19 November 2009

Building Authentic Customer Communities: American Express & Meetup

During the WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas last week, I attended a session with American Express OPEN to learn about their nation-wide Meetups geared toward bringing small business owners together to learn, share and grow.

With over 7 million registered users, American Express OPEN Forum is an online "trading post" bringing together small business owners to share advice, insights and ideas to facilitate the types of connections needed to re-energize the economy. Of course, the more small businesses grow, the better American Express fares, too.

Despite featuring content by Guy Kawasaki, Anita Campbell and Mashable, OPEN Forum wasn't seeing large adoption among its target audience, so American Express partnered with Meetup to provide 30 local small business Meetup groups across the country with curriculum and financial support to help them perform better in a down economy.

05 September 2009

My first week at OgilvyPR

As I look at the calendar, my first week at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide is long gone. I've already been with the firm for just over two weeks, and it already feels like I've worked there for six months. Here's why:

1. The people at Ogilvy are really amazing. I've received an incredibly warm welcome that has helped me ramp up fast. (In particular, I especially have to thank @rachelpolish and @christinengo for their guidance and mentorship.)

2. I've been thrown right into the mix, and I love it. From Day 1, it's been go, go, go!

3. Between multiple in depth trainings, dinner with @jbell99 last week and lots of creative brainstorms, I feel like I've been a Digital Strategist for much longer than 12 days.

09 June 2009

7 Ways to Live Better Online

No matter how organized and put together I feel in my professional life, managing my personal life can be a real struggle. I'm talking about staying on top of finances, exercising, eating right, sleeping well, running errands, etc., etc. There’s always more to be done and it’s hard to reach 100% productivity when you just want to relax after work and on weekend.

There is plenty of advice out there about how to manage or share things like photos, videos, and hobby lists with friends and family and how to catalogue your life with a blog or vlog, but what about all of that normal day-to-day "stuff" that can easily fall off the radar and out of order? If you're one of those 76% of Americans with Internet access, here are seven ways you can live better online:

1) Groove to music with DropPlay – Self-acclaimed as the free online equivalent to iTunes, DropPlay lets you stream music from YouTube and share songs and playlists with your friends through Facebook. Although YouTube audio quality isn't always the best (particularly with regards to live performance recordings), Drop Play can help make recommendations based on other recent selections and you don't have to download a desktop client to use it. Even better, it's completely free!

04 June 2009

Will Social Media Enable the Digital Panopticon?

I attended a webcast, "Reconsidering Social Media," last week hosted by the O'Reilly media team and found myself pleasantly surprised at the philosophical turn of the conversation. I bet the Enlightenment philosophes turned over in their graves as we had a webcast "salon."

How did I get from social media to the Age of Enlightment? Trust me, the parallel is there. For starters, Joshua-Michele Ross brought up how the Enlightenment movement advocated freedom, liberty and progress at the very same time as the birth of prisons and asylums. In other words, the Enlightenment championed progressive ideals while institutions began to lockdown individuals and develop ways to control and manipulate society.

The panopticon is a prison 'in the round,' where the guard tower is at the center of a circle of cells (see above image). The idea is that prisoners can't tell when they're being watched and will therefore self-regulate their behavior to avoid additional punishment.

19 May 2009

Marketing to your loved ones: The Ultimate Women's Hormone Guide

I found this really funny and decided it had to be shared! Of course, I would vote to replace "Here, have some wine," with "Please, thank you, sorry!" Let me know what you think.

The Hormone Guide
Women will understand this!
Men should
memorize it!


Every woman knows that there are days in the month when all a man has to do is open his mouth and he takes his life in his hands! This is a handy guide that should be as common as a driver's license in the wallet of every husband, boyfriend, co-worker or significant other!



DANGEROUS


SAFER


SAFEST


ULTRA SAFE


What's for
dinner?


Can I help you
with dinner?


Where would you like
to go for dinner?


Here, have some wine.


Are you
wearing that?


You sure
look good in brown!


WOW! Look at you!


Here, have some wine


What are you
so worked up about?


Could we be
overreacting?


Here's my paycheck.


Here, have some wine.


Should you be
eating that?


You know, there are
a lot of apples left.


Can I get you a piece
of chocolate with that?


Here, have some wine.


What did you
DO all day?


I hope you didn't
over-do it today.


I've always loved you
in that robe!


Here, have some
wine.

23 April 2009

Blogging Air Force Style

I recently contributed a post to The Page Wonders blog called "5 Things You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing and PR," which discusses the "underbelly" of social media and offers some humble tips for how to prepare yourself (and your company) for stepping into social media.

One point I make is that using social media for PR and marketing can easily take 2.5x the time a traditional PR campaign would along. If you're wondering how social media can possibly be so time-consuming, take a glance at the diagram at the left (thank you to Jerry Owyang for publicly posting this). This elegant flowchart outlines how the Air Force conducts blog monitoring and response (one of the social media programs we also run at Page One PR on behalf of many clients).

Case in point, just as you might monitor print and online news publications for coverage of your business or organization, when you delve into the realm of blogs and blog comments, the gloves come off. Not only do you have to determine whether to respond, but you have to determine how and consider the consequences.

Lisa Hoover at Computerworld wrote about "The newcomer's guide to social networking" today and also discussed the various intricacies that come along with social media for business. One of her takeaways: not every business needs to use social networking tools to communicate and/or promote itself effectively. I don't know that I agree with this, but I think it is less about the tools you use and more about whether you want to conduct business transparently or not.

One thing I will say - social media requires a lot of content. When I say this, I mean both producing and digesting content. Of course, you don't have to monitor social media channels to see what others out there are saying about you, your industry or other things that will pertain to your business. But then, why invest time in social media if you're not going to at least dedicate some time and resources to being social?

02 April 2009

The Summer (or Spring) of Link Love

Ahhh, I haven't blogged in a while! Shame on me, but I promise, I've been off learning some really great things. What, you ask? Well, for one, I now know how to snowboard. I've been twice already and will venture up to Tahoe for a day this weekend. Hopefully I'll come back fully about to carve.

And, while the other stuff I've been learning has been mostly for work, it's really mind-blowing overall. I'm talking about the huge mount of link love going on around me. It's like the summer of love, but for links and it's actually spring.

Despite the corny joke, I'm serious. When I started out in PR, I was a little skeptical about online news articles. At least, with regards to valuing any placed for clients. After all, isn't a tangible article in print much more legit?

I now know the answer: no. It's not more legit, it's more antiquated. Everything is online - that's where people get there information and the trends will only increase. But, along with the death of the print media industry comes new ways to consume and share information and, along with that, comes new ways to think about PR, marketing and sales.

You might think I'm stating the obvious here and, if so, fine, I am. What I'm really trying to get at is that in shifting focus to publicizing a company online, you have to value your website. Not in the way where you try to make it spiffy and attractive, but in a way where you focus on driving traffic to it. If you don't, then you're wasting money designing your website. As I've gotten more looped into various social media campaigns, it's become apparent that beyond wanting to have more followers on Twitter, more fans on Facebook and more corporate mentions in the blogosphere, it's increasingly important to drive and measure traffic back to your website. If you're not doing this, then you're not on the right path.

Yes, it is still good to shoot for getting into what you might have normally considered a "tier one" publication, but at least consider looking at your Google Analytics to see what impact that publicity has on your website. If not much, maybe consider taking your news elsewhere, or at least putting some resources into finding and influencing other outlets.

Okay - that's my tirade for now. My excuse for not blogging is learning about how to turn interesting and useful information into content and how to distribute that content across the Web in a way that will increase a company's public relations awareness and drive people back to their website, or rather, their sales funnel. The economy will no doubt speed up the pace at which more people learn the lessons I'm in the midst of learning, but what I can say for now is that this is very strategic and exciting and I look forward to learning more!

28 February 2009

Royal Families play on YouTube

I was surprised to read that a few days ago, the news of Swedish crown princess Victoria's engagement to entrepreneur Daniel Westling was broadcast over YouTube by the Royal Family.

I've already blogged about the Obama campaign's level of sophistication with social media tools and our ability to watch Obama's weekly address on YouTube, but after reading about the Swedish Royal Family, I decided to take a look at the Brits. Sure enough, they have their own YouTube channel, The Royal Channel.

The channel has 26,409 subscribers today and more than two million views. It was started in October 2007. Talk about being ahead of the game! The British monarchy has long been the center of gossip and tabloids in the UK, but to actually launch their own channel is really quite open and progressive. You can check out royal visits to various schools, interviews with different royal family members and historic looks at the nation's treasures.

By contrast, the White House YouTube channel seems to verge on a new form of propaganda as it's almost 100% focused on matters of state, with a presidential spin. It's drier. For example, I was surprised this week's Stevie Wonder concert at the White House wasn't available through the White House channel. I guess the fundamental difference in public image as conveyed "officially" through YouTube might hinge on the fact that the British Royal Family is more often the subject of celebrity gossip rather than governance.

In a recent interview, Macon Phillips, the White House's new media director and the man behind WhiteHouse.gov, admitted he has spent more time managing the daily flow of news from the White House during a challenging economic environment than considering the big picture of how to build the administration's new media message since Obama's inauguration on January 20.

Still, the Obama administration's emphasis on interactivity and transparency is much more advanced than what we would have seen from the competition. Speaking of interactivity, here's this week's address from President Obama:

24 February 2009

How public relations helps steer opinion and the news

I'm one of those lucky young adults that still receives periodic care packages from her parents containing the latest mail still arriving at their house for me, a health tips newsletter (my Dad is a hospital chaplain, so he's very keyed in to these things), cookies or brownies, Trident chewing gum and newspaper clippings my Dad has read and saved for me.

The clippings usually fall into one of two categories: news about my high school or PR/Social Media/Marketing. (Dad sent me the article about Doritos and the Super Bowl, too.)

Yesterday's care package contained a clipping from last Monday's USA Today, "How public relations helps steer opinion and the news."

The article by Seth Brown also ran online – it's introducing a new book by PR industry veterans, Trevor Morris and Simon Goldsworthy, who just published, PR: A Persuasive Industry? Spin, Public Relations and the Shaping of the Modern Media.

According to Seth Brown, the book calls PR amoral, a tool for good or evil purposes (I guess government propaganda might fall on the "evil" side). I like this quote from the article:

"A group that often derides PR professionals is journalists, who often see themselves as truth-seekers forced to deal with flacks in order to get information. Yet without the PR industry, Morris and Goldsworthy argue, there would be little news."

Yep, definitely run into that quite a bit... the love-hate relationship PR pro's face with journalists overwhelmed with emails, text messages, IM's, Twitter DM's, phone calls, Facebook pokes and more.

I haven't read the book, which has been called an "intelligent guidebook" to PR, rather than a textbook, but I'll definitely add it to my reading list.

What I find interesting is the insight Morris and Goldsworthy have provided with regards to how PR actually affects news cycles. For example, they cite a study which found that more than half of the stories in an edition of The Wall Street Journal were based on press releases. They also argue that PR is essential for a free press to function. Interesting, huh?

And, last but not least, one more thought to digest for anyone working in public relations, interested in good PR or looking for PR services:

"Perhaps the most alluring thing about being a PR consultant is that no formal training is required: no certification, no universally acknowledged test, no courses offered at many prestigious universities (although some colleges offer PR studies). Essentially, there are no barriers to entry... PR [is] 'a wholly legitimate aid to the exchange of information and ideas in society.'"

Of course, they are clearly biased, but so am I. As a Stanford graduate holding a degree in History, Literature and the Arts, I appreciate the recognition that PR is less about the trade and more about strategy and the ability to create an interesting, relevant and timely story that is newsworthy, informative and supportive of real business goals for the client company.

If you're short on time or money and can't get to the book, at least read the article in USA Today. Thanks again for the great find, Dad!

19 February 2009

SEO and PR – A Happy Marriage?

I attended a free webinar, "SEO + Public Relations = Your Secret Marketing Weapon in 2009," put on by the team at Webmarketing123.com yesterday hoping to find the proof in the pudding that SEO and PR should by joined at the hip.

I have to say, I'm still not convinced.

CEO, Paul Taylor, did a great job of walking us through the benefits of SEO-izing your PR and marketing collateral and results, but I've had experiences where that just doesn't work.

Example 1: Optimizing a press release for SEO and PR

I've tried this two ways:

1) Write a release, then look at a list of key words to insert.

2) Look at the key words, then write a press release with them in mind (try to use each 1-4 times and space them out).

The latter worked better for me, but if you're supposed to insert your URL and keywords ~3 times each for near optimal SEO, it gets rough and the news starts to sound like giberrish. If the release then needs to go through legal approval and potentially partner or customer approval, you're in trouble.

That's only one example, but I do think there's more beyond just blending SEO with PR and, voilĂ , you're on page one of wherever you want to be. The challenge often seems to be a classic case of having too many cooks in the kitchen. You've got the remote teams, such as the PR firm, the SEO firm, potentially the SEM consultant, and then all of the internal constituents, such as the corporate marketing/advertising team, sales, product marketing, etc., and each is focused on maximizing content value for his or her benefit.

BusinessWeek ran an insightful article by B.L. Ochman this morning, "Debunking Six Social Media Myths." Though I appreciated every myth debunked, I feel her pain with Myth #4: You can do it all in-house.

With regards to effective and viral social media campaigns, she writes:

"It is rare indeed to find an in-house team that can not only conceive and execute a social media campaign but also drive traffic to it with effective e-mail segmentation, search optimization, blogger outreach, blog advertising, Google ads, and more."

I do believe things like SEO and PR should work together – of course it's good to have a well-oiled machine running on all cylinders – but I don't think it's as easy as simply "working together." Further, given that both PR and SEO are often outsourced strategic services, is it reasonable to expect both sides to come together without the forcing factor of the client company embarking on a holistic marcomm campaign which takes months of pre-planning and coordination? That's hard to come by when you're working with startups, particularly high tech startups.

I remain optimistic, however, that there are definitely lessons both PR and SEO can learn from each other. Throw social media in there, and you've got a party!

I'd appreciate any wisdom out there about the evolution of these siloed services and think I will continue to attend free webinars on the topic to at least keep me engaged in thinking about the right combo of SEO + PR.

18 February 2009

Doritos top Super Bowl ad meter, VCAMs you can bank

Who says you can't have 15 seconds of fame and a million dollars? For Dave and Joe Herbert, two amateur film makers from Batesville, Indiana, a bag of chips and a snow globe was all they needed to gain prime time coverage during this year's Super Bowl. Well, almost.

The Super Bowl is notorious for mega half-time shows and tier one commercials which live online long after the game is over.

This year, Frito-Lay invited amateur Doritos junkies to "Crash the Super Bowl" by submitting their own ads, with the winner featured during the Super Bowl commercial breaks. The contest ran online January 5-24, with a grand prize of $1,000,000. By voting, you were entered to win tickets to the Super Bowl.

This isn't the first community-driven online ad contest, and it won't be the last. While the Herbert brothers' ad was rated best Super Bowl commercial by USA Today's Ad Meter real-time consumer rating, the buck doesn't stop there.

For example, Current TV features up-to-date contest listings for VCAMs - Viewer-Created Ad Messages. Past contests included HP, L'Oreal, Nikon, and there are still 23 days left to enter T-Mobile's G1 ad contest.

Of course, don't think that good old fashioned marketing and PR aren't involved here. The PR and marketing that goes into publicizing these contests and getting communities excited about the payoff (filming, fame and fortune) only add to the hype around your product, service or brand. Smart, huh?

It's the age of DIY commercials and the economy is bad, so get your camcorder, get creative and go.

28 January 2009

Social Media 101: Know your community

Last week, a Page One PR colleague forwarded me a blog post by David Henderson, "How Not to be a Key Online Influencer." The post talks about a PR executive, James Andrews, from Ketchum who flew out to Memphis, TN to visit FedEx, one of the agency's biggest clients. Upon landing, the exec tweeted: “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here."

The comment was caught by a FedEx employee who follows Andrews on Twitter. The reaction was NOT pleasant. The employee took great offense and even questioned FedEx's need to retain Ketchum.

I'm sure Andrews would give his two front teeth to take back that tweet, but it's too late – it's gone viral and he can't. I'm sure he learned an important lesson, like don't use open public forums to openly insult your business partners or share overly personal information. But beyond that, it's important to know your community. Why are you there? Who do you want to reach? What do you want to communicate?

That was this PR guy's first mistake: not knowing his audience.

Muhammed Saleem contributed a post to Mashable today outlining how to "Survive a Social Media Revolt." The key takeaways for dealing with large community backlashes:

1) Communicate even if you have nothing to say.

2) Be forthright.

3) Make it clear that you're listening.

4) Acknowledge your mistakes.

5) Promise to learn and improve – then deliver.

In other words, build a decent relationship with your community and show how you value that relationship. Don't put on your "best friends forever" hat one day, then take it off the next. Sounds fair, right?

25 January 2009

Enjoying the Wonderful World of Disney

It's no wonder that Disneyland is often called the "happiest place on Earth." Visiting the park yesterday reminded me that, besides its affable characters, one of Disney's strongest assets is customer service.

Disneyland is full of cheerful employees whose purpose is to perpetuate fairy tales and make your dreams come true. Why? Disney knows that satisfied customers will spend money and come back.

I realized yesterday what an ingenious idea the "FastPass" was a couple years ago. The premise: give people a ticket to the most popular rides that essentially holds their place in line. The ticket specifies a 60-minute time slot during which the holder has access to the front of the line for that attraction.

The FastPass is great – instead of spending 2 hours in line for the best rides, you can get a FastPass and wait no more than 10 minutes. The marketing behind the magic: now customers have an extra hour and fifty minutes to wander the park and spend money.

It's an easy gesture that makes a big of difference. The Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco and many Los Angeles movie theaters give customers a break by assigning seats when you purchase a ticket. Rather than encouraging customers to waste time saving seats in the theater, they offer Zen-like concessions where customers can lounge around until it's time for their movie to start.

In the world of apparel, Nordstrom and Anthropologie are quick to start dressing rooms for customers. They initiate a relationship with customers and take clothing off your browsing hands so you can shop comfortably.

Give customers a break. Offer them a peaceful atmosphere and an enjoyable experience, and they'll be happy. It's a formula that Disney has almost perfected, but it's not magic – it's just common sense.

14 January 2009

The Importance of Internal Marketing

I attended a client sales conference yesterday and was really impressed with their strategy and outlook for 2009. One of the top messages that stood out was, "play together and play nicely... the competition is outside these walls, not in the room."

(That's right - time for a *group hug* just like these puppies.)

As a PR person, I know what it's like to bug people to get what you want, but I hadn't thought about the increasing challenges to staying unified and well-oiled during a recession. After all, if you're worried about potential layoffs, why not start watching your neighbor or competing with that person across the hall?

I think humans are prone to competition – it's called Social Darwinism – but still, sitting in my first sales conference yesterday helped me realize just how important internal marketing can be.

Internal marketing is defined by Wikipedia as: an ongoing process that occurs strictly within a company or organization whereby the functional process aligns, motivates and empowers employees at all management levels to consistently deliver a satisfying customer experience.

I think of internal marketing as creating an enabling culture in which creativity and innovation are encouraged along with responsibility and accountability. It's a very communal approach to organizational management, but I think it's going to be key for companies that want to survive the recession.

I'm not saying grab hands and sing Kumbaya around a campfire, but everyone likes to be valued and given a voice., don't you?

06 January 2009

Yelp user sued for bad review

What better way to ring in the new year than with a court mediation for a super juicy lawsuit served almost a year ago for expressing your opinion on Yelp? That's how a 26-year-old custom furniture builder and San Francisco resident, Christopher Norberg, found himself after writing a negative review for chiropractor, Steven Biegel.

Interestingly enough, though Biegel is on record for having said Norberg's review "unjustly characterizes me as unethical and dishonest," his referral traffic from Yelp remained steady after the review was posted. It decreased, however, after he filed the lawsuit. Sounds like poor marketing and PR to me.

Regardless of how this dispute unfolds, it does promise to set new legal precedent for Yelp users who may have to censor their content in the future. Let's hope that's not the case.

Norberg has started his own vigilante website to protect free speech on Yelp. Elinor Mills reported additional details for CNET News:

The lawsuit, filed February 25, 2008, alleges that Biegel has suffered loss of reputation and business as a result of the review and seeks punitive damages. According to the lawsuit, the review allegedly contained false statements and inaccuracies that suggested Biegel was dishonest and accused him of fraudulent billing practices.

Norberg was treated twice by Biegel before a friend of his told him he had had billing problems with Biegel's office, he wrote in his review. Norberg, who said he did not have medical insurance, was not asked to pay for the visits because Biegel's office said it would try to bill his auto insurance company instead, the review said. Even though the insurance company refused to pay, Norberg did not initially receive a bill from Biegel, he said.

In the meantime, Norberg began getting treatment from another chiropractor who suggested he sue the driver of the car that hit him, Norberg's review said. Norberg eventually settled the case, the review said.

After learning that Biegel's bill to the auto insurer was $550 instead of $125, which was the amount quoted for two visits, Norberg called Biegel, his Yelp review said. Norberg said that Biegel demanded he pay $550 during that phone call, but then said he would waive the fee entirely, according to the review. Biegel later called Norberg and explained that his office bills insurers at a higher rate than patients who pay for service directly because of the higher office costs in dealing with the paperwork and delays in receiving payment, court documents said.

Biegel's office then made a call to Norberg's auto insurance company and learned about the settlement and then called Norberg and demanded he pay $125, the lawyers said. Norberg paid the bill and posted a review of Biegel with a one-star rating on Yelp on November 16, 2007.