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Big Questions

Is Social Media Really Social?

Is Social Media Social-09

Today we bring you a guest post by Paul Bernardini, Senior Associate at Eastwick.

Call me old school, but no, social media isn’t social.

To be social or to socialize means having one-on-one conversations and contributing to the rumble of small talk at gatherings. It demands that one be physically present. Speaking out loud, understanding body language, learning how to listen, respond, retain and relate are the constructs of socializing and foundational skills that deserve time and attention.

However, it’s not lost on me that social media is redefining the term “social” and the lens through which corporate America views it. The number of followers or connections that reporters, job prospects or companies have is becoming primary criteria in earning clout. Social media has built a world in which Twitter dominates the news cycle, LinkedIn can build careers and Facebook does the impossible by interlinking the world.

It’s a big deal.

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Is Sponsored Content Really More ‘Transparent’ Than PR?

To be honest with you, readers, many conversations about “content” alternately lull us to sleep and make us want to tear our hair out. Like most in the media, we have mixed feelings about the move toward a universal adoption of sponsored stories as a source of revenue for news outlets.

We have friends in the journalistic community who now write such stories for clients. They tell us that they see their role as supporting the work performed by their employer’s editorial team while managing to create content aligned with causes they support. (This is an ideal scenario, really.)

Still, we’ve noticed several people this week debating whether sponsored material is somehow preferable to “traditional” stories that involve a bigger role for PR. One anonymous “native” journalist interview by Digiday even went so far as to ask how PR-driven stories are “any different from native advertising, at the end of the day.”

The question begs for an answer.

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‘High Tech Women’ in Underwear Promo: #PRWin?

In case you’re the one person on Earth who missed it, the technology industry faces some demographic challenges: recent reports from top tech names like Facebook, Apple and Twitter revealed an overwhelmingly white and even more overwhelmingly male industry.

The ensuing conversation is already old hat to many who work in the field, but it still presents both big names like Google (which recently named Mindy Kaling and Chelsea Clinton to promote its “girls who code” initiative) and clients that go against this trend with a way to make themselves stand out to journalists, consumers and investors.

The latest company to win media attention is the bold underwear brand Dear Kate. Its latest “look book”, released online last Friday, starred a group of female entrepreneurs who work in the field.

Dear Kate

Two basic facts about this look book: 1) it has attracted a lot of attention for an unpaid promotion and 2) responses have been somewhat mixed.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt Wins Positive Press for His Perfect Definition of Feminism

proxyThe word “feminism” can be a touchy one, especially given the wildly-varying definitions out there, and celebrities often seem particularly wary of stating their allegiance (or lack-thereof) to the concept. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, however, has no such qualms.

In a recent interview with the Daily Beast that’s now gone viral, the star explained why he considers himself a feminist, and then went on to give the word one of the most clear, simple, and positive definitions we ever remember hearing.

Gordon-Levitt was asked:

I read that you consider yourself a “male feminist,” and you credit your parents who are educators and really taught you about the history of feminism. But nowadays, you have a lot of young stars coming out against being labeled a feminist.

His response (below) has both women and men singing his praises in multiple publications and all over social media: Read more

POLLING ALL PR TYPES: What Do You Want to Be Called?

Hello-my-name-is

Here’s a serious question: What do you want to be called by your colleagues in the industry, pals in the media, partners and clients?

Everyone in this not-quite-fabled industry has an idea of what they like and don’t like, what they hear and ignore, what they answer to and what they wish no one would ever call them.

Some are accustomed to the big agency titles of account executive, manager, director, supervisor, and other synonyms for “hierarchy.” Others are interested in the boutique titles of guru, ninja, expert, and other nom de plumes that mean “badass.”

Before you jump, think about it: If you had to be labeled, what would your label read?

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Can the ISIS Strikes Become a #PRWin for the President?

Iraq-Jihadist-flag

No one in their right mind (or in a public forum) would ever equate a declaration of war as part of a PR strategy, but it could be one of the side effects of what took place in the Iraq recently.

Without getting into the nuance of military and political goings-on, the terrorist group calling itself Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) doesn’t play well with others. They almost certainly like American even less than they did after the U.S. military bombed ISIS’ ammunition stockpiles to help our “friends” in Iraq defend themselves.

To wit, ISIS released a video proclaiming that they will “raise the flag of Allah over the White House.

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Is the Public Statement of Advocacy the New PR Stunt?

rainbow_targetMinneapolis-based Target hit a direct bulls-eye with an interesting blog post from Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Jodee Kozlak. In the post, she notes her retail chain had signed on to a recent federal amicus brief.

Nothing too exciting, until you see that Target now stands side-by-side with Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Facebook in support of judges striking down bans on gay marriage in Wisconsin and Indiana.

This announcement came as a stunner to many in the press as the organization has been unclear about its stance on the subject for many years. Target executives do not talk about it, which is why many assumed that they were not supporters.

Then this blog post happened, inspiring headlines everywhere. And a few hacks and flacks of the more cynical nature were left wondering whether it was a sincere statement or a stunt.

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Can This Software Write a Better Pitch Than a PR Pro?

18gnoncgzm93xjpgPR professionals are invaluable; their ability to create a positive public image for a company stems from a detail-oriented nature, a willingness to fine-tune an approach with finesse based on past experience and the study of data, and picking up on minute cues that can help determine which publications, news sources and journalists might be most open to their message.

Crafting a successful pitch is an art form, something that can certainly never be outsourced or automated…right?

MIT graduate Dan Siegel, co-founder of Cambridge-based PR firm Spokepoint, doesn’t quite see it that way.

The company, which was founded in early 2014 as a traditional PR firm geared toward helping small startups get their names out into the world, has been using its own software program that analyzes thousands of data points to predict whether a journalist will respond positively to a specific pitch. It also allows the user to search for and contact journalists based on topics they’ve previously covered, and even tracks whether or not a pitch is successful.

Realizing the market for affordable PR services for small entrepreneurial endeavors, tiny companies that can’t afford a PR pro, and time-crunched crowdfunding campaigns, Siegel and his company made a decision – rather than just using this software to help companies write pitches, Spokepoint has made the software available directly for use by such businesses, so that they can successfully create, manage and track their own PR campaigns — no PR firm or outside pitch-writer needed.

Scared yet? Read more

Firm Exposes ‘Billion Passwords’ Breach, Peddles $120 Service to Potential Victims

hackersIn case you missed it, the New York Times reported yesterday that a Russian gang of 20-something hackers has amassed 1.2 billion username and password combinations, plus more than 500 million email addresses. This isn’t Heartbleed—it’s a heart attack.

The records were discovered by the Milwaukee-based firm Hold Security, which also helped uncover the Great Adobe Identity Theft of 2013. 

Here’s what’s super scary about this particular scenario:

“Hackers did not just target U.S. companies, they targeted any website they could get, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to very small websites…And most of these sites are still vulnerable.”

And yes, the threat is authentic: the Times enlisted the help of a third-party security expert for confirmation.

Adding fuel to the hysterical fire is the fact that we don’t know whose email addresses are included or which sites are affected—and Holden “[WON’T] NAME the victims, citing nondisclosure agreements and a reluctance to name companies whose sites remained vulnerable.”

What will he name? A price.

For as low as $120 a month, you can pay Hold Security to find out if your site has been affected by the breach.

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Will the Ebola Virus Solve Big Tobacco’s Image Problem?

ebola tobacco

Please be aware that I wrote this post’s headline with my tongue pressed firmly to my cheek. As a former smoker who finally quit the nasty habit, I’m happy to have the positive reinforcement of tobacco’s negative health consequences in the news as much as it can.

That said, this bit of breaking news is quite interesting: Ebola Drug Made From Tobacco Plant Saves U.S. Aid Workers.

Somebody, somewhere out in Marlboro Country is giving a yippee ki yay. Methinks it might be coming from the PR department. Read more

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