Industry Pundits on Google Using Its Corporate Blog for the “China Bombshell”

Google Blog Post on China- corporate blog and storytelling

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Google turning to its corporate blog to communicate changes in China.

At the time I thought that this was a big damn deal from a communications perspective.

As I shared in a post last week, Google’s decision gave street cred to corporate blogging.

For a broader perspective, I reached out to a mix of journalists, academic types and communication professionals for their commentary on the anniversary.


Bien Perez actually reported on the Google news five year ago. One of the preeminent China watchers in Asia, Bien has  been writing about technology for the South China Morning Post for nearly 15 years. In short, he knows his stuff


Gini and her firm have cultivated one of the best examples of online community in any industry, She was also an early advocate for PR to get the integrated comms religion.

Frosted_Flakes_box- corporate blog storytelling


I required proper attribution for the perspectives with this one exception. This individual can’t go on the record — read into this what you may — but his/her on-the-ground experience in China made it a keeper.


I met Jon when he was fresh out of college and we hired him in our UK office. Making the switch to journalism and a move to Bangkok, his career has flourished. His weekly newsletter on the tech scene in Asia is an excellent tool to keep up with the region.


USC is fortunate to have a  professor like Burghardt  who brings real-world experience — one of the leaders behind the pioneering efforts of Applied Communications — with a gift of teaching. There’s no question that USC’s Annenberg School of Communications is one of the top comms schools in the country.


After spending essentially half of his career as a journalist and editor in the Ziff Davis empire, Sam turned his efforts to assisting the communication profession. Today, SWMS is a must-have tool for tech PR professionals.

I appreciate the contributors taking the time to share their insights.

Looking out another five years to 2020, perhaps we’ll be analyzing Huawei’s decision to buy Reuters.

If Microsoft could dump $221M into MSNBC back in 1996, anything seems possible.

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Google’s Decision Five Years Ago to Communicate Changes in China on Its Corporate Blog Signaled the Arrival of Owned Media.

On January 12, 2010, Google published a post with the austere headline, “A New Approach to China.”

One could make an argument that the China decision was one of the three biggest in Google’s history up there with the acquisition of Android and Larry Page replacing Eric Schmidt as CEO.

And they communicated the China news on the corporate blog.

Not at a press event.

Not in a news release.

The action gave street cred to corporate blogging and owned media as a whole.

Of course, millions of blogs already existed when Google published its China post. As far back as 2005, BusinessWeek devoted a cover feature to blogs that included the words:

“Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up … or catch you later.”

BusinessWeek article on corporate blogs/owned media

Turning to the narrative, nothing subtle about BusinessWeek’s opening salvo:

“Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak of information since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business — including yours.”

Still, corporations remained leery of the concept, leaving blogging to those wacky guys in marketing to write about new vegan dishes in the company cafeteria. In short, blogging wasn’t for serious stuff.

Google’s decision on January 12, 2005 forever altered this perception.

Of course digital media is always in a state of metamorphosis – shame on me for thinking high school biology was a waste of time – with many happy to characterize blogging as “so passé.”

My “favorite” was the USA Today story in 2012 which claimed companies were replacing their blogs with Facebook.

USA Today Article on corporate blogs and social media


This is like saying builders are replacing wood with gravel. Yes, they’re both construction materials, but each has a distinctly different use.

Roughly one third of the Fortune 500, not exactly a group on the leading edge of digital media, maintains a corporate blog. If you’re a “glass is half empty” type, you’ll scream that this number is down from 2013, proving that the corporate blog is now on the downward slope.

Fortune 500 Corporate Blogs stats

I don’t think so.

The 2014 number simply reflects the reality that it’s hard work to execute a corporate blog that makes a difference. As a result, a handful of the Fortune 500 said “no mas” last year.

I’m sure what constitutes corporate blogging will take several twists and turns in the coming years. But the underlying fundamental, the ability to easily publish in a way that puts the content within reach of anyone with an Internet connection, is not going away.

It’s one of the best ways for a company to demonstrate thought leadership, show a “face” and put forth a position without depending on third-party media.

As Google proved five years ago.

Note: In the spirit of advancing the dialogue, I’ve  asked a mix of journalists, academics and communication professionals for their perspectives on the same Google milestone. I’ll publish this post on Monday, the official 5-year anniversary of the China post.

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Eight “PR is Stranger Than Fiction” Predictions for 2015

After careful study, number crunching and extrapolation, I’ve concluded that 2015 will bring us several “PR moments.”

As always, my predictions are for recreational purposes only.

PR Agency Resigns from CPAP Machine Consortium

Got_CPAP_pr predictions 2015 

The advocacy group behind CPAP machines, the AFCPAP (Americans for continuous positive airway pressure) hires a PR agency to raise the industry’s profile. A contentious debate immediately ensues when the PR agency explains that CPAP sounds too close to “crap” and suggests a campaign to replace the acronym with BEAT (Breath Easy Americans Today). After this idea gets shot down, the agency spends four weeks brainstorming alternative campaigns with zero progress. In a moment of unfiltered frustration, the account lead blurts, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing cool about wearing a plastic mask with nose plugs to bed every night.” They resign the account two hours later.

Note: As someone who suffers from sleep apnea and uses a CPAP machine, I figured it was OK for me to take this shot.

Social Media Tool Called #ComeBackHere Secures $82M in Venture Funding

Three math geeks from Cal Tech figure out the holy grail, a one-click solution to retrieve that tweet gone bad without leaving even a smidgen of trace. The venture capitalists love the concept. Most of the Fortune 500 and DiGiorno sign up for site licenses even before the beta program rolls out.

Elon Musk Extends Tesla Branding with Car Racing Circuit

Calling NASCAR a “stodgy institution,” Elon Musk creates NAECAR, the National Associations for Electronic Cars Racing. Kudos to the Tesla PR team who convince Musk that NATCAR (National Association for Tesla Car Racing) would limit participation and brand appeal … not to mention pronouncing it sounds like someone with a speech impediment saying NASCAR.

White House Licenses BuzzFeed Platform to Create GovvFeed

GovvFeed pr predictions 2015

Embolden by cracking the Techememe Leaderboard, the White House cuts a deal to use the BuzzFeed content management system for launching GovvFeed. The official statement calls it “a natural extension of the administration’s blogs and social media.” The NY Times attacks the site asking the rhetorical questions, What’s next? A riff on Saturday Night Live? Government Night Live? White House comms czar Dan Pfeiffer fires back, “Sure GovvFeed will deliver the requisite listicles and a periodic cat video, but the site will also do some serious stuff.”

Uber Starts Scholarship Fund for Budding Journalists

After taking hits for being “journo unfriendly,” Uber goes on the offensive starting a scholarship fund to help high school seniors pursue their collegiate studies in journalism. The application consists of one essay question, “How Will Peer-to-peer Journalism Change Society?” Jeff Jarvis is not amused.

Bill Gates Under Siege for Underreporting Academic Credentials

Bill Gates LinkedIn profile pr predictions 2015

So many executives have been exposed for inflating their academic achievements in college, but 2015 turns this one inside out. A vocal faction demands Bill Gates’ removal from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because he failed to mention his honorary degree from Harvard (June 7, 2007) on his LinkedIn profile. Gates ignores the loonies and the hoopla eventually dissipates.

Sony Promotes “Return of the Interview”

Piggybacking on the success of “The Interview,” Sony bankrolls a movie in which James Franco and Seth Rogen again take their tabloid TV show on the road, this time with the CIA assignment to assassinate Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. Nguema doesn’t take the bait. No hacking. No confrontation. The movie tanks at the box office.

Google’s April Fool’s Joke Morphs into PR Fiasco

Google pr predictions 2015

Google pretends to leave a PowerPoint deck marked “top secret” in a bar on April 1. The deck outlines a plan to test its self-driving technologies in the buses that transport employees from San Francisco to the Mountain View campus. After The Guardian proudly breaks the story, social media works its magic. Before Google can claim April Fool’s, employees have mounted protests wearing shirts that read “I can’t see.” Google issues an apology making it clear that Corporate did not approve the t-shirts.

Wishing everyone has a healthy and prosperous 2015 (with a periodic twist).

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Everyone Wants Creativity in Communications. What’s Holding It Back?

Everyone perceives advertising agencies as creative.

Forget the football game. The Super Bowl delivers three hours of programming that essentially turns into a promo for creativity in the ad biz. As Exhibit A, check out the Budweiser Puppy Love ad which has had over 54 million views and counting.

People also categorize the digital shops under creativity. They’re the guys building wacky stuff like the Office Depot dancing elves.

But communications and specifically PR seem to rate a click above email marketing on the creativity scale.

The Holmes Report is doing its part to change this perception, conducting a study on creativity in PR (in cooperation with Now Go Create and H+K Strategies).

In perhaps the most damning stat, nearly 60 percent of those on the client side characterize creativity in the PR industry as “ordinary” or worse. Not even the perky nature of PR professionals can mask the fact that 50 percent of those on the agency side think the same thing.

The Holmes Report study- creativity in PR

You can’t address the issue until you recognize the issue. This strikes me as a “Houston, we have a problem” moment.

It also begs the question, how much do clients actually care about the behavior? We’ll come back this one in a moment.

Given the nebulous nature of creativity, it’s useful to define creativity with a PR frame. The Holmes study called out three areas, content creation/marketing, integrated ideas and storytelling as the big three in PR creativity.

Holmes Report study- pr storytelling digital marketing

Obviously, content creation and storytelling are sister activities that go hand in hand. What’s revealing about the Big Three is the need to communicate these compelling stories/content through integrated vehicles that transcend conventional earned media.

As a quick side note, it’s an affirmation for our holistic approach to campaigns as explained in “The Blending of Digital Marketing and PR.”

The Blurring Line Between Digital Marketing and PR from The Hoffman Agency
So we know how to describe creativity in PR.

We also know the PR profession falls short in this area.

Now, let’s drill into the “why.”

The best creativity in PR — the stuff that causes discomfort, if not fright — rarely sees the light of day in an actual campaign. Because this “zig when others zag” work only appears in the new-business process.

The Holmes Study captures the driver behind the zeal for creativity in new business. It shows that 73 percent of in-house professionals view the importance of creativity in hiring an agency as an 8, 9 or 10 (scale of 1 to 10).

Holmes Report study- pr storytelling digital marketing

In short, an agency must be creative to win new business, and often it’s the agency perceived as most creative who wins the day.

Unfortunately, the creativity in the new business process typically does not transport into execution. While there are a number of reasons this happens, it’s more revealing to highlight what doesn’t happen.

Clients don’t fire PR agencies for lack of creativity.

That’s the disconnect.

Yes, PR agencies as a collective whole still have work to do in honing their creative chops.

But if clients valued creativity as much on the execution side as they do in conducting agency reviews, it would accelerate the growth of creativity on the agency side.

No one likes being fired.

Note: This is my final post for 2014. Happy holidays to everyone!


PR Agency Offsite, Japan Style

Whether it’s taking over a restaurant to cook a meal or trying to stay upright playing broom ball (hockey minus ice skates,) company off sites often bring a creative bent to team building for a PR agency.

But when I heard our Japan team was headed to a place called “Jigoku” which literally means “hell,” I asked Shingo Nomura, our North Asia VP and Japan GM to chronicle the journey.

Here’s his narrative.

By Shingo Nomura

Vice President, North Asia; Japan GM

Like the U.S., company offsites are quite common in Japan.

The history goes back to before the World War II when appreciation for everyone’s hard work was rewarded with a trip to a hot springs. Furthermore, there’s a tradition of what’s called the Graduate trip in most Japanese elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools in which students travel together before graduation.

I believe there’s culture of group travel rooted in Japan.

With this as a backdrop, Hoffman Japan decided to take its first company trip. Keeping with tradition, we decided on a hot spring (my idea of deep sea fishing was outvoted). The team wanted a destination as far as possible within the budget and a place that ideally staff had never been before.

The destination—

Beppu & Yufuin, a  famous hot spring resorts located on  Kyushu Island.

Kyushu Island

Our staff arrived at Oita airport with more than a little enthusiasm.

Oita Airport

As Lou mentioned, we visited Jigoku or “Hell,”  the most famous part of Beppu covering the hot springs. This hellish nickname derives from the surreal steam that envelopes the entire city. In fact, most homes in Beppu include an onsent or natural steam bath.

We enjoyed different “hells” during the offsite. This shot shows the team with the always-present steam in the background.

Sea Jigoku 2

The team dinner was also a hit.

Team Dinner

Most of the Onsen resorts devote rooms to table tennis. After World War II, table tennis boomed in Japan because one particular Japanese table tennis player performed well on the world stage. It turns out we have several staff members who love the game. As an outlet for our competitive instincts, we staged a tournament.

Table Tennis 1

Table Tennis 2

For Day 2 of the offsite, we went to Yufuin, a well-known quiet Onsen resort with the Japanese traditional landscape. We had a great time which included riding a horse cart. Needless to say, you don’t see many horse carts in Tokyo.

Riding cart

But what might have been the most unique experience involved creating a cup or dish using a potter’s wheel. It turns out everyone has artistic talent.

Cup creation 1

Observing the fun, I couldn’t help but notice how each individual’s personality comes out during the creative process and the final cup or dish. Some people ever-so carefully follow the professional’s guidance. Other members opted to take matters into their own hands and pressed on with little or no guidance.

Regardless, I’m pleased to say that everyone created a masterpiece.

Cup creation 2

What an amazing experience!

There’s a certain quality that’s hard to describe that comes from traveling together.

I’d like to say to my Japanese colleagues:


Thanks for the great memories.

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