This past week has transfixed the entire country. From the bombings at the Boston Marathon to the unbelievable climax in Watertown, I’ve been overwhelmed with a mix of emotions.
* With my husband originating from Boston, there were waves of relief as each person checked in to say they were safe
* Sadness as I learned about the lives forever changed by this heinous act
* Empathy for our friends who were on shift at the hospitals receiving the injured
* Elation as I watched the eventual capture of the infamous suspect #2
But what struck me most about this past week, as I can only begin to digest the week’s events like everyone else in the US, is the sheer ability of people to rise above this terrorist attack. We’ve seen incredible examples of it:
* Marathoners finishing the race and continuing on to hospitals to donate blood
* Brave first responders rushing in to help the injured without knowing if more jobs would be ignited
* The spirit of Bostonians (though they can be a crabby group, their heart is unquestionable ) to take in strangers and help one another
* The running community showing solidarity with memorial runs, fundraising and more
More importantly, as the president said:
All in all it’s been a tough week but we’ve seen the character of our country once more. As president, I believe that we have the courage, resilience, and spirit to overcome these challenges and to go forward as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This incident, no matter how horrible, no matter how unbelievable, no matter how disgusting it is, showed me the better side of humanity and to appreciate my loved ones that much more.
As an adopted daughter-in-law of Boston: Go Boston, Stay Strong. Go Red Sox!
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In this week’s interview, I touched base with Maria Korolov of Hypergrid Business, a leading online blog on virtual worlds and environments. In three short years, she’s grown her business and I asked her thoughts regarding the virtual environments industry, what she attributes her success to, and what it will take to be covered by Hypergrid.
Biography: Maria Korolov (formerly Maria Trombly) is founder and president of Trombly International, a Massachusetts-based company which runs emerging markets news bureaus for US business and trade publications. Her clients include CIO magazine, Computerworld, Securities Industry News, CardLine Global, Waters, Reed Elsevier’s PharmAsia News, and dozens of other publications.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Hypergrid Business?
I launched Hypergrid Business about a year and a half ago, shortly after I discovered OpenSim, as an excuse to learn more about the platform and to talk to the folks building it. Since then, we’ve grown to over 10,000 monthly readers, over a dozen columnists and paid writers, and we’re having to turn away advertisers due to lack of space.
OpenSim, and enterprises uses of virtual worlds in general, are a hot topic right now. The fact that I’ve got over a decade of experience covering enterprise technology for publications like Computerworld is paying off here.
And I’m having a blast. It’s great to be in at the very beginning of a significant structural change in how the world works. The shift to the Internet was one such change. I believe that the shift to immersive environments will be another, and will be equally disruptive and transformative to the global economy.
We’ve got ambitions plans for our company. We’ve already launched a newsletter, are finalizing a vendor directory, have a 300-destination hypergrid travel directory up, are developing a video program, and are building a hyperport with multiple locations to cover all the possible hypergrid travel destinations. Further down the line, we might rent out space to merchants in our hyperports, or create an in-world advertising network. We are looking for both technology and business partners, as well as writers, researchers, marketers, and other positions — all part-time to start with, but with potential to turn into real careers as this platform evolves.
You mentioned that your readership has grown over the past three years. What would you attribute your growth to?
Part of it is simply organic growth. Someone reads an article, recommends it to a friend, and the friend becomes a reader.
Part of it is social media. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Digg… we try to make sure that every article we post is linked to from the major sites, as well as from BusinessWeek and LinkedIn.
We also make it easy for people to find us. We’ve been a Google News publication for around a year, and we’re near the top of the Google searches for relevant terms. Inbound links help drive up our rankings — and the more useful stories we publish, the more people link to us, and the easier it becomes to find us.
Marketers are more like publishers today. What tips would you provide to marketers to help drive their content marketing strategy?
Marketing is a big part of growing a new technology segment. Outreach and education are often neglected by technology folks, who assume that if they build a better platform, then people will come. That’s not always true — people won’t come unless they know it’s there, and unless they know what benefits it offers them. If a vendor is lucky, there will be a group of users who are active and vocal and go out and promote the technology, like Ener Hax is doing with SimHost’s OpenSim hosting service. Smarter vendors will seek out these folks and offer them discounted hosting or other incentives to get them to use and talk about their platform, instead.
It’s also great to get your name out in as many channels as possible. Virtual events and conferences, and face-to-face events. News articles. Published editorials. Press releases. Company blogs. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds. The more a customer hears about a company, the more comfortable he or she gets with it. This is where marketing experts come in. An outside social media consultant, teamed up with a freelance writer, can do wonders to raise a company’s profile in the marketplace.
They need to get to know the social landscape, find out where their customers hang out, follow them, and provide value to these communities.
As a blogger, what three tips would you provide to companies seeking to be profiled by Hypergrid?
First and foremost, I want customer case studies, success stories, testimonials, first-hand accounts of how your product or service works. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a juicy disaster story, either! A smart company will take a disaster and spin it into a positive story of recovery and evolution. You’re guaranteed to get my attention with something like that.
Next, I want statistics. How many users? How many events? What percent were satisfied? What were the growth rates? What are the benchmarks? I love numbers, and readers love numbers.
Finally, and least interesting to me, are new product and version announcements. A company can put out a press release every week trumpeting a minor new feature. At a certain point, that gets boring — and not very useful to customers.
Anything else that you would like to share?
I’m always looking for guest columnists to talk about topics of interest to enterprise users of virtual worlds.
In mid-July, I received an email from Mia Salituro requesting an email interview which is posted here. After reviewing Mia’s background, I was intrigued by her Networking Newbie blog and aspiration to find a position with Ogilvy & Mather (Note: My first PR job was with O&M Taiwan as a translator!). Part of Mia’s approach is to interview one person per day (more like a week I believe) and leverage this expanding network to make inroads into the company.
I asked Mia to share her thoughts and the reaction to her unique approach to date. Personally, I think she’ll find a position – what do you think? What have you done to pursue your dream job?
1) Why did you start Networking Newbie?
I began networking as an international model and since then have learned that networking is one of the most beneficial tools we have to fueling our success. I may be in the small city of Kenosha, WI in the physical, however the Internet allows me to network with business professionals and entrepreneurs worldwide. One day I am interviewing an SEO expert from India, the next I am speaking with the CEO of an advertising company in Dubai. Networking Newbie has allowed me to maximize my summer holiday and use it to connect with inspiring business professionals and entrepreneurs worldwide.
2 ) You’ve expressed an interest to work for Ogilvy. How is Networking Newbie helping you to achieve this?
I aspire to work in PR for Ogilvy. Already, those in my network have been reaching out offering to help me pursue this dream. On July 6, the day of my first interview post, I e-mailed Lori Bizzoco, a 15-year PR veteran turned writer (www.loribizz.com) who I intern for and asked her if she had any questions to ask editor Isobella Jade and directed her to my site. Lori replied back, ” I don’t have any questions for Isobella, but I have one for you. It says on your site that your dream is to work for Ogilvy? Is that true? Given my PR background, I would be happy to help you make some connections. One thing I know, is that you are on the right path to making your dreams come true.” I think that this quote speaks for itself.
In addition, I plan to contact the managing directors of Ogilvy Shanghai and Ogilvy Hong Kong to invite them for an interview on Networking Newbie.
3) Who do you contact and why?
I contact those who I feel will not only serve as inspiration to me, but also to my readers. I am personally interested in PR,advertising, marketing etc., however I think that anyone can admire an entrepreneur regardless of their industry. For example, I interviewed Justin Beck, CEO of PerBlue, software startup in Madison. I am not particularly interested in software however Justin’s story is truly inspirational. He was 21 when he became the CEO of PerBlue . Lately, I have been sending interview invites to young entrepreneurs such as Justin Beck. My most recent young entrepreneur interview features Ryan Meinzer, CEO of PlaySay, foreign language learning program. I’ve also interviewed Jason Pereira who at the age of 19 has already owned an offline business in Bangalore and an online business in Dubai.These are the type of people that we should model ourselves after.
4) What has the response been to those you’ve reached out to?
Initially, I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. Perhaps those whom I looked up to were much too busy to answer my questions. I am pleased to say that those whom I have contacted have been more than happy to participate. Many have even offered me advice, beyond my interview questions. I have received loads of encouragement. Receiving advice from such inspiring individuals is worth every bit of the work I put into Networking Newbie. It is very refreshing to see such busy people take time out of their hectic schedule to answer my questions. It is greatly appreciated.
Four years ago this month, I left the agency side to move in-house. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with different types of agencies, do an agency search and consider the value of working with a PR freelancer. If you decide to bring in outside PR help, here are five points to consider:
The general rule of thumb is that 10% of any retainer goes toward administration. On this point, I do favor opting for a PR freelancer over an agency, especially if you have a smaller budget. Working closely with a contractor streamlines the process, focusing more on the tangible PR work versus administrative activities such as detailed weekly reports, activity reports, etc.
More Arms and Legs
Let’s be frank, the idea of bringing in outside PR is to provide more arms and legs to get the work done and deliver results. This will vary on your budget and PR objectives. A PR agency has a slight edge as the agency can grow with your PR needs. A PR contractor will be limited by the number of hours in her work week.
Along with administration, another aspect is transparency on what work is being done for your monthly retainer and by whom. Like administration, I believe a PR contractor has the edge over an agency. A contractor’s work is very evident based on the results provided and daily interactions. With a PR agency, it can be difficult to know who is truly pitching your business to the media – the seasoned account manager or the fresh-on-the-job account coordinator. Believe me, when a reporter forwards you an obvious mass pitch sent from the AC, you start wondering about the “transparency” that an agency provides.
Our world is more economically intertwined that it’s ever been. At some point, so will/may your business. Being able to reach global media, understand local customs and cultures, and communicate your messages accurately will be difficult with a PR contractor – no matter how well connected she may be. A PR agency with a global network or branches will provide an advantage for expanding your business and messages globally.
Experience & Strategic Counsel
On this one, I believe an experienced PR contractor and good agency will be on pare with one another. My one beef is the use of “name dropping” as a sign of experience. No – that’s a sign that you are a good networker but not necessarily a good PR person. The things I look for are:
* Chemistry: Does the person/team have a good rapport with you?
* Results to date: What results have they delivered in the past and for what type of client? Getting cover stories for a Fortune 100 does not apply to a start-up company.
* Referrals: Who is willing to vouch for the person? Ask for referrals to support what is being said in the room
* Does the Tail know what the Head’s doing? This one mainly refers to PR agencies. Oftentimes (and this has happened to me), a Director/VP and above will promise something to the client that falls to the team to implement. Or there is too divergent of thinking between the “team” handling the day-to-day and the “executive” counsel that parachutes in.
* Domain Expertise: This is tough one for me. I lean towards selecting someone/agency that really knows PR over domain expertise. Why? If you know how to speak with reporters and position a company, this transcends industries. The one exception that I can consider is if you MUST launch immediately; thereby requiring instant access to the reporters/influencers in your space.
In the end, selecting a PR contractor or agency depends on your objectives, budget constraints, size of company and working style. Pease let me know if there are any other points to consider in the comments.
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PR Contractor versus PR Agency: 5 Points to Help You Decide by @csalomonlee: http://bit.ly/8GDGSJ #marketing #pr
When Tiananmen happened, I was just a college freshman – fresh-eyed and away from home the first time in my life. I was just exploring my identity – second generation Chinese born to immigrant parents, seeking to understand how I fit into the world. The incidents in Tiananmen were eye-opening, shocking and maddening at the same time.
Fast forward 20 years. The anniversary sort of crept up on me. There is barely any mention of the anniversary on TV. Somehow, this incident has been swept away as the Chinese government has expertly positioned itself on the world stage over the past years and the success of the Beijing Olympics.
It’s interesting to hear the lengths that the Chinese government is going through in advance of the anniversary. Social networking sites, such as Twitter, are being blocked to stem the flow of information coming out of China. In a way, they are the best in our profession – the ability to control a message and put out the one that they want.
In 1989, this wasn’t the case. The government was unsure how to manage the spontaneous marches that took place and youthful excitement of the student leaders seeking change. Rather, their knee-jerk reaction resulted in the deadly incidents on June 4. The moment of transparency and openness was quickly closed.
While the Chinese government attempts a blackout in the coming days, I hope the voices of those able to leave China will serve as a reminder to those incidents 20 years ago this Thursday. Surely, no one government can completely block out the voices?
What lessons can we learn from Tiananmen and the Chinese government’s actions?
Some 68 percent of respondents to an online poll from Special Events last week say that recent moves by corporations to cancel incentives and other meetings are PR ploys to avoid the “AIG effect.” Twenty-eight percent say the cancellations are a business decision; 2 percent of respondents say they do not know why the events are being canceled.
John Baldoni’s article in Harvard Business Publishing highlights why meetings still matter, and maybe even more so during the downturn. His last paragraph resonated with me:
Tough times are a great time to renew trust. When customers and employees see the leadership team standing front and center and delivering the message, it demonstrates that that management cares about them and considers them essential to weathering the storm. Cancelling such meetings, except when there are no other alternatives, sends the message that employees and even vendors and customers are expendable. Folks will remember that attitude when the good times roll. So use the down time wisely and get together with your people.
So, how is your company doing?
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.
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