Sword and the Script

Social media: you get what you give



by Frank Strong

It never ceases to amaze me: people that say social media isn’t working for them also put very little effort into it.

That’s my opinion, because I’ve seen this over and over anecdotally,  but there’s also data behind it.  The proof can be found in the results of a scientific survey, which shows, companies that hardly try social media, get frustrated with the results and quit easily. 

People give up on Twitter because they don’t see a lot of retweets or followers.  They give up on Facebook because there’s few fans and fewer likes. They’ve opted not to experiment with Pinterest or Google+ — after all if the first two sites didn’t work why would these?  But it’s not the sites, it’s the user.

If someone asks, “How come I don’t have more followers?” Answer this question with a question: “Well, when you first walk into a party are people lining up to chat with you?” If they aren’t then you’ll probably have to work a little harder at Twitter.  Read More…

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Marketing Persona: profile of a social SMB



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by Frank Strong

What does the persona of an SMB that’s engaged in social media look like?  It falls generally into these characteristics:

  • The SMB earns $20-30 million in annual sales
  • It has 1-3 people in it’s marketing shop
  • Spends $10,oo0 a year on social media
  • Uses about 3 different tools to manage social media
  • Added social media to the list of existing duties of a marketing person

That’s pretty darn precise, no?  How do I know this? There’s a new survey out by my employer, Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing, which I had a role in analyzing the data. The study Path to Influence: An Industry Study of SMBs and Social Media, which is freely available is unique among surveys in that it’s scientific; it’s statistically valid and has a confidence interval. In other words, the data is rock solid — and so too is the marketing persona.  Read More…

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The best time to tweet about strategy



by Frank Strong

A short while ago I wrote a post that said social media strategists will be gone in 2 years.  The general thesis is that there must be a core strategy that drives what we as marketers do — otherwise we are just building the plane while trying to fly it at the same time.

My perception is that the idea was well received by most — but sharply criticized by others.  As one person commented, “Social media is a TACTIC that you build a STRATEGY around.”

I believe that’s deeply misguided point of view but it’s symptomatic of overexposure to the current state of blogging:  Mind-numbing regurgitation in a world where words have become disposable.  The conversation around marketing strategy has largely dwindled to the blog post about 10 tips for this and 5 tips for that; it’s tactical and nothing more.

Such posts are easy to write…and easier to read.  Many bloggers will attest — tips get clicks — but I worry sometimes we’re doing it at the expense of deeper thinking.  To be clear, I’m guilty of it too, though deep down inside, I loathe writing them, but there’s a self-indictment here. Read More…

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Web round up: principles, community, PR tips and small biz



by Frank Strong

It’s been about six weeks since my last round up of posts from other sites on the web; so here’s to a handful you might have missed with some outbound links to other good reads.

1.  It’s about principles. Ragan.com picked up this post 7 principles of successful PR pros earlier this month, which was originally posted on this blog under the title 7 essential principles to succeed in PR  — though the title difference is subtle.  I’m always flattered when one of Ragan.com’s finest thinks a post I’ve written merits a run in a trade publication that is a staple of our industry — and I find it the polish of those edits both humbling and educational.

In a private conversation with an editor, I shared that this post was really a secret rant — a way for me to organize my thoughts in reaction to an industry problem that a day or two later was rendered in the form of an original post in the same publication: Lying to journalists is not a genius PR stunt.  If you want to know more, read this post, or this one, or this one, or this one  (which has great data, that I went and double checked).  And here’s one journalist’s reaction. Read More…

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Social media is NOT that important



by Frank Strong

Social media never sleeps; therefore PR is a lifestyle not a profession.  This pushes responsiveness to the top of the priority list.

In my heart of hearts, I believe this is true, but I’ve also come to believe that social media is entering a period of normalization.  It’s something akin to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, where expectations were exceedingly high — beyond possible — but are now starting to normalize.  And normalization is sorely needed.

The compulsion to respond immediately with top of mind thoughts is slowly ceding to responding in a timely fashion, but with greater consideration.  Social media can wait.

Last week, I just left traffic court (unfortunately, I have a heavy foot, one of my many faults).  I’m stopped at red light that is malfunctioning and traffic is backed up in a serious way.

Read More…

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The future of social media is email



by Frank Strong

Did you check your mailbox today?  I don’t mean email, I mean your 100% USPS grade mailbox.

Today, my mailbox had two mail order catalogs, a shopping flyer and a piece of political direct mail.  I placed them all directly into the recycling bin nearby without a glance. That’s pretty much the routine these days — there’s very little of value in snail mail these days.  It’s all junk.

Unfortunately the email inbox has followed a similar path.  I receive literally more than 300 emails a day, and I used to consider myself an email master.  Now, it’s all I can do to keep up.  I find deleting emails on my iPhone is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning.

Gosh, that’s a depressing thought.  Heaven forbid I leave my desk for 10 minutes because I’ll come back to 20 messages.

The newsletters are the worst — often produced by the publishers that employ the very  journalists who also complain about PR pitches by email.  Every newsletter in the world now offers an “extra” that comes in the form of an additional email (or two) and a “most read of the week” email which contains headlines I’ve already either skimmed or read.

Worse, few publications offer a way to opt out of the extra newsletters without opting out of the content I actually want — it’s all or nothing.  I’m coming darn close to folding my cards and opting for nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I like newsletters, I subscribe to them for a reason, but I didn’t consent to the same content in triplicate.     Read More…

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CEOs that engage make a remarkable difference



by Frank Strong

All leaders have different styles.   CEOs are leaders, and it’s evident they too develop unique styles.

Steve Jobs might have been a celebrity CEO, with a finger in many operational buckets.  I view Mark Zuckerberg as the public face; hence the addition of Sheryl Sandberg to focus on operations.   Eric Schmidt is relatively quiet; the professional CEO brought in to focused on management.  When he does say something publicly, there’s usually an echo.

Some CEOs serve as the chief sales person and swoop in to close big deals.  Others are thought leaders, inspiring the world with their ideas.  Still others are focus on metrics, and usually lean towards internal communication, in a quiet, reserved and unassuming fashion.

Right or wrong, I’ll leave it to the leadership experts to mull.   There’s a credible argument to be made, if a CEO is too worried about the public face, they aren’t focused on the job.  There’s a credible counter argument too. Read More…

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7 essential principles to succeed in PR



by Frank Strong

7-essential-principles-to-succeed-in-PR
Forget strategy for a minute.  Put tactics on pause.  Forget leads, conversions and sales.

Let’s consider principles.  I can’t say these will work for you, I can only say they have worked for me.  I’ve titled them principles to succeed in PR, but they may well be relevant for those in other industries.

My seven principles are:

1.   Our word is everything.

If we give our word, we must keep it.  It’s a choice.  I tend avoid absolutes (never | always) in PR because there are *(almost) always* exceptions, but when it comes to our word, there are no exceptions.  We either keep it or we do not, there is no in between.

2.  Persuasion over manipulation.  

Critics might argue semantics, but I believe the contrast is stark between persuasion and manipulation.  Aim to convince people your idea is so compelling it merits interest, rather than try to fool bloggers or reporters for a quick hit.

3.  PR is a marathon, not a sprint.

PR is not a quick hit.  It doesn’t (usually) happen fast.  It happens over time, it’s cumulative and it snow balls like momentum. Whether you work for a corporation or an agency, we must manage expectations to allow time for us to persuade.

4.  Strive to treat everyone with dignity.  

General officers have this quality. Some CEOs have this quality.  I’ll be the first to admit, I fall short here and I do so often.  We are all human.  We get mad.  We react. Flight or fight is instinctive to the degree beyond even a scientific understanding.  But strive.  Maslow’s hierarchy is the same for everyone.

5.  Intellectual curiosity is paramount.  

There is very little we can absorb in a moment that will help; beyond the weather or traffic, there’s little in the news that will make us instantly smart, rather it is the aggregate, of reading over time that builds knowledge.  We should read everything we can get out hands on. Read about business to build competence.  Read fiction to spark creativity.  Read history for context — sometimes the most successful entrepreneurs aren’t students of business, but students of history because they understand context.  My iPhone is brimming with information. Apps to bring me content.  Podcasts for news.  Audiobooks for ideas.  When we have a free minute we can add ideas or we can play Angry Birds. Here’s three books I recommend reading:

6.  It’s okay to make mistakes.  

When learning to ski as a young boy, my father used to say, “You have to fall down 1,000 times before you’re an expert.”  It’s okay to make mistakes.  Fall down. Break a leg.  Reflect. Later, think though what went right and what went wrong — herein lies the key to improvement.

7.  Do something you love.  

If going to work bears a big, black cloud over our heads, then it’s time to leave.  If we don’t believe in our product, our service or our cause, if our heart isn’t in it, then it’s time to go. Mark Twain once said, and it’s one of my favorite quotes, “Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did.  So cast of the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor.  Let the trade winds catch your sales.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

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PR and Lagniappe



by Frank Strong

Lagniappe.  I can’t remember who first introduced me to the word, but it’s been siting in my “idea” folder for several months now.

According to Wikipedia, lagniappe (lan-yap) “is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase.  Think a baker’s dozen.

To me, lagniappe represents the idea of doing more than is expected.  In military parlance, the cliche is “exceeding the standard” or “going above and beyond.”

In business, it has other applications.  A PR pro that stays a little later to read up on a reporter and send a relevant pitch, or responding to one more comment.  A customer service representative that goes beyond just solving a problem and helps a customer derive more value. The sales person that links up two customers that have like minds and can help each other out.

Lagniappe isn’t a noun, it’s a verb, or better yet it’s a state of mind, or a philosophy.  This is especially relevant for PR pros, because PR isn’t a profession, it’s a lifestyle. Read More…

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Content marketing is the new branding



by Frank Strong

content marketing branding

Military awards, in a sense, are branding.

“Truth is irrelevant. What matters are the perceptions that exist in the mind.  The essence of positioning thinking is to accept the perceptions as reality and then restructure those perceptions to create the position you desire.” – Al Ries, and Jack Trout in the 20th anniversary edition of Positioning:  The Battle for Your Mind.

What is branding?  On cattle it’s a burn mark that denotes ownership.  The permanence, perhaps even the cruelty, of that mark is hard to disguise.  It’s a sign of ownership.  Perhaps power.   It’s not easily erased.

For organizations, from non-profits to public companies, brands have become symbols. Symbols of quality, of guarantee, and of validation. For many, branding has been relegated to a logo.  This is misguided thinking.

No one loves a company for its logo.  No one hates a company, but loves their logo.  A logo is not a brand.  Read More…

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