Archive | July, 2009

Justifying Social Media — Are We Still Running on Faith?

30 Jul

I’ve been turning over in my mind a social media survey highlighted this week in eMarketer. The study surveyed nearly 2,000 social media marketers on what works and what doesn’t in their world.  For example, social media marketers see these strategies and tactics as an effective way to do things that have typically fallen into the realm of public relations — influence brand reputation and increase brand awareness — as well as digital marketing practices to increase website traffic and search engine rankings.  They report less effectiveness at improving internal communications, generating leads and increasing online sales.

Marketing Sherpa Study, posted by eMarketer

Marketing Sherpa Study, posted by eMarketer

Perhaps more telling are their responses on their ability to measure social media effectiveness.  In a nutshell, that which the marketers feel are the most effective tactics are deemed the least accurately measured.

Over on the ShoppeSimple blog (a client blog), we noted that reports highlight the gap between creating and participating in social conversation, and turning converting that conversation into sales — there is a need for a way to connect consumers to brands and product offers outside of email.   

From a corporate communications standpoint, the study highlights the dilemma of where and how to invest in social media.  The most effective social  tactics appear to be seen by respondents as only marginally more measurable than that traditonal media relations — where you counted clips and assumed they were having an impact on awareness and attitudes (and while the web makes this more cost effective, most businesses do not have or spend the resources to directly measure impact of media relations on customers).

And yet…and yet…

It’s clear that we believe this stuff is working, just like PR has always worked, and maybe even more so.

There is not doubt that corporations ignore the online communications channel at their peril.  If only from a crisis preparedness standpoint, no company should want to risk becoming the next big case study on what happens when blogs and social networks your gaffe goes viral.  That’s a good place to start.

Beyond that, if you don’t look, you won’t see.  In an uncontroversial environment, the issues won’t be obvious.  I have some thoughts on the matter that I’ll save for my next post, but what do you think?

In corporate environments where additional spending is only for initiatives where you can demonstrate a return, what opportunities does corporate communications miss when they don’t engage with social media?

The Vision Thing and the Crowd Thing

20 Jul

I was reading Jeff Jarvis’ post reacting to the news that BusinessWeek is up for sale, and it got me thinking.  It seems to me that The News Media have two editorial/journalistic paths to address what the Web hath wrought:

1) The Vision Thing — Have an editorial vision and express it.  Deliver great journalistic product. Build community around “fans” of that vision. See The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and many, many independent news blogs.

2) The Crowd Thing — Have a brand that attracts an audience.  Have a brand that attracts and engages those readers — and encourages them to contribute. Deliver content that drives community reaction and builds audience.

The Vision focused media will need to see getting people to pay for their content as their primary source of revenue.

The Crowd focused  media will need to view delivering an audience to advertisers as their primary source of revenue, whether that is through links and clicks, affiliate relationships or advertising.

The Vision folks will reduce costs by not being over concerned with perfect  alignment with their readers, as Stephen Baker recounts the typical editorial process at BusinessWeek.   They will create ways to listen to readers, and for readers to interact with each other and the editorial staff, so that editorial is inherently in touch with readers, readers feel “a part of something.  And the product may challenge and annoy the readers as well.

The Crowd folks will play the vital role of filtering the news to meet the perceived interests of their audience. They will give up a measure of control to the audience itself — putting journalistic effort behind what interests the crowd and and bringing editorial standards to crowd-sourced reporting.

Newspapers cling to a Vision while dipping their toes into the chilly waters of the Crowd.  Media with a Vision risk trying to hard to activate a Crowd that would prefer to be engaged.

And since these days, every organization is a media organization — what path will your company take — will you drive your Vision, or run with the Crowd?

Storytelling, Corporate Communications and Brand

16 Jul

There’s a funny dynamic in my business these days. I’m starting to see it as a push and pull between my business as “communications consulting” and “writing”.

In my mind, I’ve always seen it as the same thing. A consultant is inherently a communicator — a writer — who must advocate his own ideas, analysis and strategy, and outfit the client do the same.

And a writer is a consultant. To do more than skim the surface of business story, you need to bring more than simply curiosity and a way with words.  You need an ability to recognize both what makes a good story, and what that story has to do for the organization — the goals the story has to support for the organization to be successful.

There’s a reason that I (and others) use ‘storytelling’ to describe the heart my business.  First, I like the word. It evokes something basic and simple that hearkens back to childhood – sitting in the circle listening to lessons and fables and stories of enchanted kingdoms and plucky young Jacks and princes and foxes and rabbits.  And storytelling perfectly encapsulates the art and action of communications – the creation of ‘story’ – or message or brand – and the ‘telling’ of it – the strategic and pragmatic task of finding people who want to hear a story and pass it on to their friends.

On the other hand, these days we like to say that brands don’t “tell” their audience anything – they have conversations. They listen and they communicate and they respond and they act.

Sure. But a brand isn’t simply the creation of the crowd, or even its customers.

And have you ever heard a good storyteller? I mean a really good one. The kind that holds the rapt attention of a gaggle of unruly kids? The kind that hears the unscripted shout from kid in the the back with glasses and the attitude and makes him part of the narrative? The sort that listens to the beat of story as it is spoken and can quickly take up new rhythms from the night and the audience as inspiration and slip them into the story as casual as you would in your backyard lawn chair over lemonade and beer?

That’s the dynamic I see in corporate communications and marketing today: You want to create a space where you can sit in the center of the circle with the people inside and outside the organization who make it go.  Telling, asserting, advocating — expressing your vision – and listening, adapting, and moving.  And setting them free to tell the story to their circles – letting it grow stronger in each retelling.

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