Social Media: Moving Beyond the Wire to Real-Time PR

Times are changing. Gone are the good old days when PR professionals had the luxury of drafting a press release around product launches or company news, providing byline articles and pushing out pitch ideas. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are still relevant, but for many, PR is still about how to provide content for reporters to repost or write a story based around a good pitch. Today, however, there is much more to it than that.

I recently spoke at an event sponsored by Business Wire where I had the pleasure of sharing the panel with several Phoenix reporters on how to pitch to reporters using social media. And while social media can be a great tool for connecting with reporters, today it’s much more than that – and it’s becoming critical in the way we manage our brand and media relations efforts. PR professionals whose job functions involve media relations must learn the rules of real-time PR. The new face of media relations requires even more speed and agility to seize market opportunities, real-time engagement and creative out-of-the-box approaches to become the first market mover.

Speed and Agility Win

In his soon-to-be-published book Real-Time Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott wrote, “In the emerging real-time business environment, where public discourse is no longer dictated by the mass media, size is no longer a decisive advantage. Speed and agility win.”

Whether we’re an agency or in-house PR, we have to understand how to establish a competitive advantage if we are to truly win in today’s world. No longer should we be confined to traditional methods of PR or media relations, but instead, we must understand the world of the social Web. This is where listening and monitoring are so important. I hear so many PR pros say they are monitoring, but without understanding how to quickly respond with even more speed to the conversations, our efforts will fall by the wayside.

One clear example outlined by Meerman Scott is the famous YouTube sensation, “United Breaks Guitars,” where Canadian singer-songwriter David Carroll crafted a song about his experience with United Airlines and posted it to YouTube. The video hit 2M views in less than a month. Where speed and agility mattered was United Airlines’ ability to quickly respond to this video post in a timely fashion through real-time monitoring and participation. Sometimes having to say you’re sorry and providing your community with some insight into how you’re going to do a better job with your customer service is a great start. It humanizes your brand and let’s people know that you’re listening and fixing the issue at hand.

Seize Real-Time Opportunity

The maker of Dave’s guitar, Taylor Guitars, wasted no time in seizing real-time market opportunity to build goodwill with customers. In Meerman Scott’s book, his example outlines how within days of Dave’s YouTube post, Bob Taylor, the company’s president, created his own video around how traveling musicians can package their equipment and follow airline rules to better protect their guitars.  

Today, with so much information out there, it can feel like we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. This is where PR pros should think of ways to seize real-time opportunities by getting creative — not just writing a byline article and pushing it out – which takes time and could potentially be dated by the time it’s released. It’s about real-time response to trends, challenges and issues that are happening right before our eyes. To take advantage and capture your audience, think creatively by videos  or funny cartoons around best practices or how-tos and posting to your blog or pushing it out via social channels. A media alert can always come later where you package up all the information and publish it.

Real-Time Market Engagement

Speed and agility can’t go very far without engagement. While millions of people were tuning in to view Dave’s YouTube video, United didn’t seize the opportunity to respond and engage with its potential community of reporters, prospects, customers and bloggers. While Twitter and Facebook were all abuzz, the company did absolutely nothing to participate in the conversation. As one of the largest players in the airline industry — one that spends billions on advertising, PR and marketing — the company went silent. This lack of response showed a lack of customer commitment or the know-how to engage in today’s conversation. Meerman Scott writes: “United Airlines exhibited a paralysis in the face of a snowballing crisis. In the battle between the small, speedy and agile players and the slow, clumsy giant, I see prima-facie evidence that a revolution has indeed been set in motion.”

Whether you are a small company or a giant organization such as United Airlines, today it’s about having a dialogue — whether you like it not — because conversations will go on with or without you. The decision to participate and engage in real-time will make the difference between relevance and irrelevance. PR is not just about media relations anymore — it’s about wearing your customer support hat and engaging with real people online. This will further help you humanize your brand. It also sends a clear message to the online community — that your brand is actively listening, monitoring and engaging because you care about what people are saying, thinking, and doing in the market.

Meerman Scott sent me this quote via Twitter: “Social media are tools, Real-Time is a mindset.” You can have all the tools in the world – but if your organization lacks the will, speed and agility to engage in real-time, those tools become meaningless. It’s about empowering the people to harness the power of the social Web to listen, monitor, connect and engage through innovative means.

Click on Real-Time Marketing and PR for a sneak peek at Meerman Scott’s soon to be published book.

About David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing & PR opened people’s eyes to the new realities of marketing and public relations on the Web. Six months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list and published in 26 languages from Bulgarian to Vietnamese, New Rules is now a modern business classic. Scott’s popular blog and hundreds of speaking engagements around the world give him a singular perspective on how businesses are implementing new strategies to reach buyers.

He is also the co-author (with Brian Halligan) of the hit book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History and wrote three other books including World Wide Rave.

His Web Ink Now blog is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog.

PR Audit: A Critical Path to Measuring Success



PR Audit: Measuring for Success

How effective is your PR program? Is your brand reaching the right audience? Is your message resonating? Organizations might understand the importance of measuring their overall share of voice but many fail to audit their PR efforts due to lack of understanding of what the anatomy of an audit should look like. If you’re investing in PR efforts, PR pros need to understand the key elements needed to be as effective as possible in assessing their efforts and creating a powerful PR strategy. I chose this topic because it’s near and dear to my heart. Having managed global agencies for the past 10 years, I’ve come to understand why auditing is a must – not only to demonstrate the power of PR but to understand the gaps that exist so you can align your communication strategy with your organizational strategy. You can’t improve or strengthen your efforts without having visibility into the disconnects. Today, with the vast amount of automated tools out there, it’s important for PR pros to understand the difference between what these tools can do and doing a real assessment that demonstrates true share of voice in the market.

While researching this topic, I found an interesting tidbit in a recent in a blog by Katie Paine’s (@KDPaine)  The Measurement Standard. In the blog, she sites a paper written by measurement maven Louis C. Williams  titled, “Framing Communications Audits to Create Positive Outcomes for Organizations,” by Louis C. Williams. He states: “Few public relations techniques are as mysterious as communication audits. Although the use of them is fairly well known in the industry, seldom has any research been done to determine their ultimate (or, even, their preliminary) value to an organization. Yet organizations continue to spend many dollars on them, hoping they will improve the way communication is conducted within and for the organization.”

Today, the value lies in developing a more sophisticated approach and understanding how an audit might benefit your organization’s strategy, timing, methodology and value expectations. This means aligning your PR goals with organizational objectives. By adopting a consistent auditing process, companies can achieve true visibility into whether their PR efforts are paying off and how they need to adjust. To gain better insight into this process, I turned to my colleague and friend Linda Vandevrede, president and founder of VandeVrede Public Relations, LLC, contributing blogger for Valley PR Blog and PR sensation based in Phoenix.

According to Linda, the purpose of an audit is to take an evaluation of the current public relations process and determine how that maps against the company’s objectives. It will tell you if you’re using the correct strategies and vehicles to reach your goals. She states that the process of an audit is useful because it may unearth issues with something as basic as your messages, and you may decide that you need to tweak your messages rather than your vehicles.  You may even discover that something as simple as your product nomenclature is confusing reporters and customers. It is a valuable tool for unearthing the disconnects that may exist in your PR program.

  • Social media monitoring and PR tools are a dime a dozen. How should organizations approach a PR audit?

The ideal audit includes the face-to-face and/or phone interviews in order to obtain qualitative insights, and the use of social media monitoring tools for quantitative data.

  • Is PR auditing right for every organization? Why is PR auditing important to an organization when you can simply measure impressions from a monitoring tool?

The problem with a monitoring tool is that you can’t always dig down into the whys and wherefores of a particular impression. To supplement automated tools, it’s useful to have conversations in real time with the various audience segments to better understand how they are thinking, as well as to probe for deeper insights. Any company can benefit from a PR audit, regardless of its industry. Particularly in this age of PR 2.0 and conversations, it’s important to understand what people think about you and what is being said about you.

  • How does a PR audit affect your organization’s share of voice in the market?

I have found that many companies think they know what their share of voice is, and what their key messages are, only to learn from the audit that the perceptions are very different. Having a complete PR audit with a written analysis helps you implement customized strategies and tactics knowing that they are based on sound, hard data and not just a gut feeling.  It helps management budget dollars where they are most needed and most effective.

  • Let’s break it down – what are the key steps, or checklist items, to obtain a comprehensive PR audit?

Here is a loose set of steps for a comprehensive PR audit:

    1. Buy-in from management, so they understand why it is being conducted
    2. A personal tour of the company or facilities to get a feel for the “culture”
    3. Compilation of all the various PR materials, including Web and hardcopy, any and all clippings, summary of events that have occurred to date such as open houses, etc.
    4. Formal facilitation meeting conducted with key personnel – these usually take a half-day to a whole day, and review key questions from corporate goals to competitive positioning.
    5. Separate select phone interviews with subject matter experts from the company and related personnel, and influencers (media, customers) for 360-degree feedback.   The influencers’ feedback must be anonymous, i.e. any publication of their comments must not be attributed to the original source when included in the final analysis.
    6. Written analysis based on the formal audit, interviews and review materials, with recommended strategies going forward.   The time elapsed between #1 and #6 usually ranges from 6-8 weeks, depending on how responsive the customers and media are to requests for interviews.
    7. Formal presentation of the results, with follow-up meetings if needed.
  • How can organizations make their PR audit results actionable and make it mean something?

This is often the weakest point of an audit. One team for whom I did an audit wanted to hire me to ensure they had someone to execute on the plan. This is where it really relies on the in-house PR point of contact to ensure upfront that management understands the reason for the audit, and understands that there will be follow-up activities. That point of contact needs to converse frequently with management and update them on the before and after scenarios to prove the value of the audit. Sometimes it helps to bring back in the professional who conducted the audit as an outside force to facilitate.

  • How often should you do a PR audit? Should you outsource or do it in-house?

Audits are helpful every few years, or when there is a major change in an organization, such as a merger or acquisition. They can be performed successfully in-house, but the value of bringing in an outside person or agency is that you then free up the PR contacts to focus on their core responsibilities, as audits are time-consuming. By using an outside person, you also ensure that no one thinks the PR contact has an ax to grind, and many of the target audiences, such as bloggers, customers and reporters, are able to speak more freely and honestly with an outside contact.  They will paint situations and opinions in much more glowing terms when speaking to a company representative.

Other Resources:

Convince and Convert: 4 Ways to Increase Share of Voice

PRSA: Best Practices for PR Measurement in a Difficult Economy

For more information on PR auditing, you can contact Linda at linda@lindavandevrede.com

Social Media Outsourcing: Good Business or Fake Dialogue?

Source

“Brands are the stories that unite us all in a common purpose within an enterprise, and connect us with the people we serve on the outside. These brand stories give meaning to who we are and what we do.” – Mark Thomson

Social media outsourcing has been dubbed the next big thing — which could mean placing your brand in the trusted hands of outside agencies. Social media is about building relationships between your brand and your community — about listening to the conversation and engaging in it. As agencies are claiming to be social media experts, more companies are taking what I believe to be an easy route by outsourcing this function. But how well can they truly represent your brand? And more importantly, can they do it better than you can?

I challenged my esteemed colleague @AmandaVega (her blog Http://www.amandavegablog.com) and newcomer @mkarre to a throwdown on the topic of whether companies are better off outsourcing social media. Not surprisingly, @AmandaVega and @mkarre argued that outsourcing is the way to go. Why? Budgetary constraints, lack of resources and lack of social media knowledge. @AmandaVega states: “While most companies are really good at PUSHING messages, they aren’t very good at receiving them, or interacting in conversations that fall outside of the ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality. That’s another reason to assign this part of your marketing to the outside.” 

My take is this: Social media is about a conversation that can deepen engagement. By outsourcing social media, companies are diluting the message, the authenticity and the value they can deliver through direct engagement. There are a lot of agencies that do social media, and those that do it well can add value in helping you define a strategy on best practices. The role of an agency should be to provide guidance — not to directly engage for you. You know your brand, customers and community better than anyone else. As some politicians and celebs have learned the hard way, having someone else tweeting for you — even a trusted staffer — can lead to embarrassing gaffes.

Launching a social media effort requires laying a foundation and understanding which technologies are right for your businesses. Before agreeing to outsource social media, companies need to first understand what it is, why they want to do it, what their core strategic goal is and the strategy around it. When Lumension was looking to expand its presence online through social media, my team and I studied every aspect of social media to better understand what tools would be right for us — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, vimeo, YouTube, etc. We took it upon ourselves to master this arena. After we comprehensively understood WHY we wanted to do social media, we brought in our existing PR firm, Lois Paul and Partners, to get SVP of Social Media Ted Weismann involved so he could provide the skinny on how it works, existing frameworks, best practices, etc. to establish a clear social media strategy. (Note: When searching for a PR firm, we made it a priority to select a firm that understood this changing landscape so we could not only establish a strong social media presence but also incorporate it into every aspect of our marketing and PR). For us — and I’m sure a lot of companies can relate — social media is about humanizing your brand and engaging with analysts, media, business community, users/customers and prospects.

My recommendation is to appoint a staff member in-house to oversee the social media function in terms of defining and owning social media strategy, policies, brand management, engagement, education, messaging and monitoring. This person (should they work with an outside agency or counsel) should play a leading role in integrating these agencies into the fold to help lay the groundwork, identify trends and ensure your strategy and execution are on brand/message.

If you are going to outsource, consider these tips before selecting an agency:

  • Find out what the agency’s basic social media strategy is.
  • Learn the why they use social media
  • Look at their success stories — how do they use social media to deepen brand engagement
  • Talk to their customers.
  • Research the agency on social media channels to see how they are using it.
  • Talk to social media experts and what the agency’s reputation is.
  • Read their blog if they have one (and they should) to see if they are driving the conversation

Twitter responses:

From @ScribeDevil @CindyKimPR In-house if possible. No one knows your voice better than you, and authenticity is more important than that pro-style shine.

From @Esnelz @CindyKimPR in your case, you probably don’t need much help, most need to outsource

From @mikesunx @CindyKimPR i think social media is not different than real life, some cos care about customers some dont all, same for PR and social media

From @srsaul04 @CindyKimPR great to see agencies like @LPP_PR give guidance on social media, but important for companies to engage/influence directly.

Let me know what you think. Is outsourcing the next big thing? And does outsourcing dilute the brand experience and authenticity of the corporate voice? Join Social Media Debate Community.

Social Media: Balancing Security & Authenticity w/o Controlling the Message

Social media is all the rage. According to a recent report, 94 percent of Generation Y has joined a social networking site. Social media is believed to be leading the next social revolution. In fact, social networking has grown so dramatically that it is now the number one activity on the Web. In response to this social media phenomenon, businesses are moving at a rapid pace to take advantage of the untapped opportunity by making social media an integral part of their business strategy. 

On the flip side, the rise in this trend is giving hackers more motivation and greater opportunities to use the Web as the new threat vector.

Recently, I spoke in front of Women in Technology International group with my colleague, Chris Hewitt. I wanted to focus on three key areas:

  • How social media is forcing business strategy shift?
  • Why social media poses huge opportunity and RISK for the corporate world?
  • Why businesses should adopt processes and policies to maintain and educate on security best practices without controlling the authenticity of the message and voice?

This presentation will highlight how businesses can put security front and center to protect brand and customer confidence while learning to let go of control and reach their audiences through the open dialog of social media.

Social Media Reshaping Journalism… How Will You Cope?

social-media-evolutionAccording to a blog called Simple Zesty, there are 10 industries that will be revolutionized by social media – print media, politics, television, hospitality, sports, music, recruitment, advertising, PR, and shopping. With the availability of Web 2.0 tools such as YouTube, Twitter, etc. the power to create, publish and syndicate content no longer resides to only the news publication and journalists.  Today, we have the capability to custom create and communicate our own editorial content to influence the way the online community digests and disseminates information in real time. Prior to Web 2.0 adoption, consumers had to wait to get information on the latest news and information from your print and broadcast news. Now, we, the masses, have become writers and content creators from all walks of life, spreading information in real time. People are becoming social journalists in their own right to publish photos and stories from their points of view. For instance, real time terrorism was captured on Twitter by the actual users trapped inside the hotel that was bombed by terrorists in 2008, which catapulted Twitter to new heights.

 

The revolution in Iran – some of the most riveting and thrilling reporting was done via Twitter by a university student in Tehran who goes by the moniker Tehran Bureau. So what does this say about the changing landscape of the news media? Will social media change the way journalists adopt, connect, engage, and disseminate information to the rest of the world? Will this change affect the way PR/Communications and marketing pros connect and communicate with the media? One reporter, Del Jones (http://twitter.com/jonesdel) of USA TODAYwhom I’ve been following closely on Twitter, is one clear example of someone who gets it and understands how to harness the power of social media to look at the emerging trends and ride the way with the rest of us. Through social media, he engages, connects and collaborates with his online community.  He is someone who is authentic and transparent in his approach to social media (two key traits I admire most). In this blog Q&A, I ask Del about how he came to embrace social media and some key tips on ways for us PR professionals to approach reporters via social media platforms.

What prompted you to join the social media craze?  

I’m sure my high school class would have voted me the least likely to succeed in social media (had they had any clue).  I still don’t use Facebook or LinkedIn, although I’m registered on both. I was a complete Twitter skeptic, but I have a counter-intuitive streak in me. Twitter was growing and I needed to know why. So, when I had some time on my furlough (yes, three weeks of unpaid leave), I decided to devote 1-2 hours to figure it all out (ha ha). Months later, I’m still trying to figure the thing out, but I’m hooked to the point that my editor would probably fire me if I didn’t have so many followers (so please don’t unfollow me). I’ve also threatened to reveal personal information about him on Twitter if he fires me, so the social media craze is really all about having your own printing press should revenge become absolutely necessary. 

How is Web 2.0 changing the media landscape? Is that a good thing or bad thing?

I’m a free market person, so if people find value in reading anything, then it’s good. The only thing I object to is the wholesale plagiarism that goes on. Blogs will cut and paste entire stories I’ve written, never bothering to link back to USA TODAY. If they want to help USA TODAY pay my salary, then maybe they can steal my intellectual property (yeah, I know intellectual in my is a stretch, but you know what I mean).

How should journalists approach Web 2.0 and how transparent can they be?

This is a touchy point. I push it far more than most journalists, most who will still seem to think they are above it all and won’t post anything that isn’t a link or some boring factoid. I’ve been called into the boss’ office for going too far. They didn’t like it when I started giving out free online subscriptions to USA TODAY to my special followers (the joke being that the dot-com site is free to all). I’ve always been a believer in the “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” model. When it comes to Twitter, it’s always easy to dial it back but I’ll continue to push the envelope. If I don’t tweet for a month, it will be because my 401K went down even more and I really need my job.

Many USA TODAY reporters are afraid of getting on Twitter. They have been made gun shy by the reader comments below our stories on the Web page, which are full of venom. I find the culture on Twitter to be the opposite of people who bend over backwards to be nice.

Are policies different for journalists than corporations?

From what I’ve read, USA TODAY is actually very liberal in its policies compared to most. It amazes me that media outlets that are built on the first amendment are the first to take it away from their reporters. Shame.

How does this change in terms of engagement for PR and marketing professionals when it comes to connecting and building relationships with the media?

It’s been very good for me. I get a few pitches on Twitter, which I ignore as I do pitches on email (unless, of course, I’m interested). However, it has allowed me to put forward a human face to PR people, who before Twitter, thought I lived in a dungeon. It’s nice not to always feel mean. I like to compare Twitter to the Lion’s Club Luncheon of old. Business types would show up. They all wanted to sell something to everyone, but nobody did any selling at the luncheon. Rather, they just got to know each other so that selling could be accomplished sometime down the road. Twitter greases the wheels.

Is social media/networking hindering or helping the media community?

Helping those who are good at employing it. 

When it comes to pitching, what are your key recommendations for PR/marketing professionals?

Pitch away. There is no formula. Most pitches I don’t like and there are a few I like a lot. Then, there is a huge amount that I don’t like much but have something to it. I hang on to a lot of emails until I figure out an angle that I’m interested in pursuing. PR people sometimes get an email from me a year later after they send a pitch. I prefer email pitches because I have developed a system for saving the emails I want so that I can find them down the road. I rarely respond to them, however, because I don’t like to get into a long discussion about why I don’t like their story pitch. It’s a question I really can’t answer. It’s my gut instinct.

social-media-dialog-participationJones makes a great point that social media is changing the way even journalists communicate and connect with people. From my point of view, I can’t say whether all journalists should adopt the social media tools to connect with people, but I do believe that just like with anything, only by listening to what people are saying can journalists really understand what we’re looking to hear and learn from them. Just like the “push” tactic of marketing and PR has changed the way we communicate with our audience, it too has changed the way journalists disseminate news to their audience.  Vice versa…PR and marketing pros need to understand how social media is changing the news media landscape. We must embrace this shift and learn how to connect with them in new ways in order to reach and connect with them.  

A few tips on how to connect and approach reporters and analysts on Twitter:

  • Research your target audience – trade and business reporters as well as analysts
  • Follow them on Twitter and their blogs consistently
  • Engage – follow their content on Twitter and their blogs and comment if relevant
  • Participate – keep an ongoing dialogue with them even if they don’t follow you.
  • Provide feedback and input using traditional tactics – provide news that would be relevant to them and the stories they cover.  Write compelling news pitches that could add value to their current or future stories and learn what they are working on so you can contribute.
  • Link it – as Del mentioned, if you have a blog, look at their stories and write a post that references or links back to their blog or story and post it on Twitter
  • NEVER blindly pitch a reporter on Twitter (unless you have a good relationship with them)

Another good read by Mashable: Social Journalism: Past, Present and the Future.

Do you agree? Let me know what you think.

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