Writing about social media is nothing new for this blog. Just last month John wrote about why its necessary to have a social media strategy
. My colleagues have also repeatedly covered the how
and the good
and the bad
of Facebook and Twitter.
So what could I possibly have to add to the mix? Truth be told, not much except for my own story of how Twitter recently helped me, and scored a PR win for a local fabric and home decorating store
Let me quickly set the stage. A few weeks ago I headed into a local G Street Fabrics in search of the perfect fabric for a cushion I wanted to make for a bench my husband had just built for our foyer. Let me be clear though, I cant sew. Not even a button. Sure, I took home economics when I was in 7th grade but that was roughly 20 years ago and I really had no business thinking I could sew a cover for a cushion. But I figured it was a fabric store, surely theyd have a pattern I could use, and really, how hard could it be?
Well, Ill never know the answer to that question. After wandering around the store totally overwhelmed, unsure of what to do or where to start, not sure if the fabric I had selected was appropriate, no idea how much I needed or how to get someone to cut it and unable to figure out who even worked in the store to ask for help I left, totally dejected and deflated. So what did I do? I tweeted about my horrible experience. You know where this is going, right?
To my surprise the next day I had a response from @gstreetfabrics
apologizing for my less than positive experience, asking what store I had been at and how could they help me. Now it should be known that I did not use their handle when I tweeted my frustration. So this means that clearly someone on their end was (and presumably still is) being proactive and monitoring Twitter to see who is talking about them. Also, it is clear that the person doing the monitoring isnt just some lowly intern but someone who has the authority to make things happen.
After a bit of back and forth via Twitter, I received an email from G Street Fabrics along with an offer to make my cushion, at no charge to me (except for the fabric and the foam insert both of which they sold to me at a discount). This was certainly much more than I expected. I was just hoping for some help picking out the right fabric and finding an easy pattern to follow. I am certainly very appreciative of their offer to make the cushion and the service I ultimately received. And trust me, I am letting them make the cushion (see above about how I can't sew)
So whats the moral of the story?
Having a social media plan goes beyond just signing up for Twitter or Facebook. Be active, monitor, engage and interact with your audience. We hear so much about customer service failures on Twitter
that when done right, people are sure to talk! In fact, so far Ive shared this story with my coworkers, my family, some friends and now you. What better PR could G Street Fabrics ask for?
|Attention Steph: This image is free to use per GFDL license (which explains why it's so crummy)|
Trends tend to bend unending.
(Sorry about the poetic assault. But you get the gist of it, right? Trends have a tendency to self-perpetuate.)
Success breeds success. Failure breeds failure. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. And Duke wins the title by 30.
Except not this year.
In case you havent noticed, most of our recent tournament games have been uncharacteristically competitive. And Butler (our nations top-rated program for studying traditional British housekeeping) is right back in the thick of itafter coming within inches of the 2010 championship.
Wait, Butler, really?
Since when do top players go to Butler? Dont they usually go to UNC or Kentucky? Dont they get recruited by the best schoolsthe most prestigious programs?
yeah, they do. So whats going on here?
Introducing (drum roll, please) talent drainage. You know, draiiiinage! I drink your milkshake. Or rather, the NBA does.
See, top-tier players have stopped going to college. Which means Morehead State has the same exact chance of landing the next Michael Jordan as UNC does: essentially none.
When you drain the top of a bell curve, youre increasing the parity throughout the system. Sure, UConn still gets first dibs at all the second-tier players. But the differential between the second and third tiers is nowhere near the cavernous divide that separates the first and second. (Even todays college stars like Kemba Walker are probably 6th men in the pros.)
All right, you say. Maybe thats true. But what the heck does this have to do with PR?
First of all, calm down. Its just a blog post. Secondly, Im trying to make the argument here that were seeing this same type of parity injection in the news media. And Im wondering if drainage isnt partiallyor chieflyresponsible.
Im talking about outlets more than reporters here (though surely, an argument could be made that as news rooms cut back, as writers are forced to cover more beats in less time, as quantity trumps quality, and as sensationalism trumps integrity, perhaps todays best, most inquisitive minds might be turning away from journalism to something more lucrative or fulfilling).
But its the outlets that are most visibly disappearing (or: joining that great NBA in the sky, as it were). Folding, merging, or dissipating.
Yes, we have more outlets than ever before. But to make room, were cutting from the top.
Thats a serious problem for the industry. And yet the side effect Im getting atparitymight not be such a bad development for most of the worlds small businesses.
Back in 1965, the difference in value between a New York Times feature and a story on the cover of a poorly Xeroxed communist newsletter was pretty major, right?
But today, I might get more use and more engagement from an article by an online blogger than from anything printed in black and white. And thats a good thing for the welterweights, since access to the little guys in journalism is a whole lot less prohibitive for the little guys in business.
The power structure shifts so that the dance might continue unabated. Perhaps the product suffers. Or perhaps increased parity fuels competition and a new media arms race.
One way or the other, it's a slam dunk.
@Thomas - thanks for commenting. I think the image is often among the last pieces people think about when they post their blog. Hopefully flowcharts like the one I posted above, and some of the other links that go through the how-to on this, will make it easier for folks to navigate.
Good post. This is part of any BLOGGING 101 but many overlook it in practice and to their detriment, although most of the images on your own blog I have noted are also unattributed.
All tech writers rejoice!! The AP announced at ACES 2011 and over Twitter that e-mail is now email. As language - written and spoken - evolves, the AP works to stay on top of it and provide a set of guidelines to follow when writing. Also announced, cellphone and smartphone no longer need spaces they are compound words. Check out the 2011 stylebook online or grab a hard copy (coming out in May) and see the other social media focused changes Kathryn outlined earlier in the year. Now, Ive got some email to catch up on
Posting images on blogs... it seems so simple that it's almost an afterthought. Find a picture you like on the Interwebs, grab the link, place it in your blog and you're done, right? Hardly.
Without properly attributing images (and knowing which images are fair game in the first place), you are potentially exposing yourself and your company to claims of copyright infringement
. While there is some debate
over what is fair use
and what constitutes copyright infringement
, testing the murky legal water on this topic isn't something I imagine most of our readers would care to do. And if you're sitting there thinking to yourself, "But Stephanie, nobody ever gets caught for posting a copyrighted image on a blog!" think again
There are already a number of excellent posts
out there that explain how to find
usable images for your blog. If you're unfamiliar with how to do this, or what a Creative Commons
license is, read those links.
Over the weekend, I stumbled upon this fantastic poster and flowchart by Pia Jane Bijkerk
, Erin Loechner
and Yvette Boven
that should serve as a simple and helpful guide to crediting (click on the image to enlarge)...
Bottom line: attribution and image copyrights matter just as much on blogs as they do on other properties
. If you haven't been properly attributing the images on your blogs (and making sure they are safe to use in the first place), I recommend going back and doing so. Moving forward, make sure you institute best practices for your images to make sure they are appropriately sourced and freely available via Creative Commons license, and accurately credited.
Sometimes, media reps come to visit us at our offices. They bring bagels and sandwiches, I crack a few jokes, and we shoot the breeze. It’s pretty much the highlight of my week.
Now some of my more cynical colleagues have suggested that these wonderful folks might also be harboring an ulterior motive of sorts—something to the tune of “selling ad space.”
Well, if so, that’s a small price to pay for my free sandwiches and—in the summer—Slip n’ Slide time
. I’ve always been reasonably satisfied with the quid pro quo. Except lately, these reps haven’t been selling ad space; they’ve been selling editorial
(I felt that. You just shifted uncomfortably in your chair.)
Look, I’m not going to rail about the ethics of this practice; it’s not really hurting anybody, and it’s hardly unprecedented. But it is
on the rise. And I have to wonder if it’s a smart direction for our industry to be taking in the long run.
Here’s the anatomy of a vicious cycle:
1. News outlets lose readership because of a trust deficit
the size of… well, the deficit.
2. Advertisers take their money out of news outlets and invest instead in Apple stock.
3. News outlets invent “custom editorial” opportunities for advertisers as a way to lure them back.
4. Readers can’t tell whether they’re reading ads or articles, the trust gap widens, and readership erosion accelerates.
Okay, the first premise Stephanie’s likely to challenge is my contention that a “trust shortfall” is to blame for the news media’s woes.
Obviously, there are other factors at work (Web- and cable-fueled outlet and channel proliferation/customization, social media-fueled citizen journalists, politically fueled anti-media sentiment, etc.)
But if you get to the heart of those ancillary issues, it’s an overall lack of trust that dominates the picture. Readers and viewers are turning against traditional outlets because they simply don’t trust
them to be consistently more relevant or forthright than the rest of the field.
We see it all the time in other industries. Good products go bad when monetization efforts trump the user experience. So instead of worrying about short-term cash flow, media companies should be far more concerned about the long-term viability of their products. (I know, an outsider saying, “don’t worry about cash flow” is about as helpful as a dolphin telling the Titanic victims not to worry about the water level.)
But look: History attests that a truly useful, high-quality offering very rarely fails to find a business model in the end.
And yet the landfills are cluttered by marginal products with “brilliant” monetization schemes. And the best laid plans of mice and men do so often go astray—floating adrift in the current, kind of like me, on a hot July Slip n’ Slide sales call.
Following up on my last blog post
about the personalized media pitch, I recently came across this story
about an unpleasant interaction between a PR "pro (I use the term loosely
) and a blogger. Assigned to shout from the mountaintops that the agency she works for has been selected as the agency of record for a Canadian company, this PR rep gets into a battle with a blogger after sending her a press release totally off topic.
The article asks if the blogger was too harsh? I guess you could say sure, she didnt need to be so snarky (really, she didnt) but shouldnt the PR pro have done her homework? Shouldnt she have taken even five minutes to check out the blog and see what this blogger actually wrote about instead of just taking whatever list Vocus or Cision spit out at her as the gospel? The answer should be a resounding YES!
Truth be told, the whole situation makes me roll my eyes. Id like to believe that Ive never sprayed and prayed, as the blogger calls it, but Im sure I have at least once in my career (sorry!
). In this situation, the agency rep should have apologized immediately, but instead didnt seem to consider the repercussions of her behavior until the blogger pointed it out to her.
That said, who in PR hasnt on occasion wanted to speak their mind when theyve received a nasty response from a reporter? Weve grown so accustomed to being ignored, and occasionally disrespected, by reporters that when a reporter is responsive and kind (even if rejecting a story idea) we are shocked.
Trust me, Im not making excuses for how this agency rep responded (she clearly was in the wrong) but couldnt the blogger also have shown a bit of self restraint and told this young woman in a firm, but polite, way that her release was way off topic, or as so many reporters typically do, just don't respond? I understand this could have been her umpteenth off-topic email of the day, week, month, year, etc. and that she could have been pushed to her limit and felt the need to respond the way she did.
If I could apologize to every reporter for every PR rep who has ever sent them an off-topic pitch I would, but I cant. What I can do though is promise every reporter I deal with that I certainly try my hardest to make sure I am pitching you on topic. In return, can I ask that journalists stop hating on my chosen profession because of a few (ok, maybe a lot) of bad apples?
I was inspired to write after learning of a recent study demonstrating that women show a 22%-25% lower risk of stroke when drinking at least one cup of coffee than those who drink less, according to USA Today
, and WTOP. The news is based on a recent report published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association
I feel validated, inspired even, to make that second pot of coffee, even though last week my team hinted I might have a "problem" because I consume upwards of 6 Keurig K-Cups
a day in the office.
It makes one wonder if there was an ulterior motive to this report: did the coffee industry inspire the research, which began in Sweden 10 years ago? Was there a particular PR effort behind the release of this news to offset multiple reports (CNN
) last month that coffee bean prices have reached their 14-year high, thanks to atypical weather in Columbia and Brazil?
Connecting the dots: wacky weather in coffee country = higher prices for beans = lower spending ability on your Starbucks card = drop in consumption.
But wait! Coffee is good for you, especially for women, as this special report showed reduced risk of stroke for 34,670 women aged 49-83 over an average of 10 years. Pause: take a sip from my Green Mountain
I can't call this the Great Coffee Conspiracy, because I like my coffee too much and I heard what I wanted to hear. That's the point.
There are statistics, trends, infographics and findings for just about anything. As an analytical species, the human race wants validation for decisions and choices that are made.
We have seen the power of stats and graphs, and I believe they are powerful in B2B and B2G when used in a targeted content marketing plan. They are as good as gold if they can point to a revelation or controversy that enables the decision maker to consider a fuller picture.
That being said, we believe that just like you can't "cook the books," you can't "bake the data," so some best practices should be considered when utilizing data to your advantage: Consider the source:
Get a third party source who is respected among your primary audience and be real. If you craft a study on cloud computing trends, social media adoption rates, or any other topic that has reached mainstream media, find a source that is respected amongst your peers. It should carry more weight when it's someone your customers trust. We recently initiated a research report tapping respected researcher Bob Gourley
(@bobgourley), former CTO for DIA, editor of CTOvision
and founder of CTOLabs
, who is influential within the community our client cares about.
We have also tapped local research firm Market Connections
, a company that conducts deep research and findings for IT and telecom companies in the B2G and B2B space, and generates research that can be used for product development, marketing, sales, as well as press efforts. Be authentic:
Don't make this stuff up. Know the target audience that you hope to influence, and ask the burning questions that you know are on their mind. And if you don't know? Ask them! Be authentic if you are the inspiration for a study: no one likes a thinly veiled attempt to promote statistics, but customers will appreciate your declaration of authoring a study that they can use. Create concise questions
: Too many studies end up on the cutting room floor because the questions aren't posed succinctly, or clearly, or don't point to specific perspectives. Be concise, and put strategic thought into how to derive the best results to make your point. Be controversial
: It's OK to elicit contrarian viewpoints...even applauded! Even better are those that go against status quo, especially if the results point to a perspective that is valuable to those who want to make an informed, educated decision.
Research and statistics in a content marketing plan are like French vanilla creamer in a cup of french roast coffee...it sweetens the experience, but you still need the caffeine. Now, time to brew another K-Cup...- Elizabeth Shea @eliz2shea
In the past week or so it has become pretty clear that Charlie Sheen needs help of some sort, whether that be for alcohol abuse, OD-ing on Charlie Sheen
, or a variety of other issues. While his situation may seem like a complete PR nightmare (which resulted in his publicist Stan Rosenfeld
to quit in the midst of it), there are a few things that Charlie may have done right when it comes to these PR basics.
Tell the truth While Charlie may seem crazy to most, at least he is honest about it. He admits that he has had addiction problems, he talks openly about his rock-star lifestyle and chooses not to be ashamed of how he lives his life. Charlie does not attempt to hide who he is, but instead fully embraces it making no apologies. By speaking out with no filter, he has had the ability to control the message about him; even if the message happens to be that he is crazy.
Be controversial If you are saying what everyone else is, you probably wont get your brand a lot of attention. With the number of celebrities that have had a breakdown and head to rehab these days, no one would have batted an eye had Charlie taken that route. He, however, has broken from the mold of what might typically be advised. While his thoughts and ramblings may be a bit out there, people are interested. And whether they agree with him or not -- they are listening.
Timing is everything During the height of his media attention, Charlie chose to create a Twitter
account. He proceeded to be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for being the quickest person to break one million followers, having achieved that amount in just 25 hours and 17 minutes. And his outrageous #tigerblood and #winning hashtags have been trending on Twitter since he joined. After the attention from traditional media dies down, (which inevitably it must
right?) Charlie will continue having a voice to millions through Twitter.
In the heat of all the drama surrounding Charlie right now, his best move may be to lay low for a while and work out some problems. But if its any conciliation, after his knife incident
in late 2009 and previous stints in rehab, his show bounced back stronger than ever. So while I would never recommend this method of publicity, considering a rerun of Two and a Half Men had 11.5 million
viewers on Monday night, making it the most watched show that night, maybe we the viewers are right where Charlie wants us.