Truth Matters

One of the simplest definitions of truth is “the property of being in accord with fact or reality.” Unfortunately, you can’t scan the headlines these days without noticing that there is no longer anything simple about the concept.

We have algorithms that amplify outrage over veracity, provocation via abuses in programmatic advertising, mistrust of science, charges of fake news and citations of “alternative” facts — even AI that can learn to falsify video. Reality seems a little less real and finding the truth gets trickier by the day.

In tech PR as in all professional communications, we all have a part to play in defending the truth. This isn’t a problem that will be sorted out in search engines or negotiated in newsrooms. It extends to what we all post on our blogs, share on social media, choose to include in OpEds, PowerPoints, whitepapers, press releases…you name it. Here are three tips excerpted from an article I wrote for MuckRack on standing up for truth —both in tech PR and in life.

1. Be honest
Authenticity is priceless. If your client hopes to do or be something, go ahead and say so. But be transparent about where they are in that pursuit. Don’t inflate or misrepresent the situation just to spice up a story, advance a brand objective, or win some pageviews. A bent toward hyperbole is an affront to truth and can easily snowball into catastrophe. (Theranos, anyone?) Conversely, feel free to tout real value and successes far and wide. Openly share vetted and verified data and hard-won experience. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with staking a claim, so long as you back it up with facts.

2. Check your sources
Pause before you cite or share “found” content on social media or search engines: Do the links trace to valid data? Who are the sources? Where did referenced statistics or images come from? Assertions from screamy red-faced radio hosts and Macedonian teenagers may be entertaining to some, but that doesn’t make their screeds true — and their pronouncements most certainly do not carry the same weight as analysis from Gartner or Gallup or Pew. We can no longer rely on the notion that if anything seems too weird to be true, it probably isn’t. But if you come across something astonishing that the international press corps has somehow overlooked, Snopes it before you share it.

3. Do your duty
If you are a subject matter expert, please stand up. And if you work with an expert, nudge them into the debate.
Our world would be poorer if Carl Sagan never eviscerated pseudoscience, Marc Andreessen never suggested that software is eating the world, or Clayton Christensen never asked how to measure a life’s work. We need real research, real expertise, real analysis, real discourse.

In the words of Louis Pasteur, “knowledge belongs to humanity and is the torch which illuminates the world.” Do not let the flow of information fall to trolls and bots and no-nothings. Contribute genuine knowledge to the conversation and you are contributing to the cause of truth.

Sure-Fire Tips for Social PR Success

Public relations has always been a social endeavor. Even vendors in old-as-dirt markets understood the importance of spreading the word about town as a way to drive business. After all, those ripe batches of juicy plums weren’t going to sell themselves or improve with age. And, there was always another vendor just up the road, potentially with better prices and fewer bruises on the fruit.

Thanks to technology and digital channels, the social component in PR is now amplified. Online conversations and communities present invaluable opportunities for brands to tap into people’s needs and interests as they raise their visibility. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to cut through all the noise on social channels, not to mention pulling folks away from Pokemon Go.

In a webinar called “Unleashing the Power of Social PR,” Shonali Burke made the point that it’s not enough to communicate your messages, you must build community that you can then motivate to tell your story for you. If you’re wondering how exactly you’re supposed to do that, here are some of the top takeaways from that webinar combined with some best practices we follow here at Sterling. (more…)

Three Reasons Video Isn’t Just for Marketing Anymore

The data is clear. Video is a must-have component of any modern-day strategic marketing plan. But in case you’ve been stuck with your nose in a paperback book lately, here is some of what we know about the impact of video:

  • 90% of users say that seeing a video about a product helps their decision-making process;
  • 65% of execs visit websites and 39% of them call vendors after viewing a video, according to Forbes; and
  • 80% of users recall a video ad they viewed in the past 30 days, says the Online Publisher’s Association

So, given that videos produce such great results, why aren’t we regularly using video more broadly in the organization? That’s the question I asked myself last year. I’ve watched Sterling’s creative team produce beautiful, inspiring, and compelling client videos for years now, and frankly, I was jealous. Silicon Valley is a tight labor market where conveying a sense of corporate culture in within a minute can be a tremendous competitive advantage. So, I pushed for creating a series of employee- and candidate-centered videos. Here’s what we’ve learned from the process so far:

1. A good recruiting video is a great way to attract the right talent in a tight market. If you think about it, marketing to top talent is just as important as marketing to your customers. And, at Sterling, we’re always on the lookout for the right “fit,” not just the right set of skills. A well-produced authentic video that captures and conveys your company culture will definitely set you apart; moreover, it will attract the kind of people who will thrive in your company. As importantly, many poorly suited candidates will self-select out. And, as an added bonus, employees are not just willing, but eager to share fun videos about themselves and their company…so the network effect can be huge. (more…)

Digital Spring Cleaning Tips for Professionals

Sterling Communications Spring Cleaning Tech PR - Piling System

Spring cleaning typically means getting to work on dusty windows, stained carpets, and frighteningly full closets at home. But spring is also a good time to tackle neglected chores in your digital life. Let’s be honest, a lot happens in the average workday, schedules are packed, and it’s easy to let non-urgent tasks fall through the cracks. Putting them off for too long, however, makes them much more unpleasant and time consuming when you finally have to tend to them. No more procrastinating! Here are a few digital spring cleaning tasks you can (and should) conquer today. (more…)

4 Steps for Turning Customers into Social Cheerleaders

Turn your customers into social cheerleaders with these Sterling PR tips

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck, Flickr

Social media for business comes down to one thing: creating brand advocates. Knowing that, why do so many companies make the same mistake of spending too much time targeting non-customers, and too little time engaging existing customers?

The New York Times best-selling author Jay Baer points this out in his article “The Truth About Social Media Strategy.” Ultimately, he proposes, “The role of social media is to turn people who like you into people who love you.” Why? Because people who love your brand are more inclined to bang the table for you in conversations, both online and offline. (more…)

5 Ways to Add Thanksgiving Flavor to Your Professional Relationships

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Photo credit: Cindi Albright, Flickr

The Thanksgiving holiday never fails to spark sentiment about the more important things in life: family, friendships, and food. But why can’t we include our work relationships on the list, too? Building rapport with clients, saying “thanks” to colleagues, and adding a personal touch to professional interactions are not only proper work etiquette — they’re also good for the soul.

The season of turkey trots and pumpkin pie is also the season of giving thanks, and it’s an excellent time to consider gracious ways you can reach out to your clients and coworkers to convey your appreciation. Here are a few ideas for showing gratitude to your work connections and bringing the spirit of Thanksgiving into your professional life: (more…)

Why Corporate Culture Matters Most

Since Sterling opened its doors more than two decades ago, we’ve had lots of laughs, persevered through some difficult and scary economic cycles, evolved our service mix, attracted wonderful employees, and created many long-standing client relationships. All of that happened because we created a strong culture, worked hard, anticipated change, and added new skills to capitalize on market transitions.

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Notice that I listed culture first? That’s because NOTHING is more critical than your corporate culture. It can guide you through heady times and help you survive the difficult times. While there are certainly central truths in any corporate culture, your corporate culture is something you must continually shape and nurture — it’s not something you can “set and forget.” (As we’ve seen, even legendary corporate cultures like HP’s can get lost over time if leaders focus simply on business unit performance and let the corporate culture languish.)

Your corporate culture is something you must continually shape and nurture—it’s not something you can “set and forget.”

Smarter people than I have written many articles on this topic, but from where I sit, corporate culture really boils down to three questions: (more…)

Key Ingredients for Cooking Up an Effective Social Media Campaign

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To run a successful social media campaign (say, generate over a million page views and a few-hundred-thousand social mentions), all you have to do is take one wish-fulfilling techno-toy ripped from the script of a classic science fiction film, assure folks that it’s real, then add one celebrity athlete and one astronaut. Mix all elements together, splash some video across the Twitterverse, and…Presto! Bon appetit!

While this abbreviated recipe may sound preposterous, friends of Sterling Communications will know that it pretty much encapsulates the successful campaign we launched for the Hendo Hoverboard Kickstarter last October. Our client, Arx Pax, used the Hoverboard Kickstarter as a platform for coming out of stealth mode and introducing their core technology to the masses. We leveraged social media to amplify the launch using a two-phased process: first establishing credibility, then fostering enthusiast engagement. If you aren’t familiar with this campaign, here’s a quick recap of our overall media strategy. (more…)

How Marketers Can Make the Most Out of Video Assets

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I’m at the cliff’s edge on Hawk Hill — that iconic view looking down on the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco in the background — about to roll a take of a music artist singing the chorus to his new song. The camera is ready, the talent is ready, it’s cold out, and we are ready to get the shot and move on when a state park ranger approaches. He didn’t approach to say that we had to leave, but to simply tell me that his nephew just got a camera and wants to makes movies, too. Then he asked if he could get a picture with me and the artist.

Everyone wants to be involved in making movies. And why not? It’s fun! Marketers, you can even use this to your advantage. The more people grabbing photos and videos, whether behind the scenes of a project or collaborating on an actual marketing program, the more assets you and your team have to work with — both in the short and the long run. At Sterling, we lovingly term this opportunity as “atomization.” (more…)