Tag Archives: social media

When Poor Crisis Communication Defeats Smart Branding–Trump and NC in Cleveland

20 Jul


Trump Blog Still.001

     In a presidential campaign that has been anything but predictable, strategic and organized, Donald Trump has finally put together a surprisingly strong branding strategy for the Republican National Convention.  And then watched it blow up.

     The Trump campaign and the RNC have gone to great lengths to brand each day of the convention with an overarching platform central to the Trump campaign.

     In marketing and branding parlance, the Trump camp and the RNC are very shrewdly appealing to personal core values: keep me safe, save my job, save my country, united we stand.  The clear goal is to reinforce these core values to build to the Trump brand promise of strong leadership to strengthen America.

      Here’s how the themes it will play out during the four days:

Monday: Make America Safe Again

  • Core value: Keep me safe

 Tuesday: Make America Work Again

  • Core vale: Save my job

 Wednesday: Make America First Again

  • Core value: Save my country

Thursday: Make America One Again

  • Core value: United we stand

             Trump himself had already been ramping up his social media rhetoric in preparation for the first convention day’s core value of ‘keep me safe.’   He especially used the Baton Rouge police shootings as a Facebook call to action.

                  On Twitter the day before the convention he also tried to weave the threat from ISIS into the narrative.

      But Trump’s marketing team has also been proactive and smart in making sure his social media messaging has tied directly into the core value agenda.  Each day on Facebook the team has posted branded content reflecting the day’s agenda and inviting followers to engage.  Monday’s theme of ‘keep me safe’ brought several posts throughout the day of videos and images for viewers to share.


     On day two, the core value of ‘save my job’ was addressed directly by Trump himself on Facebook.   It’s a smart tactic to keep Trump’s own words in the public dialog of his followers as they await him to address the convention on Thursday night.


     But even the best branding can’t overcome the push of a campaign’s own mistakes and the pull of the news media and social media in off-message directions.  Case in point is the speech of Melania Trump on the opening night of the convention.  The allegations of blatant plagiarism from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention are damaging at best.   The side-by-side split screen compiled by CNN and other news outlets is a communications management nightmare for any organization.


   Even worse, was the campaign’s denial and refusal to address the issue.  If there’s any lesson for communicators in the 21st century it is that you have to work at the speed of news.   The complete 20-hour vacuum of activity on the GOP convention floor and the virtual silence from the Trump campaign is deadly in the world of 24 hour news.   What the campaign organization doesn’t help fill, the news media and social media will fill for them.   And that’s exactly what led to the heated confrontation between CNN anchor Chris Cuomo  and Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort where Cuomo called him a liar.


    It took the Trump campaign two days to finally acknowledge and respond to the crisis.   In a posting on Trump’s website, in-house staff writer Meredith McIver admitted she wrote the speech based on conversations he had with Melania Trump who read her portions of Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples of what she liked and wanted to say.  McIver admitted she did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Letter from Trump in-house writer Meredith McIver

Figure 1 – Letter from Trump in-house writer Meredith McIver

     The incident shows that the best branding and communication efforts also must constantly plan for the contingencies of crisis communication.   In this case, Malania’s speech slipped through the cracks of an otherwise seemingly disciplined RNC communications team and it raises serious questions about the competence of the Trump campaign.

     Effective crisis communications calls for an immediate response, often times an immediate commitment of an organization to cause no more harm, and dare I say it—apologize.   Ms. McIver did.  We know that publicly such a word is rare in Mr. Trump’s vocabulary.  Ignoring the issue while waiting for the next news cycle is not a crisis communications strategy.   Responding sooner would have allowed the campaign to get back on track with the smart branding of his convention.  But it may also leave lingering questions with voters about how he may make decisions as president in more consequential crisis matters.

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What Google Tells us About Who’s Ahead in Iowa

1 Feb


         The latest polls from Iowa promise a potentially tight race for the first-in-the-nation caucuses.   The last poll from the Des Moines Register shows Donald Trump with a strong lead over Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton in a statistical dead heat with Bernie Sanders.

         Polling in general has come under increased scrutiny itself.  Whether for political races or consumer research, tried and true methodologies have been blown up by the abandonment of land-line telephones.   Many have researchers have switched to online surveys, but even those methods face questions for their reliability.

         One emerging tool is internet search.  The CDC now uses search as a “canary in the coal mine” to alert them of pockets of emerging illnesses such as the flu.   Google Trends has shown surprising reliability in showing the strength of candidates too.  

          The latest Google Trends data out of Iowa clearly show that Trump and Hillary have the momentum.  (Figure 1)

Google Trends Iowa 1-31-16

Figure 1


         Search is not 100% reliable.  While Google Trends showed former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with a strong upward trend going into Iowa in 2012 it didn’t necessarily indicate he would win—he did.

         But just as it showed Donald Trump picking up strong gains after the first republican debate in 2015 it does indicate social buzz and momentum and thereby provides a unique tool in measuring consumer, and in this case, political interests.


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Social Media Uses & Gratifications and the Lessons for Local TV News

31 Jul

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    Call it a case of consumer preference mirroring theory.   Or in this instance, a split-screen view on the modern screen-splitting media consumer. 

      The latest research is out on how social media consumers engage with local legacy media outlets and it offers an instructive lesson in well-established communication theory and how local TV stations can use it to their advantage.

      The research conducted by TVB in collaboration with Colligent gives important insights into what they call “Cultural Currency.”  The study analyzed 167 million Facebook and Twitter users and how they engaged with local TV stations, newspapers and radio stations throughout the United States.  The results show local television stations dominate with consumers wanting to share video and pictures in addition to those who frequently comment on Facebook and maintain conversations on Twitter. (Figure 1)  Newspapers lead with those who retweet posts.   Local radio stations attract the most frequent Facebook “likes” and multiple comments.  

Figure 1

Figure 1

      Nearly all of these results are predictive based upon communication Uses and Gratifications Theory.  In its simplest form, U&G holds that people use certain media based upon their psychological needs.  Elihu Katz developed a U&G typology where people read books to create a sense of inner self, television and film provide pleasure, whereas newspapers provide self confidence and stability. 

      Likewise, Louis Leung has found a significant connection to social media by people who feel the need for recognition and empowerment.  Leung’s research reveals that the more a user’s recognition needs are met through social media, the more empowered they feel and therefore are more likely to contribute content and share content with their friends. 

Figure 2 - Survey of 1100 KMSP-TV viewers, January 2011

Figure 2 – Survey of 1100 KMSP-TV viewers, January 2011

      My own research of Fox 9 News viewers in Minneapolis found very similar social media motivations that are consistent with U&G theory.  A survey of 1100 viewers indicated a strong desire to connect and contribute to conversations generated by Fox 9 newscasts and its personalities. (Figure 2)  In fact, nearly 4 out of every 5 viewers expressed the desire to interact with and contribute to Fox 9 through social media.  Likewise, 66% wanted personal insights from reporters and on-air talent on what goes on behind the headlines.   Perhaps not surprisingly, 60% indicated they wanted to get to know more about the on-air personalities more than what they see on television.  But the most tangible finding revealed 70% of viewers would likely watch a Fox 9 newscast based upon an intriguing social media post. 

      The research offered three major insights on what local television viewers want in social media:

1.       To become friends!

2.       Conversations and the recognition that comes through contributing comments, pictures and video.

3.       Unique and exclusive content.

      Combine these insights with the new user-based research from TVB and we can create a new U&G model to illustrate predictive social media behavior. (Figure 3)   With social media (Facebook & Twitter) at the center of the model, one sees the strong U&G ties to individual local media channels.   

Figure 3

Figure 3

      Television, with its strengths in providing pleasure, engaging news personalities, and credible images is a natural draw for Facebook users who seek recognition through contributing pictures and video.  Additionally, there is a lure to connect with the personalities who come into their living rooms on a daily basis.  Connecting with them creates a sense of fulfillment and self-importance.

      Newspapers, with their vast journalistic resources become a hub of credible up-to-date information.   The immediacy of this information aligns perfectly with Twitter where consumers turn to learn about events happening at that very moment.  Retweeting that information from a newspaper tells the consumer’s followers and friends that they are “in the know” and provides the sense self confidence that they are in tune with what’s happening in the world around them.

      The accessibility of local radio, especially stations with personality-driven talk formats and multiple interactive topics is a natural draw for multiple Facebook likes and comments, again based upon the need for recognition and self-importance.

       The model offers lessons, especially for local television stations.   As people look for pleasure, connections, and recognition, U&G theory holds that television stations are in a unique position to provide it through social media.  The latest research from TVB supports it.


How Social Media is Driving Political Engagement — What TV News Can Learn

22 Oct


Illustration courtesy of Social Media Daily

           The social media forces that have changed and influenced television viewing habits, are now changing political engagement too.  Political communication that was once dominated by television commercials and yard signs has gone digital—and personal. 

            New research from Pew Internet reveals a significant number of Americans using social media—66%–are using social networking sites (SNS) to both follow politics and candidates and share their own political views.  

            Here are some of the top lines:

  • 38% of those who use SNS & Twitter use social media to “Like” or promote material related to politics or social issues.
  • 34% of social media users have used tools to post their own thoughts or comments on political or social issues.
  • 33% have reposted political or social issues content that originally posted by someone else.
  • 31% have encouraged others to take action on a political or social issue.

             The Pew research also indicates that the power users skew heavily young and somewhat liberal. (Figure 1)  That finding would support the explosive social media usage among viewers of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. 

Figure 1 – Pew Internet

             For television programmers, especially TV newsrooms, this latest set of data points is a gift for building strategies to engage younger viewers in way that is native and natural to them.  As television entertainment producers have built social media engagement into live viewing of comedies, drama, and reality episodes, TV news operations have the same opportunity especially when it comes to live political events such as debates, forums, and rallies.

             Some of the tactical engagement methods should include:

  • Create branded discussion forums by hashtagging events for people to follow.  Example: #Fox9debates.
  • Use the hashtagged comments to drive on-air discussion and talk back with guests and experts.
  • Establish website chat rooms during major events that are moderated by newsroom talent. 
  • On-air talent should direct viewers to specific content on the web or Facebook and encourage them to share it.

             The reality of today’s connected world is that viewers are constantly screen-splitting, meaning they’re watching TV and interacting with a mobile device at the same time.  By encouraging viewers to engage with your brand on another channel only builds the brand and helps them achieve the information and entertainment gratifications that they are seeking.  Television programmers who don’t do this risk losing their viewers to someone else who will.

             Here’s a few more important facts on the Pew Internet study. (Figure 2)  The Pew research team lead by Lee Raine interviewed 2253 adults between July 16 and August 2, 2012.   They found that 60% of American adults use either SNS or Twitter.  Of the American adults who are online, 69% use SNS such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, and 16% use Twitter. 

Figure 2 – Pew Internet Survey Democraphics



Coca-Cola & Facebook. How Coke Writes the Book on Sharing—Again.

5 Sep

Facebook post by Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola didn’t become the world’s most recognized brand by keeping the cap on the bottle.

The not-so-secret success to Coke has always been its laser beam focus creating happiness that tastes better when it’s shared.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Coca-Cola has popped the cap on another major branding success—50 Million Facebook “Likes.”   In the process, Coca-Cola offers a blueprint in how to engage brand evangelists in social media space.

Facebook post by Coca-Cola

In every respect, Facebook is the perfect match for Coca-Cola.   Coke is a brand whose core identity is about sharing and it has masterfully positioned the brand on a social platform built for sharing.  But the key to Coke’s success on Facebook is how it engages its followers—always with a question or an invitation for people to share their own ideas.

To celebrate its 50 millionth “Like” Coca-Cola has created a special Facebook app inviting followers to share their thoughts on how to improve the world.   Coke promises to select one idea early next year and contribute to the cause.

The lesson for other brands on Facebook is that the platform is not a place for corporate news or industrial relations.  It’s a space where organizations can showcase their core values and let followers engage in what it means to them.

Now… where’s my bottle cap opener? 

Vikings Stadium Victory: The Power of Social Democracy

12 May

When the founding fathers guaranteed the right to petition government, they never conceived of Facebook or Twitter.  But the mass democratization that just occurred in Minnesota just may be what James Madison had in mind when he conceived of the Bill of Rights.

Artist rendering of a new Vikings stadium

In a stadium debate that was inexorably mired in partisan politics and collapsing like the Metrodome roof, Vikings fans took to the internet, social media and their phones to drive the votes in favor of building a new “People’s Stadium.”

To be sure, the Vikings and labor unions helped amass their fans and members to call and write their legislators.  But web analytics also show that there was a substantial organic movement among citizens.

Figure 1- Google Trends

In the days leading up to the final stadium vote in the Minnesota legislature, there was a substantial groundswell in what digital analysts call “search” and “share.”  Google Trends data (Figure 1) shows the exponential rise in Minnesotans searching for information on the Vikings stadium leading up to the floor vote in the House of Representatives on May 7th.   Additionally, the number of unique page views to vikings.com also rose ahead of and during the vote. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 – Daily unique page views

But perhaps one of the Vikings’ more effective strategies was enlisting their more than 1.3 million Facebook fans.  It’s a strategy they’ve tried before.  With a post on May 4th, the Vikings asked their followers to contact their representatives. (Figure 3)

Figure 3 – Facebook Post, May 4th, 2012

That alone cannot explain why thousands of constituents followed through.  But there’s a theoretical framework that does.  It’s called Prospect Theory.   The theory was developed in 1979 by Princeton psychology professor Daniel Kahneman who later won the Nobel Prize in Economics.  In its simplest form, it holds that people are risk averse.  In the case of the stadium debate, Minnesotans in the end were more afraid of possibly losing the Vikings than they were about gaining stability in taxes and state finances.  There were plenty of worthy and important arguments about jobs, public debt, and voter referenda, but in the end it was fear of losing the Vikings—perceived or real—that perhaps carried the day.

At least one key lawmaker the acknowledged the importance of the social movement at the governor’s May 10th news conference following the final passage of the stadium bill.

“You made an incredible mark on your legislators, I can tell you,” said Sen. Tom Bakk.


Bakk told how lawmakers often times share with each other how many emails they get.  “You know, if you get six or eight on something, people talk about it.  I got 987 between 10 o’clock one night and 6 o’clock the next morning,” said Bakk.

That’s petition.  That’s power.  And it’s another example of the new rise in social democracy.

Screen Splitting—How Brands and TV News can Overcome Simultaneous iPad and TV Viewing Habits

28 Apr

It wasn’t long ago that the biggest enemy to television advertisers and programmers alike was the TV remote.  Ah, for the good old days.

New mobile technologies and platforms have given consumers virtually effortless and instant access to hundreds of competing communication channels.  And now we learn that they’re increasingly accessing these channels while actually watching TV—or not watching.  Welcome to television’s latest nightmare.  The monster keeping brands and programmers up all night isn’t necessarily getting bigger, it’s just multiplying.

Two new data sets of consumer research provide valuable insights into how audiences are using media, often at the same time.  The behavior is called screen splitting.  It’s arisen from the explosive growth in mobile technology and even new platforms such as the iPad and tablet computing.  The Nielsen Company’s latest survey of connected device owners indicates depth of this new behavior.  Fully 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30 day period.  For 45 percent of the American tablet owners, screen splitting was a daily event, 26 percent said they simultaneously used their tablet while watching TV several times a day. (Figure 1)  The data was similar for smartphone owners.

Figure 1 - Courtesy Nielsen Co. (4th qtr 2011)

The second data set suggests the media switching happens at an almost frenetic pace among many viewers.  Innerscope Research specializes in conducting biometric studies of consumer viewing habits.  In a recent study commissioned by Time Warner, Innerscope outfitted 30 participants with biometric belts that recorded their physical responses as they used media throughout more than 300 hours of time away from work.  The participants also wore special glasses embedded with cameras that tracked what platform they used and for how long.  The results showed that consumers in their 20’s, or digital natives, switch media venues about 27 times per non-working hour.  To put that in perspective—about 13 times per standard half-hour television show or newscast.  Older consumers who didn’t grow up with the new technologies, those who Innerscope calls digital immigrants, shifted media at a 35 percent lower rate—just 17 times per non-working hour.

Together, the research sets tell us how our viewers are no longer sitting at the table to consume our products.  Instead, they’re running through the ala carte line.  They’re not eating whole meals, they’re snacking.  As soon as the instant gratification wears off, they’re onto the next snack.

Given this new reality, the question becomes how do brands and programmers adapt?  From a conceptual point of view, their product has to be positioned to hit the viewer’s emotional and intellectual sweet spot.  Advertising researcher and scholar John Eighmey gives us a conceptual model he calls Reward Theory.  It conveniently categorizes the elements that must interplay with each other for consumers to latch onto a piece of visual communication to consume, enjoy, and share.  It is the same model that explains why YouTube videos go viral. (Figure 2)

Figure 2- John Eighmey's Reward Model for explaining viewers engage in and share content.

First and foremost, the content must be stimulating.  It must be enjoyable to watch, clever, or surprising.  Second, it must have an element of empathy or personal identification. Third, it must lack confusion.  Fourth, is narrative or theme familiar to the viewer? That is, does he or she recognize the theme or scenario in which the information is presented?  Fifth, it must have news value such as a new claim or idea.  Finally, the message has brand reinforcement in that it creates positive attitudes about the message or messenger.

From a practical and operational mode, strong brands have learned that they must create stimulating content and integrate it 360 degrees across multiple platforms and channels.  For Coca-Cola and Proctor and Gamble it’s no longer acceptable to run just a TV ad and a print ad and call it a day.  They now know their brand and content has to live in traditional media, social media, digital media—all the channels that their customers use.

TV Newsrooms must adapt the same strategy.  Some already are.  KTTV, Fox 11 in Los Angeles is now routinely using Google+ to involve viewers in “hangouts” with their anchors during the newscasts.  The hangout participants can even chat with the anchors during the commercial breaks and watch the behind-the-scenes action in the studio.

It’s a smart approach.  Nielsen’s fourth quarter 2011 research on simultaneous TV and tablet usage shows 47% of the general population visited a social networking site during the program they were watching on TV.  Additionally, 37% claim to look up information related to the program they’re watching. (Figure 3)

Figure 3 - Nielsen Co.

If viewers are going to be screen splitting, the goal is to get them to interact with your brand on the second screen or channel.  Here are some tactics for TV newsrooms:

  •  Reporters should steer viewers to Facebook or Twitter for additional content or pictures (you may lose their attention briefly, but you keep them engaged in your brand).
  • During major stories, or continuing coverage, create a branded hash tag for viewers to follow and  interact with.  Display the “lower third” super of the hash tag during the related content.
  • Read what other viewers have to say on Facebook.
  • Let followers know their specific content or posts will be used on-air (everyone likes to be on TV, even if it’s a quote).
  • Replace all talent name supers with their social media addresses.
  • Work with station web page designer to display the real time Tweets of reporters and anchors on the home page.

What’s hard for many brands, especially newsrooms to understand is that consumers seek, use, and bend media content to meet their integrative needs.  Sometimes those needs are for information and knowledge, often times it’s for entertainment.  The latest research from Nielsen and Innerscope show that if brands and programmers can’t meet those needs, the consumer moves on—fast.  It all comes back to what broadcaster Linda Ellerbee’s daughter once said about television, “Live TV is me sitting in front of the set.  If it’s boring, I’m out of here.”

More Adults Using Social Media. What it Means for Businesses.

30 Mar

Figure 1 - Adults Using Social Networking Sites

The research folks at Pew Internet have just given us more proof that the phenomena known as social media is not just a passing fad.  As Facebook has reached 483 million daily users, Pew latest data shows us that 66% of online adults now use social networking sites.   Not surprisingly women are leading the way. (Figure 1)

The latest Pew research mirrors trends I gathered in my own research of social media users in the Twin Cities.   Women tend to be power users.   Not only are they more heavily engaged in social media,  women were more likely to “friend” or “like” a business than men would.   Facebook is the channel of choice with 90% of Twin Cities respondents indicating use the site.  Pew’s new national data set from February of 2012 shows us that women are still in driver’s seat with 71% using social networking sites.

Figure 2

Pew also confirms that social media use is still in a growth phase.   Typical daily usage among adults has rocketed from 27% in April of 2009 to 48% in February of 2012. (Figure 2)

So what does this mean if you’re a business owner looking to reach out to your customers?

  • Conduct some customer research.  Are your customers using social media, and what channels?  What do they want from you—product news?  Help?
  • If women are your primary customers, you must be on Facebook.
  • Encourage customers to follow you on SNS to get exclusive content or discounts.
  • Respond to customer comments on a DAILY if not IMMEDIATE basis.

The last tip is vital.  Internet users who are accessing social media for customer service want immediate feedback.  I recently spoke with Brittney Madsen the online manager at The Wedding Shoppe in St. Paul who said that her customers are increasing turning to the store’s Facebook page to ask questions about designers, price, and inventory.   Madsen said that if she doesn’t respond within minutes, the customers will go to a competitor looking for answers.  In this store’s experience, social media has become just as important of a business tool as a phone.

The Wedding Shoppe’s experience along with Pew’s latest research shows adults are embracing social media.  While it is still a place for personal connections, by making your engagements personal to your customer, you can be a part of their lives.

How Businesses and Consumers are using Social Media for Customer Support

25 Mar

As the internet becomes more ingrained as a 21st century communications channel, it should come as no surprise that consumers are using it to reach out to businesses to either connect or solve problems.

Current research from Pew shows how 59% of all adults use the internet.   Of those people, 43% use social networking sites.   But how are they using social media to connect with brands and business, and just as important, how are those brands responding?

Here is an extremely useful infograph from the folks at Zendesk that shows how those relationships are forming.

Pink Slime — Anatomy of a Contagion

23 Mar

The gooey mess known as Pink Slime has suddenly become a public relations mess too.  But, how did it go from a food additive to a food disaster in record time?  A large part of the answer lies in the power of social memes and the ability of key audiences to spread it like a contagion.

Figure 1 - Pink Slime

Let’s break it down.  In this case, the food additive included in some forms of processed beef came with a descriptive slang name and an iconic image: pink slime. (Figure 1)

In its basic form, pink slime a substance made from the rendered connective tissues and intestines of cows.  Because those tissues are susceptible to e-coli contamination, they are processed with ammonium nitrate to kill the bacteria and act as a preservative.   For years the FDA has approved the additive as a safe filler for meat products.  But when an image and video of the substance appeared in the news reports in early March about its presence in school lunch hamburgers, pink slime became a household word as fast as parents could hit the “send” button on their computers.   As a Google Trends analysis shows, pink slime went viral in a matter of 24-hours and has not let up since. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 - Google Trends

Three key factors are involved here.  First, the image itself of the pink slime became what social psychologist Jaap Van Genneken would call a strong replicator.  In other words, it’s an iconic image that developed and sealed an emotion in the minds of the viewer.  In this case, the image leads to the very human response of questioning what this substance is doing in our food—especially our children’s food at school.

Second, the image sealed itself in the minds of an important audience.   That audience is mainly women, in particular, the mothers of school children.

Third, these women not only saw the image of the pink slime included in stories in various news media, they spread the story to their friends and peer groups in social media.  My own audience research among social media users indicates that women are heavily invested in, and are heavy users of social channels.   They not only use social media as a way of discovering news from their friends, but to share news and issues that are important to them.   When this story broke, the image, the issue, and the salience to their children and families created its own perfect recipe for a modern-day social issue contagion. (Figure 3)

Figure 3 - Contagion Model

The result has been a sudden abandonment of meat products containing the so-called pink slime.  Several major grocery store chains have now said they have stopped ordering beef products containing the additive.   One of them is Twin Cities based SuperValue which owns and operates Cub Food stores throughout the Midwest.   Here’s its statement:

“We’ve heard concerns from many of our shoppers about the inclusion of finely textured beef in some of the ground beef products available at our stores. Effective today, we have made the decision to no longer purchase fresh ground beef products that contain finely textured beef.”  -SuperValue

            The power of the contagion lies in the statement’s first sentence.   Consumers spoke up.  SuperValue listened.  It’s a 21st century lesson in the speed of which issues closely tied to strong memes can spread, and the power of key audiences armed with a “send” button.

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