The State of Trust (in Under Three Minutes)

The 13th annual Edelman Trust Barometer contains some very interesting developments on the state of consumer trust.

Some points that caught my attention included:

Technology is the most trusted industry, while banks and financial institutions are the least trusted.

Only 18 percent of those surveyed trusted business leaders, and only 13 percent trusted government leaders.

Influence and authority has shifted from the few top leaders to the many (with the help of social media).

Messages in the new media age must contain humility, transparency and a willingness to explain mutual benefit.

Great insights…

Converged Media Imperative

Converged media has been a hot topic the last two years and is picking up speed in 2013. This concept represents a blurring of the lines between the three types of media: paid, earned and owned.

I don’t think there are many who would disagree that this is happening and will continue. But another important issue is: What type of marketing professional will flourish in this environment and bring added value to his or her brand?

A word that comes to mind to describe this professional is: diverse. Fluency only in a single area, be it advertising, public relations, social media, branding or others is career and brand limiting. The value add comes from multi-disciplinary professionals who understand all of the converging types of media at the strategic and tactical levels and can fit them into a bigger, more seamless picture.

The disciplinary silos must come down. They should be replaced collaborative, cross-functional teams that can work together across the media spectrum.

All of this doesn’t mean specialization has no place. It simply means marketers must adapt and grow in their understanding of media, and work together more effectively. Converged media demands it.

Who Should Manage Social Media for an Organization?

Since many organizations lack the resources to hire dedicated social media professionals, I see this question quite frequently. I don’t think the answer is as straightforward as some would say, but for sure there at least are several guiding principles to consider for anyone making this decision.

Internal vs. External

First and foremost, if at all possible, the best case scenario would be to have the organization’s social media channels managed internally. In the case of a small business, this might not always be an option. Time constraints or unfamiliarity with the different social platforms can seem daunting. Eventually, managing social media internally would be a great goal to set. After all, nobody knows an organization like its employees. They should be able to represent the brand with the most enthusiasm, authenticity and efficiency.

If internal management just isn’t an option, an established digital or social media agency can help. The agency selection process should be entered into with the goal of developing a long-term relationship so that the agency personnel can fully learn the business and represent it most effectively.

Marketing vs. Public Relations

If an organization has marketing and PR professionals, which group should manage social media? Many organizations have professionals that have both marketing and PR responsibilities. If so, these would be the ones to take on social media as well.

What about larger organizations with separate marketing and PR departments? Generally professionals with PR backgrounds would be better suited to manage the social media activities. Their training and experience in communicating with various publics in many different types of situations would serve the organization well in its social media communications.

Introvert vs. Extrovert

Neither one would necessarily be the “ideal” personality type. The person or people should however have a desire to be social, have an understanding of the platforms and how to use them effectively, along with a desire to be pleasant, helpful and committed to representing the organization well through social media.

Let me know what you think. Anything you would add?

NFL Averts Public Relations Crisis from “Bounty” System

In an era marked by so many public relations disasters, it’s refreshing to be able to point out when a brand successfully averts a PR crisis. Such is the case with the National Football League (NFL).  The NFL announced on Friday that the New Orleans Saints maintained a “bounty” system to financially reward its defensive players for injuring opponents. This is troubling news to say the least, even for a sport as violent as football.

Under the bounty system, Saints players were paid if they contributed to injuries that removed an opposing player from the game. Players received $1,000 for cart-offs (player removed from the field on a cart) and $1,500 for “knockouts” (player could not complete the game). Payouts doubled and tripled in the playoffs.

It’s not completely surprising to learn that NFL players were intent on hurting other players. You get that sense from watching certain players and their style of play. What is surprising is that it was the NFL that broke the news about the bounty program. To risk understating it, the league isn’t known for its PR savvy. In fact, it has a long history of PR missteps in my opinion.

Proactive PR has its Benefits

Kudos to the NFL for taking decisive action and announcing the problem before anyone else “broke” the story. Their preemptive strategy was smart. They seized control of the flow of information before anyone else could. No doubt, news of the bounty program would have come out eventually. If it was announced by someone else, the league would have been in a reactive PR mode, which is always the least desirable position.

By bravely announcing the news, the NFL won a huge public perception battle. The NFL has consistently preached player safety as one of its highest priorities. Its actions in acknowledging the bounty program and the intention to be decisive in addressing it supports the player safety position. Had news of the program been broken by someone else it clearly would have appeared that the NFL either didn’t know about the program or knew about it but was not addressing it. Those two options don’t support the perception of a sports league that cares about the safety of its players. Being proactive from a PR perspective protected the NFL’s image from taking a huge hit.

The NFL is off to a good start in managing this scandal, but an important component remains. From a PR perspective, if they hope to finish strong they must quickly come to decisions about who is responsible and how those people will be punished. Allowing this to linger only opens the door for rampant media speculation and the story to spin out of control. Decisions must be arrived at quickly and communicated as proactively as the league did when it announced the news of the bounty program. The sooner this chapter is closed for the NFL the fewer the stories and social media chatter that will take place surrounding it.

Any way you look at it, this isn’t an image-enhancing story for professional football. The NFL, however, has done an admirable job thus far in averting what could have developed into a major crisis. Of course, from a PR standpoint, the losers in this situation are the New Orleans Saints and the players and coaches involved. Had the team taken the approach the NFL took in addressing the situation, things may have been different. Of course, now we’ll never know.

What do you think?

Influencing the Shifting Landscape of Buyer Behavior

When you purchase a product or service, has your process changed over the last five years? Or say even in the last year? Especially in the case of new products or large purchases, most people would say their decision-making process has changed significantly. McKinsey & Co. has developed a great model to help illustrate how consumers currently make purchase decisions, titled the “Consumer Decision Journey.”

Here are the steps in the Consumer Decision Journey:

  • Consideration: The consumer is aware of a list of products or brands from which he or she can make the purchase.
  • Evaluation: The consumer investigates the options in terms of pros and cons in pricing, channels and any of a number of features and benefits that are desired.
  • Buy: The decision is made and the purchase is completed.
  • Experience: The consumer experiences the product or service and is very satisfied or very dissatisfied or any point in between.
  • Advocate: If the consumer is very satisfied or satisfied, it’s likely he or she will advocate for the product or service.
  • Bond: The consumer becomes a brand loyalist. When a purchase must be made again, he or she will bypass the consideration and evaluation stage and go directly to purchase from the brand of choice.

These steps nicely capture the way many purchases are made today. What’s more, much of the evaluation stage takes on place online on company websites, social media, communities and other digital platforms.

Given the current digital environment, advocacy is also taken to an entirely new level of importance. Consumers now have the ability to communicate their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with many people very quickly.

The problem is, if recent studies are accurate, brands are not proportionately increasing spending in the digital environment, where the vitally important evaluation and advocacy steps often take place. Instead, spending continues to be heavily focused on the more traditional “push” methods of marketing. This suggests too much emphasis is being placed on the consideration step, with the hope that the buyer will move directly to a purchase.

Times are changing and will continue to change. Greater emphasis must be placed on influencing the evaluation and advocacy steps in the buying process. Long gone are the days when consumers were forced to accept push marketing messages at face value. The consumer is now empowered to make informed decisions. Brands must adapt to this changing buying behavior or risk getting left behind.

Let me know what you think.

Report: Social Media Trust Surges in 2011

If you haven’t reviewed Edelman’s recently released 2012 Trust Barometer, it’s worth at least a bit of your time. For marketers, it reveals some surprising data that should bolster hopes in social media as a legitimate marketing strategy, if you needed convincing.

Some key takeaways include:

  • There is a growing skepticism of government and business entities.
  • Most people (63 percent) say something must be heard between three and five times to be believed.
  • The diversification of trusted media sources continues.
  • Traditional media outlets continue to be viewed as the most trustworthy.
  • Social media saw the biggest jump in trust as an information source (+75 percent).
  • Despite the trust increase for social media, it still is in last place as a source for trusted information, narrowly trailing corporate-owned media.

Interesting findings, but what are the applications for marketers? Consider that 1.) When establishing trust quickly is imperative, traditional media offers the surest path to believability; 2.) Establishing trust through social media will require greater coordination, consistency and commitment; and 3.) Since it appears imminent that social media will overtake corporate media in terms of trust, this further opens the door to individuals to become trusted sources of information.

What do you think? What increases the media trust factor for you?

Your Brand in a “Search plus Your World” Economy

In a sign that the gloves may be off between the major social networks, Google announced the launch of “Search plus Your World.” The new search feature integrates social results with “organic” search results. Although there has been much debate already about whether Google is monopolizing its dominant position in the search market, there is no debating that this is a significant development for brands. Leaders of their brands marketing, public relations or social media functions who have put off joining Google+ until the platform matures will want to reevaluate their decision and strongly consider participating now.

Search plus Your World, in addition to returning search results from a person’s larger social graph, allows search based solely on personal online connections, called “Personal Search.” To some, or perhaps many, Personal Search could become more appealing than organic results. The catch is, Google heavily favors results from Google+ (surprising right?). So, with Search plus Your World, what’s being said or shared about any brand is much more highly indexed and findable, especially when it’s shared on Google+. The implications are far-reaching.

In our Search plus You World world, how can brands leverage and protect themselves given the new search realities that must be faced? Here are six important steps that marketing leaders should take now when it comes to Google+:

Create a Google+ page and build it out as fully as possible. Using all the features including posts, brand information, photos and videos is important. A fully developed page will encourage visitors to spend increased time on it and interact with it more. If they like what they see they may “circle” the page and open the door to further communication and relationship building.

Grow the page’s community. An active page is more likely to show up in search results and has a greater likelihood of being circled. Be sure to promote your presence on Google+ in your other social and traditional marketing efforts. The platform is great for interacting with followers so it’s a good idea to do that as much as possible. Followers will appreciate the attention.

Resist the urge to aggressively market. Make the focus of your Google+ page to share content and engage. This increases the chances that people will circle the page, interact and share its content.

Consider keyword use whenever possible. Determine the words or terms that are used frequently in search in your market and integrate those whenever possible. However, the main goals for the page should still be to interact, engage and grow a community. This will lead to a more thriving page that ultimately is more successful by gaining shares and discussion with more people.

Guard brand reputation with diligence. Social media has raised the stakes for brands when it comes to reputation management. News about poor service or products can now spread quickly. Search plus Your World takes this issue to new heights. Failings of brands will not fade as quickly anymore. They can be resurfaced with a simple search. Brands will want to take this seriously and do even more to ensure that they are exceeding expectations, or at least meeting them.

Commit for the long-term. For most brands, growing an abundant community will not take place overnight. It’s important to always operate with a long-range vision and commitment backed by continuous effort and activity.

Whether we agree with it or not, search just got much more personal. What other implications of this do you see for brands?