The migration of people and content online makes it easier to connect the dots between PR effort and results. And international initiatives such as the Barcelona Principles aim to take a fresh look and improve the craft (see this Cision blog post).
Yet there is one thing that is impossible to measure – and is ignored at our own peril.
There is no technology that can look into the brains of people and know what they are thinking. That might be obvious, but why is it important? Don’t we just care about coverage, website traffic/conversions, i.e. things that can be measured? Should we consider every announcement or pitch that does not produce immediate results a flop?
Direct marketers understand the importance of repetition. They know that you often need to present your message with prospects several times before anything happens.
The recipient may see your ad or email pitch, or direct mailer, once, twice, three times – and not respond. But there is a cumulative effect of these impressions – each one may barely register, but eventually they bubble up from the subconscious into recognition, a sense of familiarity and perhaps even a response or order.
Similarly you may get no reaction to that pitch, that piece of minor news, that big idea.
But then, they bite on the next pitch… or call you… or, you get them on the phone for the first time after all these pitches and they are warm and friendly, like they were expecting the call.
So I tell clients, “Sure we’ll pitch or send that minor news. Don’t expect coverage, but do hope we are gaining mind share that will pay off in the long term.”
This is also the reason why one shot PR programs and pay for performance seem short sighted.
You can’t measure this kind of impression.
(Please note, and this is VERY IMPORTANT – I am not recommending that you carpet bomb reporters, AKA spam them, with the hope that brute force persistence and repetition will pay off. You will create negative impressions and do the program more harm than good. Always respect their pitch preferences and make sure the info is relevant to their coverage areas. Moderation and balance are important).
computerworld.com – So far the tablet market has been pretty much driven by the ARM processor camp, which power the vast majority of devices (including iPads, which have their own derivative). Intel is definitely coming from behind when it comes to mobile as it tries to muscle its way into the market. But it’s made some significant strides over the past year with some big wins including Dell Venue, Asus ZenPhones, rumors of Samsung devices, etc. Many have speculated that Intel doesn’t have a chance when it comes to mobility, but is this in fact the case?
I attended and really enjoyed the Social Tools Summit in Boston earlier this week. Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony produced a great event; kudos to both, and thanks again for inviting me to speak there.
The day was chock full of discussions and helpful information about the many aspects of social media marketing – it covered challenges, best practices, and yes – tools. If you like social media and tech, as I do, it was like being a kid in a candy store.
An added bonus was that I got the chance to hang out with (and in some cases, meet for the first time) people I knew from my days writing for Maximize Social Business – like Joe Ruiz, Debbie Miller, and of course Neal.
Although some complain that there are too many tools, and it is hard to understand and navigate all the options, that is exactly why I found the day to be so useful. I learned about new ones, and was able to kick the tires of some that I was curious about during the speed demo portion of the event.
I also jotted down notes of tools that were recommended by speakers. I list below a few that struck my interest (a more complete list can be found in Alan Belniak’s List.ly post).
- AhaBooks, AhaAmplifier – Mitchell Levy of THINKAha (and fellow MSB alum) was on my panel; they offer social-media enabled ebooks, and tools to amplify thought leadership.
- Traackr – Katie Paterson was on my panel too, their service is the go-to option when it comes to social influencer relationship management.
- Oktopost – I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the founder and CEO, Daniel Kushner – Oktopost is a great option for comprehensive B2B social media marketing and management – many of our clients could benefit.
- SimplyMeasured – Great system for cross-channel analytics; they took one of the top awards there.
- Here’s a cool hack / feature someone mentioned; you can use Commun.it with Buffer (which I use and love) to curate content and tweet to multiple Twitter accounts.
- Other tools mentioned in the session:
- Trendspottr Signal, platform for social listening and curation; I use and love Trendspottr
- Cyfe – I use this social dashboard, one of the panelists mentioned that it can be used to create content calendars.
- Meddle.IT enables each employee be a content creator
- In a similar vein, EveryoneSocial gives your team social media advocacy tools
- Ditto – Deep learning, discovery of image content
- Visual content and design tools including Canva, PicMonkey and PostCreator
But if you are in tech, there is an increasingly important audience that may be getting short shrift.
The software developer is becoming the linchpin in more and more business plans. Once a minor influencer and cog in IT procurement, they have emerged as a major force that can hold the keys to your market, further adoption of new tech and products and even make or break companies.
Why is the developer suddenly so important? And how can you court this coveted group?
In this series I will try to answer these questions. This first post will discuss the developer imperative, describe some of the challenges, and set the stage for a discussion of the tactics that can help you achieve success.
The Rise of the Software Developer
Perhaps you want to foster adoption of your software and drive grassroots growth in the enterprise. Maybe you want ISVs to add compatible solutions and functionality; this makes yours more useful and the vaunted network effect can be the key to becoming a standard. Or, it could simply be that your product is geared to programmers, and you want to sell to them.
Of course, let’s not forget a primary motivator: recruitment. Many want to promote their companies and technologies as cool for programmers.
In any of these scenarios you will want to find a way to get through and win them over.
Their rising importance can be tied directly to the growing role of software for consumers and businesses. Our lives and work are increasingly organized by apps. The rise of software-driven architectures has played a role.
Open source is growing, lowering costs and promoting standards. Apps, SaaS and the cloud bring code within reach of everyone. SDKs and APIs make it easier to extend functionality and integrate solutions.
So What, Really, is New Here?
Of course, marketing to developers is not new. If you’ve worked in tech, you have no doubt heard about the trend – just check out the following headlines:
- EE Times: Xilinx Targets Embedded Software Developers
- ZDnet: IBM Preps Cloud Services, Targets Software Development
- Ad Week: Facebook Holds first Hack Developer Day
- eWeek: Apple Lures Developers with iWatch Offer
- The Inquirer: Apple is ‘aggressively’ courting business devs
It is a fair bet that the major vendors have big war chests and teams dedicated to winning over this coveted group. But smaller companies and startups might not know where to start.
With the growing importance of this group, you do need a plan if you don’t have one already.
What Does the Developer Want?
If the rationale is clear, the path to winning their hearts, minds and commitment can be anything but.
Developers are not some monolithic group that you can influence with top down marketing. They can be fiercely independent, or belong to tribes. Many value their affiliations and credentials, and wear their certifications like military stripes and skills like battle scars. They can be mired in legacy tech or early adopters.
Having said that, there are some common threads, and ways to communicate that can help you achieve your goals.
Before you begin, ask the following questions:
- What types of developers are important?
- Where do they meet in person and online?
- Where do they get information?
- Are there similar adjacent communities?
- What are their hot buttons? Relevant trends?
- How can you interest /incentivize them?
- Why should they care about your company/technology?
- How can you work with developers to further your goals?
My next post will explore PR campaigns designed to build visibility and reputation with software developers.
Last month I explained the Open Spaces Marketing concept. Basically, it is about 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?
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Facebook, Twitter and then a tie between LinkedIn and Evernote (the latter for note taking).
- Buffer App for scheduling Tweets
- Google Wallet
- White Noise – Perfect for travelers
- Google Voice
- Yahoo! Fantasy Football (5 months out of the year)
- Newsstand – WSJ App
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 , 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 . (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.
 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
 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/