Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Paul Holmes' challenge for PR (communications) agencies of the future.

Paul Holmes
CEO, The Holmes Report
Editor-in-Chief, the Holmes Report
Paul Holmes at The Holmes Report blogged in May about the "10 Ways to Design the PR Agency of the Future." (Let's hope this is Paul in his role as Oracle, more than his role as Gadfly.)

It does not take a very deep-dive analysis into the PR agency industry to agree with Paul: ". . . many of them [PR agencies] have failed to integrate new ideas, new technologies and new media, into the way they do business-- often treating changes that ought to disrupt existing models as if they can simply be bolted on to the old model."

Every PR agency I know of, today, claims to "do" social media, but the vast majority of them have just bolted "social media" on (Paul's terminology) to their old model of doing business. (It's so obvious -- they've just added a Social tab to the website navigation bar which otherwise reads as it did in 2004).

Paul writes, ". . . many of the world's largest agencies, and a surprising number of midsized firms, continue to operate as if little has changed. Their infrastructure is a legacy from a different age, they have the same practice areas . . . , the same geographic structures, the same silos that served them (not always well) a decade or more ago."

Accenture's report
on 400+ seniormarketing execs:
"Turbulence for the CMO:Charting a Path
for theSeamless Customer Experience"
Keep that thought of Paul's in mind, and consider this: Accenture's report, "Turbulence for the CMO: Charting a Path for the Seamless Customer Experience" (April 2013), based on its 2012 CMO Insights survey (online survey across 10 countries with 405 senior execs who are "key marketing decision makers in their companies," most companies with revenues of at least US$1 billion).

These corporate decision makers were asked what types of external agencies they retain to lead critical marketing functions. Twenty-three functions were tested ranging from the business oriented (such as managing ROI), to web and social media (such as SEO, eMail marketing), data (marketing analytics, web analytics, customer data), paid media (paid search, media mix optimization, media/advertising optimization) and highest level strategy (brand strategy development, multi-channel campaign management, content management).

PR agencies are reported as being used for managing any of these functions by no more than 9% of the companies.  The agencies most often cited are the specialized digital agencies and data-based marketing services. Followed by ad agencies. Followed by systems integrators (Infosys, IBM, etc.). Followed by traditional management consultants (e.g., McKinsey).  Followed by, of yeah, PR agencies.

What does the following suggest to you about PR agencies' reputation among CMOs in the 21st century? Only 7% of the companies rely on PR agencies for social media monitoring. Only 5% of the companies rely on PR firms for web analytics.  Only 3% of companies rely on PR agencies for customer insights/analytics.  Only 6% of companies rely on PR agencies for content management.

No wonder Paul Holmes says the top three imperatives for PR agencies have to be:

1. Big data at the center
2. Insight to drive meaningful creativity
3. Understanding the human brain

(And, of course, there are seven more recommendations after that.  See the blog.)

The Accenture report outlines a "new CMO agenda":  1. Fundamentally change the marketing operating model. 2. Build new skills. 3. Get aligned with the right partners. 4. Drive digital orientation through the enterprise (and this last item does not mean Tweeting.)

My colleagues and I on the faculty of City College of New York's new Master's in Branding + Integrated Communications -- working, with great anticipation and enthusiasm, with the class of 2015 (our first -- classes starting in September) -- feel the urgency of taking Paul's and Accenture's insights very seriously.  We know our graduates will do just fine; the Accenture-surveyed CMOs expect 25% increase in budgets for digitally oriented marketing functions. The open question is whether much of "legacy" PR -- and advertising -- agency sector will be the places where these grads forge the successes of their careers.

This post is also published at bic-ccny-info, the blog for the new Master's of Professional Studies degree at the City college of New York, Media and Communications Arts Department.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Think you're in control of your brand? Think again.

Swiffer dancing
Ad Week today published a feature about a study by Zefr that has to make "brand managers" re-think their job security. (These people should probably start thinking of their jobs as "brand collaborators.")

"Of CoverGirl's 251 million total views on YouTube, 249 million (or 99 percent) are from fan-created videos, according to data compiled by Zefr. We see a similar trend with other leading brands: 92 percent of Oreo's views and 99 percent of Revlon's views come from fan content. Sometimes, original fan videos go viral, causing lots of other fans to create their own version of the original video. Swiffer's commercial of a woman mopping her kitchen floor and breaking out into dance inspired a trend on YouTube. More than 150 people uploaded their own rendition of the 'Swiffer dance.'"

We first thought about consumer-generated video about a brand as being a threat (as in United Breaks Guitars with 12,129,137 views). But we're now finding that some consumers are equally motivated to post video appreciations (or at least good-natured ribbing) for their favorite brands.

The world probably hasn't changed. But we can see what's going on a lot more clearly. We have YouTube evidence that, indeed, consumers do build the brand -- often more so than do the brand managers, advertisers, and PR people.

It is ironic that this Ad Week story appeared just two days after the 2013 Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement Conference. The conference showcased many truly impressive research methodologies and strategies for measuring and evaluating the impact of screen-based media -- but with no focus, no attention, at all, to consumer-generated screen content. What can the analysis of CoverGirl's "official" screen-based media be worth, if those messages only account for 1% of the screen exposures? All the more reason for us to give more attention and thought to analytics that combine attention to social and paid media -- without putting them together, you could easily not have a clue what's really going on out there.

Going native in New York City

Native Plant Garden
New York Botanical Garden
The new Native Plant Garden at the New York Botanical Garden designed by Oehme van Sweden Landscape Architects opened in May.

Darrel Morrison
Designer, Native Flora Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's new Native Flora Garden, designed by Darrel Morrison, opens to the public today, May 13.

More reflections on going native in New York soon.

PR agency business model will change -- driven by analytics -- clients will demand it

Mark Stouse
VP, Global Communications
BMC Software
Mark Stouse, VP, Global Communications, at BMC Software, writes in the June 2013 PR Week, about changes in the PR agency business model that, he thinks, are coming:

"Agencies must be a lot picker about who they bring in. Clients want teams with more smarts and less on-the-job training. This change will drive a new financial model. Firms have not invested enough in analytics-driven programs, preferring to leverage their people's industry knowledge. We're in the era of big data. The trust gap between an educated guess and real insight is deepening. The consequences of getting caught on the wrong side will be huge.

"As part of a new model, agencies must integrate strong analytics capable of informing and maximizing a campaign's impact. Leveraging smaller, smarter, more powerful teams will be key to future success.

"Agency rates are tied to labor costs, which is no guarantor of value. Time and materials billing is a dead man walking. It is being swept aside by flat quarterly fees and piped into analytics."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New guidelines for social media measurement based on the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework

Angela Jeffrey
President, Angela Jeffrey & Associates LLC
Angela Jeffrey, president of Angela Jeffrey & Associates LLC / and member of the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission has published new, very user-friendly approach for social media measurement: Social Media Measurement: A Step-by-step Approach."

The document, published by the Institute for Public Relations, outlines an 8-step process (clear and sensible -- even your boss can understand it) that is based on the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework, a set of best practices for PR and communications practitioners and research suppliers that has evolved over the past few years following the adoption of The Barcelona Principles, a set of principles/standards for all PR measurement that was adopted at a conference in Barcelona in the spring of 2010 and subsequently widely promoted by AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of communication).

Slowly, but surely, real measurement and analysis are being integrated in the U.S. public relations practice -- much to the credit of people like Jeffrey and the advocacy initiatives of AMEC and the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission.

Before mid-summer heat: late spring fulfilled

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking measure of the measurers: the 2013 Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement Conference

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) sponsored its annual Audience Measurement Conference, “Measuring the Unmeasured,” June 10-11, 2013 in New York for an enthusiastic and optimistic crowd. Presentations were, as typical of such conferences, dominated by the major suppliers of the industry – Arbitron, comScore, GfK, Nielsen and a handful of others. Some distinguished, major advertisers (including AT&T, Bank of America, Diageo, Facebook) were present to showcase impressive media research initiatives, and some of the leading media companies made appearances (ABC, NBC, Turner). Ad agencies were notable only for how few attended, and PR people were missing in action. (All company lists are illustrative only; others attended.)

The demographics of the presenters and attendees are remarkable in light of the dominant theme (implicit and often explicit) of most of the conference: we live in a multi-platform world; consumer impact is never achieved through one channel, but by inputs (messages) from multiple sources or -- as it was most often characterized – Screens (broadcast and cable TV, desktops, and mobile – both smartphones and tablets). Intentionally or not, the unspoken dominating perspective was that only Screens (and occasionally radio) really matter anymore. That’s a fundamentally problematic unspoken proposition in a multi-channel, integrated communications ecosystem, but probably reflective of the roots and habits of the ARF members.

The focus on Screens also dominated the implied reference in the title of the conference to “the Unmeasured.” The vast majority of the content at the conference focused on how to identify, monitor, analyze, and assign value to Screens and the behaviors of people behind screens. The work being done in this area is without a moment’s doubt very impressive. Considering the concept of multiple Screens barely existed three years ago, the ARF community has jumped into this huge change in the environment and developed some fairly awesome initiatives to track, understand, and evaluate the impact of Screens on consumer markets.

One of the kick-off presentations by Artie Bulgrin, SVP Research + Analytics at ESPN, was illustrative of much of what was presented across the two days. ESPN is undertaking a significant on-going to initiative to track ESPN consumers across five platforms: TV, PCs, smartphones, tablets, and radio (See ESPN announcement.) Bulgrin and his team have put together an array of the leading research industry providers for a custom-built methodology to answer ESPN’s 5-platform questions. Throughout the conference, one example after another highlighted major advertisers putting together collaborations of research suppliers to custom-build data sets that can help develop insights into how consumers are using, and being influenced, by the Screens.

The confidence and cheerfulness of the conference was probably rooted in the emerging sense from this ad research community that ‘We’ve got this under control.’ This same ARF conference in 2012 had for its theme, “The Measurement Crisis” – a far cry from the more self-assured (a little swagger?) 2013 theme of “Measuring the Unmeasured.”

You could hardly avoid the sense of social / digital / mobile media as having been tamed, after all, by the persevering and intrepid ad research community. ‘It took us some time. We were kind of shaken last year this time. But we marshaled our wits and our resources. We partnered with other companies – a bit of “united we stand; divided we fall.” But we got a handle on this. We corralled all this pesky new consumer behavior and changing technologies into our methodological frameworks. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we pulled through.’

This cheekiness is well earned, as was particularly evident in the arresting case studies presented, not only by ESPN, but by AT&T, Bank of America, Colgate-Palmolive, Facebook, and others. But the ad research community doesn’t recognize how much more of the Unmeasured they haven’t measured yet. Most of the presentations – insightful and worthwhile – still see digital and social primarily as channels for pushing out crafted, calculated messages, essentially as ad placement channels. Despite the lip service to engagement, there was virtually no discussion of what it actually means to engage (not just to send out minutely, exactly tailored messages and creative variants to exactly the right targeted people). Virtually no consideration of real online discussion or customer relationship management. One exception was the presentation from MotiveQuest, which – in the process of showcasing its Advocacy Index product – at least acknowledged the impact of (uncontrolled, independent, un-paid) brand enthusiasts.

A few side panels addressed the ‘unmeasured’ Hispanic market; one session at the end of the second day addressed local media (again, only Screens and radio). Those topics were clearly sidebars to the big story of the conference. Even more striking, there was not even a nod (pro forma or even dismissively or patronizingly) to any kind of earned media (public relations), non-screen word-of-mouth, or public events (for example – industry trade shows to cite the in-your-face example). The world of Measuring the Unmeasured is a peculiarly Screen-centric world. (But the ARF is the ARF, after all, and it’s rather beside the point to belabor it. When you go to the PR research conferences, you’d rarely get an acknowledgement that paid media has any impact.)

(Integrated marketing or integrated communications is not being integrated at the level of the ARF or the PR research community. More often you find that CMO or CEO perspective coming from the consultants and technology analysts. A blog post by Tobias Lee, CMO Thomson Reuters, Tax & Accounting Division, at serves as just one example of where integrated communications thinking is really present: “Critical to marketing today is integration across functional departments, such as sales, marketing, and customer service, and also across marketing mediums . . . with the right people, processes, and centralized technology, integrating your marketing efforts in the age of the social Web becomes much more feasible.” The consulting and tech firms are also stepping up with the real integrated or CMO perspective with products, just for one example, such as IBM’s enterprise marketing management suite for customer analytics and multi-, cross-channel campaign management.)

The really discordant, if entertaining, note at Measuring the Unmeasured, however, was the keynote speech. Bob Garfield, MediaPost columnist, NPR’s On the Media co-host, long-time former Advertising Age columnist, and author, most recently of Can’t Buy Me Like (Portfolio, 2013; co-authored with Doug Levy) delivered the Tuesday luncheon speech with good humor, color, and charm. And he essentially told the audience that their whole enterprise, their business and their industry, research-driven consumer advertising, is anachronistic and doomed (at least in the form that we all know it).

If the ARF concept of “social” is weak, Garfield’s concept of “social” is strong. One anecdote after another, in Can’t Buy Me Like, and in his keynote speech, called into the question the ultimate (and future) efficacy of advertising in effectively pushing messages out to receivers (by any Screen). He concluded his speech with a Santander Bank anecdote (recounted in detail in Chapter 10, Bank and Trust, of Can’t Buy Me Like) in which he claims that some funny-cute YouTube baby/kitten videos distributed courtesy of Santander had more positive consumer impact than three strategically conceived, professionally produced advertisements (read the book and decide for yourself).

Garfield, by implication, threw down the gauntlet: ‘Sorry. No, ad research community, you haven’t tamed social/digital media and brought it under your control. “Social” is about authenticity (real, not a researched, calculated and created, positioning of authenticity).’ Garfield’s challenge did not shorten the line of ad researchers, copy of Can’t Buy Me Like in hand, who waited over an hour for Garfield’s autograph.

This post is also published at
June 11, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Whither content marketing -- or how the latest battle between advertising and public relations is remaking how we all think about institutional communications

Advertising and PR agencies are just fated to fight each other, continually, for "territory" (a.k.a. clients' money -- a.k.a. a credible, exclusive claim to a communications tactic, channel, or technology). The battleground of the moment is, of course, content marketing (a.k.a. branded content, a.k.a. native advertising, etc.)

Such a plethora of a.k.a.'s suggests something inconclusive is in the works.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced June 6th that a little definition is in order. Susan Borst, IAB's Director of Industry Initiatives, blogged about IAB's new Native Advertising Task Force (over 50 member companies and over 60 individual participants) with its aim "to establish a framework for the native advertising space by putting forth a prospectus that clearly lays out today's 'native' landscape." And, IAB also kicked off a Content Marketing Task Force (with 25+ member companies and about the same number of individual participants). (Ad Week picked up on the ironies of IAB's attempts "to bring some clarity to the Babel-like confusion" by noting that "it's unclear if the latter [Content Marketing Task Force] is a cousin to or umbrella of the first [Native Advertising Task Force]." Cousin -- umbrella -- we can't even get our metaphors on the same page.

By the way -- no PR firms on either IAB task force.

IAB obviously hadn't read Forrester Research's Laura Ramos' blog from May 6th: "The Role of PR in Content Marketing and Thought Leadership." Ramos calls out the argument for PR to lead the content marketing charge: ". . . the advantages of PR to stimulate conversation, engage in two-way interactions, and develop interesting story lines that involve the intended audience are a natural fit for creating great marketing in this new digital world." Ramos gives kudos to Richard Edelman's evolving stance, most recently sketched out in his April 30th 6 A.M. blog post, "The New Look of Public Relations -- A Dissenting View." in which he discusses his agency's intent to "expand the remit of the public relations business . . . to take full advantage of the inherent advantages of PR, which are credibility, speed, two-way interaction and continuous story creation."

Edelman had set many PR people buzzing (some grumbling) earlier, back on January 7th, with his 6 A.M. blog post, "Paid Media -- A Change of Heart," in which he gingerly, but "unafraid," embraced the brave new world of paid content: "I can assure you that Edelman will be at the bleeding edge of aiming for the right thing, unafraid of the wrong thing."  (The "right thing" he refers to there, that he is edge-bleeding towards,  is "'own-able' insight" that is to be "co-produce[d] content with media companies.") (PRNewser's report made this sound a bit like going over to the Dark Side: "Edelman Switches Sides, Joins the 'Paid Content' Team.")

Presumably, all this doesn't mean PR is going the way of Buzzfeed.  (Does it?) In the meantime, however, you'll find the PR trades, the tip sheets, the boot camps and webinars are now providing non-stop, fully confident advice about how surely PR people can succeed wtth content marketing (I guess PR is ahead of the IAB after all, since advertising is only at the point of  forming task forces?).

This is the point at which the blogger (wisely, humbly) must write, "Time will tell."  But a last reflection: this current battle between advertising and PR for ownership of content marketing is coalescing as a stand-off between Money/Scale  vs. Righteousness (the much greater resources and infrastructure of advertising vs. the moral/authenticity claim of public relations). Was it ever so? Or is there some hint at a synthesis of a new institutional communications function that both demonstrably works and can have sustainable integrity?

This post is also published at, the blog for the new Master's of Professional Studies degree at the City College of New York, Media and Communication Arts Department.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Textscape: "The programmed search for the correct environment"

Edward O. Wilson
Emeritus, Pelligrino University Professor
Entomology Department, Harvard University
Twice Pulitzer Prize Winner,
U.S. Medial of Science, International Prize for Biology,
Carl Sagan Award for Public Understanding of Science,
Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences,
Nierenberg Prize,
TED Prize
Our biologically and genetically rooted attraction to and benefits derived from perceptions of nature seem to be becoming an inescapable commonplace -- if not definitive shapers of public policy. In cleaning up the clutter of stacked books around my desk (and "managing" my Kindle) I recently read (or reread) several perspectives on Nature as textscape.

E. O. Wilson's The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006) takes on the no mean task of trying to convince a hypothetical traditionalist, conservative Christian "Pastor" about the imperative for everyone to work together to protect -- to save -- Nature from the human-made scourges of natural habitat loss, introductions of invasive species to non-native areas, pollution, human overpopulation, and over harvesting of plants and animals.

It's been six years since publication, and it seems likely that the purpose of the book probably has yet to be fulfilled.

The book does, however in Chapter 7, "Wild Nature and Human Nature," sum up Wilson's concept of biophilia -- its presence in our minds and societies and its positive, trustworthy impact (Wilson argues) on all our lives. (Wilson introduced his biophilia hypothesis in  Biophilia (Harvard University Press, 1984) based at least in part on Erich Fromm's use of the word as a psychological state of attraction to everything alive (The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, 1964)  For Wilson, his biophilia hypothesis, in a series of increasingly influential books, became a kind of beneficent collective unconscious, "something fundamental [that] moves beneath the surface of our conscious minds, something worth saving."  Wilson's biophilia is also a kind of mental software that ensures humanity's continued existence, if not always happiness: "The programmed search for the correct environment is a universal of animal species for the best of reasons--it is an imperative of survival and reproduction."

Esther M. Sternberg, M.D.
Director of Research
Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
University of Arizona at Tucson
Esther Sternberg's Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-being (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009) seems to cite many of Wilson's same sources, as she develops a biophilia thesis throughout the book.

At the brain level: ". . . when people view scenes that are universally preferred -- a beautiful vista, a sunset, a grove of trees -- the nerve cells in that opiate rich pathway [of the brain] become active. It is as if when you're looking at a beautiful scene, your own brain gives you a morphine high! Not only that, but as color, depth, and movement are added to the scene, more and more waves of nerve cells become active farther along this opiate-rich gradient."

And beyond those activated opiate-rich pathways, there is data about emotional and social impacts of a close experience of nature: "Researchers found that residents who by chance had been assigned to apartment units located near plots of green performed better on attention tests and coped better with major life problems than those whose apartments, though  identical to the others, were near barren areas. In their report, the researchers remarked how these findings attest to the power of nature . . . . the presence of a few trees and some grass outside a sixteen-story apartment building could have a measurable effect on its inhabitants' functioning."

A cursory scroll down through this blog (example: textscape post on How Urban Parks Enhance Your Brain, post on July 17, 2012 and many preceding) traces my evolving (meandering) collection of perspectives on textscape / nature / epistemology (either as attempt at understanding or just entertaining analogy-making).

Next project (book to be cleared up from that stack on the floor): John Muir: Nature Writings.