Posts Tagged ‘Valerie Simon’


PR Week Measurement Roundtable Q&A Takeaways

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Valerie Simon

Questions And AnswersOn Wednesday, May 4th, I had the opportunity to attend the PR Week Measurement Roundtable, along with some of my BurrellesLuce colleagues.

The roundtable focused on the constantly evolving role of measurement in the PR industry. Bernadette Casey, senior editor at PR Week, and Johna Burke, SVP of marketing here at BurrellesLuce, hosted the event. The breakfast provided attendees the opportunity to network with more than 25 senior leaders in measurement and featured a Q&A with Jason Forget, corporate reputation manager for GE Energy, among BurrellesLuce clients and friends.

In a quest to become a “gold standard communicator,” measurement is a key component of PR and marketing activity. In fact, 70 percent of the day at GE Energy is spent doing media monitoring and analysis.

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Give Us Something New Google!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Valerie Simon

Can Google+ succeed where Google Buzz and Google Wave have failed? While it is probably too early to make predictions, I’ll go out on a limb and share my opinion… unless they unveil something groundbreaking, this latest attempt at social networking by Google will likewise falter.

Social networking is not really about the tools. It’s about the people. In order to succeed, the tools must be designed to innovate how people connect and relate. In order to persuade people to invest the time in a network, tools must offer something new and valuable… a unique selling proposition. Otherwise, why should users invest their time with a new tool when their relationships and communications are already being served by established networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?

While the initial invite process – one that Google+ has since been shut down because of “insane demand” – makes the network seem promising enough, I have not found anything truly unique in Google+. Yes, it’s cool to drag and drop people into circles, but I am already extremely organized with my Facebook and Twitter lists. Why reinvent the wheel (list, or circle)? Especially if it means walking away from the networks I have already invested time building? Time is limited.

My friend Arik Hanson (who I initially met on Twitter and am now communicating with on Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype and more traditional platforms like the phone and even, gasp, in person), noted that the integration with current tools is the biggest advantage. I’m not convinced that integration is enough.

Opportunities for new networks must be based upon new concepts of how to bring people together in unique ways for distinct purposes. LinkedIn has established itself in the professional arena. Facebook has positioned itself in the more general/ all purpose area. For startups (and yes, I think Google counts as a start up in this area, albeit a start up with tremendous experience and resources), these mammoth social networks are hard to compete with. Because the ultimate reason people use these networks is not the service itself, but the other users.

Let’s get creative Google and utilize your greatest advantage… search. Why not create niche networks that allow people to connect with those searching for similar information. So if I am looking for “Berkeley Heights, NJ” I can (selectively, of course) choose to connect with others who have done the same search in the past 30 days. There’s your circle.

Have you had a chance to try Google+?  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas readers.

When It Comes to Brands and Content, Simplicity Matters

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Valerie Simon

iStock_Communication_SmallThis weekend, in a Wall Street Journal article, former chairman of the FEC, Arthur Levitt, suggested: “When an editor wants a reporter to explain something more clearly in a news article, she might say: ‘Tell it to Aunt Edna.’ Aunt Edna is the stand-in for a regular person, someone who has never thought about a cloture motion in the Senate, a municipal bond offering, or some other obscure issue of our public life.” Good advice to all those in the field of communications who are responsible for sharing important information with the public.

The practice of using simple language, however, isn’t always so simple, particularly for those experts in specialty fields, like healthcare or finance, who are tasked with communicating precise and complex information to the general public. Add the pressure and influence of company stakeholders, legal concerns, and a desire to be creative, and it is easy to see why “simple” is not always easy to achieve.

Put yourself in the role of the consumer…

  • Will “Aunt Edna” be confused by your message?
  • Will she grow frustrated trying to understand the industry jargon you are using, or overwhelmed trying to make sense of the information presented to her?
  • Will Aunt Edna grow uneasy or even lose trust in your company?

Now if, Aunt Edna has little patience for jargon and pretentious language, what about “Uncle Walt” (my stand in for the ubiquitous journalist)? Trade publications and academic journals notwithstanding, today’s reporters, producers and editors need to appeal to a broad audience. They are under increasing pressure to produce more, under tighter deadlines.

  • Will Uncle Walt need to read your press release multiple times in order to make sense of it? Will he even read your release for that matter?
  • How difficult is it for him to find the information he needs on your website?
  • Does all of the material and jargon lend itself to mis-quotes and factual misinterpretations?
  • Are the key messages you hope Uncle Walt will take away easy to identify?

Understand that looking out for Aunt Edna is not a charitable exercise. Customers like Aunt Edna are more loyal, and even willing to pay more, for brands that offer communications, interactions and experiences that are easy to understand and use. In fact, U.S. Brands Could Gain $27 Billion in 2011 by Bringing Consumers Simpler Experiences and Interactions, according to the findings of the Siegel+Gale  2010 Global Brand Simplicity Index.

So what global brands offer the simplest communications and what is the real pay off? For more tangible details on the value of simplicity, be sure to join BurrellesLuce and Brian Rafferty, Siegel+Gale Global Director, Customer Insights, for a free on-demand webinar on Using the Power of Simplicity to Optimize Brand Communications and learn about the findings of the 2010 Global Brand Simplicity Index. 

In the meantime, I offer you this challenge: Take a look at your online press room through the eyes of Aunt Edna and Uncle Walt. How much time does it take you to identify the key points? Is there anything subject to interpretation? Does your communication hold up to the “Aunt Edna test”? Does your competitor? Then, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog, tell us what you find out.

Custom Data and the Quest for Online Privacy

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Jets - Lauren and Cole Simon

Valerie Simon

Tomorrow, David Ring, EVP, business development, Universal Music Group; Gerard M. Stegmaier, attorney, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Howard Hogan, partner, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, will be holding a discussion at South by SouthWest. The question on everyone’s mind: Is the coexistence of data customization and privacy possible?

Custom data, created thanks to the availability of personal information online, creates opportunity for marketers and has the potential to offer users a better experience. Gathering data about users and even their online behaviors – as noted in this post from my BurrellesLuce colleague, Crystal deGoede,– results in increased knowledge about our customers and the potential to serve them better. But re-targeting also has the potential to be “creepy.” Increasing consumer privacy concerns are pushing legislators and the FTC to introduce new legislation that will offer web users more control of their personal data and empower the FTC to enforce voluntary privacy standards developed with Internet companies.

The fear of invasion of privacy is not new. Back in 2009, a White House Memoranda noted:

Potential benefits of web measurement and customization technologies are clear. With the help of such technologies, agencies will be able to allow users to customize their settings, avoid filling out duplicative information, and navigate websites more quickly and in a way that serves their interests and needs. These technologies will also allow agencies to see what is useful to the public and respond accordingly. Services to customers and users can be significantly improved as a result.

At the same time, OMB is acutely aware of, and sensitive to, the unique privacy questions raised by government uses of such technologies. Any such uses must not compromise or invade personal privacy. It is important to provide clear, firm, and unambiguous protection against any uses that would compromise or invade personal privacy.” (White House Memoranda: Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies, June 2010.)

While the government certainly must have a unique sensitivity to privacy concerns, data customization practices in the corporate world are also subject to scrutiny.  

It is clear that transparency, and easy to understand disclosures regarding how personal data is being used online and in social media are essential. In fact, Facebook continues to sit in the spotlight because of privacy concerns and user-control issues. While Facebook’s privacy policy seems to be a step in the right direction, “until Facebook tells its 600 million members what it tells its major advertisers and marketing partners – on how to configure its system to generate data and other desired ad responses – it is failing to protect user privacy,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “We intend to push the FTC and Congress to force Facebook to come clean about its data privacy practices.”

With clear and simple language, I believe that a transparent and mutually beneficial relationship between marketers and users can exist. As a consumer, relevant messages and targeted advertising can be helpful and are certainly more welcome than advertisements for products and services that have no relevance to me and may even be offensive. My frequent postings about my children and the Jets, no doubt resulted in the advertisements for children’s Jets gear that populate my Facebook page, but as you can see from the accompanying picture, it was certainly of interest to me!

But what about other data that is being collected by deceptive methods? “Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon published a study concluding that many websites thwart users’ privacy settings by providing erroneous information to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer,” explains this Media Post article. Amazon.com is the latest company “allegedly circumventing the privacy settings of Internet Explorer users.”

What do you think? Is the coexistence of data customization and privacy possible? If the FTC is able to pass legislation to protect users privacy, how might this impact your public relations and marketing efforts?

Are PR Budgets Back?

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Valerie Simon

Money_EyesAt the New York City #HAPPO Hour last week, professionals representing many top public relations agencies were on the lookout for talent. Representatives from firms such as Burson Marstellar, Peppercom, MS&L, Devries PR, and Ruder Finn worked the room, looking to meet potential hires. In fact, the number of professionals in the room, who were wearing badges identifying themselves as an actively hiring employer or mentor, nearly matched the number of job seekers and students.

“In 2009 and 2010, it seemed as though many of the clients we pitched were not ready to make a decision,” commented one NYC agency pro. “Recently, however, it seems like clients are starting to move forward. Whether they pick our agency, or another, they are making a decision.” And as firms gear up to take on new business, finding employees quickly becomes a top priority.

In a recent PRNewser post, Ketchum CEO Ray Kotcher noted an increase in the number of RFPs and account wins floating around. “There’s been a bit of a lift from the economy,” Kotcher said. But he said the “lift” was the normal course of business for this time period as “clients are lining up their comms partners for the coming year. You’re also seeing PR taking on much more importance than it has in the past.”

Kotcher noted three key areas of growth for the PR industry:

  • social media, digital media, and word of mouth
  •  research, measurement, and analytics
  • continued need for corporate and crisis work (particularly in regards to B-to-B, electronics, and established tech companies

Harris Diamond, CEO of IPG’s Constituency Management Group, which houses its PR firms, including GolinHarris, Weber Shandwick, and DeVries Public Relation, also had a positive message to share with PRNewser readers, “We’re just seeing a tremendous focus with companies more and more seeing the wisdom of looking for programs the reach their constituent groups,” he shared, explaining that across all PR businesses, practices, and geographies, business has experienced and continues to experience growth. Diamond pointed out opportunities available for the industry in areas traditionally reserved for advertising specifically, “Mega events,” like the Super Bowl.

As I chatted amongst the attendees at the New York #HAPPO event, I was inspired to hear so many opportunities, but was struck by the sense of urgency. The last few years have resulted in lean staffs, struggling to provide excellence with very limited resources. Businesses have rightfully been cautious in making the investments necessary to embrace growth and opportunity. Headlines such as “Is PR dead?” questioned the very existence of our industry.

I believe the industry is emerging from these tough economic times stronger, and more necessary than ever before. Budgets are returning, but with a heightened sensitivity to the importance of efficiency and a deep understanding of the precious fragility of growth.

Growth will not be without its challenges. Is your organization preparing to hire or add additional resources for your PR efforts? How has the economic downturn impacted the way your organization is allocating resources?