Monthly Archives: June 2008

Behaviors not Tools – A Guide for PR Pros Pitching using Web 2.0

I will be the first to admit that I like shiny new gadgets. From technology like the first iPod to household items like the Black & Decker laser-level, I’ve always been fascinated by new gadgets. And to be honest, my main reason for being one of the first to acquire new gadgets are driven by the need to be first. Of course, basic curiosity and being a “brand fan” has contributed to my gadget acquisition strategy as well.

But something interesting happens once you spend time with a gadget. You find that its desired purpose sometimes isn’t the most obvious use for the product. Classic example for me was in 2001. I was an Apple student rep at Southwest Texas State University when the iPod was introduced. Part of my evangelism strategy was to set up shop in the school library and common areas with my new iBook and iPod and advertise the new products that could be bought at the Campus Bookstore. In addition, I would go around to the different educational departments and talk to the IT and deans’ staff about departmental buys.

My first major departmental buy for the iPod, about 3 months after it had launched, came from the Graphics Design department inside the School of Liberal Arts. They didn’t buy iPods, and require them to everyone in coming freshman, because they liked music. No. They LOVED the 10GB firewire portable storage drive that sold for under $500. Imagine that. A device that has revolutionized the music industry and propelled Apple to another level, and my first sale had nothing to do with its ability to play music.

The PR profession is a buzz with all the new media tools available to them to reach key constituents for their clients or companies. Many view social media and the community oriented structure of the networks as the death of the PR industry. And some PR pros view the mainstream adoption of social media as a second coming for the profession. Even the media is getting into the act and is not only participating but providing commentary on their preferences of PR and social media. Examples are Here and Here.

The idea of using Facebook or Twitter to pitch journalists is busted from the start. As media monkeys, those who pitch media, it’s our goal to understand journalists better than anyone else. Understand which story appeals to who, how they like to engage, what their interview preferences are, etc.

HuntingAs a young Account Coordinator my then office president, now CEO of GCI Group, Jeff Hunt, had a brownbag lunch with junior staff to impose wisdom, advice, etc, and he likened media relations to hunting. His position was that we need to know what our animal ate, where that food was, what path did the animal take to get there, how long they stayed a watering hole. Never got the analogy until later in my career.

The beautiful thing about social media tools is it provides PR professionals insight into the lives of the media they pitch, the employees they communicate to and the perceptions of the brands they manage. While many have had successful pitches via twitter, facebook, myspace, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the preferences media like to get pitched in, what areas really excite them and who they are personally.

Think this is weird? We’ll we’re in Public Relations not Public Transactions. We build relationships, not issue transactions. Use social media tools to learn and observe and then when appropriate, engage.

I’m curious to hear about how you’ve used social media to pitch, engage media. Any pointers for me?

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Maintaining Your Own Online Reputation Management Program

Let’s be honest. Who hasn’t  made an obscene gesture or two or had a wild night where the night cap “smart drink” was a dumb idea. We’ve all had our moments we wished we could forget. Only in these times with pocket-sized high-technology it’s very easy not only for these forgettable occurrences to be remembered, but captured and shared.

I’m fortunate to work and learn from a company that takes reputation seriously. In fact, FORTUNE and other reputation polls have found FedEx to have a very favorable reputation. This does not all happen by accident. It starts with a very competent and ethical executive committee that fosters a culture of pride and motivation to do the right thing for customers and colleagues. Couple that with a great deal of research to understand consumer sentiment and—in a nutshell—you have yourself a pretty successful reputation management program.

Now for yourself, there are plenty of ways for you to get your own personal brand in a bit of trouble and put you in the reactive mode versus the proactive position to engage in community and demonstrate your brilliance.

I started down this road of thinking about personal brand by following a university professor in Canada on Twitter who looks to educate her students on their own online reputation. @melmcbride has recently posted some pretty insightful thoughts about online reputation management for students and I thought why not take a look at what professionals should be thinking about and considering.

First things first, get a LinkedIn account, or Plaxo. I personally see LinkedIn as a virtual business card rolodex that is updated not by me, but by my contacts. And depending on the way they update their profile and by who recommends them, I’m able to get a good look at how lucky I am to know them. LinkedIn allows you to communicate your career and easily educate anyone you meet at conferences, events or even inside your own company about who you actually are.

Second, with the lines between professional and personal worlds colliding Facebook or MySpace accounts are becoming widely accepted inside the confines of the cubeland. I’m amazed at how many of my immediate and not-so immediate colleagues are on Facebook and how – okay no rolling your eyes – closer we’ve become because of it. No longer do you have to wait until Monday to see how everyone’s weekend was, but instead when Monday rolls around you want details of why the refrigerator blew up or why you were on another plane to NYC or how did 20 screaming kids make it into your backyard.

The third recommendation is to get a place of your own to share unique thoughts and ideas. For me it’s Twitter and this blog. I believe if you are even going to try to talk about new, social, digital media you should be participating.

Just today I saw this quote come across in my Twitter feed, “Having a Facebook page does not make you a SM expert.” Need strategies and goals.. “It’s still business.” -Larry Lawfer.

Plus it provides you a way to get all the thoughts out on paper that you have throughout the day and share with a collection of friends and professionals to further the ideas and mature the thought process.

You may be asking why haven’t you mentioned YouTube? Because I don’t look good on video and my family looks better, but you don’t want to see them buying donuts. Why not Flickr? Flickr is great, but my wife has the eye for photography in this family.

All this to say that if you participate in any or all of the forums mentioned above you’re putting yourself out there. And in some cases, bringing your family along for the ride. Which is why it’s very important for you to carefully understand what you want your personal brand to be.

We all remember the bank intern who posted pictures of his Halloween tricks and treats after telling his boss he was going home to be with family

It’s not just athletes and celebrities who get tagged in photos behaving badly and blasted on the internet, it can be you too. I’m a big believer in the idea of if it’s digital, it’s not controlled. Remember you have no control of who’s taking photos or video or you, but you do have control of the most important brand—yourself.

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PR No Longer Controls the Message…So What?

One emerging topic of the new, social media wave I find interesting is the belief PR no longer controls the message. Words like “controlled messages” and “company speak” are being used in negative ways with an optimistic exuberance that maybe this is the end of an era for the “spinsters”.

What I find interesting is some of my PR colleagues have gone along with this point-of-view. We talk about community building, sharing of thoughts and connecting with consumers via social media tools like blogs, social networks, etc., It seems like either this is the most exciting time to be in the profession or the worst because the community rules.

All social movements seem to have one lever of momentum in common and that is volume. In this instance, it’s safe to use two definitions of volume: the quantity of and sound intensity. From the time newspapers began, the Letter to the Editor in the local paper was the way the public voiced concern or praise for their communities, politicians or businesses. But even a reader’s “Letter” was at the discretion of the editor to be published. Nothing you didn’t already know, I know.

With the advent of social media everyone now has an unedited voice and the volume of ideas, beliefs and opinions are building—and easily distributable.

PR practitioners should never have believed they controlled any message. And if you’re not in the profession, please understand PR doesn’t control the message. Rather a PR professional molds and shapes a message. There are many factors that go into crafting a message, a position or communication: marketing, legal, an executive’s perspective. It’s the PR person’s responsibility to develop sound strategy and take the message to  market. It’s then for the public to decide whether or not the message is believable or acceptable.

And it’s not just the PR profession that’s being told it doesn’t have control, but now the media. I’m sure you’ve read the stories about NBC losing the “scoop” of Tim Russert’s death.

From Gawker media:

“No one else thinks there’s a bigger story here? The big news media outlets are losing control of the scoop – even when it’s under there noses. Gorilla information sites are doing more than offering back up references: Wikipedia also broke news of the death of Canadian Chris Benoit, and when traditional on-line site collapsed under the interest in the unfolding death of Steve Irwin – Wikipedia was the last site standing – with helpful linked updates about the mating habits of the Bull Ray…

Suck it up NBC. The future is here – and it’s not in your control.”

In the digital world, nothing is controlled. If someone has access to, or information is on a website, it can and will be copied, distributed, commented on and manipulated.

PR professionals need to stop worrying about control and instead focus on becoming strategic, sound counselors and help guide their clients through the noise.

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I need an aggregator for my aggregators

With the onslaught of information now on the web it takes a lot of time to keep up. I’ve tried to count the number of sites I frequent on a daily basis. I’ve narrowed it down to about 20-22 sites. That’s a lot, but well below the global average. The Nielsen//NetRatings say the average web pages viewed per person in the month of April was 1,450! And that’s down 6.72% from 1,554 in March.

That’s a trend that I can relate to. I’ve been visiting site after site, looking for ways to reduce the number of sites I read. You can see where it’s a losing battle. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way at some time.

My quest for less has lead me to newsgator, Google Reader, google alerts and Factiva 2.0. All these sites are an attempt to read mainstream media like the NY Times, BusinessWeek and USA Today, and to monitor the traditional media mentions of FedEx. I read Fark and Digg for my miscellaneous information and deadspin and a couple of other for my sports news. Yes, I still read the old papers for news, but use blogs for sports—I can’t take Peter King talking about Brett Favre any more!

I then added Facebook and Twitter and revived the LinkedIn account to my information gathering routine. This all added up to my first participatory dip into social media – other than my first, short-lived blog – News Mueslix  “Reading the news everyday keeps you regular”.

Now I have FriendFeed, a Tumblr account, tested Flock, am testing Yoono and used Twhirl. With all this information coming at me it’s all pretty difficult to manage, remember and learn.

So, it’s back to the basics for me—good ol’ RSS. I’ve spent some time re-tweaking Google Reader to collect my FedEx searches from the blogosphere, Summize and news searches. I just feel like I’m missing something.

I’d be interested to hear how you keep track of everything and if you wouldn’t mind sharing there are major karma points coming your way.

MC

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The Social Enterprise – Micro-blogging is coming

Coming off the heels of the Enterprise 2.0 conference there’s been a lot of talk about social networking inside the firewall. I first saw Social Enterprise used in Intel’s Laurie Buzek’s post on the social enterprise and the term really resonated with me. Lisa goes on to talk about what behaviors have to change before social networking can really achieve success (I’ve listed them below just to make it easier to follow along).

Silos must come down like the Berlin Wall: I bang into silos on a daily basis. Corporations love silos.
Consumerism affects what you do inside your four walls: How people use technology to interact, collaborate and communicate outside of works DOES affect what they want to do inside work.
Understand that people will go down with the email ship: We are not delusional and think that any of these social tools will replace email for people. We all know that email was never meant to be a collaborative tool, but somehow it is reality.
If it takes a manual to use it – throw it out the door: When was the last time you read a manual? Seriously. Does any software or computer even ship with one anymore?
If IT doesn’t act now, then someone else will:

Forrester Research sees the adoption of social networks in the enterprise. They predict social networking applications will make up the largest share of the $4.6 billion that enterprises will be spending on enterprise web 2.0 applications by 2013 (see Forrester Predicts a Large Growth in Social Networking Market but How Will Its Integration Occur with the Enterprise?).

I recently had a discussion about blogging inside the firewall and what challenges presented themselves once the legal/IT/communication teams heard the word “blog” and my response was, “We’re beyond the blog.”

Micro-Blogging

It took a while for me to become a believer in Twitter, but as I updated more frequently, built a larger network and found the time to start investigating the conversations happening, I could quickly see the application of the tool in the enterprise as a form of knowledge management. There are others that believe the same way. At the aforementioned Enterprise 2.0 conference, a panel discussion was held on the promise of social computing held in the marketplace. Laura Fitton, @pistachio on Twitter, is a big fan of Twitter in the Enterprise and sat in on a panel to discuss the topic. One of Laura’s major points is that micro-blogging helps to strengthen weak ties. And Lisa has already stated that corporations love silo’s, I start to see the real benefit.

My Argument

Two reasons why I’m really digging micro-blogging in the enterprise: it’s easy to jot small thoughts down vs. the daunting task of writing long form and the multiple access points to the most popular micro-blog Twitter.

1. The first week I was on twitter I was a mere spectator. I want to see what people were saying on topic I found interesting, on my brand and any learnings I could find. Of course, the second week quickly moved into engagement and the need to want to contribute. For me, that meant forcing myself to post items. I found that as I start to reveal more, the more followers I gained. And, that gave me a broader group to follow.

All this to say, twitter is easy to use and once you’ve been doing it awhile it’s second nature to want to share what you’ve seen, what you’re thinking and what you’re reading. All very valuable intelligence for an enterprise.

2. Twitter has a multitude of clients to use in order to update status: twitter.com, browser plug-ins, thwirl, browser side bars like Flock or Yoono, mobile and now voice via jott.com. For an enterprise that has a variety of personalities and technology acumen, everyone can find a tool that they are comfortable using.

Making the Business Case

Micro-blogging typically is an entry that’s limited to 140 characters and offers users to just update short snippets of thoughts or information. For a typically cube dweller who is being inundated with email, phone calls, colleagues dropping by their cube and bosses yelling at them, short outbursts of useful information is a great.

If you are a non-believer that small bits of information are useless I submit to you my pencil theory. A single pencil is very easy to break and not very strong, but a handful of pencils is almost impossible to break. A single thought is not powerful, but a handful of thoughts on a single topic is intense.

You can see an executive being able to search for specific terms, like annual report or employee surveys, and quickly finding a dashboard of activity and progress on projects. Or employees who have been thrown on a project in midstream (it happens) being able to quickly get up to speed by just reviewing the “twit stream”.

I could go on, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Please post a comment. It makes me happy.

If you’re still confused on what twitter is and how to use it, check this out.

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Simplicity – You’re a Tricky One

The most important feature for making any technology or service mainstream is its simplicity. The first iMac was elegant in its simplicity, three cords to plug in – the power, the keyboard and the ethernet cable – and you were online. There are other examples of simplicity making technology acceptable by the masses, but you know those.

When I think about the social media arena and the tools that available I look again at simplicity. Facebook is very simple and in its simplicity is a powerful way to connect to friends and family. Twitter is a “whale” of simplicity. In fact, it’s a little too simple which is why I think it has done so well and is seriously on the verge of wide adoption – possibly even corporate adoption.

Plurk is a newcomer that showed promise for me of taking Twitter’s place during the Twitter network outages, but after trying to figure out the sliding timeline, the karma points or how to find people, I was done. Then Twitter was back online. Fail.

FriendFeed is both simple and not. The interface very simple. The power behind FriendFeed, as I’ve come to admire, is the ability for people you do and don’t follow to congregate and have a conversation. It’s like the modern day Forum. I’ve engaged in conversations that inspired my second post “PR vs Social Media” to “What did your parents tell you that ended up becoming true.” In fact, FriendFeed actually was the impetus for me getting back into long-form blogging because so many ideas started to percolate after watching some of the conversations.

Now, here’s where simplicity is tricky. FriendFeed is too simple, but I still feel like it needs more GUI to make it accessible to the masses. The FriendFeed team recently added search, which, “can search over all of your friends’ shared items, an individual person’s items, or search all of FriendFeed.” This makes finding what matters to you most, like your Brand, your band or fans much easier and simpler.

I’ll wrap things up, because of course, I do want to keep things simple.

MC

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Sweaty Confessions

Newsweek has an article up about gym faux-pas and list nine horror stories from gym owners and management.  Luckily, I haven’t done any of those, except maybe once got lost in my iPod and belted out the first verse of “Baby Got Back.”

Other annoyances that weren’t included are:

  • guy who walks around a lot and fixes his shirt in the mirror
  • Chatty Cathys who sit in front of the one woman actually working out on a bike and talk about all their shoe, kids, husband and house problems
  • People who drink from the water fountain like a Saint Bernard and let water enter mouth, run out and continue to lap it up…these are the people who then smile as they step away from the water fountain as if they’re being polite or doing you a favor.

Anyway, I had a fun time at the gym last night and thought I’d share my thoughts.  If anyone actually reads this thing, leave yours.

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PR vs. Social Media – The Debate2.0

I’ve recently see a lot of discussion in the SM world about the difference between PR and social media. The debate started after Twitter said they wouldn’t turn to PR to help communicate their numerous network outages. They claimed they would address the community and not use “spin.” Well seeing how half the folks on Twitter are in PR learning how to use the microblogging site to sell to clients and use internally, this set off a fire storm of conversations…in the community.

Now, if this is the new world of media, and everyone says this is what the world will turn to – that is away from traditional media – then why the journalists authored PR Spammers wiki? http://prspammers.pbwiki.com/FrontPage

If the new world consists of community and journalists are taking part in the community alongside PR professionals, why don’t they want to get pitched? Or is it that PR pros have forgotten the first fact of pitching – know the channel? Lots of firms are on that list that claim to have huge social media practices. Does that mean they don’t know what they’re talking about or that journalists aren’t ready for the lines of professional and private lives to converge?

This isn’t the first time PR pros have been outed for spam pitching. Sarah Lacy at BWeek wrote a scathing post on her blog in 2006 (and did it again) and recently the Wired EIC Chris Anderson published his blacklist of PR pros who hadn’t done their homework and pitched him with irrelevant “news” items.

I’m sure this debate has been going on since the beginning of both professions and will continue whether it’s over the phone, on email, in Twitter or whatever new shinny app that ends in ‘r’ comes along.

MC

*I do have journalists I’ve worked with and admired as friends on Facebook and follow more on Twitter.

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Third Time’s the Charm

This isn’t my first blog, but I can’t promise it won’t be the last. I’ve been using Twitter a lot and am very used to the microblogging format, so I’ll try the long hand version again. I’m a social media participant and want to further understand the experience I’ve been pushing for at the office. I’m so web 2.0. If this blog is boring please check me out in the other communities I currently participate in:

I’m also the site admin for the FedEx Newsroom, the About FedEx page and the FedEx corporate responsibility pages.

Looking forward to this new forum.

MC

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