Sunday, March 30, 2014

Do the Creep: Facebook’s Pages to Watch

They’re watching you!

Last July, Facebook introduced page administrators to the Pages to Watch module, allowing them to choose up to five pages they did not manage and track their likes and other analytics. 

With this year’s Facebook updates, the Pages to Watch tool has now been added into the social network’s Page Insights, rather than being broken out as a separate module. The upgrades come with the ability to add more pages to the list as well as an analytical look at the number of posts and engagement those pages have received.

The tool comes with a few pros (instant analysis) and cons (hyper chronic competitive stress). Many page owners are simply livid that Facebook is openly providing “inside information about your marketing program so (the competition) can more easily monitor/monkey/copy your marketing strategy without having to go out of their way."

I can’t blame them for thinking that. It’s essentially the real-time social media version of The Lonely Island’s doing "The Creep.” (Side bar – These guys do some of the best digital shorts. I’ve never been disappointed.) But there is a flip side…

If you’re competitive in nature, Pages to Watch provides a “challenge accepted” state of mind. Savvy marketing and PR pros should expect the inevitability (don’t be a laggard) and flip this resource to work in their favor and use it as a means to think more critically about their content and engagement strategies. 

I was pretty excited because last Friday I got THE notification.

In their defense (whichever fan page it is), the odds are pretty strong that we’re creeping on them, too. I immediately built my own list when the module first came out eight months ago.

To paraphrase Nicki Minaj, “Get your Facebook strategy flex’n and your analytics T-Rex’n, and creep!”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Red Obsession

“For centuries, Bordeaux has assumed a mythical status in the world of fine wine as a leitmotif of wealth, power and influence.”

Definitive words by actor and narrator Russell Crowe in the opening scene of “Red Obsession,” a documentary on Bordeaux valley and the capricious nature of the markets and shifting fortunes of global economies that link it’s grand influence of the wine making world. The film predominantly focuses on the recent shift as China’s new elite bolster prices for the wine to stratospheric levels.

Getting to watch the film at the annual Washington West Film Festival last fall, I can certainly attest that it’s a fascinating, personal glimpse into the worlds of the winemakers and connoisseurs involved in this centuries old process. It also got me reminiscing about my own “red obsession.”

As is with “my love of books,” I’d like to take a moment to share why I’m so obsessed with “the nectar of the gods.” From the decadent taste of a freshly uncorked bottle to the splendor of cooking with wine, I can thank wine columnist John Hailman for introducing me to its graces five years ago.

During my college internship with the Overby Center for Southern Journalism, I had the pleasure of working with Hailman, a fellow at the time, on the second edition of his book, “Thomas Jefferson on Wine” as well as other law and wine related book projects. Like the “Red Obsession documentary, his works allowed me the perception and appreciation of a world that is, in fact, mythical and historical.

When I finished my internship with the Center, Hailman was gracious in giving me a signed copy of his Jefferson book as well as my very first bottle of wine anyone had ever given me. A late 2007 harvest of Hogue White Riesling, I still have the bottle to this day. The wine was a luscious palate of honeyed peach and apricot flavors.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting some exceptional (and some not so exceptional) wines. Along the way, I enjoyed the opportunity to visit some entertaining wineries in Indiana and VirginiaMy favorite wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Shiraz (30%) and Merlot (20%), has become a ritualistic souvenir from Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. As a wedding gift, my company’s president even gave my wife and me a 2003 bottle of Dom Perignon which we're saving for our 10 year anniversary.

As my vino adventures continue, I hope to one day visit a few wine valleys, including Shenandoah, Napa, and of course, Bordeaux. Until I can share those adventures, enjoy this fun collection of wine quotes and Happy National Drink Wine Day!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hashtags 2.0

Twitter provides us with a  comprehensive definition for hashtags - one most hardcore social media pros can recite by heart - and how they are used. But often when I'm teaching the mystical ways of the Twitterverse to the uninitiated, I find myself describing not just the basic definition but the different forms a hashtag can take. Earlier this year, I included a well rounded definition for each form and some examples of them as I was writing an official Twitter guide for my company. As Carahsoft social strategy evolves, these guides are already becoming an important aide as our social media team grows and we train more of our c-suite level employees on how to get the most from the platform as individuals.

Not only did I take the time to define these hashtags, but I've also implemented a style preference to coincide with each. You'll notice a big fan of AP style and journalistic brevity (given my background) and that carries over into the "Titles" section. Read each of them below:

Two or more words that have been compounded into a singular hashtag. Like common compound prefixes, these words should not be capitalized. The exception for this rule includes those used in Titles. See Titles. Unlike common compounds, no hyphens are necessary.

                 #bigdata – Big Data
                 #cybercrime – Internet Crime
                 #opensource – Open Source
                 #dataanalytics – Data Analytics


A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression. All such hashtags should include the capitalization of all letters. Exceptions include initials such as “of” in the hashtag #DoD which is the abbreviation for the U.S. Department of Defense.

                 #BYOD - Bring Your Own Device
                 #CIO – Chief Information Officer
                 #CISO – Chief Information Security Officer
                 #DDoS – Distributed Denial of Service
                 #GIS – Geographic Information Systems

All singular words, whether they are nouns, adverbs, adjectives or suffixes, which are used as hashtags should be lowercase. The exception for this rule includes those used in Titles. See Titles.

             #virtualization Virtualization
                 #collaboration – Collaboration
                 #mobility – Mobility
                 #cloud – Cloud

As is with the AP styling of publication titles, all composition, webcast and on-site event titles should include capitalization for all principal words as well as prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. This includes capitalization of all hashtags, including those that are used in truncation. See Truncation.

.@Pentaho webcast today at 2pm ET - #BigData Analytics for the #FedGov w/ #MongoDB. #GovIT

Typically embodies the abbreviation of a word in a format which consists of only the first part of the word. In Twitter hashtags, this often consists of multiple words combined. These types of hashtags should normally be all lowercased. The exclusions for this rule include unique interpretations, proper nouns and the use of titles. See Titles.

                 #digitalgov – Digital Government
                 #infosec – Information Security
                 #mobilegov – Mobile Government
                 #opengovOpen Government
                 #GovTech – Government Technology
                 #GeoINT – Geospatial Intelligence
                 #HigherEd – Higher Education
                 #TechTalk – Technology Talk

Varied Abbrev.
Some hashtags include a mixture of truncation and initialism style abbreviations. If the truncation precedes the initials, then the hashtag should always begin with capitalization. If the initials precede truncation, do not capitalize the truncated portion. Single initialism followed by truncation should begin with a lowercase, followed by capitalization. See Initialism and Truncation for comprehensive style descriptions.

                 #GovIT – Government IT
                 #Gov20   – Government 2.0
                 #EduIT – IT Education
                 #CAgov – California Government
                 #ITsecurity - IT Security
                 #INgov – Indiana Government
Singular Initialism-Truncation:
                 #eGov – Electronic Government
                 #mLearning – Mobile Learning
                 #oGov – Open Government

I certainly recognize that Twitter is an unrestricted culture and these guiding definitions are purely applied as a means to establish a consistent voice in Carahsoft's own brand. With that said, I'd love to know what rule of thumb you go by in your organization's Twitter messaging. Feel free to share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 3, 2012

3 Free Social Media Tools Worth Checking Into

One of the great aspects about working in social media is the discovering new creative resources for your "social" toolbox. Over the last few months, I’ve found three in particular that are certainly worth looking into.

Facebook tab development for your fan page can be a hassle. This typically involves developing a specific Secure Page Tab URL which drives back to an external HTTPS address your content is housed on. This usually involves having to work with your IT department, web developer, website hosting company or any combination of the three. For some smaller companies/non-profits with little time or resources, this can be detrimental in the creative process.

Thankfully, there is the free Static HTML Facebook Page Tab developer app from Woobox. With even a little HTML and/or CSS knowledge, this app allows you to create a custom tab within Facebook. You can also use image hosting sites like Photobucket for any graphic source coding you might implement on your tab. I can say first hand that Woobox is an exceptional tool.

Additionally, if you do have the funding, Woobox also provides tab development for coupons, photo contests and other giveaway campaigns you may want to provide on your fan page.

If you’re looking for an easy resource to help your company raise money on behalf of a non-profit (must be an approved 501(c)3) or as a non-profit, Razoo has you covered. I recently did some social responsibility research into crowd sourcing donation tools and this hidden gem took home the gold. Razoo charges the least in transaction rates compared to competitors and there are no additional set up or annual fees so this resource is essentially free to use. The transaction rate comes directly from the donation and the giver is receipted 100 percent for his or her contribution.

BONUS: Razoo’s capabilities come with a donation form widget that can be embed on your website or even your Facebook fan page (Hint: See the awesomeness of Woobox above). The widget allows donors to completely fill out the form without leaving the current page they are visiting.

Woobox also comes with a specific Facebook tab widget you can use, but (for the more innovative challengers) you can also embed the basic HTML widget coding which allows you the ability to place the form where ever you choose in the tab. This provides you with the freedom to implement additional creative copy however you choose.

Simply put, Twitchimp is a unique list curation tool for Twitter that, unlike Twitter, allows users to organize their lists in any order/ranking. This web application is designed to help Twitter users find the right people to follow and learn more from the ever expanding dialog underway in the Twitterverse. It provides additional features like directories and content summation as well as easy ways to curate and offer recommendations to other lists in the community.

Using Twitchimp is easy, integrates with your company, non-profit or personal branded Twitter account, and provides you with the ability to share the list externally. As a free user, you are restricted to use up to 100 people per list. If you choose to upgrade to Twitchimp’s premium plan, you will be able to build larger lists and integrate analytics which is a pretty nifty feature. For my company it's been an excellent way to increase exposure for the software technology vendors we serve.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reliving Titanic 100 Years Later in Real-Time

Earlier today, I watched James Cameron’s Titanic in 3D at the Potomac Yards Regal Cinema in Alexandria Va. When I was presented my ticket, it came in a clever little boarding pass which I must confess was an excellent branding strategy.

As I had hoped, the lights dimmed, the first scene flickered to life and Cameron’s beautifully artistic masterpiece once again transported me back to the astonishment and hallowed awe of this defining moment in history. The last time I had the opportunity to watch Titanic was 15 years ago during its original cinematic 2D debut in 1997 at the Westbrook Cinema 4 Regal movie theater in my hometown of Brookhaven, Ms.

I chose to watch the movie on this date in particular because it honors the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on April 14, 1912. Tomorrow I’ll also be attending the Titanic: 100 Year Obsession exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.

But tonight I’m experiencing the tragedy in real-time.

According to various sources, there will be at least four twitter accounts tweeting the events that led to the Titanic’s haunting journey to the depths of the Atlantic.

@HistoryChannel – Follow the voyage and disaster in real time from now until April 15.

@TitanicRealTime – Experience Titanic's epic journey with minute-by-minute tweets as if from on board the ship itself. Created by @TheHistoryPress See our App

@titanic_live – To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, this account will live tweet events as they unfolded in April 1912.

Of course, I give the greatest kudos to the Nova Scotia Museum which is also tweeting the event tonight. Why? Because the museum pioneered the idea last year for the 99th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. Even more fascinating is that the museum’s tweets are that of the wireless operators from the ship herself as well as the responses from others in nearby contact.

This makes tonight’s observance even more hauntingly reminiscent given the realization of Twitter as the modern day relative of the telegraphs used that night. Twitter in it's own right has helped to play a critical role in defining moments of history such as the Arab Spring. From a PR perspective, it’s really quite brilliant and will be extraordinary to watch.

You can follow the museum’s accounts tonight at @ns_museum or by following hashtag #TitanicMMA.

If you want to really get into the action and watch all four accounts simultaneously, l suggest using TweetDeck’s free real-time monitoring dashboard service.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why I love ‘Real-Time Marketing & PR’

Long overdue on my reading list has been David Meerman Scott’s bestseller, “Real-Time Marketing & PR.” Now that I’ve read it, I don’t know how I could have gone without it. “Real-Time” is a catalyst of insightful case studies, resources and thought-provoking strategies.

His book adds new insight to already classic examples of real-time PR such as the “United Breaks Guitars” incident and highlights other great marketing examples including the Grateful Dead’s real-time tour marketing strategy. Scott also touches on the importance of crowdsourcing. One of my favorite analogies from the book was his astute observation of today’s two-way, tech-savvy communications between vendors and consumers as resembling that of an ancient bazaar – something that was lost in the later part of the 20th century due to the one-way communication format of traditional media.

I particularly enjoyed Scott’s citation of Telstra’s 3Rs of Social Media Engagement:
  • Representation
  • Responsibility
  • Respect

If you’re puzzled about where to start writing your organization or brand’s social media guidelines, the book includes eight insightful steps to create and implement those guidelines along with a great example that showcases how IBM gets it.

Scott is also very candid about his own missed opportunities and how real-time responses by others such as GM helped to provide positive examples of the organizations and brands that readily understand the urgency to adapt a real-time strategy.

Whether your strategies involve everyday or crisis management communications, “Real-Time” resonates a central theme for succeeding in today’s evolving marketing and PR field: “Scale and media buying power are no longer a decisive advantage. What counts today is speed and agility.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It’s a Rite of Passage, You Stupid [CENSORED]!!!

I believe that at some point in every PR professional’s career, she or he is going to receive an email that isn’t very pleasant. This goes without a doubt in my mind. In fact, it will probably be down right absurd, maybe even obscene, and probably not very comprehensible. Whether it occurs during a crisis or just out of the blue, it is going to happen one way or another.

I recently had the privilege to speak about new media in front of a group of international civic leaders from East Asia and the Pacific for the Meridian International Center. One of the participants, Hong Kong Unison Executive Director Fermi Wong asked me how to respond to people during abusive emails. My answer, “Don’t!”

As David Meerman Scott wrote in Real-Time Marketing & PR, “Some people are just plain crazy, and you don’t want to get dragged into dialogue with a psycho.”

My response to Fermi was the same. It is critical to engage consumers and stakeholders when a problem occurs involving your product or organization, but not everyone who contacts you is sane or willing to listen. These individuals are not coming to you to solve the problem. They are simply trying to start a fight.

The following quotes are from my favorite two wacko emails that I have received to date while I was working for SPJ:

“(TH)ANKS for PROOF you pieces of [censored] are NOTHING more than leftist mouthpieces! Objective's [CENSORED]! YOU ALL are a DISGRACE to what journalism ONCE stood for!!” ... “Get it through your Idealistic Liberal Communist Marxist heads. [censor]ing Idiots!!!!”

“Professional journalism in America . . ha ha ha ha . . . let me guess . . . war is holy, muslims are evil, liberals are traitors, Bush is God, and lies are truth. There!. did i win "Best Journalist in America" award? Please, Tell me I won.”
~ Ruben
These types of emails are typically filled with irrational statements, expletives and other non-coherent ramblings. I chose to highlight these two messages in particular because they are humorously as polarizing as it gets. The truth is that no good can ever come from responding to these types of emails. In fact, here are a couple of things to remember next time you receive a wacko email like these:
  1. Let it go – It’s not as personal as it seems though it often seems like it is. The sender of the email may try to say things that single you out, but they are only trying bully an irrational response from you. The second you forget that is the moment you fall into their reality and become their puppet.
  2. Your time is valuable – The more time you spend fuming over this email is time that you’ve lost and can never get back.
  3. Tell a colleague – Sometimes venting to a co-worker is the best medicine if someone has written you an email that seems too particularly overwhelming.
  4. If you ever do respond, NEVER respond with your gut – When we respond impulsively, we do so honestly and often irrationally. If you find yourself in a situation where a response is imperative, remember that the responder will do everything in their power to twist what you say. With that said, never editorialize, take your time in crafting a well-thought message and only provide the facts.

It’s also important to understand that you’re NOT alone! When Fermi asked me about these types of individuals, I shared my own experiences with her and so did many of the other civic leaders in the room. It was a very reassuring moment for all of us and I hope this post does the same for you.

Editors Note: When this post was published yesterday evening, the word "right" was used instead of the proper word "rite" due to what I refer to as "jet lag" mixed with exhaustion. Apologies for the clerical error.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Reynolds Center IS the Business Beat

One of the most important strategies a PR professional (early or mid-career) can do to continue advancing his or her vocational knowledge is to actively seek out efficient professional development training opportunities. If you are looking for training that is conducive to your busy schedule, then I highly suggest considering webinars. My personal favorites are those provided by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.

Since 2003, the Center has done an exceptional job in providing journalists with free, thought-provoking, critical training sessions to help improve the quality of American business journalism. Training from the Center focuses on numerous topics, including agriculture, the economy, green sustainability, healthcare, banking, economic development, personal financing, technology, sports, non-profits and more.

A perceptive observer will realize that many of the sessions the Center offers can help journalists’ public relations colleagues as well. From financial writing to competitive market research to finding a local angle on a national story, there are countless learning opportunities. Here is a recap from the site, showcasing some of the most recent webinars that I have attended.

Think Like Google – What You Need to Know About SEO
This Webinar provides basic tips on SEO fundamentals and how search engines find online content, along with tips and tools for writing good headlines and ledes for the Web. This session was led by Chad Graham, social media editor at The Arizona Republic, and Robin J. Phillips, managing editor of

Beyond Google – Mining the Web for Company Intelligence
This two-part webinar teaches you the tools and techniques that competitive intelligence experts use every day — and that you can use to keep tabs on companies. Taught by Cascade Insights principal Sean Campbell, the series focuses on how to mine social media for insights on a company’s recent missteps, successes and future intentions as well as how to find portals and online communities that align with a company’s customers or their initiatives.

The webinar includes a lot of critical techniques on mining HR-oriented sources for company intelligence and how to spot potential mergers and upcoming product launches before they occur. You’ll also better know how to identify sources through business networks and media-sharing sites as well as ways to background sources effectively via the Web.

15 Tips for Time Management for Business Journalists
Taught by senior writer Tami Luhby of, this webinar emphasizes the basics of time management, including helpful tools for keeping track of essential daily tasks at work and home. Luhby highlights a lot of creative online tools and resources you can use to maximize your efficiency.

I’m currently looking forward to attending the Center’s week-long webinar series on Unlocking Financial Statements, July 18-22, which will cover income statements, balance sheets, cash flows and writing about numbers. Aside from webinars, Reynolds also offers regional workshops, as well as daily tips that can be found at

Find out more about what the Reynolds Center presently has to offer on their online calendar.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CSR with FedEx's Rose Jackson Flenorl

Fortune magazine’s recently released 2011 report of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” named FedEx Corp. as the eighth most admired company in the world. Of the survey’s nine key attributes of reputation, FedEx ranked third in its industry for social responsibility.

As Manager of Social Responsibility at FedEx, Rose Jackson Flenorl directs and implements the company’s community outreach strategy in the areas of disaster relief, safety, education, and environment in national and international markets. She is responsible for building and maintaining relationships with organizations serving African-American, Hispanic, Asian and other diverse audiences.

Flenorl also designs and executes programs that support the FedEx brand globally. She manages relationships with both internal and external stakeholders, acting as the Social Responsibility representative on the company’s internal Corporate Social Responsibility Roundtable, and communicates the company’s community philosophy, objectives and programs to audiences worldwide.

Why is social responsibility vital in the corporate culture of FedEx or any brand?

At FedEx, SR is vital because it speaks to our being employer, neighbor and carrier of choice.

  • Employer of choice: Being responsible helps us with team member recruitment and retention. People want to work for a company that is responsible and being a part of a responsible company builds one’s morale and loyalty.
  • Neighbor of choice: Being responsible makes FedEx attractive to local communities where we seek license to operate and grow. We want people to have “open arms” when they see us coming. Because FedEx is known as a responsible company, communities are eager to embrace FedEx.
  • Carrier of choice: research has shown that a majority of consumers will actually switch brands to one that is perceived as more socially responsible.

It seems like most brands share similar values in their social philosophy. What makes FedEx stand out in the quality of its programs?

Some brands still view social responsibility in terms of check-cutting philanthropy. At FedEx, we focus our philanthropy in ways that leverage our core competencies as a corporation. While we also give financial contributions to NGOs, our focus areas are built around what we are good at:

  • Disaster Response: with the world’s largest express transportation network, we are uniquely positioned to expedite life-saving disaster relief materials to where they need to go.
  • Safety: with tens of thousands of vehicles on the world’s roadways, safety is in the very heart of our corporate mission statement. We work with Safe Kids Worldwide in ten countries to promote child pedestrian road safety initiatives. The WHO (World Health Organization) is launching a Decade of Action for Road Safety this May. FedEx has been working in this area with Safe Kids for 11 years. We helped Safe Kids China establish the first school zone in that country and we are influencing the creation of safety laws and school curriculums around the world. We’ve reached millions of children and adults with road safety messaging and have made environmental improvements around schools in many cities around the world.
  • Education: With our expertise in global trade, we are helping Junior Achievement Worldwide teach young entrepreneurs in more than 50 countries how to expand their business competencies to include international savvy.
  • Environment: The EarthSmart Outreach vision is to make communities cleaner, healthier and more efficient by encouraging sustainable transportation, parks and green urban spaces, and resilient ecosystems.

What analytics do you feel are important to measure the success of a social responsibility campaign?

Measurement used to be the holy grail of philanthropy, but we increasingly understand how to demonstrate the impact of our investments. At FedEx, we use a simple framework:

  1. Social and/or Environmental Impacts - Did the program create realsocial change? Did we provide value to the organization, the communityor the environment?
  2. Team member engagement - Did team members have a positive servicelearning experience? Did they believe they made an impact?
  3. Community ownership - Does the initiative make a lasting change in the community? Is there an organization or community that "owns" theprogram?
  4. Brand & Reputation - Did the investments reflect the how FedExCares? Did the effort reach important community stakeholders?

What ways have social media played an important impact in emphasizing and highlighting your social responsibility efforts? Are there any particular scenarios lately you can reference?

Social media hasn't changed our programs, but it has changed the way we communicate our work and reach new audiences.

At FedEx, we started using social media in 2008 with the launch of our Citizenship Blog. The platform has evolved, but atits core is the opportunity to tell the FedEx story about disasterrelief, safety programs, education efforts, and our work in theenvironment, ranging from electric vehicles to urban conservationefforts.

Our team works closely with our social media team and the various platforms we use, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, to share our story. We have our @FedExCares and @FedEx handles that regularly share updates with followers about our programs. We have dedicated pages on Facebook related to the Community and EarthSmart. Many of the videos we have produced on our programs are on the YouTube channel.

What key strategies do you feel are important to implement in your disaster relief efforts? Can you tell me more about some examples in FedEx’s case?

  1. Strong, consistent relationships with global disaster relief agencies. We are in weekly if not daily contact with leaders at Red Cross, Salvation Army, Heart to Heart International and Direct Relief International.
  2. Proactive outreach to global NGOs (non-governmental organizations) when disasters strike. At first notice of any large natural disaster we immediately reach out to our global NGO contacts to offer assistance.
  3. Close ties operationally.Our team members at our ramp locations near our NGO contact relief warehouses around the country are on a first name basis with our local NGO contacts. The NGOs know how to prepare shipments correctly including paperwork, packaging, etc.
  4. Participation on first class leadership councils to stay on top of developments in the field. FedEx representatives serve on the Red Cross Corporate Advisory Council and the US Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center Disaster Response Working Group. We also have close connections with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the American Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, InterAction, NVOAD and other relief organizations.

What approach do you recommend for building future partnerships with other brands and nonprofits for collaborating on programs?

  1. Be sure you have the manpower bandwidth and financial resources to make the program effective and sustainable.
  2. Look for companies and NGOs that are similar in scope (local, national, global).
  3. May want to avoid “also ran” programs where your company winds up on a long list of contributors, look to develop something innovative and impactful.
  4. Make sure other brand(s) are reputable and have similar approach to CSR.
  5. Make sure charity checks out (990, percentage admin/pr, etc.)
  6. Seek to support programs that leverage corporate core competencies in a way that complements other corporate core.

Of the responsibility programs that effect local communities that FedEx is involved with, which is your favorite and why?

The local community programs that have the greatest impact and leverage our core competencies are my favorites.

  • I am proud when I see our planes land in disaster-stricken regions, bringing relief supplies to those in need.
  • I am honored when FedEx is recognized as a best place to work for diverse groups and seen as a model for other corporations.
  • I am uplifted when I know our drivers and community partners at Safe Kids are working hard to make streets safe for child pedestrians.
  • I am hopeful when I speak to students in classrooms around the world and am inspired by their efforts to overcome the odds and get an excellent education.
  • I am connected when I see our people and our communities consider the valuable ecosystems around them and invest to make our world more sustainable.

Same question of international programs?

Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx created Safe Kids Walk This Way to teach safe behaviors to motorists and child pedestrians and create safer, more walkable communities. The goal is to prevent pedestrian-related injuries to children. Safe Kids Walk This Way is a signature program for FedEx. Safe Kids Walk This Way launched in three U.S. cities in 2000. Since then, the program has been implemented in 250 cities in nine countries around the world, enabling 14,000 FedEx volunteers to reach more than 4 million participants.

FedEx has been highly regarded for its work with Safe Kids. In 2008, the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognized FedEx as a finalist for the International Community Service Award. On Monday, it will be announced that FedEx and Safe Kids have won an international road safety award.

What are some of the latest outreach initiatives you are currently developing and how do you hope they will help to benefit those communities?

Starting last year (2010), FedEx began making significant philanthropic investments in the environment. FedEx has been a leader insustainable innovation, evidenced by our creation of the first hybrid-electric delivery vehicle with the Environmental Defense Fund, 5 hubs generating 5 MegaWatts of solar power, and our investment in electric delivery vehicles in the U.S. and abroad. We extended our commitment to the environment through innovative investments in sustainable transportation, cities and ecosystems.

One of the leading investments is with EMBARQ, an organization that supports sustainable transportation improvements in emerging economies. Growing economies lead to growing traffic. More traffic means more congestion, more pollution and more safety incidents. EMBARQ works with cities to bring mass transit solutions that will eliminate transittimes, significantly reduce carbon, and improve the safety for all roadusers. We've seen great success in Mexico with this program and have been using our expertise in global vehicle management, marketing and safety to advance mass transit projects in a rapidly growing market.

FedEx has also supported two recent environmental disaster efforts. First, we invested in the reforestation of the Sichuan Province of China, a region struck by a powerful 8.7 earthquake in 2008. Funding through Conservation International supports local employment, will add over 100 hectacres of forest, and supports the survival of the Giant Panda. Second, this last summer, we worked with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and multiple government agencies to transport 25,000 sea turtle eggs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean through our FedEx Custom Critical network when the oil spill threatened their hatching and survival.

How do you apply your own life experiences in your work with FedEx?

I have always had a personal commitment to the community. I have served on numerous boards and volunteered for various non-profits over the years. I have a personal passion for the work I do. I have witnessed the need, so I am committed to making an impact. Yesterday I supported Teach for America Week. I spoke to an 11th grade English class at Clarksdale High School. I graduated from Clarksdale High (Miss.).

I was able to talk to students from my hometown about the importance of an education. I was able to say I was just like you. I wanted to inspire the students to value their education and to let them know that education was key to making their professional dreams come true.

It is such an honor to lead our efforts at FedEx. FedEx has such a commitment to community. Our leadership and our employees make a difference in their communities every day.

For other PR pros, looking to learn the ways of social responsibility, what inspirational strategies and lessons can be taken from the programs FedEx executes?

  1. First and foremost, know your business. Understand your corporation’s competencies, expertise and business drivers. The best CSR strategies are aligned to corporate strategy.
  2. Second, focus on what you do best. There are millions of causes to invest in and they are all worthwhile. Our role is to determine where we can find the best ROI for our investments.
  3. Finally, develop strategies owned by your employees and communities. The long-term success of these programs is that they resonate with those most close to the impact of the work.

A PR professional has just stepped into a Social Responsibility position for the first time. From your own experiences, what tips would you give them to lead to a successful first year (and beyond)?

  1. Understand the issues. When I got my first job in CSR, I called a friend at IBM who had worked in the field for a number of years. She recommended a class for me at the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College.
  2. Do your homework. If the focus of your corporation is environmental sustainability, make sure you understand how the issue impacts your company. Learn the organizations and non-profits who are the experts.
  3. Network with other CSR professionals. I belong to ACCP (Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals), and I serve on the board of directors for the US Chamber BCLC (Business Civic Leadership Center). I am also a member of the National Corporate Advisory Council for the American Red Cross. Read and stay current. Who are the thought leaders and organizations making an impact?

FedEx across the web:

  • The US Chamber BCLC approached FedEx about working with InterAction on the development and launch of the Haiti Aid Map ( FedEx has been instrumental in launching this incredible tool to advance transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the wake of disasters.
  • The Salvation Army approached FedEx for support with a unique environmentally sustainable approach to rebuilding communities after disasters. Working with the U.S. Green Building Council, Harvard University and other leading institutions, this effort promises to be a highly effective approach to disaster recovery.
  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies invited FedEx to present on our exemplary working relationship with Red Cross at the International Association of Volunteer Effort global conference in Singapore this year, bringing visibility to the important work of the Red Cross and the significant role FedEx plays in helping them deliver their lifesaving services.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Soul Food: The Art of Storytelling

People want to feel personally connected to a brand and one of the most rewarding ways to build relationships with them is still through the art of storytelling. As much as I love social media, it is still just another vehicle for your message. It's the quality of your content that counts.

It may seem warm and gooey at times but telling the tale of those influencing or influenced by your brand humanizes you immensely. Storytelling is the soul food of public relations efforts when it comes to your target publics, brand and you the practitioner.

Telling these stories is an exceptional win-win-win situation because:

  1. It not only helps to strengthen the connection with your current audience, but it can also help create new, meaningful relationships you didn’t already have with potential audiences.

  2. Sometimes those narratives feature an individual (or more) that makes an incredible impact in the efforts of our brand who now gets to have her/his story immortalized.

  3. Getting to scribe those stories gives you, the author and practitioner, a deeper sense of personal accomplishment that most analytics can't “measure” up to. In fact, you'll see better analytics as a result of strong storytelling.

Every two months my organization publishes a national magazine known as Quill for which I write a membership profile column. With each story I write I have a chance to help our members and other journalists learn more about people like them who have invested themselves in SPJ and have made unique contributions to the profession.

In the latest member profile, I was able to highlight an incredible individual, Hank Klibanoff, whose efforts continue to shed great light on the struggles of the civil rights era. Upon reading the article, Hank wrote to me in an email saying “I caught up with the article you wrote about me for The Quill, and am impressed by it. You did a wonderful job, and you got it right. Thank you.”

As Charles Schulz might would have said, Happiness is a warm thank you letter. By the way, you should keep those letters and printed emails from the people who have told you how much your efforts mean to them. Put them in a scrapbook. On a rainy day, they’re worth so much more than a plaque on your office wall.

Another great way you can build relationships with your publics is by telling the story of how your brand relates to them on a cultural scale like PR colleague Melissa Bennett did. Last December I stumbled upon a guest post Melissa wrote for Peas for Prosperity titled “Peas on Earth - The Origin of the South's Famous Black-eyed Peas.” The post described the deep history behind the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day in Southern U.S culture. Guess what? I grew up in the South and have eaten black-eyed peas for New Year's since before I can remember. This well written back story just gained a new audience member interested in Peas for Prosperity.

To really dive into the craft and learn how to be a better storyteller for your brand, I highly suggest reading Ishmael’s Corner by PR consultant Lou Hoffman. Ishmael’s Corner is a blog devoted to giving great analysis, additional methods and insights into the art of storytelling from a business perspective.

Here are my 10 favorite reads from the Ishmael archives:

  1. Revisiting the All-important Anecdote

  2. Communications Versus Behavior During a Crisis

  3. Visual Storytelling via the InfoGraphic

  4. Top Five Elements That Have Shaped Quest for Creativity

  5. 10 Ways Communicators Must Evolve

  6. The Quickest Way to a Dull Story: Jargon

  7. Blast Magazine’s Media Kit Tells A Story

  8. Every Story Benefits From A Hero (Or Two Or Three): Business Storytelling

  9. Hard to Beat the Classic Immigrant-Makes-Good Story

  10. Storytelling in a News Release: Are You Fit for a Phone?

What amazing stories have your brand told lately?