Friday Wrap #219: White House affects perceptions of PR, Instagram crushes Snapchat, and more

Posted on June 23, 2017 3:38 pm by | Chatbots | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Instagram | Wearables | Brands | Business | Crisis Communication | Ethics | Facebook | Gamification | Marketing | Measurement | Media | Mobile | Politics | PR | Research | Social Media | Social networks | Technology | Video

Friday Wrap #219I 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.

The Big Stories

White House communications team casts negative perceptions on PR practitioners—The team managing communications at the White House is generally viewed as the most visible PR people on the planet. PR practitioners wish that weren’t the case with the current administration and would prefer to distance themselves from Sean Spicer and the rest of the administration’s spokespeople. There was general agreement among PR professionals surveyed by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that the White House communicators frequently change their views and statements, distort the truth, and purposefully lie. Few believe they act like PR professionals, are strategic in their approach, or are treated unfairly by the media. Lest you think there was a liberal bias in the cohort, 55.3% identified themselves as liberal; the rest were moderate or conservative. According to Fred Cook, director of USC Annenberg’s Center for Public Relations, “The vast majority of PR professionals believe that honest, open communication leads to constructive dialogue and shared understanding, both of which are in short supply these days.” Most practitioners believe Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders have led people to view PR in general more negatively. The takeaway: You play the cards you’re dealt. It is incumbent on PR practitioners to shine a light on the ethics codes by which they abide and avoid any work that would draw comparison to the White House’s PR. IABC has taken a step with an online petition to express support for ethical practices in communication. I would like to see all the communication associations come together for a campaign to reinforce the industry’s commitment to ethical practices. Read more

Facebook’s new mission is to bring the world together—With Facebook close to topping 2 billion users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has issued a new company mission: Bring the world closer together. That’s a change from its mission up until now, which has been to connect people. The announcement came at the Facebook Communities Summit, where Zuckerberg said, “Look around and our society is still so divided. We have a responsibility to do more, not just to connect the world but to bring the world closer together.” He set a goal of having 1 billion users join “meaningful communities,” an ambitious 10-fold increase over what he says is the current membership in such communities. A lot of that effort will focus on Facebook Groups, which are getting new features designed to improve the Group experience. Administrators will be able to see Insights, metrics on growth and engagement. They’ll also get membership request filters that will sort requests by gender and location. The takeaway: It’s good to see Facebook accept a bigger role in the building community, given the role it has already played in the current polarized state in which society finds itself. The social network will need to go beyond community tools, though, if people with different perspectives are going to be inspired to talk to one another in a community. Facebook’s algorithm will also need to make it easier for groups to surface in news feeds. Given the attention Groups are getting, though, companies would be foolish not to up their game in Groups, participating (notably as a way to convey their commitment to their values) as well as creating Groups for defined segments of their stakeholder audiences. Read more here and here.

More consumers make decisions based on companies’ political or social stance—Edelman’s Earned Brand report found that 57% of consumers will decide to buy from a brand or boycott it based on the position it takes on a political or social issue. That’s a 30% increase from three years ago when the study was first launched. The takeaway: A lot of voices are counseling caution and silence when it comes to jumping into the political arena or addressing a controversial social cause. However, the study also found that 65% of respondents said they wouldn’t do business with a company that remained silent about an issue that mattered to them. What’s more, 67% said they bought a brand for the first time because the brand took a position on a dicey issue. Edelman notes that this isn’t about politics, and counsels staying out of political debate. “But the issues that are being discussed in society are things like the environment, equality, and immigration,” according to Edelman’s global head of brand. “Obviously, sometimes [those] issues have a political aspect, but the issues themselves [are] what brands should be focused on—not the political sides of those issues.” Read more

Social media is influencing major corporate decisions—UBER co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick might have been able to hang onto his job in an earlier era, but the social media backlash to the company’s cavalcade of scandal ensured he would be shown the door (though he remains on the company board). It’s not an isolated case: Fox News parted ways with Bill O’Reilly over a similar onslaught of criticism leveled at O’Reilly and Fox via social media. Bank of America and Delta Air Lines withdrew their sponsorship of a New York production of “Julis Caesar” over a torrent of complaints, largely from the political right, delivered via Twitter and other social channels. Writes The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo, “Posting a hashtag…and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, much more visible change than, say, calling your representative.” The takeaway: It is increasingly undeniable that consumers expect companies to take sides on social issues and are ready to endorse or oppose a position with their voices and their wallets. As noted in another item in the item above, consumers will also object to a company’s silence on such matters. Silence, therefore, is not an option. PR should be at the center of company decisions about their choice of issues on which to take a stand and how to communicate it, recognizing that some people won’t like it and may join a social media mob to express their disagreement. Brands will need to adopt the understanding that they’ll never be able to please everybody, but that their positions should align precisely with their values. Read more

Are social media command centers on their way out?—Could be, as companies begin to question whether they’re delivering enough value in exchange for their enormous costs and consumers switch from social networks that can be viewed publicly to “dark social” (including messaging apps). They’re still useful if real-time readiness is vital to a campaign. Even the real-time capabilities are questionable, given that legal departments often need to approve messages, dragging out the time it takes to respond to something spotted in the moment. In many cases, well-prepared PR staff can do just as well from the sofas in their homes as they can from a big, expensive “war room,” collaborating over tools like WhatsApp and Slack instead of face-to-face. The takeaway: I’ve been saying since I first heard a PR guy brag about the social media war room his agency had set up for a client. If it’s a matter of watching for customer dissatisfaction and jumping on it before it spreads—which is the idea behind Dell’s command center—that’s one thing. But a command center set up to monitor social media chatter arising from a cultural event like the Oscars or the Super Bowl? A waste of time and money, says I. Read more


Google has a plan to fend off terrorist content—Following questions from the UK government about whether social media platforms have become breeding grounds and safe havens for terrorist content, Google has announced plans to find and delete such content more quickly. Plans include AI software that will identify terror-related content, more human staff to watch for inappropriate YouTube content, a tougher stance on videos that violate YouTube policies, and more independent experts joining YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program. Read more

Being online gets you more diverse viewpoints—Everybody talks about the filter bubbles that divide people online, but the Reuters Institute Digital News Report finds that “users of social media, aggregators, and search engines experience more diversity than non-users,” according to Stephen Waddington. The report also found that in some markets, the use of social networks for news is flattening as the popularity of messaging apps grows. In Malaysia, Brazil, and Spain (among other areas), WhatsApp is being used for news is rivaling that of Facebook. Read more

CNN’s Great Big Story to go 24 hours—CNN started “Great Big Story” to produce shortform videos that weren’t part of the 24-hour news cycle, to compete with videos from the likes of NowThis, Vice, and BuzzFeed. Now the cable network is pumping $40 million into the studio with plans to make it a 24-hour streaming network. The network will launch next year with combining live programming, long-form, unscripted, and acquired content. Read more

Chinese scientists advance technology for an unhackable Internet—This is really, really technical, but it’s also most likely the world we’ll live in before too long. It’s called “quantum entanglement,” which removes the “signal” that hackers use to intercept or steal data. The latest tests shattered the distance record for sending the photons that are used to deliver information from one place to another. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Google is updating Google Glass software—Google Glass is evidently back from the dead. God knows why, but the device got both a firmware update and a companion app update this week. The update contained the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, but also made it possible to use paired Bluetooth devices like mice and keyboards. If you have a Google Glass device, you may want to remember what draw you dropped it in, dig it out, and see if these updates make you want to use it again. Read more

Snapchat on the ropes—Snapchat’s shares have sunk to their IPO price for the first time, suggesting investors are losing confidence in the social media company. See the next item for one reason the luster is fading from Snapchat. Read more

Instagram Stories is smashing Snapchat Stories—When Instagram added a copycat version of Snapchat Stories, a lot of users announced they were switching. After all, Instagram’s interface was less confusing and most of their friends were already using it. It turns out that was more than just anecdotes. Instagram Stories now has 250 million daily active users—adding 50 million since April—while engagement with Snapchat Stories sagged, dropping 50% in June. Read more

Download and play a game, get a job—A growing number of companies are using mobile games as a way to identify top job candidates. Jaguar Land Rover asks those interested in working for the company to download and play a game that presents a series of puzzles; those who complete the puzzles will have demonstrated their suitability for engineering jobs. Mariott, Xerox, and the BBC are among other companies employing mobile games as part of the recruitment process. Read more

Snapchat adds a map—Snapchat users can now share their location thanks to the introduction of the Snap Map. Users opening Snapchat after Wednesday’s update are seeing a quick walk-through of the feature, which lets users share their location. The feature only works with Our Stories and locations last 24 hours, like other Stories content. The location of an individual is represented with an “Actionmoji” based on factors like location, time of day, and speed of travel. Read more


Millennials are influenced by email—You’re already shaking your head in denial, but the numbers are what the numbers are. Two out of every three consumers have bought something in the lasts quarter because they got a brand email, with the numbers bolstered by Millennials. There’s a catch, though. Millennials (nearly 60% of them, anyway) are multi-inbox users, driving personal emails to one inbox, dollars-off promotions and branded announcements to another. Only 26% of Boomers have a separate inbox for promotional messages. Read more

Study finds new ways to measure engagement—In social media, engagement is the holy grail. The question has been how to measure it. A study from Northwestern University validates the importance of engagement, finding that “the more engaged people feel in an experience, the more likely they are to do it again. And perhaps more to the point, they are also more favorably disposed to marketing messages they see there.” The study identified five ways people can feel engaged, each of which is measurable: interacting with others, feeling transported, discovering something new to them, affirming an identity or somehow contributing to society. Read more


Instagram Live broadcasts can now live for 24 hours—Instagram Live, the app’s video broadcast feature (a tool competitor Snapchat does not offer) is getting a boost. Users now have the option to share the broadcast as a recorded video to their Instagram Stories, where it will live on for 24 hours. Read more

Some advertisers return to YouTube—Coca-Cola, General Motors, Lyft, and McDonald’s in the UK have all started advertising on YouTube again. They were among dozens of companies that withdrew from advertising over the backlash from their ads appearing with offensive videos. YouTube’s updated its processes and added human reviewers, prompting the return. However, many are still staying away, including Wal-Mart, AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Procter & Gamble. Read more

Facebook wants more YouTube-like stars—Facebook is positioning itself as the best platform for video creators in the hopes of eating into YouTube’s lead as the place to find and follow online video stars. Facebook brings its multiple channels (including Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook Live), along with its nearly 2 billion users, to the table. Facebook is also paying creators out of the ad revenue their videos generate, just like YouTube. Read more

YouTube introduces 180 VR video format—The solution is aimed at making immersive VR videos easier to watch on YouTube (as opposed to while wearing a VR headset), eliminating the sense you get watching these videos that you’re inside a globe looking out. The company is also rolling out VR 180 cameras to make it easier to create the videos. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Headset shipments will hit 100 million in 5 years—Research firm IDC projects VR and AR headset shipments will reach nearly 100 million by 2021. The imminent introduction of both wired and tethered headsets will spark more sales, which currently are driven by smartphone-driven VR.  Read more

YouTube adds heat map analytics to 360-degree videos—The new metrics service for 360-degree videos viewed with mobile headsets will allow producers to see where viewers were paying attention at various points during the video. The heat maps “can offer insights into audience behavior so they can better understand best practices for producing spherical videos. Read more

YouTube will help creators churn out VR vodeos—Out of its Los Angeles-based YouTube Spaces studio, YouTube is planning to arm content creators with the and equipment and expertise they need to produce VR videos. To qualify for the program, creators need to have already made two 360-degree videos, have 10,000 subscribers, participate in an orientation, and be at least 18 years old. Read more

The Values-Driven Marketplace

Yoplait takes on “mom shame”—A new campaign from yogurt company Yoplait aims to “disarm the judgment” moms face in social channels. Using humor, confidence-building, and empathy, the online campaign also includes a 60-second TV spot featuring “a montage of moms from all walks of life confidently narrating their feelings about situations and issues that commonly elicit judgment, such as working from home, breastfeeding and having kids later in life. The women in the spot are unapologetic about their choices, a nod from Yoplait to all of the moms making the best choices for themselves and their families.” Read more

Netflix updates its values document—Most corporate values statements are a few lines long. Netflix’s was contained in a 124-slide presentation. That “gold standard of codes of conduct for technology companies and startups” was just updated with a 10-page document. Changes include the addition of “inclusion,” which was absent from its original 2009 slide deck. Employees are expected to “collaborate effectively with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures. The guide says it recognizes that everyone has biases but that employees should work to grow past them. “Honesty” has been replaced with “integrity,” and and notes that employees must ““treat people with respect independent of their status or disagreement with you.” Read more

Starbucks kerfuffle goes viral—Supporters of US President Donald Trump are calling for yet another boycott of Starbucks after a video went viral of baristas insulting a customer wearing a Trump t-shirt. In addition to laughing at her when she entered the store, the name they wrote on her iced tea was, “Build a Wall.” So far, attempts to boycott Starbucks over its political leanings have fallen flat. Read more

Unilever takes more action to end gender stereotyping in advertising—Unilever is partnering with UN Women (committed to the empowerment of women worldwide) and a number of tech and advertising businesses to put an end to gender stereotypes in ads. The Unstereotype Alliance will “embrace the power of partnerships to tackle the widespread prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising.” Unilever, once a producer of some of the worst offenders when it comes to gender stereotypes, unveiled a study on the issue last year and launched its Unstereotype campaign to speed up progress toward ads free of stereotyping. Read more

Influencers and Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing becomes a cookie-cutter activity—The influencer marketing space is getting standardized akin to the self-serve ad technology. Advertisers create a list of about 20 or so micro-influencers (with smaller followings than the A-listers but with much higher engagement), then provides creative assets for the influencers to share through their own networks. “It’s closer to a publisher relationship than a creator one and a far cry from the beginnings of the influencer marketing industry,” writes Shareen Pathak. Even the payment process is becoming standardized. Read more

Data backs up the importance of influencers—You don’t need to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to A-list media celebrities, but you do need to nurture influencers as part of your marketing program. A study conducted by The New York Times found that 70% of adults make purchase decisions affected by content they have seen shared online. Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Facebook AI creates a new language—Facebook bots known as “dialog agents” have started speaking to one another in a language they created without help from any humans. Researchers also found that the bots learned negotiation skills through their interactions with one another, again without human interference. Read more

Messenger chatbots are driving social change—Among the 100,000 chatbots created for the Facebook Messenger platform, a recent surge has included bots focused on doing social good. One helps activists find local protests. Another connects refugees with translators in real time. Another coaches women through salary negotiations. And there’s one that encourages conversations about mental health. Facebook has noticed the trend and is encouraging it. Read more

Omnicom introduces internal chatbot—Omnicom, the global marketing and corporate communications holding company, has introduced an Artificial Intelligence-based chatbot called AUBI (Annalect Utility Bot Interface), which can answer data questions from creatives, media buyers, and strategists. Accessing the data previously meant sending a request to a data scientist. The bot can answer questions like, “What’s the clickstream journey of a 35-year-old woman in Dallas?” Read more

Facebook AI will target violent groups—Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence program is learning to target any group with a violent mission or a history of violent acts, not just Muslim extremist groups. That would include (for example), gangs, drug dealers, and white supremacist groups. The AI program is just one of the initiatives Facebook has undertaken to identify and remove such content. Read more

AI will improve the hiring process—Artificial Intelligence will change the shared services landscape for most organizations, with the recruiting and hiring process one of the most primed for disruption. Among its roles will be improved job descriptions (by flagging words a hiring manager wrote that project an unfriendly culture), reviewing resumes (focusing on factors that matter, eliminating bias that might arise from managers focusing on inconsequential information), and structuring an interview (posing questions that get to the candidate’s actual abilities). Read more

This week’s wrap image is courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, and in particular the Kaibab National Forest Flickr account. A historic cabin on the summit of Kendrick Mountain was wrapped in fire resistant material to protect it from the 2017 Boundary Fire.


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