Posts Tagged Jose Mallabo

Media relations is a wee portion of brand communications

I remember not too long ago that the “PR guy” was the guy who wrote press releases and called down a list of reporters to ask if they got the release or not.

I swear. Like acid wash jeans — this happened!

While I think it’s been fascinating to watch the art of story telling make its way into PR and communications work, I think it’s even more important to see how the convergence of traditional PR with areas that might have been called marketing in the past is changing the way we think of PR and how we organize the function — whether it is in-house or on the agency side. I’ve been interviewing and prospecting for clients over the last 5 months and I can usually tell by the line of questioning whether or not the opportunity is going to be a good fit or not.

When a prospective employer or client asks me about my media contacts the giant reg flag goes up and I start looking for the exit signs. But when the questions are about engaging the right audiences using a mix of tactics and levers I think: “Winner, winner chicken dinner!”

So many companies go to PR people to help fix the business or make management happy that they lose sight of why you would initiate a communications campaign and they go into the market shopping for tactics instead of results. Here are some questions I’d ask if my boss told me to go get some PR help:

  1. What are we solving for?
  2. What exactly do you expect to get with more ‘coverage’?
  3. How should we integrate it with social, marketing, employee communications and the brand?

The answers to 1 and 2 are often intertwined in some sloppy hot mess about driving sales or the stock price or the b-word that drives strategic communications people the battiest: buzz. Whoever sold and popularized that BS term “buzz marketing and PR” needs to be dunked in a vat of ice and forced to watch re-runs of the first season of Seinfeld. If you can nail down the business objectives and explain that coverage is no panacea then and only then do you move on to 3.

This is organizational design and the only way you get to keep your job a year from now when someone asks why what’s on Facebook isn’t aligned with what’s on the blog and in the press coverage.

The best PR functions I’ve seen of late are built like this:

At the heart is the brand — including the stories and messages that work to connect with people over the long term — supported by an integrated effort of all the areas a person could come into contact with it and your product. Amazon and Apple have raised the bar very high here . . . and have wired people to expect a similarly consistent and high-level experience with every other brand and story they come into contact with — including yours.

So, who is the PR person today?

A story teller who can organize campaigns at the brand level and across all these domains. Let me know if you are in the market for one, because I may know a really handsome, witty guy who will ask you incessantly: “So, what are we solving for?”

– Jose Mallabo 

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What if Twitter accounts = active users?

I left LinkedIn about 18 months ago and remember marveling at the insane growth Twitter was experiencing at the time. They hit 50 million tweets per day so quickly and had driven so much activity within LinkedIn. That figure is now 340 million tweets per day driven by 140 million active members.

About a year ago Twitter reported that close to 500,000 new accounts were being opened each day. That’s about 180 million accounts on an annual basis, right? Or about 500 million registered users today.

Hmm.

The lesson here is that accounts do not equal people.  A lot of those accounts are machines but a lot of those accounts also are dormant users who don’t do much once they create an account — because the pace on Twitter is impossible to follow and there are few tools built for consumers to help manage and consume it.

The reality is that a small fraction of people actually create content on Twitter.  But people say that like it’s a bad thing. A lot has been written about how these above vanity numbers are just that — hype.  The comparison to Facebook’s staggering growth and engagement rates are natural and daunting and only feeds the sentiment that no one is really using Twitter.

Not so fast you Nancy Naysayers!

Mass media — namely that little ol’ thing we media researchers like to call the ‘most influential medium in the history of mankind’ or simply ‘television’ — lends a great example of how Twitter content is used by the masses. People watch and consume content, not necessarily create it.

Think about it. If you’re old enough to rent a car in the U.S. odds are you averaged somewhere between 3 to 5 hours a day of TV consumption for a good chunk of your life.  How many times did you create TV programming or call or write NBC, HBO, Cinemax or any other programmer to comment on their content? Answer:  Zero times in the last (pick any number) years.

What if there was a tool to consume Tweets the way people consume TV programming? What would you call those ‘dormant’ Twitter accounts?

I’d call it an opportunity. Here I come.

– Jose Mallabo

 

 

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Social media complements search and email marketing (for now)

Looking at this Forrester post almost a year later feels a lot like going back to high school after your first year in college. You thought it was a good idea to visit but then you realize by the end of it — not so much.

The blog post’s conclusion is to draw your own conclusion about social media’s impact on holiday purchasing. The post meanders from having an opinion that the ForeSee research was limited to having no point of view whatsoever. How am I going to join a conversation or rebut your point of view if you don’t have one?

While there are no official rules to blogging – the universal and unspoken rule is to have an opinion.

Here’s mine: The idea of social commerce (buying stuff on Facebook) is still a pipe dream. Rather, social media can drive brand, product and deal awareness and therefore serve as a complement to a retailer’s larger search and email marketing programs.

Since this post in late 2010, LinkedIn and Groupon have gone public. Facebook’s IPO has been delayed – but will be the biggest one in the history of ever. The point being, these companies are all well capitalized, have hundreds of millions of subscribers and are not going anywhere. So industry pundits and luddites alike need to bite down on the reality that marketers will continue to throw marketing dollars at them to hock their wares regardless of whether we have any proof of a causal relationship between the social media consumption and clicking the “buy” button on a shopping site.

At 2.9% e-commerce conversion rates there is no proof needed.

While this question of “Was social media a big factor in holiday purchases?” will come up again and again over the next few weeks and months, I encourage marketers and PR people to do one thing:   challenge the question.

As Augie Ray correctly points out social media is a mere infant and it will take time to prove its correlation with purchasing behavior. In the meantime it serves a lot of other organizational needs that are no less important than shopping cart clicks. Don’t get suckered into the conversation about social media and its impact on transactions because you’ve got more to attend to with your 2012 social and media dollars such as:

  • Reputation management
  • Product and corporate branding
  • Influencer relations
  • Partner relations
  • Customer service
  • SEO
  • Issues management and crisis communications
  • Recruitment and workforce engagement

While the analyst community continues to look under the hood for purchase conversion evidence, what they’re missing is that the owners of these social media programs may not at all be focused on driving holiday (or non-holiday for that matter) transactions.

Pause.

Bite down. Chew. Gulp.

And therefore, there might be some reason why the transactional or purchase conversion evidence is not to be found.

In fact, most brands and retailers I know are still investing more in tried and true search and email marketing initiatives to drive transactions and conversion online and in stores –- while using Facebook and Twitter as complements to those initiatives and for all of the other communications objectives listed above. That explains why search and promotional email remain the primary drivers for purchasing behavior for the holidays.

There. I said it.

Don’t go back to high school. But do take my poll on LinkedIn

-Jose Mallabo

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E-Mail Commerce: An Old School Beast

Look at this.

Source: Forrester

Not only is e-commerce growing – projected to hit almost $300 billion by 2015 – it is growing as a percentage of overall retail.

How? The easy and obvious answer is that people are finding shopping online easier and more convenient than going to the store.

The same analyst firm that projected this growth also did a study recently (with my current employer GSI Commerce) looking at holiday 2010 shopping data from 15 online retailers representing about $1 billion in gross merchandise sales.

One of the primary takeaways is that email and search remain the most influential channel to moving shoppers from browsing to buying.  Yes, you read that right – old school e-mail can still bring it.

Source: Forrester

That inflamed a huge tidal wave of boos from the Mashable and social media faithful (I consider myself both) – but when you really dig into the numbers, study and where we are as a social media using country it really makes sense.  Think about it.  Most people who are the breadwinners and decision makers on discretionary spending in the U.S. have been on e-mail for 15 to 20 years.   The early adopters of that group mayyyybe have been on social media networks for a 2-3 years.   When you factor in the difference in dynamics between these two mediums it really makes a lot of common sense why email is still more powerful in e-commerce than social.

E-mail is very private.  It’s a true 1:1 medium that we’ve been conditioned for most of our adult lives to keep to ourselves and guard with legal disclaimers like “this transmission is meant solely for the recipient and is confidential” blah, blah, blah.  Email has spent the greater part of the last generation becoming the closest thing to our digital identity or our virtual Social Security Number.  So, if a retailer can get to me there – odds are I’m primed to buy from them.

Social networks on the other hand are very public.  Every major social network’s product settings are defaulted to share everything you do on the network.  Most people rarely ever switch those settings to something other than that.  So, while finding and sharing good deals on underwear, vacations and massages is great fun.  It doesn’t seem likely that people like my father or middle aged buddies would show the world they’re buying these things.

This is my semi-professional opinion.  I live in e-commerce and make a living as a social media guy.  But kick my tires.  Walk across the building in your office and show a total stranger your Facebook wall.  Then hand the him your BlackBerry or iPhone and ask him to thumb through your email.

It’s this sense of intimacy with our emails that explains why Groupon and LivingSocial are growing so fast while true social networks like Facebook and Twitter are still finding their legs in e-commerce.  I get into cold sweat at just the idea of even my mother reading my emails.  Groupon and LivingSocial aren’t so much social commerce companies but at their core are email marketing geniuses that buy and sell local deals with the leverage of their members (that’s the social part) to push down prices for the individual consumer.

E-mail commerce.  Maybe it’s not a popular headline, but email still works and will likely remain a big part of that $300 billion market.  It’s no wonder why all favorite social networking sites update me on new features, product news and privacy updates on my email.  I still read them.

– Jose Mallabo

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Why hasn’t PR made measurement core to its function? Q&A with Forrest Anderson

I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a post about research and measurement in PR for some time. Namely, I really want to ask why PR hasn’t done a better job making this core to the function when there are scads of resources on the subject.  Frankly, I’m not the expert on this subject as I’ve spent more of my career creating content than measuring how it impacts the audiences its intended for.  Despite having an advanced degree in this area, I’m guilty as charged.   Instead I reached out to my former colleague — Forrest W. Anderson who is not just a measurement expert but one of the sharpest communications strategists I’ve been around in my career.

Below is an un-edited Q&A I had with him this week.  My questions.  His answers.  My parenthetical interjections.

Q: What is the single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of communications programs?

A: The single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of a communications program is their definition of impact, which should come from the initial, measurable objectives of the program.  If you’re trying to change behavior (increase sales, reduce employee turnover, etc.) you should try to measure that change in behavior.  If you’re trying to change awareness and/or attitudes, you should measure changes in awareness and/or attitudes.  Most likely you would do this with a pre- and post-program survey.  If you’re trying to increase media coverage, then you might measure clips.  If you’re trying to increase positive media coverage, then you need not only to count clips but assess the tone of the content in those clips.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see companies making in buying measurement and research?

A: To me, the most common mistake I see companies make when they do invest in measurement and research is they focus more on evaluation (or measurement) and less on the research they should do to plan the program. The first step in any program should be to articulate a measurable objective.  The next step should be to do research on the target audiences and the business environment so you know what kinds of messages and concepts will appeal to the target audience, which media reach the target audience and what’s going on in the world that might affect the way your target audience will react to your intended messages.  The evaluation piece is fairly straightforward, if you’ve created a solid measurable objective for the program.

The measurable objective is a big stumbling point.  Without one, you cannot evaluate.  This is why so many companies that invest in media evaluation systems that use online data bases are disappointed after a year of using the service.  Neither the client organization nor the evaluation system vendor thinks out what the measurable objectives should be for any given program.  It frequently turns out, then, that there is a mismatch between what the tool measures and what the organization wants to achieve.

Q: Communications research has been around a long time, why haven’t PR people done a better job making it core to their programs and the industry?

A: I think there are a number of reasons.

  • In the past it has been expensive relative to the investment in the program, so there was a question regarding whether you should spend the money trying to get more results or measuring what you achieved.  The online systems have made clip analysis less expensive than in the past, and we can also do surveys online for much less than in the past.
  • Some communications professionals are afraid of what they will find out if they measure.  An agency, for example, might not want its client to learn that a program had not achieved the goals the client requested or the agency promised.  This is a very unprofessional point of view because there is no way anyone can improve as a professional if they do not measure the effectiveness of what they do, learn from it and try to do better.  The same situation exists for some internal communications departments, with organizational executives taking the client role and the communications departments acting like agencies.  Again this is too bad.  There is a fair amount of anecdotal and some scholarly evidence that communications departments that do evaluate are more highly thought of by the CEOs of their companies than are those that do not evaluate.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I believe many people go into public relations to avoid having to deal with numbers and numerical analysis.

(So true. I’ve lost count how many PR people have said to me “I’m not good with numbers.” Cop out.  Reading cross tabs isn’t that hard. And who hasn’t had a client that was BS-ing his boss about results?)

Q: CEO’s often just want to pay for clippings and see their names in headlines, how do you get past this?

A: If a CEO is that shallow, you’re going to have a number of operational problems in the organization that probably will outweigh communications issues.  These will only be the tip of the ice berg.  That said, the best way I know to influence CEOs is with data.  If a senior communications person believes the organization should be doing something, he or she should look for data that supports their point of view and present it to the CEO.  For example, if our communications executive (CE) believes the main competitor is winning partly because of the good media coverage it is getting vs. the poor media coverage the CE’s company is getting, a quantitative report demonstrating this would be more likely to sway the CEO than just saying “I think we should do this.”

I once did a $200,000 communications audit for the U.S. subsidiary of a European owned company.  The whole purpose of the audit was to demonstrate to the European owner that the U.S. subsidiary needed to invest in public relations.  The study made the case and HQ supported a major increase in PR funding.

Q: Is social media helping or hurting research and measurement in communications?

A: I would say social media is confusing research and measurement in communications.  What it is helping is dialog. In the past, there were very few direct communications channels open between an organization and its stakeholders, so market research gave management insight into who comprised a stakeholder group, what they cared about, what they thought, etc.  However, with social media, organizations can actually communicate directly with stakeholders, assuming stakeholders wish to communicate with the organization.  This is great!

The danger comes when an organization begins to believe that a handful of active users of social media users represent the entire stakeholder group.  There can be a big difference between what a few vocal individuals think and what most the population thinks. So, I believe social media is a wonderful way to get some insight into stakeholder groups, but I also think we need to be very careful about extrapolating that insight to larger populations.  I do not believe social media is a replacement for research.

(I agree with that. And think the hype and sex appeal of social has done a lot to distract companies from focusing on the basics — like research and measurement. People are off building Facebook pages when they haven’t even studied their core audiences to see how they interact with existing PR content and programs.)

Q: Is agenda setting theory still valid?

A: Unless I misunderstand your question, the agenda setting theory is based on the idea that the media sets the news agenda by choosing which topics to cover.  Thus the news media exerts great influence over not only the topics its audience thinks about but also how the audience thinks about those topics.  I’m not sure I ever completely bought into this theory, because I believe good journalists tried to choose topics that were of interest to their audiences and did some research with their audiences to determine what these topics were.  So, the influencers were influenced by those they influenced.

Whether this last bit was true in the past or not, it is certainly true now.  Anyone with access to the Internet can publish now, and very many do.  Tools such as Twitter’s “Trending” will tell you which topics (or key words) are being discussed the most at any given time, and journalists can and do use those kinds of tools to choose the topics they cover.  I would say the influenced are influencing the influencers more than ever before.  However, this is just a theory.  I don’t have data on this.

Q: If you could build a strategic communications program for Facebook, what would it look like?

A: This sounds like what should be a paying gig.

I told you he was sharp.  It really should be a paying gig.

-Jose Mallabo

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Because helping is beautiful

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.”

Poorly acted and directed that line would have been as cheesy as a bag of Doritos.  Instead, it was powerful and real.  And “American Beauty” went on to win five Academy Awards – including best picture.  And, it grossed more than $350 million worldwide.

It touched a lot of people for a host of reasons, but I’d argue it was an artistic and financial success because it had the balls to not just delicately slide a truth into a dim light – it shoved it in our mouths and forced us to bite down and swallow on the fact that life can be beautiful and truly suck sometimes.

I’m not Roger Ebert, but that line didn’t just strum a chord on the human condition, it shredded the chord and offered an alternative to the trite idea of “chords on the human condition.”  So much of that film worked to invade that private space we reserve for moments of unbridled joy.  The uncontainable smile on your 10-year-old son’s face as he rounds first and realizes oh my God, that was a home run.  It’s the same space we keep for moments of utter tragedy and loss.  It’s where I leave the pain of my cousin dying last year and putting down a family pet.

No one is welcome there without an invitation.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to manage that gate because life happens.  It’s just a matter of seeing it for what it is and chewing with the appropriate amount of pressure.

As I sit in my ergonomically correct Aeron chair, the span and depth of devastation in Japan is unfathomable and overwhelming.  There’s no beauty in it, but I can’t stop looking at the footage.  On Twitter and TV I’m trying to distract myself with other things – but can’t stop thinking how stupid all the Tweets are about the iPad 2 and how silly the commentary is on ESPN about the Miami Heat crying in the locker room.

Meanwhile, a potential nuclear meltdown in Fukushima adds yet another threat.

Take one minute and divert three mouse clicks away from that PowerPoint your client is going to re-write anyway to find a way to help people who could use it.  Prayers and candles are one thing, but aid and relief has a monetary price.  An easy place to start is here on PayPal’s donation site.

Maybe someday soon, people in Japan can stop worrying about where to get water or how far to stay away from the nuclear power plant and get back to the joyful inanity of watching videos of their kids hitting home runs on their iPads.

– Jose Mallabo

Update: April 12, 2011

Since first posting this I’ve been scrolling around the Web for examples of good uses of social media for social good. Namely because someone asserted to me that you can’t measure the benefits of social media at this point.  I think it’s all based on what you set out to do at the beginning — just like any communications program, social or otherwise. I ran across Alyssa Milano’s Twitter feed. She’s incredibly active on Twitter. Which led me to her blog then to this site where she talks about the work she did to raise $92K on her 37th birthday for Charity: Water. What a good use of celebrity and social media.

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If my George Foreman grill could order meat it would be a Kindle

If my George Foreman grill could order meat, it would be as important to kitchen appliances as the Kindle is to the book and e-commerce industries.  In June, this ZDNet blogger said he felt the Kindle’s days were numbered because of the iPad.  But just this month ZDNet posted a story that outlines wall street analyst projections that Amazon sold 4 million Kindles in the fourth quarter alone — and is projected to sell 10 million more in 2011.  I just got my Kindle this past Christmas and love it like the year 1987 and the 2002 World Series. (That’s a hyperbole.)

My two favorite Christmas presents

Since getting the Kindle, I’ve spent $475 on Amazon.com (about double what the typical Amazon customer spends per year) — only $20 for e-books. Obviously, the Kindle is my personal gateway drug back to Amazon.com. And it’s far easier to clean than my George Foreman grill.  See smashed left thumb.

Dear Jeff Bezos, You now have 121 122 million customers. I’m back.

Everyone wants to talk iPad vs. Kindle.  Not so fast. The Kindle is different than my iPad.  It replaces paper books while my iPad seems to replace part of my laptop, TV, MP3 player and portable DVD player that I never did buy. The beauty of the Kindle is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Like the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe that tries to be a BMW 6 Series and a Corvette at the same time.

The book is dead.  Long live the Kindle.

– Jose Mallabo

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An e-commerce company going social

Since moving back to Philadelphia, I’ve only eaten one cheese steak.  Hard to believe.  But the day is young and Geno’s is always open.  I’ve been more focused on working to get my company’s social media strategy up and running.  And, yes, Hillary it does take a village.  Thankfully my village at GSI is full of talented people willing to take my lead on it — especially our own Web dev guy we like to call Kevin.  Holla.

Ironically, guess what social platform is most used by our clients and employees? Nope. It’s not Facebook. Not Twitter. @GSICommerce we are big time LinkedIn.

Soon we’ll be able to thread our blog through our company pages and other channels.

Blogs are dead. Long live the blog.

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“Social Networking is a Stupid Fad!”

I hear that sentiment a lot since leaving Silicon Valley.

It’s a refrain that reminds me of the woman on the bus in New York who scolded me with her eyes for answering my Motorola StarTAC — a decade ago. She’s probably tuning her TV with bunny ears now. I get it — not everyone will get on the bandwagon.  Cable TV in the US still doesn’t have 100% penetration.  But —

Note the price: $1,000 in 1996.

— at some point quantity does become quality. Breadth and depth of use changes the nature or quality of something — and in this case it’s social networking and everything it touches.

A lot of people will never network online, let alone write a blog about it.  Having worked at eBay and LinkedIn and now sitting in an e-commerce company whose clients are pushing hard into social media, it’s easy to say that this is not going anywhere.  It’s becoming the way people and companies communicate with each other. If anything the term “social networking” may be passe.  The breadth of adoption and use cases for it may have blown by the term two or three months ago.

It’s not just about discovering where old friends and colleagues are anymore.  It’s about exchanging ideas, knowledge, working collaboratively and even transacting commerce.

That my technology loathing friends is a marketplaceMarketplaces are the basis of communities, cities and dare I say empires.  Google: “Roman Empire” or “Dutch trading” to prove me right. Remember it was New Amsterdam before the English said otherwise.

The big 3 networks (sound familiar?) are quickly replacing the phone, TV and soon the mall. If you don’t think that possibility is compelling. . . go home and tear the telephone out of the wall, dump the HD-TV in the pool and move to the plains.

I’ll be here in my marketplace.

– Jose Mallabo

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Gloria Allred calls Meg Whitman a Liar

I’ve had my head in the sand the past few weeks.  Sue me. But just don’t call me a liar in that cherry red blazer, Ms. Allred.

Now that I’m outside of California, the only source I have for the California mudslinging otherwise known as the gubernatorial race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown is YouTube and clips on the Internet.

Is she a liar?  Watch this clip and you tell me.

Gloria Allred giving her the business

But as a legal immigrant and naturalized citizen, I have to call bullshit on Ms. Allred calling Diaz a hero. My dad is a hero. He immigrated here in the 70s — and brought his family in tow and went through years of red tape to become US citizen.

I believe everyone has the right to find happiness and pursue the American dream. I’m sure Diaz Santillan is a hard working woman who deserved better than getting dragged through the political mud as a pawn. But, let’s not make her a martyr or spokesperson for all Hispanic women.

There’s a long line of Americans that stand in front of her who deserve that attention.

– Jose Mallabo

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