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“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Successful online activation campaigns must isolate and engage. The Engagement Pyramid explains how and why.

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

We all care, but only so much.

If you’re looking to harness crowd engagement, you must cater to various levels of engagement.

Let’s say you arrange a competition on Instagram:

“Upload your best summer picture and tag it #mysummer to enter our competition.”

Now, how many of those who sees the contest actually have a relevant picture on standby for upload? How many of those users are even interested in competing for prizes on Instagram? And out of those, how many will, at that given moment, have the time to actually upload that picture?

If you can get 1% to enter as creators, you should be happy. But, to be successful, you should also attract contributors — even if you can’t expect them to invest as much engagement as your creators.

Your “ask” of your contributors must be considerably smaller than that of the creators; if creators upload their best summer pictures, maybe contributors can suggest creative captions for their favorite entries? Now, if both creators and contributors are having fun, why not invite lurkers to simply cast their votes with only the click of a button?

This is an example of why the Engagement Pyramid matters.

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Is social media the future of communication — or is it a breeding ground for hate groups, fake news, and click-baits?

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

So, there’s a downside.

As it becomes easier for everyone to self-publish without censorship, we see the rise of anonymous hate, fraudulent behavior, rampant populism, and propaganda.

Oh, and have you heard? Social media is killing journalism, too.

Now, if the keyboard is mightier than the sword, can we trust Average Joe and Jane to wield such powers? As the recent debate on how social media is responsible for spreading fake news stirs up emotions, many are raising their voices for stricter regulation and increased control. Otherwise, we might just socialize ourselves to death.

Social media is, after all, more than just cute lolcats, silly emojis, and clever memes.

What would it take to rid social media of hatred and disinformation? And what would it cost us?

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Social platforms often use the low-ball squeeze to lure businesses away from connecting with customers directly. Will e-commerce be next?

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

Who’s in control of your audience?

Carl Waldecrantz, CEO and co-founder of Tictail, delivers an anti-website observation in The Death of Webshops (Huffington Post):

“Over the years that have passed, I have witnessed the deconstruction of websites as one part after the other have been moved elsewhere. Support to Twitter, Forums to Facebook, Blogs to Tumblr and now Medium, Videos to YouTube and now Snapchat, Opening Hours and Directions to Google Maps, Images to Instagram and so on.”

Waldecrantz then goes on to make the point that webshops, too, should be relocated onto third-party e-commerce platforms — like Tictail.

But before we give away the farm, let’s talk shop:

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We love big numbers in marketing, but when push comes to shove, it's the small numbers that matter.

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

If I could offer just one piece of PR advice, what would it be?

When thinking about this, I thought that my answer would be something about how important it is to know your audience, how important trust, relevance, and authenticity is — or how everything communicates.

Surprisingly, I came to another conclusion:

It’s about how small numbers matter. How quality outshines quantity over time.

Let me explain why:

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Are you responsible for your company’s blog? And are you struggling with sharing numbers that never seems to go up, no matter how awesome content you produce? And as a result, are you also struggling with determining how much content to actually produce — and how often to post? Well, you’re not alone. There are a […]

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

Are you responsible for your company’s blog? And are you struggling with sharing numbers that never seems to go up, no matter how awesome content you produce? And as a result, are you also struggling with determining how much content to actually produce — and how often to post?

Well, you’re not alone. There are a great number of corporate blogs out there that never seems to catch a break. Either they give up or they keep pouring time and resources into creating content that few people ever get to benefit from.

But I’ve got an alternative solution for you in this post:

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What does it really mean to "spin" something — and is it bad for you?

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

The word spin has a negative connotation.

This bothers me.

Not to the extent that it keeps me awake at night, but it’s a slight discomfort for a guy who has used his online alias “Doctor Spin” all over the internet for the last 15 years.

Have I gotten it all wrong?

Read more >>

Imagine for a second that Facebook is the Spinning Jenny of our time, a marker of change in a shift that reforms the way we relate and communicate with each other. Of course, the industrial revolution wasn’t only due to Spinning Jenny, just as the digital revolution isn’t only due to Facebook. But chances are […]

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory
The introduction of the Spinning Mule into cot...

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine for a second that Facebook is the Spinning Jenny of our time, a marker of change in a shift that reforms the way we relate and communicate with each other.

Of course, the industrial revolution wasn’t only due to Spinning Jenny, just as the digital revolution isn’t only due to Facebook. But chances are that we in the next decade will use Facebook as that metaphorical change agent, just like we use the Spinning Jenny today when we explain the industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution changed us at the core by restructuring how we form societal groups by almost vaporizing the village concept. The digital revolution, or at least the social part of it, has brought upon us a shift equally or greater—never before in human history has groups formed and dissolved so rapidly and so free of demographical interference.

And so, the idea of Facebook as our Spinning Jenny really isn’t that distant, with so many active everyday users. But what can we as business learn from history? What can we learn from Spinning Jenny?

If you in the early days of the industrial revolution happened to be in the textile industry, you would be a fool to ignore Spinning Jenny. You would be a fool not to invest in some sort of automation. Today, this seems like common sense. But you must make the transition in a smart way. You must make money while finding new ways to make money. So you make the transition as quickly as you can or the market allows you to. Preferably before your competitors grab too much of what could have been yours.

If you weren’t in the textile industry at this time, or not in an industry sector at all, maybe you had some “extra” years to prepare before also your line of work becomes fully or partially automated. Trying to abandon your business “before it’s too late” and start getting into textile probably wouldn’t be the smartest business strategy either.

I have two pieces of sound advice for those of you who are in business in this day and age:

1. Imagine yourself being in business in the early days of the industrial revolution. How would you  be smart about your business if you were living back then? How do you translate this “smartness” into the reality of today?

2. This is the real kicker: Imagine that you actually are in the textile industry today. How many Spinning Jenny’s do you run these days? You will quickly conclude that the Spinning Jenny was a fantastic accelerator for transitioning your business in a time of great change but like Facebook, it was just a tool and nothing but a tool; not the sole salvation for your long-term business strategy.

Now, go be smart about your Facebook – and business! – strategy.

Thanks to Mark Comerford for lengthy talks on societal shifts and for putting ideas in my head. And for dinner and beer.

Even though the millennia wonders of the IT era were intriguing for both Swedish PR professionals and students alike – especially as the wondrous bubble grew bigger and bigger – there weren’t really any discussions on how IT were going to impact the profession. In the local universities, some courses on how to ”write for […]

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

Even though the millennia wonders of the IT era were intriguing for both Swedish PR professionals and students alike – especially as the wondrous bubble grew bigger and bigger – there weren’t really any discussions on how IT were going to impact the profession. In the local universities, some courses on how to ”write for the web” were taught, but that was just about it.

Those of us who managed to escape the traditional ”Kotlerisms” found something of a safe haven in the teachings of James E. Grunig, who rose to fame and acclaim mostly because he and his collaborators via the Excellence study managed to establish that organizations actually benefits financially by taking part in two-way symmetrical public relations campaigns.

In short, dialogue and win-win approaches ought the be both the old and the new black in PR.

Still, no-one really connected the dots. Or maybe someone did, but didn’t manage to turn it into a business model for PR. In either way, the market were probably ready for some corporate dialogue, but the organizations weren’t. Not yet, anyhow.

And when the great bubble finally imploded, the consequences weren’t exactly the boost the scarce digital PR enthusiasts were hoping for at the time. And at the universities, we often times explained what we saw using the principles of the so cold media logic as some sort of dominant explanation model.

Media logic offered an explanation for how the (news) media worked – and it proved to be very useful when applied. The news media always emphasized objectivity and newsworthiness as key indicators of how our societal discourse were created. Media logic explained that this was true, but that other factors also was to be taking into account.

Altheide and Snow [Robert L. & David? What was the name of their theory? Titles? I will update this!] pointed out that news outlets never existed in a vacuum and that there are other factors on different levels deciding what will turn into news stories and what wouldn’t.

On another level, Swedish scientists like Jesper Strömbäck made considerable contributions, adding to a list of media logic effects, such as polarization, simplification, stereotypification etc. Everything was derived from what journalists, editors and media executives saw worked the best for their specific editorial product.

By a thorough understanding of the principles of media logic, both PR professionals and PR students seemed to have all the tools to understand and to help organisations to communicate better. Ant to sometimes – ”write for the web”.

As it were, Swedish PR could easily serve as a prime example of a profession being just another media and channel-centric marketing tool. The idea of dialogue and win-win transcended only in random sales pitches and in the minds of idealistic (excentric?) PR students.

For me, who after my studies entered the PR profession into a stone cold recession, I found IRL PR to be quite puzzling. And as the times quickly got better, the more it puzzled me.

It got even stranger as my thesis Strategic News (SWE/PDF) in 2003 got awarded twice for what it was – a qualitative outlook on how senior PR professionals could utilize the principles of media logic in order to get closer to their organizations strategic objectives. The thesis made some strong points for a newsmedia-centricc society for sure, but some pieces of the puzzles were definitely still missing.

As for the teachings of James E. Grunig and his (somewhat complicated) two-way symmetrical approach, it just seemed much easier to adapt all PR campaigns to a more retorical top-down approach. That was the way Edward Bernays had first described his thoughts of the PR practices, so why not? It seemed to be working fine at a time when everyone just wanted as much traditional publicity as they possible could have.

One of the most puzzling elements of modern PR were definitely the comfortable demographic approach to market segmentation. Instead of categorising influentials on psychosocial grounds in a way that would have made even the great social psychologist [forgot his name, brb] proud, we never did; instead the media and channel centric professionals just segmented and analysed the world in the same manner the news outlets and advertisers did, and then mainly on basis of where people live and cynically enough – on the contents of their wallets.

This extremely cynical, top-down media and channel centric view on how to tailor PR campaigns probably added to the often times shameful reputation the profession have been so closely associated with, actually ever since PR emerged as a bonafide profession back in the days of the forementioned Edward Bernays.

So, as the social web started to emerge in what was left of the former so enthusiastic IT community, many PR professionals instinctively understood that this new exciting area was somehow important to their future business model – without being exactly sure why. But the profession had since long forgot about two-way communication and the importance of understanding publics on basis of how and why they communicate.

Being somewhat of a long and awkward title, when Brian Solis published Putting the public back into public relations, it almost magically encapsulated what at least ought to be the ultimate PR zeitgeist – and it got recognized by many Swedish PR professionals, mostly for its contibution to social media understanding, but also for its outlook on what public realtions ougth to be!

Suddenly, the dots were connected all the way from the classical two-way symmetrical model to psychosocial segmentation into publics.

With all of this in mind, the PR profession should now – at least – know who to listen and engage in conversation with. If that could the starting point for most organizations, it would maybe save us from a world of Neil Postman-dystopia where top-down infotainment slowly are choking us all to death.

Still, Brian Solis is just one PR professional and his influence only reaches so far. And, as we all PR professionals ought to know by know; change may take place over night, but the process of organisational adaption is often times a painstakingly slow one.

But there is a real problem to be dealt with right now, and that is the principles of media logic. As I see it, these principles seem to mislead us in practically every context the social web has to offer us! And this is sort of embarressing since we, the talented PR professionals, should be merchants of trust and not just retorical mercenaries.

Maybe we should refer to these principles as the news media logic, because there is a real difference. What makes the front page of a news paper isn’t necessarily the same thing as what the publics choose to learn from their interactions on the social web. Ever tried to pitch a blogger? There you go; bloggers aren’t necessarily interested in news, they are merely interested in… well, their interest.

Since traditional media logic is derived from a news process point of view, the principles suddenly become useless in our efforts to harness the power of the social web.

News media logic can actually strain social relations, if you think about it! If you stretch or spin your message according to every dark little secret in your black Moleskine playbook, chances are your friends will ask you what the hell you are up to? Q: Why don’t you speak with us like the intelligent human beings we are – not at us using strange oversimplified and exaggerated campaigning messages?

In that sense, we need to claim the death of media logic – at least as we know it. We need to understand the dynamics and differencies between news media logic and social media logic. And then, just then, we might be able to do PR thinkers such as James E. Grunig and Brian Solis justice. And maybe, just maybe, we should cut at least some losses and focus on getting it right in the PR classrooms first?