Archives for category: Communications

I don’t like infographics. There. I said it. In writing for the whole world to see. Given the explosion of the infographic in communications today, it feels like heresy. So let me qualify that broad statement by telling you why.

The majority of infographics just don’t work well at communicating information. They’re cluttered, confusing and hard to work with. They look like someone created them because it is the cool thing to do not because they provide a better way of sharing knowledge.

Infographic done right by Paychex

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four ways to make infographics better — even for someone like me:

1. Save the Cartoons for the Comic Section

The category is not, “graphicinfo.” That’s because the information is more important than the graphic elements. Don’t let artists over illustrate with cartoons and colors that don’t improve understanding or readability. The best design uses “white space” to make the information and graphic elements that matter stand out. That should be true for infographics, too.  EMA client, Paychex, gets it right in this infographic from the Huffington Post on small business use of mobile technology.

2. Offer a Second Format

Not everybody wants to view an infographic, and not all information you need to share presents well graphically or can be covered in an infographic. So it’s a good idea to offer a second format along with your infographic. A simple, “Click here for a 300 word summary of this infographic,” will ensure more users get your information. If a live link won’t work, include a URL that tells the reader where to find it on your site.

3. Keep it Short

Infographics that scroll on for what feels like a yardstick of space simply aren’t user friendly in any format – desktop, tablet or mobile. Users often want to reference back to something earlier in the graphic. Try doing that on your smartphone with a graphic that goes on multiple screens. Think of an infographic as a poster. Done right, your reader might even print it out and pin it in their workspace for future reference. Radian6 recently did that with information on social media metrics.

4. It’s the Information…

Infographics aren’t about putting lipstick on a pig. If your information isn’t new or relevant, then dressing it up with graphics isn’t going to make it any more meaningful.  Infographics should take complex information – most often data – and make it easier and faster to understand.

OK, so I don’t dislike all infographics, just the ones that are using graphics like a Halloween costume – to be something they are not. Don’t fall in to that trap. Follow my four tips and your hard work will stand a better chance of getting picked up by news media and bloggers.  And better yet, more users will engage with and share your information within their social circles.  More on that in a future post.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

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In my last post, I wrote about the clouds of doubt hanging over the newspaper business. Those same questions hover over the other traditional mainstream news outlets — magazines, radio and broadcast television. Even social media can’t escape uncertainty. Look at the recent sale of Digg for what amounts to practically pennies.

In a news and information landscape that changes as quickly as the tides, there is one fundamental truth for public relations people:

It’s the news that matters – not the medium.

People can and do get their information from many sources. Much of what they get originates from PR people.  I don’t see that changing. In fact, I think it will grow, so PR people need to be able to create and deliver news themselves.To prosper in this digitally powered reality, every business needs to have a communications foundation with four strong corners:

1. Open Community

Maintain a living network of connections with the broadest collection of the people and institutions that represent your stakeholders. Create your own community that incudes those who support you and those who don’t. It must be both an analog community that includes direct physical contact and a digital one, with feedback and transparency enabled by social media.

2. Honest Content

Have a robust, cost-efficient system in place to generate news and information yourself – in text, pictures, video and graphics. Content should be persuasive, but it also must be must be “meaningful.”  That means solid, useful, relevant information that has value to the user.  People are smart, and they are getting smarter. The more they use search, the better they get at choosing between reliable sources of information and promotional junk. Expect the technology behind search to get even better at helping people make good choices.

3. Many Channels

Create multiple distribution vehicles so you can reach your community directly. Email. Social media. Direct mail. Live events. Publicity is important, too, but you need to give your organization the flexibility to make media coverage in whatever form it takes a bonus. Always use your channels first to talk to your community.

4. Strong Metrics

Know what you need to measure and create the most customized measurement tools your organization can afford. Digital tools make collecting quantitative and qualitative data more achievable than ever. Metrics are essential because they ensure what you’re doing is working, but they’re also needed because the highly visible and tangible proof once documented in clip reports is no longer as relevant or as thick.

Like media relationships that lead to great news coverage, the four corners can’t be built overnight. They take hard work and investment over a long period of time. If you’re organization wants to thrive in whatever the news media world becomes, make sure you’ve got the building blocks of your communications foundation in place.

The Post Publicity Era is coming. Are you ready?

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

I love reading the New York Times on my tablet.

I catch up on the local news every morning on Syracuse.com, the digital version of the Post Standard, at my desktop.

I don’t, however, like thinking about a future without the printed newspaper. When I really want to engage with the news, I pick up the paper. I’m a loyal subscriber to the Post Standard, and I will be until it carries my obituary.

Recent events in publishing and some news coverage last week made me wonder about which might come first – the demise of the printed newspaper or me. Assuming a fairly long timeline, I hope it’s me, but increasingly, the future of newsprint is looking gloomy.

It’s been well documented that newspapers are the official record of news and information. Even with all the cutbacks in newsrooms, newspapers still have the biggest and most experienced news gathering teams. They do more investigative work and have the ability to dive deeper on matters that need attention and understanding. Their opinion pages have been and continue to be the influential voices on societal issues. A strong editorial can still swing thought leader opinions and activate people to solve important problems.

Because of these truths, conventional wisdom is that the demise of the “paper” will be bad for the public relations business. It means one less place to generate clips for our clients. I sure don’t want to see that day come, but if it does, I see opportunity for public relations. At least for the organizations that are ready.

In my next post, I’ll explain what it takes.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

Freedigitalphotos.net

The Technology page in the New York Times lamented Saturday that tech companies aren’t using phones for user support. According to reporter Amy O’Leary in Tech Companies Leave Phones Behind, internet companies like Quora, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn either don’t offer numbers for phone support or end up only playing a recording that drives callers back to their online customer support system.   The story suggests there is something wrong with this model or that it signals a fundamental culture shift in a digital world.

Not so.

Tech companies don’t leave phones behind. They’re an essential part of doing business, even in today’s online world. Having successfully reached Google and LinkedIn representives by telephone, I can assure you tech companies have phones for dealing with paying customers, in my case, an agency that wants to buy advertising. But internet and social media companies that offer a free service to users simply don’t have an obligation or revenue stream to support a costly telephone customer service system. A relatively small number of these companies have successful revenue streams, but virtually all would be driven under by labor intensive phone interactions with users trying to collect lost passwords or account for people who were mean to them on line.

You could argue that other “free” services offer users the ability to talk by phone. I could call my local television station and eventually find someone who would hear my complaint about commercials playing too loud or the sports action I missed due to a technical problem. But I wouldn’t find that after 5 p.m. or on weekends. Why? Because the phones at a TV station are there to serve advertisers not viewers. From my days in radio broadcasting, I can tell you that calls from the public with gripes about programming were an unfortunate side affect of needing phones to make and receive sales calls.

Online search services and social media sites are free to users. By maintaining that status, they already defy the conventional wisdom of, “You get what you pay for.” They deliver information, entertainment, communication and even commerce for free. There is no business rationale to set up call centers for users who pay nothing for their service.

The real travesty of this story will be when some opportunistic elected leader somewhere decides to grandstand by proposing a law that requires online companies to provide customer service support. When that happens, I hope legions of social media users get on their smartphones to call that lawmaker’s office and say, “No way.” Only I bet they won’t find more than an answering machine for most hours of the day.

Freedigitalphotos.net

Move over Lance Armstrong. Public relations may be headed for a doping scandal of its own. That’s the kind of advantage the injection of digital communications is giving public relations.

Welcome to the first post in my new blog, Digitally Powered PR. I’ll be sharing my observations and experiences about the incredible transformation of the public relations professional driven by the emergence of communications technologies Ivy Lee could never have imagined. The tablet I’m writing this post on is an amazing distribution point for news and information. Social media unlocks the ability to interact with target publics that would have required days and weeks of effort only a few years ago. Even the concept of blogging — being able to self publish your opinions and share them instantly around the world — was unthinkable.

In Digitally Powered PR, I’ll be chronicling examples of cutting edge practices that leverage digital communications. I’ll offer tips and advice based on my experiences practicing public relations in a digitally integrated marketing communications agency. I’ll share my opinions on how digital technology is changing relationships between organizations and their publics.  I’ll also be pointing out how the foundation of this noble profession — listening that allows effective two-way communications — is flourishing or being forgotten during this digital revolution.

It’s an amazing time to be working in public relations. When you compare the business we’re in today to the one I entered 25 years ago, we’ve got so much more power and potential, it feels like we’re cheating.

 

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

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