Wait! What? 3/30: HBO woos tech, Facebook woos media, Comcast … yeah.

gifSometimes Monday morning rolls around and you think, “Wait, I did not read enough news about corporations last week.” So, here you go:

  • HBO treated the SF tech scene to a star-studded Game of Thrones season premiere party. Was it a PR stunt? Yes.
  • In response to a request for comment, a YouTube spokesperson simply sent back an animated GIF to the reporter. It’s inspiring, really.
  • Very Official News: Facebook is in talks with several media companies, The New York Times and BuzzFeed included, to host articles directly on its website. But will the deal ultimately help or hurt media brands? It doesn’t matter. They must obey.
  • Apple is developing smart packaging that allows customers to set up devices before they’re unboxed. Because, like, why would I take my iPad out of the box?
  • Remember that time Comcast customer service was the worst? To avoid future PR nightmares, the rarely beloved cable company just tripled its social media staff. I personally won’t follow up on this development – just ping me if anything hilarious happens.

I’m sorry that four out of those five bullets contain rhetorical questions; the advent of GIFs and listicles has destroyed my ability to form original sentences. Catch us again at our usual time this Friday for another tech-filled #WaitWhat!

Media Magnates: Does the Man Make the Brand?

Rock Center
Rock Center

This past week, the world of broadcast media was sent through the wringer when the beloved Jon Stewart announced he was leaving The Daily Show and NBC suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months following his absurdly unnecessary string of lies.

What Stewart and Williams have in common is that they’re arguably broadcast television’s most famous faces. Their shows don’t support their personal brands; their personal brands make their shows. Without these two as the titular hosts, both nightly segments are at a crossroads in terms of future popularity.

Obviously a certain level of iconic, untouchable celebrity does wonders to preserve and grow a media program’s audience. Even when John Oliver took over for Stewart one summer, the show famously kept the name The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So just how important is a central personality to a media brand’s appeal? And how far can one person carry (or in Williams’ case, sink) an entire news institution?

Ultimately, it depends on the diversity of the program’s offerings. Is there more to the show than the person delivering the news? Are there classic segments or consistent running themes? How strong is the brand’s personality and how unique is the reporting?

If I were an NBC executive right now, I’d be concerned about this in regards to Nightly News. I don’t know about you, but I can’t name a single thing about that show other than, “It’s hosted by Brian Williams.” Well, was. The news delivered on that show isn’t exactly magical content that you can’t find in thousands of other media outlets. And it doesn’t help that viewers, especially we the coveted millennials, now trust the whole program less, if we even cared about it in the first place.

I think The Daily Show, on the other hand, will be fine. Losing Stewart will be a blow to the brand, for sure, but audiences loved the show before Stewart joined years ago and they will continue to love it in the years following Stewart’s departure. Why? For one, it has a stellar supporting cast that’s produced countless other fan-favorite personalities over the past few decades. And its award-winning production staff isn’t just going to give up on the masterful program they’ve spent years refining – and to which they’ve consistently added relevant content that appeals to a wide range of viewers across different mediums. In other words, consider the number of Daily Show YouTube videos that have gone viral compared to the number of Nightly News ones.

So what does this all mean for media brands? Well, if you work at a company like The Economist, you’re pretty set. The brand delivers intelligent, varied and consumable content across print, Web and social channels (and events – that’s where a lot of the money is). It’s also such a trusted source that it doesn’t even need to attach the names of reporters to its articles. But if your journalism brand relies entirely on content produced and delivered by one key celebrity, just remember that person could always lose that clout in a matter of seconds – or move on to something new – and seriously screw your whole program.

Wait! What? 1/30: A Kim Kardashian commercial. Sorry.

Wait, what? We were supposed to write a news recap this week?

So…that didn’t happen. We were pretty busy. But since you check back here for tech/PR news so faithfully every Friday, we’re not going to leave you hanging. We’ve found something that merges “tech” and “PR” so effortlessly that it’s almost neither.

Here’s the thing. This is actually funny, right? We enjoyed it. The self-awareness is on point and it’s better than watching Verizon humbly attach its giant corporate brand to social justice trends.

Anyway, enjoy your Super Bowl weekend. Maybe next Friday we’ll get our act together and have a real blog post for you. Until then, peeps.

Wait! What? 12/19: PR and pitching worst practices (and the dawn of Connected Christmas)

Nothing says holiday magic like smartphones, emails and hashtags. (Thinkstock)
Nothing says holiday magic like smartphones, emails and hashtags. (Thinkstock)

It’s Friday night? Time for a little bit of tech and PR news:

  • This holiday season, will Internet-connected toys teach kids to accept Big Brother in their lives? Startups can only hope.
  • In other jolly news, the Snapchat CEO thinks Facebook could be the next Yahoo. Which is apparently one of the worst insults in this wicked world of tech.
  • Some brands had to learn the hard way this year through ultimate PR fails. Our favorite is that terrifying thing McDonald’s invented.
  • And in the spirit of avoiding fails, PRNewser wisely advised against “dragnet pitching” for CES 2015. Because that reporter who reviews kitchen appliances really does not need to hear about your client’s brilliant dating app. A tough lesson, but one that will help us all in the long run… #Hope #Change
  • Last but not least: This was the year everyone realized storytelling is important. Now it can become an overhyped buzzword to distance ourselves from in 2015, even though it’s one of our main (and most successful) platforms.

Thus concludes our “Wait! What?” news roundup series for 2014. We’ll be sure to catch you next year with bigger, badder, actually quite similar recaps!

Wait! What? 11/26: Where tech and turkeys collide

"It's been an honor serving you, Mr. President." - Turkey (Thinkstock)
“It’s been an honor serving you, Mr. President.” – Turkey (Thinkstock)

It’s been a short week leading up to Thanksgiving, but that didn’t stop us from cooking up five juicy news bullets for your gobbling pleasure. Already regret writing that.

  • While you gather with friends and loved ones this weekend to reflect on all that you’re thankful for, we can tell you with certainty what Lyft is thankful for: Uber’s PR nightmare. The ride-share service reported its biggest week for rides ever following one of Uber’s roughest.
  • New ammo for the age-old white vs. dark meat debate: turkey lobbyists (real thing) only allow white turkeys to be presidentially pardoned, meaning brown and black turkeys are doomed to serve their duty to the American people in political obscurity. #THANKSMICHELLEOBAMA
  • Speaking of turkeys, now you can vote via Twitter on which one should spend the rest of its days in genteel luxury in Virginia, and which should end up on Obama’s Thanksgiving table… May the odds be ever in their favor.
  • We all know creating trash is central to American values, but one startup is determined to ensure our turkey scraps don’t go to waste. You can thank the cloud, Big Data and several other buzzwords.
  • If department stores have taught us anything, it’s that Christmas basically starts right after Halloween – so hurry up and finish that turkey because ’tis the season to be shopping. PSFK’s 2014 Gift Guide includes unique wearables and smart gadgets like posture sensors that essentially scold you for slouching. Our favorite is the stress tracker that tells you when…you’re stressed…? We need it!

Still not satiated? Connect with us @BlancandOtus to stay on top of the latest in tech and media, although personally, we’re going cold turkey on it until Monday. Enjoy the break!

Julia van Broek, Christine Pai, Colette Keane and Victoria Stevenson contributed to this post. It takes a village. 

What’s next for the CMO?

Matt Hobbs/Public Domain Archive

It seems everyone has an opinion on the changing role of the CMO. Some people think the CMO will become the next big technology evangelist. Some people argue that the traditional CMO role is dead. And others think the CMO is destined for the CEO seat.

While the future of the CMO role is not completely clear, the one thing for certain is that the role is rapidly changing. In a recent blog post on the Harvard Business Review’s website, a group of McKinsey & Company partners shared their view on how the role of Chief Marketing Officer has evolved and what new challenges and responsibilities today’s CMO must take on to succeed.

Spoiler: It’s a lot of new responsibility.

According to the blog post and McKinsey’s DataMatics 2013 survey, a successful CMO should learn how to:

  • Leverage data-driven insights: This goes way beyond checking how many times you were retweeted. No, these customer analytics must inform actions that measurably impact growth and marketing ROI. Increasingly, a CMO’s team should be combing through data to find out why customers are losing interest in a certain product, or why they tend to drop off at a certain point in the sales cycle. Then they need to create revenue-driving solutions to these problems – problems that, often, they never even knew their customers had.
  • Create a streamlined customer experience across every channel: Handling all sales from a central point, like a website, retail store or call center, will no longer cut it. Today’s customer is more loyal to customized, consistent and convenient service than to any brand. How does this affect companies in practice? Well, if a company refuses to do customer service over social media, then angry customers will storm their social accounts anyway. If a company refuses to sell products on a mobile app, then mobile-centric buyers will find another company that does. Obviously, this varies depending on the service the company provides, but CMOs need to be adapting marketing and sales channels to fit customer needs, and not expecting customers to adapt to the company’s preferred channel. As Oracle president Mark Hurd emphasized back in January, “Customers are in the driver’s seat.”
  • Build a bridge between the marketing department and the rest of the organization: Of course, a CMO will fail at the above tasks if they fail to convince IT, customer service, sales and other departments that important changes need to be made. McKinsey refers to this phenomenon as becoming the “glue” that brings together previously segmented departments to drive enterprise-wide initiatives.

These new requirements are driven by a flurry of changes over the past decade, from the rapid introduction of digital tools to the increasingly commoditized, competitive global market. But don’t think for a second that, with these new responsibilities, CMOs can brush aside key marketing components like messaging, advertising, product launches, media relations and so on.

So, how can CMOs possibly accomplish all of this? The answer is, typically, they can’t. After all, the very same DataMatics 2013 survey found that “only 30 percent of companies believe they understand their customers’ needs well enough to identify what initiatives will drive growth.” But that’s why today’s top CMOs are all about improving not only the product and marketing campaigns, but also the customer experience – all via data-driven insights. And the very best ones already know: Their marketing departments can’t do it alone.

Wait! What? 5/30: Wi-fi on the moon, beds that check your sleeping habits, and other things that used to be science fiction

Credit: Gregory H. Revera
Credit: Gregory H. Revera

Wait, what? The week’s over already? It seems like just seconds ago the tech world went into a frenzy about Microsoft’s latest acquisition Steve Ballmer buying the Clippers. We sort of paid attention to that, but we were also loving these peculiar reads:

  • Try less, broThe Social Effort Scale analyzes your online activity and kindly lets you know if you’re trying too hard. We’re PR junkies, so it would probably advise us to chill for a second.
  • The moon is now a wi-fi hotspot. Speaking of trying hard.
  • You’ll never be home alone again. Not when your bed and microwave are jabbering at you nonstop about your health and electric usage.
  • Google caves into peer pressure and offers a form for people who want to be forgotten. But those who demand 100% Internet privacy can probably forget about that ever happening, either.
  • The World Cup goes digital as brands everywhere starve for that elusive .00001% of the conversation.

What were you reading about this week? Don’t be shy, tell us on Twitter @BlancandOtus or in the comments below.

Wait! What? 5/16: Breakthrough technologies that no one understands yet, and the raging net neutrality debate decoded

Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Tech media was abuzz this week about the European Court of Justice’s recent ruling, which says everyone has a “Right to be Forgotten” on Google. This is great news! Not only for tactless millennials like me, but also for tech products that need to be forgotten, like the Segway. Anyway, below are a few great stories you probably forgot to read this week:

What’s on your radar from this week? Send us your favorite story @BlancandOtus or comment below.

Wait! What? 4/18: America is scared of the high-tech future, but we still kind of want Google’s creepy picture-taking contact lenses

Let’s face it: B&O’s jellybean guessing contest was undeniably the big thing in tech PR this week. But if you’re interested in seeing what else happened, check out the below!

Those were our favorites from the week—what were yours? Always open to hearing from you @BlancandOtus.

Wait! What? 4/11: Uber enters Phase One of transportation domination, Forrester writes poetry now

"Wait...what?" (Thinkstock Photos)
“Wait…what?” (Thinkstock Photos)

It’s safe to say that Heartbleed took the cake, brought home the bacon, and ate the Internet’s lunch this past week. Other stories were left with crumbs—so it’s our job to feed them to you. These articles from the tech PR world will divert your attention from the biggest online security breach ever for at least a few minutes:

Did you read any valuable articles this week, other than ones about impending cyber-doom? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @BlancandOtus!