Tag Archives: online publicist

Setting standards for the use of social media

The Public Relations field has, for decades, had standards governing conduct and best practices—some tried and true rules of thumb and guidelines. But how does social media, which many—including yours truly—view as a powerful, 21st-century add-on to the PR profession and is perhaps the greatest development to hit the field in more than half a century, fit in?

Let’s cut right to the chase here.

I’m not advocating that every teenager or proud Mom or Dad needs “uber” social media skills to post on Facebook or MySpace (though for a handful of particular posters some skills would be nice!). What I’m talking about are those companies and professionals who tout themselves as social media marketing experts and professionals.

Are they? How can anyone tell? What makes someone a social media expert? What’s stopping virtually anyone from making such a claim?

As it stands now, my neighbor’s 14-year-old high school freshman could claim to be a social media expert . . . and I bet her 600 or so Facebook friends would agree!

Just as with Public Relations professionals, social media experts need to know their stuff. To this end, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is looking to redefine “public relations” so that it encompasses the two-way dialogue that now takes place, courtesy of social media, between companies and consumers, celebrities and their fans, professionals and clients. Sure to follow will be social media training and professional certifications.

What this means for consumers is a true “seal of approval” to help them discern qualified professionals from the not-so-qualified. What it means for those of us in the profession, aside from increased knowledge and expertise, is greater credibility for anyone holding such a credential.

Sure it sounds like more paperwork and more class work, and undoubtedly an extra fee or two, but in my book, it’s a win-win for PR/Social media professionals and the people/companies we serve. All will benefit from increased standards and greater integrity.

Don’t you think it’s time to weigh in with the PRSA and let them know we want to ensure the integrity of social media and the individuals and firms who operate in this space? While we can’t ensure across-the-board success (case in point, the numerous less-than-stellar TV and radio shows, publications, and networks), when it comes to social media and other online channels we can go a long way to ensuring higher quality and the existence of peer-developed best practices industry wide.

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A Social Media education: Most people just don’t know what we don’t know!

“My middle-schooler created her own Facebook page . . . How hard can this social media thing really be?”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say this or something similar.

When it comes to the use of social (or NEW) media, most people just don’t know what we don’t know!

Quite correctly, it is easy to set up a Facebook or Twitter account or virtually any other social media account. You navigate to a web page, add some information, create a profile, hit a few buttons and within minutes you’re chatting with friends, updating your status, and discovering who likes what books or TV shows or whatever else someone chooses to share. YES practically ANYONE can do it. . . and practically EVERYONE does (at last count Facebook had 600 million active accounts worldwide).

But is that all there is to social media? Hardly.

Many companies, from corner convenience stores to Fortune 100 giants as well as senior level professionals, executives and celebrities, use social media quite effectively to aid their marketing efforts, develop or enhance their personal or business brands, and create publicity and buzz.

It’s a relatively level playing field, as long as you know what you’re doing. Of course, therein lies the dilemma.

Exchanging updates and pithy quotes with friends does not a social media strategy make . . . at least not if your goal is to position yourself as a thought leader in a particular area of expertise or to engage in conversation about the value of your product or service to consumers.

To do that, and to do it well, you need a social media strategy that keeps you front and center and on message, as well as a tactical game plan for how you will implement, sustain, and refocus efforts as necessary to give your social media strategy legs.

So while practically anyone can start “sharing” online, including you or your middle-schooler, more than likely you won’t know what you don’t know.

• What can you reasonably expect to gain through social media? What results are you hoping to achieve?
• What social media sites should you join? How can you decide?
• What tools will you need to optimize your activities? What’s available and how do you avoid becoming a 24×7 slave to social media?
• Do you know how to operate within the confines of social media “etiquette”? Do you know best practices and what’s acceptable and what’s not?
• How will you use social media to demonstrate value so that customers and prospective customers want to engage in conversation with you?
• How frequently should you add fresh content?
• What will you discuss? How will you say it? More importantly, why will you discuss a particular topic?
• How will you invite others to join the conversation . . . and what do you do once they join to keep them engaged?
• How can you ensure your content is something people will want to keep and share with others?
• How will you measure the response?
• How will you know if you are successful? How many fans or followers do you need?
• If your social media efforts are not meeting desired results, what can you do to improve performance?

Social media success depends on a Social Media Publicist/Manager—a specialist trained in optimizing social media activities and maximizing efficacy—to see what’s working/what’s not working on a daily if not minute-by-minute basis. It takes a human mind and not just another computer application to make judgments on what makes good content, what stories to promote, where to promote them and when, and how best to connect with a target audience.

As a business owner, executive, or solo professional, you owe it to yourself, your business, and your customers and prospects to recognize what you don’t know about social media and bring in the experts to help you rise above the clutter and begin reaping the benefits of greater brand equity.

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Social Media/Online PR for Business Promotion–Don’t Try This at Home…

…if you don’t have the time or experience to produce and manage it (best to leave it to the traditional promoters and publicists of the world).

Online/Social Media is the reality of our world these days–it truly is “new media channel” for personal and business PR, promotion, marketing and advertising. It has also become one of the best new tools for job search and recruiting.

There is absolutely no shortage of social media coaches, seminars and books on this new hot topic. However, these particular platforms can usually only provide a short-term solution or even simply overwhelm those who are new to social and online media production and management. Unfortunately the real work comes into play after the meetings and workshops are over! Social media strategy is one thing, but the implementation and management of it all is a whole other job in itself.

While many companies are slowly embracing this fact (hiring social media managers to work alongside marketing management), most business people may not think of outsourcing this new and very constant personal professional business task!  If you think about it, this type of service may not be so much of a luxury these days, but really MORE of a necessity especially for busy professionals who know they need to be more in tune with their personal online PR and reputation management and who do not have the ability or time to concentrate on it all–above and beyond their core business tasks.

I recently commented on a very good blog post by a “social media expert” who wrote about the five key success points of social media management (or something along those lines). While I agreed with most of what she wrote about, I did not agree with her in regards to the fact that since social media should be handled personally by the person or business that chooses to participate in this new media channel. I commented to her (on the blog) that this “rule” of social media production and management should not always be the case—and for the majority of people who are using online or new media to promote their personal professional brand, service or products.

Social media is no different from traditional media and if you want it to work and provide the best results (ROI), you better have a background in PR or marketing, the experience and ability to produce creative and engaging collateral, the ability to handle crisis management issues (that happens more and more now with new media being so wide open) and the time to manage it all on a consistent basis—or it will absolutely do NOTHING for your personal brand or business.

It’s a shame that there people out there getting other people to believe that a quick seminar or coaching session will help them learn how to be more in synch, and in tune with social media (for their own professional or business brand) and that just because “social media” is based in such an open type of forum (over traditional media), that they MUST produce and manage it all on their own. Even Reality T.V. programs are produced and directed by other people (kidding, but true). Just because social media is online it should not give people the license to think that they can or even should try to handle their online Personal PR initiative—and whether it’s for their own personal or business brand. If also takes a lot of time and effort and it really is a whole other job that should not be taken lightly.

With close to 25 years of PR/marketing experience, I’ve evolved my own professional/business brand into the production and management of social (new) media as it started to surge in the early 2000’s, but I also didn’t dive right into it as an expert! I slowly submerged into it. Believe it or not traditional publicists and marketers are still catching up and trying to infuse new media in with traditional practices. Then there are all the new “social media experts” who usually have limited traditional and basic PR or marketing experience—no one is an expert. Social Media or Online PR as I like to call it is NEW and things change every day–its growth is unprecedented. If anything, the expertise is really more about the ability to stay on course and change and adapt as new techniques, tools and platforms change or come into place and then continue to develop, build and manage it to ensure it creates a return on investment. The expertise falls into place from there.

Staying on top of all the learning and tasking can be overwhelming for most business people–which is why personal web/social media managers can provide a very necessary service to support business professionals in a similar manner to how most celebrity, government official and company brand personas are handled and represented on the web. I actually think that most businesses and professionals need web and social media managers even more so. Many celebrities have the down time to manage their own social media and online PR, but most do not. Being online in a professional manner is also about maintaining reputation and image—which is what a publicist or third-party should always handle as it is.

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LINK BUILDING and Good Content…essential for online/personal PR results!

Too funny, I used my cool new WordPress App on my BlackBerry to write the original version of this post.  The App is great, but (1) I am not used to writing a blog post on my phone (too small of a screen?) and (2) the App is way to fast, I thought I had saved it as a draft, but it posted.  So this is the redo of the original WordPress Blackberry App post (ahhhh the power of technology…).  Okay back to what I wanted to say…

I am ALL ABOUT LINK BUILDING. Content is KING if you are looking for online marketing RESULTS.  Honestly, I have always known this… the key word, meta tag thing just old-fashioned, I mean we still need it (especially in social sites like Twitter), but it’s  really a gamble if you’re looking for search engine placement on an organic level.  Buying the key words will get you the results, but as more people start driving the price of the key words up you will need to pay more and you really don’t have to do that.  Continuing to build your CONTENT.  Think about all the other people using the same exact key words. How do you compete with that?  So the more you post up in the form of articles, blogs, tweets, press releases, photos and video the more content you create and the more votes of confidence you earn from the search engines. The more votes of confidence, the MORE you will be seen and found online. It’s pretty simple, yes, but remember that content must have merit or your audience will not remain.

I have read an incredible eBook (which will be now known as my Link Building Bible) by Back Link Building Guru, Mark Collier. His “Link Building Mastery: How to master the art of link building” provides 86 powerful link building strategies to build thousands of high quality back links to send your site to number 1 on Google (and then some). According to Mark: “Everyone knows that back links are one of the most important search engine ranking factors.” Yet again, the quality of the content is the first priority— and in my mind’s eye quality content is the baseline of online publicity, but without back links your content and your website will never be found.

The Link Building Mastery eBook is a fantastic do-it-yourself guide to will learn how to get:

* Better placement on Google
* More search engine traffic
* Direct traffic (to your website or “main hub’) from people clicking on your links
* A better online reputation
* More direct sales or interest as visitors who come from links pointing to your site are far more likely to buy from or hire you.

Get Mark’s book – a great guide, great read. Well done! If you need a good “go-to” plan, it’s a fantastic ($47) investment!

One last note: The ability to work and communicating online,  does not equate to an ability to market and promote online. This mentality drives me nuts. I drive a car, but I am not a mechanic. Follow me?  The social media “how-to” books, seminars, and coaching service are fine, but my opinion is that if you usually do not handle your own publicity, writing, marketing or promoting and/or you do not have the ability or the time to do what it takes to build and then maintain all of your web content (including websites, blogs, articles, press releases, tweets, updates/micr0 blogs) then it might be a better idea to bring in someone who knows how to connect the dots.  I’m just saying…

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Social Media = NO quick fix for instant results–please give it time and stay the course to build lasting results

Social Media IS very PERSONAL (PR) in my book — and the best and easiest way to find an audience and one that you want to be following you (whether it’s one million or one hundred).  But it’s not a guarantee of total and ultimate success.  Social media, online media/PR–whatever you may refer to it as, is another (albeit) new channel of marketing, promotion and public relations.

If one more “social media guru” comes to me (or one of my clients)  with great promises and illusions of social media grandeur (remember fad diets in the 90’s –and all the  “lose 20 lbs a week” promises?) i.e.  “Sales will flock to you…” or “New Customers Guaranteed…” a  I am going to scream.  Moving publicity and marketing into a social media venue is no different from any other traditional marketing venue.

Marketing and Advertising–in the traditional sense–is never guaranteed. You need to give it time/frequency and you need to find the right messaging or offer, but even THEN you are never guaranteed that your specific campaign or ad will rake in the big numbers or the ever-loving ROI that ever marketer, business owner and CEO strives for.

Marketing/Advertising and striving to find the right Publicity venue is a commitment and it TAKES TIME to flourish.  In order to see the numbers you must invest in it and stay the course. Again, remember when people were jumping on the fad diet bandwagon – looking for quick results, but only end up stopping because the RESULT DOESN’T COME FAST ENOUGH?  The same is happening with social media and networking.  So many people jump in gung-ho and only stop when they don’t see those “promised” amazing results and ROI. Does anything in business happen in a flash of a second? Especially as it pertains to marketing and advertising? I can’t tell you how many marketing programs I put together for the organization I worked for in the late 80’s that didn’t pull in the results we wanted.  No results though meant putting the brakes on one campaign and trying another–we never stopped.

Social media/online marketing is not a magic pill that will produce results in a matter of months or even years. It’s NEW media–we are all still LEARNING how to use it!   I wish all the Social Media guru sales people out there would just stop promising buyers things that they cannot guarantee. Yes, they may pull in the sale, but in the end (after about 2 or 3 months) the  “promised result time” comes along and their new customers throw up their hands in disgust and throw fireballs at the Social Media Gurus and Social Media itself (makes my life hell).

Come on!? Does the LA Times promise a “Guaranteed ROI” on the $250,000.00 ad they may sell to Disney or Pepsi?  No,  I don’t think so. So why then is social media production sold with so many false promises and  guarantees of great results? Drives me NUTS.

There is MUCH more to social media then the perfect Key Words or “Call to Action.” Can you ever do that? Really? Think about it…

For instance, I just got this bit of jargon in my in-box today (they wanted me to “take a look at what they can offer my company”–do they read?):  We will create a presence for you {on the social networks} that delivers new customers and sales. Each one will be built around a strong call-to-action and will be professionally designed so that the first impression is a lasting one. All three will also be optimized for search within each network. This means that when someone does a search, you will be coming up in the top results.

While I cannot  say a lot about their whole approach to social media production and management, but who has the right to proclaim that they will “deliver new customers”?

Social media is an investment that has really no guarantee unless you stay the course and continue to build your audience and shape your messaging.  Take the time to figure out what works for you (personally) or your company because there is no cookie-cutter formula, but there are some basic things you can do that are generic to every social media campaign/strategy.

Stay the course and devote time to your social media plan, try different things, stay with things that work,  and don’t expect it to ever become automated or viral either.  Sadly the things you see and hear about viral marketing campaigns are not as ordinary as most people would like to think (kind of like winning the lottery – well maybe not that low of odds, but close).

Think back to our traditional PR/Marketing days–and those traditional strategies we still use to this day.  The ROI on a print mailing is usually about 2-3%.   So why, pray tell, does everyone expect social media to be any better or different?  Sure the hits will look like a higher ROI many times, but in the end isn’t it all about the balance in your bank account? Again, there is no quick fix, but give it time and your bank account will benefit if you stay the course because we have only just started!

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