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This “Did You Know” video on YouTube has been around for some time in different forms.  This is one of the latest versions which succeeds by simply sharing mind-blowing changes influenced by new technologies.

Opening Screen of "Did You KNow" on YouTube
Opening Screen of “Did You Know” on YouTube

It’s a bit long (4:56), but this is one of the shorter versions. 

There is no question that technological advancement has always influenced how people communicate; how they establish and manage relationships.  Just consider the changes in society from the invention of movable type, the telegraph, radio, the telephone, television, cable television, cell phones, Web 1.0, PDAs, Web 2.0, and, whatever Web 3.0 settles out as.

The point of the video is that the rate of change, influenced by technology, is what we all need to think about. 

If you realize, as the video shares, that today there are 31 billion searches on Google each month and in all of 2006 there were 2.7 billion, you get the point!

So, what does this mean for professional communicators?  PR has been forever changed.  We know that, but we’re not 100% sure what that means.  Anyone who says they are isn’t playing straight.

Marketing and branding have been influenced just as profoundly.  With the internet enabling micro-segmenting of audiences, messages and communications channels have multiplied.

It’s trite to say it’s the Wild West all over again.  It is a time, though, of rapid and uncertain change.

Please add your comments or suggestions for other videos or articles or blogs to explore this topic.

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.30.09

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I just read a very common sensical article in PRSA’s Tactics (April 2009) written by Michael L. Herman, APR titled “A cowboy’s guide to crisis management.”  PR professionals need to get it and read it (too bad it isn’t available online).

Not sure I fully appreciate the “cowboy” angle, but plenty of wise words nonetheless.  No doubt derived from years of experience.crisis41

Of course, Herman and virtually all professional communicators are strong advocates for the need to have crisis communications plans in place BEFORE the crisis hits.  Consider these common elements to most crises:

  • They are usually a surprise
  • They take control away from you
  • They attract public scrutiny
  • They are time-senstive and time-intensive
  • They threaten reputation, stability, financial health, competitive position, project viability and even the continued existence of an organization.

Serious stuff.  So, why have a plan in place in advance? 

Well, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you have purchased life or health insurance policies.  Chances are you said YES.

Now, ask yourself if you ever want to use the insurance you purchased.  Odds are the answer is HECK NO.  But, you bought it anyway, just in case.

Well, the same goes for investing in developing and then maintaining a crisis communications plan.

Makes a ton of sense … good business sense.

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.28.09

Spending smart may be the best advice for any company in these economic times.  But, what does that mean when itdont-panic comes to strategic communications?

Check out this post (March 15) by Todd Defren on his blog, PR Squared.  He shares a .ppt presentation he recently delivered titled “Marketing in a Recession“.  It is worth reviewing.

He shares that, “Brands that increase (marketing) during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than in good economic times.” Harvard Business Publishing, March 3, 2008.

Another interesting claim is that, “For the FTE cost of one senior PR pro, agencies will give you 5! – strategists, tecticians, writers, etc.”

And, he shares this really good “DO” and “DON’T” list:

  • DO:
    • Listen
    • Blog
    • Hire a PR firm
    • Focus on SEO
    • Create & publish relevant content
    • Distribute content in places where buyers can be foun (trust good SEO to do the rest)
    • Measure
  • DON’T:
    • Advertise
    • Pay-per-click
    • Attend events (unless you’re a speaker)
    • Protect your fiefdom (outsource vs. hire)
    • And, Don’t Panic!

I like this blog.  I find it particularly relevant to PR and strategic communications professionals.  I encourage you to subscribe.

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.24.09

newspaperHappy St. Patrick’s Day. 

On the cover of today’s NYT comes a story of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (The P-I) becoming an internet only newspaper.  Important reading for PR and communications professionals.

Last Sunday, in a special (and unusual) column, the Cincinnati Enquirer publisher proclaimed it was, “not a dying newspaper” as she explained the diversity of the organization’s products (online and offline) and its impressive reach within the Cincinnati-area. (NOTE: somewhat surprisingly, I could not find the publisher’s column online to provide a link. Disappointing.)

Last fall, at an IPREX conference in Boston, the dean of the Boston University College of Communications, Tom Fiedler, a former executive editor, investigative reporter and political columnist for the Miami Herald, shared some interesting insights from his elevated post.  As I recall his comments ….

Dean Fiedler marveled at the pervasiveness of the internet.  He referred to it as the “new Florence” in a reference to Florence as the center of the universe in the Renaissance.  “Where everything gravitated,” Fiedler explained.  The difference?  We don’t know where it’s headed or what it means: how is it changing us?, what is it doing to society?, what is it doing to global interactions?

Fiedler suggested that the internet is dramatically changing people’s ability to reinterpret events in our world.  Information sharing is no longer filtered primarly through professional journalists, but is pushed out from nearly countless sources with countless perspectives and, in some cases, undisclosed but distinct intentions.

Most people who follow what’s happening to print news understand that print advertising revenue is dropping like mercury on a cold day and, while online advertising might be increasing, it cannot cover the overhead of printing a newspaper (newsprint, ink, production, distribution, etc.).  The economy in crisis will only speed-up many marketer’s pull away from print advertising.

Some claim the online revenue stream may cover the print news-gathering process but not the print news-sharing process.  Support for this claim may be evident in the NYT article about The P-I (the online version) having a news staff of 20 compared to its print edition staff of 165.

What does all this mean for the future of print journalism.  When the Cincinanti Enquirer’s publisher feels compelled to write a column proclaiming they’re “not dying,” and The P-I becomes the largest newspaper to close and continue as an online edition, the future looks clear and rather bleak.

Will print die?  Will print scale back to just weekends and rely on online editions for weekly readers?  Will just local print newspapers die or scale back while those with national circulations continue to publish?  Will surviving print outlets simply “buy” content from professional journalists who enterprise interesting or investigative stories?  Will something else happen?

Please share your insights.  What do you think is happening/will happen to print journalism?

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.17.09

UPDATE TO POST:  A friend and fellow communicator, Paul Bernish, shared this link to a fascinating post on the NYTimes blog – The Opinionator: “Why Newspapers Can’t be Saved, But the News Can”.  It is right on point, and dramatically more reseqarched and cited, than my post.  For those who choose to go deeper, please read.  Thanks, Paul.

These are about the scariest economic times any of us have ever been through.  It is sometimes hard to know how much is real and how much is hype which just adds to everyone’s anxiety.  Regardless, it’s tough out there.

I am getting more and more questions from clients and colleagues about how much, what, when and to whom to communicate about the challenging economic environment and its impact.

dilbert-strip

At Vehr Communications, we put together an “Insights” paper titled “Employee Communications in Tough Economic Times“.  Take a look.  Here’s what we touch on:

  • If you’re anxious, so are your employees.  Communicate with them.  In the absence of what leadership says, something will fill that space and it probably won’t be accurate or helpful.
  • Keep your messages succinct and clear
  • Be honest with everything you say
  • Be smart about what you say – owners and managers are still responsible for the business so expect what you share internally will end up with competitors or the media
  • Treat employees how you want to be treated – if you can, share news face-to-face, even if it’s tough news
  • Check the calendar – no pay freeze, furlough or lay-off announcements on “bring your kid to work day” – PR folks don’t need retainers like that

For owners and managers, listen to your HR people and check with your attorneys.  Importantly, involve your communications professionals, whether internal or agency, in your decision-making.

For employees, seek information.  Encourage management to meet and discuss.  Let them know you are anxious, too.

I hope this is helpful.  I would love to hear other suggestions.  Please recommend improvements to our “Insights” paper.

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.14.09

There are many things companies can do in tough economic times.  As all professional communicators know, integrated1marketing and PR budgets are usually early targets for cuts.

Many company leaders see times like this as an opportunity to increase their share of voice in the market.  How do they do that?

One way is to ensure that your marketing efforts are integrated – that your voice in the market place is coordinated, multiplied and leveraged, that every dollar you spend is spent wisely.

Use this time to clarify your organization’s key messages.  Make sure you have clarity and consensus on what differentiates you from your competition. 

Next, be certain these clear and concise messages are shared consistently in all of your communications.  Since many company’s marketing and strategic outreach efforts are Web-based, this can all be accomplished in very affordable ways.

Use this time to start a company e-newsletter.  Online readers expect brevity and bullet points.  Develop it as an aggregator of company and industry information rather than substantial original content; you’ll save staff time (money) and expand your reach.

Publish original content (news releases, issue papers, etc.) to your own Web site and distribute it to key audiences you already have in your database.  Link these folks back to other content in your Web site to drive up your search rankings.

Start a company blog.  Make it professional and put a blog code of conduct in place for your company.

Adding sight, sound and motion to a Web site increases traffic and drives people deepr into and holds people longer on your site.  Take all those videos you have related to your company and its products or services make them accessible on your Web site. 

Importantly, make sure all these new outlets share the same message in the same voice and that they do it consistently.

We’d be intertested in hearing any other marketing suggestions about how to make the best of these bad economic times.

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.3.09