I was invited by Sarah Evans, founder of Sevans Strategy and SWAGG to be their guest at the Mercedes-Benz Bridgehampton Polo Challenge on Saturday, August 28, 2010. It was such an amazing day, traveling on the SWAGG party bus, spending time in the SWAGG VIP tent and enjoying the Polo match. I was able to steal a few minutes with Sarah (in between her interviews with celebrities that stopped by) to discuss what PR and communications professionals need to know about the mobile space. Here’s my interview with Sarah:
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Deirdre Breakenridge Integrated Communications, Organizational Behavior, PR 2.0, PR 2.0 Technology, Social media, Social Media Planning, Social Media Policy blogging, communities, Facebook, influencers, PR, PR 2.0, public relations, Putting the public back in Public Relations, Social media, Social media policy 5
In the past, you may have heard me say,”No one owns social media.” However, that doesn’t mean that different departments in your company aren’t trying to own it. Actions always speak louder than words.
I remember reading a post a year ago by Jeremiah Owyang that I thought was excellent. He outlined five ways that companies allowed their employees to participate in social media. I took the liberty of taking those five examples and tacking on my own perspective to illustrate how a few of the groups within an organization can try to own social media (as the company moves from stage one “no rules” through to stage five, which “empowers” the workforce).
Here are the five ways that Jeremiah outlined originally, with my added comments in bold regarding “ownership” in the organization:
- Employees have no rules, no guidelines and no policies. Just go out there and do it! Translation: No one wants to own social media and frankly this can be dangerous for the brand.
- Shut it Down: Protect the brand and protect the employees from any liabilities that may occur from “losing control” as a result of social networking. Translation: Legal and IT are trying to own social media. Regardless of this type of ownership, conversation will continue. Employees will talk after hours, on their Facebook or via Twitter feeds.
- The media trained spokesperson will be the only person who can blog and be involved in social media. This person already has the training and can represent the company. Translation: Corporate Communications is trying to own social media. This won’t work because social media is about open, human and transparent conversations. The trained media spokesperson doesn’t necessarily allow customers to interact with the people behind the brand and tends to speak with prepared statements.
- The corporate employees blessed for social media. A few select individuals will receive social media training and best practices Translation: Executive/Leadership, Corporate Communications and/or Human Resources are trying to own social media. Although the organization is willing to train certain “lucky” individuals, there are many other internal brand champions who want to engage and be trained the right way. There will be dissent in the ranks, if only a chosen few are able to participate, and other employees are banned from social communications.
- Empower the employees…the “all in” approach. Translation: This is the best way to handle social media within an organization. To empower, educate and have guidelines for the employees to participate; where there is buy in and trust from the top, and there is the willingness to participate and the right tools to engage on the bottom. Both ends meet in the middle with a great social media policy that frames out participation. In this scenario, many departments own social media and together, the organization finds value.
So, there you have it, five ways that clearly illustrate how some types of ownership are not beneficial. The last scenario, having everyone work together, is the best way to approach social media across the organization, with good guidelines, for a successful program.
Deirdre Breakenridge blogging, Competitive Intelligence, PR 2.0, PR 2.0 Technology, Social media, Social Media Planning blogging, communities, Competition, influencers, PR, PR 2.0, PR Plan, PR2.0, public relations, Putting the public back in Public Relations, Relationships, Social media, twitter 10
If you’ve done your listening exercises (monitoring the social landscape through keyword searches) you may have discovered your competition is on Twitter. As a part of your own social media strategy and planning audit, it’s important to evaluate what your competition is doing, how they are connecting with influencers and how quickly they’re advancing on this network.
Working through a competitive intelligence exercise means getting past the obvious and digging into an audit with your eyes wide open. Of course, you’ll immediately check out how many followers your competitors have and the lists where they appear. And, yes, you should review their tweet stream to figure out their approach. You can also scour through their followers to see the influencers they’ve connected with and the level of engagement.
However, here are a few less obvious ways that you can figure out if your competitors are just getting their feet wet or if they are well on their way to a successful social media strategy. With your eyes wide open you should ask these questions about each competitor:
- Do they have a standard Twitter profile or a customized background? You can tell if a competitor is a beginner or more advanced just by their Twitter background.
- Do they use images in their profile that relate to the brand (logo, product, people)? Images tell you if they are branding their profile(s).
- Does the URL in the profile lead to a dedicated landing page vs. a home page? This is the difference between the competitor that may or may not be closely paying attention to website analytics and driving traffic to specific area of a website.
- When you look at their profiles can you immediately identify what they want to talk about?
- What’s the percentage of their tweets, retweets, and actual conversations (@replies) over a specified time frame?
- What platform(s) are they using? Are they just starting out on Twitter.com or have they advanced to TweetDeck or HootSuite? Using more advanced platforms may translate into filtering information, managing multiple handles and timing daily tweets.
- Are they shortening links yet? Do you they use Tiny URL or have they advanced to Bit.ly links (which means they are tracking/measuring links)?
- Are they timing tweets? You can tell by analyzing patterns of tweets over a period of time.
- Do they have one Twitter feed or many feeds? If there are different feeds then you should ask the same questions above about each profile.
- Do they have an employee retweet strategy? In other words, you need to analyze who is retweeting and determine if other members of the company (their internal brand champions) are involved in the social media strategy.
- How often are competitors tweeting per day, per week, per month? Is there a consistent flow of tweets?
- Who tweets about your competitors on Twitter the most (media, bloggers, industry partners, employees, customers, etc.)?
There are so many questions that need to be asked, more than what’s listed above. What questions do you ask? Do you evaluate your competitors on Twitter with you eyes wide open?
Deirdre Breakenridge blogging, PR 2.0, PR 2.0 Technology, Social media, Social Media Planning blogging, communities, Facebook, planning, PR, PR 2.0, PR Plan, public relations, Putting the public back in Public Relations, Social media, Social networks 17
Speaking at the Florida Public Relations Association 72nd Annual Conference was such a great experience for me. I enjoyed presenting PR Revolution: From PR Past to Hybrid Power, which was received with open arms. After my keynote, one topic of discussion I found extremely interesting surfaced during a Q&A session with the senior counselors. The topic: does the name “social” media automatically create a false impression in the minds of the C-level and senior executives as just “chatting” or “socializing.” Does the name social media convey this message: social media is serious business.
Here’s my quick take on a name. Years ago, my mother told me that she had a couple of names in mind for me before I was born. When she went over her top picks with me, I turned my nose up at her alternative choices. Each one came with an image attached to it. When she unveiled the first one, I immediately thought, “Well that would have made me sound old before my time and from the 1940s.” The second name she considered would have been tough for a little kid. I would have been teased for my entire childhood. It was one of those rhyming names. I’m happy that she and my dad selected the name I have today.
Do certain names give you a mental, predisposed image of what something should be based on your perceptions? After all, companies spend millions of dollars on building their brands (names, experiences and brand promises). So, when we introduce social media for the first time to the higher ups in our organizations, and they hear the word “social” do they resist because they think it is “one big cocktail party.” I don’t have the answer but it would be an extremely interesting study. However, I do know that a name can sound fun, social, serious, smart, etc. So, what would happen if we went to all of our executives before they heard of this phenomenon called social media and said, “We need you to consider a program in Strategic Digital Media because it has a tremendous impact on our business and our competitors are increasing their market share and chipping away at our profits?
I’ll answer my own question. They would have said, what is this Strategic Digital Media, how does it affect my bottom line and how does this make our shareholders happy? They would not have said, “Is this going to cut down on employee productivity and does this mean employees are going to be checking their personal Facebook pages all day?” Of course, regardless of the name, you definitely need to do your homework and educate your executives. But, is the negative reaction and hesitation that many communications professionals face, due to a misperception of the name? Could it be the way “social” is perceived?
Another quick example I can share. When recently working with a client, we were tossing around hashtag names for a Twitter discussion. One suggestion was the initials of the organization and the word “social” attached to it. So for instance it would be something like #XYZSocial. The response to the team was…this makes it seem like it’s one big party. And, you know what…in a way it does.
Maybe we have spent past years viewing “social” as personal and party conversations. But today, social media is so much more than your party talk; it’s moving markets, creating business and generating ROI. So the question is: Do we keep educating on Social Media or is there another name? Would Strategic Digital Media have been a better choice? What do you think? Can we get past a name?
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of PitchEngine, a “new kind of social PR platform.” I’ve used it to share my customized stories and to be found. Because PitchEngine has launched its new platform with enhanced SEO capabilities, I thought it would be a good time to update you on the progress.
Jason Kintzler, who is the founder and CEO of PitchEngine, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding how PitchEngine and PitchTM are helping communications professionals. Here’s my interview with Jason:
Q. Tell me about the new PitchEngine platform and how it helps businesses and PR professionals to tell their stories?
At a basic level, it enables anyone to package their story content – text, multimedia and more – into a nice little package we call a “Pitch.” From there, your pitch starts connecting with your contacts, followers and fans. It plants its feet in major search engines so that people looking for you can find out what your story is, not just your address and phone number. It’s like the old Yellow Pages ad, but interactive and mobile.
Q. Why is search engine optimization so important today for companies as they share content?
As Brian Solis puts it, “Everything starts with search.” He’s right. SEO has been important for several years and many of the bigger brands have been able to leverage it. Our platform has really opened that process up to businesses and PR firms of all sizes. Think of it this way – everyone who comes to PitchEngine and creates a pitch has the same goal – to get the word out. Because of this, our authority in search has risen which can be leveraged by the crowd. We call this, “co-op seo.”
We were fortunate enough to partner with Jeff Herzog, one of the pioneers of the SEO industry for our new platform. I’ve learned more than I could’ve imagined in the last 18 months. It’s not just about having your story found, it’s about providing backlinks from an authoritative site like PitchEngine to your own corporate site. That’s why you can’t just do this stuff on a blog, for example. The real story here is that SEO used to be limited to big businesses and computer ninjas. Now, we’re providing it in a unique way to the weekend garage band or coffee shop.
Q. What are some of the greatest features and functions for professionals on the new platform?
Understanding the need is a big deal. This is a new kind of publishing mechanism. Unlike a blog or your website, which is on an island, a pitch is mobile – interacting with your site, social networks and search engines. We’ve had a year to hear what our users were looking for. We’ve spent months thinking through all of it on many levels. For the PR Pros, we’ve cooked-in new distribution methods like our media database partnership with MyMediaInfo and Technorati blogger outreach. We’ve also put a focus on more analytics for each pitch as well as the Supercharged SEO offering, which is really amazing. We’ve also tried to accommodate the PR agency by making it possible for agencies to have multiple users, all logged-in at the same time, working on various accounts. Agencies will even be able to resell or pass through the costs to their clients directly. We’ve tried to live by a few rules. Most importantly – simplicity is key.
Q. How has PitchEngine and the Pitch changed traditional PR, in terms of news release distribution and pitching story angles to journalists?
The best thing I ever did was create PitchEngine from scratch to serve the needs of PR pros and media – of all levels of experience and understanding. We didn’t build a “me too” kind of product, which has resulted in competitors trying to insert “social” into their traditional PR methods to keep pace. As you well know, it doesn’t quite work that way. You cannot make a press release “social” by adding a few share buttons. It’s a new ball game, and it doesn’t start with a traditional press release. As brands and businesses, we have to stop trying to get published and start publishing ourselves. If you wanted to see a great article about your client’s product or event, then write it, because it’s never going to be published the way you want it if you’re relying on a third-party to do it. If a journalist and/or news outlet finds your news compelling (which may be a result of 1,000+ people already finding it compelling on Facebook or Twitter), then they will cover it. Journalists and bloggers are news consumers, just like the rest of us. If they find something interesting, they’ll tell they’re readers. (Ex. David Pogue Tweets Release to 1.3 Million.)
Q. How often is too often to tell a story to bloggers, the media, customers, and other stakeholders? Should there ever be a limit to your Pitch?
I think it varies by the subject matter. Most companies don’t share frequently enough. We’ve been able to help large public companies share their feel-good stories with their customers and investors. Before, they’d never take the time to draft a press release and pay for it to be distributed through a newswire. Plus, no media cared to write about the “fluff” that might actually be important to your brand. In this new media age, we have to build a bond with our customers or readers and sharing is a great way to do this. Be concise. Write well. But, write often.
Q. What’s next for PitchEngine with respect to social media tools and technology?
I get a little choked up thinking about it. Our vision for where to take things is grand and I believe in my toes that we can accomplish massive change. Instead of trying to push content at people, we’re going to make it findable. We can’t predict all of the technologies that will arise, but I guarantee we’ll be a driving force. We’ve been open to new partnerships with other emerging technologies that share our vision, and you’ll see the results throughout the next few months. If the old traditional services out there can keep pace, we’ll all be better served. That’s what makes it fun.
Our plans are progressing nicely for the #PRStudChat discussion on August 25, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. In honor of our anniversary celebration, and our special guest, Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales), founder of Wikipedia, our session will focus on great social media collaboration and wiki best practices. Jimmy will also enlighten us on some of his experiences as an entrepreneur and social innovator.
Here are a few of the questions that we will be posing that night:
1. How do professionals who represent a brand participate on Wikipedia?
2. As a source, where does Wikipedia fall on the trust barometer?
3. What do you do if you see negative and/or incorrect information on Wikipedia?
5. What advice do you have for today’s students on how to make the most of social media?
6. As an entrepreneur and social innovator, what is the biggest obstacle in turning vision into reality?
Of course, you may have questions that you would like to ask. We welcome your suggestions and ask that you post these questions in the #PRStudChat LinkedIn group. Valerie and I are very excited about our one year anniversary and want to thank everyone for helping to build and grow the #PRStudChat community. We could not have done it without you!
We look forward to chatting with you on the 25th.
Deirdre Breakenridge book, PR 2.0, PR 2.0 Technology, PRStudChat, Social media communities, influencers, Jimmy Wales, PR, PR 2.0, PR tools, PRStudChat, public relations, Putting the public back in Public Relations, Social media, twitter, Wikipedia 7
It feels like yesterday when Angela Hernandez (@angelahernandez) asked me to contribute to her blog interview series, “Is PR Right for Me.” What blossomed out of a blog post is our dynamic PR community, #PRStudChat. Valerie Simon (@valeriesimon) and I are both happy that our community, which is dedicated to collaboration and educating students and PR professionals, has grown from a few to over 1,100 people (according to the @PRstudchat profile and number of followers). Hundreds of PR enthusiasts routinely participate in the monthly conversations creating more than 1,000 tweets in each hour-long session. Within this active community countless professional and personal relationships have evolved.
The very first #PRstudChat took place on August 19th 2009. With our one-year anniversary quickly approaching, we wanted to do something really special by inviting a guest that everyone would know; someone who has made an incredible contribution to learning and collaboration. We’re honored to have this extremely busy social media professional and Internet entrepreneur join us on August 25th at 8:30 p.m. Our special guest is Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales), founder of Wikipedia!!
I met Jimmy a couple of years ago when he interviewed with me for my book, PR 2.0 New Media, New Tools, New Audiences. I was so impressed with his contribution to communications and the story of Wikipedia. Jimmy joins us to answer questions about social media, collaboration and how PR professionals can participate in Wikipedia (the right way).
We’ll have more information shortly on the details of the session and more about the questions we will be asking. For now, please help us spread the word that Jimmy Wales will be our #PRStudChat special guest for a super special one-year anniversary celebration!
Deirdre Breakenridge Integrated Communications, Interview, PR 2.0, PR 2.0 Technology, Social media Dr. Nick Koudas, Heartbeat, MAP, Marketwire, Michael Nowlan, PR, PR tools, PR2.0, public relations, SMR, Social media, Sysomos 2
The last time I wrote about Marketwire, I was praising the company for their progressive technology and social media 2.0 service. I had also just worked with them jointly on a book signing in their exhibit booth at the PRSA International Conference in Detroit back in 2009. I’ve been watching Marketwire ever since, and thought it was time to write about them again. After hearing the announcement yesterday regarding their acquisition of Sysomos, I caught up with Marketwire President and CEO Michael Nowlan and Co-Founder and President of Sysomos, Dr. Nick Koudas, for an interesting and enlightening discussion.
From my own knowledge and interaction with both of these companies (my only disclosure is that I’ve used the Marketwire newswire service and the Sysomos platform for my clients), I definitely see how the acquisition made a tremendous amount of sense. It’s important for PR and communications professionals to take note of how Marketwire is maximizing technology to advance communications.
Here are a few of the things I learned during my chat with two very busy business executives, post acquisition announcement.
One of the first questions I asked was, “How do your customers benefit from this acquisition?” They explained that their customers have been facing the rapid conversion of traditional and social media. It’s apparent that there’s a great deal of confusion and also a concern in the communicator’s mind on how to handle social media because social media has “literally exploded.” The acquisition is a serious step forward for Marketwire and it addresses a large need in the market. As a PR professional, I talk a great deal about listening to what customers and stakeholders are saying. That’s exactly what Marketwire did. Their customers were the main rationale for the acquisition of Sysomos.
I also wanted to know why the Sysomos technology was the clear choice, with all of the other monitoring platforms, and how closely the brands aligned, even in terms of culture. We discussed “Why Sysomos?” and after listening to the explanation, it was clear to see that the Sysomos technology and the organization’s progressive way of thinking aligned closely with the Marketwire brand. It was also mentioned that, “the Sysomos technology speaks for itself.”
In addition, the two brands fit together because of their philosophies and style; both companies, early on, were innovators in the market. When Marketwire was doing its due diligence, it immediately recognized how both organizations had a strong commitment to customers and their values and business principles were very similar as well. Another interesting fact that I didn’t know, Marketwire and Sysomos are neighbors, practically in each other’s backyards, only four blocks away from one another.
When I asked about the Sysomos platform and if it would stand alone, I learned that Marketwire will immediately begin offering the Sysomos product set, which includes Hearbeat and MAP. These products will continue to exist under the Marketwire brand. Marketwire is also investing in the integration of the Sysomos product set into a Marketwire platform. For the next 24 months, there will be an entire roll out of additional comprehensive features and new products to come. The acquisition is truly representative of Marketwire’s conversations with PR professionals and hearing what they had to say by addressing their pain points and helping them to make smarter business decisions.
Touching a bit on whether or not the acquisition would open up new markets and channels for the company, we discussed how communications, as a whole, is segregated. Marketwire’s new offerings will integrate rather than separate communication into silos (I’m all for integration). And, for the Sysomos product set, Marketwire brings to the table a well-established sales team with a direct sales force and the marketing background and backend administrative process the company needed. Sysomos is a younger company, three years on the market, so the acquisition broadens the reach for its product set.
Through this acquisition both executives envision a world where communications professionals can release information and have quantifiable measures that demonstrate ROI. So many companies will be able to benefit from the acquisition, from the large to the mid-size and smaller organizations. Both Marketwire and Sysomos work with some of the largest multinational companies (PR agencies), so there’s a big appeal for these brands. However, mid-size and small companies are also a major piece of Marketwire’s strategy and direction.
Then, I asked the million-dollar question, “So, what’s next?” Both executives expressed how, in the immediate term, people are really looking to turn information into true intelligence (into ROI). When you have good intelligence you can, in turn, use this to improve strategy. The acquisition offers a truly integrated solution that also provides an intelligent workflow. They touched upon the broad vision and the communications cycle; how the right tools release information and from there you need to understand the reach and engagement. It’s imperative to bring this information back to the corporation and be able to quantify the impact (to know what works and what doesn’t work). Sysomos furthers Marketwire’s capabilities to make this possible for its customers.
My last question asked both executives to impart advice to PR and communications professionals (and students) with respect to technology and the changing media landscape. Their response was focused on the importance of staying on top of technology and the tools (advice that is close to my heart). They mentioned how the basic fundamentals of communications are not changing yet the technology is advancing rapidly. Social media and the integration of technology mandate that you stay current. This is especially important with students, who, hopefully, will be introduced and experience changes in technology as a part of their academic curriculum.
I believe we will see some excellent solutions and exciting advances in technology from Marketwire. PR professionals definitely need integrated solutions as we find ourselves increasingly accountable to our brands for strategic social communication, engagement, monitoring and measurement that reveal impact and ROI.