Monday, December 21, 2009

2010 #PRStudChat Schedule

The popular and extremely informative PR Student Chat (#PRStudChat) on Twitter is making some exciting changes in 2010. Founders and Moderators Deirdre Breakenridge and Valerie Simon have announced the 2010 dates for the monthly chat. They have also announced that each chat will focus on a theme or issue. January's chat will take place on January 13th and the topic will be "Focus on the Educator."

To see the 2010 #PRStudChat schedule and learn more about the upcoming changes, click here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Disclosure Post (My New Gig!)

My apologies to all who have been checking my blog for updates the last few weeks only to discover no new posts. After freelancing through the summer, I have joined Ogilvy Public Relations as an Account Director in its Social Marketing practice in the Washington, D.C. office. I started in late November and have been busy getting ramped up on accounts and learning about the company. I have had a fantastic (and busy) few weeks and I thank all my colleagues at Ogilvy PR for welcoming me to the team!

Full disclosure: Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (Ogilvy PR) is part of the WPP plc, one of the world's largest communications services organizations (NASDAQ: WPPGY, www.wpp.com). The views on this blog are my own (as they have always been) and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or clients.

I hope to update this blog more often as we head into the new year. You can find me everyday on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn as well. I look forward to hearing and exchanging information with you!

Happy holidays all! Thank you all for your support!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Reminder To Build Relationships

Seeing this post over at The Bad Pitch Blog this week made my blood boil. Please go read the post in its entirety and draw your own conclusions. I feel so bad for the journalist who reportedly begged to get off an agency's media list only to continue to be bombarded with unwanted pitches and no response (or reported action) from the agency to rectify the situation.

Unfortunately, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Reports like the one above remind me why it's so important to establish and build relationships with key media as far in advance as possible. Being transparent about who you are representing and being available to the media as a resource (not just a source) for stories is crucial. The media may not cover my clients every time, but I'm flattered when they ask me if I know someone who can help them with a story they are working on or point them to a colleague who may be able to help.

I have argued for Better Rules of Engagement when it comes to media relations. This means doing all you can to build relationships with all media before pitching. I look at it this way: cold pitching the media (just making a list based upon a database or minimal research) is tantamount to running up to someone and explaining a solution to a problem that they nothing about or may not care about. Be transparent, be a resource and introduce yourself (as much as possible) before representing clients. Most importantly, if a member of the media asks that you remove them from future communications - YOU DO IT and QUICKLY. Sending a quick note to let them know you have done so, as well as an apology can go along way and not burn a bridge.

Remember: media relations is person-to-person communications. YOUR own reputation is at stake. So, research, craft relevant pitches and then be responsive to who you are pitching - even if the result is they don't want future communications about your client.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Clients Can't Approve or Reject Ideas They Aren't Shown

Creativity in PR and marketing is a goal that all great professional communicators want to achieve. Creative campaigns and strategies make you memorable. They often think outside the box. Often the best ideas challenge teams to use other multichannel strategies and tactics (e.g. guerrilla marketing, event planning, mobile engagement, etc.) that often haven't been considered to enhance their client's campaign. Creative ideas to generate awareness and visibility of a client's mission can have a big return on investment. If all relevant stakeholders are taken into account, it can garner the much sought after media attention, increase awareness of an organization's mission as well as reinforce and introduce an organization's brand to audiences.

However, how many times have you been in brainstorming meetings to develop new ideas, engagement strategies, or even themes only to hear: "The client won't go for it" or "We need to be mindful and only suggest ideas that are in the client's realm of comfort."

While taking the emotional and cultural considerations of clients into account is important, really good creative ideas are often dismissed because they are perceived as "too risky" by certain members of the team in charge of the client's business. I shudder to think how many creative ideas, which may garner the most attention and bring the most success to a campaign, die on a white board, word document or collaborative wiki, never having been seen by the client for feedback/input.

Clients cannot approve or reject ideas that are never presented to them.
Professional communicators should take their client's comfort level into account when developing ideas. Showing a little creativity and refining ideas to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of a what is viewed as a newer or "riskier" strategy goes a long way.

In my experience, the best way to get what are perceived as more outlandish and radical tactical strategies approved is:
  • Do research! Conduct soft soundings with trusted key media in the client's industry and other key stakeholder groups (associations, investors, etc.) to get their input on the idea(s). See if it has any interest for them and be willing to further refine the campaign based on their input.
  • Do an outline/timeline of the strategy to present to client initially. This does not have to be a comprehensive plan, but taking the time to provide an overview of how the project will be executed can help convince and alleviate some of the fear that clients may have on the strategy's validity. It also shows that your team is able to execute and understands the amount of work and input that will be needed from the client side.
  • Keep trying. Just because one client doesn't want to execute a newer strategy or ideas doesn't mean that he/she won't change their mind in the future. It also doesn't mean that others in the same organization won't welcome ideas outside "the press release." Demonstration of creativity as well as core communication principles goes a long way.
Now is the time to be bold, creative and present new ideas to help clients achieve their communication goals. Don't be afraid to speak-up.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Journalism School - The New Higher Education Choice for Emerging Media and Corporate Communicators?

When the recession got particularly bad last February, a friend of mine who had been laid off from her job as a corporate public relations manager told me she was going back to school to earn her master's degree. Happy for her, I asked what she was going to study (thinking it would be some sort of degree in strategic communications or health care since that was her career background). Her answer: journalism.

I didn't understand at the time, but now I see that she wanted a structured program that would give her the practical tools in content production (to include video, audio and online content) as well as insight into the mindset and needs of today's busy journalists and media companies.

I noticed an interview by Fern Siegel with Stephen D. Soloman, associate director, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU, and Nicholas Lemann, dean of the graduate school of Journalism at Columbia University, discussing the future of journalism schools and journalism jobs. The piece is quite insightful. What struck me most about it was how much the journalism curriculum has changed with the times.

Both esteemed academics point out that journalism schools are evolving and more graduates may find themselves writing for online outlets as opposed to traditional newspapers or magazines. Consequently, more journalism schools have revamped their curriculum to include additional focus on content development for all students (not just those interested in production) as well as focus on specialized topics (e.g. arts and culture; business and economics; local reporting) to further prepare journalism students. What struck me, however, is how the new curriculum and specialized reporting focuses could be leveraged in the corporate, non-profit and government arenas.

While public relations is often viewed as "joining the dark side," by some (not all) in the journalism profession, it seems that journalism schools today are preparing their students for lasting and rewarding careers in the communications industry (outside of traditional journalism jobs). With almost every company and organization becoming its own publication house, demand for experienced and trained professionals who understand journalism practices and can produce content are very much in demand. With the media shrinking, organizations are looking for savvy individuals and agencies that understand the news media and can also produce compelling, informative and creative content to help generate awareness for their brand or cause.

I now understand why my friend chose to return to school for a master's in journalism. When she graduates next year, she will have a wealth of new tools and skills to offer to a new employer. When I ask her if she plans on finding a job in journalism, she smiles and says, "We'll see."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Murdoch's Push to Put The Genie Back in The Bottle

It appears Rupert Murdoch is on a mission to put the genie back in the bottle. Two recent articles caught my attention on how Mr. Murdoch is determined to make media outlets profitable again and that is by reinforcing what many believe to be a contrary Internet business model: charging for content. 

Michael Wolff, founder of the news aggregator Newser, wrote an article in Vanity Fair this month highlighting Murdoch's push to monetize content for some of News Corp's  most prestigious outlets, starting with London's The Sunday Times. Wolff points out that Murdoch's efforts to monetize the news aren't new (he references Time Warner who has tried more online media business models than any other traditional company), and points out that Murdoch seems steadfast and determined to turn the media business model around and MAKE people pay for content.

On the heels of Wolff's article, I noticed a MediaPost Media Daily News article that reports Murdoch announced at a company shareholder meeting that cable and satellite operators should pay News Corp. "a small portion of the profits" they gain from offering the Fox Network. The article points out that CBS and some other station groups have pursued this path, however what may be different here is a structured revenue sharing of profits vs. a straight carriage payment. Murdoch is quoted, "Clearly, the broadcast model is challenged, he said. "Good programming is expensive and can no longer be supported solely by advertising revenue."  The article also states Murdoch believes that successful newspapers in the future will charge for their content and aggregators will largely be excluded.

In the age of diminished ad revenues, shrinking news rooms, and the increased cost of producing some of the more successful entertainment shows, Murdoch's content battle is not new. However, citizen journalism, news aggregators and user content (generated outside a traditional news room) are here to stay. By charging for content, News Corp. seems to be running the risk that so many other media organizations have faced when implementing similar business models: consumers seem to flock to free and in some cases more frequently updated information sources for news and entertainment. Murdoch's ambition to promote news credibility and the long-established "culture of traditional media" seems to be an outdated vision of what the new news business has become: an opportunity for individuals to become, partake, promote and produce their own content. Maybe Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine has it right: maybe the media will be a hobby instead of a job.

I will be watching with great interest if Mr. Murdoch is successful in his efforts to monetize the content of his leading newspapers and to charge fees for the Fox Network. Mr. Murdoch seems to be undertaking a high-risk, high-reward approach to reasserting the traditional media business model in the age of established new media.  The degree to which he will be successful remains to be seen.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More In-House Communications?

Jennifer Walzer, founder and CEO of Backup My Info!, wrote a great account in today's New York Times' 'You're the Boss' blog of how her business is able to garner and generate its own PR without the aid of an agency. 

Walzer lists tips and resources in the post for how other companies looking to generate press for themselves can go about the process.

What is interesting to me and what I applaud is Walzer and her company have devoted the resources internally to cultivate and execute their own media relations strategy. Many companies and organizations (especially small ones) often don't have the personnel that can take the time to network and develop these relationships. As a result, media relations is often the first and most requested service offered by PR/communications agencies.

Walzer's post is particularly striking to me because there appears to be a resurgence of in-house communication departments in wake of the recent recession. Over the last year, I have spoken to several senior agency PR executives who have lamented and/or celebrated the fact that clients have hired away mid-level or even experienced junior account executives to head up media relations or communications in-house. What's even more interesting to me is that half of the senior level agency executives I spoke with said this has not had the huge impact on their business and revenue as they thought. No longer doing day-to-day media relations in some cases allowed agencies to focus on helping their clients develop and execute more long-term strategies to help grow their business. In other cases, however, clients reduced or completely cut their agency budgets to bring communication operations in-house.

When I first started this blog, I noticed a trend towards companies restaffing or bringing media relations and even entire communications divisions back under the corporate umbrella (usually under marketing. I viewed it as a resurgence in corporate communications). While I don't think this trend is widespread nor do I believe that all or even a majority of businesses and organizations will bring all executable communication initiatives in-house, it is interesting to see that more companies are doing more for themselves in regards to their communication plans. All communication strategies come down to experienced and available resources that can be devoted to developing, executing, and measuring the agreed upon communication tactics, resources and time to be devoted to a particular campaign. I believe the majority of companies will continue to rely upon agencies to serve as strategic advisers as well as tactical executors to help them achieve their business goals.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time for Another "Buy Me That" Food Edition

Yesterday, I noticed an article in MediaPost's Marketing Daily about the Federal Trade Commission's new Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection David Vladeck announcing that the FTC plans to launch a campaign to teach kids and tweens how to recognize and analyze advertising.

According the article:
The multimedia ad campaign, directed at kids ages 8 to 12, will include a Web site featuring a game that teaches core ad literacy concepts. The game will also be on mobile devices. In-school curricula developed with Scholastic magazine will deal with why, where, and how commercial messages are constructed and placed, per Vladeck.
Vladeck says the campaign will put a substantial focus on food marketing to children and adults as well as cover Internet selling techniques, endorsements and testimonials, green marketing and privacy matters. 
Vladeck says the reasons to address marketing to kids -- particularly around food -- are more compelling now because of the rising number of incidences of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.'
"Progress has been made because of self-regulatory initiative from the Council for Better Business Bureaus (of which the NAD is part) but more needs to be done," he said. Two weeks ago, he said, the FTC served notice to get approval from the Office of Management and Budget to do a major food marketing study that will allow a direct comparison of marketing spend, profile data and market data between the new study and one done two years ago.
I applaud Vladeck and the FTC taking a strong look at how food advertisers are targeting kids. Reading this article reminded me of a series of HBO specials I saw as a kid called "Buy Me That!" which focused on how commercial producers got toys to fly, talk, or even made us want to eat certain products (does anyone else remember this?)

I was able to find part 1 of the "Buy Me That 3" video on YouTube that focused on marketing foods to kids and adults. Sounds like it's time for another HBO & Consumer Reports special!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Striking the Balance - Tipping Towards Integrated Measurement

"If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." --Benjamin Franklin

Traditional media vs. New media.
Counting impressions vs. Measuring engagement.
Measuring share-of-voice vs. Overall return on investment.

Lately I've been reading a lot of articles, blog posts and even Twitter conversations that seem to focus on the dichotomy of balancing the traditional model of communications/PR with the established social media and digital practices that are increasingly popular. Everything I read points out that there must be a balance or strategic approach to all activities (traditional or new) that justifies the cost and spend of any communication investment. 

What strikes me now is that I see a tipping point where agencies, companies and government entities are starting to look beyond the traditional communication metrics and take a more encompassing integrated approach to evaluating and gathering information about their outreach activities. I see less emphasis on the estimated number of impressions and more on the engagement and conversion rates to measure the success of or if necessary, tweak the direction of a communications campaign. 

Integrated measurement of communication tactics is not new. It's just a happy trend that I see becoming increasingly popular as private and public organizations seek to integrate social and digital communications into their traditional marketing and awareness campaigns.

Last week, Commentz pointed me to Olivier Blanchard (@TheBrandBuilder) presenting The Definitive Social Media ROI Presentation. It is the first time I have come across a presentation that articulates how companies should approach and measure the effectiveness of their social media and traditional marketing communication activities. Engaging as well as informative, Blanchard's presentation is the first one I've seen to talk about the non-financial impact (the focus of most social metrics initially) and mapping those to overall business metrics/analytics that accounts for and tracks real dollars and cents. I highly recommend viewing Blanchard's presentation. It struck me as the most articulate and accurate way to discuss the real business value (not just awareness and frequency) with C-Suite executives.

I also came across this article in today's Advertising Age which articulates how MS&L, Weber Shandwick, and Porter Novelli are tweaking their PR metrics to measure not just the effectiveness of their communication campaigns, but how their communication strategy can be mapped back to sales and conversions for their clients. While this is not new (a lot of IMC agencies have been doing this for years), it is exciting to see that "PR" firms are taking the lead on measurement and are not just using the data to evaluate the campaigns effectiveness, but are gathering information to tweak campaigns and raise client's situational awareness to address issues and engage in real time. 

"PR" is becoming less about controlling the message and more about collecting, analyzing and acting upon intelligence from all stakeholders. Are you seeing more agencies, companies, and organizations moving towards a more integrated approach to measuring ROI? Are more resources (monetary or other) being devoted to listen and get actionable intelligence?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take the PR Student Chat Challenge (#PRStudChat)

Are you a student studying PR? A professor in communications? A pro who teaches public relations courses? Then get ready for the PR Student Chat (#PRStudChat) challenge!

Yesterday, #PRStudChat moderator Deirdre Breakenridge (four-time author and president of PFS Marketwyse) and host Valerie Simon (Senior Vice President, BurrellesLuce, media monitoring and measurement) announced a twist to the upcoming October 21st #PRStudent Chat (Noon ET/11AM CT/10AM MT/9AM PT). According to the press release:
Whichever school has the greatest number of participants in the October 21st chat wins an in-depth conversation with public relations industry veteran Deirdre Breakenridge via Skype. The winning students will have an opportunity to pose questions and interact with one of PR’s leading professionals. Additionally, the winning school will have the opportunity to earn some publicity for their PR programs. Also, BurrellesLuce will be donating a $50 American Express Gift Certificate to the students and school in order to celebrate their PR Student Chat win!
#PRStudentChat brings together students studying public relations/communications to interact with some of the most experienced and brightest minds in the business and academia. For more information on how your school can participate in the challenge, read the press release which provides next steps. Also, don't forget to check out the PRStudChat Group on LinkedIn as well as #PRStudChat Group Guide to Twitter Chats.

I hope YOUR school takes on the challenge! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thank You: Media Relations Class at American University (Resources Too!)

Gotta give a shout out to the AMAZING students in American University School of Communication's media relations class. I was invited to speak to the class last night about my experiences in public relations/communications and I had a BLAST! Thank you again for having me!

Below is a brief list of resources that I included at the end of my presentation. This is by no means an exhaustive list. My goal was to provide some high-level sources for the class to go to for information about the changing communications industry.

Here are just some of the resources I check everyday. Almost all have free newsletters, webinars, white papers, or other content to further our knowledge of the communications world:
I also strongly recommend signing up for Commentz, run by the wonderful Sarah Evans (@PRSarahEvans) and David Teicher (@Aerocles). It's free and a great resource for those who want to look at informative and important communications stories of the day.

Finally, Twitter! Thanks to Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) for her excellent list of 100 PR People Worth Following on Twitter. If you are a communications pro looking to expand (or start) your list of people on Twitter, definitely start there. Also, I have to thank Meryl K. Evans (@merylkevans) for her excellent post of all the Twitter Chats that may be of interest to budding and veteran communication pros. She just updated the list yesterday so make sure you check it out. I most often attend #journchat on Monday evenings, but after looking at the list, I see that I will be joining a few more chats in the very near future!

Finally, here is a link to a post of some of my favorite job search sites. I also strongly encourage those looking for a job to use Twitter. I find #prjobs, #printerns #PRSA #IABC #PR are good hashtags for those looking for opportunities on Twitter.

Again, thank you to the media relations class at American University. I wish you all continued success in your studies and your budding communications careers. Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you in any way!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Defining the New Role of Communications

I spotted Geoff Livingston's great post entitled, 'Why Being Dubbed a Social Media Expert or PR Guy Rankles Me' and had to recommend that all other communication pros give it a read.

I agree with Geoff 100% that the term "public relations" has become synonymous with media relations or publicity and no longer seems to invoke or indicate the strategic planning associated with some of the best communication campaigns. 

As I've written many times on this blog: PR ≠ Media Relations. I think Geoff's definition of professional 'communicator' is a much better and more encompassing description of what we "PR types" are capable of doing and providing.

In the changing age of communications, the walls keep tumbling down and silos are continuously smashed that once used to distinguish marketing, sales, PR, corporate communications and business development. Geoff's post seems very apropos and falls in line with an article in today's Advertising Age, 'How PR Chiefs Have Shifted Toward Center of Marketing Departments.' What struck me about this article is how some of the largest companies in America are integrating their communications strategies and becoming more holistic in their approach to telling their corporate story. This is especially key as companies are adjusting to the new social media space where audiences expect a quick and timely response.  

I think the role of CCO (Chief Communications Officer) is becoming more popular as companies adjust and realize that a decentralized strategy in brand communications is no longer as effective or able to respond in a timely fashion to its stakeholders needs.

Long live the communicators who can strategize, plan, execute and measure the effectiveness of ALL ASPECTS of a communications campaign!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Your Input Needed: Information for the Next Generation of PR Pros

I've been asked to speak to a media relations class at American University in a few weeks. In addition to going over new media tools, media monitoring, pitching basics and how to build and effectively maintain media relationships, what information, tips, advice or general knowledge should I share with the class? Students: what types of information would be useful? I'm told this a senior level class with a few graduate students as well. I appreciate all suggestions. Feel free to e-mail me, leave comments on this post, or @ me on Twitter with your recommendations. 
Thanks!

Monday, August 31, 2009

No Shades of Gray When It Comes To Ethics

Last week the PRSA (arguably our industry's most influential organization) released a statement in response to reports of public relations practitioners violating its ethical codes. 

In its press release, PRSA states: 
Over the last few months, there have been several news accounts of promotional tactics that signal a common thread of malpractice under the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Code of Ethics and PRSA Professional Standards Advisories (PSA). While each tactic varies in method and medium, PRSA states categorically that misrepresenting the nature of editorial content or intentionally failing to clearly reveal the source of message contents is unethical.
PRSA then goes on to address what constitutes deceptive online practices, illicit front groups, and anti-PR pay-for-play coverage, reminding communicators to remain transparent in their dealings online and disclose who, what and where the sources generating coverage are coming from (e.g. If a company sends you something for FREE to test out and evaluate on your blog, disclose that fact). Seems simple and straightforward to me. 

In a time where most agencies are just now beginning to recover from the recession, it pained me to read stories where firms and independent consultants allegedly violated or skirted ethical standards. I found myself asking - why is this happening? Is this a sign of the times because of the economy? Have firms and clients become so desperate in getting any kind of traction for their company/cause that we've now given up on creativity, genuine messaging, true engagement and caring about a customer/stakeholder that agencies and some individuals have turned towards an "easy fix" to generate manufactured ROI that allegedly influences and persuades audiences? Or worse yet: Has this *always* been going on?

I hope not. 

As I've advanced in my career, I'm met with a lot of young PR pros who have been taken advantage of by employers who wanted them to post anonymous or in some cases personal responses on blogs, online industry forums, or in the comments section of news articles to refute or attack a story or post about their client or bash a competitor. When I asked if they disclosed who they were working for/representing when responding or if they would have posted comments/reaction if they weren't prompted by their boss, more often than not they said no. They also did not seem to know that this was skirting the ethics of the PR practice as "online reputation management" was part of their job description.

One recent report alleges a PR firm AstroTurf-ing (faking) positive reviews of its client's iPhone applications in iTunes. What was so appalling to me about this is that it is reportedly the interns at this agency that were writing the evaluations. IMHO, having the interns write the supposed transparent evaluations is potentially setting them for a tough time later in their careers. It seems to be standard practice for an employer to research potential employees online to review social media interactions as well as any comments/stories/etc. to which the potential employee may be linked. Posting comments/posts without disclosing a relationship to a party may damage a candidates chances for a position later on or worse, misrepresent the character or interests of an individual. Even more disturbing is that young PR Pros may learn that this is "acceptable" PR practice and continue to perpetuate this tactic for other firms or on behalf of other clients. 

Online media and social networking has changed the way we communicate for ourselves and for our clients. However, even in this immediate gotta-know-right-now-press-publish world, we PR Pros need to adhere to and follow the ethical guidelines to play fair and engage openly with all audiences we serve. This starts with the core of understanding that transparency, openness, and responsiveness is the key to combating the negative associations with public relations. Now is the time to instill lasting ethical and strategic communications practices that reinforces all that is good and necessary about our profession.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Follow-up Part IV: Company Outrage Online

Since last year, I have been following the issues between Clean Air Gardening in Dallas, TX, and its former IMC agency, Christie Communications based in Santa Barbara, CA.  

Clean Air Gardening launched a Web site alleging egregious and horrible mistakes made by Christie Communications and over the last several months has appeared to post legal communications between their respective lawyers as both sides attempt to resolve the issues.

Looking at the latest updates, it seems like neither party is closer to a resolution and talks have atrophied in recent months. It appears that both parties are back where they both started - no closer to a resolution. You can review the Web site here to get Clean Air Gardening's side of the story and allegedly to see communications from Christie Communications lawyers.

I hope both parties are able to amicably resolve their issues. 

Saturday, August 22, 2009

10 Things PR Agencies Do That Limit Effectiveness

What a week for the PR industry. The justified outrage over the Brody PR debacle seems to be diminishing (Seriously, I was going to link to a story about it, but just search "Brody PR" and look at some of the headlines/blog posts that come up). I am finally addressing something that makes my blood boil (and yes, it makes my blood boil even more than a PR agency spamming more than one hundred technology and social media leaders) - it's the allegation that PR firms don't add value.

An article in the The Business Insider states that an anonymous former PR executive alleges that 90% of PR firms add no value. He/She then lists several characteristics businesses should look for in a PR firm to guarantee a higher ROI. Now, I have to admit, I agree 100% with every attribute listed. What I take issue with is that a majority of PR firms are unable or do not add value on a consistent basis. 

I think most PR firms add value to their client's business. I absolutely LOVE my industry and while agency relationships with a client are a two-way street, some PR firms are more effective and much better at establishing and maintaining long-term relationships with clients. But why? Why are some agencies better at this than others?

In my own professional experience, some PR firms aren't as effective as they could be because:
  1. They fail to do the research to really understand a client's industry/market space. Research can be expensive. If done correctly, however, it adds much needed information to craft an effective communications strategy across all aspects of a company's marketing, sales, internal and external communications.
  2. They fail to GET OUT OF THEIR OFFICES to go meet with the press/bloggers/etc. and learn about their interests (no pitching allowed). Research on the Internet will only get you so far. If a PR agency is getting out and meeting those who cover a client's industry (whether it be at industry events or buying them a cup of coffee to get to know them better), it helps in not only understanding the needs of a particular journalist/blogger, but also can help in gathering intelligence about the marketplace.
  3. They fail to introduce themselves as a resource (NOT just a source) for media who are increasingly pressed for time. Hiding who clients are doesn't work (unless an agency has a good reason for doing that). I've found sending a BRIEF note of introduction to key media when a new client comes on (complete with contact information), goes a long way in building strong relationships for clients with the press.
  4. They fail to effectively communicate to the client a realistic timeline for a media/awareness build, which eventually leads to frustration/disappointment. Anyone in the b-to-b  and b-to-g space will tell you that awareness and long-term engagement takes time. Communicating that upfront avoids frustration and disappointment. That is why having a sound communication strategy and plan from the get-go is so important.
  5. They fail to push back on the client when necessary in order to achieve maximum ROI. Most of the criticism of PR firms seems to come from the lack of creativity and further ideas to drive awareness of a company's offerings. However, this is a two-way street: if a firm is consistently coming up with good ideas to drive awareness only to have them shot down (the "stick to the press release" mentality), a company can expect a diminished PR ROI.
  6. They fail to effectively communicate their value. Media clips are nice, but PR is so much more than the latest press hit. If that's how a company is measuring effectiveness, they've just gotten publicity and NOT strategic communications counsel. Asking for an agency's advice or point-of-view on a business issue is one way to evaluate if a firm truly "gets" a company's business. It's not just WHO a PR firm knows, but WHAT they know about an industry. As I've said time and time again: Don't hire an agency to get you press, hire an agency to get you intelligence. Again, if an agency fails to demonstrate from the beginning how they measure and communicate to clients their effectiveness, a company should not hire that agency.
  7. They fail to be anything more than the order takers, when what a company wants/needs a strategic partner who can use business intelligence to keep their company one-step ahead. An agency should consistently demonstrate applied knowledge on a frequent basis to show that they are proactively striving and driving a client's PR strategy.
  8. They are failing to talk to the right people in a company. If a PR firm is not asking (and a company is not volunteering) senior leaders, SMEs, department heads, project managers, engineers, etc., it's not making full use of its arsenal of available PR resources and potentially atrophying its own ROI.
  9. They tell a company what they want to hear, not what a company needs to hear.  Part of a PR firm's job is to serve as the much needed outside, objective third-party that is able to give insight and prevent "group-think" from occurring internally. 
  10. IN SOME CASES, The people at the agency who sell the business, DO NOT effectively communicate a client's goals and objectives to the people who will be doing the work. This often leads to huge miscommunication and outright disappointment by a client who was expecting immediate results, when reality dictates that planning and (again) research be done to create and implement an effective long-term communications strategy.
I could list more, but these are the 10 things I've seen in my career that hurt a PR agency's effectiveness. Again, I need to stress that an excellent working relationship between a client and its PR agency is a TWO-WAY STREET. While agencies need to be more proactive, clients need to understand and establish how exactly they want to use and why they even want to work with an agency in the first place. Establishing goals, roles, and responsibilities for all parties at the beginning of a relationship will not only lead to a lasting partnership between parties, but goes a long way in PR agencies demonstrating value and enhancing its own reputation over time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Coverage Is What a Company Defines It to Be

Today's MediaPost Online Spin is a great article written by Kendall Allen and seeks to address the question, 'What Constitutes Coverage in the Age of Social Media?'
Businesses used to a traditional media relations program (print, online coverage by media outlets, and MAYBE a few bloggers) probably ask themselves this question all the time. Questions I've heard in recent months include:
Does a customer twittering about our latest product constitute coverage? Does a Facebook fan page where I can post information about our latest version upgrades and have people comment and link to their own blogs/pages constitute coverage?Does traditional media even LOOK at social media for info on my company? Should I just target bloggers? Why would I need to do more than one social media platform?What's the value of all this anyway?
PR is going multichannel where communications and relevant content need to be deployed across numerous social media as well as traditional media relations platforms to be effective. This also means creating and packaging relevant information in to different formats (audio, video, mobile, social media engagement, etc.) to gauge receive the maximum ROI. This requires a strategic plan of deployment and engagement across many different targeted communication platforms as well as marketing channels. Where most integrated communication campaigns fall short is a deployment and engagement strategy to be able to update, monitor, listen, respond and learn from an audience's reaction to company content. It is the reciprocal and ongoing dialogue with an audience which makes a communications campaign successful and strengthens brand position.

The real question I think companies struggle with is what it is the VALUE of deploying a multichannel communications campaign? Understandably, most clients know and appreciate the value of having coverage in a major newspaper, magazine, trade press or even (arguably) high-authority blog. But what's the VALUE of having 100 fans or more on Facebook? What's the VALUE of someone twittering about the latest press release? What's the VALUE of 10,000 views of a CEOs video on quarterly figures?

The answer my friends is that companies are making their target audiences a PRIORITY. Interacting and providing content as well as services (think customer service responses via Twitter) allow companies to create goodwill for their brands and may even create brand evangelists in the long run. As any good crisis communication professional will tell you: don't wait for a crisis to start looking for allies. Create goodwill and protect your reputation NOW.

So what IS coverage in today's social media age? Coverage is what a company defines it to be. However, not making use of and deploying communications across multiple platforms means some companies may be limiting their ROI and losing a valuable opportunity for more customers, media and other stakeholders to learn and love their brand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Output vs.Outcome metrics

I haven't had the opportunity to blog in awhile, but I want to revisit and expand upon my last blog post from June - "Measuring Tactics vs. Measuring Success."

Having had more time to really think about this, I've decided that a better way to think about campaign measurement is by developing "output metrics" which examine a certain tactic or execution of a specific program along with "outcome metrics," which take a wider more encompassing view of a marketing communication campaign.

The difference is that individual tactic metrics can be developed to include the quantitative and the harder to measure qualitative engagement metrics while outcome metrics look at the total effectiveness or combined impact of communication tactics to drive overall brand awareness, market share, share-of-voice, consumer engagement and business development goals.

I know this idea isn't new. It's presented many different ways in our industry. I've found, however, that presenting ROI in terms of output (tactics) and outcome metrics gets clients excited about the immediate return on investment while focusing on long-term campaign objectives. For those in b-to-b or b-to-g communications where sales cycles are long and campaigns must focus on long-term objectives and engagement, including output and outcome metrics allow for consistent feedback on reception of messages and content.

What types of output or outcome metrics do you suggest clients use when measuring their communication campaign's effectiveness?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Measuring Tactics vs. Measuring Success

I met with a fellow PR Pro tonight and we got to talking about measurement. As we discussed levels of engagement, number of clicks/views, downloads, comments made, number of e-mails sent, sign-ups for white papers, promotions and other sorts of "lead generating" content, it dawned on me - this is a tactical discussion-we're only talking about the measurement and results related to a specific communications tactic (e.g. a video, white paper, etc.). What are we and our clients doing to actually measure the long term strategic success of communication campaigns? Is quantitative ruling our reporting? And if so, what are we losing/missing by doing that?

Lately, it seems everyone is advocating the use of social media for business intelligence and situational awareness in the B-to-B marketplace. The webinars and events I've attend recently surrounding ROI and measurement seem to focus on the numbers game and less on on the qualitative analysis and looking at the larger picture of how a specific tactic relates back to a larger strategic communication plan that should be focused on furthering a company's business development, reputation and revenue goals. If a PR program doesn't drive or further business - then what's the point?

So how then should we be measuring the larger impact of communication campaigns? Number of views is nice. Number of unique views is better. And number of qualified stakeholder views is key. Traffic does not equal sales or influence. It may equal greater share-of-voice (which looks nice on a chart or in a clip report) or even awareness, but not necessarily influence, thought leadership or let alone sales/revenue. So what should companies be asking of their agencies in terms of measurement? I think it depends upon the companies goals. If counting views makes a company's executive team sleep better at night because their latest product video has gone "viral," then by all means count it a success. But if the on-the-ground marketing team is talking to the same company's clients and they aren't aware or because of firewall restrictions in their offices can't see the 'must view' viral video from this company, it's not as effective as it could be. Content for content's sake is not effective. Making sure your content is seen and appreciated by the right audience is key. So a video going viral with millions of downloads may be a success in the awareness and visibility category - but not in the long term business development goals of your company. 

I think one of the best ways for companies to gauge what is and is not tracking among their key stakeholders is to conduct focus group and mass audience recall surveys at least once a year (quarterly is better; monthly is ideal). This well help address key messaging gaps and provide insight on what types of content (not just advertising) is resonating among key audiences. What are your thoughts on how to shift the conversation from one of measuring individual communication tactics to measuring overall program success?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Influence Defined?

This is the Twitter bio of a person who decided to follow me in the last week:
"I get 5,000 followers a week on Twitter! Let me show u how 2 2!"

It's the archetype as old as the high school clique - does 'popularity' mean influence?

Maybe its just me, but followers don't necessarily equal influence. While auto-follow, auto-DM of new followers (nothing I've ever done or tried btw) is popular among some users, I fail to see how following everyone who follows you enhances or furthers an individual or company's goals with the tool.

To me influence is about finding, harnessing, and addressing whatever knowledge, information, data or character insights one can share with an audience and interacting with those who can enhance ones own views, provide a different point-of-view, or share mutual interests. It is not about dominance but about leadership and enlightenment.

As I've written before, the immediacy of Twitter makes it one of the most popular social media platforms out there. However, with most new users abandoning their accounts only a few short months into their experience, Twitter (more so than some other social media platforms) demands that individuals/companies enter with specific goals in mind - whether its content, engagement level, or (I would argue) to a certain degree who they choose to follow.

Having 20,000+ followers (or more than a million individuals hanging on your every tweet) does not exactly mean that person is the most credible or the most qualified in a specific area of expertise. It does mean that person is very good at understanding technology, personal branding, search engine marketing, or in some cases, good at interaction with followers, facilitation of debate, demonstration of online thought leadership and creation of good content that merits the mass following.

As far as online networks go, Twitter is emerging is the most open and in some cases the most jumbled social network that I am a part of. I follow and have more followers on Twitter than I do Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections. While this is a bit of apples-to-bananas-to-oranges comparison, I think it demonstrates that Twitter is emerging as an instant social network search engine where one *could* argue that the more followers you have, the better or at least more varied opinions one may receive from those you choose to allow in your network. However, do you really want responses from all your followers at any given time? Or just those that are qualified enough to answer the question (whatever criteria that may be based on). How does one aggregate and determine what is credible while not limiting the universe of those who may be able to answer the question that are not yet in your network? Or does word-of-mouth network referrals and even self-discovery of the answer/source (we all hate being told who's an 'expert' in something) prevent network limitations?

Credibility to me equals influence. So how DOES one establish, grow and maintain credibility in a given network? What makes one person more credible than another? In the social media world of metrics, numbers (in this case followers) may only tell one part of the story. As Twitter continues to emerge and new third-party applications and (gasp) a business model for the tool itself is introduced, I think the "influencers" will emerge and it may or may not be those who get 5,000 followers a week. Instead, the emerging trend of recommending certain people to follow and the contribution of content may count more than how many followers an account has accumulated. Only time will tell what influence Twitter will have on who and why we trust a specific individual or company.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Follow-up Part III: Company Outrage Online

It's been awhile since I checked-in on the ongoing dispute between Clean Air Gardening in Dallas, TX, and its former IMC agency, Christie Communications based in Santa Barbara, CA.  I first wrote about this in October of last year and from the looks of things, there appears to be no resolution.

Clean Air Gardening launched a Web site alleging egregious and horrible mistakes made by Christie Communications and over the last several months has appeared to post legal communications between their respective lawyers as both sides attempt to resolve the issues.

Looking at the Web site today, it seems that neither party is closer to a resolution and that the founder of the site is happy to continue to post and update visitors with the status of the case. The latest post is supposedly the text of an e-mail from an artistic director which at some point in time allegedly hired Christie Communications and appears to support the allegations made by Clean Air Gardening. While the Webmaster clearly states he has no way of verifying if this e-mail is true, it is an interesting development that other disgruntled customers may be coming forward. 

For the sake of both parties, I hope they reach a resolution soon. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back in the Blogging Saddle

After a hiatus, I am back in the blogging saddle! My apologies to anyone who has regularly viewed the blog last month only to find no new posts. I have been busy settling in to my new apartment and travelling. My schedule is calming down now, so I am getting on my soapbox much more regularly!

If you want to know what I'm up to on almost a daily basis, please follow me on Twitter! DM or @ me and intro yourself. If you're working in or blogging about PR, social media, digital strategy or marketing, I would love to check out your blog and trade insights.

Time to get back to work (and blogging)! More soon and more often!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Congratulations to GovLoop! 10,000+ Members

I'm a little late in getting this post up, but a big congratulations to GovLoop, the premier social networking site for those in government, for breaking the 10,000 member mark earlier this week.

For those wondering more about what GovLoop is and what the members of GovLoop have been doing, check out the press release announcing its 10,000+ members and recent milestones.

GovLoop memberships are open to federal, state, local and international government employees; public policy students/professors; a good government organization; and government contractors with good intentions. If you have experience in conducting marketing and communications for government agencies or to the government, you should join!

Next week (May 4-10), GovLoop will host the official online dialogue for Public Service Recognition Week. Participants throughout the nation are encouraged to share their experiences during the week and suggest ideas to improve government. To participate in this conversation, join GovLoop and the Public Service Recognition Week group here.

Hats off to GovLoop founder Steve Ressler for creating a premier site for government employees and those working with government agencies!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PR ≠ Media Relations Only

I was reading Heidi Cohen's piece on ClickZ entitled 'PR goes Multichannel' (pretty good overview of how marketers need to start understanding the new PR landscape) and I couldn't ignore the comment someone made at the bottom (it wasn't me):
Way to go on misunderstanding what public relations is about completely, and helping to continue spreading misinformation about the field. What you're talking about is traditional media relations. Media relations... not public relations. Media relations (let's say it again - MEDIA relations) is just one small part of public relations. Public relations as a whole is not losing its effectiveness. In fact it's becoming immensely more important in the social media age, where conversations and reputation management happen in real time. Only those who don't truly understand what public relations entails consider it simply a part of a marketing plan - precisely why marketing folks should stop trying to explain the benefits of public relations which they don't fully understand themselves. You do make a few good points (impressed to see a marketing professional acknowledge that SEO is actually a PR tool), but please stop equating media relations to public relations. That only does readers a disservice.

While the commenter's tone is a bit harsh, the definition of public relations IS SO MUCH BROADER than media relations. I see this time and time again - marketers and even some companies thinking that public relations is just a function of publicity to either raise awareness or promote thought leadership. In essence PR = media relations (press coverage).

The backlash against public relations professionals for the past few years is due to the fact that some agencies (like companies) and independent practitioners are struggling to adapt in the new social media landscape. It's not enough to know what these social media tools are (although that's a good start!). PR Pros now need to know how to suggest, develop, create, and technically maintain relevant content to enhance an organization's brand awareness and/or market share across the social media platforms. As I am very fond of telling my clients: Setting-up/establishing social media platforms is inexpensive, but development and creation of compelling content and sustained engagement is not. Companies will have to devote resources across deployed strategic communication tactics and tools to ensure that they not only receive a high ROI, but they ACTUALLY move towards accomplishing their business development goals.

Trolling for ink does nothing but infuriate the journalists and publications companies hope to influence. GONE are the days of dialing for dollars and sending out a pitch via e-mail to a large media list because those are the contacts your media database says are relevant (Reminder: Always vet the lists, read the blogs/articles and do your research BEFORE pitching). Even the well crafted pitch and press release (still relevant BTW), need to be reconsidered and revamped to engage with relevant stakeholders across different communication platforms.

To me the biggest misconception in our industry is that public relations is just about publicity and not about sustained engagement (that why I don't like the word "BUZZ"). Print and even online press coverage will not continue to yield the results companies want in terms of engagement and awareness with target audiences.

Print and trade publications are not dead (yet) and a pure social media strategy may or may not yield the results a company wants ("If a tree falls," analogy). Bottom line: A BALANCED marketing communications strategy is a company/organization's best bet to achieving its goals. There is no "right" one answer per se, but there are best practices and case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing ALL aspects of public relations and marketing strategies to achieve desired business outcomes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Resources for Those Looking for A Job

I've met a lot of communication professionals looking for jobs lately. Even in today's tough economy, there are lots of companies and organizations looking for talented pros.

Below I have listed some of my favorite job sites. Please feel free to suggest additional sites in the comments section of this post.

The Brad Traverse Group - A subscription site ($5/month) the Brad Traverse Group lists jobs in and around the DC area for those interested in public affairs, public relations, media and consulting. It's worth the $5 a month as many jobs are exclusively listed and will not appear anywhere else.

Indeed.com - A job listing aggregator, Indeed.com will save your searches and let you know how many new jobs have been listed since your last search, saving you time. I really like Indeed because it is simple and efficient.

Ned's Job of the Week - Ned's list (available for view on the Web site) highlights jobs in defense, communications, and event marketing/promotion. While the job listings span the globe, there are quite a few in DC Metro Area.

HillZoo.com - An online publication for those on and around Capital Hill, HillZoo.com lists on and off the Hill jobs for those interested. Some are political, some aren't. Definitely worth a look.

Social Media Jobs - For social media and digital strategy pros, Social Media Jobs lists opportunities nationwide.

Other job sites for PR Pros/Communicators:

O'Dwyer's PR Job Seekers and Employers

PRWeek Jobs

Ragan Communications (A great site for corporate and internal communicators)

SoloGig.com (Great for independent consultants. Also lists some short time and permanent positions)

PRTalent.com

Public Affairs Council (Government relations, associations, public affairs, policy and communications positions)

DC Public Affairs + Communications Jobs (Great blog that seems to catch and list hot jobs in the DC Area and beyond)

For those interested in nonprofits:

Idealist.org

Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, DC Chapter - You will have to register to gain access to its career center, but registration is free and it's a great way to network.

This by no means a comprehensive list. I am happy to update it with additional suggestions.

Twitter is emerging as THE place to be for those looking for a job to learn about new opportunities. If you aren't on Twitter yet, I highly recommend joining and following those in our industry.

Now go out there and find your next opportunity!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Happy Birthday HARO!

Congratulations to Peter Shankman, the brilliant founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO), which is celebrating its one-year anniversary today.

Peter, thank you for providing a valuable resource to your fellow PR Pros and businesses who want to tell journalists their stories.  I look forward the morning, afternoon and evening editions of HARO.  You have truly made a difference in media relations by connecting journalists who need resources with the professionals and businesses who are able to help them out. The fact that you have made HARO open to everyone is a testament to HARO's philosophy that "Everyone's An Expert As Something." Keep up the great work!

If you would like to receive daily media inquiries/request from HARO, visit here to sign-up. Also, make sure you read the rules of HARO.  No off-topic pitches and trolling for ink!  

Happy Birthday HARO! Here's to many more! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To Blog or to Twitter? That is the Question...

I've been a bad blogger lately. One post for the month of March is not good. Granted March for me was a swirl of new business meetings followed by presentations and a week's long vacation (no computer to write with during that time). But it seems that more and more I encounter people that are not writing on their blogs as much as they used to. The reason: Twitter.

Now this sounds counterintuitive. Why limit oneself to 140 characters to express thoughts/feelings/activities? The answer: Convenience. Twitter has made it very easy to express oneself and engage in conversation in real-time with the mass distribution of third-party mobile and Web applications. Twitter's platform allows users to post photos, create and distribute polls and search for relevant keywords/subjects (works most of the time) to find other Twitter users talking about similar topics.

Twitter has been described as a crowdsourcing "live" search engine, a live open source business intelligence tool (brand and reputation management), a non-profit/cause awareness/political engagement tool, a real-time news stream (think decentralized wire services), and the source for breaking and eye witness accounts of local and world events that may go unnoticed by traditional or more established news media. It also has been criticized for allowing anyone to post anything (including mindless dribble and mundane activities) to the world. The real impact of Twitter seems to be that it is becoming the day-to-day if not minute-by-minute choice for individuals (and businesses) to post what is going on. The convenience of Twitter to keep the conversation going without constantly having to check for written comments on a blog makes it more attractive. Twitter's immediacy makes it popular.

Since joining Twitter, I have spent more time interacting and "meeting" like minded PR pros, journalists, publishers, interactive designers, entrepreneurs, digital strategists, creative directors, and communication professionals. The debates and exchange of information is priceless. However, the more time I spend engaging and "using" Twitter, the less time and interest it seems that I have in my blog. In the past three weeks alone, I've seen several people that I follow on Twitter declare that Twitter has become their primary source of communication/expression on the Web and they have or plan to stop blogging. Will Twitter replace blogging?

Obviously the short answer is maybe. For some, Twitter's immediacy and feedback is more attractive and allows (in some cases) for more direct interaction/conversation with their audience. However, blogs are not limited by the constraints of 140 characters or a layout that takes a user (usually) outside the blog to view photos or take polls. Twitter is ruled by linking to content and that takes the navigation away from the main platform. The continual availability of relevant interesting content, interaction and information in real-time is what keeps users coming back to the Twitter. The challenge for those of us that blog is disengaging with Twitter long enough to fully expand on the ideas and debates on our blogs. For the most part, blogs remain the most popular and a key communication medium to establish and reinforce one's personal brand. At the end of the day, Twitter may not replace blogs, but those of us who are addicted to Twitter will have to find a balance - expression in 140 characters and blog posts (like this one) where we reinforce and expand on the constant exchange of information and ideas on just about anything.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Typical Conversation? I Hope Not

Him: "I don't know what to do, so we do it all!"

This was expressed to me by a marketing manager who works for a major systems integrator with numerous federal and commerical contracts. He was explaining to me that he was pushing very hard for his traditionally conservative company to use more social media tools for thought leadership and demonstration of capabilities. When I asked him how he uses social media, he stared at me blankly:

"We just use it. You know."

I applaud this gentleman for at least pushing his company to explore social media options, but when pushed for goals and strategy, he didn't seem to know the best way to use this media to accurately present the company. When I asked him what types of content he planned to create to engage a target audience, he said "We have white papers."

Also a start (good job at repurposing content) but everyone can get those off the Web site. Not the best use of social media.

I asked, "Do you even know if members of your target audience are using social media tools this way? Do they want that type of information? Why not create video case studies to complement the ones you already have? Or even audio and video overviews of your white papers?"

He stared at me and said: "Why would I do that? We've already created the core content."

Me: "But your audience in social media may not want a text version of what you've got. If nothing else, make it downloadable into an e-book or at least do some sort of teaser to make the content more appealing. What about a live virtual Q & A with the SME who put together the white paper? Webinars? Would your company be willing to start a blog?"

Then he said: "We microblog (he understood that term). We are on twitter and I blocked our competitors from following us."

REALLY?

Me: "Really? Why would you do that?"

His response: "They don't need to know what we're doing."

Me: "What are you posting on Twitter?"

Him: "Our press releases and what shows we are going to. Links to our white papers."

Me: "So let me get this straight - You aren't following your competitors on Twitter. You blocked your competitors from following you. You aren't engaging with or following anyone who isn't a news service or an employee AND you aren't posting anything that you aren't already posting on your own Web site?"

Him: (Red faced) "Yes."

Me: "Why?"

Him: "I don't know what to do, so we do it all!"

Finally the truth. I truly feel for some (not all) of the government contractors in the DC area who are struggling to find the balance and navigate the new world of social media. I tip my hat to this gentleman who is at least trying social media tactics for outreach. What kills me though is that his approach is like throwing soup at a wall - it's a mess.

What also bothers me is the lost competitive intelligence and engagement with key audiences who may not be his targets, but who would be able to engage with their brand and their service offerings increasing their commercial presence.

If you had met this gentleman, what would you have asked or wanted to know about his company's approach to social media? Since his organization is resistant to change, what recommendations would you provide him on where he should be devoting his limited content and other resources for social media?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

No Social Media Strategy Hurts Your Competitive Edge

K.D. Paine's The Measurement Standard is a must read for any PR Pro.  An entry from earlier this month identifies the six critical consequences individuals (and arguably companies) face by NOT participating in social media. With continuous talk about metrics and what companies and individuals stand to gain by implementing strategic social media tactics, K.D.'s post demonstrates (in a more detailed way) the dangers of inaction. Summarizing her six critical consequences of not participating:
  1. Loss of business intelligence
  2. Low or no market situational awareness
  3. Loss of or failure to establish personal brand or company brand awareness and voice
  4. No interaction means no credibility (or allies) when you may need it the most (think crisis communications)
  5. Loss of competitive advantage (slow response times/information blackout)
  6. Becoming obsolete
What are some of the other consequences of failing to consider and implement social media strategies (personally or for corporations)?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Update: Getting It (Now Part Deux)

Last November I posted a link to ZDNet's Jennifer Leggio's survey for internal MARCOMM folks to find out how satisfied internal people were their agency's ability to recommend, implement, sustain and measure social media campaigns.  Last Thursday, Jennifer posted the answers to her survey.  There are some VERY interesting findings in terms of how internal communicators view their agencies as well as some excellent insights into which PR agencies "get social media" and which ones need improvement.  Most notably, I agree with findings that solid traditional PR strategies and tactics are needed (gotta have a strong foundation) in addition to understanding social media and digital strategy. Check out Jennifer's survey results here.

In an effort to really measure PR Pros knowledge (or lack thereof) in social media, Jennifer along with Nicole Jordan have developed a second survey for PR Pros to really see what agencies/individuals are doing in the social media space, training, as well as understanding of business objectives and goals.  You can take the survey here.  It is 37 questions and it is open until March 31, 2009. Jennifer promises to post results to see if there truly is a disconnect between some of the responses received by internal corporate communicators and PR Pros/Agencies working in this space.

Come on PR Pros! Time to show what we know and what we're doing!  Take the survey!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

PR's Evolving Role

I love Twitter.  I follow so many interesting PR Pros, Web/Graphic Designers, Public Affairs Officers, Social Media Gurus, Journalists, Political Strategists and Goverati types that use and love all different types of communication methods.  What strikes me as odd is that there seems to be a reoccurring topic that is the subject of blog and twitter posts: What PR is and what is isn't.

Don't get me wrong, anyone who's read anything on this blog knows that I have my views too. But lately, it seems the definition of PR is getting narrower - a definition that consists of pure media relations/outreach, writing of thought leadership pieces, market and competitive research, case studies and the occasional trade show or event planning support. 

I have said and believe that media relations will always be the staple of public relations (it's essentially the bread and butter of any agency with a PR department), but what I am consistently amazed at and wonder about is why PR is talked about as separate from the emerging social media and digital strategy methods that companies are demanding.  Is it because the perception is that many PR Pros lack the necessary skills to effectively understand, recommend and implement digital and social media strategies to clients?  Is it because traditional forms of the media (print and arguably some broadcast) are dying and therefore traditional PR tactics are too? Have we as an industry self-segmented (segregated) itself from the digital and social changes that have taken place in today's media? Or is the rise of new media tactics/strategy a market challenge to the traditional PR business practice and model?

Obviously it's probably a combination of these things plus many more aspects I failed to identify. In an industry where niches and specialization are praised for experience and the building of sustainable relationships (think about agencies specific practice units e.g. Health Care, Technology, Corporate, etc.), how are digital and social media strategies being integrated into current PR business models? Moreover, what input or influence do PR practitioners have on the planning, implementation, measurement and promotion of these strategies?

I increasingly read case studies where the lines between a good marketing and PR campaign are often blurred (and rightly so) because of the different channels used to execute the strategy. My sense is good communication campaigns are becoming a lot like the model used (NOT LIKE) multichannel marketing. It takes more than one media vehicle to communicate to a target audience.

What's your take on the ever evolving definition of PR? What skills and abilities do PR Pros need in today's market? Moreover, what role should PR Pros play in the recommendation and execution of digital and social media strategy?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Be A Source - Be A RESOURCE

I participated in journchat last night (#journchat for those searching Twitter).  There was an interesting discussion about media relations and I shared my professional opinion:

PR approach: don't be a "source." Strive to be a RESOURCE for media and customers. Not about just getting publicly noticed #journchat.

This got a great response from those attending #journchat (You are all awesome!) and I got a couple of DMs asking me what did I mean by "resource." Here are my thoughts FWIW:
  • Being a resource means never trolling for ink. It means that as nice as it would be to be mentioned in print, it's not necessary (and statistically improbable) for a journalist to mention you every time you talk to them. Encourage your clients to agree to do informational/background interviews and give quality information and insight. At the end of the day, the story may not be about you, but if you help members of the media get a better understanding of an issue or a specific product or service, they remember and will return to you to help them with future stories.
  • What else you got? Quotes and insight are great but let's all remember that the media is facing tough times and newsrooms don't have the resources they once had.  Video, pictures, diagrams, interactive Web sites, UX sites, Q&As, backgrounders, social media sites, etc. Develop content that helps makes the media stories meaningful while still engaging your core stakeholders and customers. Don't just speak and expect that's enough to keep the media or their readership/listeners/participants engaged.
  • One size does not fit all.  Media kits are great for a snapshot/overview, but like pitches, information and content needs to be tailored to specific audiences.  For example, if you are working with a trade editor that has a detailed technical knowledge of semiconductors, make sure you have an appropriate SME that can address technical questions (without revealing proprietary information or trade secrets). Again don't expect a cover story. Work to educate the media and other stakeholders at the appropriate levels of interest and engagement. At the end of the day it's about relationships.
  • Media relations is a two-way street (push and pull). Media aren't mind readers. Soft soundings are more crucial now more than ever. Clients want to know if their info is interesting before they spend money to develop expensive digital strategies to support their services and products. Media don't want to sift through boring company information that just fills space. By becoming a trusted resource over time, clients remain top of mind and PR professionals serve a valuable function to both parties, demonstrating integrity while managing reasonable media relations return on results for clients.
I welcome your comments and feedback. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

U.S Air's Social Media Windfall

Like everyone in America, I was astounded to learn that on Wednesday, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 from New York's JFK airport heading to Charlotte crashed into the Hudson river shortly after take-off. Miraculously, all 155 passengers and crew members on board were not seriously injured and everyone made it off the plane thanks to the quick thinking and training of Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III . The NTSB is investigating whether a "double bird strike" caused both of the jet's engines to fail.

Four days after this event, the blogosphere and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been a-buzz with much deserved praise and appreciation for Captain Sully and his crew. But how engaged are people with this story?

According to social media provider Virtue, which was
interviewed by MediaPost's Marketing News Daily, a Facebook fan page they created to honor Capt. Sully was growing at a rate of 215 people a minute at its height on Saturday afternoon. Virtue created the fan page at 10 p.m. on Thursday evening - one day after the controlled crash. By 8pm there were 18,000 fans and 1,800 wall posts. By Sunday afternoon, there were more than 300,000 fans and 14,000 wall posts. At my last check this morning, the Facebook page had grown to 365,979 fans and has 16,501 wall posts.

Twitter's own search function indicates increased conversation and discussion surrounding Capt. Sully, the crew and survivors of the crash.

A quick perusal of the Twitter trend site
Twist this morning (I have no idea how accurate it is as an aggregation tool) reveals that "hot words" on Twitter for the last four days revolve around the event. Twist shows that the use of the words "U.S. Air," "Hudson," and "Crash" have all risen significantly over the last four days. In fact the word "plane" has been on Twist's hot list since Thursday at 3pm (one day after the crash) indicating that a great deal of people were discussing the event on Twitter (along with the usual build of people twittering that they were getting on/off planes to their travel destinations). Twist indicates that the word "plane" has been used in 7.89% of all Tweets between Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon.

Whether or not that statistic is significant is up for debate. What it does reveal is that this astounding story has captured people's attention and praise for the heroic crew. In their interview with MediaPost, Virtue notes that their social media index shows that U.S. Air's scores were up 171 percent on Thursday from its December average, with three-day average increase of 135 percent. Without knowing the methodology used to determine these statistics, there is enough apparent evidence to know that people are grateful for the safe landing and quick thinking of U.S. Airway's Flight 1549's crew and grateful to discuss and share knowledge in virtual real time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Busy Week: Government and Web 2.0

Due to the inauguration, it seems like most communication associations and groups are having their monthly meetings this week.  Not surprisingly, a lot of the topics center on government agencies current use or the potential uses of Web 2.0 to better connect and engage with citizens. 

Here are two upcoming "can't miss"meetings this week.  

Registration may or may not still be open:

AFCEA Bethesda: Web 2.0 in the Federal Government. (Registration)
Wednesday, January 14th 
Presentation starts at 7:30 a.m. (Coffee and Networking at 6:30 a.m.)
Topics to be discussed:
  • Do you know what federal programs and initiatives are starting to rely on Web 2.o Technologies?
  • How are priorities being impacted or should they be impacted by the increasing presence of Web 2.0?
  • How are CIOs factoring these into strategic planning?
Panelists: 

  • Rob Carey, U.S. Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer (DON CIO), will moderate 
  • Brian Burns, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Emerging Technology, U.S. Department of the Navy and Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department of Education
  • Jim Angus, Associate  Director of Communications, OER/ORIS Communications Office, National Institutes of Health
Social Media Club D.C. Government 2.0 Part II (Registration)
Wednesday, January 14th 6:30 p.m - 8 p.m
Topics to be discussed:
  • View of the overall government 2.0 strategy and what the potential roadmap for 2009 looks like
  • How  government agencies and contractors have collaborated so far, what works and what doesn't
  • How to harness the collective intelligence of people to contribute to government
  • What's next in the relationship between social media and government
Panelists:
  • Chris Dorobek, Federal News Radio co-anchor, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris (http://dorobekinsider.com/)
  • Mark Drapeau, Associate Research Fellow, National Defense University (http://www.ndu.edu/CTNSP/drapeau_bio.htm and http://mashable.com/author/Mark-Drapeau/)
  • Steve Field, Media Relations Manager, Ground Systems at BAE Systems (http://dring.wordpress.com/)
I'll be posting Twitter updates and a blog post from SMC DC's meeting.  If you're planning to be there, let me know! I may or may not make it to the AFCEA event. Still waiting on confirmation of attendance.