September 24, 2009

These days brands find you…even the wrong ones

Posted in Social Media at 7:02 pm by R

I just got a notice on Twitter that I’m now being followed by someone called “Mark V Tweezers.” It’s a tweezer company based out of Florida. They’re following 595 people, have 54 followers and three tweets.

“How on God’s green earth did you find me and why did you follow me?” I wondered upon reviewing the follow notice.

I quickly scanned recent tweets. Nope. Nothing about grooming my brows. Not even a reference to “pluck” — as in “moxie.” (Though those are both words I should work into my vocabulary more often.)

Nonetheless, this brand found me. But not strategically.

Social media is an opportunity to build relationships with customers in an incredibly intimate way — much more so than some glossy mailer I’ll immediately relegate to recycling without reading. But you have to build the right relationships to even have a chance at developing that intimacy.

So what are the strategic door-knockers for creating meaningful, intimate social media relationships between brand and consumer?

  1. Research your desired audience — Who is actually talking about you/your industry/your category/your competitors? People who care enough to talk about a product, problem, scenario, competitor etc. are more likely to care what you have to tweet (and not block you, like I plan on doing to “Mark V Tweezers”).
  2. Friends in common — Social media word-of-mouth is important. Examine who is following you. Then, take a look at who your followers are following. The reception is probably going to be warmer when you have network connections to vouch for you. Also, take the time to look at who your competitors are following and who their followers are. You want in on that conversation. Speaking of…
  3. Tap into conversation — Are you coming up in conversation? Join it. Bring those conversation-starters into your network.
  4. State your rationale — If you do choose to follow someone you have no connection to, tell the person why you want to hear what they have to say. My attitude about “Mark V Tweezers” might have been totally different if it had been followed up with a quick @ message like, “Enjoyed the link you tweeted about the new post on your blog. Good stuff!” Show me you’re paying attention and why I’m relevant to you and why your brand should be relevant to me.
  5. Check a map — I’m in Arizona. “Mark V Tweezers” is in Florida. I don’t plan on going to Florida any time in the near future. So how am I a relevant follow in terms of spacial relations? If you follow for marketing purposes, be sure to do so with regional appropriateness.

It is now the business of brands to find their audiences and engage them in social media, but it has to be thoughtful. Big, established brands have it a little easier their credibility is already there in many cases. Smaller mom-and-pop brands have to establish their credibility among the people they reach out to in order to obtain any significant benefit.

Quick recap: Research, be relevant, then follow.


September 23, 2009

Trusted v. Untrusted

Posted in Industry Standards, Social Media at 9:40 am by R

A few posts back, I addressed the ethical ranking of public relations professionals. And frankly, we’re a morally solvent bunch. Though, there is an emerging crowd who have coined themselves as experts in social media…and their tactics for securing business are not so morally solvent.

These experts come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds — so beware.

For many, the question becomes how to find a social media resource you can trust. Here are a few red flags, in my opinion:

  1. One size does NOT fit all — businesses have different communications strategies to reach different audiences. Naturally, it follows that a company must have a completely unique  social media strategy (they’re like fingerprints really). Therefore, anyone offering social media success based on one platform or formula = suspicious.
  2. Tell me about your background — PR practitioner, communications director, digital media specialist or internet guru. GOOD. Knife salesman, personal assistant, travel agent = suspicious. Not to say that the latter examples don’t have some level of experience, but can they rock the strategic implementation?
  3. It’s a guarantee — if this person guarantees they will work hard to understand your business and deploy a social media strategy  customized to achieve specific business goals…GOOD. Promises a specific number of followers or any other metric = suspicious.

So how do you spot qualities in the ones you can trust? SmartBlog on Social Media @SBoSM put up a great post about some of the less tangible qualities one should consider in candidates as they build their social media team or select an outside vendor.

  1. PassionAndy Sernovitz (who authored the post) notes that this is something that can’t be taught or trained. Your team needs to have the proverbial fire in their bellies when it comes to your brand.
  2. Don’t measure candidates/agencies by number of followers — Sernovitz points out that any spammer can have a thousand followers overnight. I’d like to add to his thoughts here though — take a look at who your potential team member/agency is following and is followed by. Size up the quality of their network.
  3. Look for helpers — Because social media is as much a customer service tool as it is a communications tool, your team should be comprised of people who love to help people. Making meaningful information accessible and understandable for a variety of social media audiences is a big task not for the faint of heart. Your team should be equipped with the desire to learn (from good and bad experiences) and help make the social media experience with your brand even better.

The right team, either built internally or found externally, will be slightly different for every company. But any business looking to bring in social media minds ought to be aware of these criteria to find the right fit (re: Trusted v. Untrusted) and create success for their brand in social media.


September 17, 2009

I’m not a creative director but…

Posted in Who was the advertising genius... at 10:02 am by R

Gabrielle Reese

Gabrielle Reese for Purevia

I’ve seen this ad a couple times in magazines I subscribe to and it drives me NUTS! I’m no creative director, but I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who finds it unappealing that this Purevia plant appears to be growing out of Gabby’s armpit. Ummm…gross!

And it’s the image for their home page…only animated! To me it looks like a very long, green armpit hair. Natural I can understand, but is this some subconscious hippie thing?

Just an observation. Am I alone on this one?


September 16, 2009

Observations On An Eventful Week

Posted in Current Events at 9:34 am by R

So much has happened this week (already) that I want to comment on, so I thought I’d do it in bullet point format:

  1. Serena Williams — You should NOT have held that press conference IMMEDIATELY after your outburst and subsequent forfeiture of the semi-final match. Words got you into this mess, poorly crafted ones delivered off the cuff won’t get you out. Your next-day follow up statement was better. And you owe a big thanks to #2 for deflecting some of the attention.
  2. Kanye West — Wow, you sure are something, aren’t ya. That’s pretty much all I’ve got. Except to say that I bet you felt like a REAL horse’s pa-toot when Beyonce won video of the year. You sir are living proof of the statement, “Any press is good press.” (…and why it’s not true…) The president was right…
  3. President Obama — Actually, not so much Obama as the ABC journalist who tweeted about the President’s response to Kanye’s stunt at the VMA’s. Glad to know the Commander-in-chief was thinking the same thing I was, but boy howdy, ya think this is going to open up some to social media restriction policies around the president? I do.
  4. Beyonce — You’re talented and classy. Well played. And I think you genuinely meant every word. Double bonus for being a good human being, it’s the best kind of PR. Bravo.
  5. Recession: Game Over — According to statements from Fed Chairman Bernake, the recession is “very likely over.” Isn’t it a little dangerous to make that claim along side the fact that unemployment may still hang tough at the 26 year high? Not to mention all these fresh reports of banks swiftly moving back to risky business. The words just don’t match up to the environment. I’m an economic dunce, but even I can see the inconsistencies here. Maybe it’s a “self-fulfilling prophecy” kind of statement?
  6. Facebook launches @ — Take that Twitter! Not only has Facebook added to its capabilities, but it’s become profitable AND reached 300 million users. Twitter’s only expected to get to 18 million users by the end of the year. Your move Twitter. And make it a good one.

To see some of the coverage from this week’s PR events click here, here, here, here, here, here and just for fun, here.


September 11, 2009

Oh, I thought he said “Nice tie!”

Posted in Current Events, Political Punditry at 10:55 pm by R

Sometimes public relations is simply about how you behave in public.

The Congressman from South Carolina gave us a fine example the other night during President Obama’s health care speech.

Evidently the Congressman blurted out, “You lie!” during the president’s address. But this didn’t go into my brain properly as I watched the clip, I could have sworn Wilson said, “Nice tie!” At least that’s what my brain really wanted him to have said.

No, it didn’t particularly sound like “Nice tie!” the second time I heard it, but I remained baffled and unconvinced that any member of the House would yell out in a formal gathering of the legislature and call any president a liar. Turns out that’s what actually happened. I guess he didn’t get his copy of Robert’s Rules of Order…

Regardless of your opinion about the statements that prompted Rep. Wilson’s outburst, you have to admit that it wasn’t delivered with much class. It was bad a personal PR tactic.

Particularly for public figures — such as politicians at ALL levels of government — it’s critical to remember you are always on and someone is probably watching or listening.

In media training, I remind my clients that from the moment they are hooked up to a microphone they are to behave as though everything they say/do is on the record, even if they are waiting in the green room to be brought out to do their interview. Similarly, once you are elected to a public office…everything’s on the record. (As long as we’re addressing this… Mike Duvall.  I couldn’t have created a better example to clearly illustrate both of the above counts! I digress.)

In general, there’s simply something to be said for proper decorum. It is a guide-post for civility and a good way to brand yourself as a socially acceptable individual in darn near every situation. I for one was raised on the “Sir and Ma’am Method.” (That’s what happens when your parents are both veterans.) And in darn near every situation Sir or Ma’am has worked in my favor.

Those guide posts for acceptable behavior are all the more important when you’re a public figure or in front of the media (like the entire House and Senate were) not because you’ll be praised for being couth, but because you’ll be raked over the coals if you aren’t.

I suppose in the world of political spin, Mr. Wilson now has a “You Lie!” soap box to stand on and pontificate about certain health care reforms. But, in the world of returns on investment…Rob Miller, Rep. Wilson’s opponent in the upcoming 2010 election, has added more than one million dollars to his campaign coffers since 9/9/09. Meanwhile, Wilson himself is about $300K behind that seven digit figure.

Politics and PR aside, I did think the president’s tie was rather nice. Apparently it’s lucky too.


September 4, 2009

Don’t try to compare Couric and Sawyer

Posted in Media, Uncategorized at 10:18 am by R

At the close of 2009, Charles Gibson will relinquish his post at the anchor desk on ABC Nightly News. He took over the position after Peter Jennings passed away in 2007. (May he rest in God’s peace)

Filling the famed chair will be Diane Sawyer, which means two of the three network newscasts will be lead by women — CBS with Katie Couric and now ABC with Sawyer.

It’s tempting to draw comparisons between Couric and Sawyer, but other than being successful professional women anchoring the news in the same time slot, there really aren’t many.

Katie Couric

Katie Couric

Couric really cut her teeth in morning television. And let’s face it, she was PERFECT for it. Always bubbly, but with the appropriate news edge, Couric was friendly and even-handed as a journalist. Who didn’t love to watch Katie Couric on the Today Show!? Even her more serious interviews showcased her unrelenting affable personality. It’s the kind of style and ability not all reporters are blessed with.

Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer

Sawyer’s background began as a White House aide to the Nixon administration. It was hypothesized at one point that she might be the infamous “Deep Throat.” Her reporting jobs have included  prestigious posts with shows like 60 Minutes, 20/20 and Primetime Live. I think it’s safe to say Sawyer’s reporting style is a little bit harder than Couric’s.

Couric had to learn that tougher reporting style on-air. At the outset of her tenure with CBS Evening News she maintained perhaps too much of her cheerful style…and the ratings tanked. Bless her heart, she was only being who she was. But sometimes the call of duty asks us to go a little outside of ourselves to be really successful. To Couric’s credit, it should also be stated that she was overwhelmingly scrutinized because she was the first woman to fill the anchor desk solo. Sawyer won’t face that same pressure. Couric paved the way on that one.

But Sawyer moving to the evening anchor desk feels a bit like a homecoming. Though she’s proved she has great range in her reporting style after having held down the fort at GMA with Robin Roberts, Sawyer is — at heart — a news hound. She’s delivered hard-hitting and often political stories and mammoth interviews, like Sadaam Hussien, for the bulk of her broadcast career.

Her political past gives her an innate ability to tell tough stories, hold difficult — but not confrontational — interviews and deliver news in a way that has just enough grit.

My respect for both broadcasters runs deep. One more glass ceiling shattered.

While I don’t know what the critics will say after her first broadcast, I think it’s fair to say she’ll escape some of the harsh opinions that were lobbed at Couric during her first weeks. I bet there’ll even be some comparisons to Couric in those first reviews.

All of these changes beg some questions:

  • As the times have changed, do we as news consumers prefer to have the stories of the day delivered to us by women?
  • What is the characteristic that keeps us loyal to a certain anchor?
  • Who do you prefer to watch (past or present)? Any why?

Me? I’m a Brian Williams kind of gal. He reminds me of watching Peter Jennings, that’s who I grew up watching.


September 2, 2009

What is the “reality” of PR?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 12:00 pm by R

Looks like PR practitioners may have some brand management issues on their hands.

Kim Kardashian has plans to executive produce a reality TV show about Command Public Relations, exposing the “ins-and-outs of PR.”

Oh lordy.

Don’t get me wrong, I will totally watch. I, as a practitioner myself, would really love to see what the ins-and-outs of PR are according to Kimmy K. I might be amused…

Amusing aside, the idea of a “reality” show about PR peeps really bothers me. The perception of PR practitioners is less than glowing as it is. In movies we’re always portrayed as a little bit too slick for comfort or as ditzy party planners. We’ve got a stereotype to fight, as addressed earlier this week by @lindavandeverde on Valley PR Blog. And I can only imagine that this show will make that stereotype that much deeper.

A quick Twitter search reveals that I’m not alone in my worry over the impact this show could have for the reputation of PR practitioners. @AbbieF also detailed the problems with this PR premise in a recent blog post. Abbie reminds us of the cringe-worthy reality show that was PoweR Girls, featuring Lizzie Grubman,  famous not for her PR prowess, but mostly for mowing some people down with an SUV outside a nightclub in the Hamptons in July of 2001.

If  E! and Kim Kardashian are doing this show, let’s get another producer, from A&E  or TLC let’s say, to see the reality of PR…really.  It seems the only way to fight “reality” is with reality. Any takers?