Friday Wrap #154: Amtrak’s crisis fail, higher stakes in native advertising, CEOs prefer Twitter

Cigar Wrapper Chart for Friday Wrap #154Welcome to the Friday Wrap, my weekly roundup of news, posts, reports, and other content designed to help you stay current with developments that will affect the way companies communicate. I collect items throughout the week for possible use in the wrap; you’re welcome to follow my link blog.

One quick announcement: Neville Hobson and I have launched a new website for the FIR Podcast Network, which we aim to make the premiere place for PR, marketing, and organizational communication-themed podcasts. I’d be thrilled if you’d visit and let me know what you think. The new site is at

Oh, one more thing: My daughter-in-law gave birth to my first grandchild last week. My son handed me a cigar and we smoked to celebrate together out on my deck on a cool May evening in the San Francisco East Bay. Hence this week’s art, a cigar wrapper color chart, courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons


Amtrak’s derailment crisis communication sucked—Amtrak passengers looking for reassurance and information in the wake of the deadly crash in Philadelphia got little more than silence, despite a recent announcement that 24 new customer service reps had been hired and trained in the use of social media. That was just one communication failing from an organization that should have been prepared for a derailment. Criticism of its crisis communication shortcomings has been widespread. One factor that hasn’t been discussed much in the discussion of Amtrak’s post-crash communications is the budget reductions Congress has imposed. After all, when belts are tightened, communications is usually one of the first casulties. Read more

WhatsApp may allow business-to-consumer chat—This is a big deal. A lot of social media is moving to messaging apps (there’s no network hotter right now than Snapchat) and brands are struggling to figure out how to reach people who use them. Facebook may make it easier by allowing businesses to contact users through WhatsApp. That’s no small potatoes; WhatsApp crossed the 800-million active user base a couple months back. This access would be a revenue source for Facebook, so get your checkbook ready if you plan to take advantage of it. Read more

The top 10 chat apps have 2 billion users—Just in case you’re skeptical of the shift to chat apps as a primary social media tool. Read more

Spotify adds podcasts—Podcasting got another boost with word that Spotify, the streaming media service that had previously focused only on music, has added podcasts to its feature set. People who had never bothered to download a podcast app will now have access to a huge library of shows, growing the audience of listeners. Oh, and Spotify is also now streaming videos. Read more

NYSE launches a Bitcoin index—If you thought there was no future for bitcoin, the digital crypto-currency, you may want to reconsider. The New York Stock Exchange has opened a Bitcoin index. The new index, part of the Global Index, is currently available on the NYSE’s website. A spokesperson said customers increasingly ask to be able to track Bitcoin activity and the NYSE is responding. Read more

Tweets return to Google search results (on mobile only)—Mobile searches on Google once again return tweets idexed in real time. Read more

Webmaster Tools is now Search Console, and it awesome—If you’re a user of Google’s free resource, Webmaster Tools, you’ll love the rebranded version, which has made it easier for non-webmasters to take advantage of it. It’s being rolled out over the next few weeks but if you’re interested, Google has a link to get you started. Read more


Where is the influencer marketplace?—Companies increasing rely on influncer marketing to spread their message—people are twice as willing to make a purchase based on an influencer recommendation than on an ad—so why isn’t there someplace where companies can get matched with the right influencers? A centralized marketplace will require scale, transparency and metrics, and automated campaign management. Read more

Marketers really are looking for those influencers—The prospective value of an influencer marketplace comes into sharper focus when you consider the number of marketers desperately seeking online influencers. Read more

The stakes get raised in native advertising—GE’s content hub isn’t like others you’ve seen. This one was created by the magazine Quartz, which manages it. World in Motion is home to some content created by GE, but other content is from publishers paid to produce it, including Quartz and The Economist. Later this year, World in Motion will take over the domain for a month. This is one of several ambitious native advertising projects that are upping the game—and the costs—for advertisers and marketers. Read more

Print still isn’t dead—Not if Lonely Planet is just now launching a US travel magazine. They company is tapping into a growing interest in international travel. Read more

The Internet is running out of room—The amount of data we can shove through the Internet isn’t unlimited and, thanks to our appetite for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming services, we could reach that limit soon. Read more

New Chrome extension lets computers share links by sound—An extension called Tone will let your computer send the URL of its current tab to other computers within shouting distance that also are running the extension. A Google post claims that “Tone aims to make sharing digital things with people as easy as talking to them.” Read more


CEOs prefer Twitter The CEOs of the world’s most lucrative companies are communicating via Twitter and LinkedIn more than they were two years ago. As for Facebook? They have abandoned it completely, according to a Weber Shandwick study. Read more

Human rights beats sustainability in consumer brand decisions—Global warming isn’t top-of-mind for consumers looking at a company’s corporate social repsonsibility as a factor in the purchase decisions. The brand’s human rights efforts come first, followed by wildlife protection. Read more

Communication leaders have an inflated view of themselves—The first Planck Report Card on communication leadership reveals a glaring gap between how leaders view themsleves and how their staffs view them. Leaders graded themselves A- in the study; their employees gave them a C+. While they scored well for ethical orientation and strategic decision making, they fell down when it came to vision, relationship-building skills, and team leadership capabilities. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Business use of WhatsApp is rising—While Facebook may charge for outreach to customers through WhatsApp, some brands already use it as a communication tool. Several companies have found it to be a powerful two-way channel for customer interaction, with results including better response to calls to action. One bespoke diamond ringmaker offers special consultations via WhatsApp, while other organizations let customers report problems via the app. Read more

Wearables will impact shopper behavior—Retailers need to get ready to deliver information via wearable technology. A new report says customers increasingly expect to get access to online information when they’re in stores, including reviews, ratings, and product information, and that wearables—along with beacons and near-field communication—will offer retailers compelling ways to deliver access to that information. Read more

Samsung Flow mirrors Apple Continuity—A beta of Samsung Flow is now available in the Google Play Store. With it, you can swap between Samsung devices. For instance, you can start watching a video on your phone and finish it on a tablet; you can also defer activities until you have the right device in hand. The early version works only with a limited number of devices, but it’s a beginning to what will become a routine functionality between mobile and other devices. (If you haven’t used Google’s Chromecast, which lets you toss video, audio, or images from your phone to your TV, you just haven’t lived yet.) Read more

Messenger may add games—I’ve read some teeth-gnashing over reports that Facebook may add games to its Messenger app, but games are a common feature on several other chat apps—WeChat in particular—so the move makes sense from a competitive standpoint. (I recently judged a communication competition that included an entry from a Chinese real estate developer that used a WeChat game to draw a younger audience to a shopping center.) Read more