Sword and the Script

How Facebook borders on Hunger Games


Image Credit:  Screenshot of Google Image Search

Image Credit: Screenshot of Google Image Search

by Frank Strong

Facebook is experimenting with additional ways to monetize its platform and it’s doing so to signal to Wall Street – in advance of its IPO – that the company is serious about making money.

Last week reports emerged that Facebook is testing a plan to let users pay about two bucks to have their posts rank higher in your feed. This comes at a time that Facebook has been meddling with the newsfeeds, using algorithms of sorts, that are likened to Google’s PageRank, in an effort to show users what Facebook thinks you want to see.

At the same time, as the WSJ this Morning podcast reported last week, businesses are experimenting with methods to give social media power users discounts to recommend deals. For example, a juice maker will take a tiered approach to urging users to share a deal.  If they offer a coupon for 10% off for their product, and a power user gets 5 of their friends to share that power user would get 20% off.  The more shares the better the deal for the originator.

Put two and two together and you can see the problem. There’s a monetary incentive here for someone to plan to pay Facebook to rank their shares higher in the hopes of getting discounts. Fundamentally, it’s the difference between sharing a good deal because it’s a good deal (that’s called viral) and sharing a deal because you’re benefiting from it (that’s called manipulation). Read More…

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Creative Mother’s Day Pitches



by Frank Strong

We’ve got a few more days to get something for Mom – or grandma, or baby’s mama, or a sister with kids (mine has six!).  This year I was planning ahead – a marketing email from the same local flower shop where I order something for my mother each year hit me up early.

There was only one downside:  they don’t deliver on Sunday (the 13th) which is the actual celebration of Mother’s Day.  Ditto for the big shops – I ordered another gift from 1-800-FLOWERS and they don’t deliver on Mother’s Day either!

At any rate, I took to Google to search for some creative PR and marketing ideas around Mother’s Day.  What are some things businesses are doing?  Here’s a look at seven I liked:

1.  Help the kids pick gifts.  When I was about 4 or 5, I gave my Dad a nickel and a dime in an old candy case for Christmas.  Back then fifteen cents was a big deal to me but I can still remember him laughing his ass off when he opened it.  Sort of hurt my feelings. Of course, now I understand, but this anecdote underscores a business pain:  kids have a hard time picking out gifts for parents. Charlie Gaudet writes in a blog post on Predictable Profits, “Create an event for children to come inside your store and select items just for mom. Perhaps offer a special discount to children, or offer a special low-priced selection just to kids.”  Great idea!  By the way, I found Charlie’s post by way of a PRWeb release (owned by my employer) which you can see in the nearby screenshot (click the image to enlarge) was the top search result in my Google News search for ideas to write this post.

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Audio branding, essential sound in marketing



by Frank Strong

Sound has a powerful emotional connection; think for a minute what is triggered in our minds when we hear:  a heartbeat, a doorbell, a phone’s ring, a car horn,  a lawnmower, a dog’s bark, a baby’s cry, or Christmas carols.

Each sound has a special meaning, like a language onto its own;  someone needs us, is warning us or entertaining us.   These sounds trigger’s emotions: a doorbell for example, might trigger excitement for a familiar friend, or dread, with an unwanted visitor.

Sound isn’t commonly associated with branding, perhaps because it’s not often cited as a mechanism to raise awareness or drive leads; it might however have a powerful connection to customer loyalty and retention.  Consider the sense of community stadium-wide singing during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game builds.

What sort of music do they play in retail stores?  Shopping music.

It seems to me, sound in branding goes nearly unnoticed, it’s almost unconscious, or perhpas subliminal, yet  in a way that’s different than simply trying to ignore web advertisements.  This is why I found a Marketplace story – Company logos expand into sonic realm – so interesting (you can read, or better yet,  listen to that story).

If you subscribe to the idea popularized by Ries & Trout, that positioning takes place in the mind of consumers, as opposed to the words of a tag line, then you can instinctively understand the power of sound.  Read More…

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5 things scuba diving teaches me about PR



by Frank Strong

We can see parallels in nearly anything.  Sometimes analogies work; other times they don’t.  It depends on perspective – and experiences.

As a long time member of reserve components of the military, I often think of PR as the “indirect fire” – the artillery and mortars that “softens” up a beach before the infantry assaults (think familiarity before a sales call).  I once had a boss that thought that was ridiculous; I had another that thought it was genius.

So having just returned from a Scuba diving vacation in Bonaire, I was reviewing (amateurish) photos I had taken and had this inspiration.  Maybe it’ll work for some but not others, but here’s five things Scuba diving makes me think about in PR:

1. Check your buddy’s equipment before you dive.  Most Scuba courses teach you to do this; but some get sloppy after a while.  Don’t let complacency set in – recreational diving has one redundant system and that’s your buddy’s air. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be sucking water: that’s not good.  There isn’t a second chance.  Likewise, proof you work before you publish.  As the old saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Read More…

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A Marketing Conversation with a Small Business Entrepreneur



by Frank Strong

small-business-marketing
Word-of-mouth.  That’s the only marketing Curt said he does for his small business.

Clean cut, casually dressed, and the adoptive parent of three children from Ethiopia, Curt is a pediatric dentist that sat next to me on a recent flight back from the Netherlands Antilles. We talked marketing for the better part of a couple hours; I asked a lot of questions and listened.

Curt isn’t a marketer, he’s an entrepreneur, with a small practice and handful of employees.  The biggest hit he takes on a vacation isn’t the cost of airfare or a room at a resort – it’s the fact he isn’t billing — and that is easily 4 or 5 times the cost of his vacation.

“If my hands aren’t wet, then I’m not making any money,” he told me.  In fact he said he tells his staff that all the time.

His take on pediatric dentistry is simple:  good communication, a light-hearted manner with kids, and the knowledge that the parents rather than the children are his patients. His staff is forbidden from mentioning words like “ouch” or “boo-boo” or anything remotely similar in the office.  He rattled off about 20 such words and phrases; I can only remember two, but then, armed with an electric toothbrush, I’m not afraid of the dentist.

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Smart things: A blog building secret 13APR12



Hey, the Washington Nationals won their season opener yesterday with 3-2 victory with an extra-inning over the Cincinnati Reds. That’s got to be a good omen even if DC’s traffic is an everlasting nightmare. Nearby the Nat’s mascot waves the club’s flag as happy fans exited the stadium – this mascot doesn’t get the opportunity to do that often!

Returning from the game, the first season opener I’ve ever attended, I sat down to write this week’s smart things:

1.  A secret to building a blog.  Comments – as bloggers, we love them on our own posts, so it seems logical to build a blog, it’s important to comment on other blogs.  Ken Mueller wrote a fantastic post last week titled 6 Reasons You Should Comment on Other Blogs that explains why.  For example, his first reason is “you get to know other people” and that’s very true. There is a sense of a sub-community among people that comment regularly.  Ken’s enthusiasm also comes with guidelines such as, “don’t comment just to comment,” which is sage advice; save your comments for when you really have something to offer.  In the spirit of his post, there’s a lively discussion with great points in the comments on that post.  Smart thing:

But there’s one area of blogging and marketing that we tend to ignore: commenting. And I don’t necessarily mean the comments on our own blogs, thought that’s important. I’m talking about the importance of commenting on the blogs of others.

2.  Considering the source.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was subject of a crisis recently; but the crisis was based on false information.  Unfortunately, several mainstream publications ran with the story without checking the veracity.  There are several worthwhile posts on the topic including Jeff Domansky’s summary and crisis analysis.  Toddi Gunter focused on the problem in a BlissPR post called, Consider the Source. The title is the point, but it applies to more than just reporters – in a world where infographics are created and shared without much scrutiny, I think Toddi’s words are guidelines for everyone.  Smart thing:

I believe it is more important than ever that the reader, whether it is a citizen journalist, professional journalist or the man on the street, think critically about the source of the information.

3. PR has a negative vibe?  EverythingPR’s Shanna Mallon posted a story this week on the industry that I thought was especially well researched called, Why Does the Word “PR” Put Out Such a Negative Vibe?  She lays out the foundation with references from Bernays to MJ Siegler and then asks, if PR has such a bad vibe, why does it work and why do people still use it.  Her entire post is worth a read, but I believe it boils down to something close to this smart thing:

“PR–finding people who genuinely like a product or service and getting them to talk about it. This type of publicity doesn’t come across as contrived; rather, people tend to trust it.

What smart things have you heard this week?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Smart things: benevolence and fiascos 4.7.12

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Four under-recognized but entirely useful social networks



New social networks used to be greeted with enthusiasm – Friendster, Friendfeed, MySpace.  Each one got a little better, gained users, then fell off the radar.  Today the big three – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – dominate with eyes on Google+ to see if it’s going to make it.

Even so, there are a number of smaller networks that follow a path of launch, traction, an explosion in media coverage, and then they settle into something of a slower growth pattern.

There was a time, for example, a while back when you couldn’t flip open your RSS reader without seeing Quora in the headlines.  Long before its Android application or Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram too had this trajectory where hobbyist techies propelled the network, or app, or whatever we’re calling it these days, into the mainstream.  Pinterest is enjoying this lift right now.

Sometimes a network makes it and some settle comfortably into their niche.  Quora is one I think fits this category.  When I first logged in, I was addicted, quite literally losing sleep in fascination.  Quora in my view has settled a bit, but it’s still interesting and useful.

I think Instagram would have followed a similar path if it hadn’t been acquired.  There’s enough photographers and wannabe photographers that enjoyed the tool.

Despite the buzz it’s getting now, I don’t think Pinterest is going to make itRead More…

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Social media comments: abuse of a writer



Big name tech bloggers.  You either love them or hate them.   I suppose there’s a third option:  love and hate at the same time.

These guys and gals can be subject to a lot of criticism.   Old school journalists cite their quick posts as cavalier and lacking thoroughness. Entrepreneurs tackle their opinions.  Everyone keeps the traffic flowing.

I was taken aback today by the sheer viciousness of the commentary following MG Siegler’s link on Google+ to a blog post he published about Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.  It appears to me he’s turned comments off on his blog, but there isn’t a way to do that for Google+.

I won’t rehash the vitriol here; you can review them on the link above, but suffice to say MG’s been called every name in the book in response to what I thought was a pretty good post. Read More…

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Can PR Support Thought Leadership? (Or Are They Mutually Exclusive?)



Note: This guest post is by Grant Crowell (see bio below), a freelance writer who I met through Twitter and recognize as a savvy contributor to ReelSEO which online video and its impact on search marketing – two areas of growing importance to PR pros.

>>> Recently I came across a rather intriguing debate on if public relations (PR) deserves to be associated as a means of providing thought leadership. My interest originally perked up when I came across a quote Forbes.com contributing writer and business analyst, Haydn Shaughnessy, who’s provided extensive coverage on thought leadership in the social enterprise:

[Thought leadership] is not PR… it has been confused with PR – but it is not relevant to what we understand by public relations. Thought Leadership is not about controlling perceptions – it is about leading them. But leading them in tangible ways. It is not content fodder to bolster the brand. It is all about planning and advocating a route to a new way of doing business, and in ways that reflect well on everybody involved.” Read More…

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Smart things: benevolence and fiascos 4.7.12



I’ve become a pretty avid scuba diver, with 70+ dives under my belt, and as you can probably tell from the many photos I use for this blog (that’s a photos of a giant Grouper nearby), but I’m working on another type of diving:  skydiving.  Uncle Sam has trained me to mountain climb and rappel from helicopters, but I never could get jump school out of him, so I’ve decided to do it myself.

While I’ve gone tandem, there’s something about that leap of faith at 13,000 feet – with a 40 second freefall – when you’re on your own.  I’m a firm believer that adversity, challenges…fear of bouncing off the earth…they build character.  There’s nothing wrong with a little fear – it keeps you on your toes.

At any rate, I’ve been delayed twice this week due to weather – thunderstorms one day and high winds the next.  But perhaps tomorrow, with some gentle westerly winds, I hopefully will knock out both Category A & B dives.  Can the Easter Bunny deliver some clear, calm sunshine to Virginia? Warmth would be nice too.  Word in the hanger is it’s about 15 degrees up there right now.  You can read a post about my tandem dive, with a viral marketing twist here.

And smart things for the week:  Read More…

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