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.

Georgia Sapounas on Canada’s Digital Olympics Strategy

Georgia Sapounas, the Canadian Olympic Committee‘s (COC) Digital Media Director, came to Third Tuesday Toronto last night to talk about the COC’s social media program for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. And like the participants at Third Tuesday Ottawa the previous night, the Toronto attendees posted their observations and thoughts on Twitter. Here are the highlights of the Twitter stream that was posted to the Third Tuesday Toronto #3tYYZ hashtag.

Continue reading…

Georgia Sapounas sees Social Media on the Olympic Road to Sochi

The Canadian Olympic Committee’s Digital Manager, Georgia Sapounas, traveled to Ottawa yesterday to provide the Third Tuesday Ottawa participants with a glimpse into the Canadian Olympic Committee’s plans to use social media during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. And as always, the Third Tuesday participants tweeted extensively about what they were hearing and thinking. I’ve captured some of the highlights from the #3tYOW Twitter stream.


Continue reading…

LastPass 3.0: Ensure your passwords are secure

With LastPass 3.0, there’s no excuse for your passwords not to be secure

I’m a big fan of LastPass, the online password manager. I use it to generate and securely store unique passwords for all my online sites and applications. And I can do this from the device of my choice. LastPass offers apps for iOS, Android and the desktop Chrome Browser.

Now, with the release this week of LastPass 3.0, a great tool has become even better. There’s simply no excuse for your passwords not to be secure.

Generate Secure Passwords

LastPass doesn’t just provide me with safe storage for my passwords. It also generates secure passwords for me.

Last Pass Generate 131106

 

The password generator enables me to set the complexity of my passswords – specifying length and the type of characters to be used. And once I’ve generated and applied them, it saves them to my vault. All in one easy operation.

Continue reading…

You can't judge a presentation by its title

June was a month of wall to wall conferences. And those conferences brought Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and me together in two cities – Austin and Ottawa – and pulled us to opposite ends of the continent.

Tod Maffin speaks at PABSo, you spend all that money and time to attend a conference. And now you’re sitting in a presentation and you’re deciding whether you made the right decision. What makes it worthwhile?

Gini applies the Chile Con Queso Test. She loves chile con quesos. And she judges a restaurant by their quality. If they’re great, she’ll keep going back for more. Gini’s Chile Con Queso Test for conference presentations? Does the presenter provide her with at least one idea for a blog post? “If I can go into your session and come away with a blog post idea, I’m going to think you’re the best speaker on earth,” says Gini. On the other hand, “If I can’t get at least one idea to create content around, I’m not going to think you’re a great speaker.”

If you’re a speaker, how can you deliver the goods for your audience? I saw Lee LeFever talk about this at the recent Fireworks Factory organized by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo. Lee, who is best known for the explainer videos he has produced through his company, Common Craft, says that you must start from a position of empathy for the audience. Focus on what we care about, not what you want to present. Frame your topic in terms to which we relate. Suggest a commonly experienced problem to which we all relate. You’ll know you’ve done this is you see our heads nodding. Once you’ve established the shared space, focus on “why.” Why does this matter? Why will you approach it in this way. And then, and only then, move on to the “how.” How do I do this. Think about the presentations you’ve seen recently. How many of them failed because the presenter plunged directly into the “how” section, providing minute detail of what they did, while you were still stuck at, “Why do I care about this?”

Martin calls this the importance of appealing to the audience’s emotional senses. He points out that this often can be achieved through story telling, in which a motive is established and listeners are drawn into identifying with the subjects and storyline. Gini agrees with the power of this approach, pointing to a 52N (five minutes to engage, a variant on Ignite) presentation delivered by Abbie Fink at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy Conference in Austin. Abbie’s presentation consisted of reading a letter to her recently deceased family dog. At the end, she left many in the room in tears and everyone considering the nature of relationships. A story that appealed to our emotions. That appealed to the pet lover in all of us. That didn’t explain the why, but relied throughout on it. (Pity the poor presenter who followed Abbie – Martin Waxman!)

I attended a presentation recently by a speaker who gave me not just one good takeaway, but nine. Nine takeaways in an hour long presentation. And that speaker was … Gini Dietrich! Perhaps because Gini listened for takeaways in other speakers, she deliberately packages takeaways in her presentations. “When I write presentations, I write them long form. But as I do it, I write sound bites that I know people can tweet. You have to think about the key takeaways. Is someone going to get enough to pass the Chile Con Queso Test? And are they going to be able to tweet about it?” If you achieve these three objectives, people will come away with something to think about over the long term as well as content that will prompt immediate tweets and conversation.

Finally, there’s one huge no-no for conference presenters. What makes the audience groan and flee the room in droves? Martin calls it the “You can’t judge a presentation by its cover” problem.” You  decide to attend a presentation on the basis of the description in the program only to hear the speaker lead off with the statement, “I’m going to talk about something different from the advertised topic…” Sadly, that’s not uncommon at conferences. Not just the small regional conferences, but even larger conferences. The kindest interpretation I can put on this it that because of the long lead time between the time that the conference topics were set and the actual presentation, the speaker decided that the topic was outdated and decided to offer more up to date thinking. The unkind interpretation is that the speaker just said yes to the organizers’ invitation and then realized that he didn’t really have anything worthwhile to say about the topic. Either way, it can be a real let down if you showed up keen to learn and discuss the advertised topic.

Gini sums it up: “We’re all busy. We all want to find value in the things that we are attending. We’re spending money to attend these things. And if we can’t get something out of it to bring back to our careers or organizations, then it’s not worth the time.”

This post was originally published on the Inside PR podcast blog.

Want to be a Public Relations Survivor? Be Prepared to Change, Constantly

As we enter 2013, the transformation in the world of communications that is driven by the mass adoption of social media and mobile devices is accelerating.

Fish-changesThe public relations industry is not immune from the impact of these changes. And this has disrupted the competitive marketplace.

Over the past year, I found my company, Thornley Fallis, repeatedly competing for assignments against non-traditional competitors. Ad agencies invading our turf. Digital boutiques. Marketing agencies. Management consultants.

An increasing proportion of the assignments we won from clients incorporated digital communications as a core element. Throughout 2012, we saw the budgets for these assignments shift away from traditional public relations activities to digital. The budgets didn’t shrink. The allocations against digital activities increased.

In a world like this, if you want to be a Public Relations Survivor, you must be willing to reinvent yourself constantly. That’s what the most successful firms in the communications marketplace are doing. And that’s what we’re doing at my firm.

And here’s the indicator that drives this home. Today, only about half of Thornley Fallis’ revenues are from what would have been considered traditional public relations services. The other half? Video production, public engagement, content marketing, design and development.

You’ve probably noticed the absence of social media from that list. Where’s social? Integrated across everything we do. What was hot a few years ago has become simply the common entry fee.

What’s hot now? Content marketing. The creation of social objects that people will connect around. Understanding and building public engagement. Making connections with people who care about our products and services and the things we care about.

We see ourselves as much different from the public relations practitioners of old. We don’t define our horizons within the constraints of earned media. Most of our programs include paid keyword advertising to seed awareness among those most likely to be interested. As the  traditional media distribution deteriorated, we realized that placing great content and counting on organic search simply wasn’t good enough. So we moved into the territory of the advertising agencies. Not as advocates of advertising first, but as advocates of a true integrated solution in which each medium has a role to play.

Yes, we are still a PR agency. But when people ask me what we do, I answer in a way that is much different from the answer I provided a few years ago. Today, we “provide insight, create remarkable experiences and connect people to the things they care about.”

And that’s how we make  sure that we are Public Relations Survivors. Not by clinging to the past, but by evolving with the changing communications environment.

———–

If you found this post interesting, these sources provide even more to think about:

PR Agencies’ Lost Year by Peter Himler

10 Things I’ve Learned from an Advertising Agency by Ed Lee

When the Corporate Social Strategist Role Goes Away by Jeremiah Owyang

 

 

 

 

 

Public Relations' Identity Crisis

Are you suffering a public relations crisis of identity? Do you find yourself struggling for a way to describe what you do that avoids using the term “public relations?” Not because you’re embarrassed by what you do, but because you know that people will apply an outdated stereotype to you the second you use the term?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you’re in the same boat as me.

The new PR

Terry Fallis and I started our public relations firm, Thornley Fallis, in 1995. And we thrived with our traditional PR offerings through 2002. Then the world shifted – and kept shifting.

Today, our hottest offering is video storytelling and production. That’s followed closely by designing and building online experiences. And then comes social media. Yes, we still offer traditional media relations (who doesn’t want to see their company positively mentioned in a national newspaper or trade mag?) However, the traditional PR services are now part of an integrated offering that starts with discovery and builds on this with strategies that are channel agnostic. Different things work in different contexts. And we need to be able to offer a complex solution.

That’s the new PR. However, do I refer to it as PR? Not often. In fact, I try to avoid using the term public relations when talking to business contacts and potential clients. All too often, I notice their unconscious tic when I say PR as they summon up images of the PR as it was in the 90s. So, I use other terms like “integrated communications,” “communications for the connected era,” “delivering remarkable experiences.” Anything to avoid being pigeon-holed with an outdated PR stereotype.

Gini Dietrich has been led to a similar place. In a provocatively titled post, Self-Hating PR Pros and the Change in the Industry, she writes:

“A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with a prospective client. At the end of the conversation, the chief marketing officer said, “I see you don’t refer to yourselves as PR pros… and your proposal doesn’t have any mention of it. Why is that?” I explained that when people say they need a PR firm, they really mean they want someone to get them stories, which is an ego-driven metric, and only one tactic of a larger marketing and communications program. … So the industry has begun to see a move toward other descriptors of what we do (social media, marketing, integrated marketing communications). Meanwhile, many of us have stopped saying we do PR.”

New Clients

Something else has happened as we have diversified our services. We’ve been given opportunities to produce more complex, sophisticated and far reaching programs for clients. But often, those opportunities have not come from our traditional public relations contacts. Instead, they’ve come from marketing executives who have invited us to pitch our ideas in competition with advertising and digital agencies. These marketing executives see public relations as an important, but very specific subset, of the  solution they are seeking to put in place. We want them to see us as providers of a holistic strategy, not simply the providers of a specific channel or tactic. And by avoiding direct reference to our origins as a PR company, while still offering the capability, we can compete on a level playing field with new competitors.

Challenging Corporate Culture

So we live in a gray zone as we transition from what was and what was clearly understood to what will be and has not yet taken its final shape. That presents us with challenges of the intellect and of the imagination. It also presents us with cultural challenges.

People in the new PR may find that the organization they are working for defies their expectations of what that organization should look like and how it should operate. They find themselves working alongside people with different expertise and skills than they might have worked with a decade ago. These people may also come from different types of organizations that had very different cultures, business models and ways of organizing themselves.

This can lead to a cultural war as people attempt to superimpose what they knew and understood onto the new organization. (We’ve gone through this phase ourselves). People want to be challenged. But they want to be challenged within known parameters. We need some certainty to provide a foundation for creativity and growth.

A Crisis of Identity and a Wide-Open Future

So for me, PR is going through a crisis of identity as we transition from the old to the new. A crisis that’s driven by a people’s retention of outdated stereotypes, by a shift in our playing field, and by the cultural challenge of mixing new skills and new people together to provide non-traditional solutions.

It’s an interesting time. It’s a time of rapid change and great uncertainty. It’s a time in which we may look like we’re running away from our public relations roots. But I prefer to think that were running toward something. We just can’t describe it clearly yet. And isn’t that the best part of discovery? More things are possible then we may yet realize.

Thornley Fallis is partnering with Gini Dietrich and Arment Dietrich

Today is a big day for me and the team at Thornley Fallis. We announced a partnership with Gini Dietrich and her team at Arment Dietrich.

I’ve known and collaborated with Gini Dietrich for over two years. Every week, we’ve come together to co-host the Inside PR podcast with Martin Waxman (Martin joined Thornley Fallis in 2011). We’ve attended conferences together. Developed ideas together. Shared insight into the direction and opportunities for each of our businesses. We’ve talked extensively about the changes in the communications business brought about by the social media revolution. And we’ve discovered that we share a similar vision for the future of communications: the continuing revolution of the relationship between consumers and companies, citizens and governments, you and me.

During that time, we’ve transformed our companies from traditional communications consulting organizations to focus on the expertise that is most important in the connected era, the time when we all have voices, can find and share with our communities of interest, and in which we become both the media and the trusted advisors to one another.

Gini has positioned Arment Dietrich as a thought leader in social and digital media. She has built an industry leading platform for these views in Spin Sucks, her widely-read blog. And she adding to that Spin Sucks Pro (in Beta), a resource for senior business executives who want to understand and participate in the new media. In the process, Gini has become an acknowledged expert in content marketing. She’s used it to build her own company and she uses that same expertise for her clients. She also found the time to capture her ideas in Marketing in the Round, the just-published book she co-authored with Geoff Livingston.

Thornley Fallis also has come a long way since its founding in 1995 as a traditional corporate PR company. Today, we are focused on the expertise necessary to engage with the public through traditional and digital media. We offer design to deliver remarkable experiences, produce video to create the ultimate social objects, build audiences and communities through content marketing, earn media through public relations, and build relationships and trust through social media. But these tactics must work together. So we develop strategies to marshall them into a coherent whole and then constantly measure and refine.

Given all this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve decided to bring our firms together so that we can offer our collective expertise to our clients.

That’s a big move. And it promises a much brighter future for our teams. New combinations of expertise. New clients. New opportunities. I’ll continue to write about my journey and experiences on this blog and we’ll also share our collective insight on the Thornley Fallis Blog and Spin Sucks. I hope you’ll join us for the journey.

 

Things worth watching: Jugnoo, Tablets, Facebook Timelines and Sysomos-Google Analytics integration

On this week’s Inside PR podcast, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I talk about new social management tool Jugnoo, tablet computers, Facebook timelines for pages and a new feature in social media measurement tool Sysomos.

Jugnoo – and the importance of courting before marriange

Last week we reported that Jugnoo, a new social media management console service had launched in open beta. Martin and I both were impressed with its feature set. (Disclosure: Gini Dietrich is an adviser to Jugnoo. However, Martin and I weren’t aware of this when we raised it as a topic of discussion for the podcast. Discreet Gini.) I was so impressed that I requested access to the beta so that I could test it. And then I hit a hard stop. As one of the first steps in using the service, Jugnoo asked me to install some code on my website so that Jugnoo could access data from my site. For me, this is a show stopper. Installing code and sharing data is a big step, one that I am willing to take only with services that I trust and that I have some degree of comfort I’ll use for some time. Gini thinks that I’m being overcautious. She believes that most small businesses won’t hesitate to provide access to their data because they will perceive that in return the service will “hold their hands,” providing them with insight into what they should be doing and whether it is working. Do you have the same reaction to being asked for access to the backend of your Website as a first step in testing a service.

Tablets and the content creation challenge

We also talk about the rapid adoption of tablets in the workplace. Two years ago, we considered our notebook computers to be the go-to mobile devices. Today, we each use a tablet computer. Initially, tablets were billed as media consumption devices. However, all three of us now use our tablets to create content – blog posts, documents, etc. Gini and I have found that this has driven us to switch from Microsoft Office to other applications that exist in the cloud – Evernote, DropBox, Google Docs. We use these apps to have access to our data and content across devices. This enables us to move smoothly between our desktop computers, notebooks (yes, we still use them), tablets and cellphones. And we see this trend accelerating with the newest generation of tablets. We wonder how long it will be before we will be able to reduce the number of devices. The limiting factor on this is the evolution of tablets to include both the hardware and software to support all the content creation we want to do.

Timelines – too much commitment for small businesses?

Timelines for pages is being rolled out to all users at the end of the month. Gini is keen on timelines. She’s watched as content that she had long ago posted to the Arment Dietrich page has resurfaced. Old content becomes more accessible. I’m skeptical of the value of timelines for small businesses. Many small businesses have limited resources to devote to social media. And it seems to me that corporate page owners will have to devote considerable energy and resources to keep their content fresh. And this may not be a priority for may businesses.

Sysomos Heartbeat integrates Google Analytics

Finally, we talk about the integration of Google Analytics into Sysomos’ Heartbeat social media monitoring service. A nice addition that makes a good service better.

What do you think?

Listen to the podcast and tell us what you think. Are we on the right track? Missing something? Do you have a different view?

 

William Mougayar: Becoming a social media entrepreneur

Social media has changed the way that we connect with our friends, with news and with organizations. It has opened up possibilities that we hadn’t even dreamed of 10 years ago.

Social media has also proven fertile ground for entrepreneurs with ideas. Canada has spawned some great social media companies – Radian6HootSuitePostRank,StumbleUponTungle, and more.

Behind every one of these success stories is an entrepreneur who had an idea and the persistence, energy and sheer determination to make it happen.

William Mougayar is the entrepreneur behind not just one, but two social media startups:Eqentia and Engagio. The first of these two startups, Eqentia, is billed as a “vertical news environment.”   It enables you to curate the content you care about from a variety of sources across the social Web. The newer company, Engagio, enables you to draw together all of your conversations from different social media into one place.

Less than two months after launch, Engagio has earned positive word of mouth and prominent backers such as Fred Wilson thanks to its simple but compelling proposition.

Developing a successful startup isn’t easy. If it were, we’d all be heading up successful companies. It takes a lot of luck and some smart decisions. But in the era of social, we see more and more of the people around us pursuing their dream, trying their hand at starting up a new business, at making their idea become reality.

So how did William Mougayar do it? You can find out at the next Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ and Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW meetups. William will share his personal journey from idea to beta to seed funding. He’ll tell us about the dark nights of doubt, the highs of the Eureka moments and the grinding work that goes into that success.

This Third Tuesday will be for you whether you are a budding entrepreneur yourself, know some people involved in startups or just wonder as you use your favourite social app, “How did they do that?”

I hope you be able to join us that evening to hear from one of Canada’s true social media entrepreneurs, William Mougayar.

You can register to attend either on the Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ or Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW websites

 

Thank you to our sponsors

As you know, Third Tuesday is a community-oriented, volunteer-driven event. And we wouldn’t be able to bring great speakers like William Mougayar to Third Tuesdays across the country without the support of some like-minded sponsors. We’ve been lucky to have some great companies step up over the past several years to help us make Third Tuesday happen. Big thanks are due to CNW GroupRogers Communications, the Canadian Internet Registration AuthorityRadian6 and Cision Canada for making the 2011/12 Third Tuesday season possible.

Want to know more about William Mougayar and Engagio?

Engagio is the 1 Inbox to rule them all, ReadWriteWeb

Engagio goes from the Comment Section to $540K seed investment, Venture Beat

Engagio wants to be your one stop social inbox, Mathew Ingram in GigaOm

Toronto’s Engagio raises $540K and heads to New York, TechVibes