Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Is There Such a Thing as Spam? Not with Obama

Now that the election is over, the super-secret inner workings of the highly successful Obama campaign are becoming known, including the email campaign responsible for most of Obama’s $690 million in online campaign contributions. Public relations and public affairs folks – and anyone who uses email to reach target markets – should take a lesson.

Here’s your textbook: Joshua Green’s The Science Behind those Obama Campaign E-Mails at Bloomberg Businessweek. And here are the lessons:

1. Don’t fly blind

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers.

2. Take off your tie

It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “ ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million.

3. Under-think the design

Writers, analysts, and managers routinely bet on which lines would perform best and worst. “We were so bad at predicting what would win that it only reinforced the need to constantly keep testing,” says Showalter. “Every time something really ugly won, it would shock me: giant-size fonts for links, plain-text links vs. pretty ‘Donate’ buttons. Eventually we got to thinking, ‘How could we make things even less attractive?’ That’s how we arrived at the ugly yellow highlighting on the sections we wanted to draw people’s eye to.”

4. Fear not

Fortunately for Obama and all political campaigns that will follow, the tests did yield one major counterintuitive insight: Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent. “At the end, we had 18 or 20 writers going at this stuff for as many hours a day as they could stay awake,” says Fallsgraff. “The data didn’t show any negative consequences to sending more.”

A caveat on that last one. President Obama has a wee tad more draw – both positive and negative – than the subject of most blast emails. You might want to dial back this advice from “nearly limitless capacity for email” to “a much greater capacity for email than you might think.”


Millennial Tweet

Laer Pearce & Associates’ Twitter feed on water-related items, @LPAWater, just got its 1,000th follower.  (Actually, it now has 1,001 followers, but that would make headline writing more complicated.)

We’ve learned some lessons along the way.

  • Tweeting can be good for business.  We have one new water client from our tweeting – without those tweets, we would never have met each other.  And we’ve helped a number of water districts develop their social media strategies.
  • Tweeting can be good for your brand.  A state senator recently told me he loves @LPAWater’s tweets, and at this week’s ACWA conference, many folks complimented me on @LPAWater.  Our followers include many clients, potential clients and water industry opinion leaders.  What does that mean?  It means people recognize that Laer Pearce & Associates stays on top of water issues and has a fun time doing it – which is exactly what we want our brand to communicate.
  • It’s not easy being “Tweet.”  Our @LPALand and @LPAGov Twitter feeds never found an in-house champion (ahem!) like @LPAWater did , so they’ve languished, with 200 and 156 followers respectively.

@LPALand will eventually find its pace, I’m convinced, but in retrospect, we probably launched @LPAGov before we should have.  Yes, we follow government stuff as closely as we do water, and yes we want to expand our brand recognition in that portion of our practice.  But there are so many questions about our ideal position in that segment that it’s never been clear enough what should be tweeted at @LPAGov.

On the plus side, at no cost, Twitter showed us an area where we have some branding work to do.  That’s one of the wonderful things about social media – you can experiment, adjust and improve without have to throw away 1,000 brochures that no longer mesh with your identity.

As one of Orange County’s leading public affairs communications firms, our own experience with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media has helped us to realize the good, the bad and the under-realized power of the phenomenon, and that’s made us much better at designing social media strategies for our clients.

Who Exactly is the OC Watchdog Biting?

We’ll get to that bikini photo in a minute, but first, let’s all wish the OC Watchdog blog  in the OC Register a happy third birthday – even if it has caused many Laer Pearce & Associates clients and lots of others a fair amount of heartburn.  The blog’s mission has been to write on “your tax dollars at work” – or, more specifically, “when your tax dollars aren’t working particularly well, in our opinion,” so we all have come to know what to expect when Teri or one of the other Watchdogs calls.

Watchdog’s obsession with public employee salaries (in part because the data is now readily available via the California Controller) has created a need for clear and strong messages, but we need to remember that we live in an era of transparency, so these articles are to be expected.  This is what the media does, and as traditional media fight for profitability, it’s what they’ll do more and more.  That’s why we counsel full and frank disclosure – along with making sure the Watchdog folks get additional analysis for perspective, like the salaries of private sector counterparts.

But here’s what we really have to celebrate on Watchdog’s third birthday – and it’s what we’ve suspected all along: All those articles on public sector salaries haven’t really created huge ripples.

The proof is in Watchdog’s birthday party post, which includes a list of the top ten Watchdog articles over the last three years, based on total number of clicks the articles receive.  Not one of the top ten has anything to do with public employee salaries.  Ferrets and DA fiances rank higher, as did (not surprisingly) consultants in bikinis. (It was a tough choice between the ferret and the consultant for this post’s illustration, but we figured the bikini pic would lead to more random Google hits.)

All this is not to say public agencies should be cavalier about the sort of coverage OC Watchdog provides – but it does mean you should approach your next inquiry from them with the proper perspective, and that shouldn’t involve sweat dripping off your palms.  Calm down, gather your thoughts and supporting information, and go forth with pretty darn good assurance the resulting post won’t be the end of the world.

The blog’s birthday brings to mind one of the key public relations and public affairs messages we preach: It’s important to establish your own media, because you can’t depend on others’ media to tell your story as you’d like. You’d rather talk about the good your agency does, the money it saves, the people it helps – but the mainstream media will always be more interested in your mistakes and misspending.

Blogs, eblasts, social media, brochures, websites, newsletters, direct mail pieces,  public outreach – these are your media and they will tell your story better than anyone.  But are they?  An audit of the effectiveness of your media is the first step toward finding out, so you might want to give us a call.

LP&A Creates New LinkedIn Group for Water Policy Professionals

Thanks to Laer Pearce & Associates, professionals that work with water policy around the world now have a LinkedIn group where they can discuss topics related to helping set and navigate water policy.  The Water Policy Professionals group encourages members to discuss legislation, communication strategies, regulations, incentives and news regarding policy on water supply, quality and pricing.  It will also include job postings and other networking functions.

Laer set up the group because he believes idea-sharing and open communications can help to find consensus on highly contentious issues – or at least move the discussion forward instead of having it bog down in rhetoric wars.

The group is a sister to LP&A’s other LinkedIn group, Water Conservation Professionals, which has 513 members. Seven people joined Water Policy Professionals in its first 30 minutes.

LP&A has been working on water-related issues for more than 20 years and is actively involved in helping to set policy for water issues on local, regional and state-wide levels.  We currently serve four water and wastewater agencies and CalDesal, a nonprofit advocating for pro-desalination policies and regulation in California.

Ford tweets snag a fan at LP&A

If you have been following Ford’s Fiesta Movement—the social media campaign for its new subcompact—you’ll know that Ford takes Twitter and Facebook very seriously.  How seriously was something I found out last week when I tweeted that I want to test drive a Ford Fiesta to see how it compared to my MINI Cooper.  Within minutes I had a response from Ford’s branding president Sam De La Garza (@samdelag). (more…)

How things change

Laer will be giving a media training presentation to a professional association next week. As part of that presentation, we are including a slide on today’s media climate. We made one back in 2006 for a similar presentation and decided to start there. We all knew back in 2006 the power that the internet had to get information out. But what we couldn’t predict was how much the media landscape would change—and how quickly.


Laer Weighs in on the Future of Public Relations

OC/PRSA future of PR panel

Panel poses with Laer's (center) scientific model to project the future of the industry... a smiley face

Today we take a break from the goings on with issues that matter to you – water, over-regulation, land use policy – and address the state of our industry, public relations.

A study was recently conducted by the Orange County chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (with a helping hand from Laer Pearce & Associates) that looked at the state of the PR industry in Orange County. Like all industries, PR has been hit by The Great Recession, and the survey’s findings confirmed it:

  • Decision-makers are relying more heavily on PR, which often happens during downturns as more expensive communications tools like advertising get cut
  • Still, budgets and staff for PR are being cut
  • Hiring is still a concern. Most are not planning on hiring new staff
  • Social media has had the highest increase in use, followed by Web site and email communications
  • Community relations and direct engagement is also on the rise
  • Advertising and printed collateral saw the greatest decline in use
  • PR Professionals are cautiously optimistic, with at least half forecasting moderate growth in 2010.

Laer is recognized as a thought-leader in the local PR community, so he was invited to speak on a panel to discuss these results and the future of PR. A few of his key points were:

“Don’t try to make the case that PR is necessary. That’s a losing proposition.  Instead, create a scope that fits the client’s specific needs and make a case for why it meets the client’s strategic objectives at a price that brings value.”

“Everything is getting faster and more complicated, so there will always be a need for good public relations professionals who can help sort through the clutter and help your message be heard and understood.”

The conclusion of the study and panel discussion was clear: PR pros need to do more with less. We actually find this very comforting, because that’s the way we’ve always done it. We pride ourselves on being good stewards of our clients’ resources, adding value through our knowledge of the industries we serve, our relationships within these sectors, and a history of completing campaigns on time and under budget. Recession or not, it’s been our model for nearly 28 years and we have no plans on changing!

Why the Old Ways of Talking Water No Longer Work

Amidst a recent hectic afternoon, one of our clients called to pick our brain about what LP&A sees as the latest trends in water agency communications.  Although it admittedly caught us off guard, it’s a great question that couldn’t have been posed at a better time, given the uncertainty of California’s water future and the swirling dynamics of public sentiment.  We share our answer below, but the bottom line is that the old ways of doing business no longer work in today’s changing environment.  Here’s why:

1. Water is no longer an issue that flies under the radar. These days water providers are asking a lot from their customers: Use less, pay more, vote for this (within the advocacy laws), don’t mind that sinkhole or pipe break.  Agencies that foster trusting relationships with their customers through proactive communications will reap the most benefits.


Did Social Media Influence the State of the Union?

Can sSOTUocial media impact government policy decisions?  Even at the White House level?  A group of U.S. veterans thinks so.  Led with the help of lefty group Brave New Foundation, the Rethink Afghanistan campaign aimed to coerce, err…persuade, President Obama into providing an exit strategy for our troops in Afghanistan during Wednesday night’s State of the Union Address.  And how did they plan to wield such influence?   By bombarding the White House Facebook page with hundreds of posts demanding such language in the speech.


Recent court decision says what you can and can’t say in your advocacy

Let’s say … and I’m just hypothesizing here … that the state legislature decided to raid a water districts’ coffers in an attempt to bail itself out from ballooning deficits. Or that a group of ratepayers placed an initiative on a local ballot that would rescind a water rate increase. Could you, as a public agency, actively campaign against these moves?

Thanks to a recent court decision, Vargas v. City of Salinas, the answer is yes … but only if you define “actively campaign” correctly.

“Express Advocacy” is still out, so what’s in?

In the Salinas case, a few Salinas residents placed an initiative on the ballot,  Measure O, that would have repealed the city’s utility users tax. The city   launched a communications effort to let citizens know the devastating   effect Measure O would have on city finances. The voters voted down the   measure,  and the citizens group sued, claiming the city unlawfully  interfered and used public funds for political purposes. They sought $250,000 from the city.