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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

Journalism, Dresses and Augmented Reality

22 Sep

Each work day for me starts with a skim of what’s been sucked into my Google Reader.  Here’s where I stopped skimming and started reading this morning. Enjoy!

Kevin Hillstrom’s “Glieber’s Dresses” Series. Iconoclastic direct marketing guru Kevin Hillstrom has sucked me in with his ongoing story of the tribulations of the executive team of a fictional old-line cataloger trying to make their way in a marketing and merchandising world that threatens to pass them by — if it hasn’t already. What I love about Hillstrom’s series is the way he’s able to gently (or not so gently) poke fun at executive foibles and the blinders we often wear based on our roles and experiences, and the line you have to walk as a consultant. But more that that, Hillstrom uses the dialog as a way to highlight just how challenging it is to change…and a path toward how to focus in on what’s most important.

This week: Gliebers Dresses’ other consultant makes fun of them at a big conference.

Saving Journalism from the Bottom Up, from The Same Rowdy Crowd. As the StarTribune newspaper of the Twin Cities emerges from bankruptcy, former journalist and current communications savant Bruce Benidt issues a call for ideas on saving the newspaper industry.  His point: Let’s get a bunch of smart, original thinkers together, create highly local communities of information and commerce around the civic life of our community, and re-build a model that will support the professional journalism we need from there.  Is there a community organizer out there who can help Bruce make this happen?

Augmented Reality — Early, But Worth Watching, by Jeremiah Owyang. I’m fascinated by the bright shiny toy of “augmented reality” — using video to add data to your real-world experience — walking down the street, reading a book or doing a video conference. Owyang, newly minted consultant with the Altimeter Group, offers three videos that illustrate some of the ways innovators are trying out the technology.  Too early to say on whether it will catch on, but worth watching…and pretty cool.

Jeff Jarvis at The Buzz Machine. I read Prof. Jeff Jarvis and I get pissed off.  His writing style echoes his title — it hums and stings and screeches like an industrial lathe. But I respect the heck out of what he’s doing — if poking smart people in news media prods them to create something new and sustainable, I’m all for it.  Today’s post discusses the difference between paying for information and paying for “content”…and says that news media publishers “flatter themselves” if they think they’re in the information business.  They have always been, he says, in the business of selling format over content. So what will the next winning format be?

“When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.”

What We Can Learn About Tech and B2B Marketing from Comic Books

3 Sep

My  deep, dark secret is that I like comic books.  I was hooked on super heroes the day my 5th grade teacher gave away his comic collection to his class, and though I stopped collecting years ago, I never stopped being a fan. I still follow the industry, and even pick up a title or two (or three) for escape or inspiration.

So with the planned acquisition of Marvel Comics by Disney making the news, I can’t resist the opportunity to combine my vocation with avocation.  And I’ve thought for a long time that corporate communications and marketing — especially B2B and technology marketing — has something to learn from an entertainment business like Marvel Comics.

The comics industry is fun to watch, and they do a number of things that translate into B2B and technology marketing.  To wit:

1. They remember that it’s about people. In comics, Marvel’s breakthrough was superheroes like Peter Parker and the Fantastic Four, who acted like real people with real problems.  It’s all about real people doing extraordinary things.

Beyond the product, your people vital are characters in the company story — from the visionary technologist to the insightful marketer (hopefully) to the customer service rep who goes above and beyond, businesses can grow awareness and loyalty by pulling back the veil and making the corporate more personal…and real.

2. They know that the customer owns the product. At a company like Marvel that has shared the soap opera of its character’s lives for nearly 50 years, the editors and creators clearly recognize that the characters and stories live in the hearts of the fans.  They are stewards of the story, responsible both to respect what came before, and to innovate in ways that keep the stories vital and break new ground.

There’s a parallel in B2B and technology — every purchase impacts the livelihood of the purchaser. It may be a part of their day to day business, or fuels productivity.  The customer, in other words, is invested in your success. So it’s only natural that they want to be respected and heard.  It’s why users groups and conferences are so important for many tech businesses, and why companies that are socially engaged in their markets tend to be more successful.

3. They know that being social gets results. Comic books are largely sold in specialty stores and online rather than through mass market retail.  Comic publishers like Marvel deal constantly with the push and pull of B2B channel marketing — their audience is store owners as much as the comics fan — often simultaneously.  Their channel to the audience is an often bewildering array of online and traditional magazines, national and regional cons, fan blogs, gossip columns, discussion forums, social networks and even a couple national newspapers.

The result is an industry where the channel, fans and media are incredibly close to the creators, editors and publishers. You get weekly interviews with the Marvel editor-in-chief, a teriffic ‘inside baseball’ blog by their executive editor, Q&A’s with writers on major storylines via podcasts and text, individual creator websites and forums, writers’ Twitter feeds…et cetera.  They produce news themselves, and participate in the hurly burly of the media market.

Of course, not every business generates the kind of passion that comics do.  The point is, they’re out there participating. And they are out there producing.  As a media business, they recognize that they have something to say every day, their customers have something to say every day, and they use all the tools available to say it.

Any other secret or not-so-secret comics fan/marketers out there?  What say you?

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.


Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Part 4

6 Aug

Here’s the fourth of this week’s ideas for measurable online social engagement strategies.  I’ll collect these into a single post for easy viewing tomorrow.

In many ways, I think this is the most important idea of them 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.

Further reading:

Idea 1: Doing better PR

Idea 2:  Geting in front of…and catching up to competitors

Idea 3: Being ready for the crisis.

Contact me to work with your company.

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