Sword and the Script

How to deal with the social media complainers

Twitter’s divided says Mashable – and it has rigorous data to back up the claim.  It’s seems there’s a division forming on Twitter between two camps:  The happy and the miserable.

In other words, the happy people have formed little Happy Twitter clubs. Meanwhile misery loves company in social media – as much as, if not more than, in real life,” read the post.

The challenge is the miserable can be distracting and range from a minor annoyance to a daily if not hourly thorn on the keyboard: The miserable complain. No matter what you do…you can’t please them. 

What do you do about it?  If you’ve already tried to help, but couldn’t get anywhere, perhaps the solution is to do nothing.

Peter Shankman dubs a person like this as “the constant complainer” in Customer Service:  New Rules for a Social Media World.

“Strangely, the constant complainer isn’t that big of a threat to you,” he writes. “In the end, no one takes them seriously. Of course, you should try to solve his problem.  But remember that the constant complainer isn’t as important as the one-time-complainer because most likely, no one listens to the constant complainer anymore, anyway.”

It’s the electronic version of crying wolf.  You only get so many cries before people start discounting what you say.  This is especially important for PR pros:  imagine what a future employer or customer might think if they peruse your Twitter stream and see nothing but complaints?

Photo credit:  Flickr, frotzed2
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Smart (and enchanting) things I’ve heard (3.14.11)

Smart things – when you hear something smart it’s worth writing them down, to internalize them, to make them their own.  It’s been a while since I wrote a smart things post, and though I offered something that resembles a review of Guy Kawasaki’s new book, previously, I had admitted to being only 62 pages into it.

On a recent Southwest flight, I was able to finish it up.  While reading, I diligently highlighted points I found interesting and dog-eared the pages. Here’s a list of a handful of citations from those pages.

1.  “Embrace the nobodies,” Guy writes on page 62. “Anyone who understands and embraces your cause and want to spread the word is worthy of your attention.”    I agree with this philosophy on so many levels – and have strong sense that it’s often worthwhile to forget the “influencers” and focus on those who actually care about your brand.  It will grow in time and produce what Charlene Li called the Groundswell.  It’s also a pretty good argument for being thankful for those Retweets on Twitter.

2.  “Engage many,” reads the subhead on page 113.  “Don’t focus on the rich , famous and traditional influencers…Remember: Nobodies are the new somebodies in the world of wide-open communications.”  It’s an echo of line one, but the point rings true and is worth restating.

3.  “Surprise your fans,” says the Holy Kaw guy on page 141 about Facebook fans.  “From time to time, give your Facebook fan page a burst of excitement by introducing initiatives like ‘Fan Page Friday’ or ‘Share Your Blog Day’ and invite all your fans to share their links on your wall. The latter seems like a creative PR idea to me – and one that enhances the relationship with your existing fans.   It’s also the type of tangible advice this book will leave you with.

4.  Don’t make a “viral video” your goal for YouTube, he writes, enlisting the help of Greg Jarboe, who wrote the book on YouTube marketing. “The right goal is to provide a steady supply of video that is inspiring, entertaining, enlightening, or educational and that, over time, enchants people.”  In other words, forget about home runs and focus on base hits.  Greg makes an appearance on page 141.

5.  He provides a little culture too – the Japanese word “Yahoku-no-bi” means “appreciating the beauty of what is implied, unstated and unexpressed.  Application:  Don’t sell past the close in your enhancement efforts.”  Selling past the close is sales folk knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, which means when you get to a “yes” leave it alone. You’re done.  You won.  He tells us so on page 149.

6.  Another bit of knowledge from Japan:  bakatore comes to the reader on page 151.  “It means ‘stupid’ or ‘foolish,’ and it’s the perfect description of people who think disenfranchised employees can enchant customers.”  This is an important point for managers:  don’t haggle over a few hundred dollars.  Pay for performance and promote for potential.  If you do that, you’re employees will be happier and enchant your customers.

7.  “Make your boss look good,” Kawasaki writes on page 165, providing advice in this book to both managers and employees alike.  “You should do this within the boundaries of ethics and morality, but the reality is that when your boss looks good, you look good.”  It reminds of what Ralph Waldo Emerson is attributed as saying, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
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PR as lipstick on the proverbial pig

Lipstick.  Until we collectively do something about it, it’ll be there staring us in the face.

“I reject the characterization of public relations in this book,” wrote Richard Edelman on his blog 6 A.M. “It is degrading and deeply flawed.”

Edelman was referring to a new book by Philip KotlerMarketing 3.0 and he cites several examples from the book including:

We have observed that many companies undertake socially responsible actions as public relations gestures. Marketing 3.0 is not about companies doing public relations. It is about companies weaving values into their corporate cultures.

Some employees are ignorant of their corporate values or see them designed only for public relations.

In Marketing 3.0, addressing social challenges should not be viewed only as a tool of public relations…on the contrary companies should act as good corporate citizens and address social problems deeply within their business models.

I have not read the book (yet), but I have read some of Kotler’s earlier books, notably his textbooks and also Kotler on Marketing, which I found helpful, even enlightening. He is after all a tenured professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management which houses a very reputable MBA program.   Read More…

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5 must have iPhone apps for social media

Since switching from a Blackberry Curve to an iPhone early last year, a whole new world has opened up via iPhone apps.  It is to put it mildly, been an enlightening experience.

“But just as Web 2.0 is simply Web 1.0 that works, the idea has come around again. Those push concepts have now reappeared as APIs, apps, and the smartphone,” wrote Wired in a provocatively titled article last August. “And this time we have Apple and the iPhone/iPad juggernaut leading the way, with tens of millions of consumers already voting with their wallets for an app-led experience. This post-Web future now looks a lot more convincing. Indeed, it’s already here.”

Wired was partly wrong. Maybe it’s genius or maybe it’s just out there. The Web is not dead, but it is true that more and more people are accessing media on the go.

Research firm eMarketer says U.S. smartphone users will rise to 109 million people – one-third of the total U.S. population by 2015 – or a 50% increase between now and then.  

As I test out new tools and experiment with new apps, here are five that I have found very compelling for social media:

Reddit.   It’s a social bookmarking site in some ways similar to Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon and in many ways it’s different. For example it’s owned by Condé Nast, which acquired Reddit in 2006.  The iPhone app is a great tool to get relevant news for selected categories on the go.  One of the things I like about Reddit is that it has a subcategory uniquely for public relations, sadly though, just a handful of PR pros use it.  Pity.  Reddit is a source of traffic. As Mashable wrote, “Reddit has reached a new milestone: 1 billion monthly pageviews. That’s up 300% from a year ago and a 20% increase from just last month.”  The iPhone app is free.

AdFeed Flairification.  It’s an app featuring curated content by @BryanJones according to the introduction on Apple’s App Store.  What I like about the app is a) the content and b) the share-ability of content as denoted in the screenshot nearby.  It’s amazing to me how many apps out there make it difficult to share content on Twitter or other social networks. If you spend the time and effort to get an iPhone app made, make sure the content is easy to share!  This iPhone app too is free.

 Yammer.  It’s like Facebook but for a select few.  In other words you can create a social network just for your company – it’s an excellent way to collaborate and stay up to date.  For example, I will often share news coverage with the rest of the team on Yammer rather than clogging up the old email inbox and since many people are already using Facebook, Yammer is easy to understand and adopt.  The iPhone app simply provides access while on the road.  While I’m currently on a leave of absence from my employer, Yammer provides me with a way to see what’s going on internally within the company.  It’s a free iPhone app.

Facedekk.  This app will set you back $2.99.  It’s a paltry sum given it allows you to manage Facebook fan pages and your own account while on the road, something I have not been able to figure out how to do on Facebook’s own organic app. It’s definitely a cool tool for social media community managers who need to respond and curate content on Facebook fan pages from anywhere there’s a mobile signal.

“Work geography is dead.”

Flickr.  What I like about Flickr is it allows me to take and share photos – images that I might later use for blog posts on these pages, or short snipits like this post on Posterous:  Are you asking me or telling me?  Since my Posterous and Flickr accounts are linked any images that I share on Posterous are automatically shared on Flickr.  Sometimes however, in the process I might share a screenshot that I don’t feel is a fit for Flickr.  The Flickr iPhone app allows me to manage, edit or delete photos from my iPhone from almost anywhere. It also allows me to view new posts from my social contacts and perhaps, if they’ve agreed to the Creative Commons, I can use their photos in a post with attribution.  Why are images so important?  Because they capture a reader’s eye, draw them in and can increase the amount of time they spend with your content.

Work geography is dead,” wrote Peter Shankman in a blog post from early February. I couldn’t agree more.  I’m increasingly finding, I can almost get my entire job done with little more than an iPhone.

What apps do you find especially useful on the move?

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Holy Kaw! How PR can enchant bloggers

Guy Kawasaki has launched his newest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions. I’m only on page 61, though I’ve had the book for a while, but I’m more enchanted by his promotion strategy.

Guy started an “online magazine rack” called Alltop which is a directory of sorts for blogs covering a range of subjects related to business, for example a while ago, I submitted this blog to AllTop’s PR category.  

When Guy was getting ready to launch his book, he sent an email to the blogger’s who had registered on Alltop. The offer?  Get the book early and consider writing a review on your blog.

What is in my mind a creative PR idea, has resulted in excellent results.  He enchanted Beth Harte, Jeff Esposito offered a video review, and Search Engine Land ran with a magical headline today. In fact, a quick scan of Google blog search turn some 7,000 results.

What worked about this campaign?

1. Existing relationships.  By virtue of the Alltop listing Guy had a pre-existing relationship with bloggers.  He’d given bloggers a tool to promote their blog long before asking for something in return.

2. Made an exclusive offer.  As a member of Alltop’s listings, bloggers were offered something for free:  a chance to preview the book.  It was sent at no cost.

3.  Invitation to be part of something.  It’s perhaps a combination of the two previous notes, but Guy’s invitation was a chance to be part of a special community with mutual benefits.

Though I’m only part way through the book, which is more like a self-help book than a business book, it is an interesting read.  Guy defines enchantment as “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea.  The outcome of enchantment is a voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.”

He offers advice, for example he says it’s okay to swear in social media infrequently and “only in cases of forehead-smacking hypocrisy, arrogance, intentional inaccuracy and dishonesty.”

He picks inspirational quotes to lead his chapters, like Zig Ziglar’s remark tha, “Every sale has five basic obstacles:  no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

And he provides personal stories – anecdotes from entrepreneurs like Fran Shea who lead E! Entertainment to illustrate his points.

But by far and large, for me, the best part about his book was the launch plan.  In a world of reoccurring missteps that lead to timeless posts about blogger relations, he’s nailed this one pretty solidly. And bloggers can have fun with their headlines.

As Guy might say, Holy Kaw!

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Instagram’s creative PR idea

Instagram is a photo sharing app that has taken the social media world by storm having earned some 2 million registered users and growing.  Instgram is different in two key respects. 

First, it is available only on an iPhone.  Unlike a site like Flickr, Instagram does not offer a platform for you to share photos, rather it provides a utility to easily augment them with a different look and then share it on your existing platforms – say Twitter, email or Facebook.  This utility is the second key difference and what I like about it is the ability to accent their photos with a hint of nostalgia.
For example, it turned this photo:

Into this photo:

Instagram has made many headlines of late – too many perhaps for the company to answer five questions this humble blogger sent by email – but despite its success, the company seems to be committed to building a community for the long haul.

Instagram developed a MeetUp group called “Instameet” and encourages users to use the hashtage #instatmeet.   When I sent my email inquiry on February 26th, this group had 176 “instagrammers” in 88 cities.   Tonight, as I write this post, they have 375 instagrammers in 154 cities.

While it’s a relatively small number compared to the company’s 8,000+ Facebook fans, or 93,000 Twitter followers, The MeetUp group is an exceptionally creative PR idea because 1) it provides its large base of users a self-managed forum to meet with like-minded users, 2) in the tightknit and passionate world of photography – from hobbies tot expert — this group is likely to grow deep roots, 3) it creates advocates by engaging users on a grand, yet low cost, scale while allowing them to be part of something larger than the company itself.

Perhaps most importantly is the fourth reason:  such events encourage users to share ideas and facilitates the creative use of its tool to measureable ends.  As Mashable wrote, “NPR is challenging followers to capture #love or #hate in an original photo, Andy Carvin, a senior strategist on NPR’s social media team, tells us.

Check out NPR’s use of Instagram here.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this post about another MeetUp group: DC Flacks: Growing like Fight Club for PR pros
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Confessions and Media Relations

I’ve got a confession to make:  I could have been “outed” out for an aggressive pitch once. Maybe more than once.

Many years ago, my first job with a PR firm landed me the task of pitching a story about a big phone company that had teamed up with a big convenience store chain to do a national give-away on Memorial Day. They were giving out free phone cards to the first 100 military, fire or police veterans that walked through any store and asked for one.

No catch. No proof.  The honor code was in effect. In those days, everyone did not have a mobile phone with unlimited calling, so it was a generous offer.

The team drew up a geographical map and I was assigned Boston.  It was my first pitching experience as a professional working for a PR firm. I had something to prove.

I wrote up a pitch with several different angles tailored to the various beats, for example lifestyle or business.  I started searching through the Web sites for reporters I thought were relevant and began making calls.

First reporter wasn’t interested.  I looked some more.  Second reporter wasn’t interested.  Searched a bit more.  Third reporter wasn’t interested.  Not to be dissuaded, I called fourth and got a bite.

“Really?  That sounds interesting. I know just the person that would be interested….hold on, I’ll transfer you.”

And transfer me he did.  The next reporter answered the transferred call.  I gave my spiel.

“Yeah, that sounds interesting.  Hold on, I’ve got someone you should talk to.”  He transferred the call.

When the next reporter picked up, I gave the pitch and he set in motion another transfer. I hung up.

The realization – remember I was young – slowly dawned on me that there was a group of reporters huddled in cubicles in Boston, laughing and passing me around. It was humbling. I was embarrassed and though I can laugh today, it’s still a bit embarrassing.

Back then it was far less common for a journalist to blow a gasket and go off on a PR person.  Chris Anderson hadn’t lost his cool yet and PR pros weren’t yet unfollowing journalists following unflattering stories. Bloggers weren’t in the picture either.  But times have changed.

Today it’s the kind of pitching that could land a headline like this:
I’ve opted for a screenshot of the headline, rather than a link, because I don’t want to contribute to the SERP.   In fact, I won’t mention the person identified or the publication by name here for the same reason.  For those interested, the article can be easily found in search.

The outcry against the publication has been tremendous. I’ve read each and every one of the 344 comments submitted and they overwhelmingly condemn the publication’s actions.  For example, here were two of the stronger reactions:

Blog posts have sprouted up with similar sentiment.

“The story looks like a case of one person using their position of power…to slam another,” wrote one blogger.  “Was (name’s) email so out of line as to deserve the disproportionate response (from a different journalist than the one he was corresponding with) that he received? No way. Not even close,” said another.  “Unfortunately, many readers disagreed with Wauters’ assessment.  In fact, they felt the smackdown itself was mean-spirited and for the most part, unwarranted,” opined a third.  

What was supposed to be an “outing” of an ostensibly inappropriate PR response, turned into something of a backlash against the outlet.  I won’t pass judgment on the PR pro mentioned, though I might have handled it differently, the outcome could happen to any PR professional. In an age of blogging, it can also happen to any reporter or blogger. 

The reality is that news is relative.  What’s news to one reporter isn’t news to another.  I’ve had pitches I felt were lame and reporters gobbled them up, meanwhile I’ve had other pitches – solve world hunger with the snap of a finger pitches – only to have reporter write back and say, “Yeah, but what’s the news hook?”

News is not a science, and if there’s one thing that social web has shown me is that masses people can be very interested in a topic – as evidenced by social interactions – yet the media yawns. Meanwhile the media can be very interested in a topic and the masses yawn.

As for media relations confessions, since I’m about to embark on a year-long hiatus, I figured I’d get that confession off my chest. I’d prefer to “out” myself on a time of my own choosing than to get bushwhacked on a Friday afternoon:  What comes around goes around.  
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20 plus places to look for a PR job

20 plus places to look for a PR job

Got to love what you do!

by Frank Strong

Did you know that PR director is one of the best jobs in America?  At least it made the list of the best 100 jobs in America as compiled by money magazine.

Since I do a lot of networking (physical networking) in the local area, I run into a lot of people asking me about jobs.  Providing a list of resources is the first of a couple of posts I have planned.
The list below are some sites that I’ve had success in previous job searches.  If they are not listed in any order and if there’s a site you think I missed and should add – tweet me a link @Frank_Strong and I’ll check it out and consider posting.
Read More…

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5 creative marketing and PR videos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth a million.  

Somehow motion elicits emotion:  It surprises us with introspection, like what we search for in Google. It scares us with reality, like what Google knows about us.  It answers important questions, like why work doesn’t get done.

The oft-cited Old Spice videos might be the gold standard for views, but it’s important point out they worked because they were relevant, timely and personal. For the naysayers – the Old Spice campaign did drive sales.  

Here are five creative marketing and PR videos that have stood out for me lately:

1.  A city from paper clips.  What could be a harder job than making a company known for selling stationary sound exciting? Try building a city from the inventory on your shelves.  That’s what Staples did with this creative idea which O’Dwyer & Co. posted to their Facebook page and wrote this little story.   “Staples opening a store in Sydney doesn’t have the compelling storyline of, say, a keyboard-playing cat, but the office supply retailer was able to get some YouTube love (about 100K views) for the spot below, which recreates the city using common office items,” wrote writer Greg Hazley.

2.  The happy machine.  We’ve all been there once or twice.  The vending machine that takes your money.  And takes your money.  And takes your money…without giving anything in return.  Ragan.com’s Staci Tara Diamond posted this linke in a tweet the other day to a video marketing firm Definition6 created for Coca-Cola – the happiness vending machine.  They’ve turned it into a series with follow-on videos like the happy truck.

3.  Cutting through the clutter.  Another hat tip to the Ragan crew for ferreting out this outrageous, but relevant video pitch aimed at New York Times writer David Pouge.  For all the grief reporters give press releases pitching meetings at trade shows, this is a creative PR idea with a twist.  What will it cost?  Getting the founder of your company to dress up in a wig and a polka dot dress.   Oh, snap!  Scheduling conflict.  It didn’t work, but an “A” for effort from the man himself.  It’s still a nice wig, Jeremy!  And a very creative pitching effort. Blogger, photographer and PR pro Becky Johns has a great post on some similar PR pitches – that had better results!

4.  Mediocrity works.  Perfect is the enemy of good, or so the saying goes. Subaru drove all the “predictability of the other sedans out there and rolled them into one,” with this spoof of a car commercial for the 2011 Mediocrity.  “Bells and whistles?  Not on my watch,” says one plain looking character dully.  What’s the message?  Subaru is the antithesis of mediocrity.

5.  Use your customer’s words in a video. On the very last question on a survey about influence I worked on for Vocus with Brian Solis, we asked people to define influence in 140 characters. We took the open ended answers, analyzed them in a tag cloud, where the more often the word was used by the 611 respondents, the larger it was rendered.  The result could be used to form a sentence defining influence, which roughly read: the ability or power to influence people to action.  We used the respondents’ words to define influence – the same way smart phone maker HTC used a word cloud to define what its customers wanted in a new smart phone – 4G meets android in a smaller package — as depicted in this video below. Rival Verizon could take a page from this book with a tag cloud of Twitter:  here’s what 90,000 Tweets say about the Verizon iPhone.

Looking for tips? 
I’ve found ReelSEO to be a blog worth following for tips and trick for online video, with posts like this one on How To View & Analyize YouTube Statistics For Any YouTube Video.  And PR, SEO and occasional interviewer for Search Engine Strategies, Greg Jarboe, wrote a book worth reading called YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.  The time you spend with it might be worth a million words. 

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5 things Batman can teach about social media

If there’s a thing to love about superheros it’s the superhero that succeeds without superpowers. It defies expectations when an ordinary citizen does extraordinary things, through hard work, diligence and a sharp mind. 

That’s what I like about Bruce Wayne, better known as Batman.  Here’s five things he can teach us about social media:

1.  Be observant.  Batman is a detective a heart – a crime solver that succeeded in many ways because he was observant. He connects the dots by listening and watching first and speaking or doing second. Social media is similar in that customers and prospects will tell you what they want if we take a step back and observer first.

2.  Be responsive.  When the bad guys roll into town and create havoc, the city folk can put up the spotlight with the Batman logo on it and he comes to the rescue.  Likewise in social channels, customers send social signals seeking responses and information.  We don’t have to know all the answers – sometimes it took Batman a whole movie to solve the big problem – just know where to find them and help our customers do the same.

3.  Be passionate.  Batman saw his parents murdered and dedicated his life to fighting crime.  He found his passion, which boils down to solving puzzles and problems.  Our customers and prospects have puzzle and problems every day and express them on social media. For those relevant to our industries, these should be easy to get passionate about, or we’ve got an altogether different problem.

4.  Relationships matter. The Dark Knight doesn’t do it alone. He’s got a team to help, from his kindly and loyal butler, to his sidekick Robin and Chief Gordon, Batman’s got relationships built on trust. Most important of all is his relationship with his community – Gotham City.  Who are our social media friends and how are we looking out for them?

5.  You don’t need a superpower to be successful.  “Sometimes, I admit, I think of Bruce as a man in a costume,” said Superman of Batman.  “Then, with some gadget from his utility belt, he reminds me that he has an extraordinarily inventive mind. And how lucky I am to be able to call on him.”  Though he helped out around the Halls of Justice a time or two, Batman can’t leap single buildings in a single bound.  He can’t turn invisible. He doesn’t even run very fast – at least by super hero standards.  His mind is his competitive advantage.   It is ours as well.

Which one do you like best and why?  Is there a sixth or seventh point that could be added?

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Photo credit:  Flickr, abbynormy
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