Category Archives: integrated communications

Employees Using Social Media Can Give Companies a Nasty Virus

virus

A couple weeks ago, a virus had its way with my family. Within a four-day span, all four of us were incredibly sick for 24 hours at a time and it seemed there was nothing we could do to stop the next person from getting it.

That’s because despite how careful we were – quarantining the sick one to a bedroom, dispensing large bottles of hand sanitizer, etc. – it’s impossible to be fully conscious of every single time your hand touches something else in the house. For example, we each hold the handrail when coming down the stairs by habit without even giving it a thought.

It’s not much different for companies that have employees who are active in the social media space. And, honestly, what company doesn’t have at least one employee with a Facebook page or Twitter account?

Social media is like a rabbit hole and it’s easy for employees to either not be fully conscious of all the places they touch or forget that Google can find just about anything. A rude comment on a blog post here. A disparaging Tweet about a client’s home city there. Posting unapproved client work to her online portfolio because she really liked the concept, even though the client picked a different direction.

They can seem harmless enough at the time, but each of these can have a negative impact on your business and strain client relationships. That’s why all companies should have guidelines for employees that outlines what’s acceptable in social media participation and what’s not.

This isn’t to keep them out of social media networks because these tools can bring a lot of good to your organization. But the guidelines remind employees that their online actions can have consequences for both the company and them, and it gives them guardrails to help keep them from mistakenly going off track.

Does your company have these guidelines in place? If so, do you feel they’ve been helpful in better protecting the brand? Should companies have any “say” in what employees do online with personal accounts?

(Image by Fred Armitage.)

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Let’s Put the “Folk Wisdom” to Bed Already

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I saw an interesting book on a coworker’s desk last week – The Art of War for Executives by Donald G. Krause, based on Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War. As I cracked it open yesterday and began reading it, a particular paragraph stood out to me and I found myself yelling “YES!” in my head.

“Sun Tzu warns us about relying on ‘folk wisdom.’ Folk wisdom is the body of unproven assumptions, unwarranted speculation, and generally accepted opinions that is present in any group of people. Great danger lies in not challenging folk wisdom. Reliable facts always precede successful actions.”

How much “folk wisdom” weighs us down daily, whether we’re talking about marketing, PR, social media or [insert your craft here], despite evidence that a new way may be better? One of the things I’ve said since the first post on this blog is that I want to use it regularly as a discussion starter to challenge the status quo and make sure we’re doing things because they are the best solutions, not simply because it’s the way we’ve always done them. Here are a few of the posts that have appeared here attempting to do just that.

I’m interested in your take. Do you notice any “folk wisdom” at work? Does it hold back your brand or the work you do for clients? Do you challenge the status quo even though it’s easier to go along with your boss or the crowd? What are ways we can challenge folk wisdom positively, constructively and effectively?

*Image by Kevin Dooley.

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What Can PRSA Do to Demystify PR For Business Leaders?

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A lot of people say that many C-suite executives don’t truly understand and appreciate the value public relations brings to an organization. There’s lots of talk about the PR industry being chock full of strategic communicators who can’t or haven’t successfully communicated their own worth to the business world.

My friend Arik Hanson and I were talking about this on Twitter a few weeks ago.
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Neither of us claim that the lack of understanding about our profession is the sole fault of PRSA nor that educating others about the value we bring is the sole responsibility of PRSA. But I think we’d all agree that, as the main association in our industry, it does certainly play a role.

You’ll notice that I ended the conversation with Arik pointing out that PRSA surely is taking steps to help overcome this challenge that I don’t know about. What I thought we could do is help spur new ideas that the organization may not have thought of yet. You know, be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I’ll kick it off.

Start at the Beginning. This is a long-term plan, but too many schools aren’t adequately preparing PR majors to understand Business – sales cycles, financials, product development, etc. And too many business majors never learn the benefits that PR can bring to companies beyond writing press releases. These are the business leaders of tomorrow. Could PRSA work with universities to help bridge this gap and require a class or two for each major that focuses on these areas?

Start a Roadshow. Think desk-side briefings for C-suite executives. We’re supposed to be strategic communicators and expert storytellers. Could PRSA create a compelling, 30-minute case for PR and take it on the road?

What ideas do you have? Share them in the comments and then let’s share the cumulative ideas with PRSA.

*Image by Isobel T.

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10 Clues Your PR Pro is Worth the Dough

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One of last week’s posts – 10 Clues Your PR Pro is Nothing But Show – generated a lot of great comments that added even more clues to the list. So I thought we’d continue the fun by looking at the flip side and highlighting the things that set great PR pros apart from the rest of the pack.

Here are 10 clues that your PR pro is worth the dough. It doesn’t include the obvious opposites of the “nothing but show” clues, which means there are really 20 clues that your PR pro is worth the dough between these two posts. If you’re experiencing any of these from the folks on your internal team or from an outside agency, recognize their efforts and give them a hearty thanks.

1. They dive headfirst into your business and industry, and immerse themselves in learning every in and out within both.
2. They ask smart questions.
3. They are strong writers and great storytellers.
4. They proactively sync up with marketing, advertising, interactive and media planning to help create compelling, robust campaigns aimed at achieving your business goals.
5. They challenge you to step outside your comfort zones and try new things.
6. They know what they don’t know.
7. They are resourceful and create solutions to overcome challenges.
8. They listen as much as they talk.
9. They bring creative energy and a positive attitude to the table.
10. They own their mistakes, learn from them and put processes in place to minimize the chance those mistakes happen again.

What would you add to the list? What tips you off that the person across the table is worth his or her salt in this business?

*Image by Eric Ward.

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What Advice Would You Share with These College Students?

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Next week I’m sitting down with a handful of PR students from Iowa State University who are currently taking an online writing/content management class. We’re going to chat about the ways social media has changed/is changing how brands market themselves and interact with consumers, as well as blogging basics.

Another topic of discussion will be tips on landing their first jobs and how to stand out and succeed early in their careers. I’d like your help with this portion. What advice would you share with these future professionals to help them succeed in PR, Marketing, Digital strategy and so on?

Here are three of the tips I’m going to pass along. They may be a bit evergreen, but some sage advice never changes.

Hustle – That’s the way to set yourself apart early on in your career. Of course, I’m assuming you’re smart and can carry a conversation. That goes without saying.

Lots of people meet expectations. Hustle will drive you to exceed them. Make one more pitch call. Think of one new idea for your client each month. Raise your hand to join the fun when new projects come in the door. Don’t be obnoxious, of course. There’s a balance. Find it and hustle!

Networking – Networking is the one of the important ways to both land a job and succeed in this business. When I was in college, networking was limited to people you could physically meet – in college, at local PRSA meetings, at career fairs, etc.

Today, networking is on steroids. It’s never been easier to meet and develop relationships with amazing professionals from across the country – and the globe – thanks to tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. There is no excuse not to be using them. These relationships are priceless when looking for a job. Even after you’re employed, continuing to engage with your connections gives you access to ongoing advice and points of view, which are beneficial throughout your career.

Internships – These have become a given, but I’m surprised that I still meet so many students who’ve had no internships or only one internship. Not only are internships a must, but more than one is a must. I’m not taking anything away from the classroom, but actual experience is where you really start learning the ins and outs of this business.

Actually, I think PR, advertising and digital communications are a bit like the types of careers folks had back in the colonial days – apprenticeships. A basic foundation learned in the classroom is important, but you’ve got to get your hands dirty to pick up the craft. Go get your hands dirty.

Your turn. What would you share with these bright, young minds? I’ll point them to this post and your advice while we’re chatting Tuesday.

*Image by Gusi Lu.

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Three Reasons Our Monday Morning Quarterbacks Should Stay Off the Field

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There are undoubtedly hordes of folks spending much of their Monday talking about all the mistakes Jake Delhomme made against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday. Then they’ll move on to break down exactly what Philip Rivers and the Chargers should have done differently Sunday to beat the Steelers. They’re Monday Morning Quarterbacks and they take their “jobs” very seriously.

We often do the same in the PR, marketing, social media business, looking for opportunities to jump on the mistakes brands make and share how we would have done things differently, which, of course would have turned out perfectly. It’s especially rampant in the blog-o-sphere, where post after post piles on to the discussion.

We’re our own breed of Monday Morning Quarterbacks.

I’m all for critical evaluations of marketing campaigns and initiatives, both of those that were wildly successful and those that didn’t fare so well. It’s incredibly beneficial for many reasons. Like our football fanatic counterparts, though, we need to recognize the limits of our assessments.

Assumptions – Sometimes we make major assumptions. “Why didn’t they have focus groups?” “They should have done more research.” And so on. How do we know they didn’t do these things and more? We assume it.

Hindsight is 20/20 – It’s easy to say something should have been done differently after it doesn’t succeed. I’ve seen some bloggers write very condescending posts in reaction to a marketing initiative gone wrong. Obviously smart people on both the client-side and agency-side thought it was a sound strategy or they wouldn’t have pursued the initiative. We have the advantage of watching the slow motion replay and what comes to mind in that scenario can be very different than what seems like the right decision in the middle of the game.

We’ll never know if WE are wrong – Let’s face it. I could share with you my thoughts on why Brand X goofed up and what I would have done differently from the start, but I’m sharing that with you from a pretty safe place. We don’t get to redo the initiative and implement all my recommendations instead. Who knows? The same woeful outcome may be achieved if we could.

We need to be especially careful when critiquing marketing programs in the social media space. Yes, best practices are surfacing, but the truth is that the environment is new enough and quirky enough that there’s a great chance we’ll all continue to get at least a few bumps and bruises. We don’t do ourselves any favors by leaping on brands with vigor and mockery. All we’re doing is scaring other brands away from dipping their toes in the water for fear that the sharks will smell blood if they happen to make a mistake along the way.

I’ll say it again. I’m all for critical evaluations. I’ve seen some really good ones, in fact. My hope is that we look at marketing missteps as opportunities to learn and discuss them in ways that advance the profession forward, not in condescending, ridicule-filled conversations that don’t really offer much beyond entertainment.

Or am I missing the great value that Monday Morning Quarterbacks bring to the actual playing field?

*Image by Justin Russell.

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The One Thing I Would Change About Marketing

sunrise

You have the power to change the status quo in marketing. It’s true. Even if you’re not in a position to direct much change today, you will be soon enough. Which leads me to wonder about your answer to this question.

“What if you could change one thing about our industry. What would it be?”

What would I change? I often wonder why marketers and media don’t wield our powers for good more often. Don’t get me wrong. Most agencies take on a few pro-bono clients and our ranks our chock full of good-hearted people who make the world a better place. But there are times when I see work across every marketing channel that makes me feel like we as an industry are playing a major role in the growth of our hyper-selfish, imperfection-obsessed, fear-charged society. And, to be honest, I don’t always know what to do with that thought.

Sorry if that’s a bit heavy. There are other things I’d change that would not make me sound like a Debbie Downer. (Really, I’m not!) But I’m interested in your thoughts.

If you could change anything about our industry as a whole or your day-to-day work, what would it be? After you get it off your chest, let’s start working toward changing it.

*Image by Indy Kethdy.

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