Sword and the Script

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.

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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

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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Nine Takeaways from Lee Odden’s Optimize

by Frank Strong

Lee Odden‘s new book Optimize as about 10 years of blogging — and all the lessons and experience that go into that endeavor – stuffed into 232 pages.

If you follow the Online Marketing Blog many of the themes Lee and his team write about there are distilled, refined and presented an easy to read book.

“Lee tackles the triple crown of online marketing – SEO, social media, and content marketing,” wrote Geoff Livingston in a review on Amazon.com. “As social networks became entrenched in the online space, search increasingly used social verification to qualify online content…The result is a seamless intertwining of the three disciplines. None of them alone are strong enough to succeed, but together organizations can deploy knock out strategies.”

There’s one other major theme in Lee’s book:  PR.  Lee’s done a lot to get the basics of SEO across to PR pros because whether they know it or not, PR pros are perhaps one of the best means for authoritative link-building. And link’s are arguable still the top determining factor in search rankings, which in turn, is still a primary means for people to find content.   Read More…

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Posts from around the web this month

by Frank Strong

I write.  A lot.  I enjoy it.

For me, writing is thinking.  And I thrive under deadline.

I’m the type of person that thinks out loud.  That’s just how my brain works.  I like to jot those ideas down and with blogging I can publish them and see what others think.  Blogging is the ultimate testing ground.  Often, this process causes my ideas to sharpen, to gain focus and then we start getting somewhere.

From time to time, I am afforded the opportunity to write some guest posts.   I’ve read you should save your best posts for guests posts — and I try to do that.  If you’d like me to write one for you,  just ask.

I also tend to post once a week on the Vocus Blog, which Chris manages,  and sometimes on BloggingPRWeb, our other blog, which Stacey manages.  Both probably would like to get a few more posts out of me, for which I feel perpetually guilty.   Read More…

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Acknowledgement: One Simple way to Turn Fans into Fanatics

by Frank Strong


The face was familiar.  I’ve seen that smile many times over the years at the check-out register.  She’s always polite, efficient and makes me feel like a valued customer.  That’s a big reason why I shop there.

It was the weekend.  She wasn’t wearing that same familiar branded polo shirt, but I knew it was her.  I smiled, waved, and started to say hello.

And then it happened.

She walked right past me, looking straight ahead without the slightest glimmer of  recognition.

I was stunned.  It’s not the money I’ve spent in her employer’s store. It’s not the fact I’ve been a loyal customer for five years now.  It’s not even the fact I’ve seen her on a weekly basis that bothers me.  What eats at me is that behavior is not even human.

There are few things in the world as cold as being ignored.  Yet it happens everyday. Read More…

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We are all journalists, but are we editors?

by Frank Strong


journalists, editors, citizen journalists

No editors exists on the locks in Paris.

ed·i·tor  noun  1. a person having managerial and sometimes policy-making responsibility for the editorial part of a publishing firm or of a newspaper, magazine, or other publication.

“We’re all editors now.”  So said Mike Huckabee on a satellite radio broadcast of his right-leaning Fox News show, which I heard in between the seemingly ubiquitous advertisements for Reputation.com, and my incessant channel flipping.   The flipping was surely a result of the annoyance with the the sizable volume of Sunday evening traffic on Interstate 95 North.

Even so the contrast struck me as stark.   Read More…

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