Stand by for Robo News

July 23, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Associated Press introduces automated news writing.  As if CNN (the Commentator News Network) hadn’t already reduced the business to moronic, now AP – the bastion of hard news – is basically using robot reporters.

You can mark this as the day journalism went to hell in a hand basket.  Said AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara, “What I’m trying to get out of is the data processing business.  I can’t have journalists spending a ton of time data processing stuff.  Instead I need them reporting.”

He can’t be serious.  How can a reporter report if he or she hasn’t first processed data?

Journalism is basically broken into two elements:  news gathering and news writing.  Back before any of us had ever heard the term big data, reporters had been processing data for years … sifting through facts and figures, truths and lies, old stories and new in order to know what they would then write about.

Ferrara has confused writing for reporting.


Anticipation

July 22, 2014

by Roger Pynn

I’ve kept a tiny crystal ball on my desk for 30 years … about the size of a large thimble.  And for all those years we’ve told our team, via Curley & Pynn’s Five Steps to Professional Success, to “Anticipate … Don’t Wait to Be Asked.”

So this LinkedIn post by futurist Daniel Burrus caught my eye today with this headline:  “Forget Lean and Agile – It’s Time to be Anticipatory.”  It is a good read, particularly for anyone who loves research and data.  Burrus talks about the difference between certainty and uncertainty, soft and hard trends … and the ability to know what’s next.

That fourth step in our statement of corporate culture is about the responsibility of our team to keep an eye on the horizon, and to look over it to see what could be coming next that might have an impact on our clients and the programs we develop for them.

Whether you’re concerned with the next big thing in your market or disruptive factors that may change your market altogether, a clear windshield is likely more important than a rear view mirror.

While a crystal ball would be even better, Burrus is spot on.  Monitoring trend data and knowing what you can count on is an essential skill.  As Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie urged us … don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.


Are You a Celebrity? There’s an App for that.

July 21, 2014

by Heather Keroes

With hundreds of friends connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, we may feel like quasi-celebrities at times.  But while our status updates may spark conversations and my mother may continue to “like” every picture I post, the reality is we are still small fish swimming around in our social spheres.

For those of you who actually are celebrities, Facebook has news for you.  Facebook has released Mentions, an app for actors, athletes, musicians and other influencers, so they (or, more likely, their social media teams) can more easily track and join relevant fan conversations, beyond their official Facebook pages.  For example, I might attend a concert and post a photo of it on my personal Facebook page.  If I mention the music artist in my post, there’s now a greater chance they may see it and use it as an opportunity to connect with me.  Can you imagine the sort of impact that might have, having one of my favorite musicians single me out in that way?

According to Facebook, nearly 800 million people are connected to public figures on Facebook.  When you consider that fact, Mentions has some great potential for fostering additional connections.  I’m curious how this will work given privacy settings.  All of my posts on Facebook are set to “private” and can only be read by friends.  That said, I genuinely wouldn’t mind if Adam Levine decided to share his adoration and appreciation of me, on my Facebook page (are you listening, Adam?).


Is the Right Spokesperson Delivering the Message?

July 18, 2014

by Kerry Martin

I was reminded of an important lesson for both journalists and communicators yesterday while listening to the story of the New Jersey news reporter who was suspended for giving his personal opinion on the air.  While covering a story of a police officer shooting in Jersey City, News 12 reporter Sean Bergin credited the underlying cause of an anti-police mentality to “young black men growing up without fathers.”  In response to his suspension (and voluntary resignation), Bergin admitted he knew he “was breaking the rules.”

What he did wrong was not what he said or how he said it, it’s that he was the one who was delivering the message; he was the wrong spokesperson.

The role of news reporters, public relations professionals and communicators is to tell a story—using the voices of subject matter experts, credible eyewitnesses and official spokespersons.  With the exception of editorial writers and news pundits, journalists aren’t supposed to inject their own opinion into their coverage.

Bergin explained that because the New Jersey police officers were in the middle of the investigation, they couldn’t comment on the story.  The only perspective Bergin aired was the comment from the widow of the man who fatally shot the officer, saying her husband should have killed more officers before they shot and killed him.

My question is why Bergin felt that the only way to share another side to the story was to express it himself.  Could he not have interviewed retired police officers, sociologists, spiritual leaders in the community or African-American studies professors to comment on the troubling outcomes of gang violence and statistics that could point to an underlying cause?

This is a solid lesson for anyone in the communications profession.  There are many ways to express viewpoints through different spokespersons, but you should be prepared for what may come when you take it upon yourself to be the messenger.


The QR Code Debate

July 10, 2014

by Kim Taylor

We recently had a small debate in our office about the relevance of QR codes and whether there’s still a place for them in marketing.  I argued that they were “out” and that many marketing and PR people I follow mostly mock their usage.  But, who cares about mockery if they’re effective, right?

The ink was barely dry on my argument when Curley & Pynn Founder & President Roger Pynn handed me two recent pieces of direct mail with, you guessed it, QR codes.  The first mailer presented three options for requesting a copy of a long-term planning guide:  go online with a code, scan the code or complete the form and mail it back.  Scanning the code was easy enough and it pre-populated his information for ordering the guide book (keep a lookout in the mail for that one, Roger).

In this scenario, scanning the QR code was the easiest of the three options.  My only complaint was whether their target audience (a presumably older demographic) would know what a QR code was and how to scan it.

The second was a small postcard for a local cabinet maker.  Scanning the code launched their website, which sadly was not optimized for mobile … totally pointless use of a QR code.

The moral of the story is obvious, I think.  If you’re going to use QR codes, think about how you use them.  Make it worth it for the user to open their app and scan the code.  And, most importantly, don’t send them to a website not optimized for their phone—that’s the ultimate dead end.


The Good Times

July 2, 2014

by Roger Pynn

I had a delightful lunch yesterday with one of our first employees.  After marriage, she and her husband moved to Atlanta where she went on to a great corporate career (even became a client), then went on to raise two great kids and now that they are all but out the door, she’s started her own firm.

Talking about the good old days and about how much the business has changed, she stopped me and said, “No … it really hasn’t changed all that much.  It’s just that a lot of people are out there selling the things of public relations instead of the relationships.”

As an independent practitioner, Pat Check’s Latitude 34° Company Communications is built on the promise of “taking your message in the right direction.”  We always tell clients that first and foremost public relations is about their message, so it is nice to see one of our “alums” staying true to that philosophy.

But Pat said something else.  “I think of you all the time when I’m meeting new clients because I remember when we’d go visit a prospect you always started with a conversation … getting to know them and showing that you’re really interested in them.  It is still about that … relationships.”

Flattering, for sure … but Pat’s right.  It hasn’t changed.  For all the shiny balls of communications technology that roll around the table every day, this is still a business of, by and for relationships … and you can’t build them if you don’t get the message firmly in place from the outset.


No Words to Describe …

July 1, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Those who know me can attest that I have a pretty colorful vocabulary, and while I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that I have a tendency to swear perhaps a bit too often, I have no problem telling you that I have no words to describe how offended I was by an email that I received today with this bit of art embedded:

Lets do this

At the very least this is an exceptional example of not being familiar with your audience, but since this is just an email blast, it goes way beyond that.

If you don’t know your audience, you can’t tell whether they’d be offended by the kind of language we blacked out above because we didn’t want to offend anyone.

I sent this response to Elissa Jane Mastel, who lists herself as chief marketing officer of Chill Media North and uses the unique email address “empress@chillmedianorth.com”:

“Elissa Jane … I find your email highly offensive, socially unacceptable and downright stupid.”

Actually, it goes way beyond stupid … and, clearly, they didn’t care who they offended.


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