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5 reasons an Amazon Echo Dot is a “must” for any PR person’s office

A few weeks ago, I bought an Amazon Echo Dot.

Complete impulse buy.

If I remember correctly, we were at Best Buy to purchase something for my son. But, I walked out with an Echo Dot.

A few weeks later, I hadn’t touched it. Until earlier this week, when I added it to my office environment.

Really, I just wanted to experiment with it professionally. That was my whole MO for buying the darn thing. But, as I started playing around with it this week, I’m starting to think: Every PR/social person should have one of these things in their office.

Why? Mostly for the multi-tasking capabilities (and really, the novelty). And, as PR people, we love our multi-tasking.

But also, for the improved productivity. As a one-man-band, I thrive on productivity (don’t tell my wife that–doesn’t translate to personal life :). Not to mention, they’re pretty cheap–just $50 for the Dot.

So, the Echo Dot intrigued me.

And, so far, it hasn’t disappointed. I’m just one week in, mind you, but Echo has helped improve my office environment and productivity in the following ways:

Instead of reading the news–I now HEAR the news

I still read the newspaper every morning (one of the few left, apparently), but when I have a few minutes of downtime, I’ve found it useful to “hear” the national news via Echo. Multiple ways to do this–the most easy: Simply saying “Alexa, what’s in the news?”

Voice-activated music catalog

Obviously, this is one the functions most people use Echo for. And, as a power Spotify user, I’ve found it very useful. Not much different than using my Jambox, but I like that I can get my news, do research and get my music in one spot with Echo. I also like that the example on my Alexa app is “Alexa, play Taylor Swift.”

Check your calendar with a simple command

Again, all I have to do is click and I can see my calendar, but it’s all about multi-tasking, right? For example, let’s say I’m on a call, and I can’t remember my schedule for the afternoon. A simple, “Alexa, what’s my calendar?” will tell me what’s coming up, at what time and who I’m meeting with. All I had to do is sync up Echo with my Outlook calendar. Pretty slick.

Conduct basic research

Now, to be clear, this isn’t going to replace more hard core research. But, for easy research requests, this is a nice option. For example–you get a question from a client on a call about how many users are on Facebook these days? Simply mute your phone and ask: “Alexa, how many Facebook users are there?” Boom–answer in seconds. You look brilliant. Amazon magic in motion.

Quiet your mind with a babbling brook or thunderstorm

I do a decent amount of work during the day to music. But, one thing I can’t do with music in the background is writing. And since writing is such a big part of my day, that’s an issue for me. Enter babbling brook and thunderstorm sounds via Echo. A simple “Alexa, open thunderstorm sounds” and I’m instantly transported. And, if you haven’t tried this yet, believe me, it’s worth it (warning: You may fall into a deep, deep sleep, but after you wake up you’ll be so refreshed! :).

Those are just a few of the “skills” I’ve found useful in my first week. Do you have an Echo (or Google Home or similar tool)? Have you used it for business? What skills and tips would you share?

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Why the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer actually shouldn’t scare the s**t out of you

Make no mistake about it: Edelman’s Trust Barometer is a fantastic resource each year. I love it. It’s usually full of great content many people use in blogs, e-newsletters, and client recommendations throughout the year.

But, don’t forget, it is a sales tool. And, this year in particular, it’s a fear-based sales tool.

It’s actually designed to scare the bejesus out of you. At least, that’s always been my take (Note: I am not an Edelman employee nor have I ever worked for or with Edelman).

And, this year’s report is no different. If you read the report, you might actually think the world is coming to an end.

But here’s the thing: It isn’t. In fact, I could make a pretty good case that not only should the report not scare the pants off you–it should make you feel pretty darn good about your work.

In a few spots, at least:

Trust in execs is at al all-time low, but trust in “people like me” is at an all-time high

Sure, it’s not great news that our exec partners are no longer trusted by the masses. But, let’s be honest–that’s been a long time coming. What’s more the fact that “people like me” ARE trusted is pretty good news for corporate communicators. Think about it–what is one audience that corporate communicators frequently use to reach the employee masses? MANAGERS! And managers are, you guessed it, “a person like me.” We’ve been communicating via mid-level managers for YEARS. And, frequently, it’s one of the more effective communications channels we use.

Media are trusted less and less–that’s OK, we have owned media channels, right?

So the media is trusted by fewer people than anytime in recorded history, apparently (actually, it’s only down three percentage points since 2012, so let’s not get nuts here). That’s not so great on multiple levels. But, it’s not the worst news in the world for brands because this isn’t 1984. Brands have had access to all sorts of publishing tools for years that allow them to tell their stories directly to consumers without going through the media. And, according to the Trust Barometer, trust in “owned media channels” is actually up 2 points from 2012 to 2017. So, for those who have been investing in corporate blogs, podcasts and other owned media for the last few years, worry not, you are just fine.

Employees are clearly the most trusted people to deliver messages–time to start educating the heck out of them

When it comes to financial performance and operational performance, 38 percent of survey participants said they’d trust an employee–while just 20 percent said they’d trust the CEO. That’s absolutely shocking, considering many employees have no idea how to read a financial statement. But yet–there it is. What about in times of crisis? 37 percent of participants trust an employee, while just 21 percent trust the chief exec. These stats are alarming–but they also provide an opportunity for us communicators: To educate our rank-and-file employees on issues from financial performance to business goals to crisis situations. Again–something we’ve been doing for quite a while. It’s just time to up our game.

What about you–thoughts on the relatively recent Edelman Trust Barometer?

photo credit: Howard TJ #inktober2016 Day 13: scaredy cat. via photopin (license)

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Tackling the many misperceptions of the impact of influencer marketing

Hypothetical situation I’m sure is playing out with clients/companies every day:

Client says they want to reach a “younger audience.”

Client says they need to engage these folks, raise awareness for their brand and sell more (insert widget/service here).

Among other ideas, you suggest influencer marketing as a potential tactic, given: 1) Most influencers ARE the younger demographic and definitely attract it, and 2) Trust levels are high in “a person like me” at the moment.

Makes sense. The client agrees. You go about researching and pitching influencers. You find one that’s perfect. Huge audience. Very engaging. Big millennial audience. Open to a partnership.

Perfect, right?

Not so much.

Upon pitching the influencer and opportunity to the client, they decide to “pass” with the following feedback:

  • “This audience isn’t quite right–and they might not be ready to buy our product.”
  • “Why are we asking for them to create digital assets for us? That doesn’t help us promote our company.”
  • “We don’t have enough brand mentions baked in this proposal. Why can’t we ask them to mention the product more?”
  • “We don’t see our products online in any way–how does this connect to sales?”
  • “We’re not active on many of the social channels where this influencer is strong. Why would we want to engage with them if that’s the case?”
  • “I watched a few of their videos and Instagram posts–they hardly ever mention brand names. That seems like a big miss to me.”

In my experience, this is a fairly typical reaction. And, I’m always surprised–especially given the litany of articles, posts and research that have been written about the power of influencer marketing.

But, clearly, some people are still skeptical. In some cases, it’s for legitimate reasons. But, for the most part, I still think there’s a big misunderstanding about the goals and overall approach with influencers.

Let’s tackle the above theoretical comments one by one:

  • “This audience isn’t quite right–and they might not be ready to buy our product.”
    • You want to be careful with demographics–I wouldn’t assume too much just based on what you see with the naked eye. The beauty of social is you never know where content can end up thanks to shares and algorithms. I tend to think there’s more value than just the demographics that are available (not to mention the influencers themselves have a tendency to “over-report” on their own metrics in an attempt to impress corporations).
  • “Why are we asking for them to create digital assets for us? That doesn’t help us promote our company.”
    • Sometimes the goal of the influencer partnership is content — not promotion. Remember, many companies are still struggling to come up with compelling social content on a regular basis. Influencers are FANTASTIC at this–why not work with them to create content you can both use?
  • “We don’t have enough brand mentions baked in this proposal. Why can’t we ask them to mention the product more?”
    • You don’t need 4,245 mentions of your product for the influencer partnership to be a success. You just don’t. And, realistically, the influencer is rarely going to go for that. Remember, people are trusting “a person like them” more and more, and trusting CEOs and brands less and less (you saw the recent Edelman Trust Barometer scores, right?). Influencers are a key way to reach this younger audience–but, they’re not going to bend over backwards to serve your needs. No matter how much money you’re paying them.
  • “How does this kind of work really connect to sales? This might be a waste of resources.”
    • Influencer work doesn’t always need to connect directly to sales–in fact, I wouldn’t usually expect that. Instead, think further up the funnel. Influencer work can play a much bigger role in driving awareness and engagement. Using influencers as a conduit to getting people to visit your store or buy your product seems like a faulty set-up from the get-go. Set expectations right out of the gate–you’re engaging this influencer to introduce a new audience to your product or service.
  • “We’re not active on many of the social channels where this influencer is strong. Why would we want to engage with them if that’s the case?”
    • What if the influencer is on a platform you aren’t on, as a company? No problem! In fact, isn’t that a good thing to help you grow a potential platform, or hit an audience you’re obviously underserving or NOT hitting? I would flip this thinking completely.
  • “I watched a few of the influencer’s videos and Instagram posts–they hardly ever mention brand names. That seems like a big miss to me.”
    • Again, influencers aren’t going to come out and completely shill for brands. Some will–but many just won’t. And really, they shouldn’t. They’re influencers because they’re real. They’re interesting. Or, they’re entertaining. You really can’t be all of those things if you’re pitching products every other post or video. Want a real-life example? Think about the recent Casey Niestat Samsung video. You know the one–let me remind you (see below). Did you see 45 mentions of Samsung in this video? No. Did it have value for their brand? Absolutely. It’s not all about mentions–sometimes it’s about affiliating your brand with an influencer who clearly has the ear of your customers (and remember, you probably don’t if you’re considering this path).

photo credit: A. Strakey This Sums Her Up Perfectly via photopin (license)

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Why I’ve decided to break one of my golden social media rules

When it comes to personal and professional social media use (and those are the same for me), up until about two weeks ago, I had to big rules.

#1: Never discuss religion.

#2: Never discuss politics.

As a consultant, I saw no upside to discussing either in a public forum. For one, there are so many extreme views shared on social media. Obviously, we’ve seen that the last year-plus on a grander scale.

But, the rules also existed (to a larger extent) because I didn’t want to offend a client. Or, a potential client.

After all, you don’t know everyone’s political or religious affiliations online.

But, a little more than a month ago, something switched for me. It’s not necessarily because I lean hard to the left and that the president leans pretty hard to the right.

It’s not because everyone else is talking about politics online.

And it’s not because I’m necessarily prompted to act based on the current president’s actions.

I just started thinking a bit more about my current policy. Why was I so stringent on not talking about politics publicly? Would that really drive a client away? Would it really offend someone to not work with me, if I presented my arguments and opinion in a rationale manner?

I kept coming back to one answer: Not really.

So, why not talk about it? Why not share my opinion from time to time? Why not comment in spots where I would have never commented before?

I decided to wade into the murky and dangerous political waters online. Here’s my thought process:

  • Politics is increasingly becoming a bigger part of my life–and I have stronger opinions than I did when I started this gig eight years ago. My kids are now in middle school. I’m a bit older. I own a home. I invest in the stock market. I read the paper. All these are small factors that have propelled me to care more about politics than I did when I was younger. I have strong opinions on my public school district. I have strong opinions on where government should butt in, and where they should not. And, I (surprisingly) find myself having strong opinions on issues like gay marriage. If these things are a bigger part of my life, why wouldn’t I talk about them?
  • Be rationale–not bombastic. What I’ve noticed over the last year-plus, especially, is the people who really turn me off online (on both sides of the aisle) are those who tend to be too bombastic. You probably know what I mean–those people who tend to over-dramatacize recent political events. Those people who tend to be a bit more shrill than others. Those who claim every move the current president makes is terrible or horribly wrong. My plan: Share and comment on topics I care about and do it in a thoughtful way. Simple as that.
  • Watch the frequency closely.  I’m not here to say you shouldn’t be posting anti-Trump stories 45 times a day. If that’s your jam and you feel that strongly about what’s going on, go for it. Definitely not judging. But for me, it’s a little much (and I simply don’t have the time). So, I’m planning to watch my frequency closely.
  • Keep it light, when I can. I know politics in serious. I know at times we’re literally talking about life-or-death-type stuff. I get it. But, I also think we can have a little fun along the way. Not saying I’m going to post a string of SNL-Trump skits. Just saying I may not always be 100 percent dead-on serious in all my political posts. Laughing is good, people.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it–for now. Hoping to hold myself accountable (this is a good way to do it). We’ll see how this goes…

photo credit: duncan El Trumpo via photopin (license)

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5 functionalities every PR person wish LinkedIn had

I spend a lot of time in LinkedIn these days. A lot of it is for research reasons–for this blog, for my Talking Points e-newsletter, for clients, and for the Talking Points Podcast.

But, the other half of it is for client work. Helping manage corporate LinkedIn pages. And, helping executives communicate with employees, customers and other key stakeholders via LinkedIn publishing.

So, I consider myself somewhat of a LinkedIn “power user.” Not in that I know everything these is to know about LinkedIn–more in that I spend more time in the platform than the average yogi.

And, since I do spend so much time there on behalf of clients, I’ve come across a number of situations where LinkedIn functionality needs improvement.

Areas where I’d love to see LinkedIn up its game and offer new, or enhanced, functionality. Specifically, I’m talking about these five areas:

#1: Ability to review a person’s (i.e., executive’s) shares

Part of some PR folks’ jobs these days involves helping execs share information on LinkedIn. This means browsing the web, finding interesting articles to share, writing up the posts and sending to said executive. The maddening part: There’s no way to track what that exec shared without having the user/pass to the exec’s LinkedIn account. I realize that’s a big ask–but there has to be a better way to do that!

#2: Ability to respond directly to comments in threads

It’s 2017 and LinkedIn STILL doesn’t have threaded comments. What is this, a cruel, unusual joke? 🙂 Another easy fix that would make community management so much easier for those responsible for LinkedIn brand pages.

#3: Ability to tag people in comments.

You could argue you get this info via notifications, but I’d still like the opportunity to tag folks in the comment threads of brand pages. Just seems obvious.

#4: Ability to edit brand posts.

Nothing is more maddening the making a post on behalf of a client (internal or external) and then finding out the client wants to change something in the post. Because, guess what? You can’t simply edit brand LinkedIn posts–you have to delete the entire post and start over. Seems like an easy thing to fix on LinkedIn’s part.

#5: Ability to identify shares right at the bottom of each post

Another head-scratcher. These show up in analytics, but you have to dig for them. Why not list the number of shares right at the bottom of each post (with the ability to click and see who shared–just like Facebook?). Side note: Why does LinkedIn insist on using their own strange language? Why not just use likes, comments and shares like everyone else?

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