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Holtz Communications + Technology | Blog

blogging at the intersection of communication and technology

Published: 2017-09-18T23:00:00+00:00


FIR #105: Center Stage for Credible Sources




Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network

Neville and Shel got together for the September edition of The Hobson & Holtz Report to talk about these topics:

  • The self-inflicted downfall of the UK PR agency, Bell Pottinger (and kudos to the PRCA for putting teeth in its ethics code)
  • How various fields will be affected by speech recognition (including PR and communications)
  • Mitch Joel’s open letter to the advertising industry: Let’s not mess up ads for voice
  • The proliferation of fake scientific journals (and what it means for the PR industry)
  • The Pew Research Center has identified five “types” of people who search for facts and information, with implications for content marketing
  • Are Americanisms killing British English (and does it matter)?
  • In his Tech Report, Dan York explains why “Gutenberg,” the WordPress editor, may take longer than expected to appear. Dan also talks about the launch of the new Internet Society website.

Connect with Neville on Twitter at @jangles. Listen to his podcast, The Small Data Forum.

Links to the source material for this episode are on”>Contentle.

Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music.

About Neville Hobson:

(image) Neville Hobson was co-host of The Hobson & Holtz Report for over 10 years. For over 15 years, Neville has been a voice of experience and influence when it comes to speaking about digital technologies, disruptive change in workplaces and marketplaces, relevant trends to pay close attention to, and what it all means for your business. His experiences embrace deep understanding and subject-matter expertise in contemporary business issues that include social, digital and cognitive technologies, connecting that with a career in traditional public relations, marketing communication, employee, compensation and benefits communication, and investor relations. Based in the Thames Valley some 30 miles west of London, Neville works either from his home office, or from a client’s location; or from wherever he has a good network connection.


Friday Wrap #231: Cookie wars, business social network and chat wars, PR’s climate change influence


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. The Big Stories Unleash your superhero with AI—“Every PR person who manages to surf the new AI wave will get instant superpowers, including the ability to predict the future,” according to this VentureBeat piece. The article gives a big shout-out to Shift Communications for using “AI and machine learning in predictive analytics, text mining, and advanced attribution. During a recent client crisis, Shift was able to crunch more than 15,000 content-rich blogs for a medical client in just 1.5 seconds to identify insights, trends, and keywords in hopes to identify the root cause of a situation. Through the process, Shift was able to uncover an entirely different reputation issue that the client is now able to address.” The piece also notes that the big agencies are lagging far behind, which can only put smiles on the faces of Shift’s leaders. Read more How not to launch a business—Two former Googlers introduced their startup, Bodega, with a vision of rendering “centralized shopping locations” (that is, mom-and-pop owners of real bodegas) obsolete. Owners of bodegas, their customers, and a wide range of others provided epic backlash to the idea, which is essentially a vending machine that watches you while you make your purchase. One of the co-founders backtracked a day later, but the outrage didn’t subside. The reaction signals a growing weariness and skepticism around Silicon Valley startups that attract huge amounts of money for iffy ideas that don’t address a real need. Read more Pew identifies personas of information seekers—People don’t all look for facts and information from the same starting point. Pew Research has identified five categories of Americans who seek information: the eager and willing (22%), the confident (16%), the cautious and curious (13%), the doubtful (24%) and the wary (25%). “The typology suggests that one size does not fit all when it comes to information outreach,” the report says. “For instance, information purveyors might need to use very different methods to get material to the Eager and Willing, who are relatively trusting of institutional information and eager to learn, compared with the tactics they might consider in trying to get the attention of the Cautious and Curious, who are open to learning but relatively distrusting of institutional information.” This study bears careful attention from communicators accustomed to publishing content designed for consumption by, well, everybody. Whether you’re trying to sell something or convince people of a position, making content relevant means crafting content designed to convince each of these five types. Read more Blockchain is emerging as a way to protect your identity—If your records were hacked from Equifax, you know what an onerous set of tasks you’re facing to protect your identity and your credit. It turns out that blockchain could be the antidote to such issues, giving us “more control over (our) information, and with proper applications allow us to present just the minimum amount of information a given party needs to identify us. That could be your date of birth at a bar, your credit score at a bank, or a unique identifier to access an online service.” Several months ago, I suggested in a Robert Scoble-initiated thread that blockchain could provide this kind of identity management, for which I was mercilessly attacked by one participant for my utter cluelessness. Blockchain, he insisted, made everything about you accessible. Who’s clueless now? Read more News Agencies tapped social media during Irma—After an initial request from the Coast Guard that residents use 911 and other emergency numbers instead of social media during Hurricane Irma, it became one of several government and responder organization[...]

A New Model for Employee Communication, Part 13: Place


This is the latest installment in a series of posts exploring a new model of employee communication, one designed to deliver measurable results that demonstrate the impact on the organization in ways that matter to leaders. The series: Part 1: Introduction Part 7: Channels Part 2: Overview Part 8: Culture Part 3: Alignment Part 9: Vision/Mission Part 4: Listening Part 10: Values Part 5: Consultation Part 11: Practices Part 6: Branding Part 12: People The four overlapping circles at the center of the model represent the best opportunities for employee communication to affect an organization on a day-to-day basis. With this post, we’ll wrap up the discussion of the various elements of culture with an examination of the importance of place. The environment emloyees work in shapes culture, from the locale of the workplace to the art (or lack thereof) on the walls. Locale Locale affects culture of a variety of reasons. A lot of the people hired in a company come from the local area; lower-paying jobs, especially production-level and administrative positions, rarely include relocation in the package. While each company located in Silicon Valley has its own culture (working at PayPal is different from working at Electronic Arts), there is a definite Silicon Valley vibe that runs through every Valley company. When Conagra Brands started out as Nebraska Consolidated Mills back in 1919, its Omaha home contributed to the culture right up through its name change to ConAgra Foods in 1971 and on until last year, when the company rebranded again and shifted headquarters to Chicago. Omaha is still home to most Conagra employees, but something of that culture has changed with so many decision-makers now operating out of one of America’s biggest cities. Conagra’s communicators no doubt explored culture continuity when relocating its headquarters to another city. Even companies with global operations have a sense of place. MAN Diesel & Turbo is headquartered in Augsburg, Germany, but has far-flung operations. In order to establish a sense of place, the Digital Communications Manager Tanja Kjærside invited employees to share photos of something unique about their local culture to a private Instagram account, using a common hashtag. From the hundreds of photos that employees contributed, the company published a coffee table book that created a mosaic of the company as a whole. Every employee got a copy of the book. One manager was so taken with it that he had the images enlarged and papered the cafeteria walls of his location with them, reminding his staff that they were part of a bigger culture. The approach MAN took is just one way a company can unify a culture when it has facilities in multiple locations, but make no mistake: The culture at an office in Austin will not be exactly the same as one in Manhattan, no matter how strong the other elements of the culture are. Location matters. In fact, recruiters filling higher-level positions will either use location as a way to attract the best talent or, if the job isn’t in one of the best places in the world, downplay it or tout advantages the candidate may not have considered. I remember talking to recruiters at a hospital in a remote town who convinced doctors to work there by explaining what a great place it is to raise kids, and how it’s so safe nobody locks their doors. The Work Environment If your company values collaboration, it’s a bad idea to isolate employees based on their disciplines. That was the original plan at Pixar’s design campus: computer scientists would be in one building, animators in another, and everybody else in yet another. Steve Jobs, who bought Pixar from Lucasfilm in 1986, was a collaboration zealot and envisioned an environment where unplanned encounters could take place, including a huge atrium that serves as the Pixar campus’s central hub. Collaboration was also on the mind of Allergan’s chief science officer [...]

The promise of social media runs headlong into viral disaster hoaxes


One of the first things I read this morning was a Facebook post from Peter Shankman. Peter shared three days’ worth of posts—September 11-13, 2001—from a mailing list on which he was active, hosted by the World Wide Web Artist’s Consortium. As Peter tells it, “The early morning hours of the list centered around the mundane, but quickly became hyperfocused on one obvious news story. As someone who was on a plane that day, I got my first bits of information from the list, transmitting back whenever I could, as well.” I spent a fair amount of time reading the posts. The footage news organizations share of that terrible day doesn’t capture the raw emotions—from confusion to outrage—we all experienced 16 years ago the way that plain ASCII text did. Something else struck me about these messages. There were no fake photos or images from other disasters masquerading as 9/11 pictures. There were no absurd or outrageous claims. No fake news. There was certainly no shortage of opinions and some vehement disagreements. The collection of messages is a microcosm of the anguish and searching for answers everybody went through. At their core, though, all of the posts were honest. I participated in my share of mailing lists back in the day. The first was one of only two resources where PR practitioners and communicators could engage in community. One was the CompuServe Public Relations and Marketing Forum. The other was a mailing list hosted by Indiana University and managed by the late Bill Lutholtz (who was also an assistant sysop on the CompuServe PRSIG). The mailing list was the soul of simplicity: You sent an email to the list and, depending on your subscription preferences, you got every email any other subscriber sent or a daily digest of all of that day’s emails. What characterized the messages I read every day from subscribers—and, for that matter, from the active users of the CompuServe forum—was a sense of community. Nobody tried to bullshit anybody else. Nobody wanted to fake anyone out. Nobody hoped their message would go viral. We all just wanted to help each other out and share our thoughts. I get the same sense from the WWWAC list. No bullshit. No fake-outs. Just authentic, tortured, angry, sad sharing. Sharks on freeways, flooded airports, and daring escapes Flash forward to more recent disasters, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, where sharing is public. It’s not a community sending tweets or posting on Facebook. It’s anybody sharing with everybody. In this environment, for reasons many have undertaken to explain, a lot of people feel compelled to publish entirely made-up images and tales. Worse, whether out of ignorance or some other motivation, many more are quick to share those images and stories until they have been seen by thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, many of whom take them at face value. Just this morning, I read how hard Miami International Airport’s team was working to stay ahead of deceitful content and respond to the inquiries they produced. As explained in a Mashable account, “On Sunday, the account also proactively corrected people who tweeted out video of a flooded airport with claims that it was a scene from Miami. The video is from a flood at Mexico City’s airport. The video is still being shared on Twitter as having come from Miami.” (How could that video spread so far? It didn’t help that President Donald Trump’s director of social media, Dan Scavino, Jr., retweeted it.) As Harvey, then Irma, made landfall, dozens of mainstream media pieces have crossed my feeds filled with cautions about images like one of a shark swimming on flooded Houston freeways (photoshopped). A CNN headline screamed, “Fake Hurricane Irma videos are getting tens of millions of views on Facebook.” Photos also claimed to show flooding at Houston’s airport and a daring family escape [...]

FIR Podcast #104: Two Versions of Three H’s


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Paul Barton and Sean Williams joined host Shel Holtz for conversations about these topics: Paul recalls how PetSmart, where he worked at the time, reacted to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since 9/11, have companies gotten any better at communicating with employees during crises or emergencies? Its acquisition of Rockwell Collins gives United Technologies an opportunity to do well what many other companies don’t: communicate with employees the change they’ll experience as a result of the merger. Equifax has done a terrible job of communicating its data break even if it has checked off all the boxes. (And we haven’t heard a thing about how they’re communicating to employees.) Executives and HR manager agree that a strong culture is important. Leaders think they already have one. HR managers aren’t so sure. All collaboration is communication, but not all communication is collaboration. Yet too many collaboration tools are being used as if they’re for more general communication. Tech correspondent Dan York has a question for listeners: What are you using for editorial calendars for WordPress sites? A listener asks if it’s possible to set up a Facebook Live session exclusively for people who pay to watch it. Connect with our guests via Twitter at @PaulBartonABC and @CommAMMO. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. About today’s guest co-hosts: Paul Barton, ABC, is business communications consultant who combines fresh thinking with decades of experience. Before beginning his solo practice as Principal Consultant at Paul Barton Communications and Phoenix Public Speaking, he had a successful 20-year career leading internal communications at six fast-growing Fortune 500 companies in multiple industries. Those experiences led him to write the book Maximizing Internal Communication. Paul is a long-time and accredited member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), and he is a frequent workshop presenter on internal communication, crisis communication, and public speaking. Paul also is a “serial adjunct-preneur,” teaching courses in business communication and public speaking at several colleges in the Phoenix area. When not working, you can find Paul enjoying life with his family and playing guitar. Sean Williams is Vice President and Practice Lead, Education and Internal Communications, at True Digital Communications. Before joining True Digital, Sean was the owner of Communication AMMO, Inc. Williams has held executive communication posts at National City Bank, KeyCorp and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. He also provides managerial communication training through Face2Face Communication, which he acquired from Joe Williams Communications in 2015. Earlier in his career, Williams was senior consultant for Williams, where he expanded the strategic planning, research, and consulting practices, and led and refined the Face2Face program with companies including First Energy Corp., KeyCorp, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Merck, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Prudential and Lucent, training literally thousands of managers in the innovative and highly rated program. He also is an adjunct professor of Public Relations at Kent State University, and has created graduate classes in PR Measurement/ROI and social media measurement for Kent and another university. [...]

Friday Wrap #230: Equifax’s crisis, Bell Pottinger’s ethics, Google’s “how-to” site, and 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. The Big Stories Equifax is the latest company to botch its crisis communication—Equifax learned a month ago that 143 million customers may have been compromised by a breach of its network, including Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, and other highly sensitive information. The company tweeted yesterday that it took action immediately despite the fact that it has known for a month and has done little to assuage customer anxiety over the breach, limiting its communication to dry, terse apologies and links to information that’s equally inadequate. It was also revealed that three Equifax executives sold off stock before the announcement was made (but definitely after they knew of the breach and that the stock would take a hit after it was announced); still, the company claims the stock was sold before the executives knew anything about the breach. The company’s CEO, Richard F. Smith, picked up an award on September 1 as one of Atlanta’s most-admired CEOs, even though he knew the breach (and the stock sale) would make headlines in just a few days The company’s pathetic crisis communication—which I’m willing to bet real money is being driven by lawyers, not communicators—has provoked scathing reports from PR observers Josh Bernoff (who called the apology “weaselly”) and Kathy Klotz-Guest. Read more Bell Pottinger’s PRCA membership revoked—I was very happy to see the UK’s Public Relations and Communications Association terminate the membership of agency Bell Pottinger; the agency has also been banned from reapplying for membership for five years. It’s an unprecedented action by the PRCA, which has stepped up to the plate to make a resounding statement on ethics in the practice of public relations. The organization’s director general wrote noted that the group has never taken such action, but “Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions.” Francis Ingraham said the move was a “damning indictment of an agency’s behavior.” Bell Pottinger was the subject of a PRCA investigation into its campaign in South Africa that was, according to the organization, “designed to inflame racial discord.” The campaign violated a number of the PRCA’s standards. We need more of this from communication associations everywhere if PR is to be viewed as a credible and accurate channel for news and information. The industry’s tolerance for bad behavior has gone on for far too long. Read more Media companies are creating episodic Instagram Stories series—Further highlighting the importance of Instagram Stories is the trend toward original programming produced specifically for the platform. One editor sees Stories as more than a place to share with your friends; it’s also “a place where you can really program something and take advantage of the platform itself to come up with these fun, little, brief storytelling elements.” Bustle premiered the first of seven episodic series it produces for Stories. A studio backed by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard is also producing “a new type of entertainment for audiences whose attentions were focused on their phones,” producing a pilot episode of “@TheRealAssistant,” a scripted series about a personal assistant to a social media diva designed for Instagram. The key to success here is entertainment value. There’s no reason a brand, corporation, non-profit, or agency can’t come up with a theme for Stories that attracts viewers. Read more News Here comes the fake Irma content—Be warned. Many of the Hu[...]

A New Model for Employee Communication, Part 12: People


This is the latest installment in a series of posts exploring a new model of employee communication, one designed to deliver measurable results that demonstrate the impact on the organization in ways that matter to leaders. The series: Part 1: Introduction Part 6: Branding Part 2: Overview Part 7: Channels [...]

FIR Podcast #103: #Happy #Birthday, #Hashtag


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Marshall Kirkpatrick and Augie Ray joined host Shel Holtz for conversations about these topics: The hashtag just celebrated its 10th birthday. Is it a curiosity or an important feature of the digital environment? A study finds people who get business communication featuring emojis don’t think positive things about the person who sent it. Is there a place for emojis in business communication? Microsoft-based VR headsets are about to hit the market at lower price points than the competition, potentially propelling Virtual Reality into the mainstream…or not. Facebook Page reach has declined 20% in 2017. Why are we still talking about this? Influencer marketing may be an oversold magic bullet. But there’s a subtle distinction between influencer marketing and influencer engagement. In his Tech Report, Dan York discussed the impending change of the WordPress editor to a new “block-style” editor called “Gutenberg.” Connect with our guests via Twitter at @MarshallK and @AugieRay. 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 guest co-hosts: After a successful career blazing trails in new media as one of the top tech bloggers in the world (first-hired writer at TechCrunch, co-editor of ReadWriteWeb), Marshall Kirkpatrick led the Little Bird team building software for enterprise marketers to do research, real-time market intelligence and marketing amplification. The tool for influencer marketing, content marketing, and research was recently by Sprinklr, the full-service social media management system, where Marshall now serves as product director for Influencer Marketing and Research. Augie Ray is a Research Director covering customer experience for marketing leaders at Gartner. He has had a diverse career, including leading a digital experiential agency, directing social business at USAA and managing a global customer experience team at American Express. In his present role, Augie researches and advises clients on topics such as Voice of Customer, customer journey mapping, customer experience strategy and virtual reality. [...]

Friday Wrap #229: Hurricane coverage, YouTube’s makeover, WhatsApp’s business designs, and 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. Got 5 Minutes? The Society for New Communication Research (SNCR)—part of The Conference Board and of which I am a Founding Fellow—has undertaken an initiative to determine how people in the communication industry can help tackle the increasingly significant problem of fake news. (I’m part of the task force.) One of our early efforts is to get a handle on the intersection of fake news and communication through a survey. If you’re a communicator with responsibility for managing advertising, paid content marketing, paid social, native and/or programmatic advertising, could you please take the survey? It will take only about 5 minutes. Read more Hurricane Harvey Text-to-911 has been a non-factor in Texas flooding—Text-to-911, an alternative to making a voice call, has had hardly any activity during the days-long flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey. Victims may not have wanted to take the time to tap out a message, but I suspect few people knew it was an option, particularly given the long hold times people were experiencing. Read more Social media’s role in the Harvey floods—Texans in need of help posted their plight on Facebook and Twitter. They tweeted their addresses to emergency services. They coordinated rescues through Facebook pages. They posted photos that revealed how high the waters had risen. Because some cell phone towers were working, people could read notices from local officials and emergency services. While we’re getting accustomed to seeing social media in emergency situations, the Harvey experiences are noteworthy because the last major hurricane to make landfall happened two years before Twitter was introduced. Read more Snapchat’s Snap Maps was in play during Harvey—Snapchat only recently introduced Snap Map as a feature to differentiate it from Instagram. The tool is a way to see where your friends are when they share a snap to Our Story. Snapchat editors have also been featuring big news events. Harvey showed up on the Snap Map, taking users directly to snaps shared from the flood zone. Read more Tragedy brings out the best in some companies—Hurricane Harvey has sparked some noteworthy responses from businesses. Airbnb is connecting people who need places with those with room to spare, all fees waived. Duracell is handing out free batteries. United Airlines is giving bonus miles to rewards members who make donations. Verizon and AT&T are offering relief for customers who exceed their data limits. Walmart sent 795 truckloads of supplies. And that’s just a small sampling. Read more News Facebook will ban advertising on Pages that share fake news—In its latest move to crack down on fake news, Facebook announced the Facebook Pages that repeatedly share fake news will be banned from advertising on the site. If third-party fact-checkers find multiple instances of fake news coming from a Page, the Page owners will have to earn back the ability to pay to boost content. Boosting posts is one of the key ways publishers of fake news get it to spread. Read more YouTube gives itself a makeover—YouTube has rolled out a new logo, streamlined navigation, and a mobile-friendly redesign. The makeover even features a night mode. The changes are designed to encourage more consumption on the site as Facebook and other competitors encroach on the video space. Read more WhatsApp is planning a business app—I have been talking for a couple years about the shift to messaging as a preferred means of engagement with brands. Here’s more evidence: WhatsApp is planning to introduce a standalone app that businesses will be able to use to chat wi[...]

A New Model for Employee Communication, Part 11: Practices


This is the latest installment in a series of posts exploring a new model of employee communication, one designed to deliver measurable results that demonstrate the impact on the organization in ways that matter to leaders. The series: Part 1: Introduction Part 6: Branding Part 7: Channels Part 2: Overview Part 3: Alignment Part 8: Culture Part 4: Listening Part 9: Vision/Mission Part 5: Consultation Part 10: Values The four overlapping circles at the center of the model represent the best opportunities for employee communication to affect an organization on a day-to-day basis. Today, we’ll look at practices, the third critical ingredient of a company’s culture. The last two installments in this series addressed Vision/Mission and Values. None of these will be worth a damn if they are not baked into the company’s practices. In fact, if your organization’s practices don’t reflect the vision, mission, and values that have been posted on walls and touted at town hall meetings, they will be the target of some pretty withering sarcasm and a catalyst for lower employee engagement, a diminished employer brand, and deterioration of the customer experience. Here’s how business writer John Coleman put it in his Harvard Business Review article, “Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture:” Values are of little importance unless they are enshrined in a company’s practices. If an organization professes, “people are our greatest asset,” it should also be ready to invest in people in visible ways. Wegman’s, for example, heralds values like “caring” and “respect,” promising prospects “a job [they’ll] love.” And it follows through in its company practices, ranked by Fortune as the fifth best company to work for. Similarly, if an organization values “flat” hierarchy, it must encourage more junior team members to dissent in discussions without fear or negative repercussions. And whatever an organization’s values, they must be reinforced in review criteria and promotion policies, and baked into the operating principles of daily life in the firm. Coleman focuses on people-focused practices, but the notion of instilling purpose and values into practices goes much further. One definition of “practices” addresses the activities carried out habitually or regularly by an organization, which can include… Executive communication, including town halls and other regular gatherings that put leaders and employees in the same room—If this is already a practice, test it against your vision, purpose, and values. If it’s not something you’re already doing, start. For a lot of reasons, employees need to see their leaders and leaders need face-to-face contact with the people they lead. Remember, town hall meetings are not just another means of pushing information at employees. The concept—originated in the American colonies in the 17th century—was for town leaders and residents to engage in conversation and debate, not for leaders to make presentations. Regular leader email or intranet updates, videos, and other communication should also be part of the mix and always align with vision, purpose, and values. Work processes—Business units, production facilities, departments, and teams should ensure the processes they use to get their work done are consistent with vision, purpose, and values. For example, in a company that touts sustainability as a value shouldn’t continue to use a manufacturing process that produces excess waste or contributes to air or water pollution. An audit of processes designed to identify values gaps could lead to change projects employees would embrace enthusiastically. Even[...]