We Are Communication Architects

Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

July 9th, 2013

Introducing PNConnect

(NOTE: This was originally posted on the PNConnect Blog)

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For several years now we’ve been working with some of the biggest brands in the world on the execution of their digital strategies. Our focus has always been on the new ways we could help our clients create business value, be that for the purpose of increasing awareness, driving engagement, acquiring customers, cultivating loyalty or, as was most often the case, all of the above.

Over the years, how our clients departmentalized our work would admittedly fluctuate: sometimes it was defined as social media marketing, sometimes digital marketing. Often times these definitions stretched across the paid, earned and owned spectrums. Regardless of what definition was used, from our perspective there was always a high degree of overlap in the motivations and mechanics of these programs, as well as patterns of success — much of which we observed was heavily anchored and driven by strong content publishing strategies.

This being our experience, about 18 months ago we began quietly building a new service team within Porter Novelli called PNConnect that was uniquely focused on one question:


“How can we help brands think, act and operate more like publishers?”


We think the notion and significance of “brand as publisher” is a marketing model shift that many companies are just now discovering and discussing. And we think our insight and perspective on this shift is not only differentiated, but field-tested, which is why the time is right to formally introduce PNConnect today: pnconnect.porternovelli.com.

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We built PNConnect to take the best elements of Porter Novelli’s social media marketing, web development, creative production, and advertising services, and blend this expertise together to create a global service team that’s focused exclusively on solving the new content challenges that brands today are facing.

We’re big believers that content publishing is a multi-dimensional sport — that there are premium content experiences that can complement and elevate a brand’s day-to-day publishing cycles; that development trends, like responsive design, can create new efficiencies of scale for reaching people across screens; and that small, smartly timed content promotions can be just as effective (if not more) than big overpriced creative.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll have much, much more to share about our team, our experience and the approach we’re taking with PNConnect. You’ll find all of that here first.

UPDATE: PRWeek wrote this news piece about Porter Novelli/PNConnect earlier today

Filed in Voce News

June 6th, 2013

Voce Weekly Reading: 06/06/13

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Weekly Reading

May 2nd, 2013

Voce Weekly Reading: 5/2/13

Filed in Weekly Reading

April 30th, 2013

Stop By And Meet Voce

Voce’s having an open house. Come by our San Francisco office and meet the most energetic, creative firm in Silicon Valley and learn what Voce is all about. No need to RSVP. Just stop by and find out what we’re doing to fire up public relations and social media.

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  • 550 Third Street
  • San Francisco, CA 94107

Filed in Voce News

April 5th, 2013

The Battle for Your Attention (Later, When You Have Time)

In the last couple weeks Amazon rolled out a “Send to Kindle” button that would let readers of websites, including WordPress blogs (via a plugin), send a post or article to their Kindle for reading at some point in the future.

Similarly, Pocket has introduced a “Save to Pocket” that can be added to blogs and sites in the same manner as a “Tweet” or “Share” button that lets people save a story to Pocket so they can dive in and read down the road.

Both of these tools operate under the assumption that while the reader may be busy now they will have the time to read/watch/view it in the near future. What strikes me about this is that this is exactly what RSS is good at; time-shifted reading with the option to save something for later when you have more time to digest it. But both of these tools are acknowledgements that the flow of information is different now and are meant to adapt to this new reality. Instead of subscribing to a bunch of RSS feeds people may be reading more on Twitter. So after clicking a link someone has shared there can bring them to a page that looks interesting and, via one of these buttons (or browser bookmarklets for Pocket and other tools), save it for when they’re on the train or elsewhere with time to read it more fully.

Flipboard, which recently rolled out new functionality allowing people to create their own magazines filled with constantly updated curated content you think is interesting, also plays in this space, bringing together stories you haven’t had a chance to read yet. That one obviously takes the next step and feeds your vanity by allowing others to subscribe to and follow your thought leadership in addition to acting as a repository for stuff you just want to read yourself.

If I were to guess I’d say the “read it later” industry is poised for a bit of innovation as companies compete to be people’s preferred option for time-shifted reading. As media consumption patterns continue to shift and change there will be companies that will want to be the ones that most easily facilitate that new reading workflow.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Publishing Programs

April 4th, 2013

SEC Clears Up Social Media Confusion

But the SEC has now found that companies *can* use social media platforms to announce information and make statements like this – as long as investors are told to look there. So the key point here seems to be that as long as investors – and others – know that statements will be made on Twitter, Facebook or other platforms, the onus is then on them to  check those platforms regularly so they’re not left behind.

Read more at the Porter Novelli Blog.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs, Social Networks

April 2nd, 2013

The Emerging Need for Hashtag Search

If you’ve been part of this social media party for more than a few years you likely remember when Technorati was an indispensable part of the marketing and monitoring toolkit.

Technorati was great because while Google, Yahoo, Ask or some of the other search engines that were around at the time worked well for web-wide discovery, T’rati allowed you to not just search blogs specifically but also search for tags and categories. So you could not just find everything related to “movie marketing” but also refine your search to look for posts that had been tagged with “movie marketing.” There was a taxonomy to the early social web that brought similar information together under similar headings.

As Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms came to the forefront we started to lose that taxonomy. You can’t categorize your Twitter updates as “Social Media” or your Facebook post as “Digital Publishing” the way you can on a blog. So we started to lose some of that aggregated community knowledge.

Hashtags have emerged as the taxonomic currency (an excellent band name) of the current version of the social web, having been adopted by Twitter (where it was originally a user-generated feature), Google+ and Instagram for the time-being, with Flickr beginning to integrate them and it being part of Facebook’s roadmap for getting more real-time conversations (and subsequent ad dollars).

But what’s missing is the Technorati for hashtags, a universal search point that stretches across and brings in content from all platforms.

While I have little doubt such functionality will eventually become part of standard search engines that doesn’t really get to the point of what’s needed. While having hashtagged social posts be part of a standard page of search results would certainly be inclusive, it doesn’t provide the kind of actionable intelligence that can be drawn out of social-specific results.

There are certainly limitations to this kind of search being implemented. Chief among them is that many of the platforms that would need to be indexed don’t want to be part of a larger ecosystem and are fine with their own walled gardens, thank you very much, no matter how much they might talk about connecting with outside websites.

But as hashtags become more and more part of the public conversation – watch a major network TV show and you’ll see at least one as a transparent bug in the corner of your screen – there’s going to be a need for this sort of collection. Those TV show calls-to-action to use a hashtag rarely specify a platform to use, de facto leaving it up to the audience to decide what they’re comfortable with.

A recent study showed most people use hashtags either for discovery or for some sort of self-expression. Respondents found it useful for searching for and connecting with brand publishers and about 40% will click on a hashtag to see what everyone’s saying about that topic, though it’s safe to assume what they’re seeing is specific to the platform they’re on.

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So it’s hard to imagine companies who are trying to rally people around these conversation hubs not putting increased pressure on those platforms to open up so they can monitor the entire conversation in one place.

The social web has traditionally relied on taxonomies in some form or another to help make sense of the chaos. To bring out the signal from the noise. But that necessitates a single point of search. That needs to happen sooner rather than later or we risk losing all that great information that’s sitting out there, just waiting to be surfaced.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Publishing Programs, Social Networks

February 25th, 2013

Voce Monday Morning Reading: 2/25/13

Filed in Marketing, Programming

February 22nd, 2013

The Rise of Unowned “Middle” Blogging

A couple weeks ago Quora, the question-and-answer platform that has made a number of shifts to increase its relevancy to a broad audience, launched a blog platform. The company pitched the blogs to people who don’t have an established online identity and want to have their writing easily surfaced to potential readers. It specifically called out how what people write will be quickly discovered so they can build an audience and even made an appeal to those who do already have a primary online home, positioning their platform as a further distribution point.

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But here’s my question: What’s the long term value of the audience that’s eventually built?

Let’s table that for a moment and look at how Quora appears to fit into a trend that’s emerging in the online space that I’m calling “middle blogging.” Other players in this area include Medium, Svbtle and LinkedIn and even includes Tumblr and Branch to some extent.

Quora, along with those other players, is looking to satisfy a craving for people to share longer-form thoughts with their networks but in a way that, to the outside eye, is fairly transient. By that I mean the people who are gravitating toward these platforms don’t seem to be interested in putting any sort of customization effort into their online presence and don’t really seem to have a desire to plant a flag and say “This is me, bask in it.”

So these platforms, then, make the value proposition based on on-domain engagement, that you can build up a network there and get meaningful feedback and interactions with other members of that community. The question then remains of how you go about building up that network. If you start to work on one platform, find it’s not your cup of tea then it’s on to the next to see what that offers. Unfortunately that often means starting from scratch and leaving behind a dead, withering profile since export functionality isn’t something that’s offered by most of these tools.

Hunter Walk has called them a new form of content farm, though he points out that instead this latest iteration of that concept seems to be focused more on quality than it is on making a quick buck, a mantle that in my opinion has been taken up by a handful of other sites that I won’t go into here. Mathew Ingram at PaidContent comes to much the same conclusion on that point.

I’m still left wondering what is behind this shift toward tools that are unowned and which offer little in the way of profile management. Is it that, with so many new platforms emerging all the time, it’s more important for them to follow their network from place to place instead of settling down and owning their online presence? Is it that they’re not thinking long-term about having a central hub as their primary online outpost?

Whatever the answer might be, this is a trend that only seems to be increasing and so is absolutely worth watching over time. But what also needs to be kept in mind is how, as some studies have shown, people eventually graduate from some of these platforms to something more fully-featured like WordPress. It often seems to be the case that these social-focuesed platforms act as a proving ground, allowing people to test out what they like, what they don’t and figure out what they want to do. Then, when they’re ready, they often move up to a site that gives them more control over their publishing and allows them to build more value.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging

February 15th, 2013

The Unrealistic Real Time Expectation

Poland-Spring-B2We all know about Oreo and their “massive win” a couple weeks ago when they turned around a fun (if largely inconsequential) image during the Super Bowl. The company got a lot of headlines in media industry publications for the image they released during the game’s blackout and it was shared quite a bit by normal people on Twitter and Facebook. So, you know, good for them. They captured a moment and had a laugh and both of those are good things.

But the speed with which they were able to produce that doesn’t mean that anything that takes longer than 20 minutes to produce is automatically a failure.

Sadly that seems to be the prevailing opinion regarding Poland Spring’s “blown opportunity” in the wake of its appearance in the Republican response to this past Sunday’s State of the Union speech. The company didn’t produce a fun little image taking advantage of the unplanned appearance until Wednesday, which many considered too late. Here are five reasons why that’s simply not the case:

  1. The “too late” argument hinges on every company having a social media command center staffed 24 hours a day, complete with art director and traditional copywriter, which is massively unrealistic. 
  2. Yes, it’s fair to point out that Poland Spring’s two Twitter accounts haven’t been active for over two years. But that may be part of an overall strategy decision we’re not privy to the logic behind, not an automatic sign of a company that doesn’t get social.
  3. There’s no way the company could have seen this coming, meaning that unlike Oreo there was no rapid response team already gathered together.
  4. The same “social media experts” who are calling this a big fat fail would have advised no official response just a few years ago, instead saying that letting the audience have their fun and not getting in the way was the better course of action. Beware of anyone who gives you guidance based solely on putting their finger to the wind.
  5. This wasn’t a crisis and therefore was not an event that needed to be managed. Having fun is great if it fits with the culture of the company and the goals of their social media program. If not there’s no shame in not jumping on everything that comes up, regardless of what might make the news on any given day.

There are a lot of good reasons to be involved in real-time conversations, especially around fun little mini-memes like this. But not doing so isn’t an automatic failure and I’m hard pressed to believe that lack of official participation is impacting sales one way or the other since the people most likely to be counting the clock are media and marketing industry pundits, not ordinary consumers. Let’s not hold anyone to unrealistic expectations that we wouldn’t want ourselves to have applied to us.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Marketing

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