July 27, 2009

What is killing newspapers?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:42 am by R

It’s safe to say we know that newspapers are a terminally ill institution. But for the sake of learning from a mistake instead of being doomed to repeat it, it’s important to ask “Why?”

I was directed to an excellent essay by Tim Connor by @mike_padgett. The essay, “Who’s Killing the Newspapers?”, is a hard look at how newspapers themselves contributed to their own demise.

We know already that a generational shift in the way people choose to procure their news robbed newspapers of their strength. But Connor supposes some other internal and fundamental factors dealt some of the biggest blows to bring the industry where it is now.

First some facts that caused me to lift my eyebrows:

  1. A 2006 Pew Internet & Life Study found that 43 percent of people read an actual newspaper. In the 2008 edition of the same survey only 39 percent do
  2. Since 2007, approximately 12,000 journalists have lost their jobs
  3. According to Pew, in 2008 90 percent of newspaper revenue came from print advertising

It’s the third fact that really struck me and also happens to be the impetus for one of the reasons Connor feels newspapers have contributed to their own sorry state. It stands to reason that with 90 percent of newspaper revenues coming from advertisers, newspapers probably don’t want those generous sponsors being irked by certain kinds of coverage.

Such in-the-pocket reporting is tantamount to Yellow Journalism and the corporate dictates mandating it are a flat out insult to the reporters dedicated to communicating an honest story to the public. But the fact is, this beholden relationship is rampant.

Connor points to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review called Blindness: How the business press missed the meltdown. This article points to the business press (it’s a blanket term, though there are a number of media outlets who do not fall into the following definition) who spent their time cheering the markets onward and upward in stead of doing their due diligence for the American public and uncovering the unethical practices and forecasting the fallout which soon resulted.

This corporate cautious reporting marred the face of the industry in a great many cases. And in combination with the generational shift and a movement toward a paperless (eco, I mean) lifestyle, how is it possible for newspaper to survive?

From where I stand, it’s not.

Media corporations must find a way to monetize the product they create in a way that does not hold them subservient to any company — not only for their business survival, but to re-establish trust as well.

If a media outlet had outstanding and varied reporting that represented multiple views and exposed me to issues and goings-on I might never find out about otherwise, why that’s excellent journalism, which I would gladly support and subscribe to with my dollars.

It’s one solution. I’m sure there are brilliant thinkers out there who are coming up with more lucrative and streamlined ways of creating revenue that would never occur to me.

The bottom line is (pun intended), newspapers may be dying away, but solid, honest journalism most certainly shouldn’t be.

~R

July 26, 2009

Social media engagement = Financial success?

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:37 pm by SD

For those of us that are encouraging our clients, co-workers, and management teams to become more engaged with social media in an effort to increase business, we’ve all struggled with the same question  — how does engaging in social media impact the bottom line?

While there are several ways to measure the ROI of social media, it is notoriously difficult to show how social media actually impacts the bottom line.

But, a new  study released today by Charlene Li of The Altimeter Group may be the answer we’ve been looking for. Researchers found a strong correlation between brands that engaged heavily in social media and financial success. Brands that were considered by the study to be “Social Media Mavens” (those brands that had the greatest depth and breadth of engagement in social media) on average grew 18% in revenues over the last 12 months, compared to the least engaged companies who on average saw a decline of 6% in revenue during the same period.

The study critiqued the world’s top 100 brands as ranked by BusinessWeek/Interband on their social media engagement including not only what channels they were active in but how engaged they were. It also examined the brands’ financial performance in comparison to its social media engagement.

As we continue to try and make the case for why businesses must make social media a part of its integrated marketing strategy, this study will be an incredibly helpful tool. Check out the entire study here. You can even see how your company ranks in social media engagement.

~S

July 21, 2009

Who is the social media strategist?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:55 pm by R

An excellent post on Brazen Careerist (a fantastic network of Gen-Y bloggers, which the ladies at CMSF happen to be a part of) gave me pause to think about a new job description — Social Media Strategist.

I was reading an article on Mashable the other day and somehow I ended up in the ‘Jobs’ section which I have never even seen before. I checked it out and was quite surprised when I saw some positions where one of the requirements was “at least 8 years in Social Media…” I sat and thought to myself what exactly this meant. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social network sites and even they haven’t been around for 8 years, so what do they mean by 8 years of experience in social media?

Touche! So then is the Social Media Strategist a Gen-Y specific person? I’d love to say yes– as the practice is native to our generation’s skill set — but I’m going to have to say that, no, this is not a position exclusive to one generation.

I know some EXCELLENT social media strategists who don’t fall squarely inside the lines of Gen-Y (a la @charschaff and @joePRguy).  They are stellar communicators. They understand that the right message is critical and social media is an opportunity to distribute those well-crafted communications effectively.  I’m sure that there are many, many non-Gen-Y  social media aces out there.

A company looking for someone with “8 years experience in social media” probably means they want an individual who has several years experience in communications and has been up-to-speed with social media since it’s emergence.

Gen-Yers are uniquely positioned to be social media strategists though, because, as I mentioned previously, it’s a native skill. We were the first adapters. We were the first target audience. We are still the main guinea pigs for new features, etc. So, as this medium evolves we will (presumably) be working with a knowledge base that makes new functionality and other evolutions easy to integrate into strategic planning and communications.

So how do you take yourself from fancying Facebook to serious strategist?

Soak in everything you can on the topic. (Huge undertaking, I know.) The more you know about utilizing and monitoring social media, the more brilliant the plans you can hatch as a social media strategist.

I believe the social media strategist will hold an important position in nearly every company in the very near future, but for now, we should all be social media strategists for ourselves in crafting personal, on-line brands.

And certainly in this day and age, social media strategist is a competency that every good PR practitioner must be armed with.

~R

July 20, 2009

Cashing in on Twitter’s Value

Posted in Measurment, Social Media at 11:36 am by R

An AdAge article published today tags a number to the value of coverage Twitter generates in one month…and it’s big. $48 million big.

And that $48 million is just for the past 30 days!

We knew that Twitter’s influence was big, but let’s face it, everyone’s been begging for numbers to give some sense of the value.

Here’s the break down:

  • 2.73 BILLION impressions
  • 57% was TV contributed PR value
  • 37% was newspaper contributed PR value
  • 5% was magazine contributed PR value

This is powerful information for PR practioners to be able to convince clients that Twitter and social media are critical pipelines for distributing information.

The big question is will Twitter continue to be the big thing in social media? The growth has been substantial since the beginning of the year — even history making with events like the Iran elections and the passing of Michael Jackson — but can Twitter sustain it’s media darling status?

~R

July 19, 2009

Living your brand

Posted in Branding at 8:39 pm by SD

As usual, I left my annual Nordstrom Anniversary Sale shopping trip with a smile on my face. And, it wasn’t just because of the fabulous shoes I bought. It was the fact that my experience this weekend was just like the one last week (can you see I have a shopping addiction?), the one last month and every other time I have been there. Going to Nordstrom is almost like going home. You can always count on it to be consistent. While other major department stores are always changing their look and feel, Nordstrom has essentially remained the same. As fashions change, they remain focused on the thing that is the essence of their brand: superior customer service.

The biggest lesson that we can all learn from Nordstrom is that you must LIVE your brand.

Shouting your brand position from the rooftop doesn’t work, if you don’t make it a reality. Rather, finding multiple ways to live your brand and allowing your customers to touch and feel it without hearing it is more effective. Show me, don’t tell me. When a sales person calls me by name or takes back my jeans that I lost the receipt for, I understand that Nordstrom cares about their customers even if their logo doesn’t say “Nordstrom: providing the best customer service.” I know Nordstrom’s brand based on my experiences there, I don’t need to have someone tell me it.

You can pat yourself on the back once you decide what your company’s brand position is, but that is only the first step and probably the easiest one. The next and most important step is to figure out how you are going to operationalize it. From who you hire and how you train new employees to your sales process and collateral materials, everything must communicate the essence of your brand.

Kudos to Nordstrom for not only knowing its brand but living it rather than telling it. This is a tough thing to do.

~S

July 18, 2009

In Memoriam: The Original Anchorman

Posted in Current Events, In the news, Media at 2:20 pm by R

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was known as “the most trusted man in America.” He delivered the news of the day with honest candor and pioneered the standard by which we judge all news anchors today.

I never had the benefit of watching Cronkite deliver the news. No, by the time I was around Dan Rather had filled his post. But the news anchors I grew up watching: Brokaw, Jennings and Rather were direct descendants of the Cronkite philosophy of news.

When a respected reporter goes on to the great newsroom in the sky their peers left here have just the most eloquent and wonderful things to say. The best in the business honor each other, because they know it takes all of their great work to keep telling great stories.

Some journalists I truly admire had touching words for Cronkite:

“Cronkite came to be the sort of personification of his era. He became kind of the media figure of his time. Very few people in history, except maybe political and military leaders, are the embodiment of their time, and Cronkite seemed to be.”  — PBS Correspondent Robert McNeil

“Walter was who I wanted to be when I grew up.” —  CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer

“Walter Cronkite was and always will be the gold standard. His objectivity, his evenhandedness, his news judgment are all great examples.” –ABC News anchor Charles Gibson

“A giant of journalistic craft.” — Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News Anchor

Cronkite’s passion for news was evident long after he left the desk. He was a bellwether for the status of news, critiquing opinion-lead news and always calling for integrity, accurate reporting and subtle compassion.

He loved his craft and respected it. In 2001, shortly after 9/11, Cronkite spoke words, which, if it’s possible, have more meaning now than ever before with the changing face of news:

“…television, the great common denominator, has lifted our common vision as never before.”

Cronkite delivered the news during some very troubled times in our nation, his news style made him trusted among viewers as he delivered the sometimes difficult news of the day including JFK’s assassination, many reports on the Vietnam War and Watergate. He also brought viewers news of the shuttle landing on the moon.

Mr. Cronkite chronicled stories that have become integral to our history. He covered triumph. He retold tragedy. He was an excellent messenger.

And THAT’s the way it is.

~R

July 16, 2009

Bad Times = More Media Consumption

Posted in Current Events, Media at 8:41 pm by R

A study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project  affirms the fact that knowledge is power. It appears that the recession has increased media consumption, especially through electronic means.

People are reaching out for resources that can help them deal with their present situations. (This tells us something about the kind of news we should be pitching right now and the strategy PR practitioners should be leading during these times.) Sixty-nine percent of Americans have used the Internet to help them with a problem related to the economy.

Pew studied two different types of households in this analysis, general population and ‘broadband’ households. ‘Broadband’ households seem to be those receiving larger bandwidth services like cable Internet and TV…I’m guessing, but I think I’m right.

Among those ‘broadband’ households, Internet media resources were the number one source for garnering economic knowledge, dominating over TV and print.

The general population still seems to be going to print as a primary knowledge resource, which surprises me to be honest. The caveat to this appears to be that people are utilizing more than one format of media to understand what’s going on in this wacky economic climate.

Another likely factor, which I suspect contributes to the study’s numbers, is that most younger households are probably in the ‘broadband’ category. So you have lots of Gen Y-ers, such as myself who are really experiencing their first recession and are going to their reference of choice…the Internet. Here we find that people are sharing in our experiences, offering advice and soldiering on…it inspires hope.

Also worth noting is that the amount of time American’s spend watching TV is on the rise. The likely cause of this (in my humble TV-watching opinion) is that people are staying home more and getting their entertainment from what’s on the old tube.

It’s interesting how what’s happening in our world affects how we consume news and how much of it we digest. I  confidently venture to say that a lot of people scrap their news habits entirely when the news is negative i.e. war, terror, natural disasters, etc. We are only programmed to be able to handle so much. It’s self preservation really…

BUT with this recession, we can each do something to improve or have some level of control in our own situations, so the more information we each have, the better equipped we are. Hence, the more news and information we are consuming.

Whether or not our habits will persist as the economic tidal wave subsides remains to be seen. Advertisers certainly hope so, I’ve no doubt of that.

~R

July 13, 2009

Follow me?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:22 pm by SD

While we’ve all done it before, talking to yourself is not very interesting. When you’re writing a blog post, Tweeting or updating your Facebook status, you’re doing so in hope that someone cares about what you’re saying. And, you’re hoping that someone may even be compelled to respond so you can engage in a meaningful conversation. But, this can’t happen unless you have the right people reading your blog, watching your videos or following your Twitter stream. But, getting the right people to engage with you takes a lot more time and work than creating the content does. As I have embarked on my social media journey, here’s what I’ve found to be helpful.

Don’t be afraid to make the first move: Like dating, it’s tough to make the first move but once you do, you’re often surprised. If you want a fellow blogger to read your blog, read their blog first, engage in a conversation and then ask them to check out yours. Once you start, you’ll be surprised how receptive people are when you show genuine interest in the content they are creating. After all, they have the same desire as you do – to engage in the online conversation.

Quality beats quantity: I don’t have thousands of Facebook friends, but the ones I have are the important ones. They are the people who I want to be talking to and who want to hear what I have to say. It’s not always about reaching the largest group of people, but activating the core network or customer/client base that is going to engage with you and your brand. Ideally, this inner circle will become your brand ambassadors and help you branch out into new territory.

You don’t become prom queen overnight: It takes time to build up a strong base of friends, followers, blog readers, etc. You have to identify your core audience, provide content that is interesting and engage in a conversation with them. This requires a lot of work and consequently a lot of time. It may require reading other blogs, re-tweeting relevant information or sharing videos. Unless you do something really wacky or have an incredibly compelling product or story, you won’t see your web traffic skyrocket in 24 hours or your Twitter followers jump to 100,000. However, if you’re interesting and spending time engaging in the online conversation, you’ll be on your way to becoming a member of prom court.

I’m no prom queen but I am actively engaged online. And, while I’ve had moments of frustration where I have felt like I was talking to myself, I’ve overall found it to be incredibly rewarding. The one thing that I always remind myself – It’s a conversation.

For more helpful tips on engaging in the online conversation, check out this blog post by Ben Parr.

~S

July 8, 2009

Who we are on Twitter is who we are in life

Posted in Social Media tagged at 9:17 pm by R

Sometimes when I log into my Twitter account, I feel like I’m walking into a middle school dance, where the lights are low and balloons fall from the rafters and where everyone has already paired off  to slow dance and I’m left to skirt the edges of the proverbial gym on my own. It’s very Sixteen Candles.

sixteen-candles

There’s just that moment where I want to stay hidden in the corners and see everything that’s going on, be able to say I was there, but not risk the rejection or embarrassment of stepping solo on to the dance floor.

But, nothing ventured, nothing gained is the name of the game in social media, so I take a deep breath and tweet.

It’s not unlike who I am in real life. In new situations with new people I tend to stick to the walls while I give my self a pep talk, then I eventually dive in with fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence and hope to wind up with new friends and meaningful conversation.

On the other hand, when I’m comfortable and conversing with trusted tweeps, I am happy to be open with ideas, opinions and even personal experiences.

It amazed me when I paused to think about the correlation between my reaction to real life situations and the little flips my stomach do before hitting enter on a tweet.

What if no one responds?

What if my tweet is taken the wrong way?

What if  I inadvertently offend someone?

Now, I’ve been known to over think things. It’s very un-Aries of me. But I do worry how people will react or receive what I’ve said. I want to be liked: In person. On Twitter. And I do believe that’s true for all of us out there in the Twitiverse.

Oh, the fear of being made a fool of, or rejected, on the Twitter-stage!

I suppose my position on this belies own character flaws and insecurities — too sensitive probably, maybe a worry wart — but I don’t think I’m alone…Especially among communicators. We are so trained to say the right thing and deliver the right message that there’s a hint of fear about saying the wrong thing that bleeds over into other areas of our lives. (I’m totally projecting on all communicators. Sorry communicators.)

But with all that being said (all hints of fear aside), who we are in real life is often shaped by strong opinions, wacky world views, unique experiences and even character flaws. It makes us each wonderfully individual and special (just like we Gen-Yers were told 😉  ). So too, who we are on Twitter is shaped by the information we share, the things we choose not to respond to, the responses we craft, the opinion and rants we voice, the pictures we post and stories we tell in 140 characters or less.

Being an active participant in social media requires a dose of bravery. I have preached exactly that there in my non-microblog. You have to engage in conversation, but I have not practiced that paradigm as often as I should.

So, I plan to get brave and follow my own advice. Just maybe it will earn me a few more friends. On Twitter and in real life.

~R

I’m a bad blogger

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:14 am by SD

I’m fascinated by social media. I read about it, read more about it, talk about it and think about it but when it comes to actually engaging in social media on my own time (not the time spent working on it for my clients), I have a tough time. Actually, the problem is more lack of time. I spend so much time learning about it that I don’t do it. And, the best way to really learn it is to do it.

As I’ve shared this challenge with others, I’ve found that this is a struggle that many people face. It’s especially true for those of us that have to be knowledgeable about social media and use it at work on a daily. We’re so busy keeping up with it for our jobs that it’s difficult to do it on our own time. To help myself spend more time engaging with social media and hopefully others like me, I created this list of tips:

1. Set aside time each day for social media: It can be 10 minutes or 2 hours but spend it using social media not just reading or talking about it. Update your Facebook profile, Tweet, write a blog post, share a video, etc. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it.

2. Don’t try to be a rockstar with every social media tool: Take a cue from the Google philosophy to do one thing really, really well. Pick your favorite social media tools and spend your time there sharing meaningful information and building relationships.

3. Set a goal: Like everything else in life, it helps to have something to work towards so vow to blog twice a week or build your list of Tweeps to 1,000 in the next 30 days. Once you set your goal, get moving because you’ve got work to do.

In the spirit of taking my own advice, I’m going to publicly commit to blogging here twice a week. Hopefully, while accomplishing my goal, I’ll be able to provide some valuable insight along the way. Either way, thanks for helping me become a better social media doer.

~S