What Twitter can learn from that time Coca Cola changed its formula

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We thought we’d share this great article from The Conversation – a few more characters than 280 though… thanks Collette Snowden, University of South Australia

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Twitter is experimenting with 280 characters.
Shutterstock

 

The 140-character message limit has defined Twitter. But the company is now experimenting with its format, doubling the length of some users’ tweets to 280 characters. Why are they taking such an enormous risk, playing with the characteristic that defines and differentiates the service?

The reason is that Twitter’s user base has been stuck at about 320 million for some time. If this doesn’t change, entropy will set in and Twitter could collapse.

We can learn a lot about what Twitter is going through by looking at the time Coca Cola decided to change its recipe, and unveiled “New Coke”. The change was rejected by customers, and the company had to backtrack.

Another thing pushing Twitter’s move is that it reported a slight decline in users and a loss of US$116 million in the most recent quarter. It was punished by investors and put on notice, so increasing users and ad revenue are important corporate objectives.

 

Users still don’t want to pay

Twitter’s problem, like all social media and news platforms, comes down to the unwillingness of online users to pay. Older forms of media – newspapers and the like – are just holding on despite declining advertising revenue, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult as traditional consumers die and younger consumers expect all media to be accessible online.

By experimenting with longer messages, Twitter will be hoping to solve some of the problems faced by advertisers. At present, advertisers prefer to spend their money on other platforms because they have many more active users who are more attentive, and provide better data on how to both target consumers and evaluate impact.

The capacity to reach audiences and provide content on Twitter is severely limited by the 140-character restriction. While Twitter belatedly tackled some of the limitations of its format by allowing the addition of images, videos, and weblinks, the short message format remains restrictive for promotional communication.

Longer tweets will keep users on a screen for longer, and allow advertisers to “push” messages to users. But the risk for Twitter is that this is precisely what its most loyal users want to avoid.

Twitter urgently needs to find a way to meet the demands of its advertisers, but by doing so it risks alienating users – the people who create the network that makes Twitter valuable.

Remember Friendster? Remember MySpace? The latter’s former head of online marketing, Sean Percival, once noted that among the many mistakes made by MySpace, disrespecting users was a key one.

Most social media users treat the online space as a public service without much awareness that the vast technological enterprise that delivers it must be paid for.

Lessons from business history

Twitter might ponder what happened when Coca Cola changed the formula of its signature product in 1985.

At the time it was believed that the change was a reaction to the increased market share that Pepsi enjoyed after its hugely successful marketing campaign featuring artists such as Michael Jackson.

The New Coke formula also tested well against Pepsi in focus group studies that included 200,000 taste tests. But an account of this episode, written by Constance L. Hays, argued the real motivation behind the change was US$50 million in annual savings by reducing the use of more expensive ingredients.

In interviews with Pepsi chemists, Hays was told: “Coke turned its back on the very thing that made it great.”

While the company recovered well from the public relations crisis, and now tells a positive story about it, for a time Coca Cola was in grave danger. Tellingly, it was saved by the people who loved the product enough to pressure the company to reverse its decision. These customers organised a boycott and other public campaigns that saw the old formula restored after three months.

An important lesson for marketers from the New Coke experiment was that in spite of the rigorous market testing, other factors had to be considered. Marketers learned about the importance of habit, tradition, brand loyalty and affinity, or more simply, the truth of the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

While Twitter is not selling a much loved soft drink, the tech world is also littered with cautionary tales of failure like TiVo, or the Microsoft Zune, and “tweaks” to successful products and applications that have damaged companies and brands, like Vegemite iSnack 2.0 (now rebadged as Cheeseybite).

Are they solving a problem for users?

One of the common features of both human and computer networks is that weak connections lead to network instability and breakdown. Yet this is precisely the risk Twitter is taking by changing its format. Longer messages may drive away loyal users who love the current format without attracting new users to satisfy and reassure investors and advertisers.

Many people are asking serious questions about the value of their time spent on social media and various studies show use of social media sites is starting to decline.

Creating longer messages won’t solve this problem, especially as it threatens to make Twitter even more time consuming. People will have less time to follow other users as they spend more time writing, and less time reading and sharing posts.

Twitter might be seizing the day – Carpe Diem – to change its primary product or test the waters to gauge public reaction, but it’s worth remembering that those two powerful Latin words are from a longer phrase by the poet Horace.

Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero

which translates as:

While we’re talking, envious time is fleeing: seize the day, put no trust in the future

The ConversationTwitter might consider Horace’s longer message before it commits to the introduction of 280-character posts. Its future may be at stake.

Collette Snowden, Senior Lecturer, School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The art of naming a company

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The Duke of Cambridge with his son Prince George on his first day of school (Image: @KensingtonRoyal)

We’re a little clucky at the c word with the recent joyous news from Kensington Palace that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child. And with the punters racing to choose a name for the future prince or princess, it has got us thinking about the challenges and opportunities involved in naming a new enterprise … such as a child or a company.

It’s a question that I’m often asked – how did you come up with your company name? the c word? I wish I could say it happened over night, but in fact it took months and months of contemplating ideas … some downright dreadful … until one morning I was walking back from a Friday office coffee run … staring at the C= coffee in my hands and thinking about how it fuels so many communicators … and it struck me… C= communicatin, coffee, champagne … I have to call my company the c word!

Most outside the professional world of communications might consider naming a company a somewhat arbitrary task. But those of us with an appreciation of branding know that the name of your business not only needs to encapsulate the essence of your corporate entity, but convey this information in a clear and catchy way that people will remember. A name should express the entire image you want your business to have. It also has the power to influence the behaviour of your customers and clients. Just think of how the word Nike, as a synonym of victory, has played into that company’s astonishing success.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Generally there are three approaches to naming your company. You can choose a name that has nothing to do with the services or products you actually provide (think McDonalds, or Apple).  Or you could choose something that directly conveys this, a la ‘Toys R Us’. The third option is to make up an entirely new word that you’re hoping will come to mean what you want it to mean, such as Skype or Google.

So how can you be confident that you’re picking the right name? The first and primary thing to keep in mind is the people and groups you want to reach out to. For example, something trendy and edgy won’t suit a business wanting to appeal to a conservative corporate crowd. On the other hand, being too bland won’t help you stand out from the crowd.

Cognitive fluency

An essential concept to wrap your head around before you undertake the task of naming a new business is the idea of cognitive fluency.  Essentially this is a term used to indicate the ease with which information is processed by the brain. It is a measure of how easy it is to think about something and the difference between simplicity and complexity.

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Image above: Which is easier to understand? A description of a circle, or a picture of a circle?

Without wading too far into the neuroscientific weeds, the main point to take away from this idea is that cognitive fluency affects decision-making. For example, psychologists have found that companies with easier to pronounce names have significantly more investors than those with harder to pronounce names.

The other aspect to remember is that one person’s attribution of cognitive fluency can be totally different from another’s attribution. In a nutshell, past experience and current context play heavily into how people will interpret your business name. So it’s best to stay away from controversial terms, and again to think about your desired client/customer group.

So with all that in mind there are some general tips to follow:

  • DON’T use initials (especially strings of initials).
  • DON’T use words that are foreign to your target audience.
  • DON’T use words that can be pronounced in several different ways, or that are difficult to pronounce.

If you are going with an entirely new word (think of the skype example from above), it’s important to remember a few things. You can use word segments that imply something that you wish to convey. For example, you can combine ‘Rapid’ or ‘Express’ with other words to imply speed. Or combine two words that describe what it is your business does (e.g. Kwikcopy, or Travelodge). You can also attempt to create an image that will influence how customers see your business.

Finally…

Before you make this important decision it is essential to ensure your proposed name goes through some standard user testing. Focus groups, user-surveys and graphical interface testing are all useful exercises. Not only will these allow you to pick a name that clients will react positively to, but it will also help you to avoid embarrassing or unintentional meanings.

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Podcasts: The Netflix of Radio

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We can all be podcasters – even Jack!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’re probably aware that a new audio medium has mutated from the ashes of traditional broadcasting. For those who missed the memo, podcasting is a DIY narrowcast form of audio publishing that has democratised the once elite realm of radio broadcasting. Its rise was enabled by the emergence of portable mp3 players and then the ubiquity of smartphones (the ‘pod’ nomenclature coming, of course, from the original Apple iPod). Anyone with the inclination can hit record then publish their no doubt profound and insightful thoughts on whatever topic they choose to wax lyrical.

While podcasting really is as simple as all that, there are some key ingredients that go into creating a good quality podcast that listeners will seek out and return to.

Create an intimate and rich connection with your audience

The obvious benefits of podcasting both correlate and diverge from traditional radio broadcasting. The ability to capture an audiences’ attention and convey a rich and detailed narrative around a subject is unparalleled in other low cost media forms. Podcasting can be an extremely effective way to reach the people you would most like to engage with and influence.

So what are some of the basic elements that can help you achieve this goal.

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Our new podcast with Journeys to Come

First of all, remember that we are all social creatures and we seek out human connection.  The best and most interesting podcast are often ones that allow experts to talk about what they do, why they do it and why it matters, in their own words. What a podcast does better than any other media is imbed that human element in information/knowledge transmission. Listeners won’t be interested in thinly veiled, brand-centric messaging. But they will seek out passionately delivered expert and novel information. They’ll listen to hours of an engaging conversation about a topic they’re interested in.

Which brings us to the second essential element: Subject expertise. Don’t be afraid to approach a subject that is likely to have a deep insight or interesting insight into the topic you are podcasting on. Most people are happy to have an opportunity to express themselves, especially in an informal manner. The logistics of setting up studio interviews is not longer an issue as technology allows us to sidestep these limitations. You can conduct an interview via Skype with an expert on the other side of the world, or even across the same city. Take every opportunity … grab five minutes of dialogue with that guest speaker at the conference you’re attending, then store the recording for a podcast to be compiled at a later date.

In fact the technology of podcasting is almost so simple and widely available that it barely warrants a mention. If you’re serious about having high-quality sound then you might consider investing in a microphone. But other than that all the tools are available using devices you probably already possess and software you can freely and cheaply download.

Attract and retain your audience

Podcast listeners get hooked. And they listen, on average, to over 5 hours of podcasts per week. This is an unsurprising stat when you consider the importance of storytelling and narrative to human culture from time immemorial. NPR’s Serial podcastNPR’s Serial podcast in 2015 had masses of people parked in their driveways so they could finish each episode after arriving home. Serial was essentially a long story about a murder that proved how addictive narrative storytelling in this format can be.

We all know the benefits of using narrative to build empathy in listeners. Research shows that audio media is particularly effective in fostering an intimate connection with audiences. Inherent in listening is the activity of imagining, which in turn leads to empathy and an emotional response to the ‘story’ you are telling.  Sound effects and sound shots can also increase the level of mental imagery and lead listeners to pay closer attention to your message.

Even if you know you have a quality podcast that listeners will respond to, it can still be tricky to promote your product. There are a few basic steps you can take that will enhance your profile. Make sure you get those 5 star iTunes reviews. Consider cross promotion with other publications and podcasts.  Pitch your podcast to bloggers who compile top 10 lists.

The problem with monetising

If you’ve managed to build a substantial audience you may be tempted to leverage that popularity by introducing paid advertisements to your format. This is especially tempting when you consider the high engagement cultivated in podcast listeners.

According to one study: two-thirds of podcast listeners have engaged in various research and/or purchase related behaviors as a result of advertising exposure from podcasts. Among all forms of advertising on mobile devices, podcasts create the highest improvement in perception. And among all forms of digital advertising, podcast ads are considered the least intrusive.

Those are impressive stats, but don’t be enticed into stuffing your podcast with paid advertisements and sponsored content.  Any experienced podcast listeners will warn you against going down that road.

The warning stems from the very thing that separates podcasts from commercial radio. That is, the absence of targeted, glutinous pandering to an ideal demographic. Instead, pods are targeting interests, enthusiasms, and the oral tradition of storytelling. A podcast isn’t like a website where you can scroll past advertisements, or a television program in which you change the channel during an ad break. The technology of podcasts does not really allow listeners to easily skip past advertisements. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it forces listeners to hear the advertisement. On the other, it can be off-putting and result in listeners switching off and unsubscribing entirely.

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail

Podcasts are the ultimate start-up culture. According to the ABC Audience Insights survey, nearly one in three podcast listeners trial a new podcast each week! Discovering podcasts happens by a variety of means. Nearly 1 in 2 discover by word of mouth or listening to radio/TV.

So be daring. Don’t wait to launch that new podcast, test out those novel ideas. Remember, people are willing to give it a go. You’ll never know what exciting new avenue you might end up connecting with listeners through.

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Rebel with a cause

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Australian celebrity Rebel Wilson has been awarded an astounding $4.56 million dollars in damages by the Victorian Supreme Court.

In awarding Australia’s largest ever defamation payout, the judge called the defamation enacted by Woman’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, New Weekly and OK Magazine “unprecedented in this country” (because of the articles’ global reach).

Wilson sued Bauer for damages, arguing the ‘serial liar’ allegations had ruined her reputation and cost her lucrative movie roles.

With the outcome likely to mark the beginning of a period of reform for defamation law, it’s a good time to take a look at the state of play vis-a-vis defamation law in Australia and how it impacts those working in the media.

According to the Fitzroy Legal Centre: “Anyone who has had damaging material published about them can take legal action against authors, publishers, broadcasters and distributors to defend their reputation.”

In a nutshell…

In common law a person has a right to a good reputation until proven otherwise. The original statute, the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act of 1881, placed the burden on publishers with regards to libel. Since then the law has seesawed between favouring the media and the defendants. Currently Australia exists under a Uniform Defamation Law regime that came into operation in 2005. Many pundits believe that after 12 years of operation these laws are ripe for review. Due to the ease with which plaintiffs can prove that they have suffered damage to their reputations, the balance of power lies squarely in their quarter. There has been a slew of recent case law, the latest being Rebel Wilson’s high profile case, that may prompt some sort of legislative review process. Watch this space!

So what are some of the basic things that media professionals in Australia need to be aware of in regards to defamation law. First of all, at least a basic understanding of the major concepts will hold you in good stead.

Libel vs Slander

In Australia the difference between Libel (published defamation) and Slander (spoken defamation) is, according to the Uniform law, no longer relevant. The distinction originally rose out of the permanency of some forms of published material, as opposed to the relative fleeting nature of the spoken word. Today’s media landscape renders this distinction irrelevant. Potentially everyone has the ability to record and broadcast any spoken words or gestures.

Social Media and Twitter

The wild and unruly nature of Twitter, Facebook and other blogging platforms sees any and all opinions dished up seemingly uninhibited by decorum or moral prejudice. However, this perceived anonymity should not be mistaken with protection from litigation.  In 2014 a young man was ordered to pay a teacher $105,000 for defaming her on Twitter and Facebook.

So, when posting to social media it’s a good idea to think of yourself as the editor of a newspaper. You bear the responsibility for what you publish.

And of course, seek legal advice should you have any more specific questions.

While you’re pondering your next Tweet, here’s some further reading:

Campaign takes the cake

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A #TSBakeOff entry from @MelissaJensen_ – Gouldian Finches are threatened by altered fire regimes which reduce the availability of seeds & hollows #Wildoz

It’s Thursday … so let’s have some cake!

Like many Australians, my first decade of birthdays were celebrated with a highly artistic cake creations from the Australian Women’s Weekly. Choices, choices, choices!

So it’s not surprising that a cake competition, to bring attention to today’s Threatened Species Day, caught my attention. Mmmm cake!

The cool concept is a freshly baked idea from Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Greg Andrews, with all baked goods featuring favourite threatened species.

It’s such a great example of clever content creation and a great way to engage an audience spread across the country. Perhaps it’s a recipe for your next campaign?

Entries have been flying in from ovens around the country and will be judged by the Commissioner, alongside Dr Bec West from UNSW and Annabel Crabb.

We can’t wait to see which cake rises to the top?

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

PS. Pardon all the cake puns!

What inspired our #CommsCorner communicators?

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What first inspired your love of words? Or your passion for content?

That’s a question we often ask the communicators we work with, and the communicators who take a chair in our #CommsCorner.

This week, we revisit past responses to our Communicator’s Corner and share what drove their passion for words! The common theme was an early interest (usually at high school) in reading, writing and all things creative.

Del Irani

DelHeadshotI really didn’t know. I didn’t study journalism. I studied business and psychology. However, when I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, I was offered two graduate positions. One was in the corporate world and the other one was for an obscure media production company based in Belgium that required a lot of travel and being a fresh graduate at the age of 22 I decided to take the latter. It was only after working for this company for several months I realised I was often the only one at press conferences who would be standing up and asking questions or challenging the status quo. Many of my colleagues pointed out that I had a natural gift for interviewing, and it was after these experiences that I decided to pursue journalism.

Danielle Johnston

When I was 12, I fell in love with storytelling. When I was 15, I did work experience at the “Sun” newspaper and followed journalists around their Melbourne beats for a week. At the end of Year 12, journalism was my #1 study preference. Fortunately, the grand plan came off.

Vanessa O’Hanlon

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It came to me in a round about way.  At school I always had an interest in politics and current affairs and was on the SRC and School Council but I also fell in love with music.  I enjoyed interviewing bands and artists.   Working in a newsroom on ABC News Breakfast I knew I wanted to be more involved in the news side of presenting, I love the fast pace and how news evolves.

Lauren Ayton

In high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I was lucky enough to meet the most influential teacher of my schooling, Mr Glasgow, who was a passionate scientist and an amazing communicator. He instilled a love of science in me, and made me realise how exciting a scientific career could be. I was in Year 11 when the human genome was fully sequenced, and I still remember that he spent our entire class talking about the potential ramifications of that achievement. From that moment, I wanted to be involved in the next generation of ground-breaking discoveries!

Briar Lloyd

BriarHeadshotGrowing up I was always obsessed with any form of media, whether it be magazines, books, TV, film, current affairs and pop culture, or just the internet in general. When I was studying media and communications, journalism, and politics and international studies at university, I really came to understand the importance of media and communications as a means to transfer information and knowledge, and shape society. From then on I knew it was important to be able to be to utilise communications in my work in some way, as it’s something than is relevant and important to all industries and sectors.

Kathryn Crawford

I’m not sure it was that defined. But my path seemed to be fairly well set when in Year Ten I had the opportunity to do a work placement at what was then known as Royce MS&L Communications. The glamour! The intrigue! The outfits! I knew I stumbled onto something. And that was just the tram ride down St Kilda Road.

Amisha Mehta

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QUT VC Awards 2016. QUT Gardens Point, Brisbane on June 13, 2016. Picture-Patrick Hamilton

I knew I wanted to be a lecturer when I saw a student’s face light up as she landed on an idea for a public relations campaign. There is so much power in an idea and it’s a privilege to share that space.

Tune into our weekly #CommsCorner for more stories about what inspired communicators along the path of content creation.

Del Irani in the #CommsCorner

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DelHeadshotThis week in the #CommsCorner we chat with Del Irani, a Presenter on ABC News Breakfast, which airs from 6-9am nationally. As well as being a TV and radio presenter, Del is a highly experienced and sought after event host, moderator and emcee. She has recently returned from moderating for the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation in China, and was also the host of our client’s Shared Value Forum in April. Del is also a board member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club Community Foundation.

What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m a warm and energetic TV presenter who has hosted shows in Australia and around the world. I currently work for ABC News in Australia and was a former BBC News Presenter working as a correspondent in Mumbai, India. I am an Indian-Australian who has lived and worked in more than 20 countries.

Tell us about a typical day working in the media?

There is no typical day. From the time my alarm goes off at 3.30am, I check my phone for news alerts and read up on any developments overnight. Then I arrived in the office just after 4am, flick through the papers and talk to the producers about the main stories they’ve identified for the show. After a brief chat and informal editorial meeting, I start writing my scripts and lining up the vision. Then it’s off to hair and makeup. Once I’m ‘studio ready’, I update my scripts, particularly the financial markets which are closing at 6am, and I’m on air by 6.05am.

When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?

I really didn’t know. I didn’t study journalism. I studied business and psychology. However, when I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, I was offered two graduate positions. One was in the corporate world and the other one was for an obscure media production company based in Belgium that required a lot of travel and being a fresh graduate at the age of 22 I decided to take the latter. It was only after working for this company for several months I realised I was often the only one at press conferences who would be standing up and asking questions or challenging the status quo. Many of my colleagues pointed out that I had a natural gift for interviewing, and it was after these experiences that I decided to pursue journalism.

Which journalist from around the world do you most admire?

I really admire Christiane Amanpour who has worked her way up from an entry level desk position to being the Chief International Correspondent for CNN.

What communication tools can’t you live without?

Contact with people. Being a journalist is about telling people’s stories!

What are the biggest challenges you face? And what are the biggest opportunities?

The biggest challenge is to keep up with technology and the way it’s changing journalism. There’s a constant need to keep challenging yourself and adapting to stay ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to social media because that’s a big part of how we now communicate with our audiences. Any resistance can be a real set back. I also see this as one of the biggest opportunities. If you embrace new technologies you can access new audiences and have a global reach.

Tell us about the news coverage that you’re proudest of?

My proudest moment is providing live coverage in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks for BBC World News. As someone who was born in Mumbai, and has family in India, I was proud to be able to highlight the enduring resilience of Mumbaikers.

What’s been the biggest change to the newsroom since you began your career?

Social media. I began before Twitter and Facebook Live and Periscope (which has already become extinct)..

What should every aspiring journalist read?

BBC World News have an outstanding standard of journalism. I think you can learn a lot from their style of writing and their online journalism school has some great tips – and it’s FREE.

What tips do you wish you’d known before starting out in journalism?

Trust yourself. I lacked confidence when I first started out in front of the camera and one of the best pieces of advice a senior producer once gave me was talk to the camera like you’re talking to your best friend. I’ve followed that advice and never looked back.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ POWER

Catriona’s content

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Catriona’s content

CatrionaFrenchSandDunesIf you’ve been following us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram lately, then you may have seen one or two of our posts about Catriona Rowntree’s new travel site Journeys to Come. Who doesn’t love travel?!

We’re excited to be working with Catriona and loving the excuse to talk travel!

Catriona is currently creating content for the site, and filming for Getaway, in France, where she recently recorded her latest Facebook Live from atop the Eiffel Tower. Hats off to Catriona, who has taken to Facebook Live like a fish to water!

If you haven’t already, add some more travel to your day via:

journeystocome.com

A site dedicated to sharing Catriona’s love of travel. Each week she shares regular features including a Guest Traveller piece, Ask The Concierge and Come Fly with Me. She also shares her own travel adventures and tips and tricks.

Do you have a travel story to share? Email editor@journeystocome.com with details of the holiday you would like to write about!

Podcast

Every Wednesday, tune in for a travel tale from a different part of the world. So far we’ve discovered the best hotels in Australia, travelled beyond Paris to Normandy and Lyon, met a group of Aussie trailblazers in Dubai, and found our ultimate travel term: BLeisure!

Subscribe via Apple Podcast.

Weekly Travel Update

CatrionaShareYourJourneysEvery Thursday, Catriona fills your inbox with a little travel inspiration. As well as sharing her latest adventures, Catriona brings you travel pics from her growing travel community, and provides handy links to all the great content on the site! PLUS you can win your own travel adventures thanks to regular competitions.

Subscribe to Catriona’s updates here.

And of course, social media

Fill your feeds with more travel! Join us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Farewell Mr Scaramucci, we barely knew thee

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Well that was a short, sharp drop at the end of a rope.

In true The Apprentice style, Antoni “The Mooch” Scaramucci, was ‘fired’ a mere 10 days after taking on the position of White House Communications Director.

Several days after receiving praise for smooth talking his way through his first press briefing (in marked contrast to outgoing Communications Director Sean “Spicey” Spicer), the Mooch made a fatal PR mistake. He aired the White Houses’ internal dirty laundry to a reporter, taking aim in colourful language at arch nemesis (and WH Chief of Staff) Reince Priebus.  The Mooch later complained that he wasn’t aware the conversation with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza was on the record. The twittersphere erupted with a barrage of biting commentary, the general gist of which can be summed up as;

A few days after Scaramucci’s profane rant he was summarily pushed out of the administration by new chief of staff John Kelly.

There are so many threads to follow with this story. The continuing chaos and disruption at the heart of the Trump presidency; the sheer morbid spectacle of watching a bunch of eccentric characters eat each other alive to get to the top. But as a communications professional it’s hard not to focus on the predictable failure of someone so unqualified and inexperienced taking on one of the hardest PR jobs in the world.  Scaramucci, like so many in Trump’s administration do, has a background solely in finance and business, and limited experience in PR and communications. It takes years and years to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job well and not make embarrassing, high-profile errors. The Mooch didn’t have a chance.

So, what are some of the PR/Comms lessions that Mr Scaramucci may do well to learn before he applies for his next position?

Don’t let yourself become the story

In a week when the White House desperately needed to focus on some success stories, the story ended up being Scaramucci calling a fellow co-worker “a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic”. This is no the way to control the message.

Don’t be crazier than your crazy boss

We’re all aware that Donald Trump’s gonzo communications style is what got him elected, but that sort of thing is lightening in a bottle. There’s not enough room for more than one volatile, unpredictable actor in this play. And Mooch, even the best performer needs good content.

Learn what ‘off the record’ means, and when to use it

If a journalist asks you a question, and you want it to be off the record, always start the conversation with “this is off the record”. Coming out later on Twitter to bitterly complain about your unfair treatment at the hands of the Lügenpresse is, well let’s just say the optics aren’t great on that one. And, if you want it to be off the record, just don’t say it!

Do all you can to convey a trustworthy reputation

If you’re asked about your relationship to the President, don’t answer with the line “I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, that’s me and the president”. Try to avoid turning the workplace into the sequel to the Godfather where loyalties are tested in a life and death grudge match. This includes firing Republican National Committee staffers with comments like “I know you’ve been serving two masters in this place”. Forget PR, you should be writing movie scripts.

Other Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t publicly and privately brag about breaking company rules. Don’t threaten fellow employees (full stop). Don’t swagger into meetings you aren’t invited to, just to throw your weight around.

And probably, most importantly of all, don’t overestimate your autonomy and leeway on the job due to the close personal relationship you feel you have with the boss.

How to help kids navigate fake news and misinformation online

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Research has shown kids can be duped by native advertising.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Joanne Orlando, Western Sydney University

Young people get a huge amount of their news from social media feeds, where false, exaggerated or sponsored content is often prevalent. With the right tools, caregivers can give kids the knowledge they need to assess credible information for themselves.

Being able to identify the trustworthiness of information is an important concern for everyone. Yet the sheer volume of material online and the speed at which it travels has made this an increasingly challenging task. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook provide a loudspeaker to anyone who can attract followers, no matter what their message or content.

Fake news has the power to normalise prejudices, to dictate us-versus-them mentalities and even, in extreme cases, to justify and encourage violence.

We have become obsessed with getting kids off their devices at the expense of developing their understanding of the online world. This is not about surveillance, but rather about having open conversations that empower children to understand and assess the usefulness of information for themselves.

Fake news is tricking children

Young people are growing up in a world where distributing large volumes of misinformation online has become a subtle yet powerful art.

It’s no surprise then that research published in 2016 by Stanford University suggests kids “may focus more on the content of social media posts than on their sources”.

For example, of 203 middle school students surveyed as part of the report, more than 80% thought a native ad on the news website Slate labelled “sponsored content” was a real news story. A majority of high school students questioned by the researchers didn’t recognise and explain the significance of the blue checkmark on a verified Fox News Facebook account.

With the amount of content we see in a busy day, it’s possible that these subtleties are being lost on many adults as well.

Minimising the harm of fake news for kids

Helping young people navigate online spaces requires better skills in verifying what is true and what isn’t.

Here are five questions to start the conversation with children.

Find an online post that you consider to be fake news and talk with the child about it. Shape your conversation around these questions:

  • Who made this post?
  • Who do they want to view it?
  • Who benefits from this post and/or who might be harmed by it?
  • Has any information been left out of the post that might be important?
  • Is a reliable source (like a mainstream news outlet) reporting the same news? If they’re not, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it does mean you should dig deeper.
Kids are not always able to identify verified accounts on Facebook.
JaysonPhotography/Shutterstock

Clues for children to use

Detecting fake news can be like a “spot the difference” game.

These questions are clues for kids that a source may be dodgy:

  • Is the URL or site name unusual? For example, those with a “.co” are often trying to masquerade as real news sites.
  • Is the post low-quality, possibly containing bold claims with no sources and lots of spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Does the post use sensationalist imagery? Women in sexy clothing are popular clickbait for unreliable content.
  • Are you shocked, angry or overjoyed by the post? Fake news often strives to provoke a reaction, and if you’re having an intense emotional response then it could be a clue the report isn’t balanced or accurate.
  • How is the story structured and what kind of proof does it offer? If it merely repeats accusations against the people involved in an incident without further reporting, for example, there’s probably a better version of the story out there from a more reliable news source.

Get to know the rules

Many social media sites are now also cracking down on the spread of fake news. Showing kids the restrictions these sites are imposing on their users will help them get a rounded understanding of the problem.

For example, asking kids to read the rules by which Reddit will remove content from r/news is a good starting point. Facebook also offers “Tips to Spot False News”, suggesting readers check that other sources are reporting similar facts and that they look out for weird formatting, among other hints.

Growing up in a world of fake news doesn’t have to be a heavy burden for kids. Rather, it requires extra support from adults to help them understand and navigate the digital world.

The ConversationOur goal should be not only to help children survive this complicated online world, but to equip them with the knowledge they need to flourish in it.

Joanne Orlando, Researcher: Technology and Learning, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.