Sword and the Script

5 things scuba diving teaches me about PR



by Frank Strong

We can see parallels in nearly anything.  Sometimes analogies work; other times they don’t.  It depends on perspective – and experiences.

As a long time member of reserve components of the military, I often think of PR as the “indirect fire” – the artillery and mortars that “softens” up a beach before the infantry assaults (think familiarity before a sales call).  I once had a boss that thought that was ridiculous; I had another that thought it was genius.

So having just returned from a Scuba diving vacation in Bonaire, I was reviewing (amateurish) photos I had taken and had this inspiration.  Maybe it’ll work for some but not others, but here’s five things Scuba diving makes me think about in PR:

1. Check your buddy’s equipment before you dive.  Most Scuba courses teach you to do this; but some get sloppy after a while.  Don’t let complacency set in – recreational diving has one redundant system and that’s your buddy’s air. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be sucking water: that’s not good.  There isn’t a second chance.  Likewise, proof you work before you publish.  As the old saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Read More…

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A Marketing Conversation with a Small Business Entrepreneur



by Frank Strong

small-business-marketing
Word-of-mouth.  That’s the only marketing Curt said he does for his small business.

Clean cut, casually dressed, and the adoptive parent of three children from Ethiopia, Curt is a pediatric dentist that sat next to me on a recent flight back from the Netherlands Antilles. We talked marketing for the better part of a couple hours; I asked a lot of questions and listened.

Curt isn’t a marketer, he’s an entrepreneur, with a small practice and handful of employees.  The biggest hit he takes on a vacation isn’t the cost of airfare or a room at a resort – it’s the fact he isn’t billing — and that is easily 4 or 5 times the cost of his vacation.

“If my hands aren’t wet, then I’m not making any money,” he told me.  In fact he said he tells his staff that all the time.

His take on pediatric dentistry is simple:  good communication, a light-hearted manner with kids, and the knowledge that the parents rather than the children are his patients. His staff is forbidden from mentioning words like “ouch” or “boo-boo” or anything remotely similar in the office.  He rattled off about 20 such words and phrases; I can only remember two, but then, armed with an electric toothbrush, I’m not afraid of the dentist.

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Smart things: A blog building secret 13APR12



Hey, the Washington Nationals won their season opener yesterday with 3-2 victory with an extra-inning over the Cincinnati Reds. That’s got to be a good omen even if DC’s traffic is an everlasting nightmare. Nearby the Nat’s mascot waves the club’s flag as happy fans exited the stadium – this mascot doesn’t get the opportunity to do that often!

Returning from the game, the first season opener I’ve ever attended, I sat down to write this week’s smart things:

1.  A secret to building a blog.  Comments – as bloggers, we love them on our own posts, so it seems logical to build a blog, it’s important to comment on other blogs.  Ken Mueller wrote a fantastic post last week titled 6 Reasons You Should Comment on Other Blogs that explains why.  For example, his first reason is “you get to know other people” and that’s very true. There is a sense of a sub-community among people that comment regularly.  Ken’s enthusiasm also comes with guidelines such as, “don’t comment just to comment,” which is sage advice; save your comments for when you really have something to offer.  In the spirit of his post, there’s a lively discussion with great points in the comments on that post.  Smart thing:

But there’s one area of blogging and marketing that we tend to ignore: commenting. And I don’t necessarily mean the comments on our own blogs, thought that’s important. I’m talking about the importance of commenting on the blogs of others.

2.  Considering the source.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was subject of a crisis recently; but the crisis was based on false information.  Unfortunately, several mainstream publications ran with the story without checking the veracity.  There are several worthwhile posts on the topic including Jeff Domansky’s summary and crisis analysis.  Toddi Gunter focused on the problem in a BlissPR post called, Consider the Source. The title is the point, but it applies to more than just reporters – in a world where infographics are created and shared without much scrutiny, I think Toddi’s words are guidelines for everyone.  Smart thing:

I believe it is more important than ever that the reader, whether it is a citizen journalist, professional journalist or the man on the street, think critically about the source of the information.

3. PR has a negative vibe?  EverythingPR’s Shanna Mallon posted a story this week on the industry that I thought was especially well researched called, Why Does the Word “PR” Put Out Such a Negative Vibe?  She lays out the foundation with references from Bernays to MJ Siegler and then asks, if PR has such a bad vibe, why does it work and why do people still use it.  Her entire post is worth a read, but I believe it boils down to something close to this smart thing:

“PR–finding people who genuinely like a product or service and getting them to talk about it. This type of publicity doesn’t come across as contrived; rather, people tend to trust it.

What smart things have you heard this week?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Smart things: benevolence and fiascos 4.7.12

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Four under-recognized but entirely useful social networks



New social networks used to be greeted with enthusiasm – Friendster, Friendfeed, MySpace.  Each one got a little better, gained users, then fell off the radar.  Today the big three – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – dominate with eyes on Google+ to see if it’s going to make it.

Even so, there are a number of smaller networks that follow a path of launch, traction, an explosion in media coverage, and then they settle into something of a slower growth pattern.

There was a time, for example, a while back when you couldn’t flip open your RSS reader without seeing Quora in the headlines.  Long before its Android application or Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram too had this trajectory where hobbyist techies propelled the network, or app, or whatever we’re calling it these days, into the mainstream.  Pinterest is enjoying this lift right now.

Sometimes a network makes it and some settle comfortably into their niche.  Quora is one I think fits this category.  When I first logged in, I was addicted, quite literally losing sleep in fascination.  Quora in my view has settled a bit, but it’s still interesting and useful.

I think Instagram would have followed a similar path if it hadn’t been acquired.  There’s enough photographers and wannabe photographers that enjoyed the tool.

Despite the buzz it’s getting now, I don’t think Pinterest is going to make itRead More…

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Social media comments: abuse of a writer



Big name tech bloggers.  You either love them or hate them.   I suppose there’s a third option:  love and hate at the same time.

These guys and gals can be subject to a lot of criticism.   Old school journalists cite their quick posts as cavalier and lacking thoroughness. Entrepreneurs tackle their opinions.  Everyone keeps the traffic flowing.

I was taken aback today by the sheer viciousness of the commentary following MG Siegler’s link on Google+ to a blog post he published about Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.  It appears to me he’s turned comments off on his blog, but there isn’t a way to do that for Google+.

I won’t rehash the vitriol here; you can review them on the link above, but suffice to say MG’s been called every name in the book in response to what I thought was a pretty good post. Read More…

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Can PR Support Thought Leadership? (Or Are They Mutually Exclusive?)



Note: This guest post is by Grant Crowell (see bio below), a freelance writer who I met through Twitter and recognize as a savvy contributor to ReelSEO which online video and its impact on search marketing – two areas of growing importance to PR pros.

>>> Recently I came across a rather intriguing debate on if public relations (PR) deserves to be associated as a means of providing thought leadership. My interest originally perked up when I came across a quote Forbes.com contributing writer and business analyst, Haydn Shaughnessy, who’s provided extensive coverage on thought leadership in the social enterprise:

[Thought leadership] is not PR… it has been confused with PR – but it is not relevant to what we understand by public relations. Thought Leadership is not about controlling perceptions – it is about leading them. But leading them in tangible ways. It is not content fodder to bolster the brand. It is all about planning and advocating a route to a new way of doing business, and in ways that reflect well on everybody involved.” Read More…

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Smart things: benevolence and fiascos 4.7.12



I’ve become a pretty avid scuba diver, with 70+ dives under my belt, and as you can probably tell from the many photos I use for this blog (that’s a photos of a giant Grouper nearby), but I’m working on another type of diving:  skydiving.  Uncle Sam has trained me to mountain climb and rappel from helicopters, but I never could get jump school out of him, so I’ve decided to do it myself.

While I’ve gone tandem, there’s something about that leap of faith at 13,000 feet – with a 40 second freefall – when you’re on your own.  I’m a firm believer that adversity, challenges…fear of bouncing off the earth…they build character.  There’s nothing wrong with a little fear – it keeps you on your toes.

At any rate, I’ve been delayed twice this week due to weather – thunderstorms one day and high winds the next.  But perhaps tomorrow, with some gentle westerly winds, I hopefully will knock out both Category A & B dives.  Can the Easter Bunny deliver some clear, calm sunshine to Virginia? Warmth would be nice too.  Word in the hanger is it’s about 15 degrees up there right now.  You can read a post about my tandem dive, with a viral marketing twist here.

And smart things for the week:  Read More…

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Why companies are more prone to social media crisis



 Why would a business deflect the opportunity to speak to customers?

I got an email today, no two, from vendors.  You know the kind…the emails from no-reply@company.com.

Digital River sent me one today that closes by saying, “This email message was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming email. Please do not reply to this message.”  Likewise, Dominion, who has had social media crisis events previously, wrote “Please do not reply to this message; it is simply a courtesy reminder.”

Companies are full of tactics like this – the endless phone tree mazes of press this number or that number – that customers must navigate in an endeavor to reach a live human being.  It’s a waste of time.  No wonder so many customers turn into social media complainers.

Just yesterday, PR Daily’s Michael Sebastian wrote a post titled, For brands, it’s the Teflon Age of PR disasters.  He begins by saying, “Mini-public-relations crises flare up constantly” – and that’s true, but there’s a cause.  I’m suggesting when companies send emails from no-reply addresses, it’s logical to wager that’s a systemic indication that that company is also going to be prone to online flare ups. Read More…

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Lessons from migrating from Blogger to WordPress



Though a relatively late bloomer to the blogging community, there are several reasons why I blog, one thing that stands out for me in hindsight is how important a decision it is to choose a blogging platform.  For this blog, my personal blog, this blog, I’ve used Blogger since my first post in 2009 but in the past couple weeks I’ve made the leap to WordPress.

Blogger is easy.  It’s simple.  It’ll allow you sound control over your blog’s style, theme and personality.   However, because it’s simple, it misses many of the new innovations a more professional platform offers.

Google simply hasn’t devoted the resources to keep Blogger current since it acquired the company in 2003.  For example, you cannot write custom URLs for your blog posts in Blogger.  It’s a simple feature, incredibly important for SEO, yet it hasn’t been rolled out.

I’ve considered migrating to WordPress for a long time and as I tip-toed to the edge, Google would announced new features that made me think they were turning it around. That made me pause. Read More…

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7 insights from a social media marketing study



The Social Media Examiner is out today with its 4th annual survey of social media marketing; 3,800 marketers answered the survey.  Thanks to Adam Sherk for the tip.

Statistically valid?  Perhaps not, but it’s an impressive number of respondents and provides a solid indication of how things are shaping up.  To that end, some of the outcomes are equally impressive. Several things jumped out at me:

1. Social media remains important to business.  No surprise here that 83% of marketers agreed or strongly agreed that social media was important to business.  What was surprising is that 54% of solo business owners strongly agreed with this statement.  That is small shops, with limited time and resources, see the most opportunity in using social media tools.  Is that because they are low cost, or because they are valuable? Read More…

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