Name: Ellis Friedman
Bio: My diverse media background stems from experience in film, magazine publishing, blogging, photography, and content creation. After working in China for four years, most recently as a magazine editor and reporter, I joined the BurrellesLuce marketing team in 2013. I have an idiosyncratic fondness for grammar and style, and don’t shy away from wielding my red pen when it comes to creating targeted, effective marketing messages and content. I fill my time away from the keyboard with New York Times crossword puzzles, literature, classic films, and a healthy dose of world travel. Twitter: @ellisredpen; LinkedIn: Ellis Friedman; Facebook: BurrellesLuce
Posts by Ellis Friedman:
Great public relations and marketing doesn’t come down to the slickest campaign or the catchiest slogan; as most pros know, it’s about complicated, intangible goals that take long-term cultivation and determined implementation. Two of those things? Substance and authenticity.
On Friday, PRNewser ran two interesting posts. The first, entitled “The 20 Most ‘Authentic’ Brands in the U.S. (and Why),” surveyed people on the brands they perceived as most “authentic.” The catch is, those conducting the survey didn’t define “authentic;” instead they left the definition wide open. The most consistent finding about authenticity, though, was that consumers – 87 percent of those polled – say it’s important that brands “act with integrity at all times.”
So while it can be a great and noble goal to strive for, say, innovation, only 72 percent of consumers said that innovation was necessary to being authentic.
Topping the list, somewhat surprisingly, was WalMart, followed by Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, and Target.
Brands considered “authentic” were not necessarily popular – Chase Bank and AT&T made the list, but GE did not. Instead, authenticity came from people knowing what they’re getting and brands being transparent about what goes into their products. The survey is a great reminder that people generally appreciate being spoken to like adults – being forthright and sincere, especially in a crisis situation, is far better PR than trying to bury one’s head in the sand or obfuscating facts and findings.
Later in the afternoon, PRNewser ran “B2B Clients to Firms: ‘Stop Marketing to Me!’” which shared findings from a survey from The Economist which showed that in B2B marketing, people want more substance and emotional appeal. PRNewser interviewed Ted Birkhahn of Peppercomm for his take, and he defined “substance” thusly:
Substance refers to content that adds tangible value to the audience and typically incorporates one or more of the following criteria:
1. It provides a new and credible angle or point-of-view on an issue that is topical or material to a client’s business.
2. It offers counsel and new ideas to tackle well known challenges the audience is facing.
3. It makes the executive and/or their company smarter about complex issues facing their business, industry, etc.
4. It entertains, when written in a storytelling manner that is painless to consume.
That consumers want substance is a way of saying they want more meaning – they want content that will help them do something or change something, not content that fills a social media feed for the sake of being filled. So here are some tips for being authentic and substantive:
Define your values. You can only stay true to your brand if you know what you values are in the first place. Define them and stick to them throughout all your campaigns.
Define and stick to your voice. Defining your voice goes beyond just deciding if you’re going to be snarky or sweet. It means defining your role in relation to your consumers, and then deciding how that role relates to them.
Listen to what your audience is saying. Listen to the conversations your audience is having around and aside from your brand. What do they want? What information are they not getting, or what did they react will to?
Be transparent. Especially this day in age, glossing things over or pretending they didn’t happen just doesn’t fly. In fact, it just makes it worse. Be straightforward and acknowledge incidents, snafus, or dissatisfactions. It will give your image much more long-term positivity when people know you’re willing to treat them like equals.
In this supersaturated content world, it’s hard to cut through the noise. But the best way to do that is to focus your brand voice around authenticity, substance, and meaning, and what your customers need. How do you keep your brand authentic and substantive?
Cooling temperatures and fall foliage mean one thing to public relations pros: the PRSA International Conference. This year’s conference, in case you hadn’t heard, was held in Washington, D.C., and it was definitely one for the history books. In the following weeks we’ll have lots of great session recaps, but since #PRSAICON was trending on Twitter multiple times throughout the conference, first we’re bringing you some of our favorite #PRSAICON tweets.
— PRVille (@PRVille) October 14, 2014
— Rosanna M. Fiske (@Fiskey) October 12, 2014
Women empowerment starts with women supporting each other instead of tearing down. Be kind. #PRSAICON
— Lauren K. Gray (@laurenkgray) October 12, 2014
— Sonja Popp-Stahly (@SonjaPoppStahly) October 13, 2014
— Don Egle, ABC, APR (@DonEgle) October 13, 2014
— Bonnie Riechert (@BonnieRiechert) October 13, 2014
— BurrellesLuce (@BurrellesLuce) October 12, 2014
2015 #PRSAICON will take place November 8-10 in Atlanta.
— PRSA (@PRSA) October 14, 2014
Have a favorite tweet you’d like to add? Tell us about it!
It happens all the time: older generations just don’t get the latest gizmos kids these days are using. What doesn’t happen every day is when there’s a conversation about it in an editorial space and the publication makes that conversation public.
That’s what news site Quartz did last week. In talking about payment app Venmo, writers under 30 said they used the app all the time and that they and their friends found it incredibly useful. The response from the over-30 crowd: “Why?!”
Venmo allows users to pay their friends for split checks, rent, whatever. The fact that one of your friends paid another can show up in your feed, like social media, or the payments can remain private. The over-30 participants in the chat remained bewildered as to why under-30s would want such information shared and why they would connect their bank account with an app in the first place.
As an under-30 myself, I’d never heard of Venmo and would probably never use it. But the over-30s in this conversation missed a crucial point, one that is frequently missed when talking to and marketing across generations: It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it, because people use it anyway.
In August The Atlantic published some findings about the most popular apps by generation, and while everyone’s top apps include Facebook and Pandora Radio, there’s a surprising (or not so surprising) difference between age groups. People over 55 play solitaire and use Yahoo! Mail, people 35 to 54 use Viggle and still play Candy Crush, users 25-34 still use Skype and have the highest Netflix usage, and people ages 18 to 24 use Kik Messenger, Snapchat, and Ifunny :).
This makes plain what most people would expect: Just as different generations respond to different words and messaging, they use different apps and interact with their smart phones differently. The Quartz discussion makes clear that for public relations pros and marketers, it’s important not to get caught up in thinking “why would you use that?” but instead to focus on the facets of popular apps that draw in users of specific age groups and leverage that understanding to reach an ever broader audience.
The most important thing to focus on is what does the app improve? Most apps that resonate with users will improve an existing procedure. Kik allows you to message your friends while also browsing news and games. This improves chatting by not forcing users to switch apps all the time. Venmo makes it easy for kids who don’t like to carry cash to easily and immediately pay each other back.
You might not be an app developer, but analyzing app use across generations can help you figure out what users and generations value and then speaking to those values.
One of the keys to consistent messaging and brand voice is having an in-house style guide, even if that guide is just plain ol’ AP style. The drawback to style guides is that, frankly, few but the wordsmiths reference them and they’re not always super accessible (who wants to carry around AP Stylebook or wade through docs to find the in-house guide?). Luckily, there are apps for that. In searching, we only found three of them, but they should be able to at least cover your basics. Here’s our mini-roundup of style guide apps.
AP Stylebook 2014
AP style is the stalwart style guide of newsrooms and the jumping-off point for most corporate style guides (at least in my experience). If you don’t want the bulk of the old-school paper version, AP has you covered with their iPhone app, though at $24.99, it costs more than the paper copy.
The app covers all your favorite spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style guidelines and includes audio along with phonetic pronunciation guides.
The Writer’s Style Guide app
This new (and free!) Android and iPhone app puts a lot of your most burning language and usage questions right next to your Facebook app. It’s got plenty of handy entries about hyphens, ampersands, and more, but be aware that it is its own style guide and is British (for example, they prefer the British “per cent” over the American “percent,” and both of them over “%”). But it’s got great information, a section where you can input your own writing for a readability analysis, and even a fun writing trivia quiz.
APA Reference Guide
APA, aka the American Psychological Association, has its own manual of style, and its own app ($2.99) of the manual. OK, this one might not be as immediately helpful to public relations pros, but the style guide is used by a number of scientific and academic journals and textbooks.
Do you have another writing or style guide app you use?
Yesterday, Facebook announced its new advertising feature, local awareness ads. Their messaging portrays this as a tool primarily aimed at helping local businesses reach more people, but the way the feature works is it shows the ad to people who live in the area or were recently within a certain radius of the business.
What Facebook doesn’t elaborate on is how they know who had been near the business or where exactly – or within what one mile radius – people live. Surely geotagged posts and photos will play into it, but since a new feature can track your location through your phone (though so far, on a purely opt-in basis), it seems their precise targeting tools have only gotten more precise.
Local awareness ads are certainly appealing to brick-and-mortar businesses of any size and should help Facebook generate even more advertising revenue, but it also risks making users feel surveilled. So businesses considering implementing local awareness ads will have to consider whether their targeted ads will cause their audience to feel uncomfortable. Take the example of the marketer who hypertargeted Facebook ads for his roommate. The roommate became so paranoid he stopped talking on the phone for fear of being tracked. Though it was a prank, it’s a prime example of how targeting too well can backfire.
Of course, used with common sense and discretion, Facebook’s new feature won’t make people feel that way. We’ve talked before about how brand personalization can be done effectively without being creepy, so let’s revisit the topic with creating targeted ads that aren’t Big Brother-y.
Make sure it’s opt-in
Whenever you’re using a location-targeted ad platform or service, do your due diligence and make sure that data is collected on an opt-in basis. This means that the setting that collects data should not be a default; it should ask users explicitly to opt in, and then make it easy for them to opt out at any time. While making something opt in isn’t your responsibility, you want to make sure you’re using platforms responsibly so that you don’t find yourself a scapegoat or example of creepy behavior.
Don’t talk to them about where they are
Your location-specific ad probably shouldn’t say, “Hey! We see you’re just down the street, come on in!” This definitely sounds creepy. Craft a better, more engaging message like, “Looking for ___?” or, “We’ve got ____” or even something vaguely targeted like, “Whatever you need isn’t far away.”
The most important thing is that, even though people are being tracked by a lot of providers like Facebook, Google, and mobile companies, the key is to avoid making them feel like they’re being tracked. Instead, the goal is to be just helpful enough that your ad seems serendipitous
Don’t give people things they don’t ask for
This should sound obvious, and it isn’t something you could do through Facebook’s local awareness ads, but don’t give people digital things they didn’t agree to. Apple learned that lesson the hard way last month when they paid U2 lots of money and then delivered the new album to every iTunes user.
Just like a lot of other aspects of brand personalization and targeted advertising, it’s all about striking a balance and being helpful, not overly personal. Exercise common sense and go forth and reach that target audience!