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.

Webinar Alert

On Thursday I’ll present a webinar on communication to employees about the political sides companies are taking. If you think this won’t be relevant to your company, think again. Organizations are figuring out that they will succeed or fail based on their values. Addressing social change is one of the three big ones that leads customers, investors, and prospective employees to decide they will or won’t do business with you. Imagine if your employees don’t know your leaders are about to speak out on a political issue and half of them don’t agree with the position they take. My webinar will help you get ready to communicate internally about your company’s social change positions. Register


Turn it off!—Silent videos have gotten hot thanks to Facebook autoplay videos default to audio off. That’s about to end. They’ll be playing with audio on soon. The takeaway: Fortunately, you can change the settings, as I suspect a lot of people will do, which means the idea of videos you can watch without sound will still make sense. The trick has always been making the videos effective with or without audio. Read more

Fox sorry for fake news campaign—As part of its marketing for the new movie, “A Cure for Wellness,” 20th Century Fox took a page from the 106 U.S. presidential election, creating fake news sites with plausible names like The Salt Lake City Guardian and The Houston Leader, then filled them with partisan headlines for stories about President Trump, mental health, and vaccinations. And, just as in the election, people who didn’t know they were fake shared them on Facebook. Since the movie is about a fake cure that makes people sicker, there was a connection to the idea of fake news, but it nevertheless crossed a line, leading the company to apologize and replace all the content across the fake news sites with clear movie promos. The takeaway: As part of any planning process, communicators and marketers should project into the future, one month after the campaign drops, and ask, “What went wrong?” This simple exercise might have avoided 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises some embarrassment. Read more

NBA updates social media policy over teams mocking each other—The NBA thinks the semi-good-natured banter between teams via social media has “crossed the line between appropriate and inappropriate.” There was the time, for instance, when the Grizzlies’ Chandler Parsons made a laughably bad shot, leading the Portland Trail Blazers to poke fun at him, sharing a GIF of the whiff on Twitter along with the tweet, “To be fair, the NBA 3-point line is really, really far from the basket,” leading to an exchange of barbed quips. The new rules restrict teams and players from disparaging, belittling or embarrassing an individual opponent or game official; mimicking or impersonating an opponent or game official in a negative manner; and criticizing officiating or the NBA officiating program. The takeaway: Someone please tell me why I shouldn’t find these rules excessive. These teams are opponents and some clever digs just draw fans deeper into the sport. At least the rules aren’t as draconian as the NFL’s. Read more

Google and Disney drop YouTube star PewDiePie—Brands have been quick to align themselves with YouTube stars, who are more popular among a certain demographic than TV stars. But PewDie Pie (aka Felix Kjellberg)—one of the highest-earning YouTube stars of all—lost his deals with Disney and Google over a string of videos and posts in which he made anti-Semitic remarks. YouTube has dropped him from its preferred advertising service. The takeaway: As the article notes, this is a cautionary tale for brands pursuing influencers with big followings. They “need to understand what little control they actually have in this space.” Better to consider the idea of long-term influencer relationship management with non-celebrities who influence smaller groups of followers. Read more

Under Armour CEO at odds with top athletes over Trump support—Some of Under Armour’s biggest athlete-spokespersons made it clear they disagreed with the pro-Trump position of the company’s CEO after he called the president “a real asset for the country.” The Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry told a newspaper he agreed “if you remove the ‘et’” from “asset.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said CEO Kevin Plank were an insult to the beliefs of many of the company’s employees. Leaders should inspire people, he said, not “divide and disband.” Under Armour ultimately walked back its CEO’s position, speaking out against the executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. The takeaway: See the webinar alert at the top of this week’s bulletin. Plank is certainly entitled to his views and has every right to articulate them, but from a business perspective, the least he should have done was engage his athletes and employees. Giving it one minute of thought would have revealed that many would not support his position. Read more

Twitter rolls back troll-fighting change that attracted trolls—A new feature from Twitter implemented to deal with its troll problem wound up being used by the very people it was meant to shut down. The change notified users when someone else added them to a list. Trolls used the notifications to harass users. The takeaway: As the article notes, didn’t Twitter consider that this might happen? It seems they’re trying anything to turn the ship around without applying a lot of strategy or thought to those solutions. Twitter’s future remains very much in doubt. Read more

Proximity search could get a boost from Chrome—Google is testing the “Physical Web” in the latest version of Chrome for iOS. Search in the search bar (Google calls it the “OmniBox” and you’ll find local brick-and-mortar locations along with the usual search results. An open source project, the Physical Web “uses digital ‘touchpoints,’ typically Bluetooth beacons that broadcast a website URL. These touchpoints are then associated with things and places in the physical world, where smartphones can discover them.” The takeaway: Once this feature is readily available on all Chrome mobile browsers, it could elevate proximity search to a whole new level, blending nearby locations with global search results and finally taking advantage of beacon technology that never really took off. Read more

Now this is fake news—While the term “fake news” has been appropriated to mean news someone doesn’t like or news with some errors in it, a genuine bit of fake news came to light this week when news media received a fraudulent press release claiming McDonald’s was looking to acquire Chipotle. The release was “formatted convincingly…used business language, mirrored the typical structure of a corporate merge announcement and was portrayed as a filing to be submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.” The takeaway: This is the kind of thing for which companies need to be on the lookout. This was most likely meant to affect share prices or one or both companies. The denials from McDonald’s and Chipotle (which McDonald’s owned and spun off in 2006) were issued quickly. Read more


Ch-ch-ch-changes in the workplace—A Gallup report finds the frantic pace of change in the workplace will lead companies to reconsider how they manage their workforces, and that means there’s a whole new category of work for internal communicators to do. “The changes that are affecting organizations today are coming at a dizzying pace. They’re overlapping and colliding in ways they haven’t before. They’re historic and monumental,” according to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace.” And these changes are leaving employees feeling rudderless. Only 22% strongly agree that their leaders have a clear direction for the organization, 15% strongly agree their leaders make them enthusiastic about the future, and 13% strongly agree their leaders communicate effectively. The takeaway: As we enter the era of the values-driven marketplace, how companies treat employees becomes a critical consideration. Engaging employees has always meant sharing a strong strategic narrative, but evidently few companies succeed at this. Come hear my presentation at the IABC World Conference in Washington, D.C. in June, where I will present my new model for employee communications to address just these issues.

UCG outperforms brand posts on Facebook—While Facebook has seen a decline of 30% in the average number of posts per user, during 2016 user-generated posts about brands garnered nearly seven times more engagement than the posts from the brands themselves. The takeaway: Influencer marketing and influencer relationship management has never been more important. My unscientific guess is that this trend will grow, especially given results of studies like the Edelman Trust Barometer, which indicate that regular people have greater credibility than organizations and their spokespersons. Read more

Another brand creates a video series—The number of companies that are creating their own online video programming continues to grow with Campbell Soup entering the fray. Partnering with NowThis News, Campbell is creating a “soup-driven dating show.” It’s running on NowThis’s Facebook and YouTube channels; it’s coming to Snapchat and Instagram. The series matches singles based on their food preferences. The takeaway: While producing something like this isn’t cheap, the cost compares favorably to TV advertising and could attract a whole new group of fans. Read more

Another collaboration you will want to see—This bulletin has pointed out repeatedly that brands are figuring out ways to work with unlikely partners to promote themselves through useful or valuable content. The latest example comes from CGI movie-maker Pixar, which is teaming up with Khan Academy for a course called, “The Art of Storytelling.” It’s actually the third course from a series called “Pixar in a Box;” earlier installments have covered character building and the principles of animation. The takeaway: The genius here is that the partnership delivers multiple benefits: It helps educate possible future Pixar employees, it is an altruistic effort that raises the Disney-owned company’s values-based profile, it helps attract new users to the Khan Academy (originally a resource for math), and it attracts existing Khan users to Pixar’s filmmaking lessons. Genius, says I. Where could your company collaborate to share its expertise in an open online education format? Read more

Louisville uses IFTTT to deliver information to residents—IFTTT (If This Then That) has been a hit with geeks but the city of Louisville has found a way to use the platform to give residents access to air quality information. The data comes from the Air Pollution Control District. Users can get information on air quality through mobile devices as well as smart home products—smart lightbulbs will change colors to convey air quality information (e.g., green means good, red means stay indoors). More services from IFTTT are coming from Louisville. The takeaway: Tell me this isn’t awesome. If you work for a municipality, you should be gobbling this story right up and visualizing ways you can use IFTTT—which creates chains of conditional statements (e.g., send me a text message when the weather forecast says it’s going to rain)—to give residents more open access to your data. IFTTT is free. Read more

Podcast advertising pays off—The first-ever study of pre- and post- campaign brand lift for podcast advertisers is encouraging. “The results of these pre- and post-campaign studies showed that these podcast audiences were receptive to brand messages, and showed an increased willingness to consider and/or purchase those brands,” according to the Edison Research study. The takeaway: Evidence mounts that podcasts are a worthwhile venue for advertising across multiple industries. The study looked at a grocery brand, a financial services product, the automobile aftermarket, a casual dining restaurant, and a lawn and garden product, among others. Read more

Loyalty programs are losing their luster—Accenture found that 54% of respondents ot a survey said they had switched service providers in the last year and nearly 80% say they take back their loyalty faster than they did three years ago. All that despite marketers spending some $90 billion annually on loyalty programs. That could mean companies are rewarding people with stuff they don’t want—34% said what makes them loyal is different that what worked three yeas ago. The takeaway: Or it could mean that loyalty programs produce less loyalty than they once did, meaning loyalty must be earned through other means than reward cards. Read more

There’s fake news. There’s also fake data visualization—There’s nothing new about using to statistics to draw a conclusion the data doesn’t support, but data visualization is making it harder to spot these lies. We need to learn to identify whether a graph is accurate. This piece offers a useful guide, including looking for truncated axes to show a bigger change than the data reflects, dual axes to make an unsustainable causation argument, using data that fails the math test, and more. The takeaway: Bookmark this post and refer to it when you’re suspicious of any chart you see (and to avoid falling into this trap when creating your own.) Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Huawei is taking on Siri—Huawei, the third-largest smartphone maker in the world, is developing its own voice-powered digital assistant to compete with Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa. It will communicate in Chinese languages initially (where most of Huawei’s market is), but with its phones making headway in other markets, that could change. The takeaway: Your voice will soon be the interface to everything: search, e-commerce, you name it. If your communications aren’t voice-ready, users won’t find (or hear) them. You’ve been warned.

Can users find your Alexa skill?—“Skills” are the apps brands and others develop for the Amazon Alexa AI-based voice assistant. Some 7,000 have been developed, yet nearly 70% have one or no customer reviews. Meanwhile, there’s just a 3% chance that an app downloaded for the Google Assistant will be active two weeks after it was installed. This trend isn’t far different from the early days of the Apple App Store, when it was hard to find an app. The trick will be to avoid just coming up with a voice idea. Better to solve a problem through voice. If, for example, you work for the maker of Bactine, your brand should be there when someone asks how much peroxide or Bactine to use on a child’s cut. The takeaway: Tide and Good Housekeeping have figured this out, adding skills that answer questions about removing different kinds of stains. We read all the time that content marketing should solve people’s problems. When considering using voice tech, ask yourself, “What information might somebody need that would prompt them to ask Alexa the question?” If the answer suits your brand, it’s probably worth developing a skill or a Google Home app. Read more

Voice services may add phone calls—If you use Amazon Echo or Google Home, you may soon be able to use them to make a phone call. There’s little information available on exactly how the feature (essentially turning your voice appliance into a speakerphone) would work and both companies have reservations about privacy, emergency services, and some other issues. The takeaway: Despite the concerns, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually be able to do everything by simply talking to one appliance. Read more

AI can bring marketing and sales closer together—Last week I shared an item about AI’s key benefit—its ability to predict better than people can—and how that will affect the workplace. One way I hadn’t considered is the ability to create greater alignment between marketing and sales. But consider the ability of AI to better predict which leads are most likely to convert to customers or even find leads that wouldn’t have otherwise surfaced. The takeaway: Read the next item. This is exactly the kind of reason you’ll want to consider having an AI developer on the team. Read more

Consider a cognitive developer for your staff—That’s the advice from Advertising Age for agencies though it’s appropriate for the communications staffs of large companies, too. Agencies and companies are still lagging in hiring data scientists but now that position needs to be paired with an AI/cognitive developer “so that they can layer cognitive computing on top of your learning system and mine more good data.” The takeaway: Our work will rely increasingly on AI. (If you don’t think so, think back on the days when communicators doubted our work would rely on web developers, app developers, or social media professionals.) The Ai market will sextuple in the next decade. Be ready. Read more


Amazon goes head-to-head with Skype and GoToMeeting—Chime is the name of Amazon’s new video conferencing and chat service, which is being promoted as superior to Microsoft’s Skype and Citrix’s GoToMeeting. The service works on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS platforms. You can conduct video chats with up to 16 people on your desktop and 8 on your smartphone or tablet.  Chime employs 256-bit encryption and noise-cancelling wideband technology for clearer audio. Chime runs over Amazon Web Services. The pricing is hard to beat at $2.50 per user per month and $15 per user per month for up to 100 people. The takeaway: A couple free trials are available. It’s worth a shot. Read more

Video to grow more than any other mobile app—Cisco data finds that video will experience the greatest growth rate of any type of mobile app. Video will account for 78% of all mobile traffic and live video will make up 5% of total mobile video traffic by 2021. Factor those numbers into the fact that mobile will represent 20% of total IP traffic (up from 8% last year), and that’s a lot of video streaming to phones and tablets. The growing trend of connecting mobile live streams and video with TV and other media (such as Snapchat Discover content from SNL and Discovery Channel) is helping boost the incentive to create mobile video. “Mobile could become the catalyst to increase linear TV ad spend,” this article asserts. The takeaway: The production of mobile for video, including live streaming, is fast becoming a core competency for communicators. Have you inventoried your department to assess the level of skill in your in-house team? Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Holograms are coming to smartphones—Who needs the Enterprise’s holodeck when you already have a smartphone? The company Holo has announced a new app using Mixed Reality that will let content creators put photo-realistic human avatars in the real world. Imagine Adele in three dimensions singing to you while standing on your coffee table or John Oliver delivering a put-down from your kitchen sink. The takeaway: This is Mixed Reality, which is going to shape a lot of our digital interactions. While practical communication opportunities are a ways off, don’t waste time familiarizing yourself with the technology. Read more

Marketers slow to adopt VR—It’ll be three years before we see marketers using Virtual Reality at scale. So says Forrester Research, which notes that high-end VR experiences can cost up to half a million dollars. By 2022, the use of VR should explode since it’s a natural for marketers but for now, they’re mostly still trying to figure it out. The takeaway: It is possible to produce VR experiences at lower costs. One pharma build a “Fantastic Voyage”-like journey through the colon to demonstrate to doctors how their drug works. It was strictly for use at trade show booths but was so popular they wound up making a Google Cardboard version. I’m not saying it was cheap, but it wasn’t half a million, either. There are opportunities to stand out from the crowd before everyone’s producing VR marketing experiences. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Media brands seek younger users via Snapchat Discover—Media brands that haven’t attracted younger readers or viewers are finding that creating content for Snapchat Discover provides them with a way for those users to find and embrace them. The Washington Post is among traditional media brands launching Snapchat Discover editions, releasing breaking news throughout the day, seven days a week, to become Snapchat’s first breaking news partner. The takeaway: Saturday Night Live is another new Discover partner, as is the Discovery Channel (and “Shark Week”), creating short original videos in the vertical format just for Snapchat, hoping users will make the shift from the app to the traditional TV content. Brands with strong content marketing programs would fit nicely into Discover if they’re willing to create new material that accommodates Snapchat’s demographic, format, and cost. Read more

Snapchat brand stories work, but discovery is a problem—A study has found that 54.8% of a brand account’s followers are likely to open the brand’s Snapchat story, a remarkable success suggesting brands are crazy for not taking advantage of the opportunity.  What’s more, 87.5% of followers who open a story will watch it all the way through. Brands still have one hurdle to overcome, however. Sixty-four percent of new followers “add a brand using the Snapchat name, not the Snapcode or via deeplinks. The suggestion here is that if you like a brand enough to want to follow them on Snapchat, you expect them to have secured the brand name.” The takeaway: Brands are starting to figure it out, since the number of brands users are finding based on Snapcodes and deeplinks increases every quarter. Still not factoring Snapchat into your communication planning? What are you thinking? Read more

Snap’s user base is getting older—That is, more people older than the 18-24-year-old demographic are using Snapchat, which is planning its IPO for next month. Use remains concentrated in that fickle age group, which leaves the company vulnerable to changing tastes and trends (which it noted in its S-1 filing), but its reach among people over 35 grew to 23% in the fourth quarter of 2016, up from 8% at the beginning of the year. The takeaway: Stop thinking of Snapchat as a kids’ app. Remember, that was once the rap against Facebook! Adoption of social tools pretty much always starts with the younger set, but if it gains a foothold there, you can count on older age groups getting on board. Better to have a presence when they get there than start late and try to get users to add your brand to the list they’re already following. Read more


This week’s Wrap image—a wrapped-up model train car—is courtesy of Phil Parker’s Flickr account.

Show more