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?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Early Adopters and the Social Web

Early adopters have held an important stake in cultural acceptance of new innovations throughout history. And with the extensive growth of social media over the course of the past few years, these influencers’ “phenomenal comic powers” have become paramount in the success of a brand’s marketing strategy.

What really made me think about this was the hilarious example this past Friday by comedian news anchor Stephen Colbert with his endorsement of the new iPad II on Twitter. His tweet garnered over 100 re-tweets in less than an hour. It doesn’t get more influencer relevant than that.

Since social scientist Everett Rogers’ 1962 study developed the four acceptance categories that early adopters belong to, they have continued to play a key strategic role in product marketing and brand development. The powerful influence of the early adopters often sways the early majority and combined, the two groups can account for half of a new product’s sales. The success or failure of a brand often relies on their influence.

The Anatomy of Early Adopters

So what does an early adopter look like? According to a 2010 report from Advertising Age called Shiny New Things: What Digital Adopters Want, How to Reach Them, and Why Every Marketer Should Pay Attention, a study by Forrester Research coupled early adopters “technographic” profiles with psychological theories and found that three key drivers compel them:
  1. Risk Taking - A desire for novelty that exceeds caution and reflects a “universal openness to new experiences, including new products. They are willing to take a chance on a product with little to no market history.” There is also a desire to be first.
  2. Information Gathering - “There is an informational burden that needs to be overcome for new products, and early adopters are more likely to seek out the information needed to inform their adoption decisions.” But they also “seek to mitigate risk through information.”
  3. Status Seeking - Early adopters take pride in showing off their purchases. Early adopters choose products that represent them to the world—their preferences as well as their social status.”

In another study by Nielsen and Mindset Media, early adopters of new technology scored high on certain personality traits in regard to purchasing habits:

  1. Leadership - 68% are more likely to have purchased three or more computers in the past two years.
  2. Dynamism - 58% are more likely to have purchased three or more flat-screen TVs in the past two years.
  3. Assertiveness - 62% are more likely to purchase a new cell phone when the latest and greatest model hits the streets.
  4. Modesty - 45% are more likely to upgrade when a new model is available.

Finding Success in Early Adopter Outreach

Influencers are unique individuals who require personal strategies of communication. According to iMediaConnections’ C.C. Chapman, there is no science to finding the right influencers because there are far too many factors in play for it to be that easy.

“I've used many services, companies, and other outlets to assist in compiling influencer lists,” Chapman said in a blog post. “But I have yet to find anything that works better then good, old fashion networking and research.”

As an influencer and early adopter, Chapman recently published a list of four ingredients for successful influencer outreach at iMediaConnections.

On the social web, researching and approaching these influencers isn’t easy. Mere friend/follower counts and profile views fall short of accurately measuring and identifying true influencers. Simon Dumenco with Ad Age Digital set out to further debunk that perception by analyzing the supposed top Twitter influencer rankings on several subjects provided by a marketing firm that specializes in this type of research. The results showed ineffective accounts with limited influence.

That is why it is important to perform intricate research into who a brand or product’s target audiences are and cultivate sincere relationships with them. Social media based influencer relations is critically different from traditional PR methods and requires varied tone, purpose, and understanding. When you apply that philosophy you’re sure to see a higher Return on Investment.

An innovative way to help generate early buzz from adopters and continue to nurture personal relationships is to conduct one-on-one briefings with them via Skype. This insightful idea from Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence team gives influencers an exclusive first look at the product even when a brand has a limited number of prototypes available.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Innovating with Facebook's New Fan Pages

Facebook released new design and feature changes to its fan pages two weeks ago, Feb. 5, bringing them up to date with a layout that now provides improved engagement with fans, features photos and offers better analytics for page administrators. This new version comes after Facebook’s redesigned profile pages launched last December.

After I switched the Society of Professional Journalists fan page to the upgrades, it sparked the idea to use this latest version as an opportunity to have some fun while creating a new Facebook branding strategy for SPJ. A week later, we’ve now converted the photos displayed on our fan page as promotional space to showcase various programs provided by SPJ.

As you can see above, the first set of promotions feature SPJ’s additional communications vehicles so we can better help our members and followers stay connected with what SPJ is doing in the journalism profession. Once clicked on, the description for each image provides a brief overview of that topic and additional links to those resources. In the coming months these placements will cycle and alternate with other themed placements to help SPJ’s Facebook fans with awareness of other programs such as our professional development, ethics and FOI resources.

Of course there are some limitations to this new strategy that brands will encounter. Unlike some of the creative ideas that have been spawned by their profile page alter egos, fan pages’ photos are continuously randomized and do not maintain a specific order of placement. Given the 25 possible screen display outcomes, this specifically prevents any synchronized efforts to create one consistent, single promotion that spans across all five spaces.

Another constraint I tweeted about with Washington Post Live intern and Media Bistro 10,000 Words blogger Kevin Loker concerned what happens next when an image is clicked. Images that are larger in scale than the exact size displayed on a fan page’s main wall will create an off-centered image when viewed on the wall. However, not enlarging the image means that it will remain that smaller size once it is clicked on. Deciding how to proceed given both constraints largely depends on personal preference.

As Facebook makes further advances, these factors will hopefully be taken into account and these problems may dissolve themselves over time. Until then, we are not the only ones who aren’t letting that stop us from experimenting. Kevin tagged me in on another conversation where USA Today College also had some fun with the new upgrades this past Friday.

When using these types of promotions for fan pages it is important to do so ethically and legally. Be familiar with the Facebook Advertising Guidelines.

Want to know more about the process that went into creating SPJ’s new Facebook promotions? Read a more in-depth entry by following this link to the SPJ headquarters blog where you can learn about the behind the scenes perspectives that went into this project - the ideas, failed concept work and a sneak peek at our next series of promotions.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Basic Principles: The Hitch Factor

Last night I decided to watch one of my favorite movies, Hitch. The 2005 comedy is about matchmaker Alex Hitchens’ (Will Smith) behind the scenes work to help hopeless romantic Albert Brennaman (Kevin James) win the heart of society heiress Allegra Cole. With an energetic storyline, fluid comedic timing and jazzy soundtrack, Hitch is one of the few movies I find worth watching on a yearly basis.

Fun Fact: The opening credits sequence displaying the title for the film inspired the banner for this blog.

But it was not until recently that I was able to appreciate the film for its positive, underlying inspiration for public relations and marketing professionals. So what gives a practitioner the Hitch factor?

Hitch’s own techniques focus on brand management for guys hoping to get the girl of their dreams. And no marketing strategy is successful without comprehensive research of your brand’s target audience.

For Hitch, his research involves understanding important social dating techniques to better connect those audiences and his clients. Depending on the target audience (Allegra in this instance) it is important that PR practitioners should do concentrated research to understand what key messages most interest an audience and will better connect them with a brand (Albert in this instance).

Of course, the fundamental cornerstone of Hitch’s strategy is client confidentiality and trust. Practitioners should always safeguard critical information about their clients and conduct their work in a discrete, professional manner.

“My business is 100 percent referral and thus far untraceable. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned when you orchestrate, coordinate and otherwise mess with fate, it’s best to fly under the radar.” - Hitch

Hitch understands that secrecy is an important part of public relations but he also knows that it should never override ethics and the public interest.

Strong ethical standards are always an important component to being a successful public relations practitioner. Hitch’s own moral compass is showcased often through his sense of compassion and understanding. Early on in the film, he asserts his standards and refuses to work with chauvinist Vance Munson as a client.
“Hit it and quit it is not my game.” -Hitch

Passionate PR professionals care about and protect their brands from misperception and falsehoods. Hitch does this while also emphasizing his ethical principles when he later clarifies his association with Albert to Allegra. My job is not to deceive Ms. Cole. It’s to create opportunities.” - Hitch

Promoting a brand also requires positive energy and confidence. Hitch does so with an air of savoir faire about him. He highlights this quality often through the use of constructive quotes.

“Basic principles: No matter what, no matter when, no matter who, any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom.” - Hitch

“Like I always tell my clients - begin each day as if it were on purpose.” - Hitch

“Always remember, life is not the amount of breathes you take. It’s the moments that take your breath away.” - Hitch
“Never lie, steal, cheat, or drink. But if you must lie, lie in the arms of the one you love. If you must steal, steal away from bad company. If you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink in the moments that take your breath away.” - Hitch

Did you happen to notice the recurring theme in the last two quotes? Catch phrases and slogans are an important part of marketing - even when branding your personal self. Do so eloquently and before you know it, you'll achieve the Hitch factor.
Of course, if Hitch isn't your Jerry McGuire, then maybe you and PR pro Mike Schaffer share the same role model. I hear the guy is “Legen - wait for - Dary! Legendary!”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Building Strong Social Media Guidelines

It is no secret that the growing causes of most crisis PR moments in the past decade were a result of poor social media comprehension. Preventing these disasters proactively should be a major part of any integrated communication and reputation management strategy. That is why it is incredibly important for organizations and companies to develop and implement strong social media policies and guidelines to help safeguard their brand and employees.

It is also important to understand that having social media guidelines is not just critical in regard to reputation management and clarifying gray legal areas. There are many different considerations that should go into guidelines. To begin with, they should be a means of encouragement for employees to help promote and strengthen brands.

Right now I find myself tasked with developing more comprehensive social media guidelines for my own organization. The difference between the Society of Professional Journalists and most entities is that the non-profit organizational structure within SPJ means that the majority of our social media participants are volunteers rather than employees. Because of this, special care is being taken into consideration for writing the content of these guidelines. I'm making a point to seek as much advice as possible to create the best language to help our volunteers adapt to and implement these needed procedures.

When creating your own social media guidelines, it is best to research a wide selection of different examples to help you understand what best reflects your own organizational needs. Working on this project for the past few weeks has taught me a lot about different types of policies and I want to share some of the online resources that were a huge benefited for me throughout the process.
Social Media Governance Database - Includes more than 100 different social media policies for a wide spectrum of different companies, organizations and other entities.

How to Deal With Haters and Potty Mouths on Your Newsroom’s Facebook Page - From Journalistics, I loved this article not only for its insightful quality of content focused on Facebook but also because of its light-hearted nature.

10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy - From Mashable, this handy list focuses on what it refers to as the most important aspect of writing guidelines, to better engage target audiences.

On a final note of consideration, a strong policy should make a point to reflect the transformative nature of social media. From Facebook to Twitter, who knows how the next form of communications vehicle will take shape. Even once titans such as Myspace can begin to fall over time as the way we use the Internet continuously evolves.
It is a changing new world online and a strong, durable set of guidelines are just the foundation blocks to helping your brand expand and maintain a positive reputation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Down the Road Less Traveled

A year past. A year ahead. Ambition will lead me...

It may come eight days after the fact but, Happy New Year! I know mine has certainly been exciting and already filled with new challenges.

For me, 2010 was quite a year. The remaining days of my college tenure were filled with many achievements including creating, developing and implementing a student government debate; leading my chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and awards recognition for my creation of a public service PR campaign. I also came across a few failures along the way.

After graduating I found myself working in one of the best possible entry-level jobs I could ask for with the Society of Professional Journalists. Stationed at its national headquarters in Indianapolis, the past few months have been an incredible benefit in developing my PR, marketing and media relations experience. Even more, it's given me the opportunity to be an important part of a non-profit organization that is devoted to improving and protecting journalism and the First Amendment.

I was lucky to once sit on the front row of a presentation featuring NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw when he said "You cannot let this forum go away. If you lose journalism, you'll lose the essence of the republic." Even in the turmoil journalism has faced over the past decade, I still have hope for its changing future and the Society is a part of that.

My blog has also continued to improve over the past few months. And for all of those who tweeted, shared and commented on "35 Big Twitter Hashtags for PR Pros," it is both a humbling and thankful experience to know it has been such a useful resource helping many students and practitioners. Thank you for sharing with me.

So here I am at a New Year - 2011. And no yearly beginning is complete without resolutions to hold one's self accountable by!

My Resolutions:
  1. I will continue to adhere to strong ethical standards in the practice of public relations while working to expand my knowledge and experience beyond my current capabilities.

    (Well that first one was easy. Let's just call it my "mission statement" resolution. Now how about some "meat and potatoes" resolutions that are a little more"objective" based.)

  2. I will fully participate in a minimum of 10 PR related Twitter chats in this list of 13 by Petya N. Georgieva by the end of December 2011.

  3. I will increase both the quality and yearly quantity of the entries here on my blog to better enhance my professional experiences and service to other PR professionals with a minimum of 20 posts by the end of December 2011.

  4. I will officially pursue an APR accreditation while improving my fundamental knowledge of communications theory and its application in the field to better serve clients, the public and the PR profession by the end of September 2011.

I have to admit that the last resolution was honestly the scariest one to write out loud. The APR is an important asset that is the nation's only post-graduate certification program. Studying for this accreditation is an intense and time consuming process that takes patience. Nevertheless, the benefits will help in my career enhancement and promote lifelong learning.

It's important to believe in goals but saying them out loud is what breathes life into them and makes them real. No success is ever achieved without ambition and faith in yourself. I certainly would not have had such an incredible year in 2010 if not for that philosophy.

Where will your ambitions take you this year?