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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Filed Under: Branding, Media, PR, Technology

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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Posted by on May 28, 2014 with 0 Comments

The New Tech PR Launch

Last week we hosted a seminar at Fusion PR, about the New Tech PR Launch, in conjunction with Internet Week.. Attendance was great, and tech journalist Brian Nadel sat in to field questions and share his insight (thanks, Brian!). Stay tuned for the e-book…

  1. Our guest Brian Nadel from @Computerworld mentioned he gets over 100 #pressreleases each day: 99% aren’t read #Launch411atIWNY #PR #IWNY
  2. Great tip from #Launch411atIWNY: Something journalists HATE? Starting a follow-up email with “Not sure if you saw this” #PR #IWNY2014
  3. One of @nadelbrian‘s biggest PR pet peeves: not including a photo or FTP site with info about a product #Launch411atIWNY #IWNY2014
  4. Before you launch your startup know what your goal is: Eyeballs? Sales? Media attention? Reviews? #Launch411atIWNY #IWNY2014
  5. Enjoyed Fusion PR’s Tech PR Launch seminar. Very informative. #IWNY

 

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Capture Attention with a Striking Visual Image

Posted by on May 1, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

“Dig, if you will, the picture…” Prince 20120605_headlines-a

“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” Rod Stewart

“All I’ve got is a photograph…” Def Leppard

If my musical tastes seem dated (and say something about my age), you might think that the pop artists of the 70s and 80s were singing to today’s content marketers. Pictures are increasingly the visual headline that draw in and engage readers.

Images Stand Out in a Crowded Media Marketplace

Content marketing is growing as more and more marketers jump on board. This adds to the din and makes it difficult to stand out. In a crowded media landscape, brands need to work harder to break through.. “Just write a great headline to reel them in!” goes the standard advice.

However in a sea of tweets, amidst an abundance of great content, an eye-catching image can trump a catchy headline. And, as images increasingly compete for attention too, using the right one can make all the difference in the world.

Selfies Sell!

Selfies have taken center stage in visual content marketing.  I say much more about this in my post that ran this week on the Getty Images Curve blog.

The post explains more about the use of images and short videos in content marketing – why they work, and how to find and choose the right image.

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The Tech Launch: From Big Bang to Long Campaign

Posted by on April 1, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

Dorothy Crenshaw wrote a nice post about the decline of the tech PR launch on the Impressions blog. Eric-haze-the-party-is-over  She writes Some former colleagues in tech PR and I were talking recently about the “good old days” when nearly every tech launch included a splashy press conference. Today, not so much.  In my book, that’s a good thing. Lavish press conferences… have always struck me as a lazy strategy. But launches have changed

She goes on to list the reasons, such as a changing media landscape, and increassing emphasis on software, consumer tech, startups, and closer oversight of the spend by VCs.

I agree that the tech PR launch is not what it used to be, but at Fusion PR we have stopped thinking about launches as one-shot, Big Bang events long ago. It is for the reasons she lists, but also due to an increasingly noisy media/social media environment in which a burst of coverage is just not as impactful (also, most of our clients are startups – very rarely have they relied on press conferences, even going back to the start of the agency, during the dot-com era when VC dollars and PR fees flowed more freely).

For many of our clients, a launch is not just a debut, it’s a process that occurs over a period of time, and involves a number of related steps. Sure, it may start with a major announcement or unveiling, but rarely is that enough to really launch a company or product.

Also, while her point “software [which is less tangible and visible] trumps hardware” may have been true at one point, this is changing.  What about the all of the excitement and buzz about maker culture (typified by the creativity behind Arduino, Raspberry Pi) Google Nest, wearable tech, 3D printers, connected cars, etc.?

Anyway, Crenshaw’s larger point is well taken, I enjoyed reading it and appreciate the chance to chime in on the changing nature of tech PR launches.

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My Storify Wrap of Economist Big Rethink

Posted by on March 18, 2014 with 0 Comments

Economist Big Rethink Redux

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Economist Big Rethink Redux

I had the pleasure of attending The Economist’s Big Rethink conference in NY last week as a member of the media, after my friend Judy Gombita pulled some strings.

  1. Most of our clients are tech startups; the conference offered a CMO-level view of changes that are rocking the worlds of marketing and digital media. It let me see how the “big boys” do these things. Here were some of the highlights, including my live tweets.
  2. How do we deliver content with value? Start with what fascinates people & demonstrate expertise – Amanda MacKenzie #CMO @Aviva #bigrethink
  3. RT @christalago: Would you pay for Ad free Twitter? If not, do you know the trade you’re making with your data? #BigRethink
  4. “Understanding passion points and interests” is key for brand-consumer connection. @Unilever‘s Project Sunlight is a great eg #BigRethink
  5. Survey of #BigRethink audience: coolest thing brands can do on social: respond directly to user comments and tweets
  6. Make sure @rgeller you listen to @terryoinfluence recent (@cbcradio) show on Viral Videos BEFORE it goes behind the paywall…. #BigRethink

 

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