Marissa Mayer, You Go Girl!
I love the Tumblr acquisition. Yes, I know the company only has $13 million in revenue today, but that is not the point. From Facebook to Pinterest, the first area where these folks need improvement is customer experience.
You can make the site great, get users in the habit of turning to you and then worry about boosting revenue later. Who can forget the scene in The Social Network, when Zuckerberg’s former partner Eduardo Saverin insisted on generating revenuesthrough advertising and Zuckerberg adamantly refused? He said it was way too early. Guess we know who was proven right. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and Google’s acquisition of YouTube were similar in concept and both have proven to be brilliant deals. Once you get action, there are plenty of ways for smart folks to figure out how to monetize their site.
Now all Yahoo has to do is execute. While Tumblr’s management team will remain intact, you have to hope that they can perform just as well under new ownership as they would have had they stayed independent. Most importantly, a deal like this one energizes the entire Yahoo nation. It is an expensive way to move a company forward, but I can’t think of a company that needs it more than Yahoo. Marissa has guts and vision. Wish I had bought the stock sooner.
21 5 / 2013
Is Everyone Spying on Everyone?
C’mon, please tell me this is all a joke. What a week about privacy. The way things are going Privacy will soon be a forgotten word.
First, BloombergGate where Bloomberg reporters secretly looked at the logon activities of major bankers, especially Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Then it is revealed that the IRS has been focusing on conservative groups and their tax exempt status. Now the Justice Department has been reported to have looked into telephone records of at least 24 journalists at the Associated Press for years. And I haven’t even mentioned Benghazi.
I mean what in the world is going on around here? Is there no moral compass? Doesn’t anyone apply some common sense? The news reports today say that the IRS activity was known and condoned by the most senior level appointees. And the Justice Department’s nefarious activities have been going on for years and known by many top tier managers within the agency including the temporary head of the agency.
As for BloombergGate, you just have to scratch your head. How could senior level managers from such a squeaky-clean organization allow this snooping? Not only was it allowed, reporters were taught how to use Bloomberg terminals to extract all this cool information to use against bankers. Was it illegal? The answer seems to be no. Was it right? The answer is absolutely no. Daniel L. Doctoroff, Chief Executive at Bloomberg said tuesday that “since the news came out he and his management team have personally called over 300 clients.” Who cares? How about an independent inquiry to investigate how this happened? All we have right now is the Bloomberg version of events and activities. How long has this really been going on? How many bankers’ records have been viewed? What stories came out as a result? Why was this allowed in the first place? Who approved the activities and who sanctioned them? There are so many questions and so few answers.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
17 5 / 2013
Communications Business Changing Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
At a pace only Superman could appreciate, two announcements this week highlighted just how quickly things are changing in the communications business.
First, the behemoth $500 million in revenues PR agency FleishmanHillard, announced that not only was it rebranding itself (they took out the dash separating the two names and eliminated a space between names, wow), but that it is no longer to be known as a PR firm but “the world’s most complete communications firm” (nothing like a little humility). From now on, FleishmanHillard added they would be conducting PR, Social Media, and (OMG!) Advertising all under the same roof. They are also going to write, design and distribute a magazine for the “C” suite audience. A veteran “BusinessWeek” journalist is going to be the editor. In their own words (I swear I could not make this up) “we are the media,” announced the agency.
So from the agency side of the communications business virtually all forms of communications are being consolidated so brands can speak to their audiences with one voice. My only question is, “What took so long?” Many of us in the mid-size and small agency world have been doing exactly that for our clients for years. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, consider me flattered.
The other announcements came from the in-house communications world. VISA and FedEx announced that they merged their marketing and communications departments. A few weeks earlier IBM and P&G said that they were going to have their communications and marketing departments, while separate, report to one senior executive.
So the walls have come down. Advertising, Social Media and PR are increasingly being managed under a single entity called communications. Why? Because the communications industry has changed. Media relations, arguably the single most important function of a PR agency has decreased in significance as the world of traditional media and journalism has shrunk dramatically. In its place has come Social Media; a communications tool that has allowed agencies to bypass the journalist and reach target audiences directly and with unquestioned results. Further, program effectiveness can be measured as never before, and in near real time.
For those agencies and communications executives that “get it,” this is both a terrifying and exhilarating time. I learned a long time ago, the only thing we can count on in life is change. Truer words were never spoken.
03 5 / 2013
Forbes Contributor Doesn’t Get Public Relations
There currently appears on the Forbes.com one of the most out of touch articles ever written about public relations agencies. Entitled What Does A PR Agency Do? and written by contributor Robert Wynne, the article purports to detail the goals and objectives of a PR agency today. As an industry veteran of 35 years, I take issue with much of Wynne’s message, and would go so far as to call it embarrassingly simple and worse, hopelessly out-of-date. Off all the misguided statements the author makes, three are especially galling.
- First on his list of nine major activities performed by PR agencies is the creation and distribution of press kits. Say what? Our agency hasn’t done a press kit in at least 18 months. If we’ve learned anything about journalists in the past couple of years, it’s that they do not have the time or interest to read an entire press release let alone an actual press kit. And what does he list last? Why, social media, of course. Someone please stop me from jumping off a bridge. Besides reversing the order, what the contributor misses is that social media, for many agencies, now comprises at least 50 percent of the business… and the percentage is growing. Why? Because the world has changed. Journalism has changed. And agencies that get it have changed.
- Then Wynne goes on, and this is a close paraphrasing: “the goal of a PR agency is to promote clients and make them seem successful, honest, important, exciting or as relevant as possible.” Huh? Make our clients “seem” successful, honest, etc.? The first rule in PR is to be credible. If we misrepresent a client, we are dead meat – not only among journalists, but also in the world of social media.
- Finally, Wynne states that chief among our major roles is to “promote companies or individuals via editorial coverage.” Really? Better tell all the consumer product agencies that the work they do to help their clients actually market a product or service is not part of PR. Nor apparently is crises communications, employee communications, event management… you get the idea, but the author doesn’t.
Public relations has come light years from the early perception promoted by journalists as being a collection of “hacks” willing to sell our souls for a quick story or photo op. In fact, we now are often on the cutting edge of communications, practicing more advanced techniques than our counterparts in advertising, an industry to which we’ve always played second fiddle. Articles like this one do little to advance the craft. Our industry is changing dramatically, Mr. Wynne; better get on the boat or jump off while you still can.
23 4 / 2013
Winning B2B Strategies For Social Media
Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of addressing the Forum-Group, run by veteran PR practitioner Ted Matthews, on the subject of B2B social media.
While each of the approximately 25 audience members had various skill sets and experiences in social media, all were eager to learn best practices and the latest developments in the space. All agreed that journalism has changed significantly as a result of the financial pressures on the industry, especially those faced by print media.Given these changes to the communications landscape, the idea of communicating and engaging directly with target audiences was quite appealing.
While everyone understood the importance of practicing converged media focused on owned and earned media, the third component, native advertising, was still new and required explanation. Once it was made clear I was not discussing banner ads but native advertising promoting content and paid for on a cost-per-click basis, the relief and concept understanding became apparent. Influencing the influencers—a key feature of what we do here at the agency—was also of great interest. I also stressed that social media should receive the greatest share of their communications budget and attention, that the benefits are real, tangible and measureable. Many were a bit shocked by the suggestion but even more so when I said if they weren’t using social media to the fullest, then they were guilty of “malpractice.”
All were quite impressed by the case studies of social media work by Northwestern Mutual, Genentech, Cisco, American Express and Qualcomm. To me, the most exciting area practiced by these and other innovative companies is brand journalism. The idea of hiring high-caliber journalists to write a company’s brand vision and then to distribute that content in unique and exciting ways is a new direction for journalism, one in which journalists and PR professionals work together to produce spectacular work that is memorable, on message and moves target audiences in ways we never before thought possible.
Welcome to the new age of journalism and public relations.
29 3 / 2013
Great Advice Is Always Cool
The current issue of Inc. features a terrific piece called “How I Got Started,” which showcases words of wisdom from some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs. While much of the advice is geared toward founders of start-ups, I found it useful for any manager at any stage of their company’s development, and wanted to share it with you. So here are five entrepreneurs and their words of wisdom:
- “Look for the opportunity no one else sees” - Bobbi Brown, founder and chief creative officer of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
- “Find partners who believe in you”- Daymond John, co-founder and CEO of FUBU
- “When you mess up, come clean” - Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar and founder and CEO of Buzzcar
- “Eventually, you’ve got to say, JUST DO IT” - Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
- “Embrace your strengths (and hire around your weaknesses)” - Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records and chief creative officer of Sony Music Worldwide
Each author has a unique point of view about the path to success. What this says to me is that there is no wonder formula, no silver bullet that leads anyone to instant success. It is about discipline and rigor—both personally and professionally—as well as the art of business.
05 3 / 2013
Apple Is Building Something Bigger Than a TV
Here is a great CNBC article by my partner, Jason Stein: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100470286
19 2 / 2013
Converged Media—Why I’m All In
The explosion of social and digital media has fundamentally changed communications and rendered the old agency models obsolete. Instead of communications programs being heavy on media relations, we now focus on earned, owned and paid media (converged media) as equal and complementary components of our communications planning.
About this time last year, I sent my friends and associates a little missive entitled, “Why I Became Principal and CEO of A Social Media Agency.” I said at the time, “I am absolutely convinced that Public Relations is now inexorably linked to social media and content creation.” Well, in the year that has passed, we have progressed well beyond just being linked; converged media represents the communications model of today’s digital, “always-on” business landscape.
Over the past year, it has become clear to me that effective communications is no longer about different disciplines operating in silos, but rather, it requires the convergence of social media, PR, digital communications, content development, direct response and even advertising all operating within a single communications program managed by a single organization. Done smartly and executed aggressively, the ROI is beyond anything I have ever experienced.
The best way to reach and motivate both consumer and business target audiences has always been through third-party endorsement. While journalists continue to be an important resource, people are more responsive to – and trusting of – comments and endorsements from their friends and business associates. Hence the phenomenal impact of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
We are in a new age of communications. While many traditional advertising and PR agencies say they have a converged media capability, it is simply not their core competency. It is not part of their culture. For us, it is who we are and how we now serve our clients. It is in our DNA.
Using technology to better communicate with target audiences is something I’ve always focused on. It served my agency well with the rise of the Internet in the early 90’s, and will continue to be our trademark in the era of converged media. I’m super excited that our firm is doing some of the most dynamic, leading-edge communications in the industry.
07 2 / 2013
How To Become An Overnight Success In 25 Years
My thanks to the extraordinary Hollywood costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, for the graphic. It perfectly captures one of my long-held beliefs about life and business.
In this world of instant gratification, many young professionals too often either: a) feel entitled to nothing but sunny reviews and dramatic promotions and pay raises; or b) are too hard on themselves,impatient for million-dollar payoffs before they are 30. My advice: exercise a little patience and be sure to smell the roses along the way.
As one who has been a working professional for more than 35 years, I don’t mind telling you now that I fit both categories at one time or another. Early in my career I had an inflated view of my PR acumen. I thought I was just among the best PR people around. And when success—at least, my definition of it—took longer than I expected, I became rather difficult to live with for both friends and family. In fact, some of my colleagues started calling my wife Sande, “Saint Sande,” as in, you must be a saint to put up with this character all these years! Yet, somehow she did put up with me, and taught me to lighten up and find a way to enjoy things (like my children) along the way. Sound advice, to be sure.
With the benefit of hindsight, I want to make sure that anyone reading this blog makes it a point to just relax and lighten up. Work on being a great person and a consummate professional. Enjoy what you have and avoid envying others’ talents and opportunities. It took me the proverbial 25 years to become an overnight success. So work hard, study, be intellectually curious and unafraid, and most importantly, build and protect your own brand through honesty and credibility. Do all of that and I guarantee that you will be an unqualified success in anything you do.
16 1 / 2013
Projection 2013 - The Ultimate PR/Journalism Irony
I’ve heard countless complaints from journalists about public relations people throughout my career - sloppy writing, don’t understand what the journalist is interested in, annoying calls asking if the journalist received a press release. All of these and more are often true. But just as often professional public relations practitioners have been of great assistance to journalists, suggesting valuable story ideas, doing much of the research, providing sources…and much more. We were called flacks, a derisive term indicating that we were subservient and not the intellectual equal. In short, many journalists didn’t want to have anything to do with us unless it was absolutely necessary.
Well, here’s the irony. If my prediction for 2013 and beyond holds out, I believe the PR industry will be one of the largest employers of journalists on the planet. Why? Because content creation is becoming ever more important as public relations becomes the storyteller through social media. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, CRM, white papers, infographics, yes - even press releases (although their purpose and format have dramatically changed), are all part of the content marketing landscape. And who best to create all this content? Why, journalists, of course. They are trained storytellers, with the ability to grasp a wide variety of subjects quickly and write in almost any style required.
Social media conversation must be credible, engaging, fresh and relevant. Journalists are a natural. While journalists have “gone to the dark side” before, it was never in a uniform, consistent way; a job here, a job there. What I anticipate is that starting this year, public relations will be actively looking to hire journalists and in large numbers. Further, I believe they will become part of account teams with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. It’s inevitable.
02 1 / 2013