Inside PR 399: Don’t put a Target on your back

Target Canada got itself into big business trouble in Canada. And it got itself into even bigger reputation trouble with the way it is leaving the country.

It has become commonplace for companies to care about being seen to be responsible corporate citizens. And this involves both doing and being seen to exercise their corporate social responsibility. To make the communities in which they operate better places. To give back as well as to receive.

We expect that corporations will want to be seen to be doing more than the bare minimum they can get away with. And perhaps that’s why Target Canada has garnered so much bad media in the wake of their decision to pull out of the Canadian market. They were perceived as doing as little as the law required them to do in order to get out of the country.

Whether this was justified or not, the company seemed almost to be playing rope a dope, absorbing the blows without attempting to fight back.

Did Target give its employees, its suppliers and its partners a raw deal? Were they inept or calculating in their communications? Will this affect their reputation in the United States?

Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and I explore these questions on this week’s Inside PR podcast. Give it a listen and make up your own mind. Does Target deserve the target on its back?

Context

Here is a selection of the media coverage and commentary around Target’s retreat from Canada.

Target closes all 133 stores in Canada; Seeks creditor protection

Target Canada owes more than 5 billion to creditors

Target Canada owes advertising, marketing and PR partners

Top Target Canada Managers get big cash payouts as stores close

More must be done to help laid off target employees 

Target closure causing crisis for independent pharmacies, owners say

Target Canada patient records sold

Ontario pharmacists fighting Target Canada

Target Canada liquidation sales draw crowds and mockery

 

What do you think?

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

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Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 398: Is blogging over or has it morphed into something else?

Martin here. On today’s show it’s Joe and me. Gini’s on the road but she’ll be back next week.

Our topic comes from a post by Mathew Ingram about the state of blogging and how it has evolved. We’ve noticed a number of people who were active bloggers have slowed down their output, moved away from the platform or started publishing somewhere else.

So is that a trend? Are we entering a post-blogging landscape?

Joe starts off by mentioning a series like Sherlock that looked edgy and new a few years ago, yet seems a bit dated today. He thinks the same may be true for blogs.

I always considered blogging more of a publishing platform rather than an unedited stream or conversation. And as a PR person who wrote for clients, I found my voice again when I started my blog.

Joe thinks blogging has become more of a place for personal journaling. It hasn’t gone away but now it has a specialized purpose.

Joe also noticed that for a number of years we were fixated on the river of news and that’s not the only way for information to be organized. New apps value content that doesn’t carry as much weight and that the search engines can’t grab and data mine.

It’s a bigger range of content. And it’s about distinctive voices – columnists. In many ways, it always was.

And before we go: I noticed, as I was listening to the episode and writing the notes, that I said, ‘The Snapchat’. Yipes. Honestly, I didn’t mean to. Let’s chalk it up my affinity for the old Triple-W… and (hopefully) leave it at that.

Is blogging simply publishing? Are you moving to something more ephemeral like chat? Do you want your ideas archived or would you like your comments to be delivered and disappear?

Many of you listen to us on iTunes and it would be great if you could leave us a review.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

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Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 397: The boss leaves and where does that leave you?

What obligation do creative agency founders and owners owe to their employees? Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I, all current or past agency owners, discuss this in the wake of a recent high profile creative company closing.

Teehan+Lax recently announced that the partners had accepted jobs at Facebook – and that Teehan would therefore be shutting its doors. Good for them. But what about the employees? Did the fact that dozens of creative people – the people who helped the partners realize their dream – were being left behind detract from the positives of this story? Are creative agencies simply the expressions of their principals? Or are they in fact the product of the entire team? And what does the move of agency principals inside a previously-client company mean about the viability of agencies in the era in which nimbleness must be married to creativity?

Gini, Martin and I kick around our views about the arc of agency life and the types of things that we and agency principals and agency owners should or may not consider when making the next move.

Martin points out that we have become used to employees moving frequently from job to job. Many creative people today base their happiness on the challenge of the projects they are working on today. What they did last week mattered last week, not this week. What their title is isn’t so important. Where they stand in the hierarchy isn’t their motivator. Challenging creative work drives them. And if they can’t get it where they are, they will quickly and without hesitation hop over to another company that offers that to them. And then they will move again after that.

So, should we be surprised if people who are founding and running creative agencies have the same approach to the world? Probably not. So, we shouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the last time that agency principals proclaim, “We didn’t get into this to build a company to last. We got into it to be challenged. And the challenges are elsewhere. So, we’re shutting down our company to go and do something else.”

And good for them. But that still leaves the first question. What obligation do they have to the employees who believed in them and invested part of their own careers in the success of the founders’ dream?

Gini suggests that an employer’s obligation to the employees is real, but limited. “But you have to make decisions that are good for the business first, and for the founders second. Without the founders, there is no business. So, the founders have to take care of themselves. This is a difficult thing to do, particularly when you want to do what is best for employees.”

This leads to situations in which it is difficult to untangle what really happened in order to discern how an employer has treated employees. We may see the end result – people looking for jobs. But we cannot get the complete picture of the relationships between employer and employee. “There’s always three sides to the story,” says Gini. “Their side. Our side. And the truth somewhere in the middle.”

But at the end of the day, Gini believes, owners are entitled to put their interests ahead of their employees. “Sometimes you have to make a decision that’s not best for the employees. Sometimes you have to make a decision that’s best for you and your family.”

And that’s only half of today’s episode. In the back half, we move on to discuss the importance of communicating these changes clearly, honestly and transparently. We hope that you’ll listen to the episode and find something to think about here.

Context

If you want to get a fuller sense of the Teehan+Lax announcement and the conversation it occasioned, here’s a set of articles that provide an excellent jumping off point.

And Now, For Our Next Act, the Teehan+Lax partners announce that they are joining Facebook and shutting down their agency

David Crow reflects on the announcement and what it means for the partners, the local creative scene and the employees. Read the comments as well as the post to get a sense of the debates that followed in the wake of the announcement.

Brian Krogsgard throws attention on the fact that this isn’t good for everyone. What about the employees?

Jon Lay argues that that innovative design firms can still thrive.

Ev Williams reflects on when and why to sell your company.

 

 

Inside PR 396: Teens on Social Media

On Medium a couple of weeks ago, a teenager named Andrew Watts wrote a piece called A Teenager’s View on Social Media. To say it created a conversation is putting it mildly.

Matthew Ingram at Gigaom picked it up…and then he wrote a second piece after Danah Boyd, a sociologist who focuses on how young people use social media, wrote a retort in the comments.

She provided some criticism on how we (human beings) group people into buckets for marketing purposes. We like to generalize. There is a reason stereotypes exist.

During the time that conversation was happening, Andrew Watts published a second article on what teens think about some of the other social networks…the ones he didn’t include in his first piece.

The four pieces are the topic of our conversation today.

We talk about:

  • Storytelling and how this young man’s piece picked up steam because it was interesting and personal;
  • YikYak and the advantage of smaller social communities;
  • How communicators must be open-minded to how different generations use social media and do some testing of our own;
  • Whether there is a difference between a teenager and a college student (which Andrew Watts is);
  • Why it’s important not to generalize;
  • How social media allows us to find direct communication with like-minded people around the globe; and
  • Different perspectives from our own community among those who have teenagers.

Martin ends the discussion by leaving it in your hands. He asks, “Are we moving into the next phase of social media?”

Many of you listen to us on iTunes and it would be great if you could leave us a review.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

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Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 395: The chat app is the medium

Martin here.

Happy New Year and welcome back! We hope you had a fun and restful holiday.

In 2015, we’re planning to reinvigorate IPR by making it more topical and dealing with an issue or two a week. Stay tuned…

We start by congratulating Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson on the 10th anniversary of For Immediate Release! Here’s (hears?) to many, many more! We’re thrilled to be part of the FIR podcast network.

We also have some sad news. Michael Herman, a senior PR agency leader we know from Counselors Academy, passed away suddenly on Saturday at his home in North Carolina. Michael was the consummate PR pro, received PRSA’s highest honour, the Gold Anvil award, taught PR and never stopped learning, asking questions and helping people. Gini shares a personal memory of Mike on Pinterest and how they used to trade recipes. Here’s a moving tribute from Peppercom founder, Steve Cody. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to Mike’s family and friends. 

Now onto this week’s main topic. Over the break I noticed a number of what’s ahead roundups – including TechCrunchAdAge and GigaOm – highlighted the renewed interest in chat apps as a key way for people to communicate and connect.

Which leads to the question: how can professional communicators, who participate in public conversations, navigate in the world of chat?

Gini: A big issue is anything you post online can and will be used against you. In other words, private isn’t necessarily private, anymore.

Joe harkens back to the early days social media where you had people talking to people versus brands talking to people. Now that marketers are monitoring public interactions, he believes ordinary people, who may not trust commercial accounts, are turning to messenger apps as a way to communicate.

Private or public messages? Which will be your default in 2015? We’d love to hear what you think.

One last thing. Many of you listen to us on iTunes and it would be great if you could leave us a comment or rating. Thanks!

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

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Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 394: The 2015 Public Relations Predictions

It’s the last episode of 2014 and we couldn’t let the year end without giving you our public relations predictions for 2015.

Before we get to those predictions, though, Joe talks about a few changes at Google, including updates to the Customer Journey to Online Purchase. For communicators, this is pretty interesting to check out because it helps you determine how a customer might make a purchase decision and how you can help them along through the process. No longer do you have to guess at the types of content that will help them make a decision.

The trends we discuss are:

  • The continual integration of PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media);
  • Return of big ideas a la West Jet Holiday Miracle; and
  • The quest for scale, both for organizations and for content.

Of course, we talk about why we’ve chosen each of these and what they mean for the industry. They also all seem to intertwine with one another, which was not planned. We didn’t discuss beforehand which trend we had each chosen. Serendipity!

And, before you begin your holiday cheer, please join us in making fun of Martin Waxman for always saying, “At triple W insidepr dot C A” instead of just “insidepr dot CA.”

Happy Holidays to all of you! We wish you a great start to 2015 and look forward to hanging out in your ears for another year.

We’d love to hear what you think.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

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Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 393: Our naughty or nice PR list…

Martin here. This week, it’s Gini and me. Joe’s on the road traveling home.

And in the spirit of the season we thought we’d share our PR naughty or nice list for 2014.

First up: naughty.

And the lump of coal goes to…Edelman.

Really? Why?

Well, a Canadian company, TransCanada, hired the venerable agency to build support for a pipeline that will transport oil from Western Canada to refineries in the east. But when the agency recommended secretly using third-parties to attack the pipeline’s opponents and a document with the strategy was leaked to Greenpeace, TransCanada fired Edelman over ethical concerns.

Does this sort of program sound like a whisper campaign to you? It does to us.

Gini has written extensively about why whisper campaigns and other unethical tactics hurt PR. She likens the process to that of broken telephone, where what the last person hears is often very different from what was said at the beginning. Gini says that rather than sneaking through the back door, the profession should be open and honest. What do you think?

Now for our nice list.

Gini posed a question on Facebook asking people to nominate their suggestions the PR win of the year. She got a lot of replies including the Ice Bucket Challenge, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift (Gini’s selection on SpinSucks) and WestJet.

We chose WestJet for an imaginative follow up on its successful Christmas Miracle video. Once again, the company borrowed elements of classic holiday movies and showed, in an emotional way, how much they care about their customers and community.

Here’s the 2014 WestJet video.

And here’s the one from 2013.

Which PR programs would you put on the naughty list? And which ones would you qualify as nice? We’d love to hear what you think.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

******************************************************************

Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 392: The algorithm called journalism

We start this episode with a burning question from Gini: Is lasagna pasta – yes or no?

Joe and I both say yes. And so Gini, armed with the information she desperately needs, is ready to take on her dinner menu. That is, unless you, our listeners, think otherwise. Please let us know.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Joe starts the show talking about the notion of who makes news decisions – editors or algorithms. This was sparked by an Emily Bell speech and spawned a discussion online as well as several posts, including one by Jeff Jarvis.

In her talk, Bell contends journalists, who once controlled the determination and distribution of news, have lost their hold or maybe they’ve been supplanted. Their replacements? In digital channels, many editorial decisions are made by people fine-tuning algorithms or the algorithms themselves.

Martin says on the editorial front, we’ve traded one concentrated group of publicly-traded companies (media) for another (social networks as new media).

Gini says there’s so much info out there that until something’s been confirmed by the fourth estate, we tend not to believe it. Traditional media is the filter.

Joe contends PR is in an ideal position to bridge the gap between journalistic decision makers and the way algorithms pick content. And by seeing both sides of the coin, we can still help get news in front of people either though media or their feeds.

And that’s where understanding influence and influencers comes into play. Martin mentions a new type of influencer: a young video game player with an engaged audience who was featured in an article in the NYTimes. And the profession needs to refine its approach to public relationship-building to take this into account.

Are algorithms the new equivalent of editors – we don’t know who/what they are and yet they make many decisions? Is that a good or a bad thing? We’d love to hear what you think.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

******************************************************************

Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 391: Ch-ch-changes at F-F-Facebook – again

Martin here and apologies to David Bowie but Facebook’s at it again and I couldn’t help myself.

Earlier this month, the company announced that in January, 2015 people will start seeing fewer promotional posts from brands, that is, things that push you to enter contests and sweepstakes, install an app or buy a product.

Joe and Gini think this is a positive shift because it puts the onus on brands to earn their way into a user’s news feed with relevant and useful content.

I say this goes well with the way Facebook lets folks mute brands and friends we may not want to hear from so often. Then I wonder about coupons. They’re both commercial and yet important to some people. Is Facebook treating coupons as pure promotion too? We’re interested if any of our listeners have insights on that.

We switch gears and Gini talks about Facebook’s Rooms app, which is trying to connect people through a common interest and not necessarily their social graph. Gini likens it to the early days of Internet communities and anonymous posting. Here’s a blog she wrote about it and why you may not be as anonymous as you think.

Joe says Facebook’s two recent changes – offering a less commercial newsfeed and simplifying their privacy offerings – are driving more value to its business. He thinks they’ve got their mojo back.

I close off by talking about the latest meshmarketing conference and some highlights, including Ann Handley’s fun and informative keynote.

What do you think about Facebook’s algorithm tweaks? Will it improve your experience and, as a result, will you be spending more time on the platform? Will you be changing your privacy settings? We’d love to hear what you think.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

******************************************************************

Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.

Inside PR 390: Throw Away Your Crisis Communications Playbook

You didn’t think we’d not do a show about Jian Ghomeshi, did you?

Though he was a CBC Canadian star, his crisis evolved beyond the borders and certainly hit the United States as we all watched in wonder to see what would come of it all.

If you are like me and have never heard of him, the story goes that he was abusive to some former girlfriends in the bedroom. His story is that it was all consensual. The side of the women is that it wasn’t so much, particularly when he punched one of them in the face.

There, of course, are always three sides to a story (his side, her side, and the truth), but what has been interesting to watch is how Ghomeshi has handled the crisis, from a communications perspective.

The moment he was fired from the CBC, he wrote a long explanation to his fans on his Facebook page. Then he filed a $55 million lawsuit against the media company. Because he was a union employee, he cannot file a lawsuit, but speculation is he did it so he could tell his side of the story in legal documents that couldn’t be held against him later.

Then things got really hairy. His high-profile crisis firm dropped him and he “fled” to California. The case is ongoing and it certainly hasn’t died down because he stopped being vocal.

We discuss how he and his team framed the issue, what they did extraordinarily well, but also what they forgot to include, based on the flamethrowers on social media. Joe brings up a good point about how this also relates to Gamergate and how, in social media, people begin to define the issue themselves.

We’d love to hear what you think about how crisis should be handled in 2014/2015 versus 1990.

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

******************************************************************

Thank you to the people behind Inside PR.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.