Recommended Reading: Real-Time Marketing & PR

Posted on December 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Real-Time Marketing & PR - book coverYou know how they say time is money? Well, these days it’s your reputation, too.

With an always-on 24/7 internet, if you’re in the news in a negative way, you must respond immediately.

There’s little time to plod though a carefully measured crises communications plan while a story races across the web — where videos go viral and Twitter unleashes a torrent of messages in mere seconds.

It’s time for your marketing and PR to get real

If that thought puts you on edge, or you doubt it’s true, then you could be in for a rude awakening. Or, you can get up to speed by reading Real-Time Marketing and PR, the latest book by marketing maven, A-list blogger, David Meerman Scott.

Just as he did in his groundbreaking The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Scott’s new book helps you see how certain long-held practices are not merely obsolete, but dangerous to your livelihood.

How NOT to engage in real-time PR

Anyone with access to the web can publish content. This so-easy-anyone-can-do-it circumstance sets up a scenario where, Scott says, “consumers set the pace. Left to their own devices, they imagine all sorts of things. They take unpredictable initiatives.”

One example of an imaginative consumer initiative is seen in a tale Scott recounts about Dave Carroll, a musician whose guitar got busted up by United Airlines baggage carriers. Carroll tried to get United to own up to the misdeed, but the company wouldn’t budge. So Carroll took to the web, with a video he created called United Breaks Guitars. The video went viral, news outlets and the blogosphere jumped on the story and Carroll’s plight attracted international attention.

United took a huge public relations hit, all because it would not properly respond to one customer.

Scott gives a blow-by-blow run-down of how the whole thing played out. He fills in all kinds of side details and breaks down the trajectory of the various ways the story shot across the mediaverse.

Monitoring, mobile, and real-time guidelines

United got it wrong, however the book also provides ample examples of companies that got it right by thoughtfully engaging in real-time communications. Time and again, Scott reinforces how paying attention pays off.

photo of girl holding hand to her earOf course, you can’t react in real-time unless you readily know what’s being said. For that to happen you must monitor and analyze media outlets all across the web. With so many venues, in both traditional and ever-increasing new media spheres, this can be daunting. Scott clues you in on how to turn it into a manageable task and offers a handy list of free tools such as Google Alerts, Blogpulse, Technorati and Twingly, and service providers like Attentio, Brandwatch, Cision, Radian6, Sysomos and Visible Technologies.

There’s advice for how to leverage the fastest growing real-time market: mobile, where location-based services such as Foursquare, Layar, and Mobile Spinach enable you to provide customers with instant gratification exactly where and when they want it.

There are tips on how to engage on Twitter (the big-time in real-time), ideas for how to integrate real-time tactics into your sales and customer service efforts,  plus an in-depth section on how to develop effective real-time communications policies—also known as social media guidelines.

An insider tells it like it is

All of this comes from a guy who spent most of his career in the online news business. This is an insider, telling it like it is, in lively, and sometimes good-humored, fashion.

It’s all downright practical. When delving into how to responsibly respond to online stories and social chatter about your company, Scott says: “Some people are plain crazy, and you don’t want to get dragged into dialogue with a psycho.”

Even in the real-time world, you must exercise good judgment. Scott’s book provides plenty of ideas for how your good judgment can help grow your business. Now.

– Deni Kasrel

Comments anyone? Please share your thoughts.

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Why You Must Be The Master of Your Domain

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Golden Royal ThroneAll you have to do to own a web address is buy and register the domain name. There are plenty of sites that offer this service, including BuyDomains, Go Daddy, Network Solutions, and Register.com.

Most web domain names cost under $10 per year. Unless someone already owns the domain, in which case prices may vary — you‘ll need to work a deal out with the owner.

You must continue to renew your domain registration

Once you purchase a domain name, it’s yours to keep, as long as you renew it. There are exceptions — you might lose the domain if there’s some kind funky trademark dispute — but that’s a rare occurrence.

Domain registries send reminders when it’s time to renew, and you can set up an auto-renew, too. So the process is fairly foolproof.

Unless you happen to be distracted, as recently happened to the Dallas Cowboys football team, which fumbled the renewal of its website at http://www.dallascowboys.com.

Dallas Cowboys drop the ball on web domain registration

As noted in an article in The Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys neglected to renew their registration and their site went down on Sunday (as did the Cowboys, who lost to the Green Bay Packers).

On Sunday night, if you went to dallascowboys.com, you got a placeholder site that showed kids kicking a soccer ball, of all things:

Dallas Cowboys placeholder website

Once the mistake was discovered the Cowboys quickly renewed the registration; however, it took more than a day till their site was restored. In-between, sports fans and writers were quick to call a penalty on the team.

The Cowboys have reportedly put the domain registration on auto renew to avoid future interference of this kind.

If you fail to renew you can lose your domain

The parting tip here: If you own a website, pay attention to those emails from your domain registrar. Be sure to pay the renewal bill before the expiration date.

If you don’t renew by the cut off date, the site can be taken down, the domain can be put up for sale, and someone else may snatch it up. Keep on top of this seemingly small detail and you’ll always be the master of your domain.

FYI, according to ComScore, Dallascowboys.com is the second most popular NFL website; number one being  NFL.com.

Which goes to show, even in the world of web domains, there’s no such thing as being too big to fail.

Deni Kasrel

The field is now open for comments. What do YOU think of the Cowboy’s failing to renew their website domain registration?

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The ROI of Real-Time Marketing and Public Relations

Posted on November 1, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photo of dollar bills growing out of flower potsPsst, want a hot stock tip?

Invest in businesses that engage in real-time marketing and PR.

This list includes:

  • Companies that adopt emerging communications trends – these days this includes social media and web analytics
  • Companies that respond to media and customer concerns promptly and courteously
  • Companies that respond to inquiries from A-list bloggers ASAP

New research measures real-time response of Fortune 100 companies

FYI, I am not offering this advice simply because I work in the field of marketing communications. There’s genuine research to back this tip up, and it’s hot off the e-press.

You can read all about in Real Time: How Marketing and PR at Speed Drives Measurable Success.

It’s the latest e-book by David Meerman Scott, A-list blogger, popular speaker and best selling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition.

In his new e-book, David recounts the results of research he conducted to measure the real-time marketing response of the top 100 U.S. corporations as ranked by Fortune magazine.

Ties that bind real-time response and stock market performance

David’s research method was simple: He sent an email to the media relations departments of each Fortune 100 company asking the following question:

“In the last year or two, has the structure of your corporate communications team and/or communications processes changed to embrace the real-time digital era? If so, how?”

David wanted to find out:

  • How easy is it to contact each company’s media relations department?
  • How long does it take each company to respond to his request?
  • What is the quality of the response?

The e-book explains what happened next. It’s entertaining stuff. I’ll let you read it for yourself, however, the upshot is, David determined that in a comparison of 2010 stock prices, on average, the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that were the most highly engaged in real-time communications beat the S&P 500 stock index, while those that were asleep at the real-time wheel, on average, underperformed the index.

Here’s a bar graph from the e-book showing details of the data:

Graph showing how real-time marketing & PR affects corporate stock performance

Likewise, an analysis of 2010 stock prices shows, the majority of the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that responded to David’s inquiry (again, those engaged in real-time communications) were up on the year stock-price-wise, while those who did not were down. Here’s how that stat divvied up:

Stock performance of companies that engage in real time marketing beat those that do not (chart)

The data clearly indicates there’s a measurable return on investment for companies that engage in real-time marketing and public relations. Those who are out of the real-time loop are, overall, losing ground in the marketplace.

Now granted, David has a vested interest in touting these results. He wants to spark interest in his brand new book, Real-Time Marketing and PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now. Still, David does not have the power to manipulate a stock price to suit his own needs. The data is what it is.

It’s also further reinforcement of the public’s increasing use of the web, in particular the rising prominence of social media, as well as smartphones, which encourage a rapid response mindset for messaging.

And while surely lots of factors affect a company’s stock market success, real-time engagement looks to be a new item to add to the list.

Stay tuned for more on real-time marketing and public relations

There are, of course, a plenitude of benefits to be reaped from engaging in real-time. A company’s ability to act and react in a fast and flexible manner can have positive consequences for product development, customer service, branding, crises communications, sales and more.

Heads up, I’m currently reading the book Real-Time Marketing & PR, and will soon have more to say on this timely topic. Stay tuned.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the relationship between real-time marketing and PR and corporate stock market performance? Do you have stories of your own to tell on this topic? Comments welcome?

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Interview with David Meerman Scott, Author of the New Rules of Marketing & PR

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Business Podcasting Tips From Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Talks

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

RSS symbol with podcast headphone and microphonePodcasting offers an easy way to be heard in the marketplace.

It’s on-demand subscription-based audio content that lets you grab someone’s ear.

Of course holding onto that ear takes finesse.

Just spouting marketing messages doesn’t cut it. Then it’s an infomercial, and who’s going to subscribe to that?

You must make it worth someone’s while to pay attention to what you have to say.

Interview with Toby Bloomberg, host of the podcast series Diva Marketing Talks

It takes skill to pull off a successful podcast, and one person does it well is marketing maven Toby Bloomberg, host of Diva Marketing Talks, a podcast series about social media marketing.

Toby recently shared some of her podcasting tips with me, about the art of being a good moderator and how to create podcasts that reach out and touch customers in a meaningful way. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Can you describe your concept for Diva Marketing Talks?

Toby: My concept is that since social media is a conversation, I don’t want to have to interview people. And the one-on-one thing, to me, is an interview. So I always have a least two guests, sometimes three.

What do you think makes for a good podcast moderator?

Toby: There are a few things that make for a good moderator. One is making sure you have a guest on who will share information and talk. Because the worst thing is to have someone on who just doesn’t talk. And you want to have someone who understands, in social media, they’re giving value-added information, not pitching their own company.

The second thing is to create an environment and atmosphere where they feel comfortable to talk.

And the third thing is to prep your guests for the show… I put questions together. I put concepts together and I give them to the guests and say, “Here’s our content direction. Whether or not we follow it depends on where the conversation goes, but here are the issues we’ll talk about.”

When it’s time for the show I’ll start off with a question and see where it goes. Sometimes it does turn into a real conversation. I will encourage people to talk to the other guests and to ask questions of me, so it has the feel of a conversation, instead of me interviewing two people.

What are some reasons a company might consider doing a podcast series?

Toby: A podcast is no different than an audio file that’s on the web. What makes it unique is that it has an RSS feed that gives you the ability to dump it into an MP3 player. And that little technology changes everything. It gives you the ability to do what people call “time transfer.” You can put it into your video or MP3 player — into your iPod your iPhone and iTunes — and listen to it whenever you want.

So that’s what makes podcasting so different and valuable. It’s that people aren’t tied to their computers any longer. They can listen to it wherever they want.

You can use podcasts to create thought leadership to build greater understanding and awareness of an organization or a topic. But it can also be used in other ways. For instance it can be used to train a sales force. You can do a podcast on product development, new product features, whatever. Give MP3 players to your sales force and they can listen whenever they want.

Another thing is take a cheap MP3 player — we’re not talking about iPods — load it up and give it away at trade shows.

What would be on those trade show podcasts — product information?

Toby: It can be product information. But it always has to be value-add. Because who’s going to listen to something about your new features or your latest widget? You can position it however you want. You can do a little show.

Is there any type of business that either does or doesn’t lend itself to podcasting?

Toby: You’re disseminating information. So if your target audience is comfortable listening to information in a given format, it will work. It really goes back to who your customers are… I think today we’re not looking at technology as much as information.

How can a business know what kind of information is of interest to their target audiences?  How should they define their podcast strategy?

Toby: You just ask your customers what they want. Tell them you’re thinking of doing a podcast series and ask, “Is this something that you might want?” They’ll let you know. And they’ll tell you what they want to hear.

Especially in a B2B environment, where relationships are so critical, even more than B2C, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to touch base with customers that perhaps you haven’t talked to in a while.

So pick up the phone… Take a look at the customers that you’ve been wanting to develop stronger relationships with, or people you just missed closing a deal on. It would be great to go out to prospects and say, “We haven’t talked to you in a long time. This is what we’re thinking of doing. What would you like to hear?” It gives you an opportunity to open doors.

You can build a whole strategy behind that. Why not tag the podcast with “Thanks to Tom Jones at XYZ company for giving his input on this topic.” Thanking people in a public forum is always a nice thing to do. You don’t have to mention if they’re a client or not.

In your e-book Social Media Marketing GPS you note how podcasts can bring out your personality and create intimacy between the people behind a brand and its customers. How does that happen and why is that important?

Toby: Voice and tone add another dimension than text. Even if your company has a blog, or a Facebook page, or is tweeting, it brings you a little bit closer… And audio gives you the opportunity to add a different type of information.

When you write, and when you speak, your words come out differently. I think a good podcast forces you to talk in a conversational manner. So if you’re taking in a conversational manner people tend to relate to you as a person rather than as a company. The bottom line is people like to do business with people they like and this is one more way for somebody to get to know you.

Say a business makes a product that does not seem to present itself as being all that interesting. It’s some kind of widget. How do you make something that is not inherently fascinating into a podcast series?

Toby: You don’t, if it’s something that’s inherently boring. Like if it’s a widget that goes into another widget.

It’s like Intel Inside. Think of how brilliantly they positioned themselves. They knew that nobody wanted to talk about this little technology piece that went into computers, they positioned it as Intel Inside — this is what makes everything work. So perhaps isn’t going to be about the widget, because how much can you talk about the widget? Maybe it’s about trends in the industry.

What about allowing people to call into the show? Why might a company want to do that?

It gives people an opportunity to get information that they may not be able to have any other way. It gives you an opportunity to interact with potential customers. And if somebody has a really deep question, you can say, “Let’s take this offline and I’m happy to make sure you get the information.”

It’s one of those things that could go wild, depending on the company and the questions. If you’re doing it where you can tape the show you have the opportunity to edit. If you’re doing it live, obviously you don’t have that, so I think it takes a very skillful host. Because then you’re not only in the world of social media, really what it amounts to is you’re in the world of public radio.

OK, final question: If you were to give only one tip for businesses about podcasts, what would it be?

Toby: Make sure you understand the type of content your audience finds interesting and work around that. It’s Marketing 101.

But with any kind of social media we’re really diving outside of traditional marketing… It’s a sidestep. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily relate to you product or service directly, but rather, tangentially.

That’s where I see a lot of companies miss the mark. When some people think being in social media means not being sales oriented, they think it means a softer sales pitch. But more than not, it means not even going in the sales direction, but making sure you have information that can support your customers in your particular industry… It is different than any other kind of marketing because it’s built on value-add.

Thanks, Toby

Many thanks to Toby Bloomberg for sharing her insights. If you want to keep up with Toby’s thoughts on a regular basis, subscribe to her Diva Marketing Blog, or follow her on Twitter at @tobydiva.

Meanwhile, other posts I’ve written that relate to Toby include:

Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Toby’s ideas about podcasting? Do you have more thoughts on the topic? Please share. Comments welcome.

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Best Practices: Writing Press Releases for the Web

Posted on May 19, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

A press release posted on your website is not a press release. It’s an everybody release.

Seeing as we all seek out information by hitting the web – frequently using a search engine as our guide — you can bet people other than the press are discovering and reading your releases.

Most PR practitioners, however, still write press releases in a rigid format specifically aimed at reporters. It’s a style developed long before the web came into being and best suited to the printed page.

Press releases posted online should be in web style

News flash: Web content should be written for the way we read web content. Or rather, how we glance over web content. Studies show when we first hit a web page we scan it. Our eyes skip around looking for clues to see if the page has information we can use. If it takes too long to figure out we hop off and scan elsewhere.

This applies to all areas of a website. Including the press section.

Press releases as information, plain and simple

OK, this is not groundbreaking news: Jakob Nielson, a pioneer of web usability, has beaten this drum for years. He’s posted numerous articles on the subject, including How Users Read on the Web.

Still, even companies that follow good web style elsewhere on their website often disregard it in the press area.

That’s a mistake. Usability studies by Janice (Ginny) Redish — as noted in her excellent book Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works — show the general web user is confused (and even frustrated) by traditional “wall-to-wall text” press releases that appear online.

And so, with hat tips to Nielson and Redish, here’s a handy list of guidelines for writing press releases for the web.

Best Practices: Writing Press Releases for the Web

1. Write short paragraphs

Keep it concise. Nielson suggests having one idea per paragraph.

2. Increase scanability with subheads in bold type

Subheads give instant clues about the full content of the release. Readers can know right away if the content is of interest, or not. Suggested length for headings is eight words or less.

3. Break up information with bulleted or numbered lists

Bullets act as graphical elements that stand out from blocks of text. Our eyes are naturally and psychologically drawn to lists with brief chunks of information.

4. Display data in tables and graphs

It’s difficult to digest lots of data rendered in paragraph format. You’re better off putting this information into tables and graphs that are more readily understood.

5. Use the same template as other informational pages

As noted, the general public does not make a distinction between press releases and other useful web content. A press release should have the same look and feel as other informational pages on your website.

6. Include hyperlinks and external documents for additional information

Provide more value to a release by linking to other areas of your site with related information.

If you need to go into more depth with statistics or research findings, create and post documents with these details. Write the press release as a summary fact sheet and put links to these documents in the release.

7. Include keywords

Use language that appeals to your customer base. Put special emphasis on terms and phrases someone might use to find your product or service through a search engine, a.k.a. keywords.

8. Be mindful of who’s listed as the company contact

Typical press releases list the person in your public relations/communications department who wrote the release as the contact for additional information. But is this the right person to respond to queries from the general public? And what happens when this PR flack leaves your company? Do you go back and changes all the releases?

Once a release is posted on the web you may want to list your main PR office number, and identify it as such, to better field calls that come in response to the release.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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Communications Trends for 2010 (Part 1)

Posted on January 13, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations, Trends, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Does the start of a new year inspire you to think about the future?

Me too.

And what about those resolutions? Now comes the time to see if we really intend to keep them.

Per my recent post, Why You Should Make A New Year’s Social Media Resolution, one of my goals is to be more engaged with cyber pals, through real conversation, and perhaps meeting up in person.

Also, I plan to step up commenting on other blogs and share more space on my blog for people whose ideas and opinions I admire.

To get the latter resolution rolling, I asked several Twitter pals for thoughts on what they foresee as top communications trends for 2010. My friends could respond however they liked, and this included our speaking via Skype.

All brought up good points to ponder. Ideas offered cover various dimensions of the communication continuum. So much so, I’m breaking things up into two posts. Here’s Part 1:

One-way communication continues to fall by the wayside

The rise of social media continues to rock advertising, marketing, and public relations. Foundations that have stood for decades are quaking, as channels shift more decisively from monologue to dialogue. Here are forecasts from people in the thick of it.

Marketers must build trust and relationships

John Lichtenberger, publisher of Advertising Compliance Service, a reference service for attorneys and advertisers. Twitter: @AdvertisingLaw

“One trend that I expect will accelerate in 2010 and beyond is the continuing paradigm shift away from delivering one-way advertising/marketing messages to using social media to promote a company and its products. Marketers will continue to find out that it is much more effective to establish dialogue and relationships than it is to attract attention in the old way – via traditional advertising. In fact, they will probably have no other choice but to embrace this new medium. Consumers are spending more and more of their time on social media – old-school advertising simply is going to miss out on reaching them.

As we enter this new decade, marketers will need to learn how to effectively use social media to communicate trust first – and worry about sales later. It is not a medium that is at all conducive to the “hard sell”. Some marketers will find this fact out the hard way. But many more will surely learn how to become more adept at using social media effectively. It will be interesting to see the evolution of how businesses will use social media to communicate their company message in the months and years ahead.”

Wider and deeper engagement is essential for marketing and PR

Valeria Maltoni, professional marketer and brand strategist. Blog: Conversation Agent. Twitter: @ConversationAge

Direction for all communicators (marketers, PR people) in 2010.

“You will need to become actively involved in facilitating the active participation of the whole organization to the company’s branding efforts. If you’re not already, it’s time to become engaged with curating industry conversations and analysis to provide senior leadership with insights about market and customer demands.

From learning about what to listen for, to figuring out how the company needs to engage in the knowledge flows, you will need to have sharp focus to zero into what matters and soft eyes to see the big picture. Because customers, prospects, partners, and employees are spending more time online, you will need to become adept at observing and synthesizing trends, building community, and translating that information into action plans.

Communication is the exchange of information that connects to common goals. From multimedia content creation and story telling to value creation through context and calls to action, you will need to become the most adept at spotting opportunity, digging deeper, and bringing the right people to engage in the dialogue and deliver results – as outcomes and contribution to the bottom line.

Time to step off the comfortable side lines and get in the game. You will be accountable at every step of the way. That is good.”

Power to the people: PR goes back to its origins

Beth Harte, Community Manager at MarketingProfs. Blog: The Harte Of Marketing. Twitter: @BethHarte

“In 2010, public relations will revert back to its origins and there will be less focus on media relations (i.e. publicity). The origins of PR include building mutually beneficial relationships with the publics that can make or break an organization’s business and brands. With more publics using online tools as a mechanism for word of mouth (positive and negative), networking with like-minded people, and product/service/organization information it’s imperative for organizations to focus their attention to building those important relationships. Public relations will include things like: online community relations, proactive issues management, and less pitching and more strategic placement of content.”

Searching and sorting through content on the web

A growing number of tools enable us to publish content, to include blog posts, videos, photos and more. We have many ways to project our voices and engage in virtual conversation with any number of participants. Consequently, it’s getting mighty crowded out there on the web. Which brings us to these next few trends, which by the way, were conveyed in conversation over Skype:

New ways to manage and search content

Avi Joseph, web sociologist/strategist. Founder of SC Media, Twitter: @Avinio

“Mobile will be much more like a laptop and in the end it won’t be just a social web but a social mobile strategy. It will be a little bit different…. Geotagging is a step that we are beginning to see slowly entering… You will see much more news and social sharing by mobile.

We will see the boost of social network search. It will be less important to be on the first page of Google results, but it’s going to be more important to be on the first page among your community, your social circle.

You can see already that Google recognizes this. Google has the power to collect information for all social networks… I think what Google will do is when you open a Google profile account, and then every time you open an account on a social network you add it to your Goggle profile, Google will collect the information from there and will show it on your social results.”

Tamping down the fire hose: knowledge curation

Bill Ives, consultant and writer who helps firms and individuals with their blogs and other social media. Blog: Portals and KM. Twitter: @BillIves

“People are overburdened with information overload… It’s definitely a fire hose. The amount of content has grown exponentially and a lot of that content is just crap and you need to sift through to find the gems.

That’s where tools that enable us to filter, and human filters, like you and me for each other, can help. So I see knowledge curation as a trend, both the need and the tools for doing it. And if there is a tool that you can put in the hands of the average user… so that’s it’s as easy to use as Twitter or Facebook, I think it will be hugely successful. The need to make sense of an ever-increasing amount of content will continue for business and the individual consumer.”

Many thanks to John, Valeria, Beth, Avi and Bill for offering your insights. And readers, I recommend you follow these folks on Twitter. Each one is a great source of information and conversation.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you agree with these thoughts on communications trends for 2010? What other trends do you see for the coming year? Please share. Comments welcome.

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The Social Media Smokescreen

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today, at a networking meeting, I met someone involved in marketing and branding. We got to talking about social media, and quicker than you can type a tweet, this guy brought up return on investment.

He asserted, unless you can clearly identify the monetary payback on social media, many brand managers won’t give it the time of day.

Now, I understand that ROI and the bottom-line matter; a lot. Nevertheless, it’s curious how when the subject of social media comes up, you can often count the seconds till ROI is mentioned. Why is that?

What’s with the double-standard?

I’ve not heard a hue and cry over what’s the absolute dollars and cents return on investment for numerous other aspects of marketing communications. Like a sales kit. Or a press release. Or an event sponsorship. Or even a website (unless the site is e-commerce based, though for the sake of this example, I’m referring to a corporate/brand website).

And I shall defer from quibbling over what the exact definition of ROI is — used in this context, the general understanding is that it relates to how much profit are we going to make?

The point isn’t what is or is not ROI, but rather why you must know from the get-go what’s the end-measure for a social media program, when other types of marketing and public relations are not all held to this same standard.

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted” – Albert Einstein

No one’s come up with a formula to accurately surmise the precise profits gained from buzz, brand affinity, or word of mouth. It’s iffy to assign a cash value to a news story that appears about your company, product or service. You don’t necessarily know how much money is generated by a TV or print campaign, either.

I’m not suggesting there’s no reason to gather metrics for social media. There are ways to monitor social media activity and impact. You should benchmark and keep track of how the program is going, and, where possible, identify the return.

It’s more that I’m baffled by this tendency to immediately raise a “where’s the ROI?” beef at the very mention of social media. Which, for those who don’t already know, can drive sales as well as do wonders for brand awareness, customer service, reputation management and search engine optimization (among other things), when properly executed.

A smokescreen tactic?

I wish I had a buck for every article I’ve seen in just these last few months about the ROI of social media. I could take a nice vacation with the windfall.

My hunch is show-me-the-money-or-forget-about-it brand managers/marketers are comfortable with how they’ve been doing things for years. They like the old ways; which are one-way. Social media is two-way. They’re unaccustomed to direct engagement and are terrified of what might come back at them. They fear losing control of their brand.

So a smokescreen gets thrown up due to fear of the new, aversion to risk, and an inability to admit you just plum don’t understand something.

Looks like it boils down to oh-me oh-my rather than ROI.

– Deni Kasrel

Is ROI truly a relevant measure to determine the effectiveness of social media? Do you have experience in calculating the ROI of social media? Please share your stories. Comments welcome.

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How To Fire Up Your New Product Launch

Posted on October 26, 2009. Filed under: Business Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

match on fire (bigstockphoto)How do you ensure a product still in development catches fire come launch-time?

Keep things largely under wraps, while simultaneously spilling a bunch of the beans.

A neat trick that takes finesse to pull off; one recent example is the rollout of Google Wave.

Limiting who gets to test drive

Not quite ready for prime time, there’s already gobs of chatter about the Wave, which is in limited preview. You must be asked to give it a test drive.

Invitees include developers and influentials — tech writers and bloggers being a big block here — who are in turn allowed to ask 20 additional individuals to join the fold.

Google’s tactic of limiting who gets a preliminary trial ensures invitees are quick to spread the word. To clue people in on the Wave, of course, but also, it’s an opportunity to infer, without really saying so, “I’m one of the chosen people.”  It’s a status symbol.

Anyone can peek under the hood

You can get a gander of the product by visiting the About Google Wave web site.

Google Wave logoThe site includes a long (80 minute) video presentation, originally given to developers, about this new collaborative communications platform that appears to be a souped-up combination of email, chat, photo sharing and other social media tools, with considerable real-time capability.

FYI, you don’t need to watch the video all the way through. The first part has demos and explanations in plain English. The rest is for developers who may want to build apps and other tools to work with the Wave.

If you’re not into tech talk stop after the first segment: You’ll still see what the ruckus is about.

Buzz builds

Meanwhile, buzz about Google Wave continues to build.

Mashable and TechCrunch have guides to the product. Lots of journalists and bloggers, including Mr. Web 2.0 himself, Tim O’Reilly, are getting the word out.

Computerworld claims the Wave is indeed innovative, but wonders if it’s truly useful in the real world.

As yet another tantalizer, you can request an invitation to Google Wave.

Follow the leader

Few businesses have a footprint as big a Google, where this kind of rollout has such immense impact.

No matter, you can still follow the leader. Here are the basic steps.

  • Unveil your upcoming product to select influentials. This group includes members of the media (both traditional and social media), prominent existing and/or potential customers, people who will eventually market your product, and others who communicate to audiences that can derive benefit from your product.
  • Inform invitees of their exclusive status.
  • Tell the general public you are giving pre-launch test drives to invited individuals (to elevate the status factor even more).
  • Post limited information about your new product, that anyone can view, showing how it works. The “you can look but not touch” approach creates anticipation and desire.
  • Tell invited influentials you are not simply looking for free PR, but want authentic feedback on how they perceive the product.
  • Listen to and absorb the feedback, both positive and negative.
  • Dangle a carrot to the uninvited indicating that you might let them take the product for a spin.
  • Gradually increase the number of invitees.
  • Launch product and watch the sparks fly.

Time will tell if Google Wave is a tsunami (or not).

Until then, the fire lighting up public interest continues to burn.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you heard about Google Wave? Are you one of the chosen few who gets to test the Wave? What do you think about Goggle’s limited preview? Can you see it working for other products? Please offer your thoughts. Comments welcome.

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How To Captivate An Audience

Posted on October 8, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hand holding a Poken device If you’re giving a presentation and want the audience to hang on your every word here’s a tip: Announce you’ll give away free stuff to people who answer questions correctly during your talk.

Trust me, it works like a charm.

I saw it in action during Peter Shankman’s keynote address at the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009 sponsored by Innovation Philadelphia.

Reel ’em in

Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out, a.k.a. HARO, a free service that connects reporters to sources for articles.

He gave a breakfast talk, and though the caffeine had barely kicked in, Shankman held the crowd in rapt attention, because from time to time he’d ask a question and then toss out a small box to whomever gave the correct response.

No one knew what the heck the freebie was, but no matter. Shankman deemed it a “cool new toy” — ‘nuff said.

The Poken: It’s huge in Europe

Poken device plugged into a laptopAt the conclusion Shankman revealed the cool toy was a Poken — which like David Hasselhoff, is huge in Europe. This small USB-enabled device lets you transfer your contact information, including social network info, to someone else’s Poken, and vice versa. It’s an electronic social business card that plugs into your computer to download the information collected.

Shankman predicted the Poken would soon be a big deal in the States, too. Time will tell on that score, but the point is, the chance to win a nifty mystery thingamabob kept all ears riveted on the speaker.

This is not to suggest that he’d have otherwise lost the audience; Shankman is an entertaining guy and worth hearing in any event. I’m just saying the freebie factor made the desire to listen all the more intense. Also, by asking questions there was audience interaction — another good way to reel folks in.

How to succeed in business (using social media)

As for the content of his address, “Social Media, It’s Simply Trust,” Shankman declared that to succeed in selling through social media you must not only build a better mousetrap, but build one that’s hard to copy. Because things get passed around fast and imitators abound.

He then revealed the four rules he employed to build HARO into a successful service (it has in excess of 100,000 members).

Be transparent

A fundamental rule of social media is to be who you say you are — don’t be a poser.

Shankman says don’t lie about anything. If you mess up, admit it, accept the blame and make it right.

The web makes it easy for people to dig around and uncover buried information, hence he advises:

“The biggest mistake is not making a mistake. It’s attempting to cover it up and think you won’t get caught.”

Be relevant

Beyond saying or passing on something of value you need to know how your audience wants to get information. Web site, mobile device, video, podcast, blog, press release, email — however your audience wants to receive information, you need to serve it up.

If you don’t know what they want, ask. Shankman observes:

“If you’re not reaching your audience the way they want, they’ll go somewhere else. And not only that, they have the ability to bitch about it to all their friends, which they will do.”

Brevity

Along with being the soul of wit, brevity is essential in a society where simple text messages, microblogging and short attention spans rule. Keep it concise and relevant and be sure there are no spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Stay top of mind

Happy Birthday Post-it note (Big stock image)Keep in touch with the people in your network just to say, “Hey, what’s up?” Or, do something like Shankman does, which is to send out birthday wishes to everyone in his Facebook network.

The emphasis here is to have an interest in the person you’re contacting (it’s not about you). Shankman’s wise words:

“Studies show we talk to roughly three percent of our network on a regular basis. All you have to do to be great is be a half a percent better than everyone else.”

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Shankman’s ploy to keep everyone interested? What about his four rules for business success through social media? Comments welcome.

Related posts:

Who And What Drives Innovation And Creativity?

Creative Economy Summit Converges In Philadelphia


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PR Outcome Measures Need A Reality Check

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The public relations industry has long dealt with the nettlesome fact that much of what PR accomplishes — such as generating buzz and creating affinity toward a brand — is difficult if not impossible to measure.

Meanwhile corporate executives are hot for hard numbers that determine how PR helps specific organizational and project goals. It’s a show me the money mentality.

PRSA logoNaturally, PR people strive to devise ways to create those numbers. Some of this stems from authentic interest in wanting to gauge the real outcome of the effort. Also, in the wake of corporate cutbacks and rising unemployment, the imperative to identify demonstrable results drives the initiative.

Hence the timeliness of a program announced last week in a press release issued by the Public Relations Society of America, which is readying to issue a set of  “recommended metrics and approaches for evaluating public relations’ influence on key business outcomes.”

PRSA posted the proposed recommendations and is soliciting comments via its comPRehension blog.

One overall recommendation is to “shift the conversation away from volume of clips, social media activity and advertising value equivalency, etc., to outcome measures that show how public relations drives business performance.”

Financial Outcomes

To connect PR with elements of financial performance — revenues, profit, efficiency in delivery of message — PRSA says to employ surveys to determine consumer exposure to PR and then correlate that to purchase levels.

Reputation/Brand Equity

To surmise how PR influences customer brand loyalty/satisfaction, enables higher prices, and reduces legal costs, PRSA recommends tying conversations (and tone) in traditional and social media to web analytic data such as registrations, requests for information and sales leads. You should also monitor how PR affects financial analyst opinions and changes in stock price.

Impact on employees

For calculating how PR impacts employee acquisition, retention and productivity, favored tactics include sizing up employee satisfaction, turnover, call response times and sick days, by comparing control groups exposed to PR messages.

Impact on public policy

Means to meter how PR impacts public voter behavior and passage of business regulations include tracking trends, legislative/regulator awareness and voter intent. Then come post-election, conduct surveys to determine actual legislative and voter behavior.

The world is imperfect

FYI, I only covered a smattering of the content.

In a perfect world, it would be great to accomplish all of the recommendations, and have the data collected show a tangible link between the effort and the business outcome.

But outside of online activity, where analytics are readily obtained, it’s tough to truly determine how much consumer activity is related to PR efforts as opposed to being the result of other factors. Even online, it’s not always obvious how and why someone found your brand in the first place. Still, you can count click throughs, links, registrations and requests for information, so there is hard data to be mined.

The public relations influence on a stock price is fleeting; that number is easily affected by general market conditions and what competitors are doing.

I could bang through more examples. The point is, the metrics cited are imperfect and only tell part of the story. There are limits to how well you can measure the numerical (and dollars and cents) effects of reasoning, intent, emotion, loyalty, interaction and conversation. This is why the focus is on surveys, sales figures and public policy. All appear to be good tools for measurement.

Surveys are useful, yet they have flaws. A survey is an opt-in method (this can skew findings). People may misconstrue intent due to how certain questions are phrased. Results can be misread: Just ask the folks who launched “New Coke” about that one.

You can make a correlation between PR and sales, but here again there are intervening factors; like how well the sales-force is trained and whether or not they are communicating the same message as the PR folks are sending.

You can tally up how lawmakers voted, but much of what goes on in politics is, well, political. Legislators are notorious for trading votes (you support my bill and I’ll support yours) hence that statistic is mushy.

A surprising understatement

I was surprised that social media is dealt with only marginally. Really, it feels like attention to social media is tacked on just to show they know it exists.

As noted, the recommendations propose at the outset to shift away from tabulating social media activity. How is this not seen as being related to business outcomes?

The PR industry is undergoing a sea change due to social media. It’s where spheres of influence are deepening. Influence surely affects business outcomes. The proposal, however, is primarily directed at traditional outlets and methods. If the committee that created the recommendations had included someone who is immersed in social media then perhaps they’d have a better handle on its role (the group is comprised of old-schoolers).

There’s no mention of search engine ranking (if it’s somehow implied, it’s not obvious). That’s a big oversight — SEO can play a major role in reputation management.

Meanwhile, I am surprised that PRSA says to steer clear of counting clips. Why not add up how much media attention is received, both online and in print? It’s no more or less a real metric than certain econometric modeling processes (which do get the nod by PRSA).

I do believe it’s worthwhile for PRSA to devise ways to derive quantifiable results connected to corporate performance. However, the organization needs to be more in tune with the reality of shifts in the public relations paradigm.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the new PRSA recommendations for measuring the impact of PR? Is it really possible to assign a dollar value to outcomes of PR programs? Comments welcome.

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