Friday Wrap #195: Breitbart’s boycott, a corporate memo ban, the rise of voice tech, and more

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Friday Wrap #195

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.


Writing for Mobile—As part of a client project, I have been researching the living daylights out of best practices, empirical studies, and real-world experiences when it comes to writing for mobile devices (mainly smartphones). I’ll share what I’ve learned in a webinar scheduled for noon EST on December 14. Register

Excellence in New Communication Awards—If you have produced work that reflects innovation in the use of digital and social media, mobile media, collaborative technologies, virtual reality, or other emerging digital communications technologies, then you want to make sure to enter it in the 2017 SNCR Excellence in New Communication Awards. Unlike other competitions, the Society for New Communication Research—now part of The Conference Board—turns winners into case studies. The deadline for entries is February 3. Read more


Breitbart launches boycott after Kellogg’s pulls ads—Kellogg’s decided to pull its advertising from far-right news site based on increased scrutiny of its populist, anti-immigrant views which, the company said, conflicted with its own values. In response, Breitbart News has launched a petition encouraging readers to boycott Kellogg’s products. It is also running stories critical of the company, including an Amnesty International claim that Kellogg’s uses child labor. Alex Marlow, Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, wrote, “For Kellogg’s, an American brand, to blacklist Breitbart News in order to placate left-wing totalitarians is a disgraceful act of cowardice.” The takeaway: Companies used to be able to make advertising decisions without being dragged into controversy. No more. Even simple ad placement decisions can result in fairly savage attacks. Be prepared. Also, it’s worth noting that left-leaning consumers have been posting their intention to increase their Kellogg’s purchases to offset the boycott and support the company’s decision. Read more

Reddit announces changes after CEO apology—Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has apologies for editing comments made about him in a pro-Donald Trump subreddit. At the same time, he announced the introduction of filters in the r/all subreddit that let people filter out subreddits from their r/all page (so you don’t have to see pro-Trump messages, for example). The takeaway: That had to be a hard choice for a site that has proclaimed itself a bastion of open and free speech. It points to the challenges social sites face in balancing free speech with managing a venue where people feel reasonably safe from hate speech and other offensive commentary. If you’re waiting for the perfect solution, please don’t hold your breath. Read more

FTC disclosure guidelines: They’re not just for superstars anymore—The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been clear that when Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian get paid to promote a product on Instagram or some other venue, disclosure of the paid relationship is required. Consumer watchdogs have noticed ordinary people with just a few followers are also exerting influence on behalf of brands, many without using “#ad” or “#paid” signals to inform followers that they were compensated for the post. Public Citizen is among the organizations calling attention to “micro-influencers” in a letter to the FTC. The takeaway: If you lead an influencer marketing campaign, it doesn’t matter how well-known your influencers are. You must insist that they play by the rules and disclose the relationship in their posts. Read more

Levi’s CEO stakes position on open-carry on LinkedIn—Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh took to LinkedIn to ask Levi customers to refrain from carrying weapons into the company’s stores. The letter was precipitated by an incident in which a customer’s gun went off in a store, injuring the customer. The takeaway: In addition to the growing trend of CEO’s taking stands on socially divisive issues, it’s important to note that Bergh chose LinkedIn as the venue for disseminating the message. Others have opted for Some use their Facebook pages. What they’re not using: blogs. While some will decry the marginalizing of the open web in favor of walled gardens, the tactic is sound since these posts get more attention and spread more quickly through built-in sharing methods. Read more

Facebook blocks Prisma’s filters from Facebook Live—Prisma filters are way cool, leading a lot of people to apply them to their Facebook Live broadcasts. No more. Facebook says its Live Video API is only for non-mobile devices like professional cameras and drones. Since Prisma’s filters are produced only from smartphones, they fall outside the Live Video API rules as articulated in an FAQ. However, “the FAQ doesn’t expplicitly say that third-party apps like Prisma can’t publish live video to Facebook via a smartphone’s cameras.” More likely is that Facebook is getting ready to launch its own live art filters and wants to stomp on any competition. The takeaway: This is why we can’t have nice things. Read more


Beacons are dead—They were hot a couple years ago, but they never took off for a variety of reasons. Beacons, once a highly touted technology from Apple and Google, are devices that deliver signals to mobile apps in the micro-local physical world (such as in a retail store). Why they never took off: They never did anything customers actually wanted. Also, installing and maintaining them is a lot of work. The takeaway: Geofencing is easier than beacons and we’ll see other technologies that can deliver useful content or information based on a hyper-local location. I’m not saying beacons could never rise from the dead and fine a useful niche, but right now they’re just not on my radar as a technology to pay attention to. Read More

Instagram will overtake Twitter as a marketing channel—eMarketer predicts that in 2017, more marketers will use Instagram than Twitter. According to the forecast, 74.2% of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees will use Instagram for marketing compared to 66.2% that will use Twitter. The takeaway: More bad news for Twitter, but this also speaks to Instagram’s growing influence. I have also seen data showing that Instagram is also one of marketers’ top channel preferences for influence marketing. Read more

Some traditional PR skills are still in demand—While SEO and SEM expertise and other digital skills are increasingly important for PR practitioners, some age-old competencies remain at the core of the profession: writing, research, project management, and presentation skills are musts, according to a “PR Agency of the Future” panel. The takeaway: I couldn’t agree more. However, having these skills and not having competencies that are required to deliver results in the modern media environment won’t get you very far. Read more

Accenture CEO bans corporate memos in favor of video—Accenture North America CEO Julie Sweet banned corporate memos, opting to use live-streamed conversations and pre-recorded video messages, which she says has improved communication across her team of 50,000 employees. “It allows you to be more authentic and less scripted,” she said. The takeaway: The era of C-suite executives who confine themselves to the ivory tower and rarely interact with employees (and other stakeholders) is over. Kudos to Sweet for taking this step. More leaders need to follow, not only with video but also with audio, which remains undervalued even as its influence rises. Read more

Be wary of making bad decisions based on data—Data is increasingly a key factor in communications. SHIFT Communications, for example, makes a point of proclaiming it was the first PR agency to become Google Analytics-certified. I have argued for some time that communicators need to improve their data chops, including figuring out how to do the corporate communications equivalent of data journalism. But this MIT Sloan Management Review piece points out that data can lead you to believe something that isn’t true or doubt something that is. This doesn’t mean you should give up on data, but be aware of the traps that may be waiting for you in data, models, and interpretation. The takeaway: Getting adept at data and analytics includes knowing how to avoid making mistakes when using them. Know the questions to ask about the data you’re reviewing. Read more

CEOs need to use social channels to connect with employees—Eighty-one percent of the general population views employee communications as a way to increase CEO trust. Employees are perceived as among a company’s most credible spokespeople, ranking well above CEOs. Thus, it is incumbent upon CEOs to engage directly with employees and social media provides a means that is more authentic and transparent. Edelman tested the notion that actively communicating with employees on social media improves a CEO’s approval rating and found that 75% of the top 50 highest-rated CEOs were present on social media channels and that the top 25 tended to be more socially active than those in the next 25 on the list. The takeaway: There are other reasons for CEOs to be active on social media. As I have noted before, we are now living in the era of the social CEO, when a more tangible and informal connection between leaders and stakeholders is required. This also speaks to the blurring of lines between internal and external communications, since engaging employees via LinkedIn or other public social media is public. Read more

Facebook groups are a source of business—A marketing agency VP left her job to become a sole practitioner and was surprised that Facebook groups became the primary source of leads and clients. The takeaway: LinkedIn usually gets the attention when we talk about business-focused discussion groups, but Kristi Dosh points out she’s not alone in generating business by participating in Facebook groups. It’s not a stretch to suggest business-focused Facebook groups would also be a smart venue for thought leadership and other engagement between brands and influencers. Read more


The future of news delivery could look a lot like election day mobile notifications—Mobile push notifications to smartphones were the source of election news for a lot of Americans. The Tow Center for Digital Journalism found that 469 notifications were sent on election day and the day after by the 23 publishers it followed. Yahoo News delivered more than 60, The Wall Street Journal fewer than 10. Some included videos and images, others used emojis. Rather than driving traffic, the traditional role of a notification, these were the primary source of information, although one publication still saw huge traffic to its site. The effectiveness of this delivery method is likely to find its way into day-to-day news delivery. The takeaway: First, companies should pay close attention and figure out how notifications can play a part in their news distribution strategies. Second, media relations professionals need to consider pitches that are notification-ready. Read more

Consumers who share content nine times more likely to buy—Research from RadiumOne found that consumers who share a brand’s content are nine times more likely to purchase products from that brand than someone who doesn’t. The report also revealed that 75% of consumer sharing happens in “dark social” accounts, such as email, messaging apps, and other channels brands can’t monitor and track. Consumers who share content with themselves are 1.7 times more likely to buy (that is, emailing a video to themselves as a reminder to watch it later). The takeaway: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of making content shareable. It’s a question you should ask when creating it: Why would someone want to share this with colleagues, friends, or family? Read more

Are the right metrics being applied to influence marketing?—Most companies have adopted influencer marketing but count on engagement and reach to measure its effectiveness. Direct sales is being used by only about 5% of marketers as a metric. The goals of influence marketing are reaching a new audience, reaching a niche audience, and building early buzz around a new campaign. The takeaway: While the amount spent on influencer marketing is set to double in the next year, some research claims it’s the lowest-cost form of marketing. My caution is to be strategic. My most effective influencer marketing effort targeted B-listers, well-known people in niche communities, big fish in small ponds (as opposed to, say, Kim Kardashian). Read more

Chatbots and AI

Facebook videos demystify AI—Facebook has released a series of videos that deliver a brief introduction to Artificial Intelligence and how it works. The takeaway: AI will play a huge role in communications. These videos are a good way to start getting familiar with the technology. It’s also smart for Facebook to share these insights since so many people have a view of AI fueled by science fiction. Read more

Microsoft’s popular Chinese chatbot censors controversial topics—Xiaoice is incredibly popular in China, but the Microsoft chatbot won’t discuss Tiananmen Square, Donald Trump, the Communist Party, or the Dalai Lama, among other topics. Microsoft confirmed that the bot censors some topics the government doesn’t want discussed. It is, as this articles notes, an unavoidable cost of doing business in China. The takeaway: If the cost of doing business in China interests you, listen to the newest podcast on the FIR Podcast Network, “Digital China.” That’s just the kind of thing host Simon Young covers. Read more

Agencies want to be part of voice tech—Consumers increasingly interact with Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri, among other voice technologies. The growing ubiquity of voice-enabled technology is turning the tech into a viable advertising/marketing platform. One agency exec said, “To ensure brands stay relevant, they need to be a central part of technologies that are solving consumer problems.” One example: Campbell’s has made its recipe library available on the Amazon Echo. The takeaway: Voice tech is one technology I am convinced will be a primary interface between people and information. Despite some people pushing back, I believe voice tech will be a more routine part of our day-to-day lives than Augmented Reality. Now is the time to start considering where your brand can be available to people interacting with AI via voice. Read more

Interested in voice tech? Here are two more articles to read— shares a piece urging brands to get engaged in voice-tech as it begins to dominate the world (Read more) and Business Insider notes that voice search is creating a massive vulnerability for Google, whose business model is based on traditional web/text search (Read more).

AI will help Facebook identify offensive videos—Facebook is developing an Artificial Intelligence tool that will identify offensive material in live video streams. The takeaway: I mention this just to point out how ubiquitous AI is going to become in all facets of life and work. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

More than 25% of the world will use mobile messaging apps by 2019—eMarketer forecasts that 25% of the world’s population will use mobile messaging apps before the end of the decade. This year, 1.4 billion people already use these apps, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for more than half of all chat app users worldwide. India is the second-largest market. The takeaway: Facebook wants Messenger to be the only app you ever open, with all other functionality built into it. Mobile messaging apps—which also are where chatbots live—represent one of the most important trends communicators are facing. Read more

Snapchat has revolutionized social networks—And it happened while we weren’t looking, according to The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo. “In various large and small ways, Snap has quietly become one of the world’s most innovative and influential consumer technology companies,” he writes. From its more intimate and authentic conversations to vanishing (“ephemeral”) messages, from Live Stories to the built-in use of Augmented Reality (via its lenses), Snapchat may not get a lot of media love but its impact on new features on other social sites has been massive as its teen and 20-something audience continues to expand. The takeaway: Snapchat already has more active users than Twitter and its influence continues to grow. Don’t be put off if you’re not in the app’s core demographic. I’m 62 and I use it. Read more

Cute ads are about to hit your text messages—Text messages you share with friends, colleagues, and family are the last digital space free of ads, but don’t expect that to last long. Ads are being tested on apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, and a new company is working to introduce “playful, charming and natural ads on mobile messaging.” The startup, called Emogi, “is betting that branded emoji will be even more fun than regular emoji” and users won’t mind when they get them on their messaging apps designed to pitch products and services. The takeaway: Well, if they’re really playful and charming and fun, who would object to ads intruding on their one-to-one messaging sessions? (Answer: Messaging ad-blockers will follow in short order.) Read more

AMP content now on nearly 1 million domains—The Google-led Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project is up to 700,000 domains hosting content prepared using the AMP scripting language, after only 10 months since the project was introduced. Publishers say up to 15% of mobile traffic is going to AMP pages, “unprecedented for a new web technology.” The takeaway: AMP is still in its growing phase with many of the problems new technologies face, but it’s clear it is fast becoming a standard. Talk to your IT and web people to make sure you at least have AMP on your radar screen. Read more

Great ideas

Spotify’s billboards shame users’ listening habits—You wouldn’t think calling out customers on questionable habits would make for good marketing, but you’d most likely change your mind once you saw Spotify’s billboards. One billboard reads, “Dear person who made a playlist called: ‘One Night Stand With Jeb Bush Like He’s a Bond Girl in a European Casino.’ We have so many questions.” Another: “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, What did you do?” The takeaway: This campaign, Spotify’s largest to date, is pitch perfect. Take a look. Read more

Stoli uses Google Trends data to create Instagram posts—What you see posted to Stolichnaya Elit’s Instagram page is informed by Google Trends data that scans online chatter to figure out which posts will resonate based on what people are talking about. “If a recipe for a chocolate martini is trending online, for instance, Elit’s social team will whip up a post and a picture of a chocolate drink within 24 hours.” The takeaway: And Google Trends is free, folks. There is definitely a lesson to be learned here! Read more

Pepsi conducts an internal Shark Tank—Fast Pitch was an internal challenge held at PepsiCo North America in August. Company marketers pitched ideas to a Shark Tank-like team of judges. They had three minutes to make their pitch and the judges had five minutes to ask questions. At stake: $1 million in marketing activation funding. The competition was launched by an internal innovation group introduced last year called PepsiCo Creator, “a catalyst group inside the organization to look at the edges of culture.” The takeaway: If anyone says your idea isn’t “businesslike,” push back or find a new place to work. Read more

This week’s Wrap image, from Glyol Lee’s Flickr account, portrays a Syrian Civil Defense worker carrying a child wrapped in a blanket over the rubble following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces on the Sukkari neighborhood of Syria’s northern city of Aleppo.



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