Adapt or Vanish: 5 Ways to Integrate PR and Social Media

I recently gave a talk at a Businesswire seminar here in Phoenix on Adapt or Vanish: 5 Killer Tips to Integrate PR and Social Media. The introduction of social media has changed the playing field for PR professionals. PR is no longer relegated to drafting press releases and bylined articles. Today, PR pros support business goals, connect and support customers, amplify demand-generation efforts, and take social listening to a whole new level to move the company’s brand forward.  This presentation is a call to arms to all PR pros out there to move outside their comfort zone and adopt more advanced techniques to help them strategize and execute successful, integrated campaigns that reach far beyond just PR.  

This presentation outlines key strategies to help PR pros make an impact and work across functional marketing areas to raise the profile of their company, brand, message and campaigns.

  • How to use social media to build and connect influencers
  • How to utilize social in your PR efforts in real time
  • How to integrate social into your demand-gen program and outreach
  • How to integrate social into your events to amplify voice and reach
  • How to build listening mechanisms to support and energize your community

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Social Media Planning and Strategy – An Oxymoron?

Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business and renowned speaker on all things social media, once said: “We don’t have a choice whether we do social media. The question is how well we do it.”

According to a 2009 survey by Marketing Trends, the top three areas of investment moving into next year are e-mail marketing, social media and search. Why? The traditional marketing model has fundamentally changed. People are moving away from physical events and advertising as they are no longer the optimal choices to market brands or products. Meanwhile, more companies are seeing social media as a key marketing channel. According to the CMO Council, “60 percent of the more than 600 marketers who responded in our survey will invest in new online community and networking tools in the next year.” Today, it’s about word of mouth — people  their time online are engaging with like-minded people to learn what others (their trusted networks) are saying about brands, products and services.

I recently attended MarketingProfs’ #techchat on Twitter with Guy Kawasaki, the leading expert in social media. He brought up two thought provoking comments during the chat which inspired me to write this post. First, he said when it comes to social media, businesses should just throw something at it and see what sticks.

Second, he said, social media planning and strategy is an oxymoron. Maybe this was his way of stirring up controversy to see what others would say. A few years back, this would’ve made sense, but given how far we’ve come with social media in B2B and B2C companies and the data and success stories we now have, there is no excuse for companies to not adequately plan and build a strategy.

I recently spoke at a panel session sponsored by Enterprise Network where I had the pleasure to be among a stellar group of social media experts — Kathy Sacks, VP of Communication for InfusionSoft; Al Maag, Chief Communication Officer for Avnet; Ed Brice, SVP of Worldwide Marketing for Lumension, and Patrick O’Grady of the Phoenix Business Journal. For more details, you can read Linda Vandervedre of PR Valley PR Blog. Attendees consisted of entrepreneurs, marketers and business consultants all looking to get into social media, which takes me back to my original point — it’s not a question of if but how well, and doing social media well takes planning and a solid strategy that aligns with business objectives. Companies that are looking to launch social media have a tremendous opportunity to become thought leaders and drive social media forward. To do this, consider these points:

First things first, research: During the panel session, Kathy Sacks had an interesting twist when she said we are therapists, because we need to listen as part of social media. We need to monitor and listen before we do anything. Find out what people are saying about your brand, products or services or even competitors’ stuff. Companies underestimate the intelligence they can gather on customers, prospects, competitors and future markets through social media monitoring. The data points gathered through listening and monitoring will help you better understand where your communities are and where you need to be when mapping out your strategy and plan. Such examples are also crucial when making a case to your team and executive management.

Planning is the foundation for all things social media: Planning has several components. First, define your objectives —to simply listen, monitor, innovate, engage and/or build thought leadership? From there, you can outline what channels are relevant and why. For example, consider launching a blog and developing a presence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as YouTube. Understand your resources and what’s realistic in terms of fully committing to these channels to meet your objectives. Planning requires attention and time because social media is about authenticity, engagement, consistency and commitment. Under the leadership of Heather Loisel, SVP of Worldwide Marketing for JDA, I’ve had the pleasure of working our social media team to see the progression of planning and how that is impacting executive buy-in. A well-thought-out plan will serve as a compass for your strategy.

Strategy will determine your social media direction: “Before you journey, observe the wind carefully, detect its direction, and then follow it. You will get to your destination twice as fast with half the effort.” (Ching-Ning Chu). According to Sirius Decision, a coordinated strategy is in place in fewer than 20 percent of B2B companies that use social media. When building a strategy, everyone must work together to build an enforceable policy, education program, and what key channels you’re going to integrate into your marketing plan and deploy company-wide as part of your strategy. Your strategy should take into consideration how you’re going to integrate everyone into the mix — IT, HR, legal, executives and employees — into the fold. This is key for getting executives to buy into your plan for using social media outlets – getting their approval will allow you to align corporate objectives with social media strategy and goals.

ROI (Risk of Ignoring): Mitch Glasser said it best during the Q&A after the panel session about ROI — that it’s no longer about return on investment but the risk of ignoring social media. This is true. Today, you no longer control the brand; your customers do. And this is unsettling to many marketers. But you have to consider the risk of ignoring social media because if you choose to close your eyes to what’s happening in the social Web, your competitors will pass you by.

Additional Resources:

Linda Vandevrede’s Valley PR Blog: Local Communication Pros Discuss Social Media

Ed Brice’s Marketing Gimbal Blog: Six Social Media Sins

Mashable: 3 Things You Need to Know About Social Media Strategy

 Phoenix Business Journal Blog: Social Media Going Business to Business

Sirius Decision: Monitoring: The Foundation of a B2B Social Media Strategy

Welcome to the Dark Side of Social Media

It wasn’t too long ago when companies were chomping at the bit to adopt social media as part of their overall organizational and communication strategy. I can’t blame them – it was all the rage. Blogs and news were abuzz with why and how companies would fall behind if they didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon. Major world-class brands and small companies alike couldn’t get enough of social media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. Well, the time has come when we see the dark side of social media. That is, engagement and open communication are being taken to new heights – outside of our control. As with all good things, we have reached a point with social media where we must look at not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

A few months back, Nestle took a nasty hit when Greenpeace UK turned against the giant nutrition, health and wellness company, posting a provocative YouTube video calling into question Nestle’s methods for acquiring palm oil. The online attack didn’t stop there. The Greenpeace group launched a full-blown social media attack against Nestle, posting negative comments on the company’s sites and forcing Nestle to answer Greenpeace’s questions. Weeks after the social media backlash, Nestle announced a “non-deforestation” policy in partnership with The Forest Trust (TFT).

Most recently, Intel, one of the largest manufacturers in the electronics industry, was attacked by activists opposed to minerals mining in the Congo. Opponents initiated an attack on Intel’s Facebook page, challenging Intel to pledge its support for a congressional bill that would restrict the import of “conflict minerals” that contribute to fighting in the war-torn country. Intel is highly reliant on a range of minerals. The company, per its long-standing Facebook moderation policy, took down posts they deemed to be “spam” and closed comments for a very brief period, which they reopend shortly after after realizing the significance of the issue. (Per clarification from Intel’s social media strategist Kelly Ripley Feller, Intel did issue an apology immediately following). Please take a moment to read Intel’s blog. For more details on this issue, I would recommend reading Fail to Understand Social Media by Torben Rick.

What now? While most companies may understand the value of social media, what these real-world cases have shown us is that transparency, engagement, communication and open dialogue come with a price. Before you jump on the social media bandwagon, companies must first look internally and look at pros/cons of social media and adopt a social media crisis management policy. Remember – both good and bad news can travel at lightning speed – especially in this social Web 2.0 age. Today, companies that use social media must have a sound policy in place not just for social media but crisis management policy that can help you address these challenges head on.

  • Social Media and Crisis Management Policy

Every company using social media should have a policy in place that includes best practices and dos and don’ts that align with your organizational strategy. Further, companies also need to incorporate crisis management policy that demonstrates the key steps in case a crisis should occur. We call this a social media response plan. This should entail your company’s plans step by step from gathering information to when and how company representatives should respond. 

  • Continuous Monitoring Process

Listening is a discipline – even in the social mediasphere. Every company should have a monitoring process in place to understand who’s talking about your brand, services and products at all times. Daily Twitter search, Bloglines, etc. should be used to monitor your brand every day and flag all positive and negative conversations around your brand. This way, you’re not reacting but can have the upper hand in preparing your Rapid Response Strategy. To do this well, your company should have a list of all the social media channels you’re tracking on a daily basis and share a daily, weekly and monthly social media index.

  • Influencing the Influencers

Your Rapid Response Strategy should include a running list of all your influencers and where they are most active across all social media channels. This way, you can reach out directly to them with your final response or message. This is assuming you have an ongoing relationship with them, which you should, to help extend the brand and message.

  • Rapid Response Plan

This plan is crucial and should reach across your executives, experts, spokesperson(s), PR teams and communication agencies. This outlines your external strategy for responding to the media and social media channels if necessary and explains the process when a crisis occurs, how you’re going to work across teams to cultivate your message and distribute it both internally and externally, including to traditional media outlets.

  • Communication Strategy

While you may be focused on engaging the social media/online communities with your rapid response, don’t forget your employees, partners, shareholders and customers. If a company fails to alert the internal teams (employees), shareholders, partners and customers, it can further damage your brand and customer trust. This can also damage your bottom line with stock shares falling and partners pulling out. Through an effective communication strategy, you can help control the message internally and externally.

Below is a very good crisis communication presentation by Olivgy on Social Media for Crisis Management. I highly recommend you take a look and adopt their best practices. For more information, please feel free to e-mail me at kimvanhorne@gmail.com.

Social Media: People vs. Technology

Social Media: It's The People Not The Technology

 

 In a recent blog post by Bloggertone, Frank Bradley brings up an interesting but often missed point – social media is not about the technology but the people. It’s about creating meaningful dialogue with your target audience. To be successful in your social media strategy and planning, you have to employ the right people leading the effort and dictating which social networking channels are appropriate for your business and its target audience. We often mistake social media as a “must” for any business to succeed in today’s fast-changing Web 2.0, when we first need to understand what the company wants to achieve before jumping in.    

The year 2010 is being dubbed the “The Year of the Social Media Crisis,” according to Breakthrough Communications. This means companies cannot take a blind approach to social media by implementing any and all technologies that are deemed hot without first understanding the fundamental rules, which I’ll go into later. This type of ad-hoc approach can backfire, placing your company on the leader board for social media crisis help. Take, for example, Nestle. In mid-March Greenpeace launched a campaign against Nestle, one of the largest nutrition, health and wellness companies, criticizing Nestle for using palm oil companies that allegedly destroy Indonesian rainforest and threat Orangutan habitat. Nestle responded that they stopped using palm oil in their products. However, when the Greenpeace folks launched negative comments on Nestle’s Facebook wall, the moderator of the company’s page responded:    

“To repeat: we welcome your comments but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic — they will be deleted.”    

This is the kind of fire your company can face if you don’t have the right people managing social media. The people who are managing social media – the conversations – should be passionate and aware, but more importantly understand how these platforms work.    

They should understand how to create and build dialogue outside of their standard company policy mumbo jumbo. In today’s world where information can be disseminated within seconds across Internet chat rooms, blogs and social channels, companies no longer have the luxury of communicating the way they used to – going through legal channels and putting out a statement. This is the type of mistake you can run into without the right people behind it. It’s about conversation, and this takes the right people using the right tools. It’s a balancing act. With that said, I want to take you through a series of very high-level steps which are also referenced in Altimeter’s recent webinar slides:    

Research is pivotal. According to Altimeter, researching your customer profiles will provide some good visibility into where your target audience is online, their social behaviors, what social information or people do your customers rely on, how they’re using various channels, and how they’re being influenced in their buying decisions. More importantly, you should understand how they are using social technologies in the context of your products. You can do this by launching a social computing survey – no more than 15 questions. For more information and guidance, take a look at Groundswell by Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group. This book provides a specific list of questions you should be asking. For instance, which social technologies do they currently use, for what, how long, how often, etc.    

Why?    

With strong research as the foundation, companies should do their own social audit. This is essentially an internal social computing survey to gauge what social networking sites your employees are accessing, how long, for what, how often, etc.  Further, invite key leaders from marketing, product management, the executive team and solution marketing for a meeting (Altimeter suggests a brown-bag meeting, which is not a bad idea) to discuss their experiences with social media and begin to identify key internal experts, which leads me to my next point: Who?    

Who?    

Social media typically resides in corporate communications or marketing. But, forget where it should belong because every organization is unique. Large organizations will typically allow everyone to socially engage, but my belief is that social media engagement, management and monitoring should be owned by a central point of contact where all information is filtered. You’ve identified the key internal experts, but you have to allocate management of your social media efforts – strategy and planning. People who understand the essence of social media, not because they use it for personal use, but because they understand the business objectives and goals as well as how these social media channels will be utilized to fundamentally help achieve the end goal.    

I’d recommend a communications expert who understands not only the corporate side of business such as processes, crisis planning, etc., but how online community members behave, connect, engage, etc. Remember, you have different target audiences, and they all do things differently – media, analysts, bloggers, users, etc. The social media expert must understand the different personas your company is targeting and how to engage on all different levels. He or she should be passionate about your brand, products and services, but also the relationship management process.    

Where?    

Now that you have your external and internal research finalized and the right people behind this process, it’s time to define your strategy and determine where you’re going to invest your time and resources. By identifying your key objectives you can align those goals with the right social networking tools. The research allows you to gain strong visibility of your brand discussions online and should give you good guidance on where and why you should partake in social media. For instance, if a majority of your target audience is using communities and blogs to engage and make buying decisions, you would want to build a community to engage with your customers and foster an environment of co-innovation and deeper engagement.      

Whatever your strategy is – the first and foremost priority is the people. And if you have the right people dedicated to cultivating this environment and fostering engagement on a consistent basis, you’ll be on the road to success.    

Road to success starts and ends with a coordinated, integrated approach to social media strategy and execution to stay organized and metrics driven.

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With…

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.‘ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. … This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” — Peter F. Drucker

Dear friends, I am about to take my first step on my next journey! People say life is not about the destination but the journey, and I’m proud to say that I’ve shared a very rewarding journey with my Lumension team. I’ve had the privilege and the honor to work with a phenomenal team at Lumension. As I move on to JDA Software, I want to thank the exceptional people who have made my journey at Lumension worthwhile.  

Five years ago, I was at an interesting crossroad when I was presented with an opportunity to join Lumension (then PatchLink). It was a major move for me — to leave the comfort of my network of friends and family in San Diego to move to Phoenix to start a new life. Boy, was it worth it. In the span of five years, I met the love of my life, Scott; became an instant mother to our twin boys, Thomys and Aizik; and gave birth to Braden, who is now a year and two months. I am very thankful for that.

After five terrific years at Lumension, where I had the privilege of overseeing and architecting corporate communication and social media strategies and execution plans, I must bid farewell to my wonderful Lumension family. It’s rare to have the opportunity to work with such a fine team, brilliant marketing leader and superb executive team. I have always considered Lumension my home away from home — and will always remember it as the place where I learned true leadership, professionalism and team building.

It’s not where you work but who you work for:

I truly believe that to find happiness in your professional career, you have to find a company that will help you grow both professionally and personally. I’ve had the pleasure of working with my boss, Ed Brice, SVP of Worldwide Marketing, who is the consummate leader and team builder. He’s been both a mentor and friend who continually challenged me to move beyond my comfort zone to be innovative and creative and to expand my skills. He also taught me what it meant to manage my team with finesse and always inspire my teams to achieve higher levels of teamwork. Under his leadership, I had the opportunity to learn the balance of innovation, strategy, vision and execution.

A former executive from SAP, Ed brought a new kind of vision to our team. With an eye for new and emerging trends and technologies in the b2b space/digital marketing, Ed has the kind of insight and knowledge to help build something great. He’s also a forward-thinking leader who constantly challenged our team to build our personal brand through social media and extend those skills to our everyday business use. An avid blogger, he is a true marketing leader who understands the value of content marketing as the building block to a great marketing engine. He taught us how important teamwork is in achieving success in any initiative you drive — whether it’s thought leadership, programs or social media.

There is no “I” in team:

Leaders must understand that to truly set your organization apart, drive a well-oiled machine and succeed is to have a great team. In Good to Great, Jim Collins notes that to build a great organization is to invest in A players. Companies that make the leap from good to great are the ones that see and invest in good people who will align their objectives and goals with that of the corporation. One thing that sets Lumension and our marketing team apart is the exceptional players the company invests in — especially those who understand the essence of what a team should be and work together to synchronize and streamline efforts to take the company to new heights. I’m proud to say that I was part of that team for five years. Kudos to my marketing team for having what it takes to be a great team – Ed, Paul Zimski, Chris Hewitt, Chris Merritt, Sarah Saul, Gary Ludolph, Annie Wacker, Matthew Klewja, Jeff Hughes, Mark Falagrady, Paul Kos, Sam Erdheim, David Dwyer, Andrea Bolz, Vivek Singh, Meghanne Beardan, and, of course, my go-to guy, Don Leatham.

What kind of boss would I be if I didn’t give kudos to my fine team — Sarah Saul and Meghanne Bearden. Thank you! And, to my exceptional PR teams — Lois Paul and Partners, Speed Communications and Fleishman Hillard — for helping to always exceed expectations and increase our global impressions to really elevate our brand and thought leadership. I’ve fostered my relationships with some of the finest PR pros – Ruth Jones, Rebecca Gregory, Carol Hanko, Jessica Sutera, Emily Schmidt, Linsey Krauss, Lydia Hekman, Julia Richter and Ted Weisman.

A family I will never forget!

I’m proud to say that leaving the Lumension nest was not an easy decision. I truly hope for the best for Lumension, and I know with the strong group of people —executive team, marketing, sales, development, product management, accounting and IT — working toward a common goal, they will continue to soar. Thank you to the Lumension team for the wonderful memories. I’ll never forget you.

To read more on my move to JDA Software, read Linda Vandevrede’s recent post in Valley PR Blog. Thanks Linda!