Friday, March 26, 2010

Changing the Game: Move Your Social Media Plan from Conservative to Advocacy

Despite the proliferation of social media tools, evangelists and thousands of column inches on why you should, how you should and what you should be doing in social media, there is still a prevailing group who haven’t jumped in. How can this be? Aren’t all public relations practitioners advocating the latest and greatest in their organizations?

The answer is probably yes, followed by a long sigh. If you have been unsuccessful or are meeting resistance in moving social media off the “to do list” and into the daily fabric of your organization, you are not alone. And you probably need encouragement and tools to help you along your way.

One great resource for public relations practitioners is Ike Pigott, Communications Strategist for Alabama Power. Ike was in exactly the same spot more than a year ago and devised a great approach for taking a conservative corporate culture and moving into a social media advocacy role.
Using an analogy that follows the Pacman game (surely you remember the Pacman game!), Ike’s Pacman Paradigm…and social media for that matter….are likened to game theory. First you need to know the lay of the land – the boundaries and rules and objectives. Next you need to know where you stand – know your map, know the enemy, know the escape routes.

Ike’s presentation at the recent Ragan Coca-Cola Conference opened avenues for many PR practitioners. He offered five qualities that a social media advocate needs to make change happen in their organization. You must be patient, analytical, creative, mentoring and nimble. (if you spell out the first letter, it spells Pacman!).

Here is Ike’s best piece of advice about making change.

“One of the biggest barriers to communicating these tools is language,” Pigott said in a recent interview. “Much of what people do in social media is emergent, and not easy to describe. That’s why the networks have such silly-sounding names, and that gets in the way of being taken seriously.”

There are lots of emerging examples of what not to do when starting social media strategies in your organization. Pigott takes an example from Hollywood.

“You don’t want to end up like Tim Robbins’ character in The Hudsucker Proxy – running around with a goofy smile and a picture of a circle, and shouting ‘It’s for kids!’ When the time is right, you need to approach others with a solution to a problem, a better way to reach their existing goals. Once they feel like there’s a tangible result from which they could benefit, you’ll have their attention long enough to explain just what that circle really is.”

If you’d like to connect with Ike, he’d be happy to share his journey. You can connect with Ike on e-mail at: , on Twitter or on his blog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Centuries of Coping with Information Overload

Major advancements in technology have many of us worried about information overload, the decline of literacy skills and even damage to brain development. In the acclaimed movie, “Doubt,” Sister Aloysius Beauvier admonishes students for using ball point pens, claiming students were becoming lazy.

Slate recently published an article by Vaughan Bell pointing us to earlier days when similar worries were prevalent. He goes as far back as Socrates, who said that putting pen to paper would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories."
The invention of the printing press brought about worries of the psychological strain that would be caused by the production of so many books. In the 18th Century, when newspapers entered the scene, people worried about social isolation. Later, a few warned about the mental health risks of a schoolwork. And the list goes on.

In an interview with On the Media about his article, Bell says, “And one of my favorites is from the British paper The Daily Mail, which is famous for its bad science headlines: ‘How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer.’”

Whenever there’s been a societal technological advancement, people worried about it. They told themselves it’s too much and that, this time, it’s worse than before.

In a blog post about Bell’s article, David McRaney summarizes, “There has always been more to take in mentally than we could spend our time digesting.”

Clay Shirky says it’s not a problem of too much information, it’s a problem of filter failure. We have to adapt our filters to the new world. Each generation has to learn how to cope with its new advancement.

Ironically, we have gone and created a whole “information age” for ourselves. We want to know what we want to know when we want to know it. And we often turn to technology to give us the answers. The good news is that we can turn to technology to filter out the information we don’t want. And at times, we can even turn it off altogether

Regardless, we will learn to cope just as those before us did.

And then it’ll all change again.

from "My Two Cents," PRSA Byline March 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Grow Your Business, Grow Your Brand – San Antonio PRSA Luncheon – April 1, 2010

Here's news about our next chapter luncheon…

As a communicator and/or business owner, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about certain aspects of your business: Do we have enough cash? How can we get more business? As a business owner who works with other business owners, Ed Howie of Brand-True knows first-hand how the present economic turmoil has made those questions even more perplexing. Join us as we explore basic solutions to help you grow your business while increasing your brand value. History shows leaders who invest in telling their story reap the benefits faster when customer spending revives. Plus, we’ll collectively explore your own company’s relevance and differentiation. Come prepared to consider the power of branding for yourself…and your clients.

During the luncheon, you can participate in the 50/50 raffle to benefit the Marilyn Potts Endowment Fund. Early bird price ends the Friday before the lunch. Walk-ins on a standby basis only.

Register now!

When: Thursday, April 1, 2010 11:30 AM -1:00 PM
Where: Bright Shawl, 819 Augusta, San Antonio, Texas 78215
Price: Members $25 (early bird $20); Guests $30 (early bird $25); Students and retired professionals $12

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chevy's Road Trip Challenge Shows Off Fans Using Social Media on the Road

As I mentioned in my last post, Chevy is the lead sponsor for the Manic Mommies podcast. So it was only fitting that our meet up in Austin would be at a Chevy event. During the week leading up to South by Southwest, Chevy held an Amazing Race-type event for bloggers and fans across the country. They drove in Chevys to Austin from all parts of the country in teams stopping to do various fun and silly tasks along the way. Challenges included arm wrestling a short order cook, visiting odd tourist spots and museums, donating to a local Goodwill store and washing someone else's windshield.

The event on Thursday was a reception for the teams as they arrived. Team Detroit was the winner based on who completed the most challenges and had done the most interacting with their community on Twitter and their own sites. You can hear interviews with the road trippers here.

Christopher Barger (pictured here with Kristin Brandt of the Manic Mommies), director of global social media at General Motors, told me that this Chevrolet’s SXSW Road Trip Challenge was a way to engage fans and create some fun visibility for the brand. As you can imagine, the expectation is that when folk are in the market to buy a car, they’ll think of Chevy and give it another look than they might have otherwise.

And that’s why Chevy is a sponsor for the Manic Mommies. At their Escape events, GM has been there with cars to test drive and to cart participants around. They know the value of engaging women – who are more and more the decision makers in car purchases.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Expedition 206: Coke’s Multi-faceted Fan Campaign

I recently posted a story here about how Coca-Cola is elevating discussion of its brand with community concepts. While attending the Ragan conference at Coca-Cola World Headquarters last month, I also got to hear about the nuts and bolts of Coca-Cola’s Social Media Strategy, courtesy of Adam Brown, Director of the Office of Digital Communications and Social Media for Coca-Cola (@adamcb).

While many companies are focused exclusively on conversations in America, Coca-Cola has 478 brands sold in 206 countries, so all their conversations are global! The Coca-Cola team’s approach is comprehensive and multi-faceted; too much to cover here. One campaign, however, is worth sharing.

Expedition 206, announced last year, puts three “happiness ambassadors” on a year-long tour to every country (206 of them!) where Coke products are sold. Fans submitted video applications to become one of the three who represent the company and fans voted on the final group. As well, fans have been determining where they go and what they do.

The tour kicked off in January and the team posts text, video and short reports on Expedition 206.

The Coca-Cola communications team had 6 months from idea to delivery, which, according to Brown was 6 months shorter than their usual planning cycle. While the idea came from the public relations side, the marketing team quickly got involved to add elements to the project.

According to Brown, their campaigns are focused on earning sustainable relationships, leverage existing audiences and grow those audiences for the future. Expedition 206 seems to fit all those parameters. Take a look at a short video announcing 9 finalists and how to vote for the winners. Or follow the team on Twitter @x206. Of course, we all want to hear about the results at year's end.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Success Story of Community Building with Social Media

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Kristin Brandt, one of the co-hosts of the Manic Mommies podcast. She’s in Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW), which is a totally cool annual interactive-music-film festival. She organized a meet up for listeners in the area. About 10 women were there, most from Austin. Two of us drove from miles away.
Why would we do such a thing? Because this is a show that has developed a strong community – better than any other podcast I’ve participated in, which is why I’m telling you about it. Here’s an excellent example of how social media can be used to build and engage a community.

First a little about the Manic Mommies. The hosts are Erin Kane and Kristin Brandt who started podcasting on somewhat of a whim about five years ago. Though they didn’t deliberate much on the name of their show, they chose Manic Mommies because one of the definitions of “manic” is “overly busy.” Their tagline is “The podcast for buzy moms trying to do it all!… and then some.” The do have a sizeable following of men as well.

The structure of the show is two working moms who talk about what’s going on in their daily lives, and they occasionally have guest interviews. The biggest appeal is that they have no pretension. They are like friends you haven’t met yet.
Here are some examples of their community building success:
  • They have a huge number of listeners, so much so that they’ve attracted sponsors like Chevy and others.
  •  More listeners call in with comments than they have room for to include in their weekly show.
  • They have an active Facebook fan page with 3,850 fans and ongoing conversations.
  • Using Big Tent, they have set up a forum with free memberships and a "Gal Pals” section with added benefits for those who pay a nominal fee. There are multiple new discussion threads started every day. And it hasn’t waned since it was launched over a year ago. This group has about 2,000 participants.
  • They blog on their web site regularly and sometimes have contests for readers and listeners. They also have a blog column for Real Simple.
  • They host an annual “escape” event where women travel from across the county to spend time together. The 2009 escape was capped at 150 people and sold out in less than two weeks. They’re planning their fourth Escape for November 2010.
  • They have their own line of calendars for moms through Mead that you can buy online or in stores like Target.
  • They have their own line of swag through CafĂ© Press and Company Casuals.
  • They have an awesome iPhone ap.
  • They have a Tastebook cookbook with recipe contributions from listeners.
  • They have an active online book club.
Oh, and by the way, this is their hobby. They both have full-time jobs and young children.

Their success didn’t happen all at once. They didn’t start out knowing they’d be here five years later. But it wasn’t accidental either. They have been clear from the beginning about who their audience is. They have been strategic about going for some opportunities and saying no to others. And they’ve been flexible to adapt as technology and other environmental factors changed.

That is the challenge for the rest of us as we integrate social media into our work. We typically have had an idea of where a certain effort would take us. Good media relations will likely lead to media coverage. Good event planning will likely lead to successful events. But it’s hard to say where good social media work will take us. Like with the Manic Mommies though, it could take us beyond our wildest imaginations.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coca-Cola and Community: It’s all about the Community

There’s no doubt Coca-Cola has the strongest brand recognition on the planet. But what really surprised me during the recent Ragan social media conference I attended at the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, was how they populate their brand presence EVERYWHERE!

The opening keynote by Clyde Tuggle, senior vice president of global public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola, didn’t just take us through their latest and greatest social media campaign. He DID take us through the fundamentals which have been at the heart of his tenure at Coca-Cola: the importance of Human Relations. Tuggle opened with a compelling statement: that “taking people for granted” was a deadly sin and relationships – regardless of all the new mediums we are using to cultivate them – are the “connective tissue” for all of us.

He then offered four fundamental truths that guide Coca-Cola through its journey. They are so simple and worth sharing for all public relations practitioners.

Truth #1: We do not own our brands; our consumers own our brands. This is very simple and obvious in today’s consumer-driven economy.

Truth #2: Fish where the fish are. In determining the places where Coca-Cola needed a voice, they asked themselves the question: “how can we be part of a broader network?”

Truth #3: Let it go. Do something completely unexpected to create an emotional bond. Tuggle cited this as the most difficult to accomplish because it involves ceding control and letting fans take over.

Truth #4: Every day is election day. Every day you need to earn the vote of your customers, employees and other stakeholders.

His final thought: It’s not about the technology, it’s about finding common ground for meaningful connections. It’s about doing the right thing.

One of the examples which shows how Coca-Cola is leveraging community and geography is the FIFA World Cup Campaign. Take a look at the announcement press release and notice the many working parts as well as the video (above) from the first week of the tour.

Now, imagine how you can leverage that kind of creativity in your organization!

Monday, March 08, 2010

When Your Brand Gets Squatted in Twitter…

Here’s another story about the importance of monitoring social media and missed opportunities. What would you do if you discovered that someone had created a Twitter account pretending to represent your brand or organization?

Not too long ago, an editor of Advertising Age, Michael Werch, decided to do an experiment. He wanted to see “how long it would take a brand to realize it was being impersonated, and what course of action would it take?” And “would the brand embrace the conversation or end it?

First, he had to pick a brand. He decided it had to be big, not active in social media, and something he liked. So he chose Heinz. He created a Twitter ID, @HJ_Heinz, put pictures of ketchup bottles in the background, and included a link to the Heinz web site. Then, he started sending tweets with links to recipes on the Heinz web site and interesting facts about Heinz.

Of course, when you set up a Twitter account, you have to get people to follow you. So he registered the ID with some directories and then searched for and followed people who had used the brand name in their tweets. If they tweeted something positive about Heinz, he retweeted them. He also targeted residents of Pittsburgh where the Heinz company is located.

He never heard from Heinz.

After two weeks, he did hear from the Twitter company. With no advance notice or warning, Twitter changed is ID to @NOThj_Heinz and removed the ketchup references and links to the company in his bio. He also got an e-mail from Twitter saying he was in violation of Twitter’s trademark rules.

Once he disclosed to his followers that he wasn’t affiliated with Heinz but was just a fan, his followers urged him to keep tweeting. They were fans too.

Heinz told Ad Age that they monitor social media every morning. If that’s so, why did it take almost two weeks for them to find Michael? Other stories indicate that Twitter acts quickly when they get a complaint about trademark infringement.

The bottom line is that for two weeks, someone was in effect stealing the company’s brand. Michael’s tweets were positive. But what if they’d been destructive?

And, since Michael’s work was successful in building a following of brand enthusiasts, why didn’t Heinz capitalize on it? Why didn’t they continue it by actively engaging their fans? Don’t brands usually want people talking about them positively?

In the online version of Michael’s Ad Age story, a commenter reported that he or she had done a similar experiment with a skateboarding company with completely different results: “Instead of contacting Twitter and shutting the account down, they DM'd me and we engaged in a conversation via email. The resolution was that I handed the Twitter account over to them and they sent me some Sector 9 schwag.”

I love this story because there are so many lessons here. It’s ok if you’re not quite ready to dive in to social media. It’s ok if you are still learning and formulating a plan. But it may not be ok to ignore what’s being said in your name. I’m just sayin’.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Celebrate Success! Enter the San Antonio 2010 Del Oro Awards

By Christi Fish, PRSA San Antonio Area Chapter board member

“Next to excellence is the appreciation of it.”
author William Thackeray

All my life, I’ve heard people say the desire to be appreciated is a shortfall that deteriorates the spirit. They suggest rewards should come from within. They claim human nature prevents us from celebrating the achievements of others.

How mistaken they are!

I believe professional recognition nurtures perseverance. Celebrating the accomplishments of our industry’s leaders demonstrates our collective commitment to integrity. Recognizing award-winning work allows us to stay abreast of our industry’s best practices.

Day in and day out, public relations professionals in the greater San Antonio region improve society by delivering messages that raise awareness of important issues. And that’s no easy task.

To develop a communications plan, we research issues, gather facts and confirm our sources. We set objectives and goals. We identify our target audiences and craft key messages. We monitor the success of our campaigns and strategize ways to make our communications even more effective. All the while, hanging in the balance are reputations that take a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.

This year, members and friends of the San Antonio chapter of PRSA will gather at the Bright Shawl in downtown San Antonio on March 6 to celebrate the region’s best professionals. Awards will be given in three categories. Del Oro Awards recognize outstanding communicators. La Plata Awards recognize outstanding communications campaigns. El Bronce Awards recognize outstanding communications tactics.

We invite you to submit your best work in this year’s competition. Thursday, March 4 is the deadline to enter your campaigns and tactics in the La Plata and El Bronce categories, respectively. The deadline to nominate outstanding communicators for the Del Oro Category is Thursday, March 18.

More importantly, mark your calendar for the Del Oro Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 6.

We hope to see you there!