Make this the Summer of Love 2.0

Have you found your true love, your one and only, your match-made-in-heaven soul mate? Do you love unconditionally? Eternally? Is everyone in your loving family really loving one another right now? If you answered yes to any of this, congratulations. You might be the only one.

love_definitionLove is not what the movies say it is, argues “Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become,” a new book by Barbara L. Frederickson, PhD. Love is intermittent, fleeting and biological. It’s a “micro-moment” of “positivity resonance” that can be experienced with a stranger as easily as with a spouse. It opens you to the world and makes you grow. What could this mean for communications, branding and PR?

“I need to ask you to disengage from some of your most cherished beliefs about love … the notions that love is exclusive, lasting and unconditional,” Frederickson writes. “These deeply held beliefs are often more wish than reality in people’s lives. They capture people’s daydreams about the love-of-their-life whom they’ve yet to meet. Love, as your body defines it, is not exclusive, not something to be reserved for your soul mate, your inner circle, your kin, or your so-called loved ones. Love’s reach turns out to be far wider than we’re typically coaxed to imagine. Even so, love’s timescale is far shorter than we typically think. Love, as you’ll see, is not lasting. It’s actually far more fleeting than most of us would care to acknowledge. On the upside, though, love is forever renewable.”

Love stories

Here are three true stories that fit the Love 2.0 pattern.

  • One of my colleagues was battling cancer a few years ago. She was going from specialist to specialist as she put together a treatment strategy. “What brings you here?” the doctors would inevitably ask as if reading from the same script. Apparently, it’s a standard question that elicits a lot of information about the patient’s understanding and attitude. It doesn’t comfort. One day, a particular doc flipped that script. “I’m sorry we’re meeting under these circumstances,” he said, looking his new patient in the eyes. It was a small thing, certainly, but it made a lasting impact. “I still remember how that immediately put me at ease,” my colleague says. “It was kind and human and unclinical. He understood I was anxious and needed sympathy – not the handwringing kind of sympathy, but just some kind of assurance I was more than one more ‘case.’ It made a huge impact on me.” Best friends self portrait
  • Another colleague’s story goes back decades. “I was in college and visiting friends at their campus,” she recalls. “I wanted to leave a bar, but none of my friends did. A guy I’d never met, the roommate of one of my friends, kindly walked me home with no amorous intent at all. He tucked me into a safe bed and made sure I was okay. I’ve never seen him again, but I always remembered his kindness. Actually, I decided that night that if I ever had a son, I would name him Sam because of that experience. I did have a son. And his name is Sam.”
  • I was riding my bike to work one day and spotted an elderly woman using a walker and dragging her empty trash can across her front lawn. Since then, I’ve stopped by on garbage day and toted the empty can across the yard for her. I was doing this the other day and heard a knocking sound from her house. For the first time, she’d spotted me in the act. She was in the window waving and smiling. I smiled and waved back. A nice moment for both of us.

Love 2.0 is relevant

Micro-moments of positivity resonance (“Love 2.0 affairs?”) like these have tremendous implications for communications. This new love model affirms the bedrock premise of our strategic relevance platform, that humans yearn to connect with people, brands, ideas and causes. Love 2.0 also dovetails with our recent findings that more Americans label themselves as compassionate than any of the nine other adjectives we offered them. Compassionate isn’t something you can be alone. It implies a connection.

A fleeting connection can be a powerful one indeed and may even – at that particular micro-moment of positivity resonance – transcend all of the more important loves in a person’s life. That’s not to say it will be more profound or enduring or monumental than a family or marriage tie – just that it will matter a lot when it occurs. And it may leave a lasting impact.

The owner of my local wine store asks customers to tell him about the best wine they ever drank. They rarely tell him the grape variety, vintage or origin. They talk about the moment. “I was vacationing in France with my fiancée and the sun was setting over the Alps on our second-to-last night, and a local farmer walked up the porch and handed us a bottle without a label….”family

Be a love machine

So how do you trigger Love 2.0? Storytelling is one way. You assemble random ideas in a way that enables brain patterns between storyteller and listener to converge, as the author says, in “a single act, performed by two brains.

We’d also suggest making sure your communications mine all four quadrants in our relevance model: not only logic (overrated), but senses, social impulses and values – all of which can help spark a Love 2.0 experience.

Meanwhile, the Love 2.0 paradigm helps explain some things we already know: that people are more interesting than things, that shaking hands and slapping backs works for politicians, that a hug can undermine decades of estrangement, that pictures are more powerful than words, that free samples work, and that for many, cat videos are like crack.

So, are you ready to have a Love 2.0 affair with your customers, followers or constituents? Can you deliver?

To differentiate, don't make these 7 mistakes

Most companies make the same mistakes when trying to differentiate their brand, products and services:

  1. They look inward, not outward – Differentiation isn’t about “making up” your company’s difference, it’s finding what objectively, authentically sets it apart. Understanding what customers / consumers need and discovering how your product / service fulfills them (or not) is the best place to start. Successful brands spur conversations and build movements.
  2. They don't engage – Despite all the lessons learned from social media, only 16% of companies fully integrate social media. Actively engaging with customers/consumers in a two-way dialogue differentiates brands from static, one-way communicators.
  3. They aren't bold – They pay homage to the God of Safe. Don’t speak colorfully. Never take risks. Don’t invest time expressing visually (with video, infographics, images). Why tell stories when you can recite facts? Always be business-like and never reveal a human side.
  4. They shy away from competition – This one always surprises me because at the C-level – and in the sales trenches – companies constantly sweat the challenges of competition, winning and losing deals. But instead of acknowledging the existence of competition, most companies shy away, acting like theirs is the only candy in the shop. Facing up to competition doesn’t mean companies have to name names or be arrogant. There are many ways to communicate differences in a professional yet more meaningful way.
  5. They aren't relevant – To become (and remain) relevant, brands need to fully engage sensory, social and emotional elements ... not just the rational. When something is relevant, the brand, product or cause becomes part of who we are. We self-identify and move from passive to involved, from indifferent to eager, and are willing (and eager) to act (buy, vote, recommend, etc.).
  6. They don't prove it – It’s one thing to convey competence; it’s another to offer up proof. Getting customers/consumers to express their views about your company/service in first-person language has a profound impact: it enables prospects to relate because they interpret your brand through a more personal lens.
  7. They don't focus on one thing – As companies attempt to zero-in on their customer-centric benefits, they compile long lists of capabilities and attributes. But they often fail to whittle all this down to one believable, sustainable advantage. Less is more – standing for one thing creates memorability.

Do these 10 things to improve thought leadership

Companies create thought leadership to forge a differentiated position for themselves. By developing compelling high-level ideas, the organization creates competitive advantage because the marketplace perceives its creator as a visionary seer and interpreter: a company shaping the agenda vs. responding. Great thought leadership campaigns create an offensive vs. defensive position and build brands.
 
Here’s what you need to know to become a thought leader:
1. Look outward, not inward – Begin by creating a big picture idea with relevance to targeted stakeholders. The idea isn’t myopically focused; it has appeal to others outside your company. While it doesn’t have to speak to a vast universe, it must resonate with a relevant market or market segment. Pervasive thought leadership platforms cleverly rise above (A) a company, (B) its products, (C) its technologies, and (D) its services. Ways you can develop thought leadership include: (a) talk to consumers/customers and uncover what they’re worried about/thinking about; (b) study your competition to find untapped content zones; (c) share what you know including lessons learned, marketplace insight and even a little IP; (d) discover the “unmet need” and forge a viewpoint on how to meet it; and (e) conduct original research.
 2.Take a stance – If your organization is trying to get noticed, don’t be boring. Color and controversy are good things; you’re trying to catalyze an active, recurring conversation.
 3.Create forward appeal – Memorable thought leadership isn’t a rehash of where things have been, it’s a brilliant definition of how things should be and where they should be headed. It’s a desired state with emphasis on benefits. It’s a new, fresh idea.
 4.Have a long life – You’re not creating a short-lived advertising tagline or a bumper sticker …it’s a definitional stake-in-the-ground for sustained corporate messaging. IBM’s Smarter Planet is a great example – it has topical and distribution “legs,” and thus can last a long time.
 5.Create compelling content regularly – Today’s effective thought leaders understand the power of creating a steady flow of original content that’s clever and can be distributed across traditional and social outlets. Look no further than McKinsey…they publish five journals on a regular basis including the McKinsey Quarterly. Content should be diversified…from video and blogs to events and website to images and advertising to research and published articles.
 6.Push the ball up the floor – Great thought leaders don’t sit back and say, “Give me a call when you want to talk about this idea.” They’re bold, aggressive and in-your-face. They leverage social media and digital platforms to proliferate ideas, stimulate conversations and build community.
 7.It’s people, not just ideas – Compelling thought leadership involves ideas and content, yes, but also people. Carefully chosen spokespersons personify thought leadership ideas and help gain traction. Klout.com made noise with its “Klout Scale” which measures online influence. People personify ideas, and in today’s digital age, they come in a wide variety:

 

 

  8.Be open to envy – Effective thought leadership ideas are embraced (sometimes readily) by others. The ideas are so strong and compelling that direct competitors may overtly or indirectly respond to and co-opt the idea.
 9.Make a difference - For the bold and socially minded, there’s an even higher state of thought leadership. Companies can rise above their own market niches (and self-interests) by authentically making their world a better place to live. Cases in point: TOMS Shoes, Stonyfield Farms and Brighter Planet. These for-profit entities give back and make a difference. Consumers, in turn, endorse these brands with their pocketbooks, preferring to do business with companies supporting a broader vision.
 10.Don’t forget natural search and lead gen – Thought leadership is cannon fire; lead gen is rifle shot. As your organization is increasingly perceived as a thought leader, people will seek out your perspective and will be open to registering for content access. The two feed off each other.

CEOs who make PR programs great

I've collaborated with over 300 chief executive officers, from the world's largest global brands to established independents to VC-funded startups.

What jumps out is how few of them were personally instrumental at positively transforming communications and public relations programs.

The 80/20 rule holds true. 80 percent of my CEO experiences were middle of-the-road from the point of view of “making the PR effort better.” These middle-of-the-road CEOs didn’t do anything horrific, they just never put real skin in the game. They did what we needed them to do, nothing more, nothing less.Ten percent were dreadful. They paid lip service to public relations, never got genuinely engaged and expected miracle results without investing any effort. They’re the easiest to recall because they were often self-absorbed and sometimes arrogant, myopic and bullheaded, belligerent and autocratic. Some of these CEOs ruined their own companies. Others lost their personal reputations -- visibly and publicly -- due to fundamental personality flaws. Cases in point: one was arrested, prosecuted and ended up in prison. Two were profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in scathing exposes.
 
The remaining 10 percent stand out in my mind’s eye as clearly as the dreadfuls, but for a better reason. These CEOs were enlivening, vigorous, catalyzing leaders who worked hard to take public relations programs to a new level.
 
My six best CEOs shared similar attributes: enthusiasm, personal humility, straightforwardness, class, and a belief that great reputations are earned, not deserved.
 
One of my favorite CEOs was an engineer by training. I call him Mr. Engage. He was most comfortable hanging with his software development teams, but once we pulled him out of the R&D labs, he lit up the room with his technical and competitive knowledge. He made PR programs better by becoming intellectually engaged. He didn’t just go through the motions, he shaped discussions. He disagreed, pushed back, offered refreshing points of view and always kept the discussion lively. He didn’t suffer fools lightly and was a great match for the toughest bloggers, reporters and analysts.

Mr. Credibility has endeared himself to customers, employees and media because he tells it like it is, the good and the bad, and isn’t myopic. When something isn’t right with his own product, he shares this. Conversely, when his company and/or products are clearly better than the competition, he isn’t shy to say this either, but does so in a way that proves his opinion is rooted in fact, not hype. Mr. Credibility sees the competitive forest clearly and doesn’t live in a “my company is always great” world. He made the PR program great by keeping the company vigorously focused on earning customer trust by delivering products that exceed expectations.

Ms. Social made an early intellectual leap to the emerging world of social media, then took bold action. Even though her company sells B2B vs. B2C, she understood the potential impact of building a grassroots following, especially with her customers. She figuratively jumped off the cliff, opening up her company’s brand to two-way conversations with newly forming online communities (which she helped create). Ms. Social embraced Twitter when everyone wondered if it was a fad. She  made sure her company blogged at a high level with non-myopic issues, trends and topics that people would search on naturally. Ms. Social made the PR program better by taking risks and trying new things that had never been done. While some panned out and others didn’t, the net-net is she created competitive advantage over others acted slowly or failed to seize the opportunity. 
 
Ms. Caring understands how great brands are built by going beyond solid products, profit and revenue. By creating an empowered culture of giving back within her organization, Ms. Caring has transformed her company's brand. She makes the PR program greater by increasing relevance with consumers, customers and other stakeholders who prefer buying from (and dealing with) companies who make the world a better place.

Mr. Focus is disciplined. Unlike many CEOs who want it all (or are satisfied for only a brief period of time), this particular executive continually pushes back to make sure PR efforts deliver needed value. While he’s passionate about focus, he’s also one of the most energetic and engaging CEOs I’ve ever worked with. He listens with excruciating patience and his expectations are adjustable. He makes the PR program better by truly understanding how public relations works, getting personally involved, pushing back, and focusing himself -- and us -- on the most important things.
 
Mr. Genuine headed a Fortune 50 company and personally made tens of millions of dollars but never let this consume him. He didn’t have a large ego, and was amazingly serene and genuinely personable. He made each individual feel like they were the only person in the room. He was patient and a great listener. He transformed his company from highly political to open and fair. He made the PR program great by subsuming his own ego and being able to take advice from his internal communications team and external PR firm.
 
If you have the opportunity to collaborate with a truly great CEO, enjoy the ride and remember to leverage this asset to the fullest. It’s a rare moment in a career, one that will remain as indelible as an early morning run down a fresh powder trail.

6 reasons why social media didn't kill PR

There was steady chatter from 2007 through 2009 about the potential death of PR. Social media - the new game in town – might make PR irrelevant. Companies and organizations could now go direct, building their own conversations, communities and visibility.
Specialized social media experts (who were ahead of the curve in the early days) understandably trumpeted this view, leveraging the opportunity to directly or indirectly de-position PR agencies and professionals. Similarly, some journalists said PR’s traditional media relations centricity was a model for extinction.
In March 2009,Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge was published, urging PR practitioners to master the art of listening, build meaningful relationships and leverage emerging social media. They educated and informed but also advocated quick, smart reinvention. They said PR practitioners should be brand/cause enthusiasts, “embedded in the communities shaping the future.” It was a needed call to action … and a wake-up for many.
Like many others, I shared my points of view along the way via blogs like Pitching is passé, What PR isn’t and Tired, faded and dead PR words.
As we enter Q4 2010, the heatedness of this debate has arguably dissipated. It’s interesting how much progress has been made. Six transformations triggered the shift:
1.       History repeated itself – remember when the www tornado caught many off guard in the mid-nineties? The communications industry was flat-footed. Web experts sprung to life - including specialized digital agency properties. For a period of time, specialists ruled – as they typically do in moments of change - to fill the knowledge vacuum.
2.       Agencies got religion –What occurred with the Web repeated itself with social media. Facing loss of relevance and revenue, many agencies, firms and communications professionals invested the time to question, listen and learn. They got smarter, broadened service offerings, aligned with experts and integrated across disciplines. Priorities and practices were re-shaped.
3.       It went from niche to mainstream – as time passed, organizations and companies also became more comfortable with social media. Ideas and initiatives that didn’t work (or make sense) were discarded; promising approaches were encouraged. As corporate and not-for-profit sectors got smarter, they ramped-up their own internal talent. Today, according to a June 2010 research study conducted by Digital Brand Expressions, 78% of companies are now using social media.
4.       Walls broke down –As the PR industry shifted from wide-eyed to eagle-eyed and as clients, companies and not-for-profits became more at ease, the early days of social media panic and pointing largely dissipated. Former adversaries let down their guards and began cooperating. This year, one of the first books on the subject “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” by David Meerman Scott was re-issued as a second edition, illustrating social media’s continuing maturation.
5.       Opportunity begat revenue – As social media transformed from emerging to embedded – and as knowledge increased - the revenue followed. An August 2010 Advertising Age article reported how social media is helping the public relations sector not just survive, but thrive.
6.       True public relations practices remained strong –the people who sounded the PR death knell were largely equating public relations with media relations. In that narrow zone, they were right. Traditional, one-way publicity is an old model that’s no longer relevant in an age of social-media-driven two-way conversations, communities and grassroots empowerment.                                        

But true public relations practice isn’t publicity. It’s much broader, taking into account every stakeholder (or “public”) with which an organization interacts: 

Strategically practiced, PR takes on a wide-ranging role, focused on earning a trusted reputation by acting in the best interests of these publics – not the organization’s own myopic agenda.

Social media is the latest expression of relationship building (a two-way model that’s far more inclusive and participative); other exciting new iterations will follow. Solis and Breakenridge were right, we’re the industry in the best position to “put the public back in public relations” and keep it there by never staying put.

The 6 mistakes companies make trying to differentiate

There aren’t many B2B companies that wouldn’t be delighted with a more differentiated brand position.
In an era where markets and technologies are zippily becoming commodities, the ability to authentically (and persuasively) spotlight a corporate difference remains a salivating need.

Why is standing out so difficult? Putting aside (major) issues like inferior products or insufficient market demand, most companies repeat the same common mistakes:

  1. They look inward, not outward – Differentiation isn’t about “making up” your company’s difference, it’s finding what objectively, authentically sets it apart. Understand what your customers/consumers want and discover how your product/service fulfills them (or not).
  2. They refuse to focus on one thing – As companies attempt to zero-in on their customer-centric benefits, they compile lists of attributes cutting across multiple vertical industries and product offerings. But they fail to whittle them down to a believable, sustainable advantage. Less is more – standing for one thing creates remembrance.
  3. Their messaging is neutral – Most B2B companies sound remarkably alike. They rely on an impersonal second-person voice; focus mainly on capabilities and product attributes; and share   too much detail. What happens? They convey a competent, but neutral, persona.
  4. They aren’t bold - This philosophy of brand neutrality pays homage to the God of Safe. Don’t challenge (Yikes!). Don’t speak colorfully (what if it turns someone off?). Never take risks (lest you offend). Don’t reveal human emotion (we’re a company!) Avoid expressing visually vs. textually (it’s so much work!) Recite facts vs. telling stories (safe!). Always be business-like, never lighthearted (they’ll think we’re not serious!).
  5. They shy away from the competition – This one always surprises me because at the C-level – and in the sales trenches – B2B companies constantly sweat the challenges of competition, winning and losing deals. But instead of acknowledging the existence of competition, most companies shy away, acting like theirs is the only candy in the shop. Facing up to the competition doesn’t mean companies have to name names – they can also successfully communicate differences indirectly.
  6. They don’t prove it – it’s one thing to convey competence; it’s another thing to offer up proof. Getting customers to talk about your company/service in first person language has a profound impact: it makes prospects and customers relate because it’s through their lens, not yours.

Apple's sour grapes bruises a stellar brand

Even the ultra-cool sometimes just don’t get it.

After a few haughty responses earlier in the week to complaints about its iPhone 4 dropping calls, Apple made a smart move and offered free cases iPhone 4 consumers. The cases will prevent the “death grip” problem that cause the phone’s reception to fade and sometimes drop calls if held a certain way.
But Apple CEO Steve Jobs apparently just couldn’t just hand out the cases and live to fight another day. Standing on a dais in front of an image that said “Antennagate,” he had to show a video illustrating problems with competing phones like the Blackberry. Then he insisted there’s nothing really wrong with the iPhone 4 – that the situation is a media creation.
“We're not feeling right now that we have a giant problem we need to fix,” Jobs said during a press conference at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. “This has been blown so out of proportion that it’s incredible. I know it’s fun to have a story, but it’s less fun when you're on the other end of it.”
Has Jobs grown too accustomed to the rainbows and unicorns he usually gets from the media? I have to wonder if his PR people warned him he’d look like a whiner if he complained about the press because that’s how he came off – defensive. The media did not, as Jobs intimated, create this problem. Apple’s arrogant response to customer complaints did. When customers got the high hat from Apple, they started complaining publicly through social media and the news media picked up on the story.
When are executives going to learn a little humility and contrition go a long way in situations like this? You’d think that coming so soon on the heels of Toyota’s and BP’s PR Armageddons that Apple, normally a PR-savvy company, would have had a response as slick as its products. Considering the vast reservoirs of customer good will it has to draw on, Apple could have snuffed this out before it became a problem. It might have had to eat a little crow by admitting its hot-shot phone had a flaw, but at least it wouldn’t be getting bludgeoned in the press at the same time.

BP triggers dark side for augmented reality

No sooner did brand managers and marketers discover augmented reality (AR) as the next big marketing frontier then did consumers find a way to use AR to voice their own opinions.
 
AR developers Mark Skwarek and Joseph Hocking are keeping BP’s feet to the fire with a new AR iPhone app that lets users visualize the Deepwater Horizon oil spill at their local BP gas station or wherever they happen to see a BP logo.
 
Called “the leak in your hometown,” the app transforms the logo into the source of the deep sea gusher. Just point your phone at the logo and your outrage and sense of futility over the unceasing disaster is rekindled.

If you’re new to augmented reality, it’s technology that overlay’s digital information and imagery onto your view of real-world things, typically using a webcam or smartphone camera as the visual conduit.
 
The BP gusher app is pretty simplistic as far as AR apps go. Yet it’s a brand manager’s nightmare. As the app’s creators describe on their blog … 
An important component of the project is that it uses BP’s corporate logo as a marker, to orient the computer-generated 3D graphics. Basically turning their own logo against them. This repurposing of corporate icons will offer future artists and activists a powerful means of expression which will be easily accessible to the masses and at the same time will be safe and nondestructive.
Remember back when brand managers first swooned over the potential of social media as a new direct-to-consumer marketing channel, not yet realizing how the technology gives consumers their own, sometimes critical, voice? With AR, it’s déjà vu all over again. Google ‘augmented reality’ and ‘marketing’ and you'll see what I mean. But the effusive praise by marketers will soon be tempered as they discover that AR can be a double-edged sword, as much a threat to their companies’ corporate reputation as it is a powerful marketing tool. 

Next BP victim: 'brand journalism'

The brand journalist is the one of the most compelling marketing concepts I've encountered in a while. Leave it to BP to spoil a good thing.

Read more from our CleanSpeak blog here.

Surprising job titles reflect changing times in PR and communications

For decades, the same titles were used for public relations and communications professionals in companies, agencies and organizations. These included Director, Marketing Communications; Manager, Public Relations; Account Executive; Vice President, Corporate Communications; Director, Community Relations; Publicist; Director, Government Relations; Account Director.
As our industry speedily reshapes itself – driven by historic grassroots empowerment, two-way conversations and brand building communities – so are the titles reflecting the jobs we do and responsibilities we bear. 

Consider, for example, some of the current PR & communications job openings:

  • Manager, Cyclical Communications (Target)
  • Director, Global Partner Communications & Engagement (Starbucks)
  • Director of Innovation (Netflix)
  • Director of North American Positioning (Novozymes)
  • Web Evangelist (Microsoft)
  • Chief Content Officer (PBS)
  • Social Media Manager (Milestone Internet Marketing)
  • Manager, Green Marketing & Wellness (confidential search)
  • Competitive Intelligence and Social Media Strategist (EMC)  
  • Online content & Communications Manager (Penny Saver/Harte Hanks Shoppers)
  • Senior Director, Internet Communications and Marketing (Save The Children)
  • Director Corporate Responsibility (Delhaize America)
While the classic job titles will stick around, there’s an emerging trend where companies, organizations and agencies are deliberately re-casting roles and responsibilities. How are the new titles different from the old? We see five transformations unfolding:   
  1. Some communications and PR titles are moving away from general functional descriptions (“communications,” “community relations,” etc.), shifting toward a more emotive position (innovation; evangelist, strategist, responsibility).
  2. New titles are embracing online community and consistent two-way communication (engagement, social media, cyclical communications).
  3. They mirror major societal changes (green marketing; web; wellness).
  4. Some of the new titles are trending big picture (positioning; global partner, competitive intelligence).
  5. Authentic, compelling & engaging content creation is central to branding success (the emergence of the Chief Content Officer).

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