Black Friday Lesson: Mobile, Not Social, Drives Sales

The digital results for Thanksgiving and Black Friday last week are in, and from a sales perspective were quite impressive: Online sales on Thanksgiving grew by 17.4% from 2011, and the next day, Black Friday, they increased 20.7% from last year, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark study.

That’s good news for retailers going into the holiday season. But what’s interesting to me about the online IBM findings are the roles social media and mobile played in the results.

We’ll start with the latter: On Black Friday, 24% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3% from 2011. Sales from mobile devices exceeded 16%, up from 9.8% last year. Overall, online sales and traffic increased by 65% and 68% over 2011 respectively, found IBM. That’s a major spike in the use of mobile, underscoring the increasing importance of considering the mobile platform in PR outreach.

As for social media, just the opposite occurred. Shoppers referred from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34% (that’s point-three-four) of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35% from 2011. Twitter itself generated 0.0% of Black Friday sales, said IBM. This huge decrease flies in the face of the optimistic view that social media efforts can directly drive sales.

So as we get closer to the new year, it might be wise to focus more on mobile for more tangible sales results, while treating social media as it’s been proven to be so far—a hugely effective awareness and engagement tool—but not so much a driver of sales.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

Why Thanksgiving Turkey Tastes Better the Next Day, And Why It Matters

Ever notice that the Thanksgiving turkey tastes better the next day and the days after? Millions of people look forward to Friday lunches, and Saturday dinners of turkey sandwiches, turkey soup and turkey (or tofu) concoctions.  Yet last Tuesday’s chicken dish doesn’t taste so good warmed up the next day. And making a steak sandwich from the night before’s London Broil dinner just doesn’t sound so appealing.

So what is it about Thanksgiving leftovers? Why do we look so forward to the leftovers and what does it tell us about ourselves? I had some time to think about this over the break – after a Friday lunch of turkey, pumpkin bread and green bean casserole that tasted so much better than the Thanksgiving feast.  I came to the conclusion – after polling absolutely no relatives, friends or industry experts – that this post-Thanksgiving Day halo effect on our senses occurs because we are relieved. The anticipation of a day revolved around socializing, eating, socializing, eating (repeat 2 more times) has finally subsided.  You are no longer tied to Emily Post’s rules of etiquette. Those bitter cranberries Aunt Mary prepared? You can leave them off your plate this time, and fill up on what you want. You are most likely eating leftovers alone (in much-need silence) or with the short list of people who dine with you on days other than Thanksgiving.

As humans, we love our get-togethers, the traditions large and small, the awkward family moments and the great memories made over food and conversation.  The day after any big event – whether it’s Thanksgiving, a religious holiday, a major speech you’re giving, or a business conference for which you planned a year in advance – everything tastes better. Have you noticed that?  Savor the “day of,” but appreciate the days after.

- Diane Schwartz

On Twitter: @dianeschwartz


In Petraeus Affair, PR Perpetuates ‘Spin’ Image

I must admit that hearing the news that David Petraeus’ biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley, also involved in the Petraeus affair, have “PRed up” is a bit annoying.

It was reported by AdAge that Broadwell has hired Washington agency Glover Park Group to represent her, while Kelley enlisted crisis PR manager Judy Smith, who is the model for the “spin doctor” character Olivia Pope in the ABC TV drama Scandal. On top of it, yesterday Kelly’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, had her Gloria Allred moment at a press conference with the venerable barrister, trying to explain her e-mail relationship with Afghanistan commander John Allen.

OK, everyone is entitled to PR representation. But after hearing from several prominent PR and association executives over the last few years that the image of public relations must be improved, this news strikes me as a step backwards. It perpetuates the notion that PR is just about the “spin.”  While I understand that reputation management is available for all, I’d like to hear more about the goodwill that PR enables than stories like this, particularly as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

5 Tips for Banking Goodwill with Reporters

The media’s coverage of David Petraeus has been telling, and instructional. The former CIA director and decorated general who stepped down in early November after admitting to an extramarital affair had been a media darling. Not only did he have the stripes to prove his skills and heroism, but he showed respect for the journalists who covered him, and kept the media close (not as close as his biographer, but I digress…).

Petraeus understood the give and take of publicity, so reporters had relatively easy access to him. When the story broke of his affair and resignation, many reporters were kind in their coverage.  Perhaps too kind? Other top dogs have not been so fortunate when it comes to post-scandal media coverage.  Petraeus had banked decades of goodwill with reporters, and while he is arguably dealing with the worst crisis of his life, from a media relations standpoint it could be worse.  I’m going to state the obvious before offering 5 tips for establishing goodwill with reporters. And that is, don’t get yourself in a crisis in the first place.  But whether you’re battling a scandal of your own making or dealing with an inadvertent crisis affecting your reputation, how you treated the media BEFORE the event can make a considerable difference in coverage and the speed of recovery. Establishing professional and strong relationships with reporters is tantamount to successful media relations. Here are five tips you can take the media relations goodwill bank:

1.     Be accessible: take reporters’ calls, respond to their emails, enjoy a face to face meeting every now and then. You can get away with a few rejected invites to comment, but after several blow-offs, you will be branded as inaccessible and possibly a jerk.

2.     Tell the truth well: not only should you be upfront and honest, but you should carefully consider your choice of words, as everything you say can be the headline.

3.     Respect reporters’ deadlines: educate yourself on the rhythms of each reporter’s work day and help them be successful by getting back to them on time.

4.     Read their work: stroke their ego – read their articles, blog posts, and other writings and every so often send them a complimentary note or a follow-up thought.

5.     Connect them with other influentials: be the person who connects reporters with other sources and interesting people; a journalist can thrive when their ecosystem of contacts expands.

There are countless more ways to build strong relationships with reporters. What would you add to this list?

– Diane Schwartz

On Twitter: @dianeschwartz

Mayor Bloomberg, Show a Little Empathy

Love him or hate him, you have admire the no-nonsense, buttoned-down management style of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In his nearly 12-year tenure as mayor, he’s proved himself effective at getting things done. So as today’s New York Times article pointed out, the early days of Hurricane Sandy were right in Bloomberg’s management wheelhouse.

However, as the storm’s aftermath drags out and city residents continue to suffer, a weakness in Bloomberg’s armor has surfaced: a lack of empathy. As the Times article points out, Bloomberg hasn’t gone out of his way to linger in storm-ravaged neighborhoods to sooth residents who haven’t had power for weeks.

Curiously, his aides say this is done by design. “The people in this city didn’t elect Mike Bloomberg three times to give him a hug,” said Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor and Bloomberg’s chief press handler, in the article. The mayor would ultimately be judged on how the city rebounds, not on empathy, said his aides.

What Bloomberg and his handlers don’t seem to understand is that empathy is a mark of a great leader. Showing some compassion is a good thing. Just ask the residents in Staten Island who were able to say a few words to and get a hug from President Obama during his visit there on Thursday.

No, Michael Bloomberg should understand that showing empathy is part of the job, and shouldn’t be dismissed as a time-wasting shirking of management responsibilities. On top of it, empathy will help shape his reputation as a leader and his legacy.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

Obama Relaxed, In Charge at Press Conference

President Obama held his first press conference after re-election today, and with the possibility of storm clouds like the Petraeus affair and Benghazi in the air, a much anticipated event it was.

For the most part, there was much ado about nothing, as Obama came to the podium relaxed and confident—like a second-term president should be. He started off with a brief agenda-setting statement: “Our top priority has to be jobs and growth.”

Of course, the press would have nothing of it, immediately asking about Petraeus and if the President thought classified information was exposed during the former CIA director’s fling with his biographer. Obama deftly said there was no evidence of that thus far and that he couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

Obama then went on to laud Petraeus: “For my perspective he gave the country extraordinary service,” said Obama. “I hope he and his family can move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has been an extraordinary career.”

Obama, who is known for being unflappable in dealings with the press, did show real anger at one point, but it wasn’t directed at reporters. Asked about comments by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain’s comments that they block U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice if she is nominated for secretary of state, Obama called them “outrageous,” adding, “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after someone they should go after me. When they go after the U.N. ambassador apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”

White House communicators had to be happy with the President’s performance. Not only did Obama show that he’s under control, but that he is in charge, as well.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

Are You a Monday Person or a Friday Person?

You look forward to the work week and may have even been overheard saying, “TGIM!” The week is your oyster and you are ready to discover new things, to make a mark on your world. You love Mondays.

Fridays, on the other hand, might be the favored child for you. You’ve worked hard all week – or you haven’t – but finally the end of the week has arrived and you are ready to start the weekend.  TGIF!

Most of us can self-identify as either a Monday Person or a Friday Person. While more songs of misery contain the word Monday and more lyrics, restaurants and products include Friday, the day with the most emotional drain is actually Wednesdays, according to many studies.  Wednesday might be the mid-week child of neither here nor there and the day when all the stuff that came out of those Monday/Tuesday meetings must be produced. Wednesdays are tiring.

But back to Mondays and Fridays. There’s been speculation and less than scientific studies that say neither day is highly productive.  I’ve heard people guard against buying cars manufactured on Mondays or Fridays: on Monday the factory workers are too tired and on Friday they are distracted thinking about the weekend.  How we can find out what day of the week a car is manufactured is another story – a task best relegated to a Tuesday or Thursday.

I challenge you to reverse your mindset this week. If you long for Mondays, then think of this day as Friday, and on Friday, be a Monday person.  Shake up your Arcadian rhythm and all Western World myths and try this exercise.

On Monday:


And on Friday:

Let me know if this reversal of mindset works for you.  And please chime in on which day of the week is your favorite and why.

-  Diane Schwartz

On Twitter: @dianeschwartz

CEO’s Earnings Call Comments a Real Downer

It’s been a long, tough road—mostly downhill— for J.C. Penney since former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson took over the helm in January 2012. CEO Johnson was expected to work the same magic for the tired clothing retailer as he had for Apple’s stores, which see some 17 times more sales than the national retail average.

Alas, it hasn’t gone that well at J.C. Penney. At its Q3 earnings call this morning, it was revealed that the company suffered a loss of $203 million.

Johnson’s quest to take J.C. Penney stores into profitability so far hasn’t worked out. And if the CEO’s comments to investors and analysts this morning are any indication, there’s not much reason for optimism. “I am sure many of you are wondering how we’re going to make it through the next eight weeks,” he said, referring to fears about how well the company will fare during the holiday season.

He then talked about his so-far failed strategy to transform the stores, saying that customers dislike what the old J.C. Penney has become, but are upbeat about the new stores that feature a cafe and lounge area, and technology, like iPads and mobile checkout systems. “I’m really leading two companies. One is J.C. Penney, a promotion department store. The other is JCP, a specialty department store,” said Johnson. “What’s going to be good for one is not going to be good for another.”

Granted, Johnson was also upbeat, saying he expected 2013 to be the comeback year. But whether the CEO had a weak moment during the call, or was looking to be transparent to important stakeholders, those negative comments were a downer—so down that the stock dropped as much as 10% during the day. The lesson: Even in tough times, show some optimism.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

If You See Something, Do You Always Say Something?

What if you knew that the president of your company was covering up a crime; that a colleague was suspected of sexually molesting young women; that your spokesperson was taking illegal drugs? Would you turn them in? What if you personally witnessed the crime? If asked to participate in the cover-up, would you agree? Which hat would you wear: the corporate hat or the upstanding citizen hat?

Take the former president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, charged last week with “a conspiracy of silence”  for covering up the sexual abuse committed by former football coach Jerry Sandusky.  Or the BBC, which is currently being investigated for covering up the alleged sexual molestation of youngsters over a half century by one of their own hosts, the late Jimmy Savile.  Or Lance Armstrong, spokesmen to many, who last month was stripped of his seven Tour de France medals and banned from racing after being accused of taking steroids and leading a doping ring among players.

As an employee of these organizations privy to these crimes, would you spill the beans to authorities? Would you wave a red flag, wearing the hat of Citizen or Responsible Employee, not of brand protector? Knowing your role is to protect reputations and avoid negative publicity, would you keep quiet? Which hat would you choose to wear?

Closer to home, what if you knew your agency was over-billing a client, that your boss was lying about a campaign’s success; that a charity your organization supports was pilfering donations? Would you speak up? Knowing it’d be “bad PR” for your organization (and possibly for your career) if  such negative news leaked, we like to think we’d still do the right thing. And I think most of us would.  But it is not so black and white, especially when it comes to communicators’ role as the guardian of reputation.

Fortunately, in recent high-profile cases of malfeasance and crime among public figures, PR has held steady.  We haven’t done anything wrong, and we haven’t done anything heroic.  It appears PR was kept out of it until pieces needed to picked up.

But what if you and your PR compatriots were closer to these crimes? As we lament our distance from the boardroom tables where key decisions are made, we need to be prepared for the time when PR is brought in very early to help make game-changing and sometimes uncomfortable decisions. It’s already happening at many organizations, and as PR’s stature grows, it is likely we’ll be asked to say or do things that may collide with personal responsibility and obligation.

How you define yourself and the company you work for will make a key difference in which hat you choose to wear.

- Diane Schwartz

Join me on twitter: @dianeschwartz

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