Archive for December, 2012

Have You Heard of Pearned Media?

It’s one of my nine predictions for the communications industry in 2013, that “pearned media” will enter the vernacular.

What is it?

You know about paid media, owned media and earned media.

“Pearned media” is when a publication so deftly blends earned media (journalism) with paid media that the reader can’t distinguish between the two. Think of the concept as advertorials on steroids.

Pearned media - earned media paid media

To read my other eight predictions, I’m hoping you’ll jump to Spin Sucks for the post, “Nine Quasi-crazy Predictions for the Communications Industry in 2013 at Spin Sucks.

Gini Dietrich and Lindsay Bell were gracious enough (and brave enough) to share this post with their community.

These predictions are meant to amuse, not to guide your stock portfolio. When Sam Whitmore made a stop at the Agency earlier in the month, he pointed out that the “pearned media” concept is already playing out.

You can find it in high-brow media like The Atlantic:

The Atlantic - we need to change how we look at health and education

That orange bar with reversed out type that’s impossible to read says “Content Provided by GE,” but the format, headline, etc., all say The Atlantic.

The technique is also gaining traction in low-brow quarters like BuzzFeed:

Buzz Feed

I would love to see a study on how many readers understand that the stories with the light orange background are paid media.

Just not now.

Instead, I encourage you to head to Spin Sucks for the predictions post and a bit of levity.

This will be my last post of year, so consider the “Gone Fishing” sign officially hung.

Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous narrative in 2013.


Replacing Shakespeare, Contrarian Storytelling, and Corporate Blog That People Actually Read

It’s been more than three months since a grab-bag post.

Here are three mini takes that can’t quite stand on their own:

Don’t Replace Shakespeare

If you’re going to call your column “The Awesome Column,” you’d better be.

And Joel Stein is.

One of his recent columns in TIME delved into high school English emphasizing nonfiction with the objective of improving students’ clarity of writing.

Stein, not so respectfully, disagrees:

“Sure, some nonfiction is beautifully written, and none of Jack London’s novels are, but no nonfiction writer can teach you how to use language like William Faulkner or James Joyce can. Fiction also teaches you how to tell a story, which is how we express and remember nearly everything. If you can’t tell a story, you will never, ever get people to wire you the funds you need to pay the fees to get your Nigerian inheritance out of the bank.”

Yet another reason to embrace storytelling.

Note: Amusing vignettes from high school essays can be found at “Student Writing Skills Seem Just Fine.”

Contrarian Storytelling Sells

The media is constantly looking for that fresh angle.

The PR function needs to do the same, cultivating what we’ve come to call one-off storytelling.

A recent Journal article, “The Quietest Tradition in Sports,” offers such a contrarian example:

“One night every December, students at tiny Taylor University pack the school’s gymnasium and participate in a phenomenon that’s completely out of place in modern sports: silence.

A Corporate Blog with Media-like Readership

I continue to evangelize the benefits of company blogs.

Yet, there’s no getting around the dirty little secret in the backroom –

Most company blogs are dreadful with microscopic readership.

We support a Brazilian enterprise software company called TOTVS in the United States. I stumbled across their corporate blog and did a double take.

Even though I don’t read Portuguese, the number of views blew me away.

shakespear, PR, Business communications, storytelling, The Hoffman Agency, TOTVS blog

Some posts have almost 80,000 views.

Again, keep in mind this is an enterprise software company, not a Latin American version of American Idol.

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Best Storytelling Posts From Ishmael’s Corner in 2012 (part II )

storytelling blog - business communication

I shared the first half of my favorite posts from 2012 on Monday.

I say “favorite” because I based the selection on what I found amusing, not most views.

The second part of the list follows:

6. Why Journalists Get Cranky About PR

I didn’t throw the junior account person under the bus, but I did point the finger at Media Connect and it’s use of the mass blast in pitching influencers. The idea of pitching me to review the Peter Guber book “Tell to Win” when I reviewed this very book last year prompted this soapbox post. Kind of ironic that a pitch for a book that preaches personalized storytelling has none.

7. LinkedIn Encourages Bad Behavior

LinkedIn has made enormous strides in staking out the position of social network of choice for business professionals. I just wish they wouldn’t offer default copy for the connection note so people would be forced to personalize the interaction. With this in mind, I show how Malcom Gladwell would personalize his note if he wanted to connect with me.

8. Experimentation in Content Marketing Offers Promise of Competitive Advantage

Content marketing has been around forever. A white paper pushed through multiple distribution channels is a form of content marketing. With that said, I think there’s huge upside in this area and offer four ideas with potential for competitive advantage for the brave.

9. 10 Tips on storytelling Techniques from Novelists

The Guardian did the heavy lifting for this curation post, interviewing numerous novelists. I culled 10 insights with relevance to business communicators like Elmore Leonard’s ““If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

10. Ranking the global PR agencies in social media

Forget “we’re number nine.” When Sociagility’s second ranking on how global PR agencies perform in applying social media to themselves came up, we landed in the fifth slot. Not bad considering we’re above mega shops like Weber Shandwick, Burson, etc.

If you think I missed one that belongs on the list, by all means shout.

Reflecting on the year, a friend shared with me some time ago it’s one thing to be a smart ass and another to be an “esoteric smart ass.”

I’ve tried to stay out of esoteric quadrant and will continue the quest next year.

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Best Storytelling Posts From Ishmael’s Corner in 2012 (Part I)

storytelling blog - business communication

It’s been a good year for storytelling.

One can argue storytelling has become the “new black.”

If that’s true and you buy into the premise that a rising tide lifts all vessels including the humble canoe, then that explains our readership increasing by more than 50 percent.

Many thanks for stopping by.

In the spirit of reflection, I’ve captured my personal favorites from the past 12 months.

Here’s the first half of the list:

  1. An Open letter to the PR community To help Restore the Credibility of Journalists.
    When one of the highest profile columnists on journalism, David Carr, complained about businesses being too tough on his brethren, I felt absolutely horrible. Then, I came up with a campaign to help journalists called “Just Say No to No.” Too early to know if it’s working.
  2. Rationale behind sending a check for $4,865 to a client
    Great PR can’t save a poorly conceived product. With this in mind, we scrutinize the product/service from startups – often playing the role of beta tester – before taking on the assignment. What happens when the product isn’t ready for the bright lights? In short, we take a pass.
  3. The worst customer service narrative in the history of branding
    When United Airlines came up with what they called “Our United Customer Commitment,” people were asleep in the cockpit. How can I put this delicately? It was dreadful. I suspect United agree because they ultimately took the words down.
  4. The Periodic PR Agency Plea, “Help Me Help You”
    One of the best illustrations of “strength of conviction” comes from the movie “Jerry Maguire.” I think the soliloquy “Help me help you” is right up with Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.” I also think it makes a good mantra for PR agencies. Plus, the video of the scene cracks me up every time I watch it.
  5. Sometimes a Brand Doesn’t Need a Name
    There’s something to be said for simplicity in branding. During a family reunion in Vegas, I came across a billboard that achieved the ultimate in simplicity.

The remaining five come your way on Wednesday.

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Three Terrific Articles on the Science Behind Storytelling Techniques

Science Behind Storytelling Techniques

I’m always on the lookout for information that explains the science behind why storytelling resonates.

The article in Lifehacker, “Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains” by Leo Widrich does exactly that.

And you don’t need to be cognitive neurologist to understand it.

Here’s the thrust:

“If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Brocas area and Wernickes area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.”

When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.”

In short, stories prompt the brain to multitask.

I’ve read many times how the human brain is wired for stories, but Widrich offers an explanation that makes sense for non-scientific folks (like me):

“A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home.

He’s right. When I buy my favorite biscotti, I haven’t even left the store and I’m already thinking about how I can stash them so others are least likely to snag one, but no one can accuse me of hiding them.

Moving along

The participants in our storytelling workshops often come from engineering orientations where the concept of storytelling seems intangible, if not downright squishy.

Engineers don’t do squishy.

That’s been my motivation to advance my understanding of the science behind storytelling. For my money – and it does require a $7.95 payment – one of the best articles on this topic came from Scientific American, “The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn.

You can find another excellent article on this topic in The New York Times highlighted by Widrich, “Your Brain on Fiction.” Warning: The New York Times piece does interview a cognitive scientist and psychologist.

If you have a favorite article on the science behind storytelling, please share it with others in the posted comments.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, the human bot claims you should check out “Words Can Shred: One Storytelling to Another” in which the New Yorker dresses down Jonathan Gottschall and his book, “The Storytelling Animal.”


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