This week I filled out a member spotlight form for the Charleston chapter of the American Marketing Association. One of the questions was “What is the best advice you could give a younger marketer?” My response: Do your best to keep up with the constant changes in social media and how people consume information. Your clients depend on you to be the expert on these marketing topics.
Keeping up with the ever-changing world of social media and new methods of marketing and PR is practically a full-time job. I’m constantly bookmarking articles, websites and making notes of new tools I want to investigate.
It’s great to see colleges and universities helping students stay current with social media tools and how they work in the business world. A couple of months ago, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about students at Emerson College in Boston who work with large companies like Sprint, Levi Strauss and Mattel to conduct research and assist with online marketing efforts. They gain experience with “clients” and exposure to products like analytics program Radian6, which they’ll most likely be using as professional marketers.
Over the summer, many firms – including ours – will have interns and this is a great chance to continue that “real world” exposure. Engage those interns in more than busy work and filing so they can see how your business operates day to day and how you interact with clients.
As we all know, that kind of learning is infinitely more valuable than anything you can read in a textbook.
When I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, public relations professionals would occasionally ask me to meet for lunch or coffee. I truly didn’t mind meeting with them to put a face with the press release. I also felt it would give me the opportunity to better explain our newsroom and our publication so the PR folks could better target their messages, rather than blanketing the entire newsroom with the same release or coverage request.
Now I’m on the other side of the desk, asking editors out on coffee dates so we can get to know each other. I find the majority are willing to sit down and chat, and I take the same approach I did as an editor myself – get to know more about the publication so we can better target our pitches.
I’ve also found developing these relationships is critical. I’ll admit when I worked in the newsroom, I would be more likely to take a call or respond to an e-mail from a PR professional I knew than from one I didn’t know. I had developed a relationship with that person and felt more confident that his or her pitch would be on target.
Understanding newsroom operations, such as who covers which beat, is even more important in today’s media world. Newsroom staffing has been cut … and cut … and cut, so fewer reporters are doing the same amount of work and they are stretched to their limits. Now is not a good time to send the same release to the entire editorial staff.
Be thoughtful in your approach, figuring out who on the staff writes on which issues and subjects. Then approach that reporter with an actual news story or a useful source. The can-you-do-a-story-on-my-client-just-because strategy will get you nowhere and will hurt your credibility.
Pay attention to what’s happening in the news and how it might impact your clients. Can they serve as thoughtful sources for a larger story? Do they have a unique story to tell? Find that news angle first and then approach the appropriate reporter. The reporter will appreciate your efforts and you’ll establish yourself as a PR person with some sense – and that can really set you apart.
Do you agree with this approach? Are you a PR professional who has modified your tactics from blanketed news releases to targeted pitching? As a journalist, what do you prefer?
Like everyone else over the age of 25, I arrive at the end of the year saying, “What happened to this year?” There’s just something about growing older that speeds up the passage of time. And this year is particularly monumental as we close out the first decade of the 21st century.
A mere 10 years ago, not everyone had an e-mail address, a cell phone or certainly not a Facebook account (what was Facebook?!). In 2000, I got my first laptop computer – a thick Dell that probably weighs twice as much as the one I bought earlier this year. In 2000, people still read newspapers and thus I assumed a career as a newspaper reporter was a solid decision.
Ten years ago, we didn’t have iPod, iPads, iPhones or app stores. We didn’t have gmail accounts (remember hotmail?) or Twitter followers. We didn’t know anything about 4G this and 3G that. I was simply excited to get a DSL Internet connection. Hey, I could surf the Internet and people could still call me on my home phone (another relic of the past).
Sometimes I long for the days when were slightly less connected, and if someone needed me, they just left a message on my answering machine. I didn’t feel compelled to answer calls and texts while out to dinner.
And yet, this proliferation of technology and the dawn of social media have brought about a number of new opportunities – the chance to reconnect with old friends, meet new people via Twitter and tap into a wealth of information and knowledge.
I suspect we feel much like our grandparents when television arrived, eventually making its way into every living room in America. Each new invention has both pros and cons.
I do know we have entered an age of rapidly-developing technology, social media and new forms of communication. We certainly won’t be going back, but how we’ll communicate in 2020, I can’t even fathom.
What do you remember from 10 years ago? Are you amazed by all the new technology we’ve seen?
It’s great when social media can bring attention to social causes. Urban Ministries of Durham (N.C.) is doing just that using Foursquare.
When people in Durham check in to their favorite shops and restaurants via Foursquare, they’ll also have the option of checking in to such spots as a trash can behind the restaurant, a tent under an overpass or a trashcan in a vacant lot. Foursquare tips will highlight information about Urban Ministries of Durham.
According to an article about the campaign, people will be sharing the message about homelessness with their friends. An example: “UMD serves 220,000 meals a year. But we’d rather keep people from being hungry in the first place. Check in to raise awareness for our cause, or learn more at umdurham.org.”
I love this idea and hope to ‘check in’ (I couldn’t resist) on it in a few months to see how it’s working.
So this article got me thinking, how can other nonprofits use tools like Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places to spread their mission? At Step Ahead, we help the Charleston Parks Conservancy with its Foursquare efforts. As people check in to parks they see tips about the park or upcoming events hosted by the Conservancy.
Surely there are other causes in Charleston that could benefit from Foursquare: literacy, hunger or even our city’s own efforts to curb homelessness. How would you use social media to solve a social issue? Have you seen other organizations doing this?
The defining marketing trend of the 21st century is spirituality. That was the message that resonated with me at a Charleston American Marketing Association luncheon last week with speaker August Turak, an entrepreneur, consultant and former executive with a variety of high-profile companies like MTV Networks, A&E Networks, United Press International and Bell Atlantic.
Spirituality as a marketing trend wasn’t something I had really thought about, but Turak pointed to some popular films, such as “Avatar,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Matrix,” and I saw his point. Taking a page from the work of Joseph Campbell, these films draw on the transformation of a person, following his trials, his ultimate rebirth and efforts to help others.
At the end of the day, people want to be transformed. And marketers can tap into that desire, that longing to be better. One of Turak’s examples is the classic Coke commercial: “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” Who doesn’t know that commercial?
Coke is selling transformation into a peaceful society simply by drinking a Coke. A ridiculous idea? Yes, but a brilliant marketing concept that plays on that desire for transformation.
How can we apply this idea to our clients? How can we transform people through restaurants, nonprofit organizations, vacation properties and financial services? It’s our job as marketers to, as Turak said, “think big and aim past the target.”
How are you aiming past the target?
And in a final bit of inspiration, Turak played this clip from the TV series “Mad Men.” While I’m not a regular viewer, this show has been on my “to watch” list for quite some time, as several of my colleagues love it. I’d like to pick up some tricks from Don Draper so I can deliver a presentation like this – taking people to a spiritual level simply with a Kodak Carousel Slide Projector.
It’s wonderful when we can use our social media powers for good. Over the last few months we’ve been working with Metanoia, a nonprofit organization in North Charleston, to develop a new website and help them get started using social media.
Metanoia builds leaders, establishes quality housing and fosters economic development particularly in the Chicora/Cherokee neighborhoods. I first become associated with Metanoia last year when a friend asked me to serve on the planning committee for the organization’s annual Jubilee, a fundraiser and celebration of the year’s accomplishments. I was impressed. This is a great organization that works with youth and adults to give them the tools they need to better their lives. Personally, I appreciate organizations that provide a hand up and not a hand out.
Metanoia has excellent programs, volunteer opportunities and amazing stories to tell. A new website with a blog plus a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel will now give the organization a way to spread its mission via social media.
Check out the new site and social media tools and let us know what you think. And be sure to engage with this great group. Even if you don’t live in North Charleston, you can surely appreciate any organization that is improving neighborhoods, nurturing the next generation of leaders and building our economy.
Hyper-local, social media, networked news – these were the phrases that kept popping up during the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Convention & National Journalism Convention last week in Las Vegas.
I’ve been attending these SPJ conventions for more than a decade, and you can almost track the changes in the industry by the conference topics. A few years ago it was much more about interviewing skills, crafting stories, mining public records and investigative reporting techniques.
All those topics are still important, but the focus has shifted to reflect the flood of technology – whether it’s social media or learning to use a video camera. It’s crowd-sourcing stories via Twitter and researching criminals’ Facebook pages. It’s journalism startups that bring another local voice to a community where the presence of two daily newspapers is a thing of the past. And it’s about remaining relevant in a profession that looks very different. I actually sat in on one presentation called “Crap! My Paper Closed!”
A couple of years ago, I’ll admit the conference was a bit depressing. Journalists all over the country – myself included – had lost their jobs due to cutbacks or closures. We bemoaned the changes and wondered what the future held.
I’ll admit this year’s convention felt more upbeat. It reinforced the belief – better yet, the reality – that journalism isn’t dead. The platforms may change, but the need for solid reporting and good writing remains. Sure, anyone can be a “publisher” thanks to the Internet, but not everyone has the skills to spend two years investigating wrongdoing, following a person through an emotional journey or dedicating long hours to the pursuit of a story.
As a long-time journalist, an article in Bloomberg Businessweek a couple of months back gave me pause. In fact, I found it truly disturbing. It was about a new piece of technology called Narrative Science that takes data-intensive information and turns out a news story.
The example was sports stories; stats are e-mailed to Narrative Science where a computer pops out an article in just a few minutes. The Big Ten Network is using the service as is Fox Cable for its baseball and softball coverage on its website.
As if journalists weren’t concerned enough about their jobs, now they have to worry they will be replaced by computers. “There’s no human author and no human editing,” Narrative Science CEO Stuart Frankel is quoted as saying.
And if you don’t have human authors and editors, you don’t have paychecks to hand out every two weeks. Sure, it’s a significant financial savings, but at what cost? Articles won’t have the context and perspective a human can bring. They won’t have the historical information and analytical eye that trained and experienced journalists provide. It’s a good bet the writing won’t be as polished and will probably be filled with clichés and unimaginative writing.
To bring this a little closer to home, from a public relations perspective, it’s a little tough to suggest a story idea or source to a computer.
Using a computer to generate short online stats-driven stories for the website and saving the meatier pieces for the journalists would certainly be a slightly better option, yet it still takes away jobs from interns and young reporters who often cut their teeth on these sorts of assignments.
Granted, widespread use of technology like Narrative Science may be many years in the future, but whether it’s five or 50, it’s unfortunate something like this would even be considered. It’s clear more and more people assume the skills of reporting, writing and interviewing are something anyone – even a computer – can do.
Beyond the horrible images of the Gulf of Mexico drowning in oil, I can’t help but watch yet another disaster hitting BP: a PR nightmare that has ruined its brand. This is a company’s worst fears come true – a disaster impacting an entire nation brought on, it seems, by much of its own doing. Ouch. That PR team has its work cut out for it.
One of the most interesting developments has been the creation of a fake BP Twitter feed, BPGlobalPR, now with more than 163,000 followers and retweets galore thanks to its dry wit (“Investing a lot of time & money into cleaning up our image, but the beaches are next on the to-do list for sure.”) and tweets dripping with sarcasm (“Adopt a BP oil plume! $25 makes you 100% responsible for an oil plume and a ‘bpcares’ shirt!”).
And don’t forget YouTube, home of videos taking BP to task for its reaction to the oil spill. My favorite: BP Spills Coffee.
But BP certainly isn’t the first company to take a beating for its missteps. Lest we not forget Toyota just a few months ago and a bevy of auto executives from Detroit taking a private jet to Washington, D.C., to ask for a government bailout.
Unfortunately, these recent examples won’t be the last. But, today a reputation is destroyed in the time it took me to type this paragraph. (140 characters)
Before your company barely has a chance to catch its breath and craft a statement, blogs are buzzing, Twitter is tweeting and Flip cameras are rolling for a satirical YouTube video. Truly, your only course of action is to be as ahead of the game as you can be. This isn’t the time to say “no comment,” buying a couple hours for the staff to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page.
In this day of social media and the instantaneous news cycle, you have to stay one – better make that two – steps ahead. If these events teach PR people anything, it’s to cover all your bases and that includes social media.
Hop onto Twitter or Facebook pretty much any evening during prime time and you’re almost certain to see some friends posting comments or tweeting about TV shows. Who hasn’t seen many a comment about Lost or Glee? In fact, I’ve seen so many comments about Glee, I’ve thought about watching it just to see what all the hype is about. Those friend recommendations piqued my interest more than any TV commercial I saw about the show.
That’s the power of social media. And it’s a power NBC is harnessing as it continues its “Fan It” initiative into the 2010-2011 TV season. Fans signs up on the NBC website and then earn points for talking about NBC shows on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Points are good for NBC merchandise (wonder how many points I’d need for an Office bobblehead?) or for entries into mega contests (wonder how many points I’d need to appear on Parks & Recreation?).
In an Associated Press article last week, Adam Stotsky, president of NBC Entertainment Marketing, is quoted as saying, “A recommendation from a friend is infinitely more powerful than any message we can put out through conventional marketing channels.”
That’s sums up nicely what social media is all about and why it’s critical for businesses to be part of the landscape. Social media has expanded the concept of word-of-mouth marketing beyond asking our neighbors to recommend a good plumber into a global network of referrals.
If your business isn’t paying attention to social media, it’s missing an opportunity to reach potential customers, reward them for their business and respond to their questions or complaints. Last week I asked on Twitter if anyone could recommend a good company to pressure wash my house. I received a recommendation from a Twitter follower so plan to call that business this week.
What would have made that example even more powerful is if this particular pressure washing business was on Twitter and could have reached out to me directly, possibly offering a free estimate or a discount.
I applaud NBC for recognizing the massive referral system that is social media and hope it serves as an example to other businesses that engaging your customers, rewarding them for their efforts and thinking beyond conventional marketing channels has to be a part of your business plan.