musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life,
by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
For more info, call us at (212) 573-6000, email to david@reichcommunications or text to 914-325-9997.
We are located at 228 East 45th Street, Suite 11-South, New York City 10017
Re-usable rocket ships, space travel and, ultimately, colonizing Mars. Sounds like science fiction, but it's exactly what Elon Musk is doing through his SpaceX venture. He hopes to get to Mars -- not just for a visit, but to establish a permanent habitat for people. Part of it relies on recovering and re-using booster rockets, which now end up burning up or falling into the ocean.
Bloomberg News today writes about a side product of the rocket launches that have become a big hit online -- the live webcasts of the SpaceX launches. The webcasts serve to inform people about the various SpaceX missions, while exciting the business community and young engineers who might consider working at the company.
Our son Michael has been directing the webcasts, including the one for Friday evening's mission to launch a communications satellite, while recovering the booster rocket on a floating platform. The webcasts are hosted by young SpaceX engineers who, with infectious enthusiasm, explain what is happening and, in terms we non-engineers can comprehend, the science behind it.
In these days of short attention spans, the webcasts make a countdown informative and entertaining.
Congrats, Michael, for great work that the folks at Bloomberg recognized. I'm so proud of you.
To see the Bloomberg story, click here. And to watch the live webcast of Friday's mission, which is due to launch around 5 p.m. Eastern, go to www.spacex.com.
People just don't seem to get it. What you put online is NOT private.
The latest example of stupid behavior comes from people who should know better -- execs at a major ad agency.
Campbell Ewald had to fire its CEO after a staffer posted a racist email. The email was sent in October, but it didn't come to light until someone sent it to Adweek, which published it in January. Within days, the agency lost three clients, led by insurer USAA and then by Henry Ford Healthcare System and financial services firm Edward Jones.
A few years ago, one of the biggest public relations agencies, Hill & Knowlton, had to fire a senior VP after he stupidly tweeted how he hated going to Memphis, which he called a boondocks town. He was on his way to a meeting with FedEx, whose headquarters and operations hub is -- guess where - in Memphis.
You would think people at ad and PR agencies would know that what goes online might be seen by others. Duh.
I’ve read a lot over the past several weeks about Google Glass, which keeps you constantly connected and puts the internet right in front of your eyes (or more accurately, eye). The idea is that you can do whatever you’re normally doing, while remaining in touch visually.
In theory, it’s a great idea for those who feel such a need. But in reality, I think it’s a recipe for disaster…literally.
As someone who spends a lot of time working in the traffic safety field, through clients like The National Road Safety Foundation, a non-profit group, and the government’s NHTSA, I’ve come to understand that driving a car requires full attention. Driving is not something you can do safely while you’re multitasking.
There are three types of distraction, and Google Glass falls into at least two of them. There’s visual, aural and cognitive distraction. All can and do take your attention off the road in front of you, and when you’re moving at highway speeds of 60 miles an hour, you travel the length of a football field in 3 or 4 seconds. That’s how long it takes to read or send a text. So while you look at or send a text, you’re basically driving blind the length of a football field. Doesn’t sound too smart or safe, does it?
Google says that since its Glass displays information in front of you, you don’t have to look down and you can still see what’s in front of you. I don’t know about that. I had the chance to try an earlier version of Google Glass a few months ago. It’s cool, but it IS distracting. And when your eye is looking at the displayed information an inch or two in front of it, it can’t also focus clearly on thje road and cars or people 20 or 50 feet in front of you. The eye just doesn’t work that way.
I also read this week about new displays that automaker Jaguar hopes to introduce soon, that show key information like speed, gas level, perhaps travel or map info – all on the windshield in the driver’s line of sight. To me, that sets up the same risk for visual distraction as Google Glass.
So I have to wonder … where is the Government here? Very simply, laws should be passed, based on NHTSA recommendations, that make driving while wearing Google Glass illegal, just as in 38 states it’s now illegal to text while you drive. And they should also be discouraging or preventing automakers from introducing line-of-sight displays that take the driver’s eyes – or the eyes’ focus – off the road ahead. The same should be done to prevent visual controls and displays for non-driving functions like the sound system, hands-free phones and even GPS maps and driving info. Audio cues are ok, but the maps and mapped driving directions are a serious distraction.
I hate to sound like a “bah humbug” about this exciting and helpful new technology, but some limits need to placed on it. Why? I’ll tell you why… it could be your kid or mine who gets killed by a driver distracted by Google Glass, line-of-sight displays or a GPS.
I love this opening line in a story in the New York Times earlier this week...
"Truth has never been an essential ingredient of viral content on the Internet."
The article by Ravi Somaya and Leslie Kaufman takes a look at several recent stories that have gone viral in a big way, shooting around the web, propelled even faster by pickup in news aggregator sites like The Huffington Post, Gawker, BuzzFeed and Mashable. These stories, all turning out to be either total fiction or major embellishments of truth, included one about a Thanksgiving feud on a recent airline flight, a letter supposedly from a child to Santa, and an essay on poverty that drew $60,000 in donations before the author admitted it was not exactly true. (The writer of the poverty story reportedly said she has no intention of returning any of the donations she received.)
How can these false stories get such widespread play online, each garnering views in the millions? The Times story gives some interesting insights into how and why this can happen again and again.
Many of the online sites don't have fact checkers. Those that do have people stretched too thin to fact check every item the site reposts. Even legitimate and respected news organizations like the broadcast networks and CNN fell victim to a clever prank pulled by Jimmy Kimmel a few months ago, where he reported on a YouTube clip of a woman twerking and accidentally setting herself on fire. It turned out to be a gag by Kimmel's people, but after it went viral and was reported by major media, it ended up with more than 10 million views.
And that's part of the problem. Lots of views. The supposed importance of sites is based on how many views they get, which impacts the rates they can charge advertisers. The battle for numbers of views too often overrides the authenticity of the content they carry.
The editor of Gawker acknowledges in The Times story that there are trade-offs in balancing authenticity with the need to move quickly in this highly-interconnected society where everyone wants to be first with information. And an editor at The Huffington Post told The Times, "If you throw something up without fact-checking and you're the first to put it up, and you get millions and millions of views, and later it's proved false, you still got those views. That's a problem. The incentives are all wrong."
Yes, the incentives are all wrong. I suppose it's not unlike some media that feed on gruesome murder stories. Even if the info is off, the media still get the viewers or sell copies of the paper.
I've referred in the past to the internet as the wild, wild west, where there are few rules. So the caveat remains... Don't believe everything you see online.
One of the areas of specialization in my Public Relations practice is traffic safety. I've been working in this segment of PR for more than 20 years, since I organized and publicized the first World Traffic Safety Symposium for the New York Auto Show.
The Auto Show work led to a contract for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and then the National Road Safety Foundation, a non-profit that produces safe driving educational programs and distributes them free to schools, police and individuals. I've also done work for companies that market traffic safety-related products including one I recently started with -- a just-launched cellphone app called LifeSaver that prevents the user from texting and driving.
I know how big and important an issue texting and distraction is. It's up there as one of the top
causes of traffic crashes... just behind impairment.
A recent Forrester Research study shows that 68 percent of us access the internet from our cars. Hopefully, not all are driving when they do that, but it's easy to see what a big danger cellphones have become for those of us on the road.
The survey also shows that 64 percent go online via mobile devices in our living rooms; 63 percent in restaurants; 61 percent in the bedroom; 51 percent in the kitchen; 50 percent in the bathroom; 45 percent on public transit.
The restaurant figure shows how addicted we've become to being connected. We've all been in restaurants where you'll see a group of people at a table -- all looking down at their phones instead of engaging in conversation with their tablemates. As for the bathroom statistic -- well, I guess going online is yet another way to be productive in the bathroom. Talk about multi-tasking!
George Simpson, who writes for Media Daily News, has a good column on the subject. It'll give you a chuckle as you scratch your head and wonder... "What are we becoming?" Or as Simpson headlines his column: "Sure signs that society is starting to crumble."
Lots has been written about how to get your emails opened. A common bit of advice is to use a tempting subject line. But when you send an email can also make a difference in having it opened and getting a response, according to a survey reported by Lucia
Moses, writing in ADWEEK.
Getting email read is an ongoing challenge for marketers, and it's a real challenge for those of us in PR who pitch stories to people in the media. Email has become the preferred method of contact among reporters and producers, overtaking phone calls and even personal contact. But therein lies our challenge, since an email pitch can get buried in the daily volume of emails, which has gone up by 5.4 percent from a year ago.
I get between 125 - 250 emails every weekday, and I've heard from media people I know who say their email volume can be easily two or three times that amount -- every day.
The survey reported by ADWEEK seems to show that sending an email at night -- after 8 p.m. -- gives you the best chance of having it opened and read within a day. Emails also fare better on weekends when the overall volume is lower. Possibly the worst time to send an email pitch is between 8 a.m. and noon, when 40 percent of all emails are sent.
There are exceptions, of course. If you know the reporter well and he or she normally does repond to your emails, then send it whenever it's best for you. I always try to be clear in my subject line what the message is about, which seems to help.
The internet, email and social media have made the idea of 9 - 5 work hours obsolete, and I'll often see emails from clients and media people sent in the early evening (between 6:30 and 9 p.m.) and on weekends.
Of course, regardless of when you send a pitch, it's got to be succinct and on target. That much hasn't changed, even since the days of telephone pitches and pitches made face-to-face over a lengthy lunch.
"Social Falls Short on Customer Loyalty; Traditional Methods Encouraged"
That headline in a MediaPost story this week caught my eye. It flies in the face of all the hype we've been hearing about the wonders of social media.
The study, which surveyed 5,000 people in the U.S. and western Europe, found that only 18 percent of the respondents felt that their interaction with a large company or its brands via social media would encourage them to buy from that company again. The number slipped down to 15 percent for social media interaction with smaller businesses like local retailers.
The report says social media appears to be one of the least effective means of encouraging customer loyalty and other techniques that are more likely to resonate with consumers should get priority attention and budgeting from marketers and retailers. The other techniques mentioned include a home delivery option, control of channels and frequency of communications received from a company, and a choice of ways to contact the company with questions or problems.
With all the talk about how impactful social media can be when connecting consumers with a company or brand, the survey begs a few questions.
First, could the survey simply be wrong? Might the questions asked have been leading, tilting toward desired responses? The other question is who commissioned the survey and what might they have to gain from a particular set of findings?
Aha! That might be the problem with this survey. It was done for Pitney Bowes, whose mailing equipment products like postage meters are threatened by a reduction in pieces going via the U.S, mail as more promotional pieces and even billing is done electronically via email and other digital platforms.
"Sophisticated social media and Web interaction can be time-consuming and expensive and outcomes are difficult to measure," says the report.
So would our friends at Pitney Bowes have us stay locked into our old methods of interaction, and ignore or avoid new technology?
I think many marketers and their agencies are getting it right as they experiment with social media and other forms of digital communication, while looking for ways to measure and determine the ROI on the new opportunities that the Web afford us.
We also need to show a healthy skepticism when we see surveys, asking who conducted or who paid for the research, and what might they have to lose or gain by its findings?
We all know the power of talk show queen Oprah, whose
endorsement of a book can make it an overnight best-seller.And we know how much Government can do to
push an issue,
harnessing seemingly endless manpower and equally endless
I was part of a project that brought these two awesome forces together this week in
the effort to reduce the death toll from distracted driving by convincing
people not to text or use cell phones while they drive.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood calls distracted
driving “a national epidemic” that is hitting young people especially hard. Nearly 5,900 people died last year in
distracted driving-related crashes, and another half a million were
injured.A disproportionate number of
them are young people, who are the biggest texters.
I’m writing this on the Amtrak as I return home from Washington, where I was
part of this awesome public relations effort.As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I encouraged one of my clients,
The National Road Safety Foundation, to team up with a national coalition of
youth organizations – National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) – to create
a public service announcement on distracted driving.We invited teens to give us their ideas for a
PSA addressing the issue, and the 16-year old whose idea we used was brought to
New York to
participate in the actual production of the 30-second spot.It resonated with the target group of young
people because it was created by a young person rather than by suits sitting in
an ad agency or a corporate office.
Secretary LaHood has supported the effort from the start,
doing TV interviews to promote it, lending his name to our efforts to encourage
teens to participate, and then taking the time Thursday to join us in a news
conference at the National Press Club in Washington, where he personally
thanked the National Road Safety Foundation and introduced to the media both
the new PSA and Bethany Brown, the Arizona high school student who conceived it
for us.He also posted the PSA on his
official blog and on the Dept. of Transportation’s website distraction.gov.
So that’s our part so far in this massive effort.The heavy ammunition was rolled out Friday,
when Oprah devoted her entire show to making people aware of the dangers of
distracted driving and trying hard to convince them to change their behavior
behind the wheel.
She was on all three
network news shows Friday morning, talking about distracted driving and
encouraging people to take a pledge to make their cars a “no-phone zone.”Then, her own show rallied people in five cities
where I was part of a group that went to the Newseum, the museum of journalism,
to support the call for no texting and cell phones whole driving.Oprah’s friend and business partner Gayle
King hosted the D.C. event, and Secretary LaHood stopped by to talk by
satellite with Oprah about his agency’s full support, which includes pushing legislative
and enforcement efforts – 23 states have already enacted no texting while
driving laws, and Secretary LaHood is directing Federal funding to support extensive
police crackdowns in test cities Hartford and Syracuse.Experience shows that changing driving
behavior takes three components – awareness/education, legislation and
enforcement of that legislation.Look at
seat belt and drunk driving efforts.
It’s reminiscent of grass roots efforts some 40 years ago
when outraged families of drunk driving victims began groups like MADD and
SADD.It starts with the telling and
retelling of some tragic stories of innocent people killed by drivers who were
too busy texting or looking at their phones to pay attention to the road until
it was too late. I've met some of these people and heard their stories firsthand and it breaks your heart.
The difference this time is that a media heavyweight like
Oprah is personally involved in the effort.She has the clout and power of persuasion that perhaps simply didn’t
exist 40 years ago.It’s good that she’s
harnessing that clout for a good cause.
Today begins National Youth Traffic Safety Month. If you have a teen at home, encourage him or her to go to the NOYS or NRSF site to find out more.
Several weeks ago, a study came out, followed by a flurry of articles in the trades, talking about consumer resistance to online behavioral targeting. Sixty percent of adults surveyed by researchers at the Universities of California and Pennsylvania said they don't want to be shown ads based on their interests.
That number climbed to nearly 80 percent when the researchers explained how ads are targeted, ie., using information garnered from our actions online. An invasion of privacy, most felt once they learned about behavioral marketing.
Yet advertising and online marketing experts say behavioral marketing will become more commonly used, as marketers with tight budgets try ever harder to rifle-target their ads to hit the most likely prospects.
Some consumer groups have been pressuring Congress to pass legislation that limits online tracking and especially behavioral marketing. Right now there are no laws preventing the sale of online data.
At the same time, other reports show consumers prefer to see ads online that are targeted to their interests.
Can we have it both ways?
Possibly we can, if consumers can be given an easy way to opt out from having their online actions tracked and then used for behavioral targeting. It could be like the no-call option to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls.
Certainly there will be lots more discussion on this subject, probably after some major abuse of online data gets exposed. It's bound to happen eventually.