prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for October, 2013

Word of Mouse and Reputation Management

Posted by prof e on October 26, 2013

WordOfMouseResearch suggests that personal recommendations are  preferred by most of us when making decisions about future purchases. Whether you’re buying a car or selecting a movie, knowing what your friends and acquaintances think about a particular brand, model, or company can be an important factor in your decision. Word of mouth advertising has been around since the beginning of time (“Hey Adam, check out these delicious apples”) and it continues to be highly effective.

When WOM moves online, i.e., Word of Mouse, things get a little more complicated. The complication comes from the way that we define online relationships. Facebook “friends” are often not friends at all, but distant relatives or causal acquaintances. Even more removed are the reviewers on Amazon or Yelp. They are most often completely unknown to us yet we often grant them more influence than we ought. We decide which movie to see based on reviews at and we avoid certain restaurants because of what strangers post at Most of the time that works out just fine.

However, like any trend this one is being hijacked by unscrupulous individuals and businesses out to make a quick buck. Just Google Ryan Holiday or read this article at Forbes to see how far someone will go to hoodwink gullible people, including reporters. Or check out this news story about Samsung hiring bloggers and students to attack rival HTC.

Public Relations firms and professionals have been involved in the business of reputation managements from the early days of  Bernays and Lee. As this business moves online, new strategies and tactics are needed to stay ahead in the game. What to do if your law firm is getting bad reviews online? Write your own reviews under a fake name. What to do if your company’s Wikipedia entry does not present your brand in a favorable light? Just hire to come to the rescue. Wiki-PR will write or edit your Wikipedia entry and monitor it for future edits/changes. Because Wikipedia is consumer-generated it is vulnerable to manipulation by anyone who has a motive and, in many cases, money to hire others to do the dirty work. Wikipedia is aware of the problem and is trying to stay ahead of the curve, but the task for the editorial staff at Wikipedia bears a strong resemblance to Wack-a-Mole.

Bottom line: whether you’re reading an online review or an article at Wikipedia, a healthy dose of skepticism is your first line of defense. Don’t assume that the person on the other side of that recommendation or scathing review is honest and fair. Too often they are neither. And sometimes they are crooks with a financial interest in duping you.


Posted in advertising, interactive media, new media, PR, social media | 18 Comments »

The “movie” experience

Posted by prof e on October 15, 2013

GravityI saw a movie last week. Not just any movie. Gravity, in IMAX 3D. It was amazing. Not every movie needs (or benefits from) the big screen, 3D perspective and awesome surround sound…but Gravity definitely brought it all together in a way that has to be experience to be appreciated. If you haven’t already seen Gravity, don’t wait for the DVD or Netflix. Like Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm (still remember seeing it at the Naro theater in Norfolk, VA in late 1989) some movies need to be appreciated as the “larger-than-life” event that they are.

The great thing about IMAX is the sensation that comes from having your vision and hearing FILLED with the director’s creative vision. I suppose motion-controlled seating and “Smell-O-Vision” might have heightened the experience even more, but there was plenty of sensory stimulation as it was.

Filmmakers have, almost from the start, longed to have complete control over the viewer’s experience. It didn’t take long for them to discover that a large screen in a dark room minimized visual distractions while an audio system capable of high-fidelity at high volume drowned out the coughing and fidgeting of the audience.

At the turn of the last century, when motion pictures were the only game in town, projecting a grainy black-and-white image on a draped bed sheet was good enough. But that wouldn’t last long. Soon a soundtrack replaced the live pianist and speaking characters preempted the need for title cards and subtitles. Larger screens and Technicolor soon followed. Then TV was invented. Hollywood studios and producers, worried that their audiences would stay home and stop going to the movies, decided to try to create an even bigger experience. The list of bigger-is-better movie technologies exploded; Todd-AO, Cinerama, Cinemascope,  Super and Ultra Panavision, 70mm, IMAX, and Vistavision are just a few. Advances in audio technology were just as spectacular. Stereo gave way to Surround Sound as Dolby Digital and THX found new ways to make us “feel” the soundtrack.

At 4.5 years in the making, Gravity is a tour-de-force of CGI and audio. Because I’ve never experienced space I was ill-equipped to determine whether anything looked or sounded “wrong,” but I do know that not once was I jarred back to reality by an errant shot or sound. The director launched me into space and I didn’t land on my feet until the 90-minute movie had run its course.  It was a great ride.

Posted in film, media effects | 13 Comments »

Partisan Politics, Partisan Media, and the Shutdown Saga

Posted by prof e on October 2, 2013

shutdownJournalists love a good story. Drama, conflict, winners and losers and high-stakes plot twists are too tempting to resist. So when the House and Senate fight and squabble over passage of a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government, journalists are right there recording every speech and soundbite and looking for human-interest stories of citizens affected by the partial shutdown.

Some cannot resist the urge to take sides as they inject a little commentary about who’s at fault and who’s the victim. I’m talking about mainstream media (MSM) here…the supposed neutral, objective observers of all things political. The partisan media (blogs, some cable TV news networks, tabloid newspapers, etc.) don’t even try to hide their biases. They traffic in political partisanship, and a scandal–like this current conflict–is “money”.

Social media has also been lighting up with twitter hashtags #DearCongress and #MakeDCListen. And because no breaking news event is complete without viral images and memes, Know Your Meme is on the job collecting and categorizing trending topics related to the shutdown.

But back to the MSM for a moment. This is a complicated story and how journalists frame the conflict and competing narratives will determine how their audiences understand and interpret the events. Focusing on one side’s apparent rigid unwillingness to compromise may create a less favorable view of them in the public’s eye. Trying to assign motives to actions and statements can be tricky and, perhaps, misleading.

Images of closed National Parks, soundbites with frustrated visitors to D.C.’s famous museums, and reporters’ stand-ups criticizing the inability of congress to reach consensus; these are all components of a narrative that dramatizes the current government shutdown. How we interpret these sights and sounds will determine the ultimate winners and losers.

Ultimately this is a PR battle on the part of political players who are busy assigning blame and ducking responsibility. And in that game, perception is everything. If the American public get’s sick and tired of one or the other “players” in this game, there will be strong incentive to compromise…or risk the voters’ wrath.

Posted in journalism, media industry, politics, PR | Tagged: | 3 Comments »