Archive | Clients RSS feed for this section

What Should I Do Today?

8 Mar

I’m reading Amber Naslund’s post on how to do ‘hard work‘ as I try to decide how to start two quite distinct proposals while it’s still morning.  Worth reading if you need a little inspiration and a reminder to get focused, get to work and push the results beyond simply what’s expected (incidentally, it’s also worth a click for the photo of Spider-Man ambling along the sidewalk with his duffel).

This has me thinking once again about one of my favorite client questions on managing communications in a world where there are just too many ways to reach customers — how do I find the time to do social media when I barely have the resources to get the basics done?  The answer, of course, is to rethink “the basics.” But how do you do that?

One of my maxims for clients thinking about establishing their social media and online presence is to re-cast their thinking from “what I have to get done today” — the newsletter, the brochure, the article, the trade show booth, the website redesign — to “what’s going on out there today, what do I have to say about it, and how can I help?”  These questions are likely to lead you toward your audience via communications media and tools that are much more immediate and direct.

For example, the corporate communications to-do list might include:

* Each week, review company news, topics and themes with corporate, marketing, sales and service: what do you want to say today?  Where should we say it?

* Scan industry news, blogs and social chatter — how can we be relevant? What can we learn from customers and influencers today?

* Determine whether and how to respond to social chatter, blog posts, news articles. Respond or elevate where needed.

* Post your news on your website or blog, and on networks where customers and influencers can find and follow.

* Meet with internal stakeholders to ensure in-depth awareness and understanding of what’s happening inside the business. Adjust the message. Take time to review the strategy. What are the tools, media and materials you need to make the message work?

Do all this along with creating corporate presentations, participating in meetings, handling ad hoc high-priority executive requests, communicating across the team, juggling deadlines and actually writing and producing the stories your organization has to tell.

(Are there enough hours in the day?)

If we keep asking questions, the answers should become clear — what works? what doesn’t? what does the customer need? what moves the needle? what are we doing because we’ve always done it?

If you could start over, what would you keep? What would you drop?

Social Media Certification – Who’s In, Who’s Out?

30 Dec

A client sent me this link:  a checklist to determine if someone who has hung out a shingle as a “social media expert” is indeed worthy of the title. I thought it  was kind of funny and interesting and infuriating at the same time. It’s not that I don’t qualify … I do, despite (or because of) the fact that I see myself more as a public relations and marketing professional who gets how social media is a part of the communications and social landscape that clients need to influence and engage to reach their  objectives.

Ian of Conversation Marketing appears to agree, but the frustration running through his post seems to be the reaction of someone who has had one too many lost new business opportunities end with an exasperated cry of, “they hired that guy?

There’s this undercurrent of “who’s legit, who’s not” running through a lot of social media commentary these days. Check out the gargantuan debate that ensued when Olivier Blanchard tossed a laser-targeted stink bomb at the International Social Media Association for daring to claim the legitimacy to offer a social media certification. Blanchard, to his credit, turned the kerfuffle into something constructive – and his post lays out the issues brilliantly.  It has already become a great starting point for anyone who wants to further the discussion.

In the post’s video, Blanchard talks about how he feels that real, legitimate certifications are vital to help corporations separate the wheat from the chaff in a world where there is plenty of “chaff” calling themselves “social media experts”.  But, he notes, the certifications have to be real and come from respected organizations that have been around for years and are specific to the kinds of professionals who will be doing social media related activities as part of their jobs in, say, public relations or customer service.  Fair enough, but I’d hate to see good people allowed in or out of social media experts club based on even an excellent certification authority.

That’s why I’m going to disagree respectfully with Blanchard that even good certification is necessary to help clients separate who is a legitimate social media expert from who is not. If a company is going to be fooled by snake oil, they’re just as likely to be fooled by someone who has earned a certification. I’ll go out on a limb and say that there are plenty of terrific public relations people in my neck of the woods who have earned their APR credential – which I understand is a very thorough and well-run process – and there are others who have earned APR who are nice enough, but couldn’t strategize or write their way out of a paper bag (nor should they, I suppose, but I digress). Likewise, there are plenty of brilliant public relations practitioners who have never shown interest in APR and most likely never will.

Some might say that APR is a bad process — I wouldn’t.  I would say that this kind of certification is only a guarantee that the practitioner cared enough about their own (choose one of the following) professional development/personal marketing to earn it – but provides little certification that the individual has the talent, passion, creativity, judgment, experience and “chops” that you need for your company.  You have the meet the person, learn how they think, what they do, what they’ve done, who they’ve helped, and judge for yourself.

The same would be true of a social media certification – done well, it would be at best a sign that the individual was interested in this kind of training; at worst, it becomes a way for the “ins” to decide who’s in and who’s out.

Work With Me, People – Part 1

23 Oct

Kadet Communications helps clients move people through communications strategy, brand positioning and storytelling.  It also is a one-man-show, which means that when I want to have an all-employee meeting on strategic communications, it helps to have a vivid imagination…

President: Alright, let’s call this meeting of the Kadet Communications team to order.  At the last meeting, we wanted to see how we’re doing, so we asked the Chief Strategist to get some feedback from clients and colleagues.  Tell me what you found.

Chief Strategist: Let’s step back for a minute.  What we agreed is that we should treat Kadet Communications like we would a client, review our positioning and make adjustments where necessary. If we’re going to talk about this, we need start with objectives.

President: Hmmph.  OK, the main objective is the same as that of our clients: “sell more stuff.” Or in our case, get more clients. I’d also add that we want more opportunities to earn in-depth projects and long-term relationships.

Happy now?

Chief Strategist: Quite! So, as you noted, I was sent off to get some feedback on how we’re doing. I talked to clients and colleagues because our Strategic Communications process always begins with reflection on the inside and input from the outside. You see, it’s only by…

President: Yes, yes, we understand. Get on with it.

Chief Strategist: Right then.  We talked to about a half dozen people. Let me put them up on the screen:

You’re always getting us to think differently…to consider more than just this one project.

When I think of you, I think of technology. You have big time technology experience that translates from big companies to small ones.

You’re strategy really comes from experience. Strategy comes easy because you’ve been there before, but you always considered not just what we should do, but what would work for our company.

You get to the heart of the story—understand clients’ needs and goals, and communicate them perfectly… the balance of classical marketing and PR to online social networks.

President: I love it.  That sounds great!

Chief Strategist: Well, yes, but there’s a gap.

President: A gap? What gap? I see no gaps…

Chief Strategist: Here’s the thing: When you ask people to describe you, and each one responds with a different answer, you may have a brand positioning problem.

President: Maybe you’re over-thinking it.  Each of these responses fits into our core message of Strategy. Positioning. Storytelling.

Chief Strategist: But ideally, we’d hear that back from people. Let’s ask the team…how do we describe ourselves?

PR Manager: Smart PR and marketing strategies that work!

Writer/Storyteller: Compelling writing that moves people!

President: I tell people that we do communications that moves people depending on what they want.

Chief Strategist: See?

President: Hmmph. Don’t we have work to do?

Chief Strategist: Of course. But positioning and storytelling are critical — this is what we tell our clients — everything starts with the story. What is our story?

President: You know, my favorite story since we set up shop two years ago is our client where we did the whole thing. When we started, they had two businesses — one in data storage, the other in business process optimization — and they could talk about one, or the other, but never together. No one knew what they did, they were losing cross sales opportunities right and left. The employees were all over the map.  Their prospects heard a lot about technology, but little about what it would do for them.

Chief Strategist: Right. So we interviewed their people… executives, sales… consultants.  And we interviewed and surveyed customers. We analyzed competitors’ positioning….

President: And we found gaps!

Chief Strategist: Indeed we did. So we showed them the responses. We found out that customers indeed didn’t know about the two sides of the business. And the customers viewed them as tech experts with deep knowledge of whatever our client did for them.

President: So if they wanted to be a strategic partner who could solve an array of problems, the customers didn’t see it. We  held a  workshop to get everyone together on this…

Writer: If I might move this along a bit…we repositioned them as making critical business processes like the stuff they do work better and smarter…so that their customers would have high performance solutions. We laid out a brand promise around delivering high performance solutions and the confidence that they’d be right for the customer.

Chief Strategist: And it worked — now their marketing and sales are coherent, their message is consistent, and they get more chances to cross-sell to existing customers.

President: Then we worked with them on a new website, new marketing materials, new whitepapers, and a communications strategy.  I love that story.

Chief Strategist: So what have we learned from this?

President: We’re pretty good at this stuff!  But…that was a long story.

Chief  Strategist: Right.  And what makes us the best?

President: Well, we have the experience to handle just about anything in public relations.

PR Manager: And we do smart strategy based on what works, not the media of the moment. And, our goals are the business goals, not PR goals.

Writer: And write good…heh…I mean, well. And we really shine when we bring deep client insight into our client stories.

Chief Strategist: So what we really need to do is bring all of this together…

President: Hmmm.

PR Manager: I’ll get the coffee.

ShoppeSimple – Building a New Shopping Experience

30 Jun

No one likes being interrupted, so few people will admit that they like advertising.  It is, by it’s nature, interruptive.  Even in search, you get those annoying “Sponsored Links” running up and down the screen.

But we like brands the brands we like.  We feel a connection with them. We want to know what they’re up to, what they have to say and what they have to offer. And then we’re not being interrupted — we’re interested. We’re paying attention.

I’m working with a client called ShoppeSimple that takes this as its starting point — that advertising works best when people are paying attention.  Today, brands have chosen to put the ShoppeSimple icon on their site.  It sends users to a hub, where they can choose to get offers and updates from their brand in a reader, or to check out deals now and buy.

That’s the starting point. Where is it going? The opportunity we see is to reverse the consumer sales information distribution process — instead of users having to search for a new size 5 summer dress, the brands and product choices come to them, when they decide they want them, and where they want to see them.

The technology core is what we’re calling TransactionalRSS, or TRSS — using RSS to create a new and better shopping experience. What matters here isn’t the technology…it’s the capabilities and experience being created around it.

I’m blogging about about this for the company at shoppesimple.wordpress.com.  I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think.

%d bloggers like this: