Archive | November, 2009

Define Social Strategy Toward Business Goals. Yeah.

24 Nov

Anyone who works with me knows that I like to start my public relations plans with objectives like “sell more stuff” rather than “generate coverage”.  This is unusual in a world where “tell me about your biggest media hit” is a typical job interview question (media hits matter, of course: they’re a great strategy/tactic to build awareness, move people to action, sell more stuff…).  The challenge in PR has always been that clients rarely have the tools and budget to connect public relations activity to sales. Results are real, but measured in anecdotes as often as sales.

So it’s fascinating to see the meme develop – as perhaps we all knew it would – that social media is being held accountable for contributions to the bottom line.  Witness Social Media Explorer Jason Falls expertly admonishing readers to avoid the trap of, essentially, too much focus on social engagement over business imperatives:

“…the social media purists have laid down the law and, so, to participate in social media as a business, you must do things like, “participate in the conversation,” “engage your customers,” and “talk with us not to us.”

I’ve got news for you. In the world of business, all that talk will get you exactly nowhere. Conversations do not ring the cash register. Engagement does not sell more product. Talking with people just means you have to take time to listen which prevents you from spending valuable time selling more product.”

This attitude is gaining on the hype.  I urge you to check out the brilliant slideshow posted by Oliver Blanchard at Social Media ROI.

Or read direct marketing guru Kevin Hillstrom’s imagined executive conversation with the newly appointed “Chief Customer Officer” at fictional Gliebers Dresses:

Candi Layton: “Yes, Lois! Social media cannot be held to metrics like sales and profit. It’s about a conversation, it is about relationships, it is about listening. That’s why we call our social media efforts ‘GliebersListens’. We certainly don’t call it ‘Gliebers Extracts Profit From You'”.

Roger Morgan: “Candi, do you understand that the rest of us are held accountable for either generating sales, increasing profit, or reducing expenses? The only way we get to keep our job is if we make incremental improvements, every single year.”

The point:  many executives have been happy to let marketing and customer service experiment in social media. Hopefully, they’ve been learning about online culture in various social networks, building skill sets in key tools, and monitoring and engaging with their own constituents.  Hopefully, they’ve been using these tools to deliver meaning full stories, message and opportunities to their customers and prospects.

And having done so, they’ll take on the much more arduous task of justifying the investment of time and energy to management in ways that make sense.

1. Define “social” at your company.

“Social Media” are tools to engage with audiences and drive them toward sales. They include online publishing platforms, social networks, metrics, sharable content, etc.

“Social Networks” are places where like-minded people gather online. They can be network sites like Facebook, conversation publishers like Twitter, or informal networks of bloggers and their readers and commenters.  Each  network and sub-group have their own habits, personality and cultural rules. Each connects with others. Learn the relevant ones.

“Social strategy” is a subset of business functions. Social strategy is different for customer service, marketing, corporate communications, engineering, product development, human resources, business development, investor relations and the CEO. It’s different for employees and management. Not all involve sales; all are focused on business imperatives.

2.  Match social strategy to corporate and departmental objectives.

Where is social media necessary and desirable to support these objectives.  Marry strategy to these objectives, and balance budget with need.

3. Create a “social manifesto.”

The social manifesto combines policy that guides employees and management both on responsible use of social media and participation in social networks – particularly how to manage the personal and professional — and encourages responsible social engagement that helps the company.

4. Track and measure against objectives.

Not just for social strategies, but for all strategies – what’s working … what’s not?  Plan accordingly

5. (And this is key): Repeat.



6 Essential Public Relations Projects for Corporate Communications and Marketing

17 Nov

Rumor has it that the economic recovery has begun, so it’s time for another edition of “Invest in the Upswing”.  I know, I know –when a marketer tells you to start marketing more, hold onto your wallet.

On the other hand, who in corporate communications and marketing doesn’t want to raise the bar in PR and marketing? Perhaps more urgently, who doesn’t want to have an answer when an executive reads an in-flight magazine article about ‘the next big thing’…and wonders what you’re doing about it?

So here’s my list of 6 essential PR projects for corporate communications and marketing. If you have time, put them on your list; if you don’t, this is what I do, and I’m happy to help.

  1. Make web analytics part of your PR and marketing ROI reporting. I recently spoke to an industry association and asked the group, “who here watches web traffic stats?” Not a single hand went up.  This may be the single biggest missed opportunity for PR and marketing professionals. Track communications activity to web traffic and you’ve started a link in the chain toward sales leads, sales and truly meaningful ROI measures.   (Or, you’ll find out that your programs aren’t working – and change your strategy).
  2. Start a Competitive Intelligence Report. What are people saying about you and the competition in the media? On blogs and comments? On Twitter? On industry forums?  Set up a daily monitoring and a daily or weekly digest – less if there’s not much out there.  Share it online with the people who need to know.  For free, I’d start with Google Reader and news alerts, or set up a custom, shareable homepage with feeds from multiple sources.  Or you can pay folks like Radian6 for all the bells and whistles.
  3. Establish a Social Media Policy. Two reasons.  First, you need to protect company interests.  Second, you’re missing an opportunity to unleash your employees into their own networks to get the word out about what you do.  More thoughts on this here.
  4. Meet the Media. Get on the phone or on a plane and get to know better the folks who buy ink (and pixels) by the barrel. Traditional media relations is far from dead – even if you don’t care if your company sees print, media coverage gets you an online audience, contributes to SEO, and gives you a link to share with personal and sales contacts, on the corporate website and blog, and across social networks – all of which deepens awareness and relationships.
  5. Add Sharing to Your Website. You put the time into writing, formatting and designing web content.  Don’t you want people to share it? Don’t you want RSS users to get your updates in their reader? Or offer email and text alerts? Don’t you want to make it easy for bloggers to bookmark, vote up or share your news releases, video, customer story, new promotion or photo essay?  Here’s a list to get you started…add: RSS, Digg, ShareThis.
  6. Be the Media. Once you’ve added sharing, you need something to share. “Be the media” means building awareness, interest, loyalty and word-of-mouth (or pixel) by creating content online that people want to read, view and share. It means “pulling” people to you via strategies that connect what you put online with the people you want to reach.  And it means thinking every day about what you want your “audience to do” and how you can help get them there.  More thoughts on this here.

As always, we never do these things just to do them  — we do them because they move our organizations toward their goals.

Have more? What’s on your list? As always, I’m here to help

The Wall Came Tumblin’ Down

9 Nov

Today is the 20th anniversary of the breaking down of the Berlin Wall.  It also marks my 20th year in Minnesota…and there is a connection.

Twenty years ago September, I stuffed all the worldly possessions I could fit into a poorly air-conditioned 1982 Ford Escort and drove from Rhode Island to Minneapolis.  My goal: go to graduate school, get a couple degrees from the School of Journalism and maybe become a professor (I didn’t become a professor, but that’s a story for another time).

People constantly asked me what I wanted to study, I had the germ of an idea.  It grew straight out of the Cold War and its aftermath, and was, essentially this: How was everything we’d ever learned about the world so completely wrong? And what was the media’s role?

You have to understand that growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no doubt about how the world worked. The Russians were evil, inscrutable and powerful.  Half of Europe was in thrall to the Soviets, and always would be.  War was unthinkable and inevitable.  These were incontrovertible facts and always would be.  Until Mikhail Gorbachev started talking about glasnost and perestroika and the United States didn’t get in the way, and in a few years, the Wall came down.  And those incontrovertible facts…weren’t.

When people heard my thesis topic, they often assumed I had an interest in Russia and Russian history. I didn’t, not specifically anyway.  My interest was in how a society – and the media in particular – perpetuated this inflexible worldview…in the ways we get trapped by stereotypes and stories, and ignore what doesn’t fit so that nothing changes.

So when I think of how the Wall came down, I feel the joy of the people of Europe embracing freedom.  And I also think about change – about how the people of Europe began to believe that things could be different.  About the need to look past “what is” and toward “what could be” in my own life and work.  Because today, as individuals and as organizations, we are the media … we can help people see the world in new ways.  When the story should change — or simply could be better, or fresher, or more meaningful — it’s not just in our power to embrace change – it’s our responsibility.

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