The Race Back to Actual News

The Race for blog davidprMore than 15 years ago, I began telling people that the Internet might kill newspapers but that it won’t end journalism.  A robust, free press remains part of the fabric of our nation, even as we continue to struggle with how to pay for it.  Remember, journalism was created to educate, inform, and persuade people, and our nation’s first journalists were not writing to please advertisers.  Thomas Paine did not write Common Sense as a vehicle to promote furniture discounts, closeout sales, or classifieds.  Advertising was a byproduct of journalism, which has, at times, over-shadowed it—but I promise you, journalism will endure.

New York Times reporter David Carr, who covers the media business (and does it very well, by the way) wrote an interesting piece last week that got me thinking.  He noted that the Washington Post under new ownership of Jeff Bezos has flourished recently because it bolstered its newsroom after years of staff cuts.  The Post is turning out more scoops and generating traction. It’s not clear how that’s affecting the balance sheet, but the newsroom is healthier than it has been for some time.  In 2012, Carr wrote, presciently, that actual news is likely the next “killer app.”  It’s not just the Post; other outlets are looking at real news instead of the puffery that has dominated our social streams of late. (Aside from writing his column, Carr is also featured in an interesting documentary called Page One, which chronicles the Times’s transition from print to digital media.)Read More

If You Think Your Audience Is an Algorithm, You’re Doing it Wrong

Google-Hummingbird-Algorithm-Update2One of the first things I learned in journalism school, and later honed in my PR career, was the concept of knowing one’s audience. For example, when writing for the general “newspaper-reading” public, you need to make sure your text is crafted at no more than an eleventh-grade reading level. And while writing an article in a journalism class, if you throw-in a bunch of heavy-duty words, you’ll get crucified by the professor. In the business world, if you don’t understand your audience, you can develop marketing material that goes over your audience’s collective head, or worse, insults them. Remember, your audience comprises people who you want to educate, connect with, and persuade.

Yet as communicators, in recent years, we have drifted. Our emphasis has shifted away from people and instead focused on the computer algorithms created by search engines. We write website copy over-burdened with search terms, and we worry more about keyword density than meaning and message. We write copy of a length and depth that we think pleases Google, rather than what our readers want. And we endure seemingly endless meetings trying to divine what terms prospects will plug-in to search boxes, in addition to spending millions of dollars trying to drive people to our sites. This has evolved into a problem.Read More

5 Questions with Mark Cuban About Online Privacy

mark-cubanIt might seem like a contradiction that an executive and celebrity with a huge public persona would be blazing trails for online privacy, but billionaire Mark Cuban is doing just that. Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a star of CNBC’s Shark Tank, takes privacy so seriously that he has multiple business interests devoted to helping individuals and companies send and receive messages and post on social media more securely and more privately.

In a recent blog, I mentioned Cuban’s mobile app Cyber Dust, which enables users to send text messages that disappear in less than two minutes, turning to cyber “dust.” And I just learned that he also invested in Xpire, an app that helps consumers manage and minimize their digital footprints. After Huffington Post published my blog, I reached out to Cuban and asked if he would answer some additional questions about Cyber Dust and online privacy. He graciously agreed, so following are five questions with Cuban about online privacy.

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New Trend: Be Invisible Online 

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Businesses spend years and millions of dollars making it easier for customers to find them online, but an emerging trend suggests they also are seeking ways to be invisible.

A study last year from the Pew Internet Research Project found that most internet users would like to be anonymous online at least occasionally. The report said that 86 percent of users have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints—ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email, from avoiding using their name to using virtual networks that mask their internet address.

Technology companies have created ways to use the latest techno trappings—but without leaving a digital paper trail. I have often mused that being “off the grid” and therefore not beholden to technology could become the new status symbol, but in the meantime, some new offerings strive to hide and even erase online activities.Read More

Changing the PR Channel

vintage antennas david pr groupAs I have told my stunned teenage children, we only had four television channels when I was a kid.  Back in the day (and by this I mean before anyone ever said “back in the day”), before cable television, before the Internet, and way-before a full-season of House of Cards dropped in one day, we had four TV options: the local affiliate stations for ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.  Television channels were broadcast over the airwaves (not Wi-Fi), and some TVs only showed footage in “black and white.”  Our viewing choices and channels were very limited, but we didn’t know any better.  Oh yeah, there was an informal fifth channel which I will call the “Shut-Off the TV and Go Play Outside Channel,” but the details of that one are best left to another post.

I have been thinking about channels a lot lately but mainly communications and distribution channels for our marketing messages.  We need to seek them out, manage them, sometimes pay for them and often create our own.

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Storytelling Returns to Marketing

G1057-Once-Upon-A-Time-Large-600x600-300x300What do every great movie, book and marketing campaign have in common? The answer: a great story. Now this may seem like an old mantra, but as Internet marketing dominated our agendas in recent years, we focused our energy heavily (and a bit too much in my opinion) on keywords, tags, short-form posts, tweets, etc. While it’s OK to be brief in your communications, we can’t let our story suffer because of the medium. And with the continued fragmentation of media, we need to return to telling stories because it sets our message apart and helps our meaning ring clear amid the noise in the marketplace of attention.Read More

If I Were LeBron’s PR Guy…

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The winds of backlash are again brewing near the shores of Lake Erie as Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans await “The Decision” part two. Rumors are flying that basketball superstar LeBron James may part ways with the Miami Heat and play for Cleveland. The idea that the Akron native might return to Ohio is not outside the realm of possibility. Read More

Disruptive Technology Merits Disruptive PR

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One of the big stories of the summer is the rise of ridesharing services. You may have heard of the major players (companies Uber and Lyft) or seen one of the Lyft cars — distinguishably marked with a rather undistinguished-looking pink mustache.

For the uninitiated, ridesharing offers an alternative to traditional taxis. Read More

U.S. Soccer’s No-Win Scenario

tumblr_inline_n728eq6QvQ1rd9ng2In an interview with The New York Times back in December, Jurgen Klinsmann, coach of the U.S. mens national soccer team (USMNT), said that the U.S. can’t win the World Cup which begins today in Brazil. After the story came out, I was truly surprised that Klinsmann, even though he is German, would ever suggest such a thing to American fans. How dare anyone say we can’t win before the matches even start? Sacrilege. He caught some heat for the statement, but I figured it was just a media training lapse. Then yesterday, he said it again! In my opinion, Klinsmann’s attitude is emblematic of why soccer can’t seem to catch on in the U.S.

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