Marketing and the Facebook Wall Sneak

Somewhere in the past couple of months, Facebook changed the default settings on wall posts so users can only see content from the friends and fan pages they interact the most with.  This weekend, I changed the settings back to the original Facebook content filter – “All of your friends and pages.”  Like magic, my wall became inundated with “friends” I forget about and pages I forgot I liked.  Like any person with a marketing mind set, I was thinking about the effect of companies losing many of their fan page views.

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IBM: Watson and a Smarter Planet

Last week, IBM pitted a super computer against Jeopardy’s two best players in a 3 episode arc to see if machine could out perform man.  Much to the excitement of IBM, the super computer, also called Watson, obliterated his competition and created a whole lot of press for the technology company headquartered in Armonk, NY.

On Saturday February 26th 2011, BU’s Public Relations Student Society of America is hosting PR Advanced: Be the Change with keynote speaker Jon Iwata (SVP of Marketing and Communications at IBM). As a last minute promotional tool to get attendees excited for the conference, I (along with the Ginny Soskey, the conference’s coordinator) had the opportunity to interview IBM’s Brandi Boatner (external relations) about Watson and the company’s “Smarter Planet” Campaign.  The video above is just a snippet of our 30 minute interview with Brandi.


The Five F’s of Checking-In

I recently read a blog post that I thought was really interesting regarding Location Based Services (Check-ins, Location Based Marketing and the F’ Word by Claudio Schapsis).  According to the writer, there are five reasons people use location based services: Fun, Friends, Fancying, Freebies and Following.  All five F’s were framed underneath a larger, more vague ‘F:’ Find.

I actually contributed three of them when Claudio posted the question to Quora as a way to come up with the motivations for checking-in (Friends, Fancying, and Freebies).  The other two hadn’t been on my mind, but I’d like to elaborate on all of them now.

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Interview with Deb Trevino, Director of Corporate Communications at Starbucks (Part II)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Deb Trevino, the Director of Corporate Communications for Starbucks.  In this position, Ms. Trevino covers a breadth of roles: she handles financial communication, business and brand communication, corporate social responsibility, and crisis communication.

This is Part II of my interview with Ms. Trevino.  Topics discussed here include Starbucks in the global market and the coffee chain’s integration of corporate social responsibility within company policy. (Part I, found here, discusses branding, the new Starbucks logo design, and digital media.)

Starbucks Around The Globe

Maurice Rahmey: From a global perspective, how does the branding of Starbucks differ in other countries?  From a PR standpoint, what are the differences between the US market and other markets?

Deb Trevino: There are a lot of differences.  From a PR standpoint, I would say that, just the way that the trade works in every market is very different.  We always have to alter our approach depending on the market that we’re in.

More broadly, from a business standpoint, you will see a lot of differences in Starbucks around the globe – a lot of consistency, but also differences based on really making those stores relevant for the customers.  It may mean different product offerings. It may mean different hours.  For example, whereas in the US people will come to Starbucks primarily in the morning, in China we have very light business in the morning.  We have more traffic in the afternoons and evenings.  Business is very different depending on where we are, as is our PR approach.

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Interview with Deb Trevino, Director of Corporate Communications at Starbucks (Part I)

I guess I have Starbucks on the brain. Besides my soon to be post on what happens when you conduct the “$20 Starbucks Test,” I’ve also had the opportunity to interview Deb Trevino, the Director of Corporate Communications for the company.

In this position, Ms. Trevino covers a breadth of roles: she handles financial communication, business and brand communication, corporate social responsibility, and crisis communication.

Ms. Trevino was a pleasure to talk to and I really appreciated her insight. I only regret that I forgot to ask her what she thought about the “$20 Starbucks Test” I’ve been so interested in attempting.

Below is Part I of my interview with Ms. Trevino. Topics included in this post include branding, the new Starbucks logo design, and digital media.

Update: Part II is now posted. Click here to read about Starbucks in the global market and the coffee chain’s integration of corporate social responsibility within company policy.

The Path to Starbucks

Maurice Rahmey: How did you get to where you are at Starbucks?

Deb Trevino: I joined Starbucks about two and a half years ago and I came to this role from a similar one at a company called Getty Images, which is also based here in Seattle. Throughout my career, I’ve really worked in public relations, communications and marketing communications – some combination of those things. It’s really just a culmination of the experience that I dealt with throughout my career that got me hear.

The Starbucks Culture and Brand

MR: Before I get into my own questions, my professor (Prof. Steve Quigley) wanted to actually know how your internal communication within the company fosters a strong and consistent customer centric culture within the stores. Would you be able to help me out with that?

DT: One of the most important things we do is communicate to our employees (we call them “partners”). We really consider them our advocates and our evangelists and they need to be engaged in what the company is doing – everything as simple as the products we’re offering to the story behind those products and how they’re sourced. They need to understand what we do from an environmental standpoint. All of those things are really critical so that when they interact with a customer on a daily basis they’re really representing the best of what Starbucks is all about.

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3 Digital Trends for PR Students to Embrace in 2011

Over the break, Ginny Soskey and I had the opportunity to visit the New York office of PR firm Edelman.

Interested in learning more about digital innovations and trends in the industry, we found ourselves meeting with Steve Rubel, Senior Vice President and Director of Insights for Edelman Digital.  In this position, Mr. Rubel studies trends and innovations in media, technology, and digital culture.  He then fuses them into actionable insights that help Edelman and its clients remain at the forefront of their industry.

As we spoke with Mr. Rubel, he told us about 3 digital trends affecting PR in the next year (The full list of 11 emerging digital trends, with company examples, can be found here).  They were:

  • Digital Curation: The plethora of content will give rise to digital curators who can separate art from junk
  • Thought Leadership: If there’s one constant it’s that humans crave stories. Technology creates new expectations
  • Transmedia Storytelling: Companies recognize they must activate credible individual expert voices that can create content

Although these three trends were created with companies in mind, students can also utilize them as well.  Here are some examples:

  • Digital Curation: Twitter allows you to share valuable and insightful information with your followers.  Industry leaders, such as Mr. Rubel, constantly post articles they feel are valuable for those following.  As a student curator, tweet out relevant and industry related information.  It’ll show you care and that you know what’s important.  It may even land you an internship or job.
  • Thought Leadership: While sharing information is important, sharing your opinions is even more crucial.  Although you may not think of yourself as a “thought leader” yet, telling people what you think and backing up those opinions can help establish your credibility.  One of the hottest new social applications of the year is Quora, a Q&A site created, edited, and organized by its user base. Company CEO’s, such as Mark Cuban (entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks) are utilizing the site to break down the barriers between themselves and their publics.  Their answers also give the people what they want – an expert opinion.  As students, Quora allows us to also answer questions and prove our knowledge about the topics we love.  We may not be “thought leaders” yet, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get a head start.
  • Transmedia Storytelling: With so many different mediums out there, students have the ability to brand themselves across the web.  In my previous two examples, I mentioned how Twitter and Quora can be utilized to benefit the student.  Your story doesn’t have to only be told by one application.  On the contrary, embrace more than one medium.  Find your outlets and use them to tell your personal story.  For example, use LinkedIn to show your career achievements, Quora to prove your problem solving capabilities, and Youtube to show those amazing public speaking skills.  Make yourself well rounded, not a one website pony.

Just like companies, PR students have to embrace and utilize digital trends in order to differentiate themselves from others in the field.  Digital Curation, Thought Leadership, and Transmedia Storytelling are three ways to help stand out from the crowd.

My Attempt at the “$20 Starbucks Test”

About two weeks ago I read an article on Business Insider (via Sean Johnson’s Snooty Monkey) about how entrepreneurs can evaluate their start-up idea by engaging in a $20 Starbucks Test.  The $20 Starbucks Test was created by Hugh Crean, an ex-Microsoft executive and current “Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst.”

The Farthest $20 Will Ever Get You at Starbucks

According to Snooty Monkey, the test goes something like this:

  1. Get yourself a nice crisp $20 from an ATM
  2. Go down to your neighborhood Starbucks
  3. Walk up to strangers with empty coffee mugs and tell them you are worried about your brother, need some advice, and can you buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for a quick 5 minutes of their time. (This will be awkward for most of you to do. Get over it. The “worried about my brother” line is a bit of psychology that means most people won’t turn you down. If they do turn you down, you just got a point in the Rejection Therapy Game anyway, so consider yourself lucky).
  4. Buy them a simple coffee, not a mocha-whippa-frappa-latta-chino; you want your $20 to last.
  5. Explain that your brother has a crazy business/product idea, and that he’s about to get a 2nd mortgage on his house, raid his 401k and quit his job. His wife is a nervous wreck, afraid that they’ll lose their house and retirement fund, and he’s hit your parents up for seed money that they really can’t afford to lose. Your parents and your sister-in-law have come to you for help to try to talk him out of his hair-brained scheme.
  6. Explain that this is where they come in, your brother is a very logical and reasonable guy, and can be convinced by good reasons, but he has been blinded by thinking this is a really good idea. The problem is, you sort of agree with him, so you need some really solid reasons to give him as to why his idea won’t work, and why he shouldn’t proceed with his plan. Then… pitch your idea! Sell it the best way you can. Respect their time (you asked for 5 minutes), but give the best 2-3 minute pitch you can.
  7. Now, ask for their reasons the idea won’t work. Keep them focused on the idea, not the backstory (they may want you to convince your brother of the merits of retirement savings or the dangers of 2nd mortgages), and really listen. Resist the temptation to argue against their objections. Then thank them heartily for their time.
  8. Repeat until your $20 runs out. Continue reading

MASSTalent: A SWOT Case Study

In marketing, a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) allows you to figure out not only your company’s strengths and weaknesses, but the marketplace’s strengths and weaknesses as well. This analysis well help you better promote your product, idea, website, etc.

Colin Farrell was not harmed in the making of this blog post.

One area where I’ve applied the SWOT technique was with my own school organization, Boston University Public Relations Student Society of America. This past October in Washington DC, each chapter from around the country gathered together in workshops and explained what their organization was doing for their members. There were plenty of amazing ideas, but no matter the workshop, one comment seemed to always arise from someone in the audience: that idea would never work in my school. Some said their chapters were too small, others too large, others too in the middle of nowhere to make an interesting idea or event work.

Instead of copying ideas from other organizations, I took in stride the comments coming from the audience: our schools are all extremely different. The best way to reach my audience at my own school was to play to not only my club’s strengths, but my city’s strengths as well.

Below is a SWOT analysis and assessment of an event I helped run called MASSTalent (kudos to DJ Capobianco, Zach Cole and Aaron Gerry). I put it in a PowerPoint presentation to make it easier to digest. There aren’t many images, but the content is still good (I hope).

Please note: The presentation is not a recap of the event and its success. Rather it’s an assessment of why interest in attending the event was so high among students.

If you are interested in learning more about the actual event, check out any one of these recaps: