Posts Tagged ‘cross-cultural PR’

The Extinction of Physical QWERTY Keyboards

April 2, 2013

The Blackberry Z10 made headlines recently. A million units were shipped in the last three months. But I’m more excited about the company’s Q10 (scheduled to be released this month). It’s not that I’m a Blackberry fan, I’ve never even used one before; it’s that the Q10 is part of a dying breed of smartphones with physical QWERTY keyboards. UnderwoodKeyboardTheir disappearance has largely been blamed on the success of the iPhone. During the iPhone’s first few years, competitors offered plenty of physical keyboard/touchscreen combo smartphones: just look at this top ten list from 2011. However, as the iPhone came to dominate the market, smartphones all started to look more and more like iPhones.

The smartphone is an essential tool for most people who work in PR. At a recent industry event, one of the panelists chided the audience (all PR pros), that more of us weren’t live Tweeting the event. We’re expected to be constantly connected, at the very least while working at events or when dealing with a crisis. At Bridge, we specialize in PR for overseas-based companies, and we often need to communicate with clients and media in different time zones, so work hours can vary a lot, too. Most of us would probably agree that we’d feel lost without smartphones.

I bought my first smartphone in 2010, the LG Ally, and I stuck with it because I never found a much better option with a physical keyboard. I’ve been an iMac user for years and I always wanted an iPhone for the syncing capabilities, but I couldn’t fathom using a touchscreen keyboard. The keyboard has always been the most important factor for me when choosing a phone. I text like a rabid teenager (I’ve sent/received 1,036 text messages in just the last 7 days), and I take lots of lengthy notes. There is also something much more satisfying about pressing down on actual buttons versus tapping on a screen. I type much faster on a physical keyboard, and I never quite took to autocorrect. I’d rather a few typos than have my phone try to guess what I’m trying to write. After three years with the same phone, I finally came to terms with the fact that touchscreen keyboards are here to stay. I begrudgingly started shopping around when I stumbled upon this gem: a Bluetooth slide-out keyboard for the iPhone 5! I happily traded in my old phone for an iPhone 5 and after fumbling with the touchscreen for a few days, I ordered the Bluetooth add-on from Amazon. Without further ado, here’s my review.

Abco Tech® Bluetooth Sliding Keyboard iPhone 5 Case (White)

Abco iPhone 5 Keyboard

Set-up was extremely easy and intuitive. I paired it with my iPhone like any other Bluetooth device, and the phone snapped snugly into the top part of the case. It comes with a micro-USB charger and as far as battery life, I’ve been charging it at least every other night and have had no issues (though I expect battery life will decline over time). The keys take a bit of getting used to, but if you type a lot, you’ll be fine with a few days of use. There are “lock” and “home” keys, as well as two “command” or “Apple” keys which let you use basic keyboard shortcuts (ie: copy, paste, select all, undo) without having to touch the screen. There are also 4 arrow keys which let you navigate long bodies of text with ease. If you compare the proportions to a normal keyboard, the space bar is very small and off-center. This is quite annoying because you have to strain your right thumb to reach it. Functionally, this is probably the biggest flaw in the design.

Aside from the space bar, there are other obvious aesthetic flaws. The keyboard just about doubles the thickness of the phone which may be a huge turnoff for many. I got the keyboard in white, which has a matte finish that gets dirty very quickly. I haven’t tried to clean it yet, but from reading other reviews, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do it.

At the end of the day, whether you’ll like this product or not will largely depend on how much you value function over form. Most of my friends react with disgust when I whip this huge thing out of my pocket. The iPhone’s sleekness is its main draw and if Steve Jobs saw this bulky case, I’m sure he’d be rolling over in his grave. However, if you’re like me and often feel the need to draft entire novels on your smartphone, you should give this keyboard a try. It’s about the price of a normal iPhone case ($25-$29) and Amazon has a solid 30-day return policy so you don’t have much to lose.


Diana Kim


How American PR Is Different from PR Overseas

February 19, 2013

Foreign companies that want to build visibility in the U.S.  are usually surprised to find that there are cross-cultural differences in the role of public relations between their countries and the U.S. In many parts of the world, including most of Asia and some of Europe, the tactics used by most public relations departments have traditionally been limited to media relations and event planning, with social media also becoming more popular recently. The goal is to win over potential customers (both consumers and business customers) and to try to safeguard the company’s public image.Morpheus on PR

In the United States, Canada, the U.K. and a few other countries, there are additional aspects of PR. In these markets, PR is not relegated to building visibility and helping market products, it also includes strategies to build and enhance a company’s reputation. PR professionals look for ways to develop and strengthen relationships that will help the entire company in its interactions with various audiences, including investors, the local community, government officials and employees, among others. In other countries, PR is more top-down, with management deciding what they want to communicate and the PR department executing those decisions. But in the U.S. there is more two-way dialogue with the public, and the PR or corporate communications department is expected to monitor the public dialogue, and also to recommend messaging and develop materials to help support the company in those conversations.

In countries where the PR staff is mostly limited to helping to market products, PR professionals have a significantly lower status than they do in countries where PR professionals have a broader role that includes strategy for and management of corporate reputation. As one would expect, in the countries where PR has a lower status, PR professionals have less contact with top executives and aren’t usually seen as strategic advisors to corporate management. In the U.S., by contrast, the top PR job is often an executive position that reports directly to the CEO. In some cases, the professionals who hold those positions make very high salaries. (In large companies, the salaries are frequently in the range of $300,000. One recent news article reported that the head of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company was being paid a million dollars a year. Those executives, and the employees and PR firms they hire to help them, manage issues important to the company, trouble-shoot in times of crisis and help with the overall positioning of their companies. They are responsible for fostering good relationships with all of their companies’ audiences, from employees to interest groups to customers and potential customers to government at the local, state and national levels. Some are also responsible for investor relations.

Often when I receive a call from a potential client from overseas, I can see the difference in attitude towards PR right away. I ask what the company is looking for from a PR agency, and the answer I get is usually a prepared list of PR tactics that the executives in the company have already decided will fill their needs. After talking to us and as they begin to work with us, the company’s staff begins to see that we can help in ways they hadn’t anticipated, and they stop telling us what tactics they want us to deploy, asking us, instead, for our counsel on helping them meet their goals.

Cross-cultural PR is a two-way educational process, since the client learns more about the U.S. business culture and sees how communications works here, while, at the same time, we have a chance to learn more about the client’s own culture.

Lucy Siegel

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How to Get Started with a PR Firm: Four Tips for a Fruitful Relationship

September 19, 2011

Frequently new clients don’t really know how to work with us when they first hire us.  There are a few common problems, and start-ups (our specialty), whether domestic or from overseas, are more likely to experience them.

A steakhouse appetite on a fast-food budget

The best marketing directors we’ve worked with are excellent at prioritizing what’s essential now versus what can wait until they can afford it. Most marketing directors at start-ups worked for companies with bigger budgets and more back-up internally in previous jobs. They’re very needy when it comes to PR and marketing communications.  They want a lot of help, but can’t afford a big budget.    Prioritizing is essential in that environment.

A winning formula in one country may not work in others

The first common mistake business people from other countries make is assuming that the market here can’t be that much different from their own.  Companies from outside the U.S. often start a relationship with a PR company here by asking for the same services they received at home: “Here’s what we want from you. We need you to [choose one:] “set up a press conference,” [or] “arrange Wall Street Journal and New York Times interviews and get our CEO on the ‘Today’ show.”

They don’t know how the U.S. media works and how different it is from their own country.  We have to explain that press conferences are rarely held in the U.S.  to make a corporate announcement – unless it’s Steve Jobs announcing the launch of the iPad or BP trying to manage the communications after an oil spill. They aren’t aware of how social media is being used in public relations and marketing communications in the U.S., since social media is mostly just social (so far) in a lot of countries. The size and diversity of the United States is just an intellectual concept to them and not something they’ve experienced, so they think PR will cost about the same here as it does at home.

We’re consultants. Ask us what to do, don’t tell us what to do.

The second mistake is telling us what to do instead of asking us what we think should be done.  In many other countries, public relations doesn’t garner as much respect as  it does here.  Some of you are snickering, reading this, because the PR industry has its own image problems in theU.S., and we often feel we don’t get enough respect. Nevertheless, we have it good compared to PR people in many parts of the world.   It’s not uncommon for the most senior PR person in the company to  report directly to the CEO and sit on the senior management committee.  That’s respect.

We can’t help if we don’t know what’s really going on

When companies get started with a PR firm, it’s really important for them to brief the firm thoroughly and answer questions honestly and openly.  The PR industry’s code of ethics requires that confidential client information be kept confidential.  A company that is nervous about this can require its PR firm to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

If a company is secretive with its PR firm, the PR firm can’t help position the company favorably among competitors. If there’s a big problem the PR firm doesn’t know about and it comes out, the PR team is in a very awkward and difficult position of receiving media calls about an issue they didn’t know exists. Delays in responding and hesitation about how to answer difficult questions cause the client to look bad to the media.

When a company hires a PR firm, there’s a learning curve on both sides. We have to learn about a client’s company, products and/or services and goals, and the client needs to find out the best way of working with us.  A good client/agency relationship and a satisfying outcome (for both the client and the agency) are much more likely if we can get started the right way.

Lucy Siegel

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