Does Your Mother Really Love You?

If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” has long been the admonition for journalism students. Unfortunately, as news consumers, we haven’t always done a good job of checking out our sources.

There’s a proliferation of fake news on the internet these days. If a friend posts it on Facebook, it must be true. Sometimes legitimate journalists are picking up stories and running with them before they check them out. Consider the Rolling Stone rape story or the countless Hillary Clinton conspiracy stories. Did Pope Francis really endorse Donald Trump?

“This was supposed to be the information age. Instead, we find ourselves in a swamp of disinformation, rumor, innuendo and fake news,” noted Jeffrey Herbst, president and CEO of Washington’s Newseum, in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

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5 Things to Know about Consumer Behavior … And 1 Helpful Secret

When we think of social media today, most of us go straight to Facebook and Twitter. We might also jump on Instagram or Snapchat if we’re targeting Millennials, and LinkedIn if we’re thinking about reaching a professional audience.

But how do you connect with older men who are not on Facebook and are interested in cars and tires? Think message boards.

This was one of the takeaways from a Virginia Professional Communicators talk, “Online Consumer Behaviors and Emerging Technologies,” given by Feedback Executive Vice President Dean Browell, Ph.D. This company, with offices in Richmond, New York City, London and Paris, specializes in customer behavior, message testing and research. 

Here are five things to know about consumer behavior: 

  1. To find your target audience, look to any “social network” that offers User Generated Content such as Message Boards and review sites (Yelp, GlassDoor), especially if you are looking for a narrow and specific target audience, such as North Carolina watermen or Virginia insurance adjusters. Hashtags are also a quick way to find people with specific interests. In some ways, hashtags are mini message boards.
     
  2. Mine message boards in any area of interest from mountain biking to childhood cancer through Board Reader and review sites for influencers — those who post and engage the most.
     
  3. Just because you know where to find your target audience on social media, doesn’t mean they want you marketing and advertising there. However, monitoring the conversation offers clues as to when those audiences are active and what’s on their minds.
     
  4. Understand the “sales cycle,” and that consumers rarely find out about your product or service and go straight to the purchase/transaction stage. The process begins with activation or awareness, research and shopping before the transaction takes place.

    A positive experience may turn a consumer into a passionate advocate who shares on social media, as well as via word of mouth, adding endorsements for your next potential customer.
     
  5. Be cautious about relying on influencer dashboards such as Klout, which often have sophisticated algorithms, but lack the human element to discern differences among key words. Is Klout really an indicator of the quality of the engagement?
In some ways, hashtags are mini message boards.

Finally, Browell suggested that, at least once a year, you should pretend to be your target audience and think about what networks you would use and go to those channels. You just might be surprised by what you learn.

Helpful Secret

Along that same idea, local Richmond connector Peter Kaufman with HoopleWorks suggests calling your own office using an unknown phone when you are out and see what kind of reception you get. You might be surprised at what you hear!

Sande Snead has been a consultant with Rhudy & Co. since 2012. She is active on Facebook and Twitter and is working on her Klout score.

How Do You Manage Your News Diet? Three Tips to Help You Cope

A new dad with his baby girl circa September 2001

A new dad with his baby girl circa September 2001

My news consumption changed dramatically in September 2001.

My wife, Michele, was pregnant with our first child on Sept. 11. As we were inundated with heartbreaking stories of unimaginable loss, we struggled to digest the information overload, raw videos and graphic photos. Just six days later, we welcomed our first daughter, Morgan.

By late September 2001, we began to limit our news consumption, which was hard for me as a trained journalist. I’ve always loved the news, especially stories behind the story and how different outlets cover breaking news. It’s why as a teenager I would read the entire front page of The Richmond News Leader before I delivered the afternoon paper. My parents didn’t have any news filters on me, but things were a lot different in the 1980s. 

As a new parent in 2001, I knew I needed to protect my children and my own sanity just a little more, so after Morgan’s birth, we needed to step back from the chaos of the cable news cycle and focus on our family.

Information overload = a fragmented brain
By mid-2004, we upgraded our coaxial connection to the world of the high-speed Internet modem. It was empowering because it led to the birth of Rhudy & Co., our strategic communications firm. Yet, the Internet’s constant flow of information started to mess with our brains.

Yet, the Internet’s constant flow of information started to mess with our brains.

This trend of fragmentation continued in late 2008, when I joined Facebook, and in early 2009, when I invited Twitter into my personal and work life. Since then, it has been a constant hum of posts, tweets, photos, videos and notifications.

The power of eyewitness media
In 2016, my information diet at times feels like an all-consuming fatty buffet. There’s more than you want to consume: the random violence, hate crimes, destructive rhetoric, political bullying, natural disasters and police brutality. It’s exhausting. It’s constant. For some, it’s truly debilitating, and infomania is all too real.

The challenge is similar to what we faced in late 2001 but it has intensified due to technology. How do we maintain our connection to the world without feeling beaten down by the negative news? 

Eyewitness user-generated content media also now floods my Facebook feed. 

Eyewitness user-generated content media also now floods my Facebook feed. The juxtaposition of seeing my fraternity brother’s cute twin toddlers alongside the Facebook Live video of mass causalities in Nice, France, is unsettling and hard to shake.

The eternal optimistic in me seeks the good stuff in my news buffet. Like fruits and vegetables, those content bites make me feel better and healthier while restoring my faith in humanity. That includes stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people overcoming adversity or helpful tips to make life a little easier.

Tips for coping and managing your news diet
On Tuesday, I heard an expert talking about just this challenge. In an NPR segment titled, “Managing Your News Intake In The Age Of Endless Phone Notifications.”  It made me think.

Take 5 minutes to listen to this NPR segment.

In the report, Claire Wardle, research director at the distinguished Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, shared tips to help balance our news diet. Wardle validated and described what I’ve been feeling in recent years.

Wardle is the co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub, which studies the legal, ethical and logistical aspects of user-generated or eyewitness media.

 Here are some of Wardle’s tips and few of my own for taking charge of your news:

  1. Cut the feed: Turn off autoplay in your social media feeds so you don't see a graphic video that you didn't expect to see.
  2. Take charge of your news consumption: Be prepared to watch or listen to the news. Limit your news consumption to a set period of time such as 30 minutes in the evening. Use your DVR to focus on the stories that matter to you.
  3. Control the uncontrollable: Unfollow news outlets in your social media feeds and unsubscribe from alerts from news outlets.

News is raw. It’s disturbing. We can’t turn a blind eye to the horrors in our world, but we can — as individuals, parents and grandparents — control how we access and consume news. 

Don’t be afraid to take charge of your news diet.

Jonathan Rhudy studied journalism at James Madison University. Most nights he watches highlights of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt with his three daughters. They spend about 15 minutes watching and talking about some of the day's good news events to help them better understand the big world around them.

6 Ways to Help Your CEO Rock the Next Video Interview

It’s always important to help make your CEO or a leader look good, but even more so when your CEO is going in front of a video camera. Whether it’s a media interview or internal interview, here are six simple steps you can take to help make him or her look and sound great.

1. Determine location: The location of the shoot is very important to set the tone. Does an outdoor or office scene work best? Should the video feel inviting or more formal? Choosing a space that reflects the tone will help reinforce the messages your CEO shares in the video.

2. Think wardrobe: Certain colors and patterns do not capture well on camera. Avoid busy prints or patterns that tend to blur on screen and instead choose solid bold colors. Most skin tones look great in blues and purples. For women, we recommend an open-collared shirt, v-neck or rounded neck top. Turtlenecks and mock necks can make the subject appear shorter and squatter on camera. Clothing items that lengthen are the most flattering.

3. Consider angles: Ask your CEO if they have a side that they prefer for photographs. Do some research and look at the best headshots of your CEO to determine the best angle. The camera crew can help capture the great angles with lighting, but directing them to a  preferred side  is the best way to ensure a flattering shot.

4. Hire a professional makeup artist: You can’t go wrong hiring a professional makeup artist for a female or male CEO. Before the shoot, share photos of your CEO with the artist and tell them about the tone of the video and any important “don’ts.” It is important that CEOs still look like themselves, just extra polished.

5. Remember to blot: The lights of the camera highlight shine, so it’s wise to bring blotting paper. Simple ask your CEO to dab lightly in the t-zone before filming for a more flawless look.

6. Bring water: During the course of any interview, your CEO may become slightly parched. Being sure to have a water bottle or a favorite beverage handy to keep them hydrated and sounding their best!

Erin-Pray-380.jpg

Erin Pray leads the video team at Rhudy & Co. and coaches everyone from CEOs and front-line employees to look and sound their best on camera.

Five Facebook Tips You'll Want to Know in 2016 (as shared by My Daughter Who Works There)

Sande Snead poses in front of the real Facebook wall at their offices.

Sande Snead poses in front of the real Facebook wall at their offices.

Yes, I’m the proud mother of a Berkeley grad who is now a Facebook Program Associate on the Global Public Policy team. Recently, I picked her brain for how I can be smarter about Facebook. Here’s my daughter Nick's top tips:

1. Follow Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook community is 1.5 billion people strong and growing and yet only 42 million are following the Facebook CEO. Mark Zuckerberg’s posts are frequent and insightful, and will keep you in the know about some of Facebook’s latest efforts and developments.

2. Boost your posts. If you are a business, only a small percent of your followers will see your post in their News Feed. If you really need to get a message to your constituents, get donations or make a sale, it may be worth spending $10 or $25 to boost your post. 

You can select the demographics of the audience you wish to reach including geography, age, race, sex and even interest areas such as dining, gardening, exercising, etc.

3. Use Facebook ad manager. If you are thinking of boosting a post or a page, use the Facebook ad manager so you can see exactly what your ad will look like and have more control over the content. Of note: Your image cannot have much copy embedded.

A look at the future of fundraising thanks to facebook.

A look at the future of fundraising thanks to facebook.

4. Check out the Facebook for Businessblog. You’ll get tips and tricks, as well as information about new products. For example, Facebook recently launched a pilot for non-profits. They are working with 37 national non-profits to test a program to help organizations raise money. 

Among other features, it allows followers to make a donation with one click on a Donate Now button.  You have the ability to allow Facebook to store your credit card information, so it’s easy every time you want to make a donation to your favorite cause – of course, this is optional!

 

5. Use hashtags. This may be obvious, but hashtags seem to have become clichéd. However, they are invaluable on social media. They turn topics and phrases into clickable links, which helps people find posts about their interests. #usemorehashtags

Sande Snead of Richmond knows the quickest way to reach her daughter Nick (pictured on the left) living in San Francisco is, of course, via Facebook Messenger.