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The 12 Truths of Modern PR

October 11th, 2011 / 8:23 am

Today I spoke at the Dow Jones forum in Korea: “Information Explosion: from Burden to Blessing.” See below for a copy of my presentation:

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Weibo and the Chinese social media dynamic

August 10th, 2011 / 2:47 am

Last week when I was in China, there was one word that seemed to be on everyone’s lips: Weibo, which is the Chinese microblogging platform that’s analogous to Twitter (but it should be noted that you can get more across in 140 spaces using Chinese characters compared to the Roman alphabet).

After a terrible train crash on the country’s celebrated new high-speed rail system, there was a tremendous outpouring of emotion from millions of people in China who were expressing their sadness over the loss of life, disbelief at the official reports, and anger at why the accident happened and what seemed to be an inadequate explanation afterwards.

Among other things, Weibo appears to have become an easy way for people to vent about things in a country where, while the mainstream media is relatively freewheeling covering the commercial sector, it is much more circumspect when it comes to the government domain. Even if Weibo is a way to sound off, I was told that there are certain taboo comments that are blocked when one tries to post them, and that censors will delete impermissible comments after they have been posted.

This train crash incident is the latest one I’ve noticed where anger is amplified so quickly online, with riots of rage breaking out on social networks especially in jurisdictions where there are people who have felt politically or economically constrained. In many parts of Asia, fitting in with the group harmony rather than standing out can be the governing dynamic, but social networks may be changing this cultural assumption.

I think we saw this most recently in the Japanese social media reaction in Japan and China last September, when Japan accused a Chinese fishing boat of deliberately ramming two patrol vessels near disputed islands in the East China Sea, causing a massive digital diplomatic row between the two countries.

What happened on social networks after this incident and after the recent train crash shows how the emotions of millions can be experienced as a community’s collective consciousness…like a national nervous system. I reckon there can be positive mass manifestation of strong sentiment, but sometimes there’s an ugly side to it as well. What I find intriguing is the speed and intensity with which anger can cycle up into outrage online.

Even if microblogs can play a useful role protecting the record and holding institutions to account, sometimes troubling is the lack of hard information possessed by those making summary judgments who often overrate what they know as the basis for forming opinions. Then there is the apparent digital reduction of empathy for other people, ironic inasmuch as the technology offers so many new ways to bring us together as never before.

Despite the bold and fearless talk on Weibo, during the nine media interviews I did in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, while all of the journalists evidenced intense interest regarding digital crisis communications in general, none of them asked about the train incident in particular.

I asked all of the reporters if they use Weibo themselves, and they all replied in the affirmative. Some said they use it for work. Others declared that they use it exclusively for personal purposes. Some declared that they use it for both.

In this respect, whether it’s the psychology of digital networks or how individuals are sorting out their profiles and personality online, despite a very unique social media ecosystem, in these respects China shares much in common with the rest of the digital world.

Categories: China
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Image and reputation in the age of digital communication

September 1st, 2010 / 11:00 pm

This morning I delivered this presentation to the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. We discussed the crafting and co-creation of persuasive narratives, digital storytelling through the newsfeed with stakeholders, the production and packaging of content for the new public mind, and how the art of PR is becoming more of a science.

View more presentations from Robert Pickard.

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Executive MBA lecture at Nanyang Business School

August 2nd, 2010 / 4:00 am

On July 27th I was honoured to guest lecture executive MBA students in Martin Roll’s class at Nanyang Business School. I talked about the scientific roots of the PR profession, putting the consciousness of corporations online through social media news streams, mapping data to design through digital storytelling, the worldwide rise of apology communications, and how with new crisis communications, anything that now goes wrong in a famous way is called a ‘PR disaster.’ This edited video is eight minutes long:

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Image and reputation in the age of digital communication

July 22nd, 2010 / 9:00 am

Today in Shanghai it was my honor to address the China New Social Media Forum on the crafting and co-creation of persuasion narratives, digital storytelling through the news feed with stakeholders, producing and packaging content for the new public mind. I also spoke about how PR is the key marketing discipline when it comes to both promoting and protecting image in the modern world of social networks.

View more presentations from Robert Pickard.

Categories: digital
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Guest lecture to PR students in Hong Kong

November 26th, 2009 / 3:00 pm

HKBU PR students

On November 10th, I was honoured to address PR students in the Communications School of Hong Kong Baptist University. I was invited and hosted by the distinguished Dr. Flora Hung as well as the wonderful Dr. Regina Chen. The theme of the speech was “Building modern PR campaigns and telling digital stories in the age of social technology.” Feel free to download a copy by clicking the screen shot below:

Pickard presso on building modern PR campaigns

It was my best effort to ‘connect the dots’ between my own two decades of communications consulting experience and the ideas of thinkers like Gerald Zaltman (re. metaphors tapping into the unconscious mind), Martin Lindstrom (re. neuromarketing and ‘unconscious’ storytelling), Dale Carnegie (re. making people feel important in conversations) and Robert Cialdini (re. the psychology of persuasion).

These are the key points made in the presentation:

  • No brainer: the mind is the key issue when it comes to PR.
  • The unconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind.
  • The emotions of the unconscious mind determine PR success, not the rational logic of the conscious mind.
  • Metaphors communicated through storytelling tap into the unconscious mind where people make decisions.
  • PR pros need to design and conduct campaigns accordingly.
  • Unfortunately, the ‘storytelling zone’ of news journalism (which has also been the province of PR people interacting with reporters) is shrinking as the traditional news media business plummets.
  • So marketers and their money are migrating to the entertainment media and social media spheres, where stories can be told directly to consumers.
  • Nowadays every company can create its own content and tell its own stories, like a media company.
  • Digital is now changing narratives; new stories are actually being co-created via conversations with people online.
  • Understanding the ‘psychology of persuasion’ within networked contexts is a key skill for modern communicators.
  • PR people of the future must think like story writers and media content programmers.

HKBU PR students

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Signal to noise

October 30th, 2009 / 5:00 pm

When I was a kid, I was into electronics and shortwave radio in a big way, and one of the technical terms I heard about then was ‘signal to noise ratio.’ In the radio listening context, I took this to mean how much of the radio station you could hear versus the all the noise in the background (and there is no shortage of  ‘static’ on shortwave, as a dwindling band of fellow die-hard enthusiasts would know).

Bob's 1937 Troy 100 radio

These days, I notice that the signal to noise expression is being used all the time by people into social networks. In most cases, it seems to mean getting the content online that you want that adds value, as opposed to extraneous clutter information that wastes your time. It strikes me as an apt expression, party because there’s so little quality content these days and way too much junk out there.

I have certainly noticed that people really do appreciate quality content when they see it. On Facebook from 2007, and then Twitter from 2008, and now more recently Friendfeed, I’ve been trying to share what I think is ’signal’ from the media that I consume every day. Usually I’ll post what I regard as interesting articles in areas of personal interest (PR, psychology, media, propaganda, renewable energy, radio, maps and the environment), accompanied by a brief commentary reflecting my own opinion. So, I’ve basically been selecting stories for the ’front page’ of my ‘lifestream’ and drafting comments and questions, leaving the heavy writing to the authors whose articles I forward.

A few folks have proactively let me know that they appreciate this approach; here’s one example:

“Hey Bob!  Thanks for bringing the collective IQ of my FB page up.  As I scroll down the updates and see lines of ‘How well do you know so and so’ and ‘My kids just spilled the Q-tips’ I see your notes on the demise of the Aral Sea…like accidentally stumbling across NPR during a Jerry Springer episode.”

Lately, though, several people have been encouraging me to articulate my own long-form opinions, so this new blog is my way of transmitting some signal of my own rather than just relaying that of others.

I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and insights with you.


Categories: blog, radio
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Social networks and happiness

September 30th, 2009 / 1:41 pm

Happy, unhappy people cluster together online

Birds of a feather flock together, says this interesting article which contends that happy and unhappy people tend to be connected with each other online. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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