The Many Faces of Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene

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Here in the NYC area, we’ve just come through Hurricane Irene. I hope you and your loved ones are okay and rebounding from her wrath.

Depending on where you live, you may have experienced flooding, power loss or other damage to your home. You may have been one of thousands that were evacuated. Hopefully you or no one you know was bodily injured.

Irene’s impact on me personally was near minimal. (Here’s a timelapse of the hurricane from my front yard to prove the point; yes, the soundtrack is meant to be sarcastic – thanks, R.E.M.!)

But drive five minutes from my house and there are folks without power, trees fallen into houses, businesses shut down, and traffic lights out.

It’s made me step back to take stock of something we can often lose sight of: that although we may seem very closely connected by geography, social circles, experiences, family and economic circumstances or personal interests, our individual realities are often dramatically different. Times like these just highlight the fact.

Translate that to our daily (read: mundane) lives, and we see how important it is to walk in others’ shoes on a regular basis, especially when trying to connect and build bridges with others. This is extraordinarily true for us PR folk, who are supposed specialists in connecting via messaging with others.

Our PR campaigns must be designed to connect and inform rather than sell. Our social media messaging must engage rather than preach. We must solicit feedback and respond when things don’t go the way we plan, and demonstrate care and compassion for the people we are trying to reach.

You can’t expect people to respond to your message if it’s off kilter with what your targeted audience is experiencing. If the people you are trying to reach are trying to get the power back on in their homes this week, sending them an email about patio furniture isn’t going to move their needle.

But changing your message to fit their needs just might, and bring in new business you never had before. So if instead of trying to sell patio furniture to people with no lights in their homes, you could instead run a (well-advertised) sale and offer 10% off patio furniture to customers who bring in their Hurricane Irene-damaged patio umbrella (It’s an easy thing to throw in the back of the car, and easy to toss in the dumpster behind the store). Now you’re generating new business. And you’ve got cusomters in your store, where they just might also buy something else. And they weren’t even thinking about buying a new patio umbrella this year.

Irene was a nasty hurricane for some; an over-hyped rain event for others. Remember her when you’re putting together your next outreach. She just might teach us something more than how to hunker down in a storm.


Apple Still Shiny

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The news that Steve Jobs is stepping down from the top spot at Apple is certainly a surprise, but not altogether shocking (or maybe the reverse?). We’re all aware of his ongoing health battles, and we wish him well.

Jobs’ statement said nothing about leaving Apple; in fact, he took pains to explain the roles he would still like to play. As corporate statements go, this one was remarkable in its specificity and humanity. But Jobs has always done business that way, and had his company/employees do it the same.

Jobs’ decision is one of a good CEO: he’s outlined a succession plan, and started to make his company less about him. (See Mashable’s great Post-Jobs org chart) And the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg wrote a great breakdown of Jobs’ and Apple’s impact on not only computing, but the entire world.

We’ll certainly miss those annual stage presentations, and incoming CEO Tim Cook will have large shoes to fill just when it comes to that. It will be interesting to see how that piece of the puzzle fleshes out, and if he chooses to do them at all, or reinvents them somehow.

Wall Street will no doubt make a mountain out of a molehill here, and the stock will dip. (It was down 4% overnight, so silly.) It will also rebound. My advice: buy. And here’s why:

Apple’s product line is strong and its pipeline is full. iPhone5 is rumored to be coming in October; an iPad3 should follow. And let’s face it, Apple make products that are more popular with a broader base of consumers. Barring a major catastrophe or shift in culture (unlikely with Jobs as Chairman of the Board), Apple will continue to do well.

So while the company’s business and strategy will be relatively unchanged, you will read stories over the next few days that will lead you to believe the opposite. Go ahead, Google it.

Here’s how I see it: if my 2-year-old, upon waking from a night’s sleep, continues to ask for “my iPad” before “milk” or “cereal” the way he’s done for a week now, Apple will be just fine.

Google’s Gamble on Motorola’s Mobile Patents

Google Loves Motorola

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There’s nothing new in saying that the future of social media, communication and sales is in mobile.

And so it should come as no surprise to see any major technology company invest significantly in the ideas, products or technology that advance mobile marketing, as Google has done with the Motorola Mobility acquisition. (I’d call $12.5 billion a significant investment, wouldn’t you?)

But I don’t think Google is out to create an iPhone killer. Or wants to create a new Google phone. Or any piece of hardware, specifically. Yet.

What Google has gone after in this deal is Motorola’s intellectual capital: the ideas and patented technology that run all those little gadgets we’re so fond of, especially the booming tablet market.

An Ad Age article that came out as I was writing this post outlines this well. It also talks about the future of the Android market – one that has an astonishing nearly 33% market share – better than I ever could.

What will be interesting to watch from here on out is what Google does with this intellectual capital.

For sure, they can just sit back and charge millions in licensing fees.

They will undoubtedly also develop new software that uses the patents. One area ripe for development is the connection between your TV and mobile device, which Motorola Mobility already has the lead on. Even though the days of cable TV set-top boxes may be numbered with the growing use of smart TVs, there’s still plenty of room for enhanced functionality there, making your smartphone (and your tablet, for that matter) both a remote control and a content provider.

Your move, Apple!

Do you have Klout?

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We all have influence on others. Perhaps not on the scale of Ming the Merciless, but influence, nonetheless.

Nowhere is that influence more on display than in social media, where we are encouraged to share information, experiences and unsolicited opinions on everything from restaurants and music to the news of the day. And those opinions often result in real actions taken by the people who hear our words.

They go to the movies. Buy a pair of jeans. Maybe even book a vacation or enroll their child in a school. In short, they spend money. (Here’s an earlier post where I talked about making your social media messages actionable.)

And so all my marketing friends sit up and go “We should be able to track this! Put it on a graph and analyze it! Make it work better!”

Enter Klout, which claims to measure your social media influence by analyzing with whom you interact with on facebook, twitter and other social media sites and gives you a grade, your “Klout score.”

Scientific? Hardly.

And being the skeptic, I asked some of my twitter followers (and people whose opinions are far more insightful than mine) to share their perceptions of Klout:

Dave Peck: “@klout is one of the best tools put there to measure influence. Has room for improvement though. For example, I didn’t tweet while on vacation and my score dropped. So I take 48 hrs off and my influence and reach drop? I don’t think so. Oh and @klout rocks they helped me out yesterday really fast ;)” [Dave didn’t elaborate on this last point.]

Monica Guzman: “Checking @klout is like Googling yourself, but a bit more socially acceptable.” [Love it, Monica!]

Amanda Marsh: “Even at 74, the only perk I was able to pick up was the Spotify account.” [Agreed! But I am waiting for those nifty achievement badges, AM!]

Gina LaGuardia: “I do like the freebies. Seriously, though, I’ve had editors of sites to which I f/l content ask me for writers’ scores… [Gina is a terrific writer who works in the higher education” and senior living spaces]

Nathan King: “For some people, their Klout score will be dead-on accurate, for others, not so much. I check it out of curiosity, but don’t change what I do online to try to raise the score. I’d much rather have people judge me on how I conduct myself online and the content I publish, not a score determined by Klout’s algorithm.” [Terrific insight, NK!]

Louise DiCarlo: You’re influential as long as someone doesn’t die – I lost 3 pts dealing w/real life (dad died). [So sorry for your loss, Lu.]

From my perspective, Klout strikes me more like a game than a resource, especially the feature that allows you to dole out +Klout points daily to people to whom you’re connected. And the range of social media networks that can be paired (ie, where Klout draws your score from) are currently limited to facebook, twitter and linkedin. They just recently added foursquare and YouTube, but other sites like Tumblr, Instagram, Gowalla and the new kid on the block, Google+, are no where to be found (yet).

I’d love to see Klout incorporate some kind of point system that earns me things of value, whether in the social media or real world. The next step in social media is getting people to spend real dollars, after all.

What’s YOUR experience with Klout? Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.