Friday, December 21, 2012

Netflix + Facebook = One More Financial Faux Pas

Tonight's Guest Post is by Calvin Allen, experienced PR professional and candidate for a Masters Degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at NYU.

Communication snafus of varying degrees happen daily. The foul-up may be hitting “reply all” on a questionable e-mail or Virgin Mobile running an offensive holiday ad. Whichever the case, these events rarely lead to litigation. Unfortunately for Nexflix CEO Reed Hastings, the Securities and Exchange Commission served Hastings with a Wells Notice for posting “material information” on Facebook.
            For those unfamiliar with Wall Street speak, material information is any information that may influence investors to buy or sell stock. Under the Regulation Fair Disclosure Act, known as Reg. FD, material information cannot be selectively released. This rule prevents certain investors from gaining a competitive edge.
            The offending post stated that Netflix members had watched more than a billion hours of content in June.
Posting material information on Facebook is a first offense for Netflix, but Hastings’ problem isn’t unique. In fact, his problem speaks to a larger concern—all employees in publicly held companies should have an understanding of what type of company information can be disseminated via social media.
            Disseminating material information on social media is as much an in-house employee communication issue as it is a financial regulatory concern. As I see it, there are two key steps companies can take to protect themselves:
1. Empowering Social Media Policies: The importance of social media policies has been written about extensively. What is often overlooked is the need to make these policies as empowering as possible. Richard Edelman, of Edelman PR, notes in his blog that employees can be some of the strongest brand advocates. Social media policies should not be about stifling speech, but instead should provide enough guidance for employees to confidently engage in advocacy, promotion and genuine communication.
2. Employee Training: Financial regulation literacy training should be a rite of passage for all employees. Sure, this additional training may add 5 or 10 minutes to the company orientation, but think of all the headaches and very real financial and legal complications that may be prevented later.
            Mixing business and social media can be a litigious minefield—this goes double when you factor in financial communications and regulation. We’d be well advised to learn from Hastings’ ordeal and ensure that our companies offer a basic understanding of disclosure law and have a well-articulated social media policy.
Calvin Allen

Apple Brand Voice

Brand consultants love to use Apple as the paragon of brand consistency. Every product, package, and person from Apple reflects and reinforces the Apple persona. If you ask a roomful of people to write down what adjectives come to mind when you say Apple, they will inevitably produce a narrow cluster of qualities—words related to sleek, efficient, reliable, human, elegant and cool.

And Steve Jobs' yacht?... Well... here it is. What adjectives would you use?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Social Media: Land of the shameless, home of the voyeur?

Tonight's GUEST BLOGGER is Courtney Couch, who raises yet new reservations about social media. What's going on here? Is it back to the age of carrier pigeons for all of us? Let's consider Courtney's concern:

Social media has revolutionized how we communicate. It has transformed marketing and advertising and has even created common acronyms for those who prefer to type three letters instead of three one-syllable words.

Social media is the land where breaking news is on a 24-hour cycle and stories are told by images viewed by millions in an instant. Despite its many wonderful contributions social media has made to society, however, has social media turned us all into voyeurs?

It seems that memes and videos of violent and/or grotesque images are constantly posted to social media sites in which people find humorous and are quick to like, repost, retweet and share. Take, for example, the image of the man who was pushed to his death from the train platform where he was holding on for dear life as a train approached. Instead of bystanders reaching out to help him, a photographer stood nearby and took a picture of the helpless man, which he posted to a social media outlet. This troubling image spread like wildfire.

I’m not pointing any fingers because I too have fallen victim to these very memes and videos. I watch repeatedly in shock—and then share with my friends so we can discuss. I even repost memes that are super funny but definitely obscene. 

Are we enjoying the distress of others, or have we just become so desensitized as a culture that a warped sense of humor is the norm?

Courtney is a grad student by day, a self-proclaimed chef at night and has a background in Entertainment PR.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Are We Self-Conscious or Simply Liars?

Today's (thunderous) GUEST POST is by Sophia Powe—NYU graduate student from my writing class. 

“We are born to be hypocrites,” says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Such a bold statement, I thought, as I turned up the volume on Haidt’s interview with Bill Moyers. “Is he calling me a hypocrite?” I wondered. In a way he was and to an extent, I am guilty as charged—we all are.

Although our minds have evolved since our hunter-gatherer days of instinctual fight or flight, we are still wired for basic tribal behaviors. This need to fit in has turned us into a reputation-obsessed society.

“Our life is the creation of our mind.”—Buddha
“Thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare
“Perception is reality.” – PR Professionals

We can see the evolution of this concept throughout history. It’s as if it’s ingrained in our DNA. We are self-presentation manipulators who value far more what people think of us than who we really are. 

“We lie, cheat and justify so well, we actually believe we’re being honest,” says Haidt, and it affects every aspect of our lives.

In the recent election we were inundated with polls and statistics that seemed to cater to self-serving partisan TV networks. Even in everyday life we see self-presentation manipulation. From falsifying our resumes to “land that big job” to adding people we don’t know to our social networks in an attempt to “look popular,” we do anything to be esteemed by a certain “tribe.”

If this is a sign of our evolution thus far, I cringe at the thought of what the future may hold. No wonder public relations is a growing industry!

Sophia is a reformed banker turned communications professional who lives and works in New York City. She considers herself an ever-evolving product of life and is interested in all things delicious and bizarre.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brandsinger praises new UC logo

The University of California just unveiled a new logo—at which flocks of students, alumni and designers have bleated their horror. They say it's not pretty, not dignified, not tied to our heritage, not whatever. I say, it's wonderfully, jarringly, irreverently different—and that's what it should be.

After all, a logo is a signal. Like the turn signal on a car—Left turn here! I'm turning left!
Or the signal on a light house—Careful, there are rocks over here! 
Or a white flag—Okay, stop shooting, we're done!

So what does the new UC logo signal?—left turn? hidden rocks? surrender? Nah. The new logo signals pure change. We're now different... and getting differenter with each new student who comes here.

Is the thing ugly?—ach, those colors! Is it asymmetrical? Eccentric? I say: it's the logo of a university, not a museum or a graveyard. It's the signal for a place of perpetual youthfulness. The critics should just settle down, have a glass of milk or something, and watch dynamic minds play, try, seek, test, and completely disregard all pretense.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Corporate Culture Worldwide—Really?

Guest blogger number 7 in our 2012 series: Godslove Adagbonyin asserts that aspiring to create one corporate culture worldwide is a... Well, let's hear it in Godslove's own words:

As a global communications professional, I question these recent yearnings for one dominant corporate culture. Although unity is desirable, it is indisputable that in many situations (especially for multinationals) critical, uncontrollable factors such as local culture, political forces, economic needs, and social structure will alter the imported corporate culture.

Thus, the question is: Should an organization’s leaders allow corporate culture to be determined by local stakeholders, or should a single corporate culture be adopted globally, irrespective of the local norms?

There are conflicting answers, but a definition of the term corporate culture may aid our understanding. An article in Forbes describes corporate culture as:
One that links behaviors to relationships, informed by attitudes, built on a rock-solid base of values, and completely appropriate for the environment in which the organization chooses to operate.
Take note: “completely appropriate for the environment in which the organization chooses to operate.”

Therefore, the desire for a central corporate culture may be unenforceable. Brand “Z’s” adopted corporate culture in Africa may not be applicable in Europe. In fact, organizations should be ready to manage multiple corporate cultures across the globe.

Godslove Adagbonyin is a graduate student in NYU's Public Relations and Corporate Communication Program, with special interest in Global Communications and Multicultural Media Relations.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Can a name sabotage a brand?

Today's guest post comes from Priya Shah, who, as will be clear, comes from India and seeks to bring sanity to the misguided marketing strategists of Iceland. 

I read that Iceland is running a contest to find a new name for itself because the current name is discouraging tourists from visiting the country. Also, in recent times Iceland's volcanic eruptions and financial collapse have not helped its tourism industry—hence the desire for rebranding with a new name.

This got me thinking about two things – the role of a name in creating a brand, and the mammoth task of branding a country.

I believe a name has little to do with the attributes of a brand, because if it did, a company like Yahoo! would have never been taken seriously. It is the overall image that an organization creates through its products, marketing and PR that give a certain brand value to the name. However, would corporate branding strategies apply to a nation? Sure.

A country’s political landscape, commerce, culture, tourism and media play a big role in defining a country’s brand. To the Western world, for years my country, India, was known as the land of elephants and snake charmers. It took a lot of effort to lift that image and be recognized as a developing nation. And now again, the country is associated in parts as a nation full of slums (thanks to Slumdog Millionaire *rolling eyes*), and in parts as a nation for cheap labor, outsourcing and IT geeks. The Indian government has started a massive tourism campaign called ‘Incredible India’ to showcase the country’s real beauty which thrives in its diverse landscape and culture.

Strategic branding is very important for countries, but I don’t think a new name would suddenly make a country seem appealing to tourists. Iceland's weakening economy and volcanic eruptions are not going to disappear with the new name. Highlighting the country’s gorgeous pastoral beauty, unique culture and yummy pancakes will surely draw tourists!

Priya Shah is a former journalist turned PR professional from India, currently pursuing her Masters at NYU and trying to find her way in the Big Apple.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coca Cola Counts Calories

Today's guest blogger from NYU is Anisha Padamshi, who questions Coke's response to being implicated in the worldwide obesity epidemic.

Coca Cola has launched a new online tool that tells you how much exercise or housework it will take to burn off the calories in their sugary beverages.

Coke’s Work It Out Calculator not only gives you a calorie count for Coke products, but it recommends exercises you can do to mitigate the calories consumed. For example, a 12-ounce can of Coke has 139 calories which can be worked off in 51 minutes of vacuuming, 34 minutes of table tennis, or 17 minutes of Zumba.
I commend Coca Cola for addressing the danger of diabetes and obesity associated with consuming their products. However, the calculator does not take into account that people come in all shapes and sizes. While I may need to vacuum my apartment for 51 minutes, the same calculation may not apply to my neighbor. 

If health professionals blame Coke for contributing to diabetes and obesity, there is a simple solution to avoid piling on calories and consuming 39 grams of sugar: Refrain from drinking sugary fizzy drinks like Coke altogether.

Furthermore, I think Coke's corporate resources could be better employed on projects that promote physical activities among youth. With such programs, Coca Cola could more positively leverage the company’s brand and resources to make a tangible difference among their target demographic.

Anisha Padamshi left Vancouver, Canada to pursue her Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communication at NYU. She is a world traveler and hopes to be on The Amazing Race one day.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How a Beijinger Survives in New York

Tonight's guest blogger, Sandy Qin, gives us her terse, witty take on the art of framing a challenge.  

I’m a Beijing PR professional in New York City. You might already envision this piece as my personal tragic history. Actually, I’ll talk about how framing can help you find a PR job in another country, and how framing can help attract readers: I didn’t want to bore you with a dogmatic title like “The Power of Framing,” so I framed my title.

When I got my first job interview in the U.S., I worried a lot. I turned to my friend for comfort.
I: I’m not a native-speaker.
He: No. You have an international perspective.
I: Compared to my colleagues, I know so little about America.
He: No. You know much more about China.

He is not a professional communicator (or he has an “external, fresh perspective”), but he masters a key communicating skill: framing. By mentioning “international perspective” other than “non-native speaker,” and “Ms. China” other than “Ms. Ignorance,” he focuses the audience’s attention only on the shining points. How you frame yourself determines how others see you, your product, or your reputation.

George Lakoff will agree with me. Don’t think of an elephant! Think of your strength instead.

Sandy Qin is a masters candidate of PR at New York University and holds two bachelor degrees of Sociology and Economics from Peking University, with interests in reading books, traveling miles, and making friends. (万卷,行万里路,交万种人).

A new message to save Wikipedia

Today's guest blog is from NYU grad student Kaycie East, who has advice for those advertising to keep Wikipedia free of advertising.

Would you donate money to keep Wikipedia available online? How about $30? Maybe $10? Do you even care? You have probably run into these solicitations when you use Wikipedia. 

To me, the first solicitation, highlighted in yellow, is a bit robotic. The dreadful, lurid yellow background reminds me of road construction. The second message, from founder Jimmy Wales, has more passion and personality. He says that Wikipedia "is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others." This helps to position the brand’s identity and promise in our minds. But this one seems informal and incomplete. Like a hurried note left on a refrigerator.

My recommendation is for Wales to cast his solicitation as a simple but dramatic narrative... along these lines:
To our valued Wikipedia users:

Imagine a free, wide-open park where no street vendors can disturb us—where we can gather and share our knowledge with each other. No more imagining—you’re already there: Wikipedia.

Now imagine another park—but one that is crowded, loud, and filled with street vendors yelling at you to buy things. Which park do you prefer?

Like a public park, although free, this special place is costly to keep up. We prefer a street-vendor-free park, don’t you?

Your favorite park is in danger of closing. Please give whatever you can to help keep it open.

Thank you, Jimmy Wales
By Kaycie East. Kaycie is a California native studying to be a PR pro—and a travel and music enthusiast who loves the sun.