Friday, January 31, 2014

The State of the Union -- between words and images

On January 28, 2014 President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union speech. Setting aside partisanship relating to the President and his advocated policies, this speech is still likely to go down in the history of professional communications as a new milestone in professional communicators’ responsiveness to new consumer media-consumption realities.

If you watched the January 28th State of the Union speech on network television (or some other version of “old media”), you missed the real news.   For those of you who missed it, provided an “enhanced live-stream” of the speech – comprised of the live streaming of the speech, on the left side of the split screen, and periodically, on the right side of the split screen, infographics and photos that exemplify best practices of presentation method effectiveness. 

And – by the way – if you chose to watch the “enhanced live-stream” not in the full-screen mode, then you also got a series of the Obama machine’s live tweets to read underneath the split screen.  The tweet-stream also included highly-charged emotional images and simplified graphics.

If the Obama machine won the 2012 election because of a mastery of Big Data, they also won the 2014 State of the Union because of the mastery of the implications of state-of-the-art Infographics.

The bar has been set higher for multimedia / integrated communications for executive speech-making from today on.  Here are the standards for the future for a “best practice” speech:

1) The speech is live-streamed (the talking head part)

2) The setting for the live-streaming has been stage-designed to include all those supportive people and tableaus (the entrepreneurs, the military veterans, the beneficiaries of government programs, etc.)

3) The split-screen format provides graphics, images, etc. which illustrate and provide visual cues and emphasis beyond what the video recording of the live event can provide.

4) The smart use of presentation graphics must exemplify the most current and tested methods for PowerPoint-category software and other presentation methodologies.  When the most important points are being made by the speaker, there are no graphics: focus only on the face and voice of the speaker (making the emotional connection). The graphics never repeat exactly (but complement) the speaker.  And the speaker never, never, never reads the “slides.”

5) If your audience processes information better in “bits” and “tweets” – you can provide it with a live-stream of tweets echoing the live/videoed event.  

A successful speech (live communication) must now be well written and delivered; stage-managed; supported with best-practice graphics; layered with live-streamed social media posts.

The production and presentation of the 2014 State of the Union speech did not present any breakthroughs. But the production and presentation of the speech did incorporate all the best practices that all of us in PR, advertising, and social media pros already know about. The level of execution and preparation sets the new standard.

This post also appeared
on January 29, 2014

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What I learned in the first semester about integrated communications

In the fall of 2013, the City College of New York (CCNY) Media and Communication Arts Department (MCA) commenced a new undertaking of exploration and education forthe future of professional branding and integrated communications

Who (vaguely referenced in that opening sentence) actually undertook this “exploration”?

A handful of full-time senior faculty, scholars and practitioners with careers in advertising and PR behind them. Another handful of adjunct professors from some of the top advertising and marketing communications agencies in New York City. Yet another handful of advertising and PR industry advisers – senior executives of leading New York agencies and global marketing services groups (top management from Y&R, Ketchum, GroupM, and Finn Partners). And thirty students – the CCNY Branding + Integrated Communications Master of Professional Studies Class of 2015 – a diverse group of young professionals, some of whom worked at ad agencies, some for social service and government agencies, some for NGOs, some for media buying and services agencies, and some right out of their Bachelor’s degree programs; young professionals from Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Fiji, France, Russia, Thailand – and from California, Illinois, and South Carolina -- and from Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley.

Looking back at this momentous first semester of our exploration branding and integrated communications, I am fairly certain that I have learned as much – but maybe not all the same things – as our students..
  • Integrated marketing has arrived. The young, aggressive professional in the field today presumes that integrated marketing communications is the norm. The “battles” between advertising and PR are their grandfathers’ battles – not only irrelevant, not even on their radar screen. And social and digital communications are not something separate from traditional media; for these young professionals the virtual-physical dichotomy isn’t useful. The young communications professionals with which we are working want to move markets, empower ideas, and advance causes. The old marketing communications silos are just not theirs – they are totally in sync with the most forward-thinking senior managers and communications thought leaders at the global agencies, corporations, and not-for-profit organizations.
  • Integrated marketing as practiced in the U.S.A. – and in New York City – remains a global magnet for talent. Of course, there has been, and continues to be, vast turmoil in the technological changes and business models of American media companies and American marketing services providers. But this evolution (“turmoil” for the finance people and the investors) is still, more than ever, a dynamic cauldron for young professionals. Our students (from Queens or Cameroon) are preparing to assume important roles in global media services in the future – whether their future desks rest in Calgary or Bangkok or Paris. They have come to New York to be at an epicenter of where the future of is emergent. Of course, there are many, many brilliant, competent, and effective professionals in marketing communications working outside of New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, Sydney, Cape Town, and a few other obvious mature media capitals. But the lure (and the physical, sensual allure) of the world’s media centers has not been eroded at all by global distributed markets and digital technologies.
  • Marketing communications practice and education still lags behind other professions in evidence- and data-driven processes and decision-making. Even as the CCNY BIC students studied with the best -- with Belle Frank, EVP of Global Research and Strategy at Y&R and heard guest lectures from Google and other leaders in data-driven domains, it remained clear to us how far most students and practitioners of advertising and public relations yet have to go fully to participate meaningfully in 21st century strategic communications. It’s not that our students have extraordinary deficits; it is that the bar is raised higher, continuously, for how analytics will contribute to insight and policy formation. This work is just begun. What’s “cool,” ultimately, doesn’t matter. What works? What changes minds and the world? What increases assets (what makes money) in the real world?
  • Integrated communications isn’t just about message delivery technologies and systems. Our students gravitate toward integrated marketing not just because of the hybridization of media technologies. They naturally presume that integrated communications entails a full, strategically aligned integration of marketing, customer relationship management, financial communications, community relations, corporate social responsibility, policy advocacy, and employee communications. Our students demonstrate a mindset that presumes and accepts that “the whole world is watching.” 

Second semester looms ahead.

This post also appears
January 5, 2014