Thursday, February 23, 2017

WIIFM: An acronym people forget when writing for customers: Answer "What's In It For Me?"

There's a problem I often see when I check out corporate social media pages. The content is often about them.

It's what they want you to know about the company.

And it's important to include that kind of messaging in your social media content.

But often there are two things missing.

  1. Actual interaction with customers, influencers and others.
  1. Content that addresses the real issues of what customers need.
Interactions on social media -- except by customer service teams like at cable/phone companies, airlines, banks and other companies people complain about -- can be hard to justify to a higher up in marketing. That's because it entails someone going out a listening, finding conversations in which the company can add value (without being too intrusive). Basically it looks like you're paying for someone to play on social media, and that's difficult to place an ROI on that kind of work. So I understand the challenge both for the supervisor/client, who has to pay for it, as well as the pressure on the person trying to generate conversation and awareness that can somehow pay off or justify the time spent searching for potential interactions.

As for content that addresses what customers want, that can be difficult for organizations that don't have a real handle on their customers. This is especially challenging for startups that are trying to serve every category rather than focus one a customer type and then build/expand into other areas. (Look, when you're a startup, sometimes you're looking for any paying customer, regardless of your original strategy. We saw one client that was focused on healthcare pivot to the extent to redesign their software for an insurance client -- and not a life or health insurer but a casualty insurer.)

No matter the reason, when developing content, especially for social media, companies need to make sure the content answers WIIFM -- "What's In It For Me?"
We're all busier and more distracted than ever so WIIFM is a key question to ask when developing and posting content.

For those who are trying to generate more compelling content, ask yourselves, "Why should my customer spend time reading my content? How does my content help them do their job, live their lives?

In fact, for this post, I've been trying to keep in mind the person who needs to have more compelling content but doesn't know what to do. They're not always asking WIIFM. But they are asking how they can be more effective in their job.

And keeping WIIFM in mind from your customers' perspective can improve your game.
By the way, WIIFM isn't always obvious. Check out this Inc. article that provides some additional insight into what customers want: "Top CEOs Reveal Their Secrets for Finding New Customers." It's a short read but the one I found most interesting was the one from Ari Brandt.

I hope this has answered WIIFY.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Wall St. Journal Validates Our Gig Economy Prediction With Articles That Explore The Changing Nature of Employment

For the last couple of years, we've been seeing the gig economy as a trend of increasing significance, as the population of workers who either work side jobs or businesses (known as "side hustle") or hold a series of part-time jobs continues to grow.

This year, with a new Administration that promises to bring back jobs to America, it may become more politicized. Our perspective is not political but merely recognizing a seismic shift in how American work, since many seem to prefer being in the gig economy (made possible by technology) rather than work traditional jobs.

In Dec. 2016, when we issued our list of top trends for 2017, TrendReport 2017, we went a step beyond just saying that the gig economy would be important. We also said, 
"We need to more accurately define the gig and the sharing economies (i.e., Uber, which touches on both; as well as Airbnb) and to identify and track meaningful metrics, both to gain an accurate portrait of overall U.S. economy as well as develop appropriate policies regarding taxes, healthcare and social services."
Today, in a article, the Wall St. Journal noted: "Counting Up Contractors Is a Tricky Business Government agencies and employers have difficulty tracking the numbers because many contractors are hired by one company to work for another."

A follow-up article, that the Journal felt important enough to place on its front page, was entitled, "The End of Employees," and noted that "Never before have big employers tried so hard to hand over chunks of their business to contractors. From Google to Wal-Mart, the strategy prunes costs for firms and job security for millions of workers." Interestingly, the article did not refer to the "gig economy" at all but did refer to "TVCs—an abbreviation for temps, vendors and contractors (who) test drive Google’s self-driving cars, review legal documents, make products easier and better to use, manage marketing and data projects, and do many other jobs. They wear red badges at work, while regular Alphabet employees wear white ones."

These are two of the first articles we've seen that discussed the point we think is crucial in terms of understanding how the gig economy works, what it's impact is -- whether you're in a traditional job or a gigs -- and how to structure our tax policy and health and other benefits.

Check out the WSJ articles because we do think understanding the nature of the gig economy is important for our country's future, regardless of one's politics. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Be Careful In A World of Competing Narratives -- a response to Scott Adams

We don't usually touch on politics here but felt compelled to respond to a blog written by cartoonist-turned-pundit Scott Adams. You can read his post, "Be Careful What You Wish For (especially if it is Hitler)."

I'm a fan of Scott Adams the cartoonist but grow increasingly exasperated with Scott Adams the pundit – based on articles like this one. I agree with part of it but disagree with more of the post. It touches on several issues that are relevant to those who, as Adams is, a "trained persuader,"

Adams is right when he says, “we’re all seeing what we expect to see,” underscoring the importance of people’s narrative when interpreting events. And he’s right that when presented with a reality that undermines the foundation of their narrative, people tend to “double down” (a term widely used on both sides) and support their narrative even more strongly. After all no one wants “live their lives as confirmed morons.”  

Unfortunately, Adams ignores the real problem. 

Exasperated by social media (this post included, no doubt), there not only is not much middle ground anymore – there is also a lack of willingness to try to seek middle ground. And that is affecting businesses, too.

We can’t agree on facts anymore. We can't agree on which media is credible, either. That's a real problem for marketers.

As a "trained persuader," Adams could have addressed -- and should have addressed -- how to communicate to (and with) people who hold opposing narratives. This is critically important for the future of our country because, as Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Instead, Adams’ post says, “ordinary people doing ordinary things (could)… turn Trump into an actual Hitler” and that he “can think of dozens of ways the protesters could cause the thing they are trying to prevent.” So while Adams doesn’t think Trump is the next Hitler, he’s already blaming those afraid of that scenario to be the ones who cause it. That kind of blaming he victims is dangerous.

Meanwhile, when some corporate leaders have issued statements in favor or against one thing or another, the immediate response is to boycott them and their companies. What we need are political leaders to help bridge the chasm of the two competing narratives, to work together in the best interests of our great country. 

It's hard to reunite the country when labeling the opposing side as "the enemy.” 

As persuaders, we need to consider what we can do to help our clients to communicate with all their key constituents. Increasingly we may have to address the reality of the political divide without taking stances that will alienate either side. And we will have to find a way to do so while being true to the clients and ourselves.  


Monday, December 19, 2016

New York Times Validates Our Prediction on the Gig Economy

We posted our list of annual trends starting yesterday afternoon, with this blog article hitting this morning -- and on our first day we scored a hit.

In today's New York Times, former labor and workplace reporter Steven Greenhouse wrote an op-ed entitled, "The 'What Is It' Economy" (in the print edition) and "The Whatchamacallit Economy" (in the online version) that sets to more accurately define the gig economy and sharing economy -- which can be two sides of the same coin.

Airbnb is part of the sharing economy but those who rent out their homes actually have a new gig of cleaning up and preparing their homes for Airbnbers. Uber is also considered part of the sharing economy but Uber drivers are definitely part of the gig economy.

In our trends, we said we need to better define gig and sharing to understand the impact they're having on our overall economy.

Some are calling it the "Exploitation Economy," and that might be a fair assessment.

But as the media and Americans in general look to Trump to bring back good jobs, the nature of what work is like in the 21st century will have to be part of that discussion. There are a lot of people who prefer to live in the gig economy, and benefit from doing so. There are also a lot of people who are in the gig economy and don't want to be.

We need a better understanding of this to help those who want full-time jobs and protect those who prefer gigs.

You can check out our prediction here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

TrendReport 2017: Our Annual Look at Media and PR Predictions

As we have done for the past 15 years, here are this year's annual list of predictions of media trends. We use this annual process to identify issues to help our clients brainstorm how they fit into what the media will cover in the upcoming year. We have a lot of fun developing these, and will be rolling out additional trends next week.
  1. Fake news won’t fade in 2017. When you cut out all the costs involved in actually reporting news, as fake news does, financial sustainability isn’t an issue. Fake news will continue as long as it remains profitable or ideologically effective. It will take more than big brands pull their advertising on fake news sites (or try to get their ads off those sites) to stop fake news. Facebook, along with Twitter and Reddit (not really among the “Big Social”), are taking steps to reduce the spread of fake news. Some critics call “enforcing user guidelines” a form of censorship, and we expect that the Big Social will be accused of doing too much by some and not doing enough by others. Both Facebook, whose advertising tools have made it easy for fake news sites to promote their content, and Google, whose AdSense has enabled fake news sites to monetize their content, indirectly profit from fake news. While both have said they will work to rid it from their platforms, fake news is like spam: the only way to truly kill it, is to have people to stop clicking on those links – but there always seems to be enough people who fall for it to make it worthwhile for the content providers. 
  2. Big Social will evolve in 2017, but not necessarily in a good way. We expect more trolling and twitstorms on social media. The future of Donald J. Trump’s go-to social media platform, Twitter, is very much in doubt. It lost $500 million in 2015, and $1.6 billion since going public. If Twitter is not financially viable as a standalone platform, its survival becomes a real question. Although profitable, Facebook is facing the problems of ad counting and fake news. All of this turmoil will benefit Snapchat, which is already is favored by the millennials, and Gab, described by the New York Times as the social media platform for the alt-right, a “throwback to the freewheeling norms of the old internet, before Twitter started cracking down on harassment and Reddit cleaned out its darkest corners.” From a demographic perspective, we think Snapchat will be the dominant social media platform by 2018, along with Instagram. We also think LinkedIn will thrive as long as it remains (as we think it will) apolitical.
  3. The media cycle will speed up. There used to be a lag between the time an event took place and the time it could be reported. In the era of social media dominance, it seems to take a nanosecond between an event and the social response to it to hit Twitter, followed by an ensuing twitstorm.  This is further fueled by the participation of anyone with the app, as evidenced by the many who felt compelled to stay on top of the developments during the campaign and afterwards, regardless of whether they cheered or jeered. We expect twitstorm, and coverage of those twitstorms followed by outcry to the initial response to be a mainstay of broadcast coverage in 2017.
  4. The gig economy and the sharing economy will continue to go mainstream. There are people who work in the gig economy who don’t necessarily realize it – including, for example, teachers who tutor after school. We need to more accurately define the gig and the sharing economies (i.e., Uber, which touches on both; as well as Airbnb) and to identify and track meaningful metrics, both to gain an accurate portrait of overall U.S. economy as well as develop appropriate policies regarding taxes, healthcare and social services.
  5. IoT will continue to open the door to cyberattacks. We saw one major cyberattack via the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2016, and we expect more to occur in 2017. The challenge for IoT companies is to be able to deploy security protocols that are flexible enough so IoT devices in your house (or office or car) can talk to each other, yet also prevent hackers from getting access. We expect there will be much media coverage in 2017 on cyberattacks, in general, whether perpetrated by foreign countries or other parties.
Please let us know if you agree or disagree with these trends. If we missed something, let us know. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

TrendReport 2016: How We Did WIth Our Predictions for This Year

Other people look forward to the end of the year for holidays, but we look forward to looking back at our predictions to see how well we did.
Before getting to the results of how we did on the trends we picked, let's start by noting which trends did not pick. First, we stayed away from talking politics and making predictions about the election -- and we're glad we did. (While our parents told us not to talk about politics, we are interested aspects that affect the media, and we will pick up some of the implications in our predictions for 2017 -- so stay tuned.) We also failed to predict that the Chicago Cubs would win the team's first World Series in 108 years (but we'll go on record that Theo Epstein, who was in charge when the Red Sox won its first championship in 86 years and was the brains behind the Cubs, is a lock to make it into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame).
Here's a look at how we did on the predictions we did make:
1.      The media will have a good year. Overall, 2016 was a difficult year for the media so we got this one mostly wrong. That said, from a business perspective, we said, "Some media outlets still haven’t figured out how to build a sustainable business model from paywalls, online ads, and native advertising (aka clickbait)" -- and we were right about that. But campaign dollars did not do as much as we thought to boost traditional media revenues. Worse, the credibility of the media was attacked by both political parties and by the media itself. This is a serious problem, especially considering the attack on "facts" that occurred as a result of this year's political campaign. Grade: B-.
2.      Drug pricing will get a lot of attention. We got this one right. There was a lot of media and social media attention, mostly regarding the rising cost of EpiPens. What we overestimated was the level of action that Congress took (not much beyond some hearings). Grade: A-.
3.      Tech turns into Towers of Babel. We overstated the situation for Internet of Things. It made progress but not yet the way we thought. It did turn into something of a backdoor security issue, and we certainly can expect more of that to come. Grade: C+. 
4.      The rise of Artificial Intelligence. We said, "The ways we can use AI and machine learning will increase in 2016, helping us make better business, personal and health decisions and helping to address security concerns." We think that's right (and we're not saying if our use of AI helped us come to that conclusion. People will continue to be concerned about the implications of AI, but like IoT, we think those fears won't slow down acceptance. Grade: A.
5.      Whither unicorns and their business models? We got this right, too: Some unicorns  startups valued at upwards of $1 billion – faced some serious issues. Even as Trump used Twitter to win the election (according to him), Twitter the company encountered problems as it tried to sell itself to companies no longer interested in the little blue bird. We believe it will be increasingly difficult for Unicorns or Unicorn-wannabes in 2017. Grade: A.
6.      Content management remains king. This was an easy one. Grade: A.
7.      More will cut the cord in 2016. Despite this headline, we actually said that "we expect some people not to cut the cord because it’s more complicated and not necessarily cheaper if you cut the cable cord." But we did say that people are more likely to watch TV on devices as opposed to gathering around a big screen TV to watch as a family; that's on the decline. Grade: A.
8.      The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. Student debt was a topic during the primaries but faded as the campaign went on. So we mostly overstated this; we also said that the nature of education will have to change in an age of instant access to facts, making memorizing certain facts not as helpful as actually understanding the underlying issues around history, science, literature, etc. Grade: B-.
9.      The gig or on-demand economy will continue to grow. We're not sure if the number of people in the gig economy has increased -- since we don't know if there's an accurate way to measure the gig economy -- but there has become more media coverage and mainstream. Grade: A.
10.   Virtual Reality won’t go mainstream, yet. Media outlets like the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and USA Today now offer virtual reality content but VR is still much more of a novelty than an accepted mainstream technology. It could become more mainstream by 2018. Grade: A.
11.   The market for wearable tech and for IoT will continue to grow. But it didn't grow as much we expected. Grade: B.
12.   3D printers will be popular in schools. We said don't expect 3D printers in every home just yet. We were right. Grade: A.
13.   Crowdfunding will lose buzz. People are still using crowdfunding but we feel we were right that "the novelty of crowdfunding... (will) fade. Grade: A.
14.   eBook sales will plateau. We don't think eBooks will fade but we were right in that there wasn't much media buzz about eBooks in 2016. Grade: A. 
15.   Drones may start falling back to earth. Consumer drones like the one that fell on the White House lawn (in 2015) have caused some issues and demands for regulating their use, but drones are not the buzzy media topic they once were, as we predicted (and as validated by the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo. Grade: A.
16.   Will FinTech shake up traditional banking? Apps that support banking and financial services, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others, are disrupting (or disintermediation) traditional banks. But credit cards are not about to be displaced so easily, which is why we think FinTech isn't really shaking up the industry yet. No doubt it will get there, within three to five years. Until then, don't throw away your check books. Grade: A.
17.   China may live in interesting times. China got the media's attention -- including for regarding the valuation of the Renminbi and cybercrime perpetrated against the U.S. and U.S. businesses -- but not as much as we expected. We think the new administration will focus more attention on China. Grade: B-.
18.   The concern about cybersecurity, privacy, encryption and government surveillance is already changing. Last year, we did not predict that Wikileaks, with apparent help from Russia, would play such a significant role in this year's election. But the party that did not get hacked is being led by someone who seemed to campaign on the promise to do more with cybersecurity to catch domestic-based terrorists before they carry out attacks. Grade: B.
19.   A big issue with driverless cars won’t be the technology or safety record. Actually, there's still an issue with the technology but the insurance requirements and state laws remain an obstacle. Grade: B+. 

Now, we're looking forward to our next favorite part of the year: Making predictions for next year. Look for them to hit in mid-December.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

3 Tips for Pitching Nonprofits/NGOs During a Crisis or Trendjacking for a Good Cause

When a crisis hits, NGOs and other nonprofits often seek to raise awareness of their missions and how they are helping people in need. The term for this is trendjacking or news-jacking, capitalizing a trending topic to bolster one's brand in the marketplace," according to an article, "Does Trendjacking Work: And Should You Be Doing It?" on the TweakYourBiz site.

Trendjacking can be a good way to leverage existing interest in a topic -- but it's not without risk. The main risk is for an organization to look like it is exploiting a trend or crisis -- and that can damage the organization's brand.

But there are times when a worthwhile organization should at least consider whether or not to leverage a trending topic. If you do decide to move forward, there are some logistical issues to address.

We have advised several terrific NGOs and charities, and here are five lessons we learned. 
  1. It's not enough to have experts, you need to have spokespeople with specific expertise on the ground. A nonprofit that helps with adoption from Africa seemed one that reporters would want to speak to as they wrote about children who were orphaned by Ebola -- but the media wanted someone they could interview in an Ebola-infected community. The media all felt the organization was doing good work but the organization didn't have specific information about what was being done for Ebola orphans and had no one who could talk about specific adoptions that had taken place in which a child, whose parents had died of Ebola, had been placed with a family in the U.S.
  2. Speed matters. It's amazing how fast network news can work to pull together stories. By the time you’ve read or watched an article about it, the producers will feel they’ve already told the story; there’s nothing more to pitch. To get the media's attention, you need to develop and implement your strategy, tactics and messages at the start of the crisis. You basically need someone on the ground or with direct expertise in the first few hours, especially someone who can do an interview over Skype. 
  3. Bring something strikingly new to the game by uncovering what the media hasn’t covered. Make sure to differentiate the charity from what others are doing, and from what the media perceives the story to be. Otherwise, reporters’ basic response will be, "Good to know there’s another organization that can talk about conditions on the ground but we've had already covered that angle."
Unfortunately, to get the media's attention, it takes more than doing good work to help people in a crisis. The point of helping an NGO during a crisis is to help further NGO's mission, which can include offering tips for others facing the crisis or offering additional ways for people to help those caught up in the crisis. 

The above tips assume you are working with an above-board organization. It might be worthwhile to develop a trendjacking plan to help you move more quickly in the case of a situation in which your organization's spokespeople can provide useful information that can help those caught up in the crisis.