Posts filed under ‘Media Industry’

If Only Scrooge was a Business Roundtable Member: Professional Services Companies Wise to Ape Group’s Progressive Pledge

The Business Roundtable – a star-studded group of U.S. businesses – on August 19 announced a new definition of what a corporation should be, noting that they should operate for the “benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.” This is a significant policy shift from the hardline definition that a corporation should be focused solely on financial profit. For professional services companies, the move is also meaningful: when you have no physical widget to lure in customers, reputation and messaging are everything. And, increasingly, no one wants to do business with Ebenezer Scrooge.

Scrooge may have been a deft businessman, judging by the wealth he had on hand, but he was terrible to his employees and only cared about money. Scrooge’s money-lending business was no doubt lucrative, but where was his social mission? Where were his progressive employee benefits? Was it a diverse and inclusive business? All-in-all it appeared to be a miserable place to work, helmed by a miser and with a singular focus on profit. It seems unlikely that Scrooge was good at attracting and retaining talent (Bob Cratchit’s misplaced loyalty aside). In a competitive marketplace, it’s quite possible that a “warmer” competitor across the street – even with a 0.001 higher rate – might peel off much of Scrooge’s business. Your business may not be Scrooge’s, but do others see all the good you do, for employees, the community and your clients? If not, it’s time to work on your messaging.

Taking a page from the Business Roundtable, consider pledging and messaging your good. Here’s an adapted set of planks:

Delivering value to our clients. Professional services companies’ raison d’etre is to solve problems and help businesses succeed. (Some might even call this “Bringing Business to Business. See what I did there?) Your company’s messaging should showcase these successes, blending the tools available with examples of their real-world application.

Investing in our employees. Businesses of all stripes have made great strides expanding employee benefits and working toward fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. These efforts need to be championed. And, if your firm is behind the 8-ball, it needs to get going. Other businesses and consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets in favor of workplaces where employees feel safe, respected and *gasp* happy. Tell the world what your company believes in. Have values and live them.

Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. You’re on your own on this one. However, you can rest assured that failure to do the right thing will ultimately lead to bad PR (or legal action).

Supporting the communities in which we work. Most companies have great, employee-driven initiatives that build houses, feed the hungry and help the world. By telling these stories professional services companies humanize their professionals and showcase their commitment and care to where they are and the good they do.

Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. Long-term, mission-focused operations and messaging create a solid reputational base that helps a professional services firm when bad news happens. Taking the steps now to create a runway for regularly messaging positive developments creates intangible but impactful value.

Scrooge’s intervention was drastic. Professional services companies need not travel through dimensions nor commune with the spirits to see how purely profit-driven policies have impacted their image in the past and how they will continue to do so in the future. Just like the members of the Business Roundtable, why not evaluate your organization and ensure you are doing well by your employees, clients and communities – all while remaining focused on business development and profit?

Michael Bond

September 5, 2019 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Just Say “No” to Social Media Automation

I’m a big fan of automation. When I met my now-wife, she was writing out checks each month for various bills – a time consuming process that could easily be accomplished with auto-bill pay. In no time, that’s just what she did. No more checks, and no more stamps. Routine tasks should be automated. What should not be put on auto-pilot is content creation and promotion, particularly with respect to social media.

The world of professional services PR has changed rapidly, even in the relatively short time I have called it my career. Intense cost-cutting has reshaped publications ranging from national to local on both the general consumer and professional trade sides. B2B companies – such as architecture, accounting and law firms – have gradually come to embrace content creation (robust, well-maintained blogs and byline articles) and content promotion (especially social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter) as a key part of their promotional and thought-leadership strategies. With this dynamic, the temptation to take time-saving shortcuts, such as automation, is great.

The issues with “set-it-and-forget-it” content promotion strategies are multiple:

  1. One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all offer different promotional tools and reach audiences in different ways and at different points in their day. Twitter’s character restriction has made it the birthplace of many social media posts, with companies dropping the same skinny content into LinkedIn and Facebook. Alternately, Facebook’s truly awful option of posting to Twitter simply redirects viewers to Facebook, forcing them to leave a platform where they are actively engaged. If asked, do you want to link your LinkedIn to Facebook or your Twitter to LinkedIn, just firmly answer, “No.”
  1. The Perils of Scheduled Promotions – One of the core functions of an engaged communications team is to offer companies constant assessments of both the media landscape and how current events – locally, nationally and internationally – can affect messaging. A company does not want to be posting a jovial tweet when a serious international tragedy hits. Timing matters (in real time).
  1. You Can’t Sell the Steak Without the Sizzle – Basic social media posts follow the old Dragnet saying, “Just the facts, ma’am” – post title and URL generally. This means that the opportunity to tag authors, publications mentioned (especially if promoting a media mention) and add hashtags are lost. READ: “Steak.” By engaging communications teams to craft bespoke, platform-specific promotions, the reader is far more likely to be engaged. READ: “Delicious, Kobe beef steak served with garlic mashed potatoes and a truffle demi-glaze.” Communicators are adept at pulling out and highlighting salient passages and creating eye-catching headlines.
  1. Unappetizing Leftovers – The “set-it-and-forget-it” options also mean that repeat promotions are all the same and all quite vanilla. Rather than highlighting an alternate part of the content in question, they basically churn out a generic invitation. If your automation strategy turned your beautiful grass-fed steak into a hardened piece of shoe leather, you are unlikely to entice any more diners with the next “promotion.”
  1. Automation = Disengagement – Personally and professionally, social media proficiency takes work. We are gradually transitioning from heavy  professional services rejection of these platforms as too juvenile/opaque/avant garde to more (somewhat begrudging) acknowledgement of their importance. As such, many companies are at the point where they know they need to have a presence, but don’t quite know how to go about doing so. One option is to pursue the automation strategy. But, in addition to the aforementioned deficits associated with this path, it often hampers organizational social media understanding. Accounts are basically rooms that no one goes into and checks for engagement. Retweets, likes and interactions with clients and members of the community – all image- and brand-enhancing – go ignored.

Great content deserves great, creative and considered promotional campaigns. For professional services companies, where the key differentiators in the marketplace aren’t tangible, physical attributes, creating, packaging and promoting content to clients, potential clients and referral sources is impactful and thought-leadership is essential. Pay your cable bill automatically. Don’t automate your content.

Michael Bond

December 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

The Super Bowl, Its Audience, Its Ads and Its Lessons for Professional Services Companies

Another Super Bowl is in the books, which means another set of incredibly expensive commercials have aired. This year, CBS charged $5 million for 30 seconds. As a marketer, the last thing you want is to air an ad that falls flat or is panned. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the real winners from last night, besides the Denver Broncos, and also consider how this game and these ads hold lessons for professional services companies.

Macro Takeaways:

The “Big Game” is fast-becoming one of, if not the only, “must-see” TV event. The Super Bowl, like sports on TV in general, is best consumed live. I actually DVR’d the game, mainly to skip some of the opening introductions and create an escape valve from the Coldplay-headlined halftime show. (Little did I realize that Beyoncé had us all covered.) In the end, I skipped maybe a handful of “Blue Bloods” promos and local car ads, finishing right about on time with the rest of the country. Not only is the Super Bowl essential viewing, but the league and its broadcasters uncharacteristically tear down content walls to make sure that you can watch it on any device, anywhere.

The Super Bowl defies audience fragmentation. The most-watched TV finale ever is M*A*S*H, which drew 105.9 million viewers in 1983. 80.4 million tuned-in for one last Cheers in 1993. Last night’s game drew an estimated 114.4 million viewers. As a point of comparison, the widely celebrated and talked about Breaking Bad drew 10.3 million for its finale in 2013. Game 7 of the 2014 MLB World Series between the Giants and the Royals topped out at 52 million viewers. This enormous audience is why the game is so important to advertisers and such an anomaly compared to the 364 other days of the year when marketers – both consumer and professional services – compete for audience attention in an environment of limitless distractions.

“Embedded” marketing is a new trend. Minutes after the game ended, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning embraced “Papa” John Schnatter of Papa John’s pizza chain, of which Peyton is both a pitchman and a franchise owner. Then, speaking with a sideline reporter, Manning noted that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.” Sports economics reporter Darren Rovell tweeted that the two mentions were worth the equivalent of $3.2M in bought ad time:

And, the real kicker? While Manning owns 32 Papa John’s, he has no deal in place with Budweiser. Of course, the brewer was more than tickled:

The idea of embedded advertising isn’t new, it is just gaining in popularity as users DVR and stream content commercial free. Just ask the Burger “King.”

Here are my winners:

Papa John’s – Without buying an ad they were part of the game.

Budweiser – Not only did they get some free buzz marketing, they had a very on-point spot with Helen Mirren eviscerating, via British-laced condemnation, drunk driving.

T-Mobile – Two excellent spots. The first with Steve Harvey mocking his own error at the Miss Universe contest as the cell company rebuts rival Verizon’s network claims.

The best spot of the night was “Restricted Bling,” with a cheesy Drake gladly inserting a variety of terms and limitations into his phone-themed hit “Hotline Bling.”

Amazon/Jason Schwartzman – Off-beat humor from a company that has been running a series of “Prime”-themed ads that are hit-or-miss (e.g. ordering a baby carrier to walk around with a dog). The “Baldwin Bowl” was a great set-up. Dan Marino complaining about breading wings and actor Jason Schwartzman hurling food at him was an easy touchdown.

Coca-Cola – The Hulk/Ant-Man ad was well-done (featuring Paul Rudd for the second time in the evening). The company is focused on pushing sales of smaller portions and the small (Ant-Man), medium (Coke can) and large (Hulk) subjects provided excellent contrast.

Quick lessons:

  1. Push your content on all devices and platforms. If it’s good enough for the NFL, it’s good enough for you.
  2. When you have a large, high-value, captive audience (think well-attended client seminars/webinars), capitalize on the marketing opportunity.
  3. Create vehicles and content that attract large, high-value and engaged audiences. (Then, see #2.)
  4. Consider non-conventional advertising strategies. In addition to the Peyton Manning in-game marketing, companies such as GoDaddy highlighted their brand via a 30-second commercial during the live stream of the game on CBS’ website.
  5. Content is and always will be king. Aim to produce and market content that is best-in-class and for which there is no substitute.

Michael Bond

February 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

The Evolution of Media at-a-Glance

In recent months, a few news items have stood out as noteworthy, as they are emblematic of the shifting media landscape:

So what does it all mean?

  • The cable “bundle” is under attack.
  • The traditional over-the-air broadcast model faces threats as well.
  • While audio programing, and even long-form storytelling, remains viable, traditional programmed broadcast radio remains under pressure.
  • Mobile and social are king and the new “editors” are tech programmers. The physical print product is quickly becoming the ever-changing “feed.”

OK, but what does it mean for professional services companies?

  • Traditional ecosystems and gatekeepers are no longer sacrosanct.
  • Traditional content consumed by new technologies is still content consumed.
  • Wield the tools of the Internet. The printing press and the radio tower are on your desktop and in your pocket.
  • Get social and get mobile. Happily, the two go together.

Here are some potential, forward-thinking resolutions:

  • Don’t get hung up on, “Did we make the print edition?” (or be disappointed when you didn’t.)
  • Stop qualifying online media mentions.
    • “John Smith on The Wall Street Journal website” – NO
    • “John Smith on The Wall Street Journal” – YES
  • Leverage social media. Focus on publishing content on well-trafficked outlets and use company-level accounts to amplify impact.

By being aware and forward-thinking about target audiences’ content consumption, one can evolve with the times and maximize exposure.

Michael Bond

November 14, 2014 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

Embracing Facebook as a News Conduit

I’m a bit of a dinosaur. On a good day, three physical newspapers are dropped at my doorstep. Of the things that motivate me to get out of bed: coffee and those newspapers play a large role. Being a media relations professional, I am steeped from dawn to dusk (and often well beyond) in the news. This has given me ample time and frequent opportunities to consider whether news is consumed less than it was 10 years ago or at the same rate but via different mediums. For some, public enemy number one is Facebook – thanks to how we, as a society, are seemingly discarding the life of the mind for an existence defined by an endless loop of memes, cat videos and political railings. I used to challenge the notion that one could “get the news” from Facebook. Now, however, I see that it is possible and that this publishing platform is a rich resource for professional services firms.

A physical newspaper is a closed-circuit: all the stories that the editors deemed “news” are bundled up into a defined space. A platform like Facebook is a bit like outer space: you can zoom around in your spaceship endlessly in virtually any direction. Beyond capacity, the critical difference between the two mediums is that a newspaper has a gatekeeper – an editor – and Facebook, and social media in general, do not and are do-it-yourself.

On Facebook, you can follow and curate news sources – including “old media” outlets – so as to create a compelling and deep news consumption experience. You can also choose to follow fringe outlets if you desire. Essentially, you can build a solid house or a conspiracy-theorist bunker. There are virtually no news outlets remaining that do not post their content on this ecosystem.

Personally, I follow everything from The Wall Street Journal to PBS to industry trade publications and groups. Their content is interspersed among the minor curiosities posted by friends and family. Increasingly, I have found Facebook as a conduit to worthwhile content posted by trusted sources I have followed.

The easiest way to view Facebook, in terms of news, is that it is an additional platform for content consumption with a robust built-in audience and top-tier mobile applications. For professional services companies, it is an additional distribution channel to utilize, reaching a broad audience in their leisure time and on the mobile platform. It is worth considering for use in everything from pushing out press releases to posting photos of firm events.

People still actively consume news: it is just that the mediums on which they are doing so have multiplied. Newspapers matter. So does social media such as Facebook.

Michael Bond

June 4, 2014 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

Thoughts on This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

Another year, another Super Bowl in the books.  This year’s contest was particularly disappointing as the game wasn’t very competitive. However, the advertisements were enjoyable. Here are my top three:

#1 – T-Mobile featuring Tim Tebow “#NoContract” <a

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is out of football, but likely would suit up in a heartbeat if given an opportunity. This commercial (the second of the two that aired) was unexpected and really funny.

Takeaways: It’s OK to poke a little fun at yourself and taking chances can change the way people think of you. (To me, Tebow is hilarious, especially when he intones in the mock film trailer for Illegal Formation, “You better hold on to those donuts!”

#2 – Chrysler featuring Bob Dylan “We Will Build Your Car” 

Bob Dylan in a car commercial? It was strange, but Dylan is always a wild card. (Remember when he appeared in the background of a Victoria’s Secret ad?) The Super Bowl has become Chrysler’s signature advertising moment – “Halftime in America” and “God Made a Farmer” both caused quite a reaction in the past. The ad is an unabashed play on patriotism (same as its predecessors) and showed another side of Dylan. It was odd but effective. People paid attention, and now Chrysler has set expectations for each Super Bowl pretty high.

Takeaways: Try something different. One impactful ad can yield more buzz than a dozen mediocre ones. (Just think Apple’s “1984” spot that only aired once.)

#3 – Radio Shack featuring 80’s Icons “The Phone Call”

This ad has arguably garnered the most buzz. Seeing – among others – Hulk Hogan, the California Raisins, Cliff Clavin of Cheers and a DeLorean speed away after ransacking a RadioShack featuring signs advertising “Boomboxes” and “Fax Machines” was clever. It was also an admission that RadioShack stores have an image problem in that they are perceived as meccas for your odd uncle who likes to spend hours building his HAM radio set. The ad is funny, but it offers only a fleeting glimpse (five seconds out of the 30 seconds spot) of the modern ‘Shack that they are trying to project. You could easily walk away from this spot thinking that, indeed, RadioShack is dated without considering that maybe they were changing or had changed.

Takeaways: Be sure your main point is always business driver. Avoid making ads that almost seem like a plug for your competitors.

Michael Bond

February 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm Leave a comment

Yahoo! and the Myth of the “Internal” Memo

You can debate the merits of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s “ban” on working from home until next year (which is likely when we’ll have a sense of whether or not this management move was a winner), but you can’t debate the importance of the HR director’s internal memo in fueling the debate. This “internal” document is featured – complete with proprietary and confidential warnings – on the hallowed tech site AllThingsD.

This clunky internal announcement has been panned alternately (and, in some cases, simultaneously) as Yahoo’s (and, in turn, Mayer’s) broad rejection of working from home as a viable career option; an attack on single mothers and involved parents; reneging on various flex agreements and promises; evidence of a “backward” technology company; and a sure-fire catalyst to mass exodus.

Much of the criticism is the result of what folks are reading into the memo, not the actual content. Sure, it suggests that employees will need to plan to work from the office in June, but it doesn’t say there is no room for discussion or that it’s forever. It doesn’t address issues of childcare benefits (which Yahoo undoubtedly offers). It doesn’t offer severance or job placement assistance for those unable to make the commute (an immediate and pressing concern for those affected by the change). It’s a brief and vague memo that’s clearly angered more than a few Yahoos and many others in the blogosphere judging by the avalanche of posts and comments.

In follow up to days of widespread criticism, Yahoo issued a response:

“This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home,” it said. “This is about what is right for Yahoo right now.”

So why not say that in the first place?

The take-away here: There is no such thing as internal communication. In our hyper-connected world, internal documents are also external documents. Why leave it to employees or, worse yet, the industry to speculate on your intentions?

It’s not enough to have the HR team draft up your internal memos, or the legal team, or the management team or even the PR team. Smart companies look to all of these resources and leverage their respective strengths and perspectives. Think of communications like a load of laundry. They have to go through all the cycles – soak, wash, rinse, spin and dry.

Solid communications planning anticipates questions in advance and provides answers or a clear path for getting the answers. Yahoo may need to reevaluate its resources – either that or the PR team just scored a home run because it seems everyone’s talking about the Yahoo working from home ban!

Traci Stuart

February 28, 2013 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

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