Aug 25

Could 60 million Americans be wrong?

Up-ie A brand new Pew Research Center survey shows that 21 percent of the American population doesn't use the Internet at all. That's  60 million people!

And, it's not just the old 'digital divide' that's causing folks not to tune out, turn off and power down. According to Pew, the 60 million plus, non-tech heads stay away because:
– They don't have a computer (OK, fine, a digital divide)
– It's too expensive (Fine. The damn divide again, but wait….)
– It's too difficult or frustrating
– They think it's a waste of time
– They don't have access (Fine. Divide.)
– They're too busy (That response fascinates me. The Web's a huge time saver for this blogger.)
– They don't need or want it (Put that in your social media pipe and smoke it)
– They're too old to learn (So much for these old dogs learning new tricks)
– They reported having a bad experience with Ed Moed's 'MeasuringUP' blog (Now, that makes sense).

Simultaneously, Pew reports the Internet's explosive growth has finally slowed. Sixty-six percent of respondents reported having a high-speed Internet connection at home which is up just marginally from the 63 percent saying the same thing last year.

So, here's my question: knowing that some 60 million Americans aren't using the Internet at all, why are we not seeing opinion pieces on the subject? PR Week, PR News, Holmes and the other industry trades are filled to the brim with the latest, greatest, social media case studies, features and announcements. And everyone's arguing about which marketing discipline deserves to lead the social media discourse. But, what about the huge market that doesn't want or need the Internet? Don't our journalists owe us thinking on the subject?

Lost in the social media land rush mentality is the reasoned approach a person such as our very own Sam Ford takes. He's never suggested the Internet is the ‘be-all end-all’ for each and every client. Instead, he urges they first LISTEN before acting. Listening would enable clients and agencies alike to uncover the 60 million non-Internet users who, I guarantee, are a core constituent audience for lots and lots of organizations. And, once one has listened, one can determine the best strategies with which to engage.

So, the next time you're in a new business pitch and the prospect asks about your firm's social media strategy, turn the tables and ask what her organization's plan is to reach the 60 million Americans who aren't using the web. Ask her if she's taken the time to listen to the non-Internet users. If nothing else, it will differentiate you from every other agency in the pitch who, I guarantee, will do nothing but wax poetic about their digital capabilities.

Aug 18

Steven Slater, The Reality Show

Today's guest post is by Julie Farin

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater has become the latest media magnet due to his dramatic  “take this job and shove it” exit from Flight 1052 at New York’s JFK airport last week, following Airplane-exit his public obscenity-filled rant involving a rude passenger who allegedly injured him while retrieving her carry-on baggage from the overhead bin (ignoring Slater’s instructions to remain seated).

Just 48 hours after this well-publicized incident, the social media was all a-Twitter and divided. There were those who called Slater a hero, a man who should have been applauded for fulfilling every disrespected working person’s fantasy.  Others thought him more of a zero, whose actions were reckless and dangerous.  JetBlue, on the other hand, suspended the 28-year airline veteran and two days later issued a light-hearted statement on their company blog basically announcing that they couldn’t comment on the situation due to the ongoing investigation.

I am surprised that JetBlue did not swiftly issue a statement apologizing for their employee’s rogue behavior (right or wrong, there were 100 witnesses who heard his eff-ing tirade over the PA system) while they collected all the facts.  This was the airline’s opportunity to reiterate how seriously they consider the safety of their passengers and their employees, instead of treating Slater’s public meltdown as somewhat of a joke, as the tone of their statement seemed to suggest. 

Clearly, this man was beyond stressed and frustrated by having to deal with the bad behavior of ill-mannered passengers day after day.  But, as they say, it comes with the territory of a job that deals with the public. Perhaps JetBlue should mandate stress-management seminars for flight attendants as part of its on-going training (if it hasn’t already).  For the record, I recently traveled on JetBlue round-trip from JFK to San Diego, and it was a wonderful experience.  In fact, I plan on flying JetBlue again next month.

Regardless, Mr. Slater has become an overnight celebrity with all the traditional and social media attention (buy your "Save Steven” t-shirts here!)    And it now seems that he has hit the publicity mother lode:  Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman has announced he is representing Slater, losing no time fielding offers for book deals, endorsements, and reality TV shows.

Hey, if the Jersey Shore cast’s antics can be celebrated on TV, why not a harried flight attendant? 

Julie Farin is a Public Relations professional based in New York with expertise in TV, entertainment, magazine publishing, and the media in general.  She is a news and information junkie, Godfather aficionado, and proud to admit that John Lennon is her favorite Beatle.

Jun 24

An Ice Cream Campaign Worth Screaming For

Today's guest post is by Kristin Davie, Peppercom JAE. 

Ben&Jerry(2) There are three people a girl can count on to carry her through any heartbreak- her father and good ole’ Ben and Jerry. 

Turns out, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t just help mend a broken heart, they’re not half bad at social media either.

To commemorate the creation of its New York Super Fudge flavor, the Ben & Jerry’s NYC Scoop Truck has been making its way around Manhattan delivering tasty, frozen treats- over 500,000 samples in 6 weeks.  What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of such a flavor staple than in the city that served as inspiration?

Every Wednesday, Ben & Jerry’s accepts suggestions from hungry Manhattan tweeters as to where
Ben&Jerry(1) they should stop next- and after a great group tweeting effort (including a rather persuasive picture of some hungry Peppercommers), Peppercom was fortunate enough to be paid a visit yesterday.

The campaign is a great example of social media reinforcing brand loyalty.  Not to mention, it made publicists out of everyday consumers, as more and more people took to Twitter to spread the message and encourage friends and office mates to submit a 140 character pitch of their own.

Yes, we took the tweeting pretty seriously.  There’s a rumor I pumped my fists in the office kitchen when I heard the good news (DISCLAIMER- I’m from New Jersey), but who could blame me?  Cold, delicious ice cream is a welcome reward when the temperature is nearly 90 degrees outside. 

At the end of the day, Ben & Jerry’s reminded me that I shouldn’t limit myself to picking up a pint when a boy breaks my heart.  The brand can help make some happy memories, too- just check out the smiles on all of us. 

Mar 01

It may seem like heresy to say in certain PR agency circles, but social media isn’t a silver bullet

March 1 - social-media-waste-of-time I’m more convinced than ever that social media is merely one in a series of ‘tools’ with which to engage in conversation. I say this at a time when advertising agencies, digital, shops and PR firms alike are battling for every available client dollar being allocated to social media. I say this at a time when PR agencies in particular are stressing out that their advertising and digital brethren will ‘own’ the big social media idea and, hence, the relationship. I say this at a time when two large clients of ours recently pulled us aside and said, ‘Hey, just a heads-up, but you no longer have to worry about only PR competitors calling up to get my business. Now, ad agencies and web designers are doing the same.’ That’ll do a number on one’s getting a good night’s sleep.

It’s all merely subterfuge as far as I’m concerned. A consumer (regardless of whether he is a consumer or B-to-B purchaser) will make a buying decision based upon trust. The recent Edelman Trust Barometer says consumers surveyed now check five distinct sources (digital and traditional alike) before engaging with a brand. That sounds a tad excessive to me. Who has the time to check five distinct sources about anything nowadays? I sure don’t. I think our very own Sam Ford comes much closer to the reality of the situation when he says social media isn’t a silver bullet. It’s merely one part of a brand’s arsenal of communications weapons with which to build trust, become recommended and, eventually, stimulate purchase.

I recently addressed two very different corporate groups on the subject of social media. The first was comprised of 25 ‘next generation’ fast trackers in the corporate communications departments of Fortune 500 companies. They stopped me in my tracks by saying social media wasn’t growing in importance as part of their overall marketing spend, nor was it being seen by the C-suite as a panacea. The second group was composed of human resource managers at very large professional services firms. They had the opposite point-of-view. They’d been told by their executives to figure out what was happening in social media and to ‘get something’ installed for employee communications ASAP.

Continue reading

Jan 22

Cease and Desist to Warp Seven!

Guest post by Rob Longert, PepperDigital

“Without freedom of choice there is no creativity. The body dies.” — Captain James T. Kirk in 'The Return Of The Archons' 

For a short while, I had the hope that this year’s “Starship Peppercom” holiday card would be up for an academy award. The acting, stock graphics and stock music was award winning, not to mention the camera work, directing and editing. 

But as you may have heard in yesterday’s post on Ed Moed’s Measuring Up blog, we received a “very polite and tactful” letter from CBS, owners of the Star Trek property, asking us to remove the video from our Web site, and as Ed put it, “CBS has every right to protect its brand rights in Star Trek and clearly its attorney is making sure that this is enforced to the letter of the law.”

But let’s take a step back for a second and examine the situation: 

  • We created a holiday card to show our personality and have some fun… Much like the crew of the Starship enterprise, everyone on our management team has a different personality that meshes together to form a successful group. StarTrek Costume  
  • While we did use the theme of Star Trek and licensed costumes that we purchased online, we didn’t use the original intro music, name of the show, photos of the U.S.S. Starship Enterprise or photos of actors from any of the various Star Trek series’. 
  • The backdrop of the video was Steve’s office and our conference room. Unfortunately, as much as I love our offices, they look nothing like a space ship, and while Park Avenue can seem like a black hole sometimes, it isn’t! 

I am not a lawyer, and I can see where CBS’ “legal eagles” are coming from, but on the other hand, we no longer live in a world where there are strict boundaries in terms of extreme fandom and appreciation and copyright infringement. 

The whole internet thing sort of changed the rules didn't it? Is every Star Trek online forum moderated by CBS? If a fan run forum has online advertising on it, does that fan owe money to CBS? 

Look back to August of 2008, when a number of fans of the hit TV show Mad Men began tweeting on behalf of their favorite characters… AMC’s gut reaction was to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint with Twitter, to which Twitter responded by pulling down the Don Draper, Peggy Olson etc… character accounts. This sent fans into an uproar, and eventually AMC came to their senses, and realized that the fan Tweeting was actually just “free advertising” for their show.

As former Gawker blogger Richard Lawson (now with CBS) put it, “I can understand entire episodes being pulled, but little clips here and there seem to increase buzz and to potentially earn the shows some new fans.” 

The new Star Trek movie has over 330,000 fans on Facebook, they have every episode from the original series on YouTube and there are countless Star Trek spoofs out there (including one on the G4 channel called Star Trek 2.0) from TV and the Web, and you can even “Trek Yourself" (see below). But there is one thing missing… engagement from the brand.

Create Your Own

While monitoring so closely for copyright infringement, why not put some resources towards responding in forums, their Facebook page, and on YouTube? Think about the buzz that would be generated if they held a contest for the biggest Star Trek fan, who would represent them in social media circles! The possibilities are endless here…

My question to the Star Trek property is this: Will it hurt the franchise more to curb user generated content or to embrace it and converse with the passionate fans that are potential brand ambassadors?

What would James T. Kirk and Jean Luc Piccard do in this situation?!

Dec 21

I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike

Guest Post By Matt Purdue, Peppercom

As the first 10 years of the 21st century draw to a close, one of the most successful social media tales of the decade is still peaking. It offers great lessons for anyone involved in this emerging communications space.

December 21 Eldon Nelson, 43, started his blog in 2005 as a way to share his tongue-in-cheek experiences riding his bike in an effort to lose weight. The Fat Cyclist became popular thanks to Nelson’s everyman approach to a subject to which many of us can relate. But, ironically, Nelson’s blog really took off after his wife was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Mixing equal parts humor, pathos and unabashed honesty, Nelson recounted his family’s long struggle with the disease in graphic detail.

After Nelson’s wife died in August 2009, traffic to his blog tripled.

Nelson has used the increasingly popularity of his blog to accomplish incredible good works. He helped form virtual teams of cyclists who raised more than $600,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. More recently, he inspired some 3,700 readers of his blog to donate more than $135,000 to LAF and World Bicycle Relief. The efforts earned Nelson a ride with Lance Armstrong and his new team.

Nelson’s formula presents a fantastic lesson for social media planners:
– Be honest…always
– Address subjects that people are passionate about
– Write with the everyday reader in mind
– Get your readers involved
– There are ways to measure success other than widgets sold

Happy holidays to Fatty and everyone out there.

Dec 16

Call me the (texting) tumbling dice

Aside from falling off the side of a mountain, drowning during a triathlon or simply slumping Padded_post over my desk after suffering a rogue heart attack, I think I know how I'll die. I'll be busy texting as I stride along one of Manhattan's side streets when, boom, I'll tumble head over heels into one of those sidewalk cellar doors that seem to always be in the fixed, upright and open position. That's where they'll find my body buried in produce, neck badly broken, hand still clutching the damn Blackberry.

I've already had a few close calls. That's why I'm thrilled to see there's a new iPhone application called Type n Walk. It was literally designed to save my life, since It provides a texting walker a view of what lies ahead.

Susan Dominus, a New York Times columnist, likens texting while walking to texting while driving. I disagree. It's one thing to be distracted while driving a 2,000 pound car at 65 mph. It's quite another to be walking slowly while texting. I'll admit the latter isn't smart or particularly healthy, but it's not necessarily jeopardizing other people's lives.

I can't wait to download the Type n Walk. I just hope it’s sensitive enough to pick up those damn, dark cellar doors. I'm worried they may one day become the iceberg to my RMS Titanic.

Nov 16

Dirty Pool

November 16 - awards I've had the opportunity to judge everything from the Silver Anvils and CIPRAs to the PR Week and Big Apple industry awards. And, while I'm honored to be asked, I have to tell you something: the industry awards programs are badly broken.

They're broken in one, fundamental way: big agencies are allowed to submit as many entries per category as they choose. They pay the same amount per entry as does a small, two-person start-up. And, that's unfair.

Let me cite specifics. I'm currently judging the 'digital/social media' category for one of these awards' programs. If you can believe it, there are no fewer than 75 separate entries for one award! To begin with, that's absurd. Who wants to pay serious money for a one-in-75 chance?

But, here's the real issue. Right alongside 11 (yes, 11!) entries from the world's largest public relations firm is one from a start-up I've never heard of. And, a panel that includes me, and probably four or five other time-pressured judges, has to choose the best. What are the odds the start-up will win?

I've actually tallied up the entries. Of the 75 in total, no fewer than 37 come from the top 10 agencies. Talk about unfair competition! Nearly 50 percent of the digital/social media category entries come from four or five PR firms.

So, here's a question to the powers that be at these awards' shows: why don't you price the entry fees by the size of the agency? Instead of charging every agency $375 per submission, why not charge the Webers, Fleishmans and Ketchums double or triple the fee? They're probably a hundred times larger than some of the other competitors.

If the media properties did so, it would lessen the deluge from the largest firms, level the playing field and, probably, raise even more money for their cash-starved coffers.

I'm amazed more small and midsized agencies don't complain about this obvious inequity. It's dirty pool.

Nov 04

Stickiness is so 1999

November 4 - Webinar_Sticky3 Remember what a big deal stickiness used to be? Dotcom executives loved using the word. First, they'd talk about eyeballs on their site. Then, they'd wax poetic about stickiness. 'Steve, guess how long the average visitor stays on www.fallenarches.com? Three minutes! That kills our competitors' numbers. Kills! Buries! Annihilates! We are so friggin' sticky!'

 When the dotcom bubble burst, it took those annoying executives and their eyeballs along for the ride. But, somehow the word stickiness survived.

In fact, stickiness is still considered by many as a key barometer in today's social media world.

Stickiness is used to describe the time a visitor spends on a website. Conventional wisdom holds that the stickier the site, the more enriching the end user experience (and the more successful the site).

Not so, says Sam Ford, Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green, who will join me for a webinar on the subject this Friday at 1p.m. EST (Register
here for this free webinar, "Moving from "Sticky" to "Spreadable": The
antidote to "Viral Marketing" and the Broadcast Mentality
")

Messrs. Ford, Jenkins and Green are affiliated with M.I.T's highly-regarded Convergence Culture Consortium, whose mission is to provide some clarity and make some sense of the seismic digital changes happening all around us (note: Sam Ford also happens to be Peppercom's director of customer insights).

The trio believe web success is all about spreadability and not stickiness. Spreadability, they say, should be the watchword of the day. It's not about how long someone stays on a site but, rather, how they share (or spread) the information contained on it and with whom.

Spreadability is critical to success in social media. But, understanding how to create content that others will find spreadable isn't easy.

On Friday, Ford, Jenkins and Green will share best and worst practices, tips on how to create your own speadable content and explain why 'viral' may make sense in medical nomenclature, but shouldn't be included in your tech talk.

Just think: a Friday afternoon with Repman and three academics discussing spreadability on the web. Aside from another Phillies victory, what more could you possibly ask for?

Oct 20

What works in Jacksonville may not in Jakarta

October 20 As if marketers don't have enough to worry about, a new blog series run by PepperDigital and Upstream Asia says successful social media campaigns need to resonate with the unique wants and needs of every culture and subculture around the world.

Bottom-line: a one size fits all strategy won't fly. The McDonald's online campaign that drives consumers to stores in Clarksville will probably be a turn-off in Copenhagen (although the Mickey D fish sticks will probably still be big sellers above the Arctic Circle).

The series tracks the rise of subcultures across the globe who, while they may be separated by several oceans, share a common affinity for, say, obscure Norwegian rock music. At the same time, though, those very same affinity groups will have wildly diverging tastes in other areas. So, while savvy marketers may be able to engage with a wide mix of, say, Vietnamese, American and Tanzanian fans of the Norwegian grunge band Lars and the Golden Geese, they need to tread lightly when introducing a second topic to the same group.

The same 'new norm' holds true within borders as well. The discussion that might build buzz in Paris’ fifth arrondissement could be found objectionable in Les cites of Marseilles.

It's a mixed-up world in which we live. This new series proves the old adage that marketers need to walk before they run, especially when it comes to engaging in social media. The land rush mentality to embrace social media we've seen by many U.S. organizations will fail miserably if they extend across borders without taking the time to stop and listen. Listening is, in fact, the single best piece of advice suggested by the series.

'Think global, act local,' is a smart admonition for any traditional marketer seeking to extend its brand beyond its borders. Based upon this new series, it holds doubly true for social media and should be extended to included subcultures and affinity groups.