Commentary

Should Social Media Sites Monitor Their Platform To Prevent Crime?

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

When teenagers create a mob and then wreck havoc on city streets who is to blame?

If the messages to congregate are sent via Twitter and Facebook, does that mean those sites are responsible in some way?

We’ll soon find out, if politicos in Philadelphia, Pa. have anything to say about it.

Two City Council members, James Kenney and Frank DiCicco, are hopping mad at social media, because they believe it fueled a Center City melee.

A ruckus likely organized through social media

This past Tuesday approximately 150 teens gathered at an urban shopping mall. They damaged a department store then took to the streets. The throng fought amongst themselves, tossed snowballs at cars and pedestrians, and knocked down startled bystanders.

Police rushed to the scene but were initially overwhelmed. Eventually the cops arrested more than a dozen participants who were reportedly charged with disorderly conduct and rioting.

Kenney and DiCiccio have asked the City Council president to sue social media sites, if it is determined they were the means used to organize the dust-up. Kenney is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as having said: “This is urban terrorism. If they’re using those sites to conduct this thuggery, then I want to find out if it’s true, and I want to get the appropriate legal action to get them to warn us.”

Should social media sites intervene to prevent crime?

By all accounts the incident sounds scary. Had I been there, I’m sure I would have been terrified.

But I would not blame social media for the brawl.

Think about it: when thieves use phones to coordinate a heist, is the phone company complicit in the caper? What if the crooks use text messages, or email; does that make it any different?

Is the conveyance through which a crime is planned responsible for prevention of the crime?

I’m no legal eagle, but I don’t see how.

How do you monitor an entire social media platform?

You can argue that Twitter is an open platform where messages enter a public stream that anyone can see. It’s possible to watch the stream and perhaps figure out when people are up to no good.

Maybe so. But who should do the monitoring? Do these council guys expect Twitter, which according to pingdom processes in excess of 40 million tweets on a daily basis, to baby-sit and make reports on the stream? The notion is far-fetched.

Same goes for Facebook, where an estimated 175 million users log on per day, and which has privacy features that can prevent posts from going fully public.

Meanwhile, do we even want social media sites to monitor and make judgments on what we’re posting? Who’s to say if a message harbors criminal intent?

If I write a tweet that says “My neighbor makes so much noise I just want to kill him” should I get reported? The expression “I just want to kill him” is a common expression of anger or blowing off steam.

What if the perpetrators use a code? Suppose the kids who created havoc in Philly had just sent a message that read “Let’s all meet on 8th street.” Based on those words you can’t tell they intend to go on a rampage.

I just don’t see how you can expect the sites to keep a watch over all the content.

Big Twitter is watching?

I understand why the Councilmen are incensed about the melee. It was an outrageous event.

Even so, demanding social media sites do routine surveillance work is spooky.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Should social media sites monitor and report activity that runs across their transoms? Anyone know the legalities here? Please share your thoughts.

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Is This The New Model For Local Journalism?

Posted on February 11, 2010. Filed under: Commentary, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Tom Ferrick Jr., a former columnist and reporter covering government and politics for The Philadelphia Inquirer, believes the continuing demise of in-depth news coverage signals the loss of a check in our national system of checks and balances.

After all, he asserts, democracy is a form of government that relies on an informed citizenry.

So what happens if our sources of investigative news coverage die out?

It’s a scenario he’d rather not live to see.

Tom recently launched a website called Metropolis, with in-depth news, analysis and commentary for the Philadelphia region.

I’m a former journalist and the concept of Metropolis piqued my interest. So I gave Tom a ring and we chatted about his new venture. Here are highlights from our conversation.

Interview with Tom Ferrick, Senior Editor for the website, Metropolis:

What’s the impetus for Metropolis?

Tom: You’re seeing the decline in traditional media. Journalism is still sound but the economic model is failing. And my argument is we’re still fine with breaking news — TV and the newspapers do a good job with breaking news. But it’s the other stuff they used to do — the analysis, the investigations — those kinds of things that are broader. The real hard work. That stuff is diminishing and we sort of end up with this news and information gap.

Locally and regionally, it’s declined, …  so my argument is we’ve got to find a way to fill that void and that’s what this is designed do.

Do you have a content strategy?

Tom: The content is very much local, or regional. It’s a combination of commentary, good analysis, in-depth stories and investigations. That’s the portfolio.

Right now, if you look at the site it has four main components. There’s a main story, a commentary called Publius, which is about politics and government and commentary and analysis of that. VoxPop, which is more personal essays and reflections — people’s voices that reflect life in Philadelphia today. And then I have New and Recommended that points people to other interesting articles. I’d like to expand that over time.

And you picked those four main areas because they are personal interests?

Tom: I spent my whole life covering politics. I played on my strengths. I would not put up a sports site — let’s put it that way. It’s not where I’m at.

How are you getting contributors?

Tom: I advertised on Craig’s’ List and that was mostly for the VoxPop personal essays. I’m getting some of the political commentary that comes over the transom, and rest is people in the business I’ve known for years whom I’ve recruited to write stories. I don’t pay much… $50 for the first article, $75 for the second, and $100 for the third… For the bigger pieces, I can’t pay these people what they’d normally get. But I’ll pay them 400 to 500 bucks. My feeling is free is the new model, but I think if you’re going to ask people to do professional quality work, you can’t ask them to that that for free… If it’s a professional writer, I think you should pay them. Even if it amounts to an honorarium.

Is it self-financed?

Tom: Yes, at this stage.

You’re not soliciting for ads?

Tom: Not yet. I think I have to have an audience before I start charging people [laughs]. It’s a radical idea.

So what’s the economic model?

Tom: My hope is, because this is a non-profit that I’ve established, called the Public Media Lab, there will be a foundation or wealthy individuals who see the value of it and want to see it expand and sustained, and will step forward to provide some funds to operate it.

Well there has been talk of non-profit foundations stepping in to save traditional journalism, as we now know it. Just as an idea; not that a foundation has said they’re going to do it.

Tom: Right. And I think the other side of that is, the economic model for making these kinds of sites go forward has not yet been found. It’s all a process of discovery. I don’t think it’s a good idea in the long run for foundations to pay for news operations. But I think it’s a good idea to provide the research and development money. The seed money.

What’s the case you make? Why should they support you?

Tom: The simple case is this: Good journalism is really important to a good democracy. You need it. It serves a public purpose in that sense. And if we’re sort of headed into the dark ages through the collapse of the big news institutions, you have to ask yourself, what is going to replace it, if anything?

So what do you see as the damage being done? What’s lost?

Tom: The information that citizens need to not only monitor the politicians who are supposed to serve them but can also help the neighborhoods they live in.

One could argue that people just don’t want to read that kind of thing and that’s why you see so little of it nowadays.

Tom: My argument is there is a market. I think this kind of stuff will find a niche.

Do you think what you’re doing can serve as a potential model that may be picked up in other cities?

Tom: I think there is a core of people who see value in what I call American style journalism — which is independent of political party, fact-based, verified. As opposed to a state-run paper or infotainment. And I think the people who practice that type of journalism are going to have to look for new venues to continue to practice that.

As the old ones fall you’re really emerging into an era of experimentation as to what new venues you can find. This is what I am trying to do. There’s a lot of this stuff going on like this around the country.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you think Tom is on the right track with his new venture, Metropolis? Do you think it’s a good model to help save the future of local hard-news journalism. Please share your thoughts. Comments welcome.

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Why You Should Make A New Year’s Social Networking Resolution

Posted on December 17, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Think back on this past year: What had the greatest positive impact on the way you pursue professional endeavors?

I’ll bet plenty of you say social networking. Of the ways people advanced their careers in 2009, it’s number one with a bullet.

Twitter rose like a rocket and was named word of the year. Facebook has in excess of 350 million members and LinkedIn is in the 50 million range.

It’s all about exponential growth: One member entices others to join, who in turn solicit even more people, and so it goes, and keeps going.

Engaging at a distance

Social networks offer many benefits; one of the biggies being the ability to reach any number of people who share similar interests. You tweet, join Facebook groups, get involved in LinkedIn discussions, and so forth, to engage with followers, friends and colleagues.

How very nice. You’re being social.

But it’s all at a distance.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Even so, I propose making a resolution for the coming year to get more social with cyber acquaintances. Have an honest to goodness conversation, and meet, in person, some of the people you’ve come to know online.

Connect in the real world

This thought came to mind after I had a nice long chat with a Twitter pal named Avi. We’ve been following our respective public tweets, retweeting one another and occasionally direct messaging. Avi lives in the Middle East, I’m in the U.S.A. We’re both into web 2.0/social/digital media strategy and technology in general. From just those 140-character messages it’s clear Avi is an insightful, warm and thoughtful person. Part of his Twitter profile reads “believe in giving and help,” so what does that tell you?

Our conversation occurred after I tweeted Avi to let him know I’m working on a post about communications trends for 2010. I asked if he had any thoughts on the topic. He quickly tweeted back; yes, he’d be happy to share, and did I have five minutes for Skype?

I was pleasantly surprised by the offer. Of course I’d love to talk to my faraway friend.

But first I had to get hooked up with Skype, which as it turns out, is quick and simple to do.

Soon we were chatting up a storm. About communications trends, how different our cultures are, and much more. It was immensely enjoyable.

We’re still far apart geographically. However, Avi and I now share a closer connection. He’s not simply a face I see in a photo, but rather a genuine person that I can, from time to time, speak to in real repartee.

Make a resolution to establish more personal engagement in 2010

Avi is one of several individuals I’ve originally encountered through social networks and have subsequently spoken to over the phone. I’ve also met some internet pals in person. It’s great fun and adds another dimension to our relationship.

I highly recommend reaching out to some of your digital acquaintances in 2010. If they’re an international call, check out Skype — as noted, it’s snap to use, not to mention free.

So how about a New Year’s resolution to make your networking even more social through authentic personal engagement?

– Deni Kasrel

Are you up for making this New Year’s resolution? Do you have a story to share about becoming more personally engaged with an online connection? Comments welcome.

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Real-Time And The Search For Relevance

Posted on December 10, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Search Engine Optimization | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If you’ve used Google this week, you may have noticed a “Latest results” section where content is delivered in a dynamic stream. These are real-time updates pulled from various sources, including social media and news sites.

There’s a scroll bar — you can move it up or down to see more items, and if you click the “Latest results” header link, or click “Latest” in the left-hand search options menu, you’ll get a full page of up-to-the-minute results.

The new real-time feature is in response to growing public desire for instant up-to-the minute information; and by the popularity of Twitter, in particular. There’s even a joke going around that if you haven’t heard about something on Twitter, then it hasn’t happened yet.

Google is following the trend.

Millions of changes a day

Earlier this week Google’s blog featured a post titled Relevance meets the real-time web, which explains the how and why of its entry into real-time search.

The company touts its accomplishment, which we are told, is:

“based on more than a dozen new search technologies that enable us to monitor more than a billion documents and process hundreds of millions of real-time changes each day.”

Sounds like a heck of a lot processing, but then, Google’s business is based on crunching billions of bits of information on a regular basis — as of June of this year its engine was estimated to receive 304 million searches per day.

Of course, the results returned for those searches were based on a lag-time between when a piece of information first hits the web and when it gets indexed.  If you searched for a specific term on one day, and then a week later, the results were often similar.

As of December 7, with real-time search, Google tells us:

“Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we’ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page.”

What defines relevancy?

The algorithm for Google’s search engine is tip-top secret (sort of), not to mention constantly changing. However, it is commonly understood that if others think you are worthy — say by linking to your website, or your link in search results gets lots of clicks/traffic — this can help raise your rank in the search engine results page. And yes, there’s more to it and that I am way over-simplifying, still, the gist is that indicators of quality and/or popularity matter.

With real-time flow of information it’s challenging to ascertain what’s deemed good quality. Sure you’ve got retweets, tags, bookmarks and social news sites that can infer a degree of popularity (which is not the same as quality, to be sure). There’s also authority of domain to go by. Regardless, the concept of relevance is harder to pin down when messages are pumping out at a furious pace.

For  instance,  a search for “obama” on the day President Barack Obama personally received the Nobel Peace Prize, you get real-time results like this:

Whatever the result, it moves by fast. If one item offends, or is of little interest, count to three and something new comes into view.

It’s an intriguing way to measure the popular zeitgeist.

And if nothing else, Google’s real-time search results prove that what’s news can merely mean what’s new, and what’s relevant is all relative.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on real-time search? Does it really improve the search experience? Comments welcome.

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The Social Media Smokescreen

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today, at a networking meeting, I met someone involved in marketing and branding. We got to talking about social media, and quicker than you can type a tweet, this guy brought up return on investment.

He asserted, unless you can clearly identify the monetary payback on social media, many brand managers won’t give it the time of day.

Now, I understand that ROI and the bottom-line matter; a lot. Nevertheless, it’s curious how when the subject of social media comes up, you can often count the seconds till ROI is mentioned. Why is that?

What’s with the double-standard?

I’ve not heard a hue and cry over what’s the absolute dollars and cents return on investment for numerous other aspects of marketing communications. Like a sales kit. Or a press release. Or an event sponsorship. Or even a website (unless the site is e-commerce based, though for the sake of this example, I’m referring to a corporate/brand website).

And I shall defer from quibbling over what the exact definition of ROI is — used in this context, the general understanding is that it relates to how much profit are we going to make?

The point isn’t what is or is not ROI, but rather why you must know from the get-go what’s the end-measure for a social media program, when other types of marketing and public relations are not all held to this same standard.

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted” – Albert Einstein

No one’s come up with a formula to accurately surmise the precise profits gained from buzz, brand affinity, or word of mouth. It’s iffy to assign a cash value to a news story that appears about your company, product or service. You don’t necessarily know how much money is generated by a TV or print campaign, either.

I’m not suggesting there’s no reason to gather metrics for social media. There are ways to monitor social media activity and impact. You should benchmark and keep track of how the program is going, and, where possible, identify the return.

It’s more that I’m baffled by this tendency to immediately raise a “where’s the ROI?” beef at the very mention of social media. Which, for those who don’t already know, can drive sales as well as do wonders for brand awareness, customer service, reputation management and search engine optimization (among other things), when properly executed.

A smokescreen tactic?

I wish I had a buck for every article I’ve seen in just these last few months about the ROI of social media. I could take a nice vacation with the windfall.

My hunch is show-me-the-money-or-forget-about-it brand managers/marketers are comfortable with how they’ve been doing things for years. They like the old ways; which are one-way. Social media is two-way. They’re unaccustomed to direct engagement and are terrified of what might come back at them. They fear losing control of their brand.

So a smokescreen gets thrown up due to fear of the new, aversion to risk, and an inability to admit you just plum don’t understand something.

Looks like it boils down to oh-me oh-my rather than ROI.

– Deni Kasrel

Is ROI truly a relevant measure to determine the effectiveness of social media? Do you have experience in calculating the ROI of social media? Please share your stories. Comments welcome.

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Does Online Communication Lead To Offline Isolation?

Posted on November 11, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Figure in shadow (Big Stock Photo)Recently, while at a networking event, talk turned to whether social media and other means of online messaging actually makes us antisocial. That is, if we are so busy Tweeting, Facebooking, text messaging, and otherwise communicating through technology, are we then less eager to converse in person?

Does our ability to instantly send photos and videos to friends mean we are less likely to visit them in real life? Are Facebook family reunions in our future?

New technology, same old debate

The notion that technology leads to antisocial behavior is hardly new. It heated up when the internet and email caught fire. The same speculation happened when the telephone picked up in popularity — we didn’t have to visit our neighbors, or anyone else for that matter, to talk to them anymore; we could just give ‘em a ring.

The rise of social media — where a network aspect encourages a sense of community– intensifies the debate. We can feel as though we are all together even though we are all apart. We enjoy exchanges with friends and followers whom we never meet in person. Ever.

Does technology lead to social isolation?

Does our propensity to connect through technology imply we are more isolated as individuals?

According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the answer is no. Released last week, this report, titled Social Isolation and New Technology, notes:

“Today, the number of Americans who are truly isolated is no different, or at most is only slightly higher than what it was 30 years ago. Few people have no one with whom they can discuss important matters, and even fewer have no one who is especially significant in their lives. The more pronounced social change, since 1985, has occurred in the size and diversity of Americans’ core networks.”

Social media and diversity

Following up on that last sentence is where it really gets interesting. The study concludes that overall, the number and diversity of people with whom we discuss and confide important matters is declining. However, the opposite is true of those who socialize through technology. The study found:

  • People who upload and share photos online are 61% more likely to have discussion partners that cross political lines.
  • Frequent at-home internet users are 53% more likely to have a confidant of a different race.
  • The diversity of core networks tends to be 25% larger for mobile phone users and 15% larger for internet users.

Online we are more color-blind than in real-life. Perhaps having distance between one another makes us more tolerant of our differences.

Correlation between online communication and in-person interaction

As for the notion that communicating through technology leads to lower face-to-face social contact, the study indicates it ain’t necessarily so. Findings include:

  • Internet and mobile phone users are as likely as non-users to talk to their neighbors in-person at least once per month.
  • Internet users are 26% less likely to rely on their neighbors for help with small services, such as household chores, repairs, and lending tools, but they remain as likely to help their neighbors with the same activities.
  • Owners of a mobile phone, frequent internet users at work, and bloggers are more likely to belong to a local voluntary group, such as a neighborhood association, sports league, youth group, church, or social club.

Online community forums make us even more neighborly:

  • 60% of those who use an online neighborhood discussion forum know “all or most” of their neighbors, compared to 40% of Americans.
  • 79% who use an online neighborhood discussion forum talk with neighbors in person at least once a month, compared to 61% of the general population.
  • 43% of those on a neighborhood discussion forum talk to neighbors on the telephone at least once a month, compared to the average of 25%.

It really is social media

Technology is not a bogeyman turning us into isolated shut-ins. On the contrary, communication via the internet, cell phones and social media encourages in-person interaction. And it may make us more tolerant of our individual differences.

In other words, it really does make us more social.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the Pew report on Social Isolation and New Technology? Do the findings surprise or confirm your own opinion on the topic? Comments welcome.

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Why Failure Is Good For You

Posted on October 12, 2009. Filed under: Business Strategy, Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Scared man standing in deep water (Big Stock Photo)Would you attend a talk titled How and Why I Failed?

Many of us are programmed to shirk that one off without a thought.

We want to learn how to succeed.

What about a panel on failure?

A person on a panel I attended at the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009 suggested the event should sponsor a panel on failure.

He noted there is as much, if not more, to be learned in knowing why a project didn’t work out as there is in hearing why one succeeded.

It’s a great point — especially if your aim is to innovate.

Most attempts at innovation fail. If it were easy everyone could do it.

Experimentation is essential to innovation

Experimentation is fundamental to innovation. Testing to see what does or does not work is an ongoing part of the research and development process. There’s an implicit hope that an experiment may uncover heretofore-unknown knowledge that may lead to a new discovery. If not then testing continues.

We should all thank scientists for having this attitude; otherwise we’d suffer from a multitude of ailments that have been eradicated due to dogged trial and error research.

No one bats 1000

In business the fear of failure leads to paralysis and a play it safe mentality, where no one wants to stick his/her neck out and propose something new. You don’t want to be the one who came up with a faulty idea.

Unless your goal is innovate. Then you’re not afraid of failure because you know that’s part of the deal.

No person, or enterprise, bats 1000.

Failure can lead to smashing success

In the late ‘80s early ’90s Apple introduced its infamous Newton.  The device was a PDA (personal digital assistant) before anyone knew what these were or what to do with them. A product ahead of its time, it was also buggy and the Newton failed in the market; big-time.

Two developers of the Newton went on to create the operating system for the first iPods.

The iPhone includes certain elements of the Newton and the rumored Apple tablet, if it is indeed coming to market, will (reputedly) incorporate concepts first introduced via the Newton.

Famous people’s thoughts on failure

Woody Allen, a man whose broken cinematic conventions (and social ones too, but we won’t get into that) said:

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

If Allen isn’t lofty enough for you, then how’s about this one from the great inventor Thomas Edison, who was awarded in excess of 1000 patents:

“I have not failed, not once. I’ve discovered 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

And for good measure I’ll include a quote by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. It’s from a commencement address Jobs gave at Stanford University where he spoke about his ability to learn and move on from failure:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

The secret to success is to learn from failure

I soaked up a lot of information at the Creative Economy Summit, from people who talked about how to succeed through business strategies, social media and new technologies.

But I think that comment about needing to acknowledge and learn from failure may be the most useful insight of all.

– Deni Kasrel

Do YOU think failure is a critical factor to achieve innovation? Is it a secret to success? Comments welcome.

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PR Outcome Measures Need A Reality Check

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The public relations industry has long dealt with the nettlesome fact that much of what PR accomplishes — such as generating buzz and creating affinity toward a brand — is difficult if not impossible to measure.

Meanwhile corporate executives are hot for hard numbers that determine how PR helps specific organizational and project goals. It’s a show me the money mentality.

PRSA logoNaturally, PR people strive to devise ways to create those numbers. Some of this stems from authentic interest in wanting to gauge the real outcome of the effort. Also, in the wake of corporate cutbacks and rising unemployment, the imperative to identify demonstrable results drives the initiative.

Hence the timeliness of a program announced last week in a press release issued by the Public Relations Society of America, which is readying to issue a set of  “recommended metrics and approaches for evaluating public relations’ influence on key business outcomes.”

PRSA posted the proposed recommendations and is soliciting comments via its comPRehension blog.

One overall recommendation is to “shift the conversation away from volume of clips, social media activity and advertising value equivalency, etc., to outcome measures that show how public relations drives business performance.”

Financial Outcomes

To connect PR with elements of financial performance — revenues, profit, efficiency in delivery of message — PRSA says to employ surveys to determine consumer exposure to PR and then correlate that to purchase levels.

Reputation/Brand Equity

To surmise how PR influences customer brand loyalty/satisfaction, enables higher prices, and reduces legal costs, PRSA recommends tying conversations (and tone) in traditional and social media to web analytic data such as registrations, requests for information and sales leads. You should also monitor how PR affects financial analyst opinions and changes in stock price.

Impact on employees

For calculating how PR impacts employee acquisition, retention and productivity, favored tactics include sizing up employee satisfaction, turnover, call response times and sick days, by comparing control groups exposed to PR messages.

Impact on public policy

Means to meter how PR impacts public voter behavior and passage of business regulations include tracking trends, legislative/regulator awareness and voter intent. Then come post-election, conduct surveys to determine actual legislative and voter behavior.

The world is imperfect

FYI, I only covered a smattering of the content.

In a perfect world, it would be great to accomplish all of the recommendations, and have the data collected show a tangible link between the effort and the business outcome.

But outside of online activity, where analytics are readily obtained, it’s tough to truly determine how much consumer activity is related to PR efforts as opposed to being the result of other factors. Even online, it’s not always obvious how and why someone found your brand in the first place. Still, you can count click throughs, links, registrations and requests for information, so there is hard data to be mined.

The public relations influence on a stock price is fleeting; that number is easily affected by general market conditions and what competitors are doing.

I could bang through more examples. The point is, the metrics cited are imperfect and only tell part of the story. There are limits to how well you can measure the numerical (and dollars and cents) effects of reasoning, intent, emotion, loyalty, interaction and conversation. This is why the focus is on surveys, sales figures and public policy. All appear to be good tools for measurement.

Surveys are useful, yet they have flaws. A survey is an opt-in method (this can skew findings). People may misconstrue intent due to how certain questions are phrased. Results can be misread: Just ask the folks who launched “New Coke” about that one.

You can make a correlation between PR and sales, but here again there are intervening factors; like how well the sales-force is trained and whether or not they are communicating the same message as the PR folks are sending.

You can tally up how lawmakers voted, but much of what goes on in politics is, well, political. Legislators are notorious for trading votes (you support my bill and I’ll support yours) hence that statistic is mushy.

A surprising understatement

I was surprised that social media is dealt with only marginally. Really, it feels like attention to social media is tacked on just to show they know it exists.

As noted, the recommendations propose at the outset to shift away from tabulating social media activity. How is this not seen as being related to business outcomes?

The PR industry is undergoing a sea change due to social media. It’s where spheres of influence are deepening. Influence surely affects business outcomes. The proposal, however, is primarily directed at traditional outlets and methods. If the committee that created the recommendations had included someone who is immersed in social media then perhaps they’d have a better handle on its role (the group is comprised of old-schoolers).

There’s no mention of search engine ranking (if it’s somehow implied, it’s not obvious). That’s a big oversight — SEO can play a major role in reputation management.

Meanwhile, I am surprised that PRSA says to steer clear of counting clips. Why not add up how much media attention is received, both online and in print? It’s no more or less a real metric than certain econometric modeling processes (which do get the nod by PRSA).

I do believe it’s worthwhile for PRSA to devise ways to derive quantifiable results connected to corporate performance. However, the organization needs to be more in tune with the reality of shifts in the public relations paradigm.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the new PRSA recommendations for measuring the impact of PR? Is it really possible to assign a dollar value to outcomes of PR programs? Comments welcome.

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What’s Wrong With Being Real?

Posted on September 8, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Last week I posted a piece about trends that are getting lots of attention. Which, in case you missed it, are real-time web, crowdsourcing and latent semantic indexing.

Another trend I thought about including is augmented reality.

digital visionA greater reality

If you break it down linguistically, there’s “augmented,” which according to the American Heritage Dictionary means “to make (something already developed or well under way) greater, as in size, extent, or quantity.” And there’s “reality,” defined as “the quality or state of being actual or true.”

Basically you’re making something that’s actual and true even greater.

007 would love it

One consumer-friendly version of this futuristic innovation applies to next-generation electronics, where if you point a device that’s augmented reality-equipped, it instantly processes what’s being viewed and sends graphics and text specific to that scene. Point the gizmo while standing outside a restaurant (for some reason restaurants are a common example to illustrate this advancement) and you get the skinny on the eatery; a view of the interior, menu, reviews and hours of business.

In another iteration, when you walk though a historic site, as you amble around, the apparatus continuously provides a video-version of what happened way back when, superimposed over the real environment.

The military is hot for augmented reality and there’s talk of serious applications for science.

A tracking device, too?

It’s a ways off till all this hits the market. And while clearly an intriguing concept, which I’m admittedly over-simplifying, augmented reality represents yet another means of digitally tracking our movements: One more instance where we’re giving up privacy for the sake of cool technology.

GPS systems are great, however details that get collected and analyzed in order to give us the information we want are also a record of our travels.

We acknowledge that there’s ultimately no privacy on the web. We can clean our cache and crumble our cookies, but the data remains on a server somewhere.

Give to get

Search engines accept our queries and then display ads based on our input. Our seemingly private emails are processed. I was both humored and surprised a few weeks ago after sending a message to a pal whose nickname is Beanie, when beside her reply, my gmail client dished up ads for bean bags and beanie hats.

One common defense for the latter intrusions is that search and gmail are free services. The quid pro quo is that they get to turn us into chunks of data to mine for advertising and other purposes. It’s out in the open. I get it. It still creeps me out.

Keep it real

The promise of augmented reality is exciting. The privacy trade-off gives me the willies. Makes me wonder, what’s wrong with being real?

– Deni Kasrel

Are you concerned about how new technology affects privacy? Your comments welcome.

Related post:

Three Fast Growing Trends You Need To Pay Attention To

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Why Sending A Letter Beats Email

Posted on August 21, 2009. Filed under: Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Mailing a letter (image from bigstock photo)Today I did something that I’ve not done in a while. I composed a letter, signed it with a pen and put it in a mailbox.

As is the norm anymore my main mode of correspondence is the digital kind. It’s easier to dash off an email and hit send.

I wrote the letter because a friend of mine isn’t really into email. He offered to pass my resume on to an acquaintance who may be able to assist in my job search. So there you go: Paper letter and resume it is.

The process of creating this hard copy dispatch—along with penning a real signature, folding the paper, addressing and sealing the envelope—felt different than the expediency of internet communication. There will be no email trail or online back and forth. Any response will be via real conversation.

How quaint.

This got me thinking about what goes missing when we lose the art of letter writing.

There are libraries with books, boxes and files of letters written by famous people: Mozart, Galileo, Vincent Van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickenson and plenty more. Reading the letters of these luminaries sheds light on the person and the times they lived in. A book of email messages can’t have anywhere near the same insight or impact.

And wherefore goes the love letter? A piece of paper to be read, reread, saved and cherished. A love email? Not even close.

A letter on stationary or a note card is something that we touch. It’s personal because we hold it in our hand. That’s a different experience than reading a computer or smart phone screen.

A letter holds more gravitas than email. We’ve all heard the request, “put it in writing.”

The act of writing a letter often leads to more complete and thoughtful correspondence. With email we like to get to the point quick. With texting, even quicker.

It’s funny to think that if you want to stand out from the pack these days sending a paper letter might do the trick. Everyone else is online.

-Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the lost art of letter writing? Comments welcome.

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