How Artificial Intelligence is Impacting Public Relations

Public relations will not avoid the transformations generated by artificial intelligence (AI). CASACOM is actively thinking about the many changes that lie ahead. Will robots replace professionals? Will algorithms create press releases from scratch? Will technology detect the best target audiences to interact with? For Josh Ginsberg, president and co-founder of Zignal Labs, a digital intelligence and analytics firm leveraging these types of technologies, AI will become the buoy of PR in the sea of data that overwhelms us.

At the annual PRSA Conference in Boston, which I attended in early October, the San Francisco entrepreneur pointed out that 90% of all data generated in the past 120 years has been issued in the last two years. The proliferation of comments, sharing and interactions on social media creates a constant tsunami of information. Traditional monitoring tools are no longer sufficient to analyze tone and perception. It is especially in this field that AI will serve public relations.

© Zignal Lab

© Zignal Lab

AI 101
The term artificial intelligence appeared in the 1950s. It referred to the first computers and their potential ability to think like humans. It was not until the mid-1970s that powerful algorithms originated to help analyze a lot of data and draw conclusions. This was called machine learning.

Today, researchers are busy developing deep learning. The aim is to model the conclusions drawn from multiple data analysis by creating artificial neural systems. Think about SIRI or Google Now.

Keeping up with the rhythm
Let’s go back to public relations. How will applications from AI help PR? For Josh Ginsberg, the functionalities pertaining to monitoring systems will shatter with AI. Professionals who monitor all insights available on the web using advanced tools will react more quickly and with more acuteness. On the other hand, those who continue to analyze reactions to a news story by looking at all  mentions manually will be quickly outdated.

Detecting crisis
Not only will we be able to respond more appropriately to news developments through AI, but our ability to detect crisis will also increase.

Take the example of a brand that typically generates a thousand daily mentions on social media. Imagine that number fluctuating unusually. While most monitoring tools will detect an atypical change, the more powerful platforms supported by AI will do much more. They will make it possible to predict the evolution of anticipated mentions according to the analysis of variations recorded in the last months. Such features will improve our ability to judge the level of urgency of a situation.

© Zignal Lab

© Zignal Lab

Josh Ginsberg answered some key questions about AI and algorithms and how it will affect PR. See below:

  1. Will robots interfere with press relations?
  2. “I don’t think machines will ever call journalists. On the other hand, AI and related tools will become PR specialists’ best friends. With these features, they will be able to work faster, prepare better recommendations and be more relevant to their clients. ”

    1. Will algorithms create content from scratch?
    2. “We are not there yet. However, we will see tools emerge that will evaluate the best moments to publish a news story or recommend whether it is appropriate to comment publicly on a particular subject. ”

      1. Will new tools detect the best target audiences to interact with?
      2. “Public relations professionals know the main audiences to reach out to in order to change perceptions. Data analysis will provide them with new opportunities to identify influencers who often go under the radar. I think of some of the behind-the-scenes decision makers who are rarely mentioned in newspapers and who feed a lot of conversations on social media. ”

        At CASACOM, the advancement of artificial intelligence and the many uses that this technology allows, fascinates us. Our digital analysis consultants are here to recommend applications and new ways of doing things to better equip our clients for facing the changes that are transforming our industry. If you’d like more information on AI and how it will impact public relations, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Elevating the Customer Experience: The New Rules of Engagement

By Suzanne Rappaport

At CASACOM, our mantra is simple: Elevate the value of public relations. Elevate our clients. Elevate ourselves.

We don’t just talk about elevation, we live it – both through the integrated and strategic communications programs we design and implement, and through our own professional development program, The Casacademy. We challenge ourselves as employees to learn more, stay abreast of the latest trends and industry news, and learn from experts in a variety of fields and practices.

Last week, the team gathered in Montreal at one of our annual Casacademy retreats to attempt to answer an important and relevant question:

In a time where we are constantly inundated with messages, technology and noise, how do we create meaningful consumer engagements that break through and deliver?

Luckily, we were not alone in our search for answers. We were fortunate to have one of the leading authorities on meaningful brand engagements, Daniel Dutesco, founder of The ORCHRD Group, as our keynote speaker. Daniel is an advertising industry veteran, working with leading global brands such as Coca Cola, L’Oréal Paris and Ikea to deliver conscious, strategic programs designed to engage with today’s consumer on a new level. He shared with us what he refers to as “the new rules of engagement.”

règles_engagement_consommateurs_CASACOM

According to Daniel, the most successful companies understand that the best way to change or influence a consumer’s perception of a brand, is to change the way they experience it. He notes the following eight strategies for successful consumer engagement:

1. Sell culture, not products
Reebok, Nike & Red Bull are all examples of companies that have built empires by creating lifestyles, not just brands. Ask yourself: Do you have a clear understanding of your brand’s story and culture? Is that culture reflected in all the activities you undertake?

2. Leverage consumer psychology
In order to appeal to your target audience, you need to have a deep understanding of what drives that specific group. Beyond building business value, we need to ensure that we are creating personal value for the consumer.

 3. Dig deep
Data is the true key to understanding your audience and their purchasing behaviour. Gather data at various touch points to leverage and design a better journey for the consumer.

4. Focus on the fans
Think about how you can optimize the customer journey for your fans. Do you understand what matters/is valuable to them? Create an experience based on what your consumer wants or needs, versus what you’re trying to sell.

5. Bridge physical and digital
Today’s consumer operates on multiple channels. Ensure your business and/or experience is designed to be as integrated as they are.

6. Create shared social experiences
Ask yourself: are the experiences you’re creating engaging and driving interaction with your community of fans?

7. Connect the emotional with the material
The best way to increase cultural relevance is to connect with people on an emotional level.

8. Focus on experience and storytelling first
With any engagement, we want to ask ourselves: are we creating an environment for our customers to tell our story on our behalf? Have we enabled sharing and storytelling as part of the experience?

In terms of how this affects the work we do in PR, I think it’s threefold:

1. It reminds us to focus on the “relations” portion of what we do. To constantly think about moving beyond traditional thinking to a new perspective that allows our clients to engage directly with their target audience in a meaningful way. There is no longer B2B or B2C – just H2H- Human-to-Human.

2. It supports our philosophy that public relations is a long-term strategy and a vital tool in building brand identity and culture.

3. In order to elevate, we must challenge. Challenge the status quo.  Challenge ourselves. Challenge our clients and challenge our consumers. We know that if we do not, someone else will.

For more information on Daniel Dutesco, visit danieldutesco.com

 

 

The Trump tornado: threats, opportunities, and imperatives

Just like our icy sidewalks, winter 2017 is shaping up to be a slippery one as the Trump team storms into office. We can look forward to grandstanding and post-truth politics at their most virulent, as emotions and personal opinions seem to gain the upper hand over objective facts.

What do we stand to lose under this new style of politics? To what extent will we be affected by the decisions of the new controversy-loving president? And what if Trump’s methods drive certain attention-hungry organizations and brands to take a page from his playbook in a misguided attempt to achieve their ends?

A strange model

We hope that leaders will be able to resist the temptation to imitate the new commander-in-chief. How can you build trust relationships when deliberate lies and reckless statements become the new norm? Leaders—be they heads of state or corporate CEOs—should choose their words carefully and follow through on what they say. One can’t lash out at perceived adversaries without expecting to be paid back in kind. Indeed, denying troublesome facts and dismissing reporters who ask inconvenient questions is the kind of behaviour that we’d be inclined to call—in the words of Mr. T himself—“Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”

As we all now know, we can’t underestimate the influence of Trump and his acolytes. Their trashy brand of communications clearly has a lot of followers. The question remains: will it affect our profession? If so, who will stand up to companies that play the populist game? While we wait for an answer to this question, let’s reread our code of ethics.

The coming year will be a test for communications companies and their clients. We all must hold strong. Otherwise, as Meryl Streep said at last year’s Golden Globes, “We all lose.”

Removing the muzzle

Trump’s victory is the result of a large number of people feeling ignored by traditional politicians and the media. Who knows, maybe the Trump phenomenon will help purge us of political speak and political correctness!

As we all know, however, things are likely to remain a slippery slope for a while yet (winters are often long, as you know!). But maybe this instability can encourage us to be more careful and better informed, perhaps even more engaged and more involved in debates.

Let’s be optimistic for a moment. This is the opportunity for communications professionals to speak more openly, directly, and honestly—from the heart to the heart.

In 2017, it will be more important than ever to:

  • Speak the truth
  • Base your work on facts
  • Have or be a credible and understanding spokesperson
  • Really listen

In this pivotal year, vigilance and open-mindedness are the keys to success for communications professionals.

5 Tips for Expanding in Canada

Is expanding to Canada part of your growth strategy? Canada can provide exciting growth opportunities for international companies, but you have to be ready to take on this complex market. Foreign companies that expand into Canada without carrying out the necessary preparations are often restricted by such factors as inadequate financial resources, a lack of understanding of Canadian culture and a failure to clearly differentiate their product or service.

Here are 5 tips that will help you successfully expand in Canada.
1) Do your research

While it may seem obvious, it’s imperative that business owners research how trade is done in Canada – from different labor rules to language laws to business practices.

2) Develop a leadership team

We recommend managing locally as much as possible. To ensure success, it’s vital to have leadership in the country who can swiftly respond to customers’ dynamics and competitors’ activities.

3) Find your niche

When expanding to Canada, one of the biggest mistakes made by foreign companies is relying on their reputation abroad. Counting on your way of doing business in other countries will not help you succeed in Canada. You must find your niche beforehand in the Canadian market and treat Canadian consumers as a separate market. With that being said, never price items higher than your American stores, as prices may be familiar to Canadian customers.

4) Localize e-Commerce

Create an online shopping experience specifically for the Canadian consumer. Prices should be shown in Canadian dollars with only products that are shippable in the country. Accurate taxes and shipping charges are also mandatory.

5) Understand cultural differences

Canada is a huge country with a variety of demographics and markets. Factoring in language and cultural differences only adds to the challenge. For example, Quebec is a vastly different market to Alberta. Canadians have different values and beliefs than our neighbours to the south or across the pond. Understanding these differences, even within the Canadian market, and then taking this into account for your sales, marketing and advertising is crucial. Never launch in a country without understanding how people there shop.

An additional tip… partner with a local firm to help facilitate your entry. At CASACOM, we can help you successfully expand your business to Canada. We use our experience and skills so you can better understand the Canadian landscape and markets. Contact us if you wish to discuss this further.

Canada photo

8 reasons to expand in Canada in 2016

Have you ever thought about including Canada in your business’ growth plan? CASACOM has welcomed several foreign brands in Canada over the last few years in both its Toronto and Montreal offices. All of those brands have benefited from an integrated PR program and have since seen their income grow. Beyond the lucrative currency exchange rates we are currently seeing, here are 8 reasons to expand in Canada in 2016.

1. Diversification

Diversification reflects the realities of changing consumer tastes and evolving business opportunity.By expanding into Canada, alternate sources of revenue open up for a business, making it more resilient to changes in the domestic market.

2. Financial stability

For the eighth consecutive year, the World Economic Forum has professed Canada’s banking system to be the soundest in the world. According to Forbes and Bloomberg, Canada is the best country in the G-20 to do business.

3. Financial growth and market access

From 2005 to 2014, Canada led G-7 countries in economic growth. It also provides a market worth a combined gross domestic product of $38 trillion, or nearly one-half of the world’s output of goods and services.

4. Efficiency

By expanding into the Canadian market, businesses have the chance to increase output with lower variable costs. This can benefit their profit margins, cut down production costs and make them more competitive in the domestic market.

5. Low business tax costs

Total business tax costs in Canada are by far the lowest in the G-7 and 46 percent lower than those in the United States.

6. Competitive edge

Expanding internationally is vital in order to remain competitive. Choosing Canada is a logical first step due to its geographical proximity. Canada also offers a competitive R&D environment, with the lowest business costs in the G-7 for R&D-intensive sectors, with a 15.8 percent cost advantage over the United States.

7. Educated workforce

Canada’s workforce is the most highly educated among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as half of the working-age population has a post-secondary education.

8. Great place to live and work

Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, with a universal healthcare system, clean and beautiful landscape and outstanding universities. The OECD’s Better Life Index shows Canada as best in the G-7 in terms of overall living conditions and quality of life.

At CASACOM, we can help grow businesses in Canada. Contact us if you wish to discuss this further.

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CASACOM’s Favourite Communication News & Stories of the Week

Retail:

Will Canadians be spending less this holiday season and shopping online more?

Analytics company, SAS has released new research that suggests one in five Canadians plan to spend less on their holiday gift shopping this year than last (the poll included 3,458 consumers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand). Here are some statistics you may be interested in knowing; an infographic is included in the link below as well that highlights more of their findings.

  • Despite the growth of online retail, much of Canadians’ holiday shopping is still done in store, with 82% saying they planned to head to bricks-and-mortar locations.
  • Discount retailers were cited as the top destination (63%).
  • Department stores proved enticing for only 43%, followed by warehouse retailers (34%), drug stores (28%) and local boutiques (27%).

Infographic: ‘Tis the season to be frugal” (Strategy Magazine)

Social Media:

It was hard to miss the “Starbucks” headlines this week; from newspapers to television shows, like Ellen to thousands of comments on social media about Starbucks changing their past cups that had snowmen and Christmas trees, to a simple red with the company’s green logo. It’s been a very hot topic where some people have expressed utter outrage claiming Starbucks “hates Christmas/Jesus.”

The move was clearly a branding decision to be more inclusive while still maintaining a Christmas look and feel. So far, Starbucks has handled the situation pretty well.  Rather than putting out a formal statement, they published a blog post that explains in an even tone the history of their holiday cup designs, taking special care to remain inclusive.

How do you feel about the change in cup design in colour? Does it really matter? You can read more about this in the link below.

Starbucks’ holiday cup at the center of red-hot discussion” (PR Daily)

Press Releases:

Earlier this year, Google started putting company press releases in its news search results. Amanda Grinavich, account manager for SHIFT Communications, writes in PR News’ Digital PR & Social Media Guidebook, that Google understands that press releases are still valuable for regulatory requirements and for notifying journalists of legitimately important news. She provides four steps to make sure your press releases rank high in Google searches:

  • Step One: Create a compelling release
  • Step Two: Make sure everyone on your team is up to speed on Google’s latest changes
  • Step Three: Within your release, make sure you are linking to your business or the product name that is the focus of the release
  • Step Four: Partner with a reputable wire service that keeps track of and understands the changes to Google’s search algorithm

More details on these four steps can be found below:

How to Get Your Press Releases Found in Google Searches—and Avoid SEO Penalties” (PR News)

 

 

 

 

CASACOM’s Favourite Stories, Facts & Tips of the Week

Before enjoying this Halloween weekend, take some time to catch up on a few PR and communications tips and stories from this past week and yes, even facts on candy. Happy Halloween!

Media Relations:

Building great media lists take a lot of time, care and strategy and you should apply dedication to it like any other work or task in your job. Below are some proven tactics that can help you manage your reporter and blogger relationships and building your list the right way. Each tactic is described in more detail in the article link below:

  • Value quality over quantity
  • Check out your competitors
  • Ask before you add
  • Take the time to make personal connections
  • Stay informed about who covers your topics of interest

Five steps to creating a useful media contacts list” (PR Daily)

Brands:

Most of us have a sweet tooth and in the spirit of Halloween we thought we would share the top 10 favourite Halloween candies from a recent Reader’s Digest article. Maybe some of yours are on the list! Fun and interesting facts you might not have known about each are also included.

  • Gobstopperspumpkin
  • Nerds
  • Popeye Candy Sticks
  • Fun Dip
  • Snickers
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Whoppers
  • Junior Mints
  • Hershey’s Chocolate
  • Tootsie Roll

Top 10 Best Halloween Candies” (Reader’s Digest)

Retail:

According to a new analysis by consultant Ed Strapagiel, some retailers might be in for a “rude awakening” come this holiday season. Based on the most recent data from Statistics Canada, total Canadian retail sales were up only 1.4% year-over-year as of August.

Strapagiel attributes that mainly to significantly lower gas station prices, although he points out that other sectors are also “losing steam,” like grocery stores. However, home furnishing stores, shoe stores, and jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores all had above average sales gains, according to the data. You can read more about this report in the article link below.

Canadian retail growth slowing down” (Strategy Magazine)

CASACOM’s Top 3 Communications & PR Tips/Stories of the Week

Pitching:

Journalists are very busy and if you want to increase the likelihood of them writing about your company or client’s news you have to make it really easy for them. It’s important to minimize back-and-forth emailing and ask all your questions from the start. Here are what journalists want included in your pitch:

  • Why do my readers care?
  • Why is your story relevant now?
  • What’s the real story here?
  • Why did you pitch me and not another journalist?
  • What other resources do you have to make my life easier?

Each of these is described in detail in the link below:

5 pitching musts to help journalists cover your company” (PR Daily)

Consumers:

According to a new study, retailers need to rethink the shopping experience if they want to better connect with today’s millennials.

In a survey of U.S. consumers by Toronto-based retail design firm Shikatani Lacroix, nearly half of millennials said they value the experience a brand provides more than the actual product value, compared to boomers and Gen X.

The message for the retailer is you have to make the store environment more immersive and much more engaging than you are today. Below are some of the most important factors that consumers look for in a store experience.

  • Interactive: 42% millennials; 24% boomers
  • Entertaining: 39% millennials; 29% boomers
  • Rewards me for my loyalty: 36% millennials; 31% boomers
  • Teaches me something: 37% millennials; 32% boomers

More information about this survey and its results is described in the article link below.

How retailers can win over millennial shoppers (Survey)” (Marketing Magazine)

Productivity:

Everyone wants to stay on top of their tasks and obligations, but sometimes there are too many things to keep track of. Craig Jarrow, the author of Time Management Ninja provides 10 habits and strategies to help us all remember the things we need to do, whether it pertains to professional or personal tasks.

  • Set an alarm.
  • Put it on your calendar.
  • Write it down (on your to-do list).
  • Set a reminder.
  • Do it now, so you don’t have to remember later.
  • Have someone else remind you.
  • Put it on automatic.
  • Don’t say yes in the first place.
  • Have someone else do it.
  • Use your list.

Each are explained in more detail in the article link below.

10 ways to stop forgetting things—and get more done” (PR Daily)

CASACOM’s Weekly Round-up

It’s Thanksgiving weekend! Before enjoying time with friends and family and of course the delicious food, why not wrap up your week with helpful communications tips and stories from this past week. And let’s not forget to cheer on Canada’s team, The Toronto Blue Jays this weekend as they make their run in the playoffs.

PR Lifestyle:

Soccer may appear to be just a sport to most people, but you can apply certain soccer lessons to the corporate communications world.

  • Same team – don’t fight your teammates for control; it’s a reminder that this could go a long way toward breaking down silos and preventing power struggles.
  • Tell people you like their ideas – telling colleagues that you “like their idea” and then explaining why it may not work can be a good way to let them down easily.
  • Ask – “where should I be?” – what should your role be on a project.
  • Pass when you can – you never know what your co-workers are capable of, so when it makes sense, let them have the ball.

4 lessons PR pros can learn from soccer” (PR Daily)

Facebook:

Facebook’s new “Dislike” button is in the works and to get ready for the potentially rocky digital road ahead, take a look at these six ways to prepare yourself – and your clients – for potential issues.

  • Put more effort into your content
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Use a “dislike” as an opportunity to learn
  • Consider that a “dislike” might be a “like” in disguise
  • Watch, learn and test
  • Relax

You will better understand each tip in the article link below, where each is discussed in more detail.

6 Ways PR Pros Can Prepare For Facebook’s “Dislike” Button” (PR News)

Brands:

Over the last couple of years West Jest has created different pieces of content that has generated a lot of buzz for them. Many may recall the “Christmas Miracle: real-time giving” stunt. You are probably wondering what West Jet did this time?

On September 25, passengers aboard one of WestJet’s flight to Vegas had comedian Carrot Top board their aircraft when they landed. The Vegas headliner offered passengers arriving from Toronto a choice when deplaning: in the airport terminal they could take a red carpet to baggage claims or a blue carpet to a surprise adventure. Over 90% of passengers chose the blue carpet adventure. You can see what happens in the video in the article link below and what the background behind this idea was.

WestJet hopes to hit the internet jackpot with new stunt” (Marketing Magazine) thanksgiving

 

CASACOM’s WEEKLY BLOG

Take some time to catch up on communication news and tips from this past week before relaxing this weekend.

Writing:

daily-writingWe all get writer’s block. Sometimes when you focus on a piece of work for too long you get frustrated because you don’t know what to write. Here are five things you can do to push past writer’s block from Laura Hale Brockway, a regular contributor to PR Daily and a medical writer and editor.

  • Take a break
  • Get a change of scenery
  • Do something other than writing
  • Take it slowly
  • Write first, edit later

Each is described in detail in the article link below.

5 ways to push past writer’s block” (PR Daily)

Brands:

Self-service and table delivery coming to McDonald’s? Yes, you read that right, McDonald’s Canada CEO John Betts says lining up to pay for burgers will soon be a thing of the past. The company is overhauling the way it does business, adding self-service kiosks, bringing table delivery and dedicated wait staff to its restaurants by 2017.

The new kiosks will allow customers to personalize their orders as McDonald’s adds a premium-priced burger to the menu with nearly 30 different options including five types of cheese and a dozen different toppings. More details about McDonald’s upcoming service options can be found in the article below.

Build-your-own-burger option coming to McDonald’s” (Marketing Magazine)

Social Media:

Writing may be one of the most important skill that a professional communicator can have. A PR professional cannot share a brand’s message nor effectively engage with an intended audience without good writing. Michael Lamp, vice president of social and digital media at Hunter Public Relations, provides tips to make it less of a challenge and more of an opportunity. Each of these tips is further explained in detail in the link below.

  • Write like your audience
  • Complement the conversation
  • There’s a place for both the hard and soft sell(s)
  • Don’t draft and dash
  • Verbose is gross

5 Tips to Tell a Compelling Brand Story on Social Media” (PR News)