A Blog About Blogs

An undergraduate thesis about blogging, public relations, marketing and social media

Fortune 500 Blogs December 22, 2008

Filed under: Public Relations,Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 8:39 pm
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As newspaper staffs and circulations continue to shrink and broadcast news segments are cut in half, it’s more than apparent that public relations is changing forever. With less journalists to pitch and even less space/time for news, traditional methods of using mainstream media to reach consumers isn’t going to cut it. In order to survive, public relations professionals must find new ways of reaching the public directly, such as via blogs and other social media. Surprisingly, I’m not seeing the major changes I would have expected by now.

Angelo Fernando of Valley PR Blog posted today about a Wiki project that reviews Fortune 500 blogs. According to their research, only 12.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are blogging as of November 2008. I find this statistic to be staggeringly low considering the current state of the media. On the Wiki, you can find links to each of the 64 Fortune 500 blogs.

Additionally, the Wiki links to Michael Turk’s analysis of corporate blogging by looking at a sample of 30 Fortune 500 blogs. Turk rated each blog by content style (information vs. commentary) and writing style (logical & formal vs. casual & colloquial). Overall, he found that:

“While it might be assumed that a corporate blog would err on the side of formality to protect public image, findings show that this is not the case.

Approximately two-thirds of the weblogs studied were more casual and personable than formal and cold, indicating that these companies are utilizing blogs as a way to humanize the brand. One-third of the measured blogs opted to create the bulk of their content with a “commentary” bias.”

This suggests to me that those major companies who are blogging are using it in a wise way, but not everyone is catching on. I fear the do or die period is very quickly approaching, and public relations staffs who don’t implement social media tactics will not be successful.


Save Net Radio November 11, 2008

Filed under: Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 7:17 pm
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I heard a rumor that online radio is in trouble, so I did some Googling and found SaveNetRadio.org. According to the site:

“A recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) that increases the royalties owed by Internet webcasters pay to play music by between 300 and 1200% has jeopardized the future of Internet Radio.  This decision will affect millions of Americans who enjoy the unparalleled radio diversity that is only available on the Internet; and hundreds of thousands of artists who depend on Net radio to reach new fans, and thousands of webcasters whose livelihood depends on their ability to play music for their listeners.”

Because of the major increase in royalty payments, big Internet radio providers such as AOL, Yahoo! Radio and Pandora are in trouble. Internet radio now pays much more royalties than broadcast radio or Satellite radio, and since Internet radio is all advertising-based, it won’t be able to sustain itself much longer. SaveNetRadio.org is dedicated to lobbying against further damaging legislation and working for improvement.

I can see the dilemma here, but I’m troubled by the difficulty Internet radio is experiencing. In my mind, it’s only a matter of time until AM and FM radio is extinct and everyone streams stations online. It seems like today, people have much easier access to Internet than to radio frequencies, considering most people don’t let their Blackberrys leave their sides (guilty).

I would have assumed that each radio station would soon be making cell phone applications so you can stream your favorite station at work, at home, in the car and on the road. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about missing your favorite morning show when you travel or static and flipping through new frequencies on road trips. Pandora already has an advanced phone application.

I see this as inevitable, and something I would absolutely enjoy. (At least, before the Edge 103.9 traded in Chuck Powell for Adam Corolla.) So I hope Internet radio doesn’t go away, because I see great things to come from it.


Obama changes campaign tactics forever November 7, 2008

Many say that Obama’s online campaign tactics propelled him to victory, and that this campaign will have a lasting impact on political campaigns to come. I agree.

As reported in a recent article, PRWeek surveyed PR pros who said they think this new way of highly-interactive campaigning with focused messaging and social media involvement is here to stay.

“Obama’s campaign was widely lauded for having a keen understanding of new media, the epicenter of the conversation-driven media. According to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal, Obama had nearly double the number of unique visitors to his Web site compared with McCain. It also showed that Obama’s Facebook network topped more than 2 million while McCain was just shy of 600,000. The story was similar on their YouTube channels.”

I credit Obama’s positive message of and consistent slogan and symbol. The “Yes We Can” theme started from the beginning and followed through all the way to the end. If there’s one thing I’ve learning about branding, it’s that consistency wins.

“Jeff Mascott, MD at the Adfero Group and an adjunct PR/communications professor at Georgetown University, says, ‘What’s interesting is [Obama] was the first candidate to come up with a visual brand for his campaign in the same way you would for a corporate brand.'”

I’m glad to see the power of branding and marketing online taking such a national stage. Still, not many major corporations are grasping the effectiveness of social media and interactive approaches. I wouldn’t doubt that Obama’s success makes the business of the world who aren’t putting efforts toward social media reevaluate their marketing plans.


Social media jobs in politics November 4, 2008

Filed under: Blogs,Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 2:21 am
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Just think of all the new jobs in politics that the social media frenzy has created.

Today, when I signed on to Twitter (which I do not do very often because I don’t think people want to know I’m sitting in Hayden library feverishly trying to complete my paper/study/blog post/etc.) I noticed a button at the top, “Election 2008.” When I clicked it, it led me to a page constantly scrolling with new tweets from Twitter users about the election. And of course on the day before election day, it was scrolling very quickly.

Online polling used to be an “innovative” way to try to gauge public opinion. But now, with Twitter, blogging and all other social media, there must be tons of people whose jobs are entirely dedicated to monitoring what’s being said about a candidate, issue, proposition or party. An online poll doesn’t typically allow for open-ended questions, but social media allows you to gauge sentiment with so much more detail. It doesn’t just tell you how people are voting, but often WHY, too.

I’m willing to be this presidential election is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to how social media will affect the political landscape. For years now people have been creating Facebook groups to support political candidates, propositions, Darfur and millions of other causes. Just think how much further this can spread.

It really makes me feel that people who aren’t adjusting and learning how to use these social media tools – especially in the media industry – are going to be left in the dust. I already feel overwhelmed, and I’m supposed to be the savvy generation, right?

Dear ASU, please offer some classes about how to use, and more importantly MEASURE and MONITOR, social media.


Pepsi: cute idea, terrible redesign October 31, 2008

Filed under: Blogs,Marketing and Advertising,Public Relations,Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 4:29 am
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Peter Shankman, well-known blogger and social media guru who I’ve blogged about before, revealed on his blogthat he was recently included in Pepsi’s marketing efforts to unveil their redesign. Shankman was one of 25 people who received Pepsi cans on their doorsteps showing the progression of Pepsi logos and can designs.

At first I was impressed with this tactic – they sought out social media influencers and creatively and selectively pitched the new look. But no matter how wowed I was with the public relations move, I was completely underwhelmed when I saw the photo:

New Pepsi Design

New Pepsi Design

 The new look is terrible! I’m not sure if they were going for a “throw-back” look or what, but it reminds me of generic brand soda that you’d buy at Fresh ‘n Easy. Don’t get me wrong… I love Fresh ‘n Easy, but I assume people buy Pepsi over generic for the brand name, not necessarily the taste.

More importantly… why mess with something if it isn’t broken? Isn’t Pepsi the number one selling cola?


Social media contributing to negative campaigning? October 29, 2008

This week, The Allstate Foundation partnered with Junior Achievement to bring curriculum about economics, business and entrepreneurship to school districts in need. As part of the partnership, I taught a 5th grade class for the entire school day on Monday. The experience was truly rewarding and eye-opening, but also assured me that teaching is not my missed calling. I was so exhausted and out of patience by the end of the day!

When we got to the lesson on advertising (which was my favorite of course!), I asked them about the presidential election. These 10-year-olds impressed me with their knowledge of the candidates, including Bob Barr and Ralph Nader. When we got to political ads, several students said they thought the commercials on TV were mean. They noticed that instead of saying “you should vote for me,” they often say “don’t vote for him.” Even 10-year-olds can tell the campaigns are nasty!

I’ve read many things that say this election contains more negative advertising and campaign tactics than any previous presidential election. A recent article on foxnews.comtalks about both campaign’s negative approaches, especially the McCain/Palin effort to connect Obama to William Ayers.

As I thought this over, I wondered if the accessibility of social media has contributed to the rise in negative campaigns. Anyone can say anything about any presidential candidate without authority or ability to back this up. If enough people read it, this can spur controversy and create a large controversy. How can this be regulated? What’s McCain to do if one of this supporters inaccurately smears Obama online?

This obviously isn’t the only source of negativity with regard to the campaigns, because both candidates have said damaging things about the other from their own mouths and in approved advertisements. But I do wonder if it’s harder to keep a clean and positive campaign with all the shenanigans online.


YouTube and Coldplay contest October 24, 2008

Filed under: Public Relations,Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 11:47 pm
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I know this isn’t exactly a new development, but I’m still constantly amazed at how video editing software and YouTube have made video creating, which was previously reserved for people who knew how to use fancy cameras and edit well, available to the masses. Actually, it’s just like blogging – but with videos. Almost anyone can do it without much training.

It’s also interesting to see just how dominant YouTube is for video posting. Just recently, the band Coldplay launched a contestasking fans to submit creative videos for their new single “Lost”, upload them to YouTube and then e-mail the link to the band. They didn’t say upload them to the Internet and e-mail link – they specified YouTube.

On another note, I think interactive contests are always a good idea – provided you can actually get good entries. With a band as popular as Coldplay, I’ll be looking forward to seeing what people come up with. The band has encouraged a lot of creativity. Click here for contest guidelines.


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