Friday, March 28, 2008

More Video Press Releases

For examples of Video press releases that I think work, take a look at those done by PR & Marketing company OuterJoin:

After speaking with Brian Warren from OuterJoin about them, I understand that they are very well received by clients and "augment traditional text based press releases with something visually pleasing and informational".

I think they have a nice and useful service going there and something others would do well to emulate.
(hint: or just hire Outerjoin)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Your own Social Media site.. too late or Open (Social) season?

I have previously asked the question whether the door has shut on the opportunity for companies to build their own Social Media site.

A month or so on and the decison to do so is now looking less and less valid. There are growing examples of very good sites set up that just haven't attracted users to build up the required critical mass.

E.g. Conde Nast's project:

However, all is not lost... potentially due to Open Social...
This common way of interfacing with multiple websites now makes it possible to have all your Social Media data separate from the site you are using. In effect this could make the barriers of site sign-up and subsequent usage a thing of the past.

It may therefore mean that having some form of Social Media on every company website is soon so easy to implement and manage that it will become the next 'must have' bit of functionality.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A culture of Influence

With everyone becoming their own publisher, its in so many people's interest these day to influnce others.

As mentioned in John Furrier's recent post

As more bloggers enter the scene there is a hunger for attention. At first
attention was based upon how good you were or how good a blogger’s content
was. Now the hunger for attention can hurt influence.

As Joshua Porter says. "It may then be better to think of social media tools as amplifying customer opinion rather than improving it".

Its an interesting thought... and you can't help wondering we aren't just increasing the volume... rather than improving the tone?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The future of widgets

Widgets are increasing in use as a communication tool for marketers (but less so for PR)

I saw these 2 different posing articles on BusinessWeek and was reminded of a recent posting about portable content as well as an email conversation I had with a client on the future of web widgets:

Why widgets won't work:

Widgets, the future of online ads:

Obviously there's still a debate on their validitity. However some larger companies are trialling different revenue models for their widgets and CBS is entering into an affilliate/revenue sharing deal with bloggers who use theirs:

If you are investigating whether to go invest in widgets or other micro-publishing formats, it may be best to run a small cost-effective trial rather than investing too much at this point. But its worth keeping an eye on those that are pioneering them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Can companies be part of the social world?

There is some debate going on at the moment about whether companies are able to engage in social media. The crux of the issue is whether a company, in essence a body made up of a number of individuals can communicate as a single entity.

One opinion says that humans connect to humans and its not the domain of brands:
Shel Israel makes this point clearly here:

However the alternative view is that companies need to be able to exist in the social media space and engage in dialogue and interactions with their customers/users/influencers
Forrester have been advocating this approach for almost a year now and their 'Groundswell' book and their article that covers 5 main reasons for companies to get involved:

Their more recent blog posting about this subject goes into more depths.

Where are you on the Purist - Corporatist scale?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CEO's that Blog

It can either work well or work badly if you get your CEO to blog. As I've previously covered, it can be a mistake for the CEO to set up a blog and then .... [nothing]

Done with a little thought you do potentially get to show 'the boss' in a new light and as long as you consider that at all times you must have: Relevance, transarency and humility, you should have an effective PR tool on your hands.

This is what Waitrose have done and MD Mark Price's blog shows insight, humour and possibly a reduced waistline if he keeps to his word:

Corporate Social Graph - Michael Myers Q&A Part3

Q: How should a company identify, track and measure its CSG (especially over time)?

Research is needed to identify the right brand channels/mediums to reach their customer base. Primary research to find existing customers and targeted demographics/psychographics. Also using internal team members for information as to where they have seen customers online is also good idea. (This is also a good way to find your SME.)

Each brand channel has its own metrics and we always need to keep in mind that little thing we call acquisition.
i. Tracking which medium leads to the most acquisitions (YouTube).
ii. Tracking which medium leads to the highest level of interaction (customer service). Measuring the quality of that interaction on a scale that the business has created (1-10).
iii. Tracking which medium creates the most traffic overall (Facebook application).
iv. Tracking which medium the user spends the most time with (casual gaming).
v. Tracking which medium brings the highest level of complaints (blogs, forums) and more importantly how they were dealt with and the end result.

Many of these technologies/methodologies are really in their infancy and measurement should start with ROI. Overtime, as these mediums mature and converge (i.e. interactive TV) it will become clearer as to how well something is working. Measurement is always going to need to be a daily thing with the potential for change in direction (updated tactics) built in.

That is what the Internet provides and as we move towards a CPA model it will become more and more important. I also want to be clear that if something does a great job of building repoire (as evidenced by feedback) but does not pan out in regards to ROI, it should not necessarily be abandoned. The internet and the brand channels/mediums that is contains are evolving and will be for quite some time.

Marketers will need to be vigilant to insure they are doing what they need to successfully create a fluid corporate social graph.

Note: I'd like to thank Michael for his time and valuable contribution

Monday, March 17, 2008

Corporate Social Graph - Michael Myers Q&A Part2

Q: What do you see is the biggest difference between the Personal Social Graph and the Corporate Social Graph?

A: The biggest difference is that a brand identity needs to be kept intact. Although I will say that I believe there are things to be learned from individual social graphs with respect to identity. My LinkedIn account is very different from my Facebook account which is very different from my web site. Each serves a different purpose and is used to connect with different types of people in different ways. Sounds a bit schizophrenic but people behave differently in a variety of social situations, just as companies do. We have to remember that businesses are comprised of people. They just need to be conscious of what other team members are doing within other brand channels/mediums. The goal is the interactivity; communicate and share information and the real trick is how to get customers to expand the corporate social graph.

Part 1 of this interview is also available

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Corporate Social Graph - Michael Myers Q&A Part1

I've recently mentioned that Mike Myers has also discovered the term 'the Corporate Social Graph'. Following an interesting email discussion with him, I asked him to do an interview for this blog on the 'CSG'. I know we'd both value your input on this topic, so please contact me if you have any opinons on this posting (hayden at idealinterface dot co dot uk).

Q: What are the challenges a company a company could face in initially creating its Corporate Social Graph?

A: The biggest challenges I see are:

1. Ability to create and maintain a consistent brand message across multiple branding channels (YouTube, flickr, Facebook, mobile). I’m of the opinion that the best brands are the most simple and this is a real challenge to build brand equity with the inherent differences between the mediums that live within those brand channels (blogs, photos, videos, etc.)

2. Knowledge of the medium. Each medium has a set of rules that require a Subject Matter Expert. That SME is hard to find, harder to keep needs to be passionate about the medium and the rules for that brand channel will change over time. Many of the mediums have just come into existence and we are trying to figure what can and more importantly, should be done with them. Next week Toyota will launch a $4 million dollar campaign on YouTube. This is a safer bet given the traffic and the “lack of interactivity”.

Comments are the extent to which one can interact with Toyota through YouTube. We will see if Toyota responds to comments left.

3. Allowing for real interactivity as if someone was talking to a person and not a company. People want to hear a human voice and giving someone the authority to create that voice is risky and requires a tremendous amount of trust. If the guidelines are too strict, the response can sound canned and no one will listen.

Note: further questions and answers to follow soon

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ways to make content more portable

Distributing your media across the web can be a beneficial way of providing your users and extended target audience with the assets that you want to provide them with (more examples of use and mis-use here)

The immediate and instant delivery of your content and media to numerous people across the web is not the stuff of the future or something so cutting edge that it requries a bespoke multi-million pound Media Distribution System.... it can be achieved easily over time, as part of your corporate site's evolution and just used combinations of several known & standard technologies & practices already out there.

So... what are they?

Content/Media Management System:
Including:categorisation (tagging & meta info), reformatting, versioning, workflow, etc. to manage the content you want to 'push'

Admin function:
This manages the permissions / rights / subscription / personalisation process

RSS is by far the most preferred method of distribution and updating content. Other methods of syndication can be used but RSS is now becoming a common standard for pulling content thanks to podcasts and widget technology gaining widespread usage.

Widgets :
These can be used and are just self-contained HTML components that deliver text and media. There are several standards for these and also some bespoke work may be required to fit it into some frameworks / templates. However, sometimes just the media is sent or referring URL is called.

It is also important that this service has an adaptive hosting facility that that can react to large fluctuations in demand across a potential global footprint, especially if streaming of audio or video is required.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Corporate Social Graph - some personal qualities?

Having taken a second look at the 'Social Map by Sean O'Driscoll', I believe he's provided some interesting indices for measuring the personal social graph:

In his diagram he uses the following qualities:
  • Reach
  • Density
  • Speed
  • Structural cohesion
  • Proximity
  • Personas
However, I wonder whether the properties he gives are also the same ones you would use for the Corporate Social Graph?

Following a conversation with Michael Myers, COO at Fresh Current, he has answered some questions on his opinion about the Corporate Social Graph. I will be posting his replies here as soon as possible.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Make your content portable!

Think about all those assets that you produce and would like a bigger/better audience for:
  • Your company introduction video that you have spent a fortune on
  • The company press release that you would like circulated to a larger number
  • A set of product images that you paid a professional photographer to take

Please realise that all sorts of users will:

  • Copy, lampoon or just ridicule that video (e.g. Chevy Tahoe)
  • Mis-quote your press release
  • Alter your photos from your website (or make their own)

However, although this is a challenge for brand managers to track, let alone 'police'... it is also a significant opportunity. By selecting ways of making your content more portable, quotable and re-purpose-able... you provide assets for your influcencers to use and hopefully keep coming back for more.

Just remember that they will use your content whether you like it or not. Its therefore better if they use it with your permission and on your terms isn't it?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Video Press Release

As the humble Press Release evolves over time, from the traditional format through to the recently-developed Social Media Press Release (previously covered here), you can't help wonder what it will become in time. In addition to these thoughts, I was recently asked by a client "will the next evolution of the Press Release be a Video Press Release distributed online?"

My answer was a resounding "No" initially, followed by "...but video will be key in getting the message across".

Now there is no doubt that video within a blog or webpage provides a lot of information and conveys more than just text or images alone. However, just using video is not necessarily the right approach . Not every company has the ability to produce good quality video nor a spokesperson who is good in front of a camera.

Good examples of video combined with other media, when embedded within a press release placed on a site, are more frequently found online now. In fact the popularity for doing this is growing as more companies try it & get positive feedback and as broadband tips over the 50% mark in most developed countries.

Video, when used as one of a combination of media, has the following benefits in a Press Release:

1. It can be used to get a lot of data over quickly, using the mutually beneficial combination of visual and audio cues

2. When combined with words (copy) and accompanying diagrams for supporting information, this message becomes even clearer (The content can explain terms and spell complex words that audio or video may not be best at)

3. It can provide a 'human' face to your company and message (note: you do not have to use your Head of Marketing or PR Manager for this)

However, always consider that video may not be the right medium to use:
1. All of your audience may not be able to view it.
e.g. Not everyone has sufficient bandwidth (you may have mobile users) and don't forget accessibility issues caused by placing content just in a video clip
2. People may still want to print & read content offline
3. You may not have the time or budget for every piece
Producing video for all Press Releases can be an expensive and time-consuming overhead. Consider what budget you have for this, test to see what works and prioritise who (and what) you are going to cover.
4. You are not necessarily producing a streaming news channel. A Press Release is definitely a news-worthy piece of content, but spoken to camera in a ‘matter-of-fact way’ could well make it more like a news report.

Consider the extra benefit that a video clip could add:
  • A case study/testimonial
  • Instructional / educational information
  • A supporting clip to provide context or detail

However, if it is pertinent, cost-effective and useful, you could always try putting video in your Press Release, you won't necessarily have set a precident. Just remember to measure the impact it has.

Try the following as an example of where this is going....

Pitzer College Press Release about its YouTube course:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Influencing Usability

A recent article from US consulting company ServiceXRG has published its research to confirm what I have also believed for a while:

That you can significantly influence your users by providing a positive user experience on your website.

The report (freely available here) provides supporting evidence to explain its main finding:
1. Customers perceptions are influenced by online experiences
2. Customers have purpose, but need help obtaining their goals
3. Effective tools and content are essential to lead customers to their desired outcome
4. The content customers need does not exist, or if they do find it, the quality is less than they expected

Based on interviews with 503 online customers and 311 companies, this research shows how customers use the Web to make purchase decisions. It explains what companies can do to provide users with an experience that meets and exceeds their expectations. is lucky enough to be asked to work on developing usable and persuasive interfaces. This assists both the company bottom line and the online experience of the user.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Corporate Social Graph

I have previously mentioned the individual's social graph, the relationships a person has with others and how to represent this.

However the relationships a company has with its influencers does in many ways resemble the relationships individuals have. It must therefore possible to do the same for a company or brand. But what are the differences?

Here's my suggestions on how they differ:

1. As a company is made up of more than one person, the nodes that make up the graph must therefore be greater

2. As a consequence, the connections between nodes must also be greater (but not uniformly)

3. The frequency that these connections change at will be different from an individual's graph (if only because very few individuals have their own marketing or PR function)

4. The type of connections will be different.

For example, a connection between two people (nodes) will be based upon family / friendship - usually a positive connection. However collective sentiment about a company / brand / product will be extremely broad and range from the positive to the negative (I don't know anyone who is hated as much as some companies)

Michael Myers has come to a similar conclusion and also calls this connectivity the Corporate Social Graph. He goes on to state that any company not having one will soon be at a disadvantage... and I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Social Graph API

There has been a lot of activity recently devoted to opening up the social networks (E.g. Open Social) and linking them together so a person can find their friends or family in multiple places.
This is related to the terminology called the 'Social Graph', a representation of an individual's network.

Here's some nice chap at Google explaining how the stuff comes together:

Press Releases & SEO

Putting your Company press releases up on your main site has several benefits, including:
- the ability to hyperlink through to the specific products & services mentioned
- providing an email link to the author (or other people mentioned)
- providing consistent branding/headings with the rest of your online presence
- bringing the content under your own management to ensure the correct timings (or should it ever need to be changed... note: this is a very risky activity to engage in).

However on-site press releases are also of benefit as part of an effective Search Engine Optimisation Strategy for your site.

To get the best from this useful resource, you should not just consider that you are writing for a human (e.g. journalist) but that you are also writing for a machine (e.g. the Google search bot, that will try to spider and index your site correctly).

For the human:
Ensure you have engaging content in the correct tone, try to engender an emotion response from your reader.

For the machine:
Ensure you have keyword optimized your content, including key phrases that will be subsequenlty searched for

These two approaches are not necessarily contradictory, but more thought does have to be applied to cover both perspectives.

However, it does not stop there!
Once released, you can now start to measure the traffic to your press release, understanding the entrance points and in the particular keywords used to get there. This will give you great insight into what attracts your visitors to the page and how to write better subsequent releases.

The Social Press Release (in all its various versions) goes a lot further than this. But an understanding of the human/machine requirements intially goes a long way.