3 Surefire Open Spaces Marketing Tactics

Posted by on March 4, 2015 with 0 Comments

Last month I explained the Open Spaces Marketing concept.  Basically, it is background-21717_1280about getting your customer’s attention by avoiding noise and going where competitors aren’t.

I also shared a tip that should be especially effective for those who work in the tech sector.  It is about communicating clearly and powerfully.  Here is an excerpt:

“… impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.  How can you fill the space? Replace [jargon] with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences…

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.”

In this post, I list two additional tactics.  See below, and visit this page if you’d like to register to learn more about open spaces marketing.

Time your Communications

When considering the timing for a campaign, most seek to avoid bigger noise and find the times when people are more likely to tune in. For example, conventional wisdom says not to issue press releases on a Monday or Friday, unless you are trying to bury your news. Attention tends to trail off on days surrounding the weekend or holidays. Don’t announce your tech product when others (especially Apple) might be stealing thunder with their big news.

The latest technology and research opens the door to a more nuanced approach. Dan Zarrella, an authority on data-driven marketing, has written extensively on this topic. In his book Hierarchy of Contagiousness, he writes about “contra-competitive timing”, essentially an open spaces approach to social media. Zarrella’s research reveals non-intuitive findings such as:

  • Friday at 4pm is the most retweetable time
  • Weekend stories get shared more
  • Blog early for links, on the weekend for comments

There are also tools that claim to help identify the best time to tweet, e.g. see this features list for SocialBro.

Content types and Networks

Good marketers like to tap the latest methods for reaching customers. These days, this often involves using social media, and tempting buyers with informative and entertaining content.

But the most popular social networks can be crowded and noisy places. There’s a herd mentality in marketing, and if something works well, you can be sure that others will quickly jump in. Take visual content, which has become popular in the last few years. Infographics used to be a novel idea; now they are passé; there are so many, and most are not that impressive, making them easier to ignore.

Open spaces marketing means zigging when others zag. It also means keeping your eyes on emerging vehicles, getting good at picking the likely winners, jumping on board and mastering them before the competition does.

This works especially well for brands that want to be edgy, and are interested in early adopters (whether it’s the youth crowd in consumer or business buyers). Newer social networks and content types might not have the mass appeal or audience as the mainstream – but you will be among the first to stake a claim and build audience – one that can grow as the network grows.

What other networks and communications vehicles are emerging?  There’s been some buzz about Ello, an ad-free social network that has a minimalist design and promises not to sell personal data.  The New York Times recently wrote about the rise of messaging apps.

To read about great examples of innovation in content marketing, see the Moz blog.

There you have it – the same idea applied to disparate areas of timing, language and networks. Open spaces marketing can be a versatile and powerful approach – do you have thoughts on other applications?

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Find and Fill Open Spaces to Connect with Customers

Posted by on February 4, 2015 with 0 Comments

While watching my kids play soccer years ago, I often heard the coach yell “Open Spaces! Pass to space!”openspaces

The instructions might not make sense, but on the playing field they were obvious: the coach was imploring the team to pass the ball to an area that was unoccupied by defenders.

Marketers of today can learn a thing or two from this philosophy. For as long as I can remember, companies have been told that they need to find ways to “break through the clutter” and “rise above the noise.” This generally involved brute force – “talking” louder, or more persistently – ideally in combination with clever campaigns.

But today’s hyper-noisy world demands new metaphors and strategies. In a crowded field, it is much better to find an area where there are no defenders. Said another way, instead of trying to compete with the din, and punch your way through, why not find and fill an open space?

There are many practical ways to market to open spaces. The beauty is that you can use these tactics individually, or combine them for even better results.

Please see below for the first tip, and I will share others in my next post.

Communicate Clearly when others are Confusing

Most industries have their own language. Using the acronyms, buzzwords and slang identifies you as a member of the club, an insider who is smart about the business.  It can serve as shorthand and streamline communications. However, jargon run amuck – when used by marketers, who have no actual experience with the product or industry – can be confusing.

For example, the tech world is famous for geek-speak. Just try reading press releases in B2B and IT tech and you will see what I mean – it can be tough to understand what the products actually do, and who benefits, even if you are a techie. This dense landscape of impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.

How can you fill the space? Replace all those “purpose builts”, “scale outs”, “seamlesses” and “end-to-ends” with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences.

It may sound easy but it isn’t – doing this right means knowing what you’re talking about, either from first-hand experience, or by tapping the knowledge of someone who is close to a space and ideally has been a user or implementer of similar solutions.

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.

To learn more about how you can market to open spaces, please visit this page.

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Secret to Creativity? Ditch the Phone! Get Bored!

Posted by on January 28, 2015 with 0 Comments

Cell phones have been blamed for everything from frying our brains, to shortening attention spans and making us stupid. But brain-on-mobilenew research shows that the biggest threat may be to our creativity.  It should especially be of interest to people in creative and info-driven fields like marketing, journalism and PR.

The NY Times Op Ed Smartphones Don’t Make us Dumb challenges conventional wisdom:

“…there’s little evidence that attention spans are shrinking…  a significant deterioration would require a retrofitting of other cognitive functions. Mental reorganization at that scale happens over evolutionary time, not because you got a smartphone.”

However, that doesn’t mean the devices can’t pose other challenges – here’s another excerpt:

“Over the last decade, neuroscientists distinguished two systems of attention and associated thought. One is directed outward, as when you scroll through your email or play Candy Crush. The other is directed inward, as when you daydream, plan what you’ll do tomorrow, or reflect on the past. Clearly, most digital activities call for outwardly directed attention. These two modes of attention work like a toggle switch; when one is on, the other is off.”

The article notes the important role of daydreaming in creativity (although there can be downsides, like negative thoughts and distraction).

Similar ground is now being covered in WNYC’s Bored and Brilliant project.  The station’s New Tech City podcaster Manoush Zomorodi began her January 12th show, The Case for Boredom, by pondering:

“Since 2008, when I first got a smartphone – I have never had to be bored. The phone has invaded every moment of my life.  Am I missing out on something by not being bored anymore?”

Over fifteen minutes, she interviews researchers in fields of mind wandering and boredom (who knew there were such specialties?!!). One said “creativity and daydreaming are peas in a pod,” and another complained that the phone is “like an annoying detachable limb.”

The WNYC project challenges us to rethink the relationship with our phones and get more creative.  You can participate by signing up here, and downloading an app that helps you track the time you spend on your phone.

 

 

 

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Fusion’s Favorite Mobile Apps of 2014

Posted by on January 8, 2015 with 0 Comments

We surveyed our team about their mobile app use, asking everyone to pick their top three (intentionally excludingphone_apps400 client apps from consideration).

It was a fun exercise, as there was much variety in the answers (no one picked the same ones, in fact there was very little overlap) and I learned about a few new apps in the process.

I also learned about new uses for existing apps, and more about the interests of some of our team members. Some were surprising – I did not know that Nicole is a sports nut, Annie loves podcasts, and Mark wakes up with a different ring tone every day!

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Several listed WhatsApp
  • Unsurprisingly, some of the L.A. team’s choices relate to auto navigation (Waze, Google Maps)
  • Other apps were for navigating issues in daily life, e.g. a restaurant/bar tab splitter, food delivery app and Bible verses
  • Quite a few related to media: e.g. Flipboard, Spotify (who knew that you can use it to learn a new language?), Zedge, SoundHound, and Shazam.
  • Many of the apps were for communications, social media and food/entertainment/travel

Please see below for the responses from some of the team members:

Annie

  • Waze is my lifeline for getting through tricky L.A. traffic during rush hour
  • Stitcher has all of my favorite podcasts to keep me entertained (and sane) while maneuvering through LA traffic
  • Postmates, a great food delivery app

Sara

  • Flipboard is my go-to news source
  • Tab is a great to help with splitting the bill between friends
  • Spotify stores my favorite albums, artists and songs plus you can learn a new language or choose a playlist depending on your mood.

Mark

  • Zedge lets me download a ton of ringtones so I can wake up to a different song every day
  • Timehop shows me what I posted on Facebook on this date for the past five years. It’s fun to revisit my recent past
  • Soundhound and Shazam – when I hear a song that interests me, I open one of these apps and hold my phone up in the air… ten seconds later, I know what song it is, who it’s by – and sometimes even how bad the lyrics are.

Fehmida

  • Google Maps: Probably the one and only app I would be completely lost without
  • Snapchat: a fun and easy way for me to stay in touch with friends and family… it also helps perfect my caption and finger drawing skills.
  • WhatsApp: I use this app exclusively for group conversations; it is a great platform when making plans.

Nicole

  • The Bible app provides a daily verse, it is a great, positive way to start my day and gets some motivation going
  • Bleacher Report notifies me whenever there’s news about all the sports teams I follow and my favorite players… it incorporates social media buzz about topics related to these teams and players as well.
  • Echofon is a lot better than the Twitter app for Droid… It syncs with the Echofon app for Mac

Laura

  • Waze: I’m not sure I could handle Los Angeles driving without this app that I use at least twice a day every single day.
  • Yelp: Since I moved to a new city, I haven’t had a bad meal or service experience, and it’s all because of this app!
  • Mobile Banking Apps: I can deposit checks, transfer money, and pay my bills from wherever I am

Bob

  • Facebook, Twitter and then a tie between LinkedIn and Evernote (the latter for note taking).
  • Buffer App for scheduling Tweets

Chris

  • Google Wallet
  • White Noise – Perfect for travelers
  • Google Voice

Ross

  • Spotify
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Fantasy Football (5 months out of the year)

Nirav

  • Instagram
  • Newsstand – WSJ App
  • WhatsApp
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Confessions of A Foreign PR Student

Posted by on October 30, 2014 with 0 Comments

CocaCola_PotBy Carmen Ren

We all know that in order to communicate effectively, PR practitioners need to understand the public well. In the multi-cultural context, this can be several times more challenging. (To me, it is also fascinating!) The efforts to understand our stakeholders from a foreign culture go way beyond overcoming language issues.

As a PR student who came to the United States for the first time 14 months ago, I was daunted by the challenge of using English to listen, express, learn, think, and “try to be a New Yorker”. I was overwhelmed by obstacles on various levels –

  • Both verbal and written communications are basic and indispensable parts of PR practices. It was challenging for me to write in English and ensure its quality;
  • Public Relations practices (or simply communication) will not work without context. It was VERY challenging for me to catch up with the social and cultural context so that I could at least join the conversation without looking clueless. (e.g. I didn’t know what the terms Stop-and-Frisk, and Cyber Monday, among others, were.)
  • Public Relations governance (and again, communication as well) will not succeed without understanding and aligning different values of various constituents. As a foreigner, it is absolutely challenging for me to grasp the essence of American thinking and therefore make sense of their judgments and behaviors.

Understanding and aligning different values is the biggest obstacle, for me and, I believe, for most PR professionals who have the ambition to operate in a different culture.

Here is an anecdote: a friend from Philly once asked me when comparing Philly to New York City, “How do your Chinese friends conceive Philadelphia? Say, more left and more right?” I didn’t know how to answer, since I don’t usually use “left or right” to describe a city. In fact, the whole dimension of “left and right” does not exist in the way we view our cities. “The Philadelphia question” reminds me of how political culture is deeply rooted in an American mindset.

In contrast to the American politically-rooted mindset, in modern China, we are raised in a culture where civic engagement is not encouraged and political discussion is alien to the mass. The reasons for it are plenty and complex. To me, the most obvious ones are lack of incentives and empowerment — When you know what you say will not matter and will not change anything [1], why bother to devote your efforts? When schools don’t educate students to challenge the authority, and to think critically, how can they be equipped to participate in civic engagements?

In this specific case, what does this “weak muscle” of critical thinking in China mean to communicators or PR pros? To name some, will the public be more vulnerable to rumors and smear campaigns because they are not used to making efforts to find the truth? Will this further influence their information gathering habits and problem solving approaches regarding rumors, or even information at large?

These issues are critical for PR pros because they are a part of the “listening process (public audit)”. This “listening process” is labor-intensive and complex indeed, especially when the context of our stakeholders never stops changing. For a leader who has ambition to set foot in another country, this task cannot be accomplished by simply reading a few books about another country, at least not enough for PR pros. A good multicultural PR pro should be a lifelong “anthropologist”, who diligently listens, observes, and therefore is able to impersonate and communicate [2]. (Silver lining: we have big data to support the continuous listening process.)

I’d like to wrap it up with an analogy– Practicing PR in a foreign land is no less challenging than being in a relationship with a foreigner. First you should be able to communicate in his/her language. And then you make better sense by understanding his/her background and personal history in factual details. But not until you understand “the significant other” on a psychological and even metaphysical level, will you win his/her heart and soul– in PR, this translates to trust, intimacy and a sustainable relationship.

———

[1] Professor James E. Grunig developed a Situational Theory of Publics to explain and predict why some publics are active and others are passive. To explore this subject further, see http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/public-relations/s08-02-the-situational-theory-of-publ.html
[2] For more discussion about “generic principles and specific applications in public relations” (Falconi), see http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2013/04/generic-principles-and-specific-applications-in-public-relations/

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Tech PR in Asia: Myths and Misconceptions

Posted by on October 22, 2014 with 0 Comments

As a tech PR agency - one with clients that sell chips and components to mobile and CE device vendors – we are often asked china-featabout getting media coverage Asia.

That’s because most of the related manufacturing is done in places like China, Korea and Taiwan.  Companies that are trying to sell their core technology into these markets want the media to highlight their products and news there, just like they do here in the U.S.

I find that there is much confusion on the topic.  So, I thought I would share the most common myths and misconceptions, and set the record straight.

The information is based on our years of experience implementing campaigns for clients in APAC.  The media and economic landscapes are constantly evolving; to help us stay on the cutting edge, we work with people that have native language skills and media knowledge; great resources like team member Carmen Ren, who is from Shenzhen, China.

Below, please see the most common myths, and our response:

It’s all kind of the same there, right?  You pay the reporter and you get coverage

It is not all the same, the rules can vary from country to country, and within each country, based on the type of news or event.  While payment is sometimes expected, it is important to understand the customs, so that you don’t offer money when it is not appropriate – or know when it is fair game.

You need to hire an agency in each country / major region

There is no question that it helps to have PR “feet on the ground” in each country – people who know the language, can help you translate materials, and are close with the media.  But this quickly can get prohibitively expensive, and beyond the means of a smaller company or startup.

Fortunately, it is possible to get coverage from afar, if you know the right approach – and who to approach.

The government controls the media in China, and other countries – you are wasting your time with PR

While there is no denying government influence over the media, censors will simply not care about most tech vendor news.  There is a rich collection of media in China and other countries, and a growing focus and interest on business and technology news.

You can get by with great U.S. PR results, and communicating in English

Yes, the Internet does make the world a smaller place when it comes to communications – and many do look to the U.S. and major media coverage here.  But you will get much better PR results in Asia if you take the time to approach the media there directly, in their language, rather than hoping that they will somehow find your news.

For further clarification, I asked Carmen Ren about this point. She said:

“It depends on English proficiency in that region. E.g., in Singapore you can reach out in English, as that is their official Language; while in Mainland China, Chinese still dominates business communications. Hong Kong lies in-between.

It is also affected by the freedom of media access. Mainland Chinese heavily depend on domestic websites and internet services as news sources, thanks to the media censorship. (Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are banned there).

It’s true that mainland Chinese can still access some foreign sites, but as they are so used to the “home-grown” media environment, foreign contents just fall off the radar. So in mainland China, it is still necessary to communicate in Chinese and localize communication efforts.”

Want to learn more?

We will be blogging more on this topic, and issuing a series of briefs about how to maximize PR results in China, and other parts of Asia.  Please visit this link to learn more.

 

 

 

 

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John and Jonah Explore BuzzFeed at NewCo New York

Posted by on October 2, 2014 with 0 Comments

I attended the NewCo New York kickoff event on Tuesday evening. It was a great opportunity to network with like-minded bloggers, journalists, marketers and entrepreneurs and hear from top tech influencers.

As NewCo co-founder John Battelle (the search wonk and tech influencer who launched Industry Standard and co-founded the Web 2.0 Summit with Tim O’Reilly) explained, they were interested in launching a new event concept and came up with NewCo, a “conference-as-festival, where innovative companies throw open their doors to the public.”

It is about meeting with innovative NY Tech startups in their natural habitats, AKA their own offices (NewCo runs events in a number of cities around the world now – Austin is next).

I unfortunately did not get the chance to make the circuit, but really enjoyed kickoff’s centerpiece – a fireside chat between BuzzFeed Founder and CEO Jonah Perretti and Battelle. It was a lively and provocative conversation, and both gave as good as they got. John tweaked Jonah a bit about listicles, and Jonah fired back with some witty retorts.

Below, you can see some curated Tweets, via Storify.

 

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Why do the Media Swoon Over Apple? David Carr Opines

Posted by on September 16, 2014 with 0 Comments

It is an old saying in PR: “there is no accounting for taste.” Said another way (as we teach in media training), in any market, one company will rise to the top, fueled by “story energy”. The media will inexplicably latch on and just fawn.apple_wall___one_more_thing______by_thedevartist-d4bfml9

These thoughts crossed my mind as I read NY Times Media Equation columnist David Carr’s excellent analysis of the media fascination with Apple in light of last week’s “Applemageddon” news orgy. (For those in tech PR not working with Apple, it seems like we were handed a mini-vacation during the 9/9 event – it was futile to be trying to pitch anything else, especially consumer-tech related). He wrote:

Apple’s ability to seize the moment and preoccupy the press is without peer. Think about it: Absent that showmanship and hype, the company announced two very good-looking, very expensive phones that catch up with consumers’ preference for larger screens, a smartwatch… and a payment system that will need buy-in from retailers. So, what is it about Apple that makes a sea of professional curmudgeons whoop like children on Christmas?

He went on to list some of the tricks from Apple’s PR playbook.

Given the company’s history of maniacal secrecy… its sway with the news media is even more remarkable…. the stage management of its events rivals what is being announced... Seating charts are meticulously studied, rehearsals are endless and strategic leaks are used to temper expectations… The audience claps because everything — the lighting, the fanfare, the reveal — is meant to elicit applause.

On the one hand, Apple’s success with the media might not be that surprising as they use tried and true tactics, like stealth, and stagecraft to maximal effect. Yet another vendor would probably would not get the same results with these tricks. Why is that?

The answer lies in the story energy, taste, and the intoxicating power that an intangible such as brand can have. If reporters lose perspective and swoon, who can blame them? They are people too. They love a good story, and love to fall in love.

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Do Nice Headlines Finish First?

Posted by on August 11, 2014 with 0 Comments

We had a media training session this week involving one of our larger clients last week. NaughtyOrNice1_zps06c1f9f3

Executives from around the world flew in to learn about the art of getting key points across in press interviews, and take turns in the Hot Seat (mock interviews with real journalists).

I love these sessions because they help us bond with clients, and share experiences and observations about the worlds of technology and the media.

We commiserated about the increasingly negative and provocative tone of tech reporting. The tech trade press used to be a safe place to share your story, and get your messages across unchallenged. These days, it seems, everyone is after that biting headline that draws viewers and clicks.

That is the perception, but is it true? I saw two articles in the NY Times last week that are relevant to the question – one about the dangers of being too incendiary, and the second, which seems to show people enjoy and prefer to share positive stories.

In Stumbling Along in the Race to be Provocative, William Rhoden wrote:

Stephen A. Smith will return to active duty this week at ESPN, which suspended him for being overzealous — and imprecise — while doing what he is paid to do: provoke and incite. [His] remarks are the latest example of how the line between being thought-provoking and merely provoking has become blurred and how thoughtful discourse has been compromised.

histrionics are intended not as much to facilitate debate as to draw, and keep, fans. As competition has escalated, news media outlets have become increasingly obsessed with their audience numbers. We want your eyes, your ears, your wallets.

Heated debates around polarizing figures and polarizing quotations make for good copy and great TV. But do they lead to positive change?… As we chase dollars, we make progressively less sense

Sheila Marikar wrote in her story On the Nice Internet, Caring is Sharing

Anchored by websites including Thought Catalog, Upworthy and ViralNova, this is an Internet that aims to lift up, not take down…But behind their warm and fuzzy veneers, these growing media companies are businesses, and they peddle in uplifting content because they believe it’s profitable.

“A lot of it is clicky headlines and shareable headlines, and shareable headlines that play with certain identities.. people want to share with their friends to self-represent,” Mr. Magnin said. Indeed, his site has filled a void: Thought Catalog’s compilation of life advice, nostalgic lists and “betcha didn’t know this” type wisdom drew more than 34 million unique visitors in June, according to Quantcast.. the website of Time magazine had about 2.6 million unique visitors during the same month.

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iPhone Case Cage Match at Fusion PR

Posted by on May 30, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

My email query to the Fusion PR team set off a frenzied debate, about the best case to protect an iPhone Cagematch_thumb1 from damage.

I am a chronic phone dropper, and my old phone had just died after one too many. Luckily, it was insured. Unluckily, there was a hefty $200 deductible to replace the phone (which I learned was necessary, after going to Apple’s Genius Bar. The tech came back from some quick exploratory surgey; he looked at me grimly, and just shook his head – the patient was gone).

But Asurion, the inurance company, shipped me a new one overnight, which was great. It was a 5s, a step up from my old iPhone 5. Getting my apps and data back, and getting started with the new phone, were incredibly easy, nothing short of miraculous, via iCloud, and a wizard that walked me through the process.

So I sent the request to the Fusion team and got lots of great email suggestions. The camps seemed split between Otterbox, which some said is clunky, and Lifeproof, which one person called “a dream”. The IT guy favors Evutec: “Nice price at $49.95 and great carbon fiber case.”

The email back and forth turned into some trash talking, and eventually they took the debate offline. The Lifeproof zealot dared the IT guy to a drop test in our NY office – he declined, but she dropped her phone. It survived (I wouldn’t recommend trying this, but word has it that Lifeproof will pay you if a phone with their case gets damaged in a drop).

This is the team I am proud of!. They debate the issues on an intellectual level, and then slug it out, without taking prisoners – don’t get in their way!

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