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Holtz Communications + Technology | Blog

blogging at the intersection of communication and technology

Published: 2017-01-17T01:34:00+00:00


FIR Podcast #70: Capitalizing on Insults


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Chris Christensen and Jen Phillips joined host Shel Holtz to discuss these topics: Most employees don’t know what makes their company different from the competition — and can’t explain it to customers U.S. travelers make 140 different website visits (on average) before booking a trip. Do you know your customers’ path before they make a decision on your product or service? Some companies have turned insults and attacks by the President-elect into badges of honor — and merchandise for sale. Getting people to share your content isn’t as big a deal as some marketers think. What does it take to amplify your content (and what should we be measuring)? Tech correspondent Dan York follows up on the Amazon Echo ecosystem and reports on China’s notice to app developers, Facebook’s fake news filter rolling out in Germany, a change to then notification on Facebook that a post has been edited, The panel also discusses the Amazon Alexa’s dominance at CES (while VR struggled to capture marketers’ attention) Jen found an Alexa-like product in development aimed at seniors A study found investors pay attention to company tweets, and there’s a difference between how the react to good and bad news The Washington Post has introduced a newsletter that summarizes reader comments. There’s a business model there for brands and agencies. Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @chris2x and @jenzings. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. FIR is recorded using Zencastr. About today’s panel: Chris Christensen is the CEO at, a website that helps connect companies with relevant bloggers, writers, podcasters, videographers, and other content creators. He’s also the host of the Amateur Traveler Podcast, which he’s been producing almost as long as this show, since June 2005. Chris is also a coder; he was a director of Engineering for TripAdvisor, Executive VP of Engineering and Operations for LiveWorld, and a manager at Apple, designing and programming server solutions. Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the principal at 4L Strategies, consulting and providing content development for a variety of industries. She has worked in communications and public affairs for 20 years. Her background includes work in electoral politics, government, lobbying, and public affairs PR work. [...]

Friday Wrap #201: Can you hear this? Alexa stole the show at CES


I extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing. Alerts Employee engagement webinar—January 26, I’ll share 10 innovative and unexpected tactics communicators can employ immediately to build engagement. I’ll also talk about how engagement fits in a broader employee communication strategy designed to deliver bottom-line business results and distribute a tip sheet. Your registration covers you and all the members of your team or department. Register Integrated marketing panel—I’m excited to participate in a panel with SNCR founder Jen McClure and Alex Parkinson of The Conference Board, as well as Monique Edmonson from Cisco, at a complimentary luncheon and research briefing presented by SNCR of The Conference Board and hosted by Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, CA on January 18th from 12-2 pm The focus is “Unlocking Value from Integrated Corporate Communications & Marketing.” Register News Trump disses pharmas, stocks plunge—Bernie Sanders promoted the idea that pharmaceutical companies should have to bid for government business and the markets yawned. President-Elect Donald Trump said it and the markets freaked out. At his New York press conference, Trump said, “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to save billions of dollars.” The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index dropped 3 points and the S&P 500 Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology, and Life Sciences Index fell 1.7%, the biggest one-day drop for both indexes since October. Bristol-Myers Squibb fell 5.3% and Novo Nordisk tumbled 5.2%. The takeaway: Wait, really? You still don’t have a communication plan for responding to a Trump attack? Were you waiting for an engraved invitation? Read more Twitter dumps dashboard—The app Twitter introduced in June for brands to manage their multiple Twitter accounts will be shut down effective February 3. No specific reason was given, though VentureBeat notes Dashboard wasn’t really ready for primetime. The takeaway: If you were using Dashboard, consider a more robust social media management tool like Sprinklr (high end) or Hootsuite. Twitter has a history of being fickle with these things. (Developers are still smarting over Twitter revoking the APIs on which they had built successful apps.) Read more Facebook launches its own version of Snapchat Discover—Later on in this update, in the “Fake News” section, you’ll read about Facebook’s initiative to address fake news. The launch of a new product that lets publishers select a cover video or image that serves as the gateway to a selection of Instant Articles through which users can swipe. Users can also subscribe to be notified when new updates are available. These story packages—not unlike the ones available in Snapchat’s Discover—are rolling out first with 10 media partners, including BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, Fox News, and USA Today. The takeaway: Whether users will be drawn to these packages is an open question, but if they do, they could usher in a whole new way to consume news and maybe, just maybe, reduce the opportunity to see fake news. In any case, I would like to see the feature rolled out to brands seeking to create immersive experiences on their Facebook Pages. Read more WaPo newsletter features best reader comments—Here’s an idea a lot of companies should consider emulating. The Washington Post is introducing a weekly newsletter that will share some of the best comments the paper has received. “The newsletter will have three parts: one major conversation, a few popular comments from across the site, and then two or three places where you can go right now to join a discussion,” writes the Post’s Taylor Schena. The takeaway: People still love email newsletters, and you could collect comments from your Facebook page, LinkedI[...]

FIR Podcast #69: Shut Up Already, Mariah Carey


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Three IABC Fellows — Priya Bates, John Deveney, and Mark Schumann — joined Shel Holtz for this week’s FIR to talk about these topics: More on how companies can prepare for the prospect of a tweeted attack by the President of the United States Companies bucking the vitriol trend by creating TV commercials that spotlight inclusion of Muslims With Facebook Live gaining steam, some companies are expecting employees to know how to host a live video Mariah Carey’s handling of her lib-synching debacle on New Year’s Eve isn’t exactly a crisis communication case study (unless you want to stay in the story cycle) IBM’s Watson is replacing white-collar workers at a Japanese insurance company. The communication implications are coming for pretty much every company Is the PR/communication industry ready for voice to be the next big digital platform? Tech correspondent Dan York follows up on his participation as a panelist in last week’s show, including the unmasking of a Go champion as a Google AI program; he also reports on database security and Russia’s demand for Apple and Google to remove the LinkedIn app from their app stores Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @priyabates, @johndeveney, and @dmarkschumann. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. FIR is recorded using Zencastr. About today’s panel: All of this week’s panelists are IABC Fellows who participate regularly in the Circle of Fellows broadcast/podcast here on the FIR Podcast Network. Priya Bates is a senior communication executive who provides strategic internal communication counsel in order to ensure leaders, managers, and employees understand the strategy, believe in the vision, act in accordance to the values, and contribute to business results. She is president of Inner Strength Communications in Toronto, and previously served as senior director of Internal Communications at Loblaw Companies Limited. In 1996, while on the fast track to a partnership in a growing PR agency, John Deveney opted to strike out on his own and form Deveney, a process and a practice that embraces the soundest principles, the newest media, and the most innovative technologies. Based in New Orleans, Deveney is particularly strong in the areas of crisis, healthcare, tourism, and hospitality. (After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, John led the only on-site communication operation and media center for both the City of New Orleans and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.) Mark Schumann is the director of graduate business communication programs for the Zzicklin School of Business at Baruch College, City University of New York. He is also founder and principal of re-communicate. Most recently, he was VP of marketing and communications for Western Connecticut Health Network. He served as IABC’s chair in 2009-2010 and is currently IABC’s liaison to the Global Alliance. He was a managing principal and global communication practice leader at Towers Perrin for 26 years. [...]

Companies must prepare for the possibility of a Trump Crisis


Companies face all kinds of crises but it has been a while since brands have had to add a new category to the list. In addition to financial, technological and natural crises, crises of deception, workplace violence, self-inflicted crises and crises of malevolence, companies now have to contend with the Trump crisis. Crisis experts are already talking about the Trump crisis, which companies face when the President-Elect takes aim at a company, usually through a tweet. Some argue that speed matters. Golin Corporate Communications President Scott Farrell told The New York Times, “The only thing that applies, no matter what the issue, is speed. Slow kills companies fast in a Twitter conversation.” Still, some companies have opted for more circumspect responses. The fact is, an attack on a business by the leader of the free world is uncharted territory and coming from Trump makes it worse than if it had come from, say, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, or Woodrow Wilson. Trump has an army of trolls poised to attack companies that Trump targets or that articulate anything that might be construed as opposition to his agenda. The consequences can range from a hit to share price to a flurry of fake news stories and calls for boycotts. Trump’s motives for leveling attacks on companies are anybody’s guess. Some suggest that he goes after companies against which he harbors a grudge. His tweet taking on Boeing came a mere 20 minutes after Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg mildly criticized the president elect’s China rhetoric. One writer wonders if someone might be profiting on Trump’s attacks mere moments before he launches one, noting that a rant aimed at Lockheed Martin came only six minutes after someone dumped shares resulting in a four-percent drop in its stock, erasing $4 billion in value. (Who wouldn’t love to be a fly on the wall of the Securities and Exchange Commission right about now?) Still others assume Trump has long-standing grudges against some of the companies that have been targets of his wrath. Motives aside, however, Trump’s attacks can have severe consequences. Lockheed Martin, for example, recovered only half of its losses by the end of trading on the day of the tweet. Reuters crafted some charts that show how share prices performed in the wake of Trump’s tweets. (So far, more have performed well than have lost value. Toyota and Lockheed Martin failed to recover losses while General Motors, Boeing, Rexnord, United Technologies, and Ford all ended the day in positive territory.) A sampling of organizations’ responses to Trump criticism H&R Block—At the outset of his campaign in August 2015, Trump said he hoped to put “put H&R Block out of business” with a simpler tax code. Rather than respond immediately, the company considered its options, then launched the most expensive advertising campaign in its history, including its first-ever use of a celebrity spokesperson (actor Jon Hamm). CEO Bill Cobb noted that “The tax code was pretty simple in 1955, yet people have always come here for help.” Toyota—Trump’s attack on Toyota for the plant it is building in Mexico seems particularly off-base, given that Toyota is a Japanese company, not an American one. Toyota handled the criticism deftly, ignoring the tariff threat and pointing out through multiple channels (including Twitter) that the company is heavily invested in U.S. manufacturing and exports a lot of American-built cars to 40 countries while its U.S. imports from Mexico are the smallest in the industry. “Toyota looks forward to collaborating with the Trump Administration to serve in the best interests of consumers and the automotive industry,” Toyota said in a media statement. Trump’s Toyota attack provoked responses from Japan’s chief government spokesman and its finance minister. Boeing—Several hours after Trump’s criti[...]

Friday Wrap #200: Wendy’s rules Twitter, coping with fake news, a deceptive Instagram account & more


I extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing. Webinar Alert On January 26, I’ll share 10 innovative and unexpected tactics communicators can employ immediately to build engagement. I’ll also talk about how engagement fits in a broader employee communication strategy designed to deliver bottom-line business results and distribute a tip sheet. Register News Medium’s new trajectory—Twitter-co-founder Ev Williams announced a pivot for Medium, the publishing platform he founded. Included in the shift is the elimination of one-third of the company’s employees and the end of native advertising as a source of income (which apparently came as a surprise to some of the companies that bought native ad space on Medium). In a rambling, somewhat coherent post, Williams touted growth in the number of posts published to the platform, including several by major influencers writing important stuff. Advertising, though, isn’t working for Medium, so the company is trying something new, something that rewards writers who attract attention. What the new model will be has yet to be defined. The takeaway: Despite its woes, I’m a Medium fan. I hope this works. There are other platforms trying to reward content creators, like the blockchain-based Steemit social network. The idea sounds great. Making it work might be harder than anyone thinks. Read more Did Snap mislead investors?—That’s the accusation from a former employee who has filed a lawsuit against the company. The ex-employee claims he was fired because he wouldn’t participate in misrepresenting the company’s growth. He asserts those same misrepresentations were used to lure him away from his previous job at Facebook. He claims to have urged executives to fix the problem. Snap denies the allegations. The takeaway: You have to believe the former employee has evidence to support his allegations. What investors will want to know is just how much the company’s growth was exaggerated. Don’t expect Snapchat users to abandon the app over this, though. Read more In France workers can shrug off after-hour emails—A new employment law in France requires companies with staffs of more than 50 “to negotiate the terms of sending work emails after hours and define the rights of employees to ignore such communication.” The goal is to address the “always-on” work culture and give workers the “right to disconnect.” The takeaway: When business fails to self-regulate, government will step in and do it for them…and business almost always fails to self-regulate. Non-French companies should address the expectation that employees are at work even when they’re not before they’re forced to comply with regulations that could be more onerous than they need to be. Read more Google wants to become intermediary between YouTube creators and brands—That’s a role agencies have been playing as brands have turned to YouTube creators to deliver eyeball-grabbing content. Through an initiative called YouTube Labs, Google has begun connecting brands with creators. Unlike agencies, Google isn’t taking any fees for linking companies like L’Oreal to creative talent; they make their money from the ads that run on the videos. The takeaway: More competition for traditional third parties, which need to figure out new ways to deliver value to clients who no longer need them for some traditional activities. Read more App alerts you when Trump tweets about companies—When President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted his ire at Toyota’s plans to build cars in a new plant in Mexico, the market responded with a sudden drop in the company’s share price. For investors, knowing Trump tweeted or said something that could have an impact on share price̵[...]

Voice tech is the new interface to everything


If you want an influencer to have conversations about your products with her followers, you can pony up some big bucks and hope she has the time to engage with each and every fan who reaches out to her. Or you can do what CoverGirl did. After getting 16-year-old dancer, model and TV personality Kalani Hilliker onboard, they studied her conversational style across her various social media accounts, then unveiled a chatbot on the Kik mobile messaging platform that simulates conversation with her. Hilliker has 3.3 million followers on Instagram alone. A lot of her fans flocked to the clearly-labeled chatbot, generating 14 times more conversations than with a typical post by the real Ms. Hilliker. The conversations were 91% positive. Each conversation produced an average of 17 messages. Nearly half led to the delivery of a CoverGirl coupon. More than half the coupons delivered were clicked on. Welcome to the conversation frontier. Chatbots—programs that simulate human conversation—are nothing new. They were first proposed in a 1950 paper by British computer scientist Alan Turing. When I first wrote about chatbots, a colleague noted wryly that he had written code for chatbots in the 1990s. Those automated customer support avatars on websites? Chatbots. What has changed to suddenly make chatbots the hot new marketing platform? Mobile messaging apps—Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, Slack, and other mobile messaging apps are natural platforms for bots. It’s why Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other tech titans have gone all-in with conversation technology. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, has proclaimed that bots are the new apps. “People-to-people conversations, people-to-digital assistants, people-to-bots…that’s the world you’re going to get to see in the years to come,” he said. As of right now, there are some 30,000 bots on the Messenger platform alone. These bots deliver news, handle commerce, summon Uber cars, play games, handle banking chores, make doctor appointments, and much, much more. Artificial Intelligence—Until recently, bots were limited by the scripts written for them. If you did not query or respond with exactly the right words, you got a default that asked you to rephrase the question correctly. AI, however, enables bots to understand natural language no matter how a query or reply is phrased. AI can also learn the more it interacts with people. A recent survey found 80% of marketing executives believe AI will revolutionize marketing within the next three years. Science fiction fans hear the term “AI” and think about Skynet. I have good friends who insist the next big tech phase, enabled by AI, will be Augmented Reality (which will, in fact, be a big deal). But conversation will be the most ubiquitous consumer technology AI will deliver. Voice tech—Amazon ran out of its Echo voice appliance during the just-ended holiday shopping season, shipping 9 times more than in 2015, easily in the millions. A report in November estimated that 5.1 million Echo devices had already been sold in the U.S. Add to that the sales of Google’s competing device, Google Home, which runs on the AI-fueled Google Assistant. Both of these devices (and new competitors waiting in the wings)—along with smartphone and computer-based voice tools like Siri and Cortana—are just AI chatbots with voices. Even Mattel’s Barbie doll is being morphed into a voice tech appliance via the Hello Barbie doll, lets girls hold conversations with their dolls. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Whether we access them by talking or tapping into our phones, talking to our home voice-tech appliances, or talking to our AR headsets, we will use bots to accomplish most everything that requires more laborious inputs today. We won’t type sear[...]

FIR Podcast #68: Did any of us actually say any of this?


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Artificial Intelligence is on the panel’s mind — among other things — as C.C. Chapman, Neville Hobson, and Dan York join Shel Holtz for the first episode of 2017 and the beginning of our 13th consecutive year of podcasting. Here’s the rundown: The incoming press secretary for President-Elect Donald Trump has warned us not to expect business as usual when it comes to the administration’s relationship with the media. What does that bode for the press’s ability to hold the administration accountable — and will the philosophy extend beyond the White House to business? Some businesses have begun preparing for unexpected criticism from President Trump while others have already had to respond. Crisis experts are advising companies to add presidential jabs to the list of potential crises for which they must prepare. Five industries are under threat from technology, according to the Financial Times: travel agents, small component manufacturers and distributors, auto insurers, financial advisers, and auto repair garages. How can they prepare (or can they)? Artificial Intelligence will soon make it possible to create fake video with little effort. Think fake news is a problem now? Just wait. Edelman Digital is out with its 2017 trends report. Among the issues the report raises, the panel was particularly interested in bots and conversational experiences, blockchain, and over-the-top entertainment. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asked users what they wanted to see Twitter improve or create in 2017. He got answers (including one from longtime social tech leader Anil Dash). In the meantime, does Twitter know yet what it wants to be when it grows up (and will its recently announced live 360 video make a difference)? Apple has published is first Artificial Intelligence paper. Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @cc_chapman, @jangles, and @danyork. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. FIR is recorded using Zencastr. About today’s panel: C.C. Chapman is a bestselling author and agile, performance-based marketer with over 15 years of experience in marketing and emerging technologies. C.C. is the author Content Rules (co-authored with Ann Handley) and Amazing Things Will Happen. C.C. has specialized skills in conference speaking, creative development, social media marketing, online direct response, working with large brands in helping them understand how to apply emerging technologies and social learnings to their marketing plans. Neville Hobson co-hosted this show for 10 years and 8 months, from its inception through October 2015. Neville is based in Bracknell, outside of London in England where he works as a senior business consultant for IBM Social Consulting. Neville has spent much of his career analyzing trends, behaviors and practices in digital communication. As an independent consultant before joining IBM, he focused on social business, the collaborative economy, wearable technologies, and the professionalism of PR. He also held a position with WCG as head of social media for Europe, and was VP of Corporate Communication for Scala Business Solutions in Amsterdam. Dan York, Host of FIR on TechnologyDan York, FIR’s tech correspondent and host of the occasional “FIR On Technology” podcast, is a passionate advocate for the open Internet, focused on helping people understand the changes going on all around us within communication technology and practices. Dan currently serves the Internet Society as the Senior Content Strategist, creating, curating and promoting online content that helps service providers, companies and individuals more quickly deploy Internet technologies such as IPv6 and DNSSEC. Separately, Dan is also the Chairman of the global Voice Over IP Security Alliance (VOIPSA). Dan is also active with[...]

Friday Wrap #199: Echo witnesses a murder, Russia protests via meme, brands prep for Trump attacks


This is traditionally a slow news week, so it’s a shorter-than-usual Wrap this week (and likely next week, as well, unless CES delivers some surprises). I extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing. Webinar Alert No, engagement isn’t dead—I have been surprised to see so many articles proclaiming the death of employee engagement. The data they cite is fine; the conclusions they draw are absurd. While employees may not seek engagement, they do crave the things that engage them. And while too many surveys are more focused on producing great engagement scores than identifying issues, there’s no doubt that companies with engaged employees outperform their competitors. In a fast-paced webinar on January 26, I’ll share some innovative and unexpected tactics communicators can employ immediately to build engagement. I’ll also talk about how engagement fits in a broader employee communication strategy designed to deliver bottom-line business results. Register News 360 video comes to Periscope—It was only about a week ago that Facebook announced 360-degree video functionality on Facebook Live. Now Twitter has introduced 360 video, but so far only from celebrities and “interesting broadcasters.” Twitter says the feature will get you “an inside look with well-known personalities and go behind the scenes at exclusive events.” Twitter says 360 video on Periscope will roll out to everyone soon. The takeaway: Novelty or important expansion of live online video? We will no doubt see plenty of pointless live 360 videos, but those who understand how to use it to connect more deeply with others will attract new fans and push boundaries. Read more Amazon resists police request for Echo data—Police investigating an Arkansas murder wanted to know what the Amazon Echo at the scene might have heard in the hours leading up to the crime. Police obtained a search warrant, but Amazon has declined to hand over the data, claiming “Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” The takeaway: We’re getting accustomed to law enforcement wanting access to a suspect’s phone. As we interact increasingly with voice tech, which is cloud-based, companies like Amazon will find themselves facing demands for data not on the phone but on their servers. This raises all kinds of questions about privacy. Read more Russian embassy responds to sanctions with a meme—If some senior stick-in-the-mud at your organization has rejected your idea for a meme as a communication tactic, you can now point to the Russian embassy’s use of one in a dead-serious standoff over the election hacks revealed by the U.S. intelligence community. When President Obama announced sanctions, the embassy in London tweeted its contempt for the move and included a picture of a baby duck with the word LAME superimposed over it. The takeaway: Politics aside, this is a strong indication that the standard means of conveying messages online are becoming acceptable in just about any circumstance. Tell your CMO or CEO to get with it. And yes, emojis are perfectly acceptable in business communication. Read more Czech Republic takes on fake news—A new counter-terrorism unit tasked with fighting foreign disinformation campaigns (aka, fake news) has been created in the Czech republic. The unit will monitor internal security threats and disinformation campaigns related to internal security. The creation of the unit comes on the heels of a September intelligence service report that labeled Russian disinformation and cyber-espionage activities a thr[...]

FIR Podcast #67: Let’s launch a startup!


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Not much news of interest to communicators is reported over the holidays, so Ayelet Baron, Eden Spodek, and Brad Whitworth joined host Shel Holtz for a higher-level conversation on these topics: Science kits from GE integrate with the Amazon Echo. How far can this kind of integration of cloud-based AI voice tech and real-world products go? Mark Zuckerberg admits Facebook is a media company, albeit a new kind of media company. What might this mean for fake news (in the wake of a nuclear threat in response to a fake news story)? Is creating a startup a realistic goal for your very first job? How can companies attract young workers who are more inclined to try the startup path? (Is a 10-second Snap Spectacles video enough?) Dan York reports on Facebook Live Audio. Only about half of employees embrace their companies’ strategic narrative. Communicators have their work cut out for them. A new report says companies in crisis should apologize quickly, but corporate cultures have to change before CEOs will take that step. And speaking of corporate cultures, can they change enough to allow for whistleblowers and prevent suicide from overwork? Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @ayeletb, @edenspodek, and @bradwhitworth. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. FIR is recorded using Zencastr. About today’s panel: Ayelet Baron is the author of “Our Journey To Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21st Century,” published just last month. She is co-creator of CreatingIs LLC. Ayelet is passionate about ushering a new path for business as a force of good by helping 21st century leaders imagine what’s possible. She has been building community her entire life and believes trust, relationships and community are the new currencies for today’s human-to-human purpose and experience driven era. Author of Our Journey to Business Common Sense. She spent 15 years at Cisco Systems, most recently as Vice President of Strategy, Innovation and Transformation for Cisco Systems Canada. Ayelet recently was honored with Watermark’s Women Who Make the Mark Award. She was an innovator in residence at Roche, working on the product development innovation leadership team designing and implementing a connected network strategy. Eden Spodek, founder & CEO, Eden Spodek Inc. is an award-winning digital communications and social media marketing strategist with more than 25 years of experience on the client and agency side in several verticals. In 2010, she launched her own digital consultancy practice and is a blogger, podcaster and community leader. In 2015, she worked tirelessly on a successful Kickstarter campaign and has been invited to advise on others. Eden co-developed the Digital Strategy and Communications Management certificate program at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. This week, Eden is hosting a free webinar, the A to Z Blueprint for Planning, Building and Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign. She’s an active participant in the digital community and was lead co-organizer of PodCamp Toronto for five years. A sought-after speaker, Eden is frequently invited to join panel discussions and speak at a variety of workshops and conferences. Eden is the co-host of the technology podcast, Ada’s Sisters. Brad Whitworth, a communication coach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, was most recently senior communication manager at Cisco Systems. Brad joined Cisco in 2007 and today leads integrated communication for the part of the company that builds partner ecosystems for new markets. Before Cisco, Brad led communication programs at HP, PeopleSoft and AAA. He earned undergraduate degrees in both journalism and speech at the Uni[...]

Much ado about an entirely acceptable synonym


When staffers at the Internet Society took to their personal social media accounts to voice their support for the Society’s position on handing off oversight of the Internet’s domain name to ICANN, they weren’t pitching anything. The Society wasn’t selling anything, nor did it enroll employees in trying to help pitch anything. These were highly engaged employees who took it upon themselves to help people in their networks understand a complicated and misunderstood issue. Increasingly, companies are voicing positions on issues that affect society. In recent months we have seen companies take sides on transgender bathroom rights, religious liberty laws, global warming, and a variety of other causes. Where most organizations once stayed silent rather than risk the ire of some customers and other stakeholders, leaders recognize that stakeholders now make a purchase, investment, and employment decisions based on a company’s demonstrated commitment to their values and their resolve to make the world a better place. Even company values statements—once worthy of little more than a yawn—can now provoke hostile reactions. Consider the blowback Kellogg’s got when it blacklisted alt-right “news” site from its advertising because it conflicted with the company’s values of inclusion: Breitbart launched a boycott of Kellogg’s products and began publishing defamatory stories. It’s little surprise that highly engaged employees are inclined to promote their companies’ positions, which fits one definition of the word “advocacy.” But it’s not the only definition. I raise the issue because of a back-and-forth I had with a fellow communicator who took exception to my use of the word. In a post on the internal communications site IC Kollectif, I said (as part of a longer passage), “(Internal communicators) need to be the drivers of employee advocacy while steering the organization through times of crisis and change.” My colleague’s objection is based on her view that the word “advocate” is confined to the noble act of standing up for a cause, such as a mental health advocate or a victim’s rights advocate. Somehow, referring to employee advocacy is a belittling of that kind of advocacy rather than just employing an entirely acceptable synonym. I have not been able to find a dictionary that does not define an advocate solely as one who supports or defends a person or cause. In fact,‘s first definition (for the verb form of the word) is “to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.” Merriam-Webster‘s third definition of the noun is “one that support or promotes the interests of another.” The OED says the verb means, “Publicly recommend or support.” I also pointed out that the term “employee ambassador program” about 1,900 Google search results, while gets more than 10 times that number, about 20,400. That, my colleague says, is because mercenary consultants selling their services are pushing the term. When I hear from a company looking for help, however, it’s the company communicator who asks if I have experience with internal advocacy programs, not the other way around. There are plenty of case studies of internal staff touting their advocacy programs, like this one from Rackspace. Even organizations like IABC, which represent communicators, have no problem referring to employee advocacy, as they did in this Twitter chat and this article. The most troubling of the assertions about internal advocacy programs is that they are cynical ploys by companies to enlist employees in shameless marketing communications, thus demeaning the cher[...]