The Address Book 1.0
Everyone uses an address book. It’s a valuable cache of essential contact information that helps us connect to our family, friends, and colleagues. While we rely on address books everyday, our standard Web 1.0 address book apps (think Apple Address Book and Microsoft Outlook) are bulky, and unintuitive.
The primary downside to these address books? You must manually enter and update information for each contact. What happens when a contact changes phone numbers, Facebook profiles, or Twitter names? You are left with no option but to engage in time-consuming Internet searches. What is the Solution?
The Smart Address Book
Enter the smart address book. Smart address books have the potential of changing the way we manage our personal and professional relationships. These address books are designed with the Web. 3.0 in mind and have the ability to “pull” in information from a number of different media platforms, including social network sites, automatically updating information about your contacts.
A number of apps (Smartr Contacts, and Addappt) have attempted to integrate social media and standard contact information, however, none have captured the public’s attention and have seen wide spread adoption.
A new app, Atmospheir, may completely break through this adoption barrier. Atmospheir is essentially a smart address book with a focus on relationship management through social media. “…it is the first application that aims to address all stages of the contact management life cycle: creation, storage, expansion and retention,” said CEO Matt Crumrine,
Atmospheir has several interesting features that meet the needs of Web 3.0 users including perpetual updates, varying access modes, privacy and location specific tools. These tools make your current address book look like a rolodex.
New Tech, New Issues
While the primary advantage of smart address books is the ability to receive perpetual updates and connect all your media platforms, it is also the downside. A major element of relationship management is the ability to control the flow of information. For example, you might want to share your Facebook profile with friends, but do not want potential employers to have access. The winner of the smart address book wars will be the app that can balance the privacy vs. access issue.
With the advantages offered by smart address books it might be time for those Web 1.0 address books to rest in peace. Will Atmospheir be the winner? Only time will tell.
Monday, Air New Zealand landed a Boeing 777-300 aircraft with 54-meter (177-foot) images of the dragon from Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy. This event was an excellent example of a public relations pseudo-event.
The event revolved around revealing the image of the new Hobbit dragon, Smaug. This is the first time that fans had the opportunity to see Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit. Trailers for the movie only revealed the dragon’s eye, leaving the rest to the imagination.
The company behind the event, Admark, teamed up with Air New Zealand to install the decal on a Boeing 777-300 aircraft. Representatives from the airlines noted that the image will remain on the airplane until the third movie premiers in 2014.
Is the image a simple “flying billboard”? No, it’s a pseudo-event, a pre-planned event to capture public/media attention. Daniel Boorstin in his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America defines a pseudo-event as: (1) not spontaneous, it has been planned in advance (2) constructed for the purpose of fostering media attention (3) not dependent on real events or a situation (4) is a self-fulfilling prophecy (if the event is designed to be positive, it will be perceived as positive).
Does the Air New Zealand’s event fit Boorstin’s definition? Absolutely. The event was planned, well in advance, designed to capture public attention, based on a fictional work, and it established a self-fulfilling prophecy, to complete the story gap left by the trailer, revealing the Smaug’s eye.
Boorstin (2012) also notes that the public thinks in images more than ideals. The image of a flying dragon in the book or on film is abstract, fictional, and obscure. However the image created larger than life on a Boeing 777-300 is concrete, believable, and vivid. The event also helps blend the fictional and real world, transferring a Middle Earth quality to the airline.
In the past the tourism board of New Zealand has capitalized on the film series and launched a public relations campaign, New Zealand – Home of Middle Earth. This pseudo-event fits well into this campaign. If you are planning on traveling to New Zealand, home of Middle Earth, why not fly on a dragon?
Was the pseudo-event successful? A quick news search revealed over 200 print news and over 500 online news mentions. Concerning social media just examine Air New Zealand’s USA Facebook page, they have prominently featured the event and the posts have received numerous “Likes”, comments and shares.
When planning pseudo-events, you must think creatively and larger than life. What is more creative than a flying dragon?
Wikipedia has just publicly named a Texas-based “public relations” firm, Wiki-PR, for whitewashing a number of entries on their webpage. Specifically, Wikipedia accused the organization for “sock puppetry” or creating false user identifies to “praise, defend, or support a person or organization.” (Wikipedia). This story is receiving significant attention from several media outlets (i.e., Verge, Los Angles Times, Wikipedia), but some of the news coverage is framing the company as a public relations firm, not a Wikipedia consulting firm.
This story raises an excellent question, what should a company look for in a public relations or social media consulting firm?
The best place to start is to review a commonly accepted definition of public relations. PR is not simply the distribution of a news release or the creation of a social media pages; instead it is a “Strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” (PRSA). In the Wiki-PR case, Wikipedia is a public that can be both influenced by outside sources (i.e., your company) and influence your stakeholders (i.e., potential customers). Engaging in “sock puppetry” does not build a mutually beneficial relationship between your company and Wikipedia, the firm representing you, and other publics.
A public relations firm should have an “about us” page or other relevant information that demonstrates they understand the role of public relations in creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. For example, Edelman, one of the top public relations firms in the world, has an extensive “about us” page that presents its values and understanding of public relations. When searching for a PR consulting firm, make sure that you can review the firm’s values and approach to public relations.
A public relations firm becomes an ethical advocate for a company or organization. In turn, ethical practices are critical in fairly representing your company to the public. A PR firm should have a statement or clear description of ethical values. PR practitioners are often members of the Public Relation Society of America (PRSA). The PRSA is the largest public relations organization in the world and places significant emphasis on educating its members about ethical standards. Over the years, PRSA has established a Code of Ethics that helps practitioners and firms navigate ethical dilemmas. Compare a firm’s values to the PRSA Code of Ethics. This comparison should give you a good idea of whether a firm places enough emphasis on ethics.
Another sign of a reputable PR firm are employees who hold Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credentials. APR is an industry recognized standard established by the PRSA in 1964 and evaluates a practitioner’s understanding of a number of important aspects of public relations, including ethical practices. A quick Google search or inquiry to a firm can confirm if an individual holds an APR.
Just a Name
Would you judge a book by its cover? When looking for public relations firm you must be very selective. You are not simply selecting someone to write a media release, but someone who will be publically advocating for your company. A little bit of research goes a long way to preventing a crisis situation, (think Wiki-PR and Wikipedia). Go beyond the aesthetics of a website and review a firm’s concept of public relations and ethical values. A great PR firm will be more than willing to share with you their strategies and tactics for achieving your campaign goals
A topic that commonly confuses public relations students and sometimes clients is the difference between strategy and tactics. Confusing these concepts can lead to major misunderstandings between team members and other stakeholders. There are many ways to explain the concepts, and I will give you a breakdown of the differences.
What is a Strategy?
Simply stated a strategy is an overall plan of action to achieve a particular goal or objective. Think of strategy as the “what” element of the equation. Paul Smith, author of Great Answers to Tough Marketing Questions, suggests that a strategy “…summarizes how to achieve objectives in general terms – the big picture”. It’s not the same as goals or objectives. Strategy is built on a number of factors including research and theory.
For example, environmental scanning is a strategy to acquire information from the external environment to use in issues management and crisis communication.
What is Tactic?
On the other hand, a tactic is a specific procedure, method, or activity for implementing a strategy. If strategy is the “Big Picture” then tactics can be considered the smaller details. In a sense tactics are the ability and available resources to accomplish the strategy. Tactics should only be planned after a strategy is created. Keep in mind a tactic is not an outcome. A PR professional does not write a media release simply to write a media release, instead the media release is one specific tactic (activity) to help achieve the big picture.
A tactic in implementing environmental scanning would be to set-up a keyword alert system to inform PR professionals about potential issues and threats.
Why the Confusion?
In PR education, students are often overly focused on the tactics because they are the most visual part of a public relations campaign and students can easily relate to real world examples. In the same line of thinking clients are often more focused on tactics because they are thinking in turns of public perception. On another level creating strategy requires a considerable amount of critical thinking, as a strategy is abstract compared to concrete tactics.
There are two great ways to help solidify the differences between strategy and tactics. First, analyze great public relations campaigns, such as PRSA Silver Anvil Award winners. Copies of the winning campaigns can be found on the PRSA website and are available for PRSA and PRSSA member to download. Secondly, find a PR situation (opportunity or problem) in the media and develop a series of strategies and tactics to resolve the situation.
Or course this may involve a little time and critical thinking, but the knowledge you will gain is well worth the effort.
Google has recently changed the game regarding search engine optimization (SEO). On Thursday Google announced that it was upgrading its search engine algorithm, codenamed Hummingbird. This new update has followed in the wake of other structural updates including Panda and Penguin.
These updates have creating significant buzz on the Internet, specifically among advertisers and marketing professionals. The concern revolves around the effectiveness of previously established SEO techniques (i.e., link optimization). PR professionals have also raised concerns due to the changes
regarding press releases.
Debate about these new changes and the effectiveness of PR tactics such as media releases will no doubt continue for years to come. However, theses new rules provide an opportunity to remind our clients and management that while SEO does play an important part in the technical side of PR, there is indeed more to PR than improving your search engine rankings.
More than Just Press Releases
Does your C-Suite understand the strategic role of PR? Google’s media announcements, provides a chance to inform those departments about both the technical and strategic roles of public relations.
Although the most recent 2012 GAP Study noted that 60% of companies PR/COM report directly to the C-Suite (CEO, CCO, etc.), it is important to evaluate the C-Suite’s knowledge of PR and when necessary help change perceptions.
In communicating with the C-Suite it is also helpful to highlight the limitations of specific tactics. For example, online media releases will continue to be affected by changing policy and search engine updates, however, high quality content and strategic placement of resources will continue to have a strong place in effective campaigns.
Timing is everything
In PR timing is crucial. If Google’s announcements are creating buzz at your company it may be a great chance to increase awareness about the strategic role of public relations. The technical side of PR will always be directly influenced by changes in technology, however it is the strategic side that will navigate these changes and ensure that your company will reap the benefits.
USA Today reported that an undercover operation dubbed “Clean Turf” uncovered 19 SEO firms who were creating fake online profiles and employing foreign freelance writers to post positive reviews.
The firms were positing positive reviews on popular websites such as Bing and Google. Attorney General, Eric Schniderman, revealed in a press conference today that the firms agreed to pay over $350,000 in fines and to cease posting fake reviews.
Clients often hire PR firms to help increase a brand’s presence or awareness among a specific audience. To achieve these objectives many PR professional engage in SEO tactics such as identifying relevant keywords, including backlinks, and securing guest posts. However, if your firm does not have extensive experience in SEO or is interested in outsourcing this service you will want to check on the following.
Black, White, or Gray Hat?
You need to ask your SEO firm about tactics. Black hat tactics, such as the creation of fake profiles and reviews, keyword stuffing, invisible text, and doorway pages are high risk and unethical. In contrast, white hat tactics such as improving title tags, meta tags, restructuring URLs, site navigation improvement, and the creation of site maps are all considered ethical. Its good practice to ask your firm about its practices and make informed choices.
Beware of Secrets
One of the core provisions of the PRSA Code of Ethics is the disclosure of information. SEO companies who insist on “secret” practices for page ranking and will not disclose the specifics should raise red flags. Good SEO providers take pride in full transparency and will be more than happy to discuss their strategy and techniques.
The Guarantee of #1
Everyone wants to be #1, but in the world of SEO, it is a long hard battle. Avoid any SEO firm who guarantees #1 rankings for popular search engines. Search engines such as Google and Bing keep their search algorithms private and are constantly changing them to provide a better user experience. No one knows the secret trick to achieve #1 ranking.
Keep in mind that not all SEO providers are ethical, and unethical SEO practices can result in reputation damage as well as legal problems. In considering an SEO firm, ask the right questions, demand transparency, and follow the PRSA Code of Ethics.