Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Musk Wants to Build the Web in Space

Recently, SpaceX announced its intention to catch a rocket booster on a barge. That plan didn’t exactly work as expected … well, as everyone at SpaceX said they expected. But it certainly gained the company huge PR points, priceless media exposure, and name recognition. Now Elon Musk wants to build the Internet in space.

No, not satellites capable of storing web data or transmitting the ‘net to earth. A second Internet. In space. Why? Well, the idea is that, eventually, we will have colonies on Mars. At that point, those folks will want WiFi. But, at this point, we can’t even get the Internet to three billion plus people currently living on earth.

Musk made the announcement at an event in Seattle, where SpaceX is opening a new office. While, for the most part, the content of the meeting was relegated to hiring aerospace engineers and software gurus for his current missions—those involving bigger, better, faster and more accurate rockets—conversation also included chatter about Musk’s latest brainstorm.

Step one is to launch a massive new network of communication satellites into orbit. The purpose would be to “speed up the general Internet data flow” and deliver high-speed Internet service to nearly half the world’s population who still can’t access the web with reliability or anything close to the speed billions take for granted. The idea is based on a relatively simple physical fact: the speed of light is faster in space than the speed of cable on earth. 40% faster according to Musk.

To this end, Musk is putting out an all points bulletin for top engineers of all kinds to join his team in Seattle. And, once everyone on earth is plugged into the ‘net, SpaceX can expand on that technology too.

With so much on his plate – Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and Hyperloop – it’s easy to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this is another PR “gotcha” from Musk. Then again, given the man’s history of following through on outrageous claims and audacious goals, you have to ask yourself if he’s serious again this time. Smart money certainly would not bet against him.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Year In Review Causes Pain For Facebook

Let's face it, most people use Facebook to celebrate success and share their joy. After all, impersonal social networks are frequently used to brag about new cars, show how successful you are at your job, and demonstrate to social rivals how your life is flat-out better than theirs.

Trying to capitalize on this practice, Facebook introduced a new feature, called "Year In Review" which allows users to relish in some of their most significant moments of the past 12 months. However, with well over 1 billion users worldwide, it's impractical for each of these reviews to be created individually. Rather, the application depends on an algorithm to decide which posts were popular and which weren't and then pair those moments with appropriate captions and pictures.

This algorithm-run application might not be such a big issue, if Facebook hadn't automatically generated a Year In Review for all users and subsequently displayed it in their news feed. Obviously, Facebook wanted people to use the Year In Review feature; after all, it represented a significant amount of time and work for a team of employees. Additionally, users have started deleting their accounts in droves, and new tools like this could keep the social network attractive to those sitting on the fence.

However, Facebook didn't account for, or decided to ignore, how the algorithm would handle posts dealing with a tragedy or bad news. After all, only a person is able to truly determine if a well "liked" post is sharing joy or expressing sympathy. As a result, many people had reminders of family members who had passed away, pictures of a now ended relationship, or images of unfortunate events displayed in their Year In Review next to clip-art of dancing people and party hats.

Once people started sharing the unfortunate consequences of Year In Review, it didn't take long for major news outlets picked up the story. Quickly, Facebook issued a formal apology to the users hurt and for any pain the application inadvertently caused.

Of course, this disaster could have been averted with some simple programming changes. Rather than auto-filling all of the fields, Facebook should have made the review just a bit more customizable right from the start. Additionally, users should have been given the option to permanently hide their Year In Review from their news feeds.

The end lesson for Facebook is a wise one for everyone to remember. In the end, they allowed valid concerns to be pushed aside to make way for what they were determined was going to be a popular feature.

Ronn Torossian believes that Facebook had good intentions for this new feature, but did not accurately predict any PR fallout from their feature.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

SpaceX Winning Hearts and Minds in the Modern Space Race

Exploration has always been about the right combination of guts and money. In many cases, at least historically speaking, governments have pulled off this combination better than private interest. Government sailed to the Americas. Government funded Lewis Clark, and government put men on the moon over and over again. Sure, most of the organizations involved were, at least on paper, private industries. But in nearly every case, government support kept them humming. SpaceX begs to differ.

Almost from the moment the US government announced it would be scrapping the shuttle program and, at least eventually, aiming for Mars, speculation swirled about the future of America in space. Several upstart private companies took turns grabbing the banner and promoting themselves as the ones who would tame the Final Frontier. Results have been mixed, but no one has done better than SpaceX. Particularly from a PR perspective.

Now Elon Musk’s company is once again making news, and not just for what they are doing. This time, they are making waves by HOW they plan to do it. For the past half century humans have done space flight one way. Send it up with massive boosters and then let those boosters crash into the sea. Well, for profit companies hate waste, and that’s exactly how Musk and his team view this practice. Recently, SpaceX announced that, on their next trip up, they will try to land their rocket booster on a barge floating in the ocean. Yes. Land. Their. Rocket. Booster.

The logistics of that attempt alone have them in the news. Think about it. First, they have a 14-story rocket traveling around one mile PER SECOND. Next, they have it falling back to earth…and they will try to not only control that descent, but also to land the rocket – upright – on the barge. That’s a small target in a very big ocean.

How small exactly? Well, they’ve been doing tests with a 10 kilometer wide target. Now they are aiming at a target that is 10 METERS wide. Right…and it’s a moving target. No matter what happens next, one thing is certain…there will be plenty of media coverage. And that translates into visions, hopes, dreams…and cash.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Blackberry Continues to Struggle

Q3 2014 was not kind to BlackBerry, once again. The company expected a drop in quarter 3, but a larger than projected drop has stock prices falling and management searching for answers. Worse, the missed sales projections included a month in which the BlackBerry Passport, the company’s latest moon shot to regain market control, was released.
Part of the issue comes from an outdated model that doesn’t fly in the current smartphone marketplace. For some time now, BlackBerry has brought in funds by charging fees for things like system access and other services mostly considered “basic.” However, that model simply doesn’t work in the current marketplace. Newer BlackBerry models don’t come with that built-in revenue source, so the company has to make up that lost income somewhere. They’re trying to do that in hardware sales.
And while losing the system fees and other outdated surcharges will help BlackBerry drop the “so yesterday” stigma in the current consumer marketplace, it may be too little too late. In a head to head contest with top smartphone brands, BlackBerry barely registers. iPhone is the clear leader, with Android phones standing strong at number two. Everyone else is an also-ran.
That’s a tough position for BlackBerry, once the undisputed leader of the smartphone revolution. Unfortunately for the brand, it now stands as a modern day object lesson in what happens when your brand fails to keep up with market trends. Not too long ago the BlackBerry was a legitimate status symbol. Now it’s widely seen as an industry dinosaur. Unfair? Probably. The phone still has a tremendous up side. But the company has largely failed to compete. Mainly because it ignored and then misjudged the changing marketplace.
The only way back for BlackBerry is a new form of PR. They need to change in a big way. Clinging to past glory and refusing to try anything new might slow their decline, but they are already living on borrowed time. The brand must do more than rebound. They must re-energize and re-attract consumers in order to make a real play for market relevance.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top Tactics to Use YouTube as a Marketing Channel

In today's business climate, YouTube has become the perfect choice for delivering videos to prospective customers. Before mass video sharing was available, video marketing was impractical without a fair amount of investment capital. However, YouTube has made this process far more efficient. A video today can be delivered to thousands of viewers within hours of its recording. Between its cost-effectiveness and relatively simple learning curve, more businesses will soon realize that YouTube is an invaluable marketing tool. What's more is that many of the most effective tactics could be memorized in a single sitting, and virtually anyone can understand them.

Understanding Viewership

When it comes to generating profit through videos, viewership is the ultimate form of leverage. All that matters in video marketing is having the right people watching content that is designed to sell, and everything else is secondary. Simply creating material that explains why a product works well is often enough to sway viewers into buying. Finding the right viewers can be tricky, but that doesn't mean it has to be difficult.

Modernizing the Old Tactics

The most important tactical elements of video marketing were already discovered decades ago. Product placement, packaging, video quality, attractive actors, positive emotions and memorable moments are still some of the strongest tactics to generate a customer, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon. However, modernizing these tactics to better fit YouTube and the modern market is where the process becomes tricky.

Most YouTube viewers are regularly being desensitized to marketing tricks. In order to better understand this phenomenon, consider tricks and tactics to be two entirely different approaches to marketing. A trick is a tactic designed to take advantage of a customer, whereas a tactic is designed to take advantage of a market opportunity. People love watching videos about subjects and products that they're interested in; using trickery to turn a profit will reduce viewership. What's more is that tricksters can easily be put out of business by a savvy entrepreneur or company that can deliver reliability to those same customers.

With that said, it's important to commit to memory this difference between tricks and tactics. Tricks are a weak, short-term strategy while tactics are a strong, long-term strategy.

Smooth Use of Marketing Tactics

The most important characteristic of success on YouTube is smoothness. For example, a video should never go out of its way to use a sales tactic, and this is where the process gets tricky. When creating a video, businesses must remember that it only takes a split second for a viewer to stop watching. A smooth video is one that can integrate sales tactics, entertainment and information without becoming boring or asking for more than the video offers. If the video has short bursts of boring or overly sales-based material, that is the prime time for a user to click the back button.

With all that said, it'll be easy to understand just how simple YouTube marketing really is. By taking tried-and-true marketing tactics and recognizing the modern viewer, any business can tap into the vast resource that YouTube represents.

Ronn Torossian 5WPR CEO, wants to place emphasis on the effectiveness of YouTube as a marketing channel.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Twitter CFO leaks his own secret

Social media can lead to PR disasters. That’s not exactly breaking news. But until now it’s been tough to measure just how easy it is to allow brain flatulence on the web to wreck your day. Ronn Torossian has thestory of a guy who Should Have Known Better more than anyone. 

Twitter CFO Anthony No to obviously tweets a good little bit. But what he sent out publicly recently was definitely not meant for public consumption. His missive about a potential business acquisition got the Twitterverse all churned up.  Here’s what the message said: “I still think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 – we will need to sell him. I have a plan.”

Oops. Talk about tipping your hand. While the deal may not have exactly been a secret to either party directly involved, knowledge is power in business. And having PRIOR knowledge works in favor of everyone BUT the person who needs to keep the secret. So, what’s the lesson here? Well, obviously, look before you tweet. Don’t hit send unless you’re sure. And be careful, with the way screens are jumping around these days, moving and reshaping at random, it’s easy to click the wrong button. Better be sure. But there’s more here too. 

What happens when you really screw up? Well, depending on the situation and the players, you could just shrug it off … or it could mean the end of your career. That’s the biggest thing to remember – you can’t really measure the risk BEFORE you experience it. The web is a bottomless pit, a black hole of potential good and possible ill. 

You can’t guesstimate what might happen. So, in this case, prevention really is the ONLY cure. Backtracking might stop the bleeding … but probably not. Nothing really stops the bleeding until someone else of equal stature makes a similar bungle. Don’t let that be you. 

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR and the President of the Ronn Torossian Foundation - and he believes that all C-Suite level employees should be maticulous with how they monitor what they are posting to Social Media.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Ronn Torossian on Amazon entering the Local Service Market

Now you are able to find local service providers within your area directly through the Amazon website. But how is this any different from other listing services such as Craigslist and AngiesList? Amazon has plans to distinguish themselves from the competition while also being a convenient way to find assistance after making a purchase from the online retail giant. For example, customers that have decided to purchase a new kitchen sink from Amazon, but have no idea how to install it themselves, will now be able to find handymen in their area that can assist them with their installation and other services, as I explore Amazon's forray into the Local Industry.

What is Amazon Local Services?

This new feature available from Amazon is known as Amazon Local Services. Currently, this service has been released in three major cities around the country including New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. In the future, Amazon has plans of making this service available throughout the entire country. After purchasing products from Amazon, customers will see offers from local handymen such as plumbers and electricians. For example, after purchasing a ceiling fan, you may be presented with offers from electricians who are able to install the fan for you.

Competing With Other Listing Services

With a variety of competitors out there where consumers are able to find the help that they need, what will set Amazon apart from the rest and will it really be beneficial? One feature that Amazon aims to deliver is a money-back guarantee on all services performed by their contractor partners. This means that if you are not satisfied with a service that a contractor from Amazon has provided you with, you are able to receive a full refund. 

All businesses and contractors working with Amazon will undergo rigorous background checks and ensure that each one has liability insurance. Another great benefit is that shoppers are able to add their desired services right to their shopping cart before checking out. They will be provided with a price quote which can be paid online through Amazon, making it extremely convenient for shoppers.

Amazon shoppers can rest assured that they are receiving the best services to meet their wants and needs. Reviews of all professionals will be displayed from customers who have used their services in the past. The service providers are also able to create their own Amazon pages to provide more information about their business and to allow customers to schedule their service appointments. In the future, we can expect Amazon to expand the services that they offer, adding in music teaches, fitness instructors and more.

Ronn Torossian is the President of the Ronn Torossian Foundation and is curious to see just - how deep - Amazon is jumping into the Local Services market.