Tag Archives: Media Relations

4 Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications

25 Aug

I thought I’d collect my last few posts into one big ‘ol post.  The point to all of this is to show that you can think about social strategies in terms of “valuable activities you can measure.”

The challenge, as always, is to measure them in sales. But in many ways, that’s just not fair. First, it’s clear that we know that marketers firmly believe that many online public relations activities work — and traditional PR activties — without being able to tie them back to sales.  Second, there are many corporate activities that either support critical operations (i.e., accounts payable, accounts receivable, running an IT network, maintaining office space, etc.) that you can’t necessarily tie back to sales, but you know is important to the business.  They, like communications, are part of the basics of doing business.  The key is to do them — and measure them — efficiently, strategically and with focus — not just on sales, but on your goals for the kind of business you want to be.

Herewith, four strategies… and there are more from whence they came:

Idea #1: Doing a Better Job at PR and Media Relations.

Do the reporters and editors that follow your company post on Twitter? Do they have blogs? Are they using RSS?  Are you outsourcing all of this to the agency?

You may be missing out for a couple reasons. First, reporters and editors appreciate having direct relationships with representatives of the company. Next, tools like Twitter and blogs make it possible to reach certain reporters in ways that you never could through email — commenting on what they do, sharing ideas and more.

But what is more interesting to a reporter — a Tweet or blog comment from the director of marketing at COMPANY, or one from an agency representing…who knows? Use the agency for strategy, ideas and formal pitching…in between, if you’re not connected with them, you may be missing opportunities.

Measure by clicks to your website, search ranking on key topics and sales.

Idea #2: Getting in front of…or catching up to your competitors.

You might do a few searches and find that no one is talking about your brand and think, “My customers aren’t using social media — I don’t have to worry about this yet.” But…are you sure about that? Maybe they just aren’t talking about you… The first, most important step is to make sure you’re watching — that you’re monitoring the forums, topics and keywords that are important to your reputation and sales.

If your competitors are being discussed without you, there’s an issue to address — how can you become part of the conversation?

If customers are complaining about competitors’ products, is there an opportunity?

If no one talks about what you do…there may be an opportunity to start something new — a web portal, blog or partnership — or an indication that online resources need to better support offline interactions.

The remedy is to actively monitor, evaluate and plot a strategy that delivers for your company.

Measure by links back to your website from social networks, tone of key messages visible online, search engine positioning.

Idea #3 sits right in the wheelhouse of corporate communications:  Being ready for the crisis.

It’s true that if you keep your head down, you’ll probably be OK for a while. But eventually, something will happen. You’ll recall a product. Or well-connected customer decides to vent their product/customer service frustrations on you.  Or some ‘enterprising’ employee decides to make a video ‘unbecoming’ of the brand. Or an energized group of consumers decides to be offended by your new ad campaign.  Should your brand’s first participation consumer and influencer communities online be an apology?

Again, it pays to be watching…and listening.  The earlier you catch wind of a brand or reputation crisis the better.  What if, like Comcast, you keep an eye on Twitter for service complaints and make sure they are handled? The better connected you are with those online communities, the easier it will be to respond.  The better you understand online communities and social networks, and how you’ll get the word out in crisis, the better for your reputation as well.

Measure in how long the sales hit lasts — if at all.

Idea 4: Empower Employees…and manage them.

Employees are consumers. Employees are people. Employees have networks both professional and personal. And you never know when that will help … or hurt … your corporate goals. Employees engaged online — through blogs, private forums, social networks like Facebook or Twitter, or industry forums — are ambassodors of the brand. They are problem solvers. They are recruisters. They are sharers of the promotions you want to “go viral”.

The Knowledge@Wharton blog offers some great case studies in a recent post — Del Monte Pet Foods chats with consumers about problems and ideas to shape new products. HP has 50 bloggers engaged in product communities every day.  E&Y uses Facebook for recruiting.  As Joe Kraus of Google is quoted in that post:

“What all organizations need to prepare for, said Kraus, is a completely social web, where “your users will simply expect to be part of the conversation.”

What communications needs to provide is policy that guides engagement but does not constrict.  Or, to put it another way, to encourage employees who want to help the company, while offering reasonable advice on how to do so without hurting the company, or their own livelihood.  Charline Li offers an informative listing of corporate policies that are great examples of how very different companies come at the challenges and opportunities of online social engagement.  Worth a read…and a whole new post that I’ll save for next time.

Measure by improved search engine positioning, increased media attention, greater website traffic and sales leads.


Measureable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Part 3

5 Aug

We’re on day three of ideas for measurable social engagement strategies for corporate communications.  If you haven’t found a good reason to get your organization engaged in online social networks — even in a small way — as part of your day-to-day business, here’s a good place to start.

Idea #3 sits right in the wheelhouse of corporate communications:  Being ready for the crisis.

It’s true that if you keep your head down, you’ll probably be OK for a while. But eventually, something will happen. You’ll recall a product. Or well-connected customer decides to vent theirproduct/customer service frustrations on you.  Or some ‘enterprising’ employee decides to make a video ‘unbecoming’ of the brand. Or an energized group of consumers decides to be offended by your new ad campaign.  Should your brand’s first participation consumer and influencer communities online be an apology?

Again, it pays to be watching…and listening.  The earlier you catch wind of a brand or reputation crisis the better.  What if, like Comcast, you keep an eye on Twitter for service complaints and make sure they are handled? The better connected you are with those online communities, the easier it will be to respond.  The better you understand online communities and social networks, and how you’ll get the word out in crisis, the better for your reputation as well.

Measure in how long the sales hit lasts — if at all.

Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Part 1

3 Aug

The question at hand is this:  In corporate environments — primarily B2B — where the only new communications and marketing investments are those that deliver a return, what opportunities are corporate communications departments missing when they don’t engage with online networks?

As I’ve noted in the past, even B2B companies where there is little online conversation about their producuts or issues need to recognize at minimum that the ways people want to interact with businesses are changing.  Which means that “getting the basics done” in corporate communications requires a new look at activities that once seemed like unnecessary distractions — like monitoring and participating in online social networks, managing company blogs and making use of RSS feeds and mobile features — are now part of “the basics” that need day-t0-day consideration by internal resources.

What are some initiatives that deliver a measurable return — either in advancing the corporate reputation or protecting it? I’m going to post some ideas each day this week.  As always, I’m available to meet, discuss and deliver excellent counsel and support to help you make these initiatives happen in your organization.

Today’s idea #1:  Doing a Better Job at PR and Media Relations.

Do the reporters and editors that follow your company post on Twitter? Do they have blogs? Are they using RSS?  Are you outsourcing all of this to the agency?

You may be missing out for a couple reasons. First, reporters and editors appreciate having direct relationships with representatives of the company. Next, tools like Twitter and blogs make it possible to reach certain reporters in ways that you never could through email — commenting on what they do, sharing ideas and more.

But what is more interesting to a reporter — a Tweet or blog comment from the director of marketing at COMPANY, or one from an agency representing…who knows? Use the agency for strategy, ideas and formal pitching…in between, if you’re not connected with them, you may be missing opportunities.

Measure by clicks to your website, search ranking on key topics and sales.

Tomorrow:  Getting in front of…or catching up to…your competitors.

11 Essential PR Skills

25 Mar

I’m preparing a “PR 101″ course for a client this week. I’m glad to do it — the client is a non-profit that has never done much in the way of deliberate communications and marketing, and will need to rely on volunteers to keep any kind of communications program moving.

The exercise has me thinking about what it takes to do PR these days. In a lot of ways, PR is easier.  For example, when I started work at a big agency in 1992, typical assistant account executive duties included stuffing press kits, sending out faxes, poring through the Bacon’s directories to build media lists and doing daily newspaper scan-and-clips.  Doing media relations could be expensive.  If you wanted to generate media attention for a national consumer campaign, you’d be prepared to spend thousands of dollars on Nexis or Dialog databases, or you were cold-calling big national media lists (it didn’t make sense, but happened more often than you’d believe today).   Needless to say, every bit of that is now digital, searchable or automated.

As has been noted here and elsewhere, what is essential about public relations has not changed: moving people to action by creating credible, meaningful relationships between an organization, and the people and groups important to its success.

What’s changed?  The media, the available, the audience and their expectations of organizations.  There are more media, they move faster, and expectations are high from organizations, influencers, clients and the audience.  The risks and opportunities are higher than ever.

What are the essential skills for today’s public relations practitioner?  Some are tangible skills you can learn and practice; others are more of a “state of mind”.  I’d start here — I’d welcome your comments — what would you add?

  1. Sweat the small stuff. PR people are problem solvers. We’re i-dotters and t-crossers. We make sure the reporter has the background, and the VP has the right numbers.  If the event requires a microphone, mariachi band or glockenspiel, we find it and get it there.  We listen — and make sure the message comes across, and make sure it isn’t misunderstood. My dad liked to tell us kids, “don’t sweat the small stuff” when we’d get too riled up on the details and lose sight of the big picture.   A core PR skill is to do just that — so others don’t have to sweat it.
  2. Know your audience. Who do you want to hear your story? What do you want them to do?  You’d be surprised at how many communicators and marketers have trouble answering this simple question.
  3. Know the media. PR people need to be experts on who’s wielding influence for that audience.  Otherwise, how do you know what stories will work and won’t?  There are too many PR people read the paper, but they don’t follow news online.  Or, they get their news online, but don’t read the paper.  They don’t read blogs, or they only read blogs. They’ve never set up an RSS feed, tried out Twitter and Facebook — or think they can get all their news that way.  They’ve never seen the evening news or watched Oprah and Ellen, because no one they know is watching.  The point is to get to know the media.  Love the media. Get to know who’s doing what and writing what and saying what. Note bylines and blog profiles, followers, audience measures and ‘authority’.   Know where the conversations are happening.  And where you and your organization can and must get involved.
  4. Be the media. Another “these days” thing. PR needs to think less like a facilitator and more like a producer.  What are we going to communicate today?  How will our audience get our story?   How will we meet them where we are?  How will we “move” them today?
  5. Think outside your organization. Be objective. Sometimes, you have to be the voice of your audience with management.  What stories will fly and what won’t?  AIG needed someone to do this — to tell them how the public would react to their actions and force them to reconsider their decisions.
  6. Research…and synthesize. The ability to gather and synthesize information is vital to just about everything we do — from understanding the audience and market environment to getting background on reporters or bloggers before an interview. The ability to help your organization better understand their environment — and connect that understanding to their ability to achieve objectives — is vital.
  7. Understand measurement. The web promises measurement and analytics never before available to the public relations profession. It is vital for PR people to gain a better understanding of web analytics and to build a greater degree of feedback and measurement into programs.  In my time at big agencies, our measurement offerings were too expensive for most clients. This is unacceptable.  We need to do a better job with understanding and building in measurement and feedback loops into our programs, and that starts with building a basic understanding of how websites work and web analytics.
  8. Understand objectives. This is a simple one:  We don’t do PR to generate clips or website hits or blog posts or links or viral action.  We don’t even do it to raise ‘awareness’ or generate ‘word of mouth’.  We do it to increase sales, maintain and build customer loyalty, muster support, gain votes or influence public opinion.  We do it to change behavior. While  all of the traditional PR measures may well influence behavior, they are not an end in and of themselves.  This is why the Skittles experiment is, in my view, doomed to fail. There is no clear benefit beyond generating marketing buzz, which benefits marketers and agencies far more that it drives sales and brand loyalty.
  9. Write. Storytelling is essential to communications.  Nothing has replaced good writing.  Not 140 character limits. Not video. Not the web. It all starts with good writing.  But it doesn’t end there.
  10. Communicate in multiple media. The big change in the media world is the primacy of multiple media. Get to know them.  Where can podcasts augment press releases?  Where can video be more effective?  Where can a game, animation or image communicate what the written word cannot?    PR people don’t need to be expert in every form of media, but they need to understand the uses and appeal of each.
  11. Be smart. Reporters constantly complain about bad PR pitches. Bloggers do, too.  There’s no excuse for a cold call. It’s too easy to do the research. They know it, and you know it, too.

That’s just my list, and it’s just a start. What’s yours?

“Recession Proof” SEO Tips

15 Oct

Invest in the Upswing #3

A post at the Top Rank Marketing blog that’s worth a read.  The emphasis here is on tactics for promoting the content you publish online.  Use blogs, media relations, social media participation with search engine optimization to bring your content to people, and people to your content.

Visit: http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/01/recession-proof-search-engine-optimization-tips/

Not a Political Blog…but…

10 Oct

Any good guide to writing — thus to blogging — will tell you, “write what you know.”  The trouble is that I’ve got presidential politics on the mind…a notion which is in direct conflict with my own unwritten rule that this is to be a PR/communications/marketing/branding/media blog, and not at all a political blog.

But I have found that an itch to not just write but communicate about a topic results in the inability to write about anything at all.  So…where there’s a will, there will have to be a way.  I’m still not going to take anyone’s side here on the blog, but if you’ll indulge me for a few hundred words, let me state the following:

  • Partisan blogs are frightening. The absolute assurance that some people have of the evil that is one candidate despite any contrary evidence, versus the reasonableness of the other side, despite equally contrary evidence, is to me astounding.  Are people really that sure that they’re right, or is it all for show?
  • Pundits should respect to their viewers. TV news commentators are far too enchanted with the thrill of the campaign to be of any use to those of us following politics in our spare time.  They think we care whether they are bored with the candidates stating the same old positions — as if any more than 10 percent of us has ever seen, heard or read a candidate’s stump speech in its entirety.  They complain that the debates gave us nothing new, as if we the electorate already had a deep understanding of the old stuff.  They judge the candidate’s debate performances on how others will react to it, as if…well…as if they know…

    Show us some respect: Recap the issues.  Judge the actual debate. And as for the performance, just tell us what you think and let the polls handle the rest.

  • Obama versus McCain is a new media versus traditional media battle. It’s fascinating to watch the communications battle play out.  McCain seems to be focused, day to day, on making news.  He delivers stories.  He tried to “break news” in each debate — first with a government spending freeze, then with the home mortgage bailout proposal. Obama is doing the integrated marketing thing.  His campaign’s use of the internet, social media and mobile marketing has been well documented.  But I get the feeling that Obama’s campaign has been frustrating for news junkies looking for that daily jolt of newsie goodness.
  • If you want the truth, find good blogs and read them. The problem for mainstream media covering politics is that, by tradition and a code of ethics, they can’t call a lie a lie.  Bloggers can.  Traditional news organization report facts.  They do so within the construct of easily understood stories that play out in the campaigns’ daily drama.  Bloggers — and op-ed writers to an extent — can pass judgement.  They build around the work of professional journalists.  They check facts. They call out the candidates on oft-repeated statements that mislead, obfuscate and cover up the truth.  They call a liar a liar.

    The challenge, of course, is to find the “good ones”.  To me, the best of them offer an opinion and a link — and let you judge for yourself.  If you find that the articles and videos don’t back up their opinions, drop them.  If you find that they only link to like-minded opinionators, drop them.  If you find that they offer you links to the news along with their own unique perspective, keep reading…you’ll learn something.

Finally, here are a few of my favorite RSS feeds of late…Anything you think I should add?

Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish — more links and opining than can be consumed in a day…conservative, not Republican.
James Fallows — smart, reasoned guy on a wide range of subjects.
Clive Crook — another guy from The Atlantic.  So sue me…  Seems reasoned and conservative.
Real Clear Politics (via TIME) — polls, polls … and surveys.
Eric Black Ink (at MinnPost) — Minnesota reporter, blogger and journalist.
The Same Rowdy Crowd — Communications professionals arguing about the practice of communications in politics.
Slate — direct link to their political coverage…their writers strive for the angle not yet taken.
Salon — Just started getting back into this magazine again … decidedly to the left, last I checked.

How to Consume Political Commentary – 5 rules

3 Oct

I’m a pretty even-keeled guy, but political commentary is about the only thing that consistently gets me throwing things at the television and shouting at my laptop. After absorbing all the spin I could stomach, I thought I’d try to contribute something positive to the discussion.  Herewith, five guidelines for analyzing political commentary.

  • Ignore focus groups. Repeat after me:  “You cannot draw broad conclusions based on focus groups.” Even focus groups equipped with cute little dials that draw pretty lines that go up and down as people talk.  Every marketer knows this.  Talk to an experienced marketer about focus groups, and they roll their eyes.  They know how easy it is for a focus group to steer you wrong.
  • Ignore all political operatives. To pick on CNN specifically, I don’t understand what Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, Ed Rollins and that Republican ad-guy are doing on a panel.  They will give you their party’s line no matter what. They are ideologically committed to their parties’ ideals, and they are tribally committed to supporting their team.  When they talk, don’t listen.
  • On surveys, question the questions. It was great to get results of CNN’s instant opinion polls. But as with any survey research, the questions asked, their context and the audience is vitally important to broader understanding.  For example, 84% said Palin did better than expected … a result that tells much about the low level of expectations, and little about the quality of the performance.   51% say Biden wins … but how many say that winning a debate is important to them.  Similarly, Palin was seen by 54% as more “likable” than Biden (36% felt the opposite), which compares the two, but tells us nothing about whether or not they find Biden or Palin likable at all.    On the other hand, the result that 87 percent of those polled said Biden is qualified to be president, while 42 percent said Palin is qualified seems telling.
  • If someone’s doing real analysis, pay attention. I like sites like RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight, that aggregate polls (though they’re in a bit of a tiff with each other over perceived bias in their poll choices). I’m a big fan of James Fallows of The Atlantic, who has for many years been watching and analyzing debate performances with almost scientific rigor; he delivers great insights in the magazine and on his blog.
  • On blogs, click the links. Just because you tend to agree with your favorite blogger, it’s important to “trust but verify.” Know who they’re quoting.  Does that person have any authority, or is the blogger just amplifying someone else’s uninformed opinion?  I’ve been following Andrew Sullivan’s blog lately.  It’s taken awhile to get a feel for his unique take … what he gets worked up about, where I think he goes too far … mostly by following up on his sources, which he helpfully provides.

It’s the only way to come to your own conclusions.

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