richard Gingras and Sally Lehrman wrote about the steps that might be taken to earn trust in journalism.

Target’s messy end in Canada

Target Canada got itself into big business trouble in Canada. And it got itself into even bigger reputation trouble with the way it is leaving the country.

It has become commonplace for companies to care about being seen to be responsible corporate citizens. And this involves both doing and being seen to exercise their corporate social responsibility. To make the communities in which they operate better places. To give back as well as to receive.

We expect that corporations will want to be seen to be doing more than the bare minimum they can get away with. And perhaps that’s why Target Canada has garnered so much bad media in the wake of their decision to pull out of the Canadian market. They were perceived as doing as little as the law required them to do in order to get out of the country.

Whether this was justified or not, the company seemed almost to be playing rope a dope, absorbing the blows without attempting to fight back.

Did Target give its employees, its suppliers and its partners a raw deal? Were they inept or calculating in their communications? Will this affect their reputation in the United States?

Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and I explore these questions on this week’s Inside PR podcast. Give it a listen and make up your own mind. Does Target deserve the target on its back?

Context

Here is a selection of the media coverage and commentary around Target’s retreat from Canada.

Target closes all 133 stores in Canada; Seeks creditor protection

Target Canada owes more than 5 billion to creditors

Target Canada owes advertising, marketing and PR partners

Top Target Canada Managers get big cash payouts as stores close

More must be done to help laid off target employees 

Target closure causing crisis for independent pharmacies, owners say

Target Canada patient records sold

Ontario pharmacists fighting Target Canada

Target Canada liquidation sales draw crowds and mockery

 

This is a cross post from the Inside PR podcast blog. Listen to the complete podcast.

Is innovation in social media over?

Social media on blackboard

Is the period of innovation in social media, of fresh ideas and brilliant breakthroughs over? And if it is, is this something that we can change? Or do we even need to?

In a year-end post on his blog, noted tech investor Fred Wilson offered a couple observations that caught my eye. Wilson suggested, among other things, that:

1/ the social media phase of the Internet ended. this may have happened a few years ago actually but i felt it strongly this year. entrepreneurs and developers still build social applications. we still use them. but there isn’t much innovation here anymore. the big platforms are mature. their place is secure.

This reminded me of something that Shel Israel said way back in 2006, before social networks, when blogging was new, shiny and rapidly evolving. Reflecting on what he had heard at that year’s New Communications Forum, Israel wrote,

Blogging is normalizing.  It is following the usual adoption trends taught in Marketing 101. The number of marketing people watching blogs, starting them and evangelizing is going to inevitably eclipse the number of technology developers who got this all going.

Looking back, Shel Israel was spot on. In a few frenzied years, blogging had evolved rapidly from Blogger to Typepad and then into WordPress and Tumblr (with some other platforms along the way). Then two things happened. The technology folks moved on to social networks, analytics, mobile-enabled apps and all of the next new things that followed on. As this happened, bloggers – the people using the software – converged on  a few platforms. And the pace of innovation in the underlying publishing software slowed down.

Rapid change yields to predictable user experience

A decade ago, blogging revolutionized my relationship with others in my community of interest. In 2007, Facebook gave me a window on my friends and family, a means of signaling affinity and connecting with them. That same year, Twitter provided me with an instant newsfeed and connected me with the trends and topics that matter to me. And along the way, other developments provided annoyance (think LinkedIn) and temporary diversion (think Quora or foursquare.).

However, as I look back on more recent years, I realize that my use of social networks and social publishing platforms has varied little. In fact, I cannot remember the last innovative social publishing or social network innovation that truly changed the way that I publish or connect with people online. I’ve settled into a routine, using several tools, each for the thing that I find it does best.

Here is what I use every day.

Facebook, to connect with my friends and to share random thoughts of a more personal nature.

Twitter, to see the news as it happens and to find interesting topics suggested by people whose perspective I find interesting.

Google+. Yes I’m still on Google+. I regularly participate in a number of special-interest communities such as the FIR Podcast Community and the Podcasting Technology Resources community. People with a niche interest coming together around their shared interests.

LinkedIn. The network I dislike but cannot ignore. LinkedIn is one of the tabs that opens on my browser every morning. And it’s also the one with which I spend the least time and close first. Too self-promotional. Too self interested. I just can’t warm up to LinkedIn. But I can’t ignore it.

Instagram. I joined Instagram early and then stopped following it. In 2014, I returned to it. I’m still on the fence about whether it will be part of my long-term digital consumption.

Medium. Medium comes closest to being a breakthrough innovation. And that’s ironic. Because really it looks like a return to the longer form publishing that I remember from the Golden age of blogging. (So far, I’ve been a reader, not a publisher, on Medium. I’m having trouble generating good content on my blog. And I’ve been reluctant to cross-post. However, I’m considering cross posting some content on Medium simply so that I can establish some credentials there.)

WordPress. Yes I had to put WordPress in here because I still use it as the publishing platform for this blog, the Inside PR podcast (which I co-host with Gini Dietrich and Martin Waxman) and my various business blogs. I love this software. It’s intuitive and robust. May it never go away!

Feedly, my go-to newsreader app, which I use to subscribe to the digital publications and commentators whose perspective and voice I want to follow on an ongoing basis

Diigo, to annotate and save the things I find remarkable and may want to find or share at a later date (That’s how I retrieved Shel Israel’s 2006 post. I had tagged it “normalization” in delicious, a precursor to diigo.)

ITunes podcast App. You may wonder why this is on this list. But I spend my daily commute listening to podcasts. It’s a rare day that I will turn on live radio. Instead, I find myself drawn to podcasts for both information and entertainment.

Fred is right. But is that a good or a bad thing?

So there is my list of social publishing and social networks that I use regularly. And as I look at it, I realize it is essentially the same list that I could have described at the beginning of last year.

So, yes, Fred Wilson is right. We have reached a period of stability in the social networks.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Do you miss the innovation in platforms that characterized the early years of social media? Or are you happy that things have settled down?

Update: Yes, there is a conversation about this.

It’s just not really happening in the comments section of my blog. Instead, it’s taking place on Facebook.

 

Time to write again

173485323It’s the Christmas break and, after a challenging year, I found the time to read and think. And I realized that I’ve written in this place less and less frequently in the past year. It’s time to change that. It’s time to write again.

If you’re still subscribed to this feed, I thank you. Really.

And starting now, I’ll try to publish more frequently.

In life (and marketing), there are two types of people

The recent spate of stories about air rage and fights between passengers breaking out over cramped seats and seatbacks being reclined reminds me that there are two types of people in the world.

The type who think, “I can, so I will. And to heck with you.”

And the type who think, “I can, but I shouldn’t, because I care about how this will affect you.”

493172635Look into the mirror. Which type of person do you see? Now think about how your coworkers, family, friends see you. Stretch a little further. Think about how the driver in the next car or on your morning commute or rushing to jump in the elevator with your before the doors close. Which type of person do they see?

This dichotomy extends into the world of marketing. It marks the difference between the traditional, “push it in your face, turn the volume of commercials up, spam the heck out of your email box” advertiser and the “I’ll only contact you if you give me permission and I know I have to earn that permission each and every time you have contact with me” type of digital marketer.

In the day to day world, there are two types of people. The type who slam their seat back in your lap because just don’t care about the passenger behind them and the type who resist that temptation because they know it will cramp you.

There are two types of marketers. There’s the type who say, “I can because I have the budget to be able to shout at you. And to heck with you.”

But there’s also the type who say, “I have the budget, but I will use it in a way that delights you, attracts you, and makes you want to come to me.”

Look in the mirror. Which type of marketer do you think you are? Now think about your customers and the people you would like to be your customers. Which type of marketer do they see when they look at you?

Which type of person and marketer would you rather be?

Google+ ends name restrictions. Why? Why now?

I’m as mystified as I was the day of the announcement. Google is removing restrictions on Google+ user names. They announced it with, what else, a Google+ post.Screenshot 2014-07-28 10.42.54

“When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names. 

“Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.”

When I first saw it, this move left me asking, “Why? And why now?.”

I think that those potential users who objected to having to use real names on Google+ long ago stopped caring about Google+. And the folks who are using it now are probably quite happy with the rules as they are. And they use it and like it.

I worry that the most immediate impact of lifting restrictions on names will be to welcome the trolls onto Google+. In fact, Gini Dietrich tells Martin Waxman and me that shortly after the announcement, she received a marriage proposal from one of the newly-minted anonymous users. A fun move? Or just plain creepy? Whichever, hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.

If Google+ is hoping to attract hordes of new users to mainstream itself as one of the larger social networking platforms,  they’d better have some new magic up their sleeves. There is no reason for people who’ve decided that Facebook or Twitter meets their needs to abandon those services for Google+.

FIR Podcast community on Google+In fact, I think that Google+ has built a happy and enthusiastic group of users around features like Hangouts and Google+ Communities. I’m thinking about the FIR Podcast Community that generates a constant flow of conversation. Yes, it’s only 500 people strong. But it is a community that has a specialized interest and actively uses Google+ to converge around that interest.

So, Google+ is a success for those who use it. Why would the people who cared about anonymity in the first place ever come back to Google+?

Why Google? Why now?

Content Marketing Cures the Anti-Spam Blues

Does your business have the Anti-Spam Law Blues? A Content Marketing program will lift your business prospects and your spirits.

Content marketingCanada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) has been in effect since July 1. And in its first several weeks of implementation, it’s created quite a stir among Canadian businesses and marketers.

Typical of the business reaction these comments from a Toronto-based business owner being interviewed for an episode of CBC’s The Current:

“When we first heard about the legislation, it looked like it was just for flyers and I thought: Well, we really don’t do that. Our communication is one-on-one …  We don’t spam our clients. And then I realized that we actually do send out a monthly newsletter. It’s not even very newsy. It’s an image of a carpet that we might have done within the past six months that might be of interest to a company. And then I got a little further into it and I got much more concerned about what this might mean for a small company like mine. … we have customers that are 25 years old and we may not have worked with them in the past five years. But I still consider them a customer. My understanding is that after July 1, I can only email them once and without their absolute consent I can’t email them again. … I think it will dramatically affect how we can work because this is how we all work through email. We communicate that way. … We have customers in Vancouver and Calgary specifically and how we stay in touch is through email… I might think they do hospitality. They do a lot of hotel work. Maybe I’ll send them this image that we did just because they might be interested in what we’ve been doing lately.”

Look closely at what she said. “We don’t spam our clients.” “We have customers that are 25 years old and we may not have worked with for the past five years. But I still consider them a customer.” “Maybe I’ll send them this image that we did just because they might be interested in what we’ve been doing lately.” This business owner is deciding whether her “customer” would be interested in receiving an email with an image of a recent project – even if that customer has not done business with the company in several years. The decision to send the email is in the hands of the sender. The recipient has no voice in the matter. If that’s not Spam then I don’t know what is!

Now, I’m sure that this business owner is not alone in taking this approach. In fact, any discussion around a Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade event will easily turn up many business owners who see this as a legitimate and indeed necessary marketing tactic. Have list will mail.

That era is over.

In the past it was easy for business owners to assemble lists of “prospects”. They could pick up business cards at trade shows. They could offer discounts to people who would register to receive them – and then send them email even if that person did not realize they’d signed up for an email newsletter. There were all sorts of ways to assemble a list of prospects to make a business grow. Most of those avenues are now closed. If you want to email something to a business prospect in Canada, you must either have an existing business relationship with them or obtain their explicit consent.

In the new world of the anti-spam law, consumers must know that they are signing up for a mailing list when they do so and know how you intend to use that list. The anti-spam law puts control of what consumers receive back in their hands and takes it out of the hands of the business owner who may “think” that a “prospect” might be interested in what they have to send. Consumers know what they are interested in and they can control what they receive.

Content marketing to the rescue

So what’s a business owner to do? Quite simply, business owners must give people a reason to receive their email letters. And in order to do that they must draw people to the sign-up form.

Content marketing satisfies both of these requirements.

By creating interesting, informative, entertaining content you can satisfy the curiosity of people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. If you do this well, they will find you when they search for a topic. Or others within their community of interest will recommend things you have published in their social feeds. One way or the other, qualified leads will come to you. And then, if you create an ongoing stream of that interesting, informative and entertaining content, they will sign up to receive it and want to keep receiving it.

Content marketing is worth the effort for a business. Even more so now that CASL has made assembling a list of prospects has become much more difficult.

Inside PR 377: Companies squeeze suppliers and Facebook’s hold on us

On the most recent episode of the Inside PR podcast, Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and I talk about two very different topics: the squeeze large clients are putting on their marketing partners and Facebook’s hold on young users.

The Big Squeeze

Gini kicks off the discussion about the growing number of large companies that are taking longer to pay their marketing partners. In the case of some companies, such as P&G and Mars, advertising agencies, marketing and PR partners will find themselves waiting up to 120 days – four months – for payment. And that can be crippling to a creative business. Gini has some thoughts about how PR agencies can avoid being caught in the slow payment trap. In the short term, it may come down to this: If you don’t want to play the big client game, extending your credit to people whose credit rating is is probably much better than yours, you may just have to say no. And if they won’t attempt to find a workable middle ground, you may just end up saying no to working for them.

Martin believes that this would be bad for creative agencies and for marketing itself. It used to be that creatives would be constantly breaking off of the larger agencies they worked for in order to form new ventures. And with a fresh creative perspective, many of them would land a large account that would enable them to build an agency in their own vision. Heck, that’s how Terry Fallis and I started Thornley Fallis. A couple of guys with a fresh perspective on the business working on folding banquet tables in borrowed space. But we landed B.C.E. (Bell Canada Enterprises), then GlaxoSmithKline, and then Molson. And from there, the business took off.

Is that still possible in this current environment? Martin asks, “How can you compete to win clients like this if the financial terms would put you out of business before you have a chance to grow?” Yes it is possible, but ever more difficult. In order to succeed, small agencies need to keep a focus on what has always been the most important factor. Creativity. If we can do something that’s truly remarkable and memorable, we still can thrive.

Facebook’s Hold on Youth

Recently, some have suggested that Facebook is past its prime with teens. A  study from Forrester Research indicates that Facebook still remains young people’s favorite social network. Martin agrees that Facebook may still be used by teens. But he suggests that we look at an intangible factor that may point to the future. Do teens still consider it cool? Or are they there because they have to be because their friends are there? If that’s the case, Gini suggests that teens will not remain reliant on Facebook. Older people who have left school, moved away from their hometown, and are in mid-career, rely on Facebook to keep them connected with the people that they knew at an earlier time. Teens, however, are surrounded by their social network. They don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with friends. They know who their friends are and they can easily use different media, including texting, to stay in touch with their friends.

I think there’s a different between these two questions, “Do people use it?” and “Do people feel cool when they use it?” The first question finds its answer in past behaviour. The second question points the way to future behaviour. And if that’s the case, don’t count on Facebook keeping its stranglehold on youth. For now, young users are still on Facebook. But where will they be next year?

——

I wrote this post to appear first on the Inside PR Podcast blog. I’m posting it here in case you missed it there and might be interested in it.

Songza login with Google credentials: On the Web, but not iOS

I clicked over to Songza today and saw that I could log into the their Website using my Google account.

Songza Website Login That’s what I would have expected given Google’s acquisition of Songza.

Then I pulled out my iPhone to log into the Songza iOS App to listen to some music while I worked. Whoops. No can do.

iOS Songza App Facebook Login onlyIf you want to sign into Songza using the iPhone app, you don’t have the option to do so using your Google credentials. Only Facebook.

This must bug Google, the new owners of Songza. I wonder how long it will take for them to change this situation and push an update to the iOS app update through the Apple approvals process to enable users to log in with their Google credentials. Hmmm. I guess this also raises the question of whether Apple will expedite approval of the update.

Not a big thing. But interesting to me.

Attention-demanding creative doesn’t need to be expensive

Attention-demanding creative doesn’t need to be expensive. If you have a slightly off-centre, quirky eye for the unusual, you can create something remarkable, entertaining and memorable – like this video shot with nothing more than an iPhone.

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

I have no idea who Richard Dunn is (although I’m going to try to track him down for the Inside PR podcast.) But he kept me watching his video to the very end. Even the Celine Dion music couldn’t stop me. I just had to see how he resolved his “cry from the heart.”

Thanks for the entertainment, Richard. You’ve reminded us that we don’t need to spend a lot of money to create something interesting. We just have to have a good, off-centre perspective – and timing.

Others noticed this too:

Reddit discussion

Gawker got it

CBC Radio interviews Richard Dunn