Video: Changing the world with graphs

Here’s a video worth watching, even if a bit long (about 25 mins.).

Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet and Director of Gapminder Foundation, speaking at LeWeb3 conference, Paris, 2007 (video courtesy of Robert Scoble).

Several things to notice in this video:

  • statistical storytelling with amazing graphs (of interest to both students of narrative theory and visual communication or information design)
  • fresh perspective on globalization, economic development, history, and environmental issues
  • the power of software and animated statistical graphs to help tell stories that can change (how we see) the world
  • Rosling’s message to bloggers: use blogging to connect to the whole world instead of reinforcing the homogeneity of the Western world. How do we do this? How do you do this?

Social media and marketing

Shel Israel explains it beautifully:

The essence of social media is that it is humans. Humans connect to humans and they form communities. They own their communities, brands don’t. The perspective of traditional marketing is to take a message and find delivery channels to inseminate into people’s foreheads. This is not social. Social is for a marketing executive to start a blog and ask people why they hate his marketing efforts–then listen–really listen to what people say the way Dell has done and a few others are trying to do.

I can’t wait to share this quote with my PR students. I love it because it explains something that I’ve been thinking about… what happens to cultures and communities when corporate interests intervene (or try to own communities/conversations). This quote explains that one of the things that happens is that the conversation loses its humanity and authenticity. It becomes hollow. It ends.

Silly, what comes to mind is Suze Orman’s line: “People first, then money, then things.” – what a good lesson to teach my PR students!

Related post: The only real social networks are personal onesĀ 

…for PR students:

Here’s a conversation that was going on on twitter the other night among PR practitioners. Read from bottom to top. Paull Young asked about the importance of teaching the new generation of PR pros (that would be you, PR students!) citizen journalism skills. Read and see for yourself what skills are important, and do your best to learn them.

Don’t know who these people (kamichat, prblog, ikepigott, paullyoung) are and why their opinions matter? It’s worth your time to figure out, trust me! (hint: see my blogroll)

twitter screen shot

Is Apple the worst good company?

So IT (inevitable tragedy) happened. I dropped my iPhone.


  • pay $250 for a replacement unit (by mail or in an Apple store)
  • pay $150-200 for some company to put in a replacement screen (which voids the Apple warranty)
  • continue using it, although the glass is cracked, the beauty is gone, and my eyes tear up every time I look at it
  • (no, the $5 DYI option is not an option)

I’ll pay $250 for the replacement unit. Although I know I’ll probably drop this one too, sooner or later (please, God, later!). So I investigated the possibility of buying some kind of insurance against accidental damage.

Apple sells an extended warranty, but no insurance against accidental damage. Of course, the regular $3.99-5 AT&T phone insurance is not available for the iPhone.

An AT&T store manager recommended Safeware, and other sources suggested checking with home/renter’s insurance companies. Geico doesn’t offer it, but apparently State Farm does. I called two State Farm agents and they both told me State Farm stopped writing this policy for the iPhone because they were losing money. A Safeware customer rep. told me Apple hasn’t released components for the iPhone, so no one can repair it – that’s why insurance is not available. I did find one company who offers iPhone extended warranty (just like Apple Care) and Accidental Damage Protection (ADP): SquareTrade. You can buy ADP only within the first 30 days of getting a brand new iphone. The rep. told me they’re also considering dropping iPhone coverage, because it doesn’t make financial sense.

I hate Apple.

But I love my iPhone.

So, does having a good/revolutionary product mean you can abuse your market? Dictate your own terms, set high prices, refuse insurance, make it difficult for other companies to insure your product, charge a fortune for a replacement unit when you know it will, sooner or later, break?!

What are the factors that make it possible for Apple to “abuse” customers and still keep them coming back?

  • a good product. After having the iPhone for a few months, I can’t imagine living without it. It’s useful! It’s beautiful. I’m emotionally attached to it, to the pleasant experience of using it, and to the unique feeling of “cool!” (powerful branding, there). I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it. It’s gotten me at a level deeper than reason.
  • targeting a high-end market. People who buy the iphone (most of them, anyway) can afford the $250 replacement cost. They won’t be happy about it, but it won’t break the bank.

Apple’s marketing strategy works – but is it good PR? Apple has the potential to define a new type of organization-public relationship: the (happily) abusive one! Can this type of relationship last, in the long run? Does it provide enough of a trust cushion to carry Apple through a major crisis, should one happen?

What do you think?

Is Apple’s marketing strategy somewhat abusive? What makes it work? What does it mean for PR and the long-term relationship with publics? How do you feel about your iPhone? How do you protect your iPhone? If it broke, would you pay $250 to replace it? If it broke again, would you pay $250 again?

Facebook Beacon timeline & analysis

I love this analysis by Geoff Livingston of what went wrong with Facebook Beacon: They put business before community. Geoff argues this won’t work in social media:

ROI is a by- product of community participation as opposed to hard transactional advertising.

If you haven’t followed the Facebook Beacon controversy, here is a brief & manageable timeline for media snackers:

November 6, 2007: Facebook announces new targeted advertising system, Beacon: AP news; Read/Write Web

Analysts reflect on the business implications & possibilities of Facebook Beacon:

Privacy concerns emerge starts campaign against Facebook Beacon: Read/Write Web; online petition; Facebook group (65,000 members between Nov. 20 and Dec. 3); For Immediate Release commentary (Shel Holtz & Neville Hobson);

November 28: Facebook makes changes to Beacon: Facebook announcement (ripe for ripping apart in a PR rhetorical analysis!)

The PR nightmare doesn’t end here:

Evolution of Beacon Nov. 6 – Nov. 29 from NY Times B.I.T.S. (hat tip to Jeremiah Owyang who posted this on twitter)

Edits (Dec. 5 & 6):

The big PR question is: Where is Mark Zuckerberg? It started with R. Scoble’s post above but others (note the excellent PR advice in this post), including Shel Israel, are asking the same question.

Todd Defren posts as Fake Mark Zuckerberg and shows what Mark should say. Funny, but great PR advice.

Mark Zuckerberg finally posts on Facebook blog. Shel Israel comments and finds Mark’s statement credible. I think the first paragraph is nice, because it admits they made mistakes. However, what has annoyed me throughout Facebook statements is that they claim to have created Beacon to “help people share information with their friends.” Really? As my students put it: “If I want to share information with my friends, I TELL them.” Beacon is an advertising platform and its goal is to make more money. So, although the first paragraph is OK, the second one is not:

When we first thought of Beacon, our goal was to build a simple product to let people share information across sites with their friends. It had to be lightweight so it wouldn’t get in people’s way as they browsed the web, but also clear enough so people would be able to easily control what they shared. We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn’t on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends.

But, here’s the change, as a result of user “feedback” (outrage?):

today we’re releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. You can find it here.

And, OK, this excerpt is good PR:

It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share. Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I’m not proud of the way we’ve handled this situation and I know we can do better.

What’s missing is some sort of promise/guarantee that user privacy will be a priority in the future. Instead, Mark’s last paragraph closes the topic. He hopes that:

this new privacy control addresses any remaining issues we’ve heard about from you.

Meaning, that’s it, we’re done, can we drop it now? We’ll see…

Dec. 5: Read/Write Web claims this is the end of the Beacon saga… the blogosphere is tired.