Last week, I read two very good blogs posts from Tim Dyson (The end of Push PR/Marketing) and Beth Harte (Dear Marketing & PR Pros: You’re still pushing) regarding the broadcast tendency of public relations and marketing professionals.
In Tim’s post, he explores how social media is providing brands an opportunity to shape existing online conversations. As he writes, “shifting the debate is a way of shaping a conversation” and I agree with him.
The rapidly changing technology landscape has changed the way we consume and receive content. No longer can a brand buy air time on the big three TV networks and own the messaging. The ability to engage customers directly is an opportunity for brands to become part of the conversation. But this requires transparency and dedication to listen to what customers have to say versus reverting to our natural tendency to defend.
Or as Beth writes, “… marketing and PR practitioners still approach customers socially as if we are going into battle with them.” She raises the good point that PR and marketing professionals are still unfamiliar with the concept of “people relations.”
I would like to conclude with the comment that I left on Beth’s post:
“Whether PR practitioners or marketers, this is an interesting dynamic. The focus, for the most part, is on accumulating followers, fans and/or readers as a way to drive one’s own marketing messages. I’ve rarely seen true engagement on the level that Zappos does with its customers.
Which leads to another point to explore. We’re discussing who owns social media as part of the marketing or PR function. While marketing or PR can initiate the program, I believe that full participation of the entire organization is required to truly have a successful program.
For example, if your goal is to improve your net promoter scores, you have to get customer service involved. Otherwise, there will be a disconnect for consumers who are receiving one message from marketing and PR lead social media campaigns but experiencing something different with customer service.
So I would add to your point Beth – “Know why you are doing so and only do it when it makes the most sense. Stop with the shotgun approach.” And make sure that the right stakeholders are also on board and participating.”
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree or disagree?
Photo Credit: via Flickr by Robert S. Donovan
In February 2009, I wrote a post titled “Would YOU Trust a PR Firm without a Social Media Presence with Your Social Media Programs” to determine how many agencies were active in social media.
While anyone who establishes a Twitter account or LinkedIn Group is not automatically an “expert” on social media, I do believe that you should practice what you preach. This point, as well as the role of a corporate presence vs. individual contributors, generated a lot of discussion.
Since the original post, my position about individual contributors has evolved. I believe that employees are an integral, if not essential, part of a successful social media strategy. However, to simplify the data gathering and analysis, I opted to focus on corporate presences, recognizing that multiple individuals are contributing on behalf of the agency.
I’ve included a slideshare presentation below, images on flickr that you can share (including the infographic to the left), and the list of PR agencies accessible via Google Docs (All changes for 2010 are indicated in red. Please feel free to make an update and include a comment below).
Key Findings: PR Firms More Social in 2010
* PR agencies increased their social media presence in 2010, with Flickr (500%), YouTube (379%) and Twitter (131%) demonstrating the largest increases respectively.
* While most agencies didn’t link to their social media channels on their website in 2009, 83% included this on their home page in 2010.
* Twitter was the most popular social media channel, with 80% of PR agencies having a presence. 35% had followers numbering over 1000.
* 2 to 1, PR agencies had a Facebook Page or Group vs. a LinkedIn Group Page
Conclusions: What a difference a year makes
In just over 18 months, PR agencies have increased their presence on several social media channels. While content was not evaluated as part of this review, some agencies leveraged Flickr and YouTube to promote their clients. This raises an interesting issue about agencies becoming an active publishing entity.
If a PR agency ammasses thousands of followers or create a highly-ranked/influential blog, will it have the potential to become an informal media outlet itself? And if so, how will PR agencies manage this changing landscape? What do you think?
I initially evaluated PR firms listed on O’Dwyer’s list of top 100 independent PR firms. This list was based on worldwide fees for firms with major US operations. As such, some prominent firms, such as Ogilvy & Mather, Ketchum PR and others. An additional 13 firms, who had proactively added their information to the PR Firm Social Media Wiki, were added to the 2010 review, yielding a total of 113 firms.
* I looked at if the agency had a blog, Twitter profile, Facebook page (both group and/or fan), LinkedIn Group, YouTube Channel or Flickr photostream.
* I didn’t categorize the type of PR each firm did – I took the list at its word
* If the blog wasn’t listed on the home page or easily found via a sitemap, I assumed there was none
* I searched on the agency’s name or common abbreviation as presented on their website. Anything more exotic or too cute, would not have been found
* For Twitter, I used Twitter search or tried to manually type in what seemed like an appropriate Twitter handle. Number of followers were based on number the week of September 20, 2010.
* I used the group search functions found on Facebook and LinkedIn respectively. I was looking for those who had proactively created a group page or claimed their fan page on Facebook. As such, LinkedIn Company pages were not included.
You’ve probably seen the commercial about how Geico’s insurance is so easy, that a caveman can do it. The same is said about public relations. All you need to do is write a press release, distribute it over a wire and presto, media coverage will come. Or you just need to send an email to a reporter to have it instantly printed or broadcasted.
While there are instances that this does happen, I think this overlooks how PR is more than securing coverage in the media. PR is an integral part of a company’s marketing team and provides incredible value when done well:
Message and Positioning
As outside counsel, public relations professionals bring fresh eyes to the company, product/service and industry. With a fresh perspective, we help executives refine their key messages and value proposition to their key audiences. We also help define the company’s position in the marketplace to help differentiate it from its competitors.
We oftentimes overlook the importance of building relationships with the right influencers as an objective of PR. While reporters are a key target of relationship-building, PR professionals also can identify and introduce companies to other influencers (analysts, authors) and prospective partners and customers.
Customers are the cornerstone of a successful business. PR professionals collaborate with clients and its sales team to identify and contact customers for marketing and PR efforts. This provides an additional channel for the company and customer to interact after a product/service has been delivered. And by telling the customer’s story, the client has a positive story to use for press and sales purposes, the customer is seen as a hero within his industry, and the sales person strengthens her relationship with that customer. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Beyond a media hit, PR has other tangible benefits for companies – message and positioning, building relationships, and customer relations. Now tell me, do you really want a caveman to handle these?
Any other areas that you’ve found PR instrumental?
At approximately 6:15 pm, we now know a huge gas explosion occured in San Bruno. First, please take a moment to send positive thoughts to the residents and families of the homeowners. If you live in the Bay Area and can give blood, they are requesting O-negative (assuming any and all blood types will be welcomed) and can find locations via the Blood Centers of the Pacific website.
Like the BP oil spill, the confusion around such an explosion is understandable. What perplexed me was an on-air phone interview with a PG&E spokesperson. When the reporter inquired if the gas line was PG&E’s, the spokesperson purposely didn’t answer the question.
Since crisis communications on this level isn’t my core expertise, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how one would handle a situation like this. Here are my initial thoughts:
1. Express Sympathy: The spokesperson did communicate that the company’s thoughts were with the families of this tragedy. This was a good sign, demonstrating the company’s empathy with the victims.
2. Answer the Questions: I recognize that PG&E may face legal action once everything is sorted out over the next few days. But by not answering a direct question regarding “was this a PG&E gas line?”, PG&E seemed to be more concerned about evading responsibility. Maybe a better response would have been “At this time, our concern is with the families and we are working with the authorities to ensure that the immediate danger has passed.”
Update (9/9/10, 10:19 pm): Per an email sent to news outlet (source: CBS 5 News), PG&E acknowledges that the gas pipeline was the company’s and plans to take full responsibility if it’s found to be the company’s fault. Nothing on PG&E’s website at this time.
3. Provide Valuable Information: In a 24/7 news cycle, news outlets are seeking to get information out as quickly as possible and companies are seeking to minimize potential risk. With that said, the interview seemed to be premature. The spokesperson didn’t seem well-prepared and didn’t provide tangible information. Rather, there was (still is) an opportunity for PG&E to discuss the steps they are taking to bring power back to the area.
4. Give Back to the Community: There is a great need for the families displaced by this crisis. While there needs to be a balance, PG&E can demonstrate its corporate care by donating to shelters, relief organizations, and supporting a blood drive amongst employees.
Again, thoughts are with the families and victims.
Update (9/10/10): Last night, the President of PG&E did a press conference around 11:30 pm at night. Unlike the spokesperson earlier, the president was prepped and repeated three messages: 1) ongoing investigation so cannot speculate, 2) working to make the area safe and 3) thoughts are with the families and if this is PG&E’s responsibility, they will “make it right”. While short on detail, these statements addressed my points above.
I asked my former colleague, Dennis Shiao, to share his insights on how virtual events can augment PR and marketing. Briefly, Dennis is an evangelist, strategist and practitioner of virtual events. Dennis provides strategic consulting to clients on their virtual events and has managed virtual event campaigns for Cisco, HP, Oracle and Microsoft, among others. Dennis blogs about virtual events and virtual worlds at “It’s All Virtual” and is a frequent author and speaker. Dennis can be found on Twitter at @dshiao.
Virtual events are seeing strong adoption. It all started with the virtual trade show, a 2.5D representation of a physical trade show, complete with a lobby, auditorium, exhibit hall, networking lounge and more. A number of formats soon followed, including the virtual career fair, virtual sales meeting, virtual product launch and virtual partner summit. In addition, we’re now seeing businesses leverage virtual platforms for “corporate university” or e-Learning.
It will be exciting to see the new and innovative formats that marketers, publishers, event managers and business owners develop in 2010 and beyond. I have a format that is well suited for virtual: the press event.
In many ways, the benefits of a virtual press event are the same as a virtual trade show. The host, along with attendees, presenters, etc. participate via the web and save on travel costs, lodging costs, shipping costs and “out of office time.” In addition, all activities within the environment are tracked. And, the environment can remain available long after the live “event” concludes.
Additional benefits of producing your press event virtually:
In the past, press events were planned in “road show” fashion, in which you visited major cities that had the highest concentration of your target media publications. With virtual, you can host a single event and capture a global audience. Alternatively, you can leverage a single virtual platform and stage live events based on regional timezones, to target business hours in North America, then EMEA, then Asia Pac. Your PR efforts can now have a wider reach at a lower cost.
Convenient Access to Your Executives
In a physical setting, it can be a logistical challenge to schedule and coordinate access from press members to your executive team. With virtual, executives can interact with larger audiences more efficiently. For instance, you might place your CMO in a moderated chat room and take questions from an audience of 1,500. Imagine doing that in a physical setting!
Invite Customers and Prospects
Increase your ROI by also inviting customers and prospects to the event. Do your require press credentials to gain access to certain materials? No problem. Virtual event platforms provide role-based access, which means that an access profile can be applied to your customers and prospects that are different from press members. Any PR that you do affects your customers, too, so include them when sharing the news.
Use Activity Paths to Follow Up Appropriately
Whether customer, prospect or press member, study activity paths in the virtual event to determine effective follow-up plans. Did a reporter visit your booth ten times, then ask numerous questions in the group chat area? Schedule a one-on-one conference call with your Senior Product Manager, to ensure that the reporter has all the info she needs. Similarly, follow up with prospects to move them further along in the sales cycle.
I believe virtual events can be the definition of “PR meets Marketing”. As PR and Marketing look to Web 2.0 to broaden reach and engagement, consider virtual events as one more tool in your arsenal.
Interested in being a guest author? Send me an email with your proposed topic and how it relates to PR Meets Marketing. Self-promotional content will not be considered.
I just noticed a couple of tweets mentioning that Twitter will be announcing a Twitter button, most likely tomorrow. What I found interesting is not the news, but the image that accompanied the articles. The images clearly state (the above is one of several in the article):
Twitter Confidential – subject to NDA
This leads me to ask, did Mashable break an embargo or did someone inadvertantly send the image without obtaining one first? If the former, how does this impact how PR professionals approach blogs as part of a communications plan?
With TechCrunch publicly stated that they will no longer honor embargos, PR professionals have to be more vigilant of the policies and, in some way, integrity of the outlet and reporter/bloggers you’re contacting.
I don’t advocate getting every reporter to sign a multi-doc NDA, but by the same token, I don’t think a verbal NDA may suffice anymore. What do you think?
Now, if I were more cynical, maybe Twitter meant to have this leaked =) Mashable, would love to hear from you on this.
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.
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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