Sword and the Script

Reflections: 5 Lessons Readers Taught Me in 2013



by Frank Strong

best posts 2013

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I haven’t always published a “top posts of the year” on this blog, but Shift Communications recently published their “worst” posts of 2013 – a tactic I found to be a clever and transparent analysis – and it prompted me to have a look at the best and worst posts on this blog.

Generally I pour over the analytics on a mobile phone in those in-between moments, but it’s been a while since I took a comprehensive view in a proper web browser.  It was a very useful mental exercise and in reviewing data on the 130 or so posts published here in 2013, several things stood out for me.

Here are five lessons my readers taught me: Read More…

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13 Years of Google Zeitgeist



by Frank Strong

Google zeitgeist

Zeitgeist as defined in Google’s Knowledge Graph (screenshot).

Searching is like a stream of consciousness; we start with a specific intent and wind up browsing from one click to the next.  It is truly a web; an addiction of clicks that comes, like so many things, with both benefits and drawbacks.

In 2001, Nostradamus, CNN and the World Trade Center were on the way up in search volume, while Pokemon, the Olympics and voting, on the tail of a controversial election, were on the way down. My confused instinct was the first plane was a drunk farmer blindly lost on his way to spray crops.

The images, let alone the second plane, on display inside the media room at the Washington, DC offices of Hill & Knowlton, proved otherwise.  I could see the smoke streaming from across the Potomac River from the balcony of the Watergate.

Thirteen years later, Nelson Mandela, Margret Thatcher, Paul Walker and a product, the iPhone 5s top the global search trends in the 2013 Google Zeitgeist. I first learned of Nelson Mandella when Peter Shankman’s update appeared in my Facebook news stream.  And then searched to learn the details. Read More…

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Focusing on a Few 2014 Content Marketing Predictions



by Frank Strong

“Microsoft will buy one, maybe two, media companies in certain industries,” wrote Joe Pulizzi, in CMI post titled 50 Content Marketing Predictions for 2014. “The outcome of these moves will pave the way for further media purchases throughout the year by non-media companies.”

That a tech company would acquire a media company is a bold prediction…until we remember Microsoft has previous experience in a joint venture with NBC and once hired its arch nemesis, Robert Scoble to humanize the company. Seems like a play out of a standard playbook today, except when we remember that Microsoft made those moves as far back as in 2005.  That’s more than an eon in social media time, where we hang on what’s next and too easily forget what happened.

As for the longevity of a media company?  Sure the mainstream industry has fallen on hard times, but for technology companies, it could be a saving grace.  We might remember AOL as a cartoonish internet portal, or a once ubiquitous instant messaging service, but AOL News still hauls in more than 50 million viewers a month. Read More…

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Building, not Borrowing: What PR is Missing



by Frank Strong

PR lesson fad

A fad is something we already had. Content is no fad.

About a year ago I presented at a hat trick of speaking engagements in the PR industry. These ranged from national professional association – to a regional event produced by a trade publication – to a local event organized by industry peers. What struck me the most was the sociological difference – no two groups were even remotely alike.

These groups fell into what I thought was three broad categories:

a. The lost. This group primarily came from smaller shops – corporate and agency alike. They had no concept for the social web, content or digital marketing. This group literally didn’t know what they didn’t know.

b. The learners.  This group was mixed – people from all walks of life. They were open minded, fully cognizant the dynamics of PR had changed, knew they were behind and were present to catch up.  Every session was filled with people taking furious notes and asking good questions.  There was a sense of urgency in the air and the conference organizers did well to line up excellent sessions. Read More…

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PR: It is How We Discover Brands



by Frank Strong

PR branding

Source: GlobalWebIndex “Chart of the Day.”

Awareness, familiarity and trust are all essential elements of a brand that sells successfully.  It’s an evolution that begins but probably never ends, save for the termination of a brand.  It’s the latter that drives us down the road of analyzing whether or not PR facilitates a sales cycle.

The entry point however, should not be underestimated. The chances of a sales person closing a deal with a prospective customer that remarks, “Huh, I’ve never heard of your product before,” falls somewhere short of less than likely.

So how do we make customers aware of our brands?  The answer rests in PR. Read More…

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Digital: The Gap between Importance and Performance



by Frank Strong

Digital Marketing: The Gap between Importance and Performance

Most marketers get their experience on the job. They don’t start as marketers, companies pay people to become marketers.

If marketers aren’t able to sleep at night, a study published by Adobe just might offer a reason why:  we know digital marketing is important, but we’re not very confident in our ability to execute it effectively.

Adobe has a number of products it would like to sell to marketers – so of course we’re lacking – but in all fairness the research is well grounded:  it surveyed 1,000 respondents using ResearchNow with 95% confidence and a margin of error at +/- 3%.

Some of the findings are at incredible odds:

  • Just 44% say their marketing departments have a great deal of influence over their organization’s overall business strategy and (surprise!) just 40% think their company’s marketing is effective. And 61% of all marketers think that, for most companies, digital marketing approaches are a constant cycle of trial and error (as opposed to tried and true). Read More…
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7 Tips for Reporters for Managing PR Spam



by Frank Strong

Wired PR Spam


Screenshot from Wire’s former Editor in Chief, Chris Anderson timeless 2007 rant against PR spam. He later hinted he regretted posting it.

Nobody likes spam, but everybody gets it. A lot of it.

Whatever new mediums arise, spam is just a moment behind.  It’s on Twitter, its infected commenting systems, and of course we get it by email. It is…pervasive.

For a reporter, it’s got to be the bane of existence.  What could be worse than the pressure of a deadline and having sift through erroneous messages that bombard your inbox in order to find the messages you need to confirm or otherwise relate to sources?

It’s a problem.  It’s probably never going to end in our lifetime.

The only way to fix it is to avoid using email, but then it’ll just spill over into other vehicles for interpersonal communication, like voicemail or social media.

What possibly can a PR pro tell you about managing spam?  Over the course of my career, here are tips I’ve found, including some from your peers, for avoiding spam. Read More…

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When Branding Gets the Better of Politicians



by Frank Strong

branding politics

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This isn’t a political post. This post isn’t about whether or not the health care law is a good idea or a bad one; it’s not about red or blue; it’s not about who you voted for in the last election or who is in office right now.  It’s about marketing and why politicians are good at selling ideas, and even personas, but have so much to learn about products, positioning and product marketing.

* * *

Obamacare was to be a disparaging pseudonym to a law that passed amid a nation divided on the cause.  It was a label intended to underscore everything that was wrong with the law.

In a gesture of political jiu-jitsu — to use technique against brute force — the administration seized upon the term, embraced it and repeated it on every medium available:  in the print, broadcast and online and across earned, owned and share media. It was a rallying cry.

Obamacare used content marketing to brand the new law to be synonymous with the administration and it’s principle proponent.  Whether aware or not as to the vehicle for branding, it was a conscious effort and it worked.

Then the website launched and promptly flopped.

Political communicators were on their heels, slow to respond, then denial, even as polling tanked. Distance. They needed distance.  Read More…

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10 Timeless Creative PR Ideas



by Frank Strong

Creativity

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Where do creative PR ideas come from?  How do we develop ideas and what does the life cycle of an idea look like? 

There are those in our field that advocate a strict discipline of science – that is to say no idea is funded or given a seal of approval — without math. Data has the limitations of structure, yet we are not rationale beings.

On the other side, there are others that are purely creative — the Don Draper myth — they operate on instincts and gut feelings. However the very phrase “trust me” invites risk and suspicion.

The two approaches are at odds and I’ve found no better explanation than the words of Malcom Gladwell.  In a post titled, Art or Science: Creative Marketing and PR, I took a look at his analysis of the difference between puzzles and mysteries:

In the book, What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell breaks down the distinction between a puzzle and a mystery. A puzzle is when we have all of the pieces we need to make a complete picture, we just need to arrange them in the proper order so that they make sense. With a mystery, information is scarce and we instead rely on intuition, interference or a gut feeling. Perhaps this is what Rumsfeld meant when he famously said, “unknown unknowns.”

If PR were a puzzle then we’d have all the pieces needed to simply assemble a creative idea. If PR were entirely a mystery, then we’d all be starting from the beginning with every effort. Maybe that’s how to make the uninteresting, interesting. Neither side is quite right, there is very little in our world that fits neatly into some bucket we’ve designed; the fact is that PR is a mix of art and science.

We can’t excel with just English (or a language) or just Math, we need them both. Read More…

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7 Clever Thanksgiving Day Marketing Infographics



by Frank Strong

A Thanksgiving Infographic by Collision Labs

A Thanksgiving Infographic by Collision Labs

There’s no shortage of infographics about Thanksgiving this year – clearly infographics are marketing technique that while not new, has staying power.  I was however surprised at just how many are in circulation on this topic on the web.

I’ve reviewed dozens of them and have pinned them to a “data” board on Pinterest if you’d like to peruse some of the others.  Here are seven I thought were pretty well done.

1. A Thanksgiving Infographic by Collision Labs

The creative people at this design agency lay out an infographic about historical facts in a storyboard format. One interesting point is the infographic says “Jingle Bells” was originally written as a Thanksgiving song.  “Deal with it,” the infographic advises.   Read More…

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