Chatbots: what Microsoft’s ‘Tay’ teaches us

You don’t get PR by battening down the hatches; you need a point of view on the world and to be bold enough to try things out. People understand Chatbots are an early stage technology, which is prone to teething troubles.

Microsoft’s bot “Tay”, by way of one example, was hijacked – but, despite the embarrassment and offence it caused, actually highlighted the innovation behind the scenes at the company. The tech didn’t work out this time but it offered a glimpse of the future and showed a resurgence of innovation at Microsoft. It’s been part of helping reboot the reputation of the Seattle giant as the innovator it always was, rather than the corporate giant it has become seen as.

PRs play a critical role here. We work with CEOs, we deal in reputation, and we’re not afraid of entering conversations that we influence rather than control. That should make us the first choice for helping companies and brands deliver against their vision, and to experiment.

From comments I made to Gorkana 

Is Snapchat the Future of Social Media?

[I ran our Good Relations Digital Academy last week with Will Scougal, Head of Creative Strategy at Snapchat.]

Snapchat is the fastest growing app among millennials, with over 200 million users sharing 800 million videos and photo a day. It’s a huge audience who are highly engaged with the platform—but are you?

Relatively few marketers have integrated Snapchat into their communications programmes or truly understand its significance and potential. Until relatively recently, this was how Snapchat liked it.

Their Head of Creative Strategy Will Scougal explained at our Good Relations Digital Academy event this morning that advertising is now warmly welcomed – as long as it’s in keeping with the platform’s way of doing things.

So what are these terms? And how can marketers navigate them effectively? Our top three takeouts from Will are:

1. It’s all about ‘playtime’

One of the things that makes Snapchat special is that it allows users to pop a filter on top of the ‘snaps’ (pictures or images) they send to friends. Raise an eyebrow or open your mouth and the filter will animate along with you – it’s a whole lot of fun and hugely engaging. Will explained how brands have developed filters, plugging into topical events like the Super Bowl or offering something special, like a sneak preview of an unreleased song by megastar Drake. The beauty is the amount of time Snapchat users spend playing with the filter – literally playtime engaging with the brand.

2. Location, Location, Location

Brands can use geofences to make filters only available in specific locations. It’s a tactic used by McDonald’s and KFC very successfully at their restaurants – and a fantastic way of creating content that’s time/place specific. Great communications involves great targeting so this location based activity enables brands to tap into a customer’s behaviour at a given moment.

3. Time Machine

Snapchat’s original USP was centred on the self-destructing nature of the messages which disappear after a short period of time. There’s lots of opportunity to play with this time window, whether it’s promotions around time-sensitive events or placing a natural limit on special offers. The World Wildlife Fund’s created a series of selfies showing endangered species #LastSelfie to highlight the threat of extinction. Clever!

A point of view
Snapchat’s users are a generation of people who don’t consume traditional media in the way their parents did. They won’t come looking for you; you need to go to them. At Good Relations, we always recommend that brands and companies should be allocating budget for experiments to try out new platforms and new opportunities. Is your social media strategy fit for purpose? Do you have the content to drive a truly engaging social programme? Contact me to find out how we can help you.

From Storytelling to Truthtelling

They say truth is the first casualty of war and similar accusations have been levelled at PR in an age of spin and spam. Selective presentation, murky off-the-record briefings and non-recollection are favourite spin doctor tactics. Meanwhile, the trouble with storytelling is that ‘stories’ can sound like they’ve been made up – fiction.

People have fallen on the sword of truth before but we‎ now know truth sells. Studies show authentic brands and businesses are enjoying greater levels of recommendation and ultimately sales. Even political party leaders have been holding their hands up to the truth in recent election debates.

We’re entering a new era of ‘truthtelling’‎, which is why the PR industry is its strongest ever position. We’ve always been experts in finding compelling and creative ways to make true stories contagious — truths that will earn their place in the cultural psyche. The truth is on our side.

Based on comments I made to PR Moment

Bite sized, easily digestible and very filling

This video from Gap is the latest I’ve seen to compress its story cleverly for the internet era. First, Vine launched with its 6 second format; then Instagram rolled out 15 second videos. Meanwhile, YouTube gives you 5 seconds to decide whether to skip its pre-rolled ‘TrueView’ ads. Short-form videos are fast becoming the trend of the moment – bite sized pieces of content that are quick and easy to consume as you scroll through a social feed. It’s a format that’s benefiting from the auto-play feature now incorporated into the likes of Facebook where videos trigger themsleves as you whizz down your timeline.

Short-form video is something of a cultural phenomenon, driven by our increasing lack of time and attention. We’re consuming more and more content, often on relatively small phone or tablet screens, taking a bite here and a bite there. There’s a place for long-form, and there’s massive opportunity for premium content, but short-form is taking off fast.

We’ve seen huge levels of engagement around short-form video; we’ve also seen impressive organic reach when it’s uploaded directly into Facebook. Shorter videos can also be cheaper and quicker to produce – but you still need a great idea. If there’s one content innovation to try in the next few months then make it short-form. 15 seconds could work out much more valuable for you than the traditional 30 or 60.

Cross-posted from my blog at Good Relations

Everyone needs a bubble machine

Some serious self-built creative tech going on in the office this afternooon