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PR ethics for competition and communication

In this final edition in a short series of blogs on how the Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics relates to online-based PR today, the concepts of furthering communication and competition are looked at. On the face of it, the nature of digital realities today make ‘competition’ and ‘communication’ rather synonymous and symbiotic, seemingly forever feeding each other in an endless round of healthy if at times barbed exchanges online, with no communication-inhibiting monopolization in sight thanks to the competitive nature of posts and counter-posts on Facebook, Trip Advisor and the like…

 

Beyond tit for tat

 

…Only that these social media platforms can become self-serving pedestals and alter the nature and purpose of communication carried out on them. The PRSA’s stated commitment to a free flow of information, are checked by societal forces that have always worked to crush competitive forces, for better or worse, which often links with the idea of limited or at least dramatically curtailed communication. Worse, the go-to biggies of the digital age like Google, Facebook and Mircosoft, while officially espousing free expression, have all come up into trouble for hindering the freedoms they claim they stand for. These three titans have faced, and fought, for example, enormous fines from the European Union, and have become accustomed to operating with few to no rivals. The democratizing forces of the Internet have come up against firewalls protecting multinational institutions, which are often the ones setting the new standards.

 

Is there still room for privacy?

 

While Facebook’s CEO famously derided the idea of privacy in the future, and censorship, facial recognition technology and other digital forces coalesce to serve the consolidation of power, signs of counterbalance are found in new messy norms which champion the peer reviews of the little guy and the growth of the next big-time Gen Z influencer. But as long the Information Age police are the information providers themselves, the whole point of digitalupgrades’ are called into question.

 

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Welcome to your home away from home

Accepting new employees into the work culture of your office is a test of if a company to apply core beliefs fairly to everyone. Does the mission statement really reflect the higher reality or do cliques and corruption have more clout? The answer can be found in instances like when new employees are onboarded. Here are a few ways to show how welcoming newcomers can help enhance commitment to the right kind of corporate values.

 

Keep it stylish

 

A sense of fun can do wonders, as offices become more homes and coworkers like family members, in ways where overlapping is possible, depending on the organization. Examples of infusing casual rhythms of relaxation can come, for example, through encouraging freedom of expression through allowing employees to decorate and personalize their office space as they like. Making the home away from home closer to home itself can boost morale and productivity.

 

Bond with me

 

Company evenings and outings allow members from different departments to mingle and engage in ways based on light-hearted conversation and entertainment in memorable points of connection that create deeper relations and a sense of trust.

 

Hear my voice

 

In meetings and in consultations with work teams, and clients too whenever possible, ask new employees for their feedback and opinions. Encourage them to speak out and share what they think and have personal sessions to further prove the point.

 

Meet the family

 

Bosses who make the effort to go over and meet new employees at their homes or invite them to theirs show in dramatic ways that newcomers are very much a part of the family. This attention to detail and high level of personalization of course also can pay dividends in cases where the personal touch can go far in impressing clients as well.

 

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Determining why and how social media matters

New studies this year are telling us what we all know like never before: the impact of social media is significant and growing in many aspects of human life, including buying and marketing of, well, just about everything, now that you ask.

 

Everybody’s doing it

 

Despite a small but significant group of conscientious objectors and an increasingly smaller segment for whom IT is still beyond reach for economic or cultural reasons, social media usage continues growing unabated. Just under half of respondents in a new study reported that they have upped their online portfolios over the last half a year. Businesses know this, and are all the reminded by the potential digitally generated windfall each time a new statistic like this comes out. Ninety percent of these firms are convinced of the significant benefits of maintaining a strong social media presence. Yet they remain unsure of what this means exactly and how best to exploit this new market.

 

Not everyone’s benefitting

 

Seven out of 10 social media marketers believe they are sharing essential information and tips on how in-house teams can develop beneficial strategies. Yet almost 5 out of 10 struggle to meaningfully contribute to the developing pans that help meet their company’s goals and key needs, including positively impacting profits. While the technology and communications norms of everyday social media usage are just beginning to seem understandable, verifying their net impact on various economic aspects of life remains difficult to track.

 

Give the buyers what they want

 

One study of similar demographics produced two years apart delivered results indicating just how challenging it is to reach out meaningfully to audiences and potential buyers. The first study indicated interest in posts making overt reference to sales and discounts, but the response for this same topic this year was much lower. That part of the PR business never changes: trends are just that, and the truly successful messages and campaigns need to highlight something timeless and beyond the interests of the day.

 

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Waiting for information alignment

Many key trends look ready to coalesce in ways that should make data more easily accessible and better organized. Only that for every innovative step forward, more questions and disruption is caused as well. What’s new? Well, plenty, actually. Voice search, led by the rise of Alexa and Google Home, is ready for big-time liftoff and will have interesting ramifications for SEO – which remains something both unquantified and essential for businesses. The same goes for video, which is becoming more popular on websites but is just as susceptible to the unpredictable, shifting nature of SEO.

 

A world of opportunity for storytellers

 

For public relations professionals, this presents the usual challenge and opportunity: for those with the right message and networks for amplifying messages, the rewards are great. Deeper, better content that connects meaningfully with buyers, in particular niches, remains essential and is more important than ever. Beyond the reach of big data and reaching target audiences, developing a rapport still matters, and remains built on trust and experience. This takes a proven track record more than algorithms and mere potential. What matters is data maturity: it takes time and energy to isolate trends and optimize today’s great opportunities for message sharing and profit.

 

In search of truths

 

This need for authenticity and balance in a world more marked by chance is well represented in the rise of the digital platforms for many traditional media that now have more online that hard-copy subscriptions. The successful shift has solidified and raised the standing of classic institutions such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Classical influencers still have their role in times threatened by fake news, and big data, which gives even larger importance to the need for veracity.

 

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Sports influencers making lots of smooth moves

After a slow start compared to other marketing fields, sports marketing has taken off, and shows no signs of slowing down. Industry experts cite a variety of factors for the trend, but particularly the relatively sudden appearance of Gen Z’s financial prowess. This digital native, most socially conscious demographic is expected by next year to be spending anywhere from US$30 billion to over US$100 billion annually. Just as e-commerce platforms and big data are coming of age, not surprisingly, so are the youngsters best positioned to take advantage of new ways of spending income, including sports-related purchases.

 

An e-marketing bonanza awaiting

 

The new earners and spenders of Generation Z are seen as being more pragmatic, supportive of social initiatives, and robustly responsive to campaigns of all kinds that directly appeal to them and appear genuine in intent. At the same time, around two-thirds of marketers of sports events, teams and equipment and see more influencer programs as being vital for their field in the mid- and long-term future. The up-and-coming generation in particular can long expect to be targeted with sports-related campaigns.

 

Great ROI for sports marketing

 

The ROI of recent sports marketing programs indicates that they are very effective in generating profits. Sports marketers in recent studies said this is facilitated by having open relationships with influencers and working collaboratively to ensure that the authentic reach of their influence was optimized in line with client companies’ needs and matching them in turn as closely as possible to the expectations of buyers.

 

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The rise of video SEO

Image may not be everything, but videos are often more fun to take a moment to be distracted by than text. Marketing experts know that using video helps websites rank more highly in terms of SEO. The authority of the website matters as well, in addition to various factors that will increase the professionalism of your videos. High quality video videos have been easily shot on smartphones for years now, and companies are slowly getting better about capturing images in short films that help project the image they want.

 

How to optimize

 

Having a website that’s already impressive helps. So does a good choice and use of platforms your videos are seen and available on beyond your website. Social media accounts like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are of course useful for generating awareness. Screenshots can be extracted from footage and used to help generate interest with a choice caption. If you don’t have a transcript yet, make one – this will make it easier for those who still prefer reading or use it part of the time. And do you offer a choice of languages?

 

Thumbnails matter

 

The video will get better play when it is the focus of the page and not lingering in corners. This makes for easier navigation as well. Another tech spec to be aware of is page-loading time. Since videos aren’t digested all in one go, and don’t lend themselves as effectively to scanning and scrolling through like website and texts, having an enticing and clear thumbnail image with an appropriate title is a must. If your video is about dining in a particular restaurant, don’t use a thumbnail featuring someone driving to the restaurant or something else indirectly related. But being human matters too. One marketing site found that thumbnails with a person were clicked on 30% more. Many tend to judge a book by its cover and a video by its thumbnail, so make sure to have an irresistible one.

 

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Who’s your CSR czar?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been with us for around a quarter century now, but is rooted in philanthropic concepts as old as time, which go to the heart of what society could or should be based on. The tendency to want to be seen as doing good and being fair-minded has long been a concern to leaders of businesses, nations and other institutions. Not least of which since it helps justify their continuing to retain power and influence, for – at least in their minds – the greater good.

 

The authority to help out

 

While CSR is still seen as secondary to the overriding purposes of many firms, it easily aligns with their overarching mission statements, which describe companies’ ideal societal impacts, beyond profits. At a minimum, companies facilitate the betterment of the lives of employees and their dependents. Meanwhile, governments tend to see themselves as providers or at least enablers of the SR part of CSR. But as big data comes about, transparency increases and bottom lines and product origins become more traceable, CSR in a wider sense of ethics increasingly affects not just local environments, but carbon footprints felt globally.

 

The Gen Z factor

 

People with little to know knowledge of the last millennium or life before smartphones are now coming of age, shopping online, and expressing tendencies to spend their money on companies they see as taking stands on issues and sourcing products and services in ethical, sustainable and documentable ways. Several multinationals like Netflix, Google and IBM have reached out to young consumers who have expressed interest in supporting companies aligned with their progressive, modern values. Many brands are shifting to move away from certain segments of the public and more overtly marketing and positioning themselves to take better advantage of new demographic realties.

 

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Intellectual property violations, imitation as flattery, and the PR in between

“There’s only one Colonel in Chicken Town.” This is how a narrator wraps up a new, much-talked about ad for KFC UK, in which Colonel Sanders styled like the Godfather, accompanied by the film’s famous theme, drives through tough streets teeming with fake KFCs. Instead of taking on the copycats directly, he awes them simply by fearlessly cruising through their neighborhood on his way to the real KFC. There he gets down to work, making the fried chicken that the brand is renowned for. It’s a clear message that the original master still has the most street cred.

 

Pirates of the Information Age

 

Intellectual Property (IP) and other violations regarding logos, films, songs, secret recipes and other creations can cause significant financial loss. Pirates have gone mainstream on platforms like YouTube, aided by technology that is complicit in diminishing the original work of creators. Grey areas have sprouted up everywhere online and elsewhere in regards to whom should profit from what ideas and products and to what extent, in a culture in which IP sharing has been normalized.

 

Amplified with intention

 

The KFC commercial’s message is thematically integrated into posters featuring the logos of the imitators, with similar all-caps lettering reminiscent of KFC, but instead declaring DFC, RFC, LFC, etc. KFC signs off at the bottom of the posters with “Guys, we’re flattered”, taking stock of the situation and spinning a negative into a positive with a classic comeback. Taking on any issue with the style and poise of a grand master creates a lasting impression – especially if you’re iconic enough to back it up.

 

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Creating content that delights

Even as public relations companies attempt to find out and deliver the kind of content that consumers want, they are attempting to better their techniques that will help them do so. If this sounds like putting the cart before the horse, that’s because it is. But the alternative to not taking risks in creating content is falling behind in a highly fluid online marketing scene.

 

Disconnected, but forging on

 

While there is a significant disconnect between the perceived effectiveness of content between creators and audiences, and how effective content is having on delivering results, plans are underway to make improvements. More moving, meaningful brand experiences are desired, but the devil is in the digital details as to how this can be achieved – and tracked. A new study shows that marketers are focusing on creating content that demonstrably delivers ROI results, is efficiently managed, and makes use of more compelling visuals. Only that without better ROI results, content that can be seen as effectively managed and is visually exciting may not be either, actually, and would necessitate a return to the drawing board. A stunning 95% of content on brands is ignored by audiences, according to one estimate.

 

Tell me a story that I should like even more than you do

 

So what’s a good PR team to do? Tell a great story that inspires consumers to pay for the products and services being delivered, of course. But until the secrets of how to deliver exactly what keeps consumers entertained and paying up, by teasing useful information from big data, the disconnect between content providers and audiences will remain. It’s no wonder PR workers are seen as having jobs ranked more stressful than most, when the kinds of precise results asked for by clients are attempted to be met on channels and platforms through content that often is so hard to define.

 

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Keeping it real in a digital age

 

Digital marketers, you have your work cut out for you.

 

Consumers find the content generated by companies, less interesting, less authentic and less impactful on their purchasing decisions than advice given by fellow buyers, according to a new report by Stackla, a marketing platform that focuses on and user-generated content. The report, which says that 86% of consumers place a premium on authenticity, indicates vast differences between consumers and marketers.

 

Information being shared on products should ideally focuses on personalized experiences with brands, say nearly 7 out of 10 customers surveyed for the major report. But while 92% of marketers think their brands are providing the personalized content that buyers prefer, less than half of the customers themselves agree with this. Not surprisingly, customers are also over twice as likely to find customer-to-customer shared content interesting, compared to brand-created content.

 

Tell me a story, and keep it personal

 

The Stakla report also says that customers are turning to first-hand accounts on social media platforms for advice from fellow experiencers, shoppers, travelers and other buyers of various services and products. Nearly 90% of respondents would post about a positive travel experience, while 85% and 65% would do the same about a similar encounter with a restaurant or health/beauty product, respectively.

 

The chasm-like consumer-company disconnect is compounded by how consumers are 2.4 times as likely to think customer-created content is most authentic, while companies are 2.1 times as likely to think that brands are better at generating the most authentic content. The study indicates that nearly 80% of buyers say user-generated content affects their decisions whether to buy something. Compare that to with a paltry 8% who said the same thing about influencer-created content. That doesn’t sound very influential, actually.

 

Digital marketers, you have your work cut out for you.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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