Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category
Because I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years teaching at Algonquin College and at Eliquo Training and Development, and because I’ve done a fair amount of speaking on social media and communications topics, I’ve found myself doing lots of “social media 101″ talks. And I’ve written dozens of posts here under the “how-to” or “SMB101″ categories, which are posts particularly useful for people trying to get started in social media.
Do I find that repetitious or tiring? I suppose that would be possible. But as I’ve been doing this, I’ve become more and more convinced that even though “going deep” is appealing, business as a whole is still at the beginning stages of exploiting social media.
Given that social media has been a “thing” for a number of years, the following stats may surprise you:
- Two-thirds of businesses in one survey said they weren’t doing any social media monitoring for business purposes.
- Nearly half of people with smartphones look up information on a product they’re considering buying right there in the store. And more than 40% people will not return to a website with a crappy mobile experience.
- Four out of 10 businesses either seldom or never monitor online reviews about their business. And yet… sentiments expressed about a product online have been shown to reduce customers’ willingness to pay.
- Three-quarters of small business have fewer than two people dedicated to social media.
- Six out of 10 small businesses spend $100 or less on social media.
These stats, and the feedback I get from students, tell me that while those of us who think about social media all the time are busy talking about some of the minutiae, trying to figure out the latest changes to the Facebook algorithm, and pushing the discipline forward, a large portion of the people who are actually working with customers are still trying madly to figure out if and how to do a blog, start a Facebook page, or get on Twitter. And another large group of businesses have started using some or all of those tools, but are floundering.
While it’s a joy to be on the cutting edge, it’s important to realize there are a lot of people out there running businesses who are just struggling to get by. It’s easy to say “Well, they just need to buckle down and get going,” but it’s nowhere near that easy to DO. Let’s not leave them behind.
It’s easy for a business or organization to shy away from taking public stands. Don’t want to offend anyone, right? But when should you take a public stand on something? And how best to do it?
I started to think about this when I saw a stand Toronto Public Health took on July 22.
Toronto Public Health went to Twitter to call for ABC to not add celebrity Jenny McCarthy as a permanent host of their morning talk show The View. McCarthy, originally a Playboy model, has developed a career as an actress, an author, and more recently as an anti-vaccination activist. She has said her son Evan was diagnosed with autism, that the autism was caused by vaccines, and that he has recovered from autism. In a CNN op-ed, she (and then partner Jim Carrey) wrote: “We believe what helped Evan recover was starting a gluten-free, casein-free diet, vitamin supplementation, detox of metals, and anti-fungals for yeast overgrowth that plagued his intestines. Once Evan’s neurological function was recovered through these medical treatments, speech therapy and applied behavior analysis helped him quickly learn the skills he could not learn while he was frozen in autism. After we implemented these therapies for one year, the state re-evaluated Evan for further services. They spent five minutes with Evan and said, ‘What happened? We’ve never seen a recovery like this.’”
McCarthy’s hiring has sparked a significant controversy. The blog post announcing the hiring has hundreds of comments, some supportive, more critical (in my estimation).
So why would Toronto Public Health, a Canadian city agency, go public on this?
I twice asked for an interview with Toronto Public Health, but they chose not to make someone available to me. So I’m going to speculate a little, based on the media release and material they sent me (I guess if I’m wrong enough, they’ll ask for a correction.)
First is the numbers argument, which was amply illustrated by this infographic they distributed when they went public.
When you look at the reduction in incidence of some very serious, if not fatal, diseases, I would suspect that public health professionals felt the potential for misinformation by McCarthy (both explicit misinformation from her discussing her views on the show and the belief that her appearing on the show would lend her credibility) was more important than the risks of going public.
Second, I would guess that there was a discussion of whether going public with opposition would in itself lead to publicizing her views more.
Third, I would assume that while it was more or less certain that Toronto Public Health would gain some widespread attention as a result of their stand, they were more interested in raising awareness of the importance of immunization in their local market.
A media backgrounder from the agency tells of a local outbreak of measles that had been caused by parents delaying childhood measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
It’s uncommon for a private-sector company will take a proactive stand on an issue, and it’s rare that government departments will do the same (excluding policy decisions, which are government stock in trade, and politicians taking positions, which they do all the time – it’s kind of their job). It’s much more common to see not-for-profits or associations take on the task of taking on a point of principle. But businesses taking stands is far from unheard of: in the US, the same-sex marriage debate has seen corporate interventions on both the pro side (Starbucks’s Howard Schultz telling a shareholder unhappy with the coffee giant’s support of same-sex marriage to sell his shares) and the con side (Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy tweeting that the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act was a “sad day” for the US), to point out just one example.
So when you see something happening that your company seems to have an interest in, think about whether you want to take a public stand. Here are some tips:
- Be aware of the risks of speaking out as well as the potential benefits. Prepare yourself for backlash or criticism. Think outside your own organization and supporters. Brainstorm what the strongest opposition to your stand would or could be.
- Decide how relevant the issue you’re looking at is to your organization’s mission. You might have a strong opinion on vaccination. But if your organization doesn’t have a lear link to some aspect of the issue, you run the risk of being accused of “newsjacking” or just making people go, “huh?”
- Ensure you have senior-level commitment to the position. This HAS to be something the leadership of the organization must be comfortable with.
- Base your arguments on information and fact, not on purely emotional appeals, and vet your messaging very carefully.
- Don’t hide any interests your company or organization has in the issue. Transparency will lessen the probability that someone will come back later and attack you for a bias you didn’t disclose.
- Have a listening post set up to monitor the progress of the conversation both before and after you intervene. (I’m going to write about this later this week).
If you’re here regularly, you’ll know I love me some measurement. So when I saw a recommendation to read a paper from Katie Paine, I was pretty much immediately going to the site to download it.
“Social Media Measurement: A Step-by -Step Approach” by Angela Jeffrey, a Texas-based communications consultant with Measurement Match, is exactly what the title implies — a no-BS guide to doing solid measurement of social media initiatives for organizations, published by the excellent Institute for Public Relations. When I saw a thanks to Kami Huyse, a communicator who I like and respect a great deal, that made me even more positively disposed to the paper.
And the content does not disappoint.
She starts with the depressing information that measurement is NOT being embedded in organization’s social media campaigns and points to three different surveys with disturbing numbers. Perhaps the worst? An eConsultancy survey that reported only 22% of communicators had a strategy that linked data and analysis to business objectives.
So perhaps you’re in the three-quarters of that sample. Drop the shame, and read the rest of the paper. In under 20 pages (before the appendices), she lays out an eight-step process for a solid — and achievable — social media evaluation process.
Here’s my paraphrase of her steps. And if any of this is shocking, you need to really brush up.
- Identify goals
- Research and prioritize your stakeholders for each goal
- Set objectives
- Set key performance indicators
- Choose your tools and benchmark
- Analyze your results and compare them to your costs
- Present to your management
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
If you’re holding back, or you haven’t done a measurement component to your social media activities, read this paper and then tell me why you can’t.
Hell, you don’t even have to pay for her paper. So .. get to it. And if you want some more support, feel free to contact me for a consultation, or to take the next social media measurement course I’m teaching later this month.
Even a little PR / social media blog like this one gets pitched. A lot. The vast majority of the pitches I get are absolutely awful. So I’m going to profile one that made me WANT to write about it and explain why.
This is the email I got:
So why am I writing about this, and not the roughly 20 other pitches I got this week?
First, it’s an unusual concept. A legal insurance firm like DAS Canada doing a contest is unexpected (at least to me.)
Second, it points out a serious, real problem — being able to afford legal representation.
Third, it’s in the range of things that I might write about anyway — social media related, has a business application. You’d be surprised how many pitches I get for stuff that I would never in a million years write about on this blog (would you believe beach umbrella anchors?!). And you’d also be surprised by the people who pitch to me even after I’ve explicitly written to them and asked to be removed from their lists. (I’m looking at you, Imal Wagner, who pitches books to me that I would never cover, and has been told so).
Fourth, the release is reasonably well written. I could get the concept. And they quote the president of the Canadian Bar Association, which gives it some relevant credibility.
What didn’t I like about the pitch? The subject line’s kinda clunky. And I would love to have seen some personalization. A multimedia component would also have been nice — links to imagery or audio or video.
For all I know, the people at Pointman PR did absolutely no research, and me getting this was just a lucky chance for them. Or perhaps they thought about it a little. Either way, it worked. So what can you learn if you’re doing pitching to blogs or to mainstream media?
- Just look at the blog a little. I’m a PR blog. It’s not that I don’t care about children getting impaled by rogue beach umbrellas. It’s just that it doesn’t fit my slant. So don’t WASTE MY TIME PLEASE!
- Think rich content. If there had been a picture, I probably would have used it.
- Personalize. Yes, it’s a pain. But do it anyway.
- And if you’re told to stop pitching to someone, FLIPPING WELL STOP PITCHING!
Lots of talk recently in my neck of hte woods about the Amnesia Rock Festival. It happened June 14-15, with 90 acts from Anthrax to Alice Cooper to Fucked Up to the Dropkick Murphys filling a field in the small West Quebec town of Montebello.
By all accounts, the music was great. But some are calling the festival an “organizational shitshow“, some bands weren’t happy that they had to pay to play, and a village councillor and others are pointing at an “ocean of pee”, giant unwieldy lineups to get in and out, shuttle buses that stopped running with thousands of people waiting to get back to campsites… And a few days afterward, the site is still quite a mess.
Organizer Alex Martel spent several days incognito, then began to speak with reporters yesterday, explaining that people were congratulating him onsite on pulling the festival off.
I know the territory that Martel is on a little bit. Music festivals are giant endeavors. There’s the money side — you contract to spend money that you hop you’ll earn back; there’s the logistics side — thousands of people showing up at an outdoor site expecting to be fed, watered, and go to the bathroom in relative comfort while the sound and lights are tip-top. In this case, there’s the complication of remote campign sites and shuttle buses. So much can go wrong, so quickly.
Since I wasn’t at the festival, I can’t say with any certainty just how gigantic a failure or success it was. But it’s a great demonstration of the difficulties all businesses can experience in scaling up.
When you start a project, it can be easy — you do EVERYTHING, and everything comes back to you. When it grows, you have to start growing with it. Maybe that means staff, or volunteers, or renting an office, or hiring subcontractors… and it gets complex. Sometimes you discover that you’ve gone from someone doing what you’re best at and passionate about to someone doing things that you really don’t enjoy.
There was a time when I was doing media relations, and then I became a manager of media relations. It was only after I left the job that I realized just how little I had enjoyed managing people who reported to me.
I’ve seen lots of friends join startup companies that are hiring like crazy, growing like mad. And many times, those companies have crashed and burned. If you’re on the upswing as an organization, hooray! But don’t get so enthralled with the venture-capital money, the kudos, the excitement that you forget that you’re always just a few missteps away from total calamity.
And when you are blowing up the world with your products or services, remember that you’re most vulnerable to customer service prolems, communication breakdowns, and the things that can start out small but end up as fully-fledged crises. The solution?
Stay open. Use all the communication channels you’ve established. Meet your audiences where they are — at the checkout, on Twitter, Facebook or whatever other social media tools they use. Acknowledge problems, work to solve them, explain why they’re happening, and try not to make the same mistakes twice. Shutting down the lines of communication, hiding away, and moaning that people “just don’t understand how hard it is.”
If you talk to them about what you’re doing, they WILL understand. If you get defensive, they’ll stop caring and stop listening.
In a fit of perversity, I decided to submit a proposal to the 2013 Social Capital Conference with the title “Why you are Stupid.” I wanted to talk about some of the things that we social media people do that are… stupid. Generally speaking, I was thinking of:
- Stupid offensive
- Stupid boring
- Stupid and poor (budgetwise)
I decided that I thought I’d see if I could turn the crowd (assuming there WAS one) away and then try to pull them back in.
Here’s how I promoted the session:
I THINK I did okay at living up to the billing. But I’ll leave that for the audience to decide, and perhaps share. You can chime in based on the slides here:
More importantly than my own presentation is the success of the conference. Lara Wellman and Karen Wilson of the eponymous Wellman Wilson Communications led the organization with many other volunteers, and they pulled off a great conference. Why did I enjoy it so much? Here are a few reasons:
- Keynotes. I got the opportunity to see friend Danny Brown do a keynote for the first time. And I got a totally different sense of why he’s so smart from seeing him in that context. Made me proud to be friends with him. The other keynote was delivered by Gini Dietrich, who for me existed in that odd world of having been friends for literally YEARS online without ever having met. I told someone yesterday that before Gini and her colleague Lindsay Bell-Wheeler arrived at a Friday night reception, I was literally a bundle of nerves inside, desperately hoping that I wouldn’t be too much of a dork in their presence. That jury may still be out, but there’s no doubt that Gini is a charming and polished and top-notch speaker, and that Lindsay just might prove the sayings about the relative depth of the Atlantic Canadian gene pool. She feels like a sister after just one meeting. Which is likely bad news for her, since that just means more insults.
- Collaboration. When Danny was confirmed as keynote, I really wanted to do something to celebrate the launch of Influence Marketing, the book he just published with Sam Fiorella. So I got in touch with Caitlin Kealey at MediaStyle, another Ottawa communications consultancy, and they jumped in with both feet, putting together (with some help from me) a super fun event called Gin and Talkin‘. MediaStyle President Ian Capstick interviewed Danny, there was great food and better drink, and several dozen people ended up with complementary copies of the book, courtesy of Translucid and of MediaStyle. It was a great kickoff to a hectic weekend. And I never could have put together an event that good on my own.
- Connection. While it’s rewarding to go to events like #socapott and reconnect with the people you already know, it’s just as exciting to meet new people and learn from them and discover what makes them cool. While I was a bit limited in doing that due to a family wedding in the middle of all this, I got to know a number of people at the conference that I hope to know better in the future.
Oh, and one bonus:
- Karaoke. A group of us decided on post-conference festivities at Ottawa’s legendary Shanghai Restaurant, home to Saturday night Karaoke with the one and only China Doll. We got there to discover two bachelorette parties already heating up the mics, and then China Doll made a late appearance to show off Ottawa’s best to some locals and out of towners.
If I can leave you with one takeaway from my presentation, it’s this:
Raise your own expectations is a double-edged sword. If you expect your own work to be better, to be smarter, you will spread that expectation to others. Your boss, your clients, your friends will expect you to be that good NORMALLY. That’s intimidating, but it’s also necessary. Push beyond the stupid and the easy.
That’s one of the things that I’m going to try to do. Might not be a bad idea to take my own advice.
There’s a certain irony apparent (at least to me) in Chris Hadfield returning to earth after what is undeniably one of the great examples of communication in action and the government for whom he works being roundly pasted for its “rebranding” of the National Research Council of Canada. And there are lessons to be learned here. And I have to tip the hat to friend and colleague Susan Murphy, whose post this morning “Chris Hadfield: Social Media Un-guru” got me thinking about all this.
First, let’s précis Chris Hadfield. In his five months on the International Space Station, he has, in the words of tech blog Gizmodo, “made us care about space again.”
How? They say “Hadfield straddled the lines between teacher and performer, educated expert and screwball with a camcorder, just about perfectly.” His Larrivee parlour guitar wasn’t just a recreational toy. He used it to record an earth-space collaboration with a choir and with Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson that became a national singalong on “Music Monday.” His camera became a tool for a unique set of eyes on our planet and a record of all sorts of land, sea and skyscapes. Look at Cape Bretoner Parker Donham, who posted twice when Hadfield “took pictures of my primary residence.” And then, as he prepared to return to earth, he released a moving cover version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Meantime, the Canadian government refocused and rebranded the venerable National Research Council last week. The refocusing moved the historic institution “away from basic science” and towards a focus on applying science and collaborating with business.
The move has been criticized by many people, including Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells and US-based science blogger and author Phil Plait, who called it “monumentally backward thinking.” Some point to the current government’s uneasy-to-hostile role of muzzler / gatekeeper between scientists and researchers. It also was a matter of some concern inside the agency too, according to this CBC blog post.
Chris Hadfield was able to do what he’s done because of a few things:
- He’s a charismatic person, and we’ve been able to see that because we see him.
- He had five months to tell a compelling story and to build an audience for that story.
- He was willing to tell human stories in a human way.
- He was willing and eager to engage with people.
What’s the latest video on the NRC’s Youtube channel?
Is it fair to compare these two videos? Probably not. Is it fair to compare the two channels? Maybe.
- NRC: 102 subscribers, 11,786 views, comments disabled on most videos
- CSA: 153,623 subscribers, 22,970,172 views, dozens and hundreds of comments per video
- NRC: 2,194 followers, 229 tweets
- Hadfield: 879,225 followers, 4,919 tweets
- CSA: 45,510 followers, 13,821 tweets
What we’ve seen in the last five months has been a demonstration of the power of social media. That demonstration will only be truly useful if other parts of the government which funds agencies like the Canadian Space Agency and the National Research Council see that potential and make use of it.
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Jennifer Stauss Windrum over the last couple of years. While we are separated geographically, the joys of social media have given us a chance to meet each other virtually.
Jennifer is a communicator, first and foremost. And she’s someone who I’ve grown to admire for her passion and her ability to take a personal tragedy and turn it into a positive movement.
Jennifer’s mother Leslie, like far too many people in this world, has cancer. And right now, her journey is coming towards its end. Leslie was diagnosed with lung cancer. Now when you hear lung cancer, you might say to yourself, “did she smoke?” Which is what many people think of when lung cancer enters the picture.
She didn’t. My dad had lung cancer, and when he was diagnosed, he hadn’t smoked for more than 20 years.
Jennifer’s mom’s diagnosis was bad news. No denying that. But the difference between Jennifer and other people is that she wasn’t willing to shake her head and tut-tut about the injustice of someone getting lung cancer and being stigmatized, or the fact that while lung cancer is the US’s #1 cause of cancer deaths, it receives the smallest amount of research funding.
She started WTF Lung Cancer. You get that, right? And in a cheeky, tireless, sometimes angry, sometimes despairing multi-year project, she’s been advocating for better funding for this disease (remember, 4 out of 5 lung cancer diagnoses are being made in NONSMOKERS now).
My dad was lucky. He was operated on for the lung cancer and lived on for nearly two decades. His impairment was minimal. Jennifer’s mom is not that lucky. To be blunt: she’s dying.
And in one of life’s odd juxtapositions, her mom’s health began to decline VERY quickly just as Jennifer has launched a giant new campaign. And as she’s managed being a caring daughter WHILE managing a major initiative, I’ve been touched, humbled, and inspired by her honesty, her love, and her dedication.
I’ve donated to a fund and social business that Jennifer started called SMAC! or Sock Monkeys Against Cancer. She wants to provide funky sock monkeys to cancer patients young and old as a symbol of comfort, care and concern. And she wants to bring attention to the plight of people like her mom. And she’d like to see this shitty disease cancer CURED.
If you’re here for a PR lesson, take this as your lesson: if you have a cause, if you have passion, you need to look at how Jennifer has channeled raw emotion into a strategic campaign to achieve a goal. She’s consulted others, she’s asked for help, she’s offered help when she can, and she’s put in the thinking and the work to make one of her dreams become a reality.
And if you learn something from this post or her websites, and you have a few bucks, why not make a donation, the way I did? She’s so close to achieving a major goal. Help her out. You won’t regret it.
I’m a major lover of whisky. In fact, for part of this weekend, I was rhapsodizing about the interesting whisky selection at a new LCBO store in my neighbourhood to all and sundry.
However, as a PR guy, this news release from giant whisky brand Johnnie Walker put me in need of a drink.
“JOHNNIE WALKER® LAUNCHES BOLD NEW ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN
by Pat Roberts
‘Where Flavour Is King’ showcases products’ credentials rooted in the big, bold flavours of Johnnie Walker whisky
Johnnie Walker, the world’s number one Blended Scotch Whisky, is this week launching a new global advertising campaign. Entitled ‘Where Flavour Is King’, the campaign focuses on the array of rich and intense flavours that are found in each blend of Johnnie Walker whisky.
From its origins in 1820, the Johnnie Walker label has always been committed to its quest to blend whiskies of exceptional flavour, refusing to compromise on quality. This dedicated attitude to finding exotic and exciting tastes takes the product on a special journey of distillation, maturation and blending, to produce the ultimate, unrivalled blend. The flavours, derived solely from the simplest ingredients of barley, water and peat, are mythically transformed through distillation and years of maturation in charred wood casks before being unleashed through the craft of the master blender.”
You can’t be serious. I don’t give a *@#%@# that you are doing a new advertising campaign.
Make good booze. Tell me about that. This is a far cry from the amazing short film that JW did a few years ago with the wonderful Robert Carlyle:
Now THAT makes me REALLY want a whisky.
I took a bit of an abrupt break from blogging. Two things conspired. One good, and one bad.
On the good side, I got busy , and took some time for vacation. That led to the first hiatus. But then, the bad thing. Shortly after I returned from vacation, my dad passed away, and I’ve been trying to juggle work and the myriad details that immediately follow a death.
The good news is that my mother is a very strong woman. The other good news is that she’s receiving moral support and paperwork from both of her children and their partners, her grandchildren, and being entertained and diverted by her great-grandchildren. So things are progressing about as well as they can in the wake of an event that was expected, to an extent, but still a terrible shock and a cause for mourning.
But enough about me. What’s on my mind when it comes to communications, social media, and PR. And there are two things that I want to highlight that relate to social media and to business that the last several weeks have impressed upon me.
First, a succession plan and an interruption of business plan is a necessity, for businesses right down to the micro level. I like to have discussions with friends and colleagues so that if something comes up that makes my participation in a project difficult or impossible, I have someone who I can slot into the project with a minimum of prep time. If you’re a SOHO, or a small retail business, what would you do if there was a death in the family, or if you were incapacitated by an illness or injury?
Second, it’s easy for social media to be criticized as creating false or inauthentic relationships, relationships which aren’t important. But when I got the call on a Saturday morning from my mom that my dad had died, I got support from my partner and my real-life friends. But I ALSO got support from people who I know only online. Cards. Memorial donations. Other gestures of caring.
Those gestures were meaningful. While I can’t prove it or quantify it, I know it. And last I checked, there’s no shortage of inathentic or fake rleationships in real life.
So those are two lessons that I’ve been thinking about since August 11. That, and that hugs are good. Give one to someone you like at every opportunity. It’s hard to imagine a bad outcome from a good hug.
And finally, one of the thing sthat I had to postpone when my dad passed was my webinar in the Think Tank Summer E-learning Series, organized by SocialFish and CommPartners. Instead of August 16, I’ll be presenting “Your New Content Strategy” on September 27. You can find more info and sign up here.