It’s good to spread good ideas

Just a short post to share a very creative idea from a PR pro in Australia.

Social media dishes up both challenges and opportunties for PR professionals. For better, social-friendly media relations, here’s a simple idea to leverage the opportunity of Twitter and resolve the downside — confused messaging — in one stroke.

Have a good PR tip? Share it with the rest of us!

Posted in Media Relations, Social Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Leveraging the power of social media for social good

One of the great things about social media that you don’t get at the water cooler, a political rally or in the boardroom is the ability to think out loud, and listen to (mostly) unedited ideas. It makes collective decision-making incredibly efficient. And it has the power to ignite social movements that engage and spread in ways that make a real difference.

A few weeks ago, I was part of something that was simple and somewhat therapeutic. I just happened to be surfing tweets in my regular stream and came across a #tweetdiner chat that had been underway for about 20 minutes. I had been feeling a bit unhinged after the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. The group was discussing the lack of sustained donations for the disaster.

We all noted that support and interest was dropping off a lot faster than it had for similar, recent natural disasters. In real life, that’s where it would probably end, as we drifted back to our offices to fulfill our obligations. But this group — within an hour, mind you — conceived and agreed on a social media plan to increase donor interest. I submitted the name #care4japan, and the group chose to work with that.

As we gear up for a week of tweets, I see that 90 people are following us on Facebook — that’s 90 people who may have the power to not only provide a donation, but to tell their sphere of influence why it’s important to give if they can.

I’ve worked for social justice organizations my whole life. But in the face of the disaster I saw unfolding across the Pacific, it was more than a little difficult to make sense of organizational goals or personal priorities. Tweetdiner helped me focus that nervous energy, vocalize my concern and participate in a project with the potential to make a difference.

Malcolm Gladwell insists that the political will and ideology must be in place for social activism to take place. He says it’s not about the tools at all. I tend to agree with him that we need a collective cause — humanitarian, social justice, political — to get the ball rolling. But I’m not sure he completely appreciates the untapped power of social media. He says we are willing to act — to expose ourselves to risk — based on how close we feel to a given situation. True-ish. But each social media tool leverages different spheres of influence — and some have the power to create new spheres of influence. Higher adoption rates mean that word-of-mouth and collective action has spread beyond one’s social, geographic, economic or political boundaries. And for both good and bad, the tools make it easier to debate the message, put up new walls, or break down old ones.

Posted in Social Media, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lessons in social media planning from Sesame Street

REMEMBER THAT SONG FROM SESAME STREET that went something like, one of these things is not like the other? One of these things just doesn’t belong… Viewers had to choose what things belonged together and/or identify what was different. If you’re in business, you likely already know that a big part of your success depends on what makes you unique. So if that’s the case, then why would you ‘do’ social media just like (or worse than) your competition?

I am often asked which social media tool or tools should be used by an organization that’s just getting started with social media. Some of those asking have even signed up for several social media accounts before they’ve put the strategy and resources in place to make it work.

If that’s where your organization is with its blog, Twitter account or Facebook page, please take them down and start over. Because there’s only one thing worse than letting other people define your brand (which is what happens when you choose not to go where your audience gets information), and that’s leaving people with the impression that you don’t care.

Far too many organizations fixate on which social media tool to use. As many social media experts will tell you, the tools of social engagement change all the time. They are only a means for engaging and reaching your audience. For any given goal, there will be one or more that will make sense for your organization, but strategy must come first. Here’s a pretty good 5-step plan with links and resources to learn more. You can also find simple examples, and a lot of excellent advice from Chris Brogan, whose posts on social media strategy are as relevant today as they were in 2007. You can’t say that about tools.

Listen first
Beware anyone who makes recommendations without listening to the existing conversation among those you need to reach. You will never get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re starting from or who you need to talk to, so take the time to find out what people are saying about your company, products, services or ideas (or hire a PR firm to do an online opportunities audit). And if you know who your audience is, go ahead and ask them which social media tools they use as part of your planning.

Learn the rules of engagement
Like any investment, social media requires a certain level of commitment to work. No matter how good your strategy is, it will fail if the people using the tools don’t know what they’re doing. Twitter, for example, is not a platform for a 140-character press release. Eighty percent of your content should be about what your audience wants. Sometimes that’s information about you, but more often than not, it’s about listening to their concerns, sharing valuable content and answering questions. Same goes for your company blog, your videos, and your facebook page, though the type of content you share and your approach to sharing the information will vary somewhat depending on the tool.

A different kind of expensive
So many free tools, and never enough time or energy. That’s a big complaint I hear in the non-profit sector. But it’s critical to invest in hiring people who love what you’re selling, whether it’s an idea, a product or a service. They have the power to be ambassadors for your brand, but you’re going to have to train them and trust them to do it without going to the Board or Shareholders for a decision. Speed and responsiveness are key.

Brand – it’s not your logo
Identify your values, mission and vision statements and deliver on your promises consistently. Unlike targetted one-way marketing, being in the medium with a crafted marketing message is not enough — in fact, if it’s too slick, your campaign messages may even be harmful for your brand, unless they’re aligned with what your audience already believes about you. All online and offline interactions your organization has with stakeholders must align with your brand and offer something your audience wants. If it is, audiences move from ‘Whatever’ to ‘Gee, that’s kind of interesting’ and finally to ‘that’s so much about my values, I’m going to tell everyone I know’.

Putting it all together
The number of new tools and the sheer quantity of advice available to organizations on social media can be daunting, especially for smaller organizations. But the old PR rules still apply in terms of strategy and issues management. Invest time planning and ask yourself what outcomes you want to achieve. Make sure you devise a way to measure whether it’s working. If you do all that and you love what you do, social media will amplify your passion with the right audience, at the right time, using the right tools. You’ll be with the three kids that ‘belong together’.

Three of these kids belong together
Three of these kids are kind of the same
But one of these kids is doing her own thing
Now it’s time to play our game
It’s time to play our game.

Kind of catchy, isn’t it?

Posted in Client/Customer Relations, Marketing, Social Media | 2 Comments

klout in real life

OMG - it's knitted!

When it comes to mother-love, there are few things more authentic and personal than a hand-made, knitted dress.

 Unfortunately, in virtually any decade after the automobile was invented, there’s pretty much nothing in the world that will ruin your chances of personal klout in real life than a polyester knit dress worn in tandem with your younger sisters at the same bad-ass school.

Talk about killing chances for your kid to survive the new playground equipment in East Van; in 1970s Vancouver, I had a Klout score so low, the number hadn’t yet been discovered, let alone explored in math class.

And while I sort of — kind of — get what mom was trying to achieve all those hours she spent knitting dresses that delved really deeply to discover the relationship between Zellers Polyester blue and personal hell, I’m sure she never quite understood the implications.

When we’re young, confidence and acceptance is important. When we’re older, it’s pretty much a required asset if we’re going to make our way in the world for ourselves and those who depend on us.

Confidence isn’t easy, no matter how you come by the clothes on your back. But it’s absolutely the key to personal ‘Klout’. 

So try to surround yourself with people who would rather die than see you squander your potential, focus on opportunities that stretch your imagination and tell everyone else to check their head (games). Life’s too damn short.

Posted in Leadership, Slang | Leave a comment

Being the boss in the 21st Century

Leaders of all previous eras, unite! The #usguys have issued a challenge to describe 21st Century leadership at #usblogs.

At one time, leaders were the men or (rarely) women with the biggest sticks — in many cases, it was simply the person with the power to ground you, fire your butt or otherwise make life miserable if you didn’t tow the line.

Although autocratic leaders still exist,  the truth is their leadership style is going the way of the dinosaur. But, like the rubber toys above, if you’re flexible enough, even a dinosaur can find the right situation and survive to shout another day (though personally, I don’t know anyone who truly follows anyone who shouts to get results).

Adaptation seems to be the key to successful leadership, because anytime we deal with issues that involve the human element, complexity is part of the equation. There is no one leadership style that works in every situation.

Leadership is really the ability to move a group towards a common goal. So it does kind of make sense to understand your own style and know which situations work best for you.

And on that note, I guess you should call me if you need a revolution. Here’s how I measure up:

  • 25 – Change-oriented leadership
  • 22 – Visionary leadership
  • 22 – Ideological leadership
  • 18 – Participative leadership
  • 17 – Leadership theorist
  • 13 – Executive leadership
  • 13 – Action-oriented leadership
  • 10 – Goal-oriented leadership
Posted in Employee relations, Leadership | 2 Comments

Word-o-rama: time to purge 2010 slang

Attention, Generation #

Is it so much to ask for some 80s clarity in 2011?  Meh is still relatively funky and flexible, but I’m (like totally) cheering the demise of ‘epic’ and ‘fail’.

If everything is epic then nothing is special. The term has no nuance. Fail, though descriptive and widely applicable to virtually any situation, is equally limited – you either fail or succeed and that’s that.

In the 80s, a situation, person or thing could be ‘grody’ or so bad it merited ‘gag me with a spoon’ . Even ‘far out’ gives you a visual. But epic? It’s grody to the max.

We need something short, sweet and flexible for 2011. What would you keep? What do you want consigned to the trashbin forever? Taking your amazing and messed up suggestions in my comments section…

Posted in Marketing, Slang, Social Media | Leave a comment

The cycle of compromise

The new rules around business and crisis communications in the age of social media freak a lot of business types out. Because if you’re in business, social media means you no longer control the message. It’s open season, so hiding stuff is very taboo.

The idea of compromise isn’t new; it happened in the Middle Ages between royalty and the wealthy merchants that began organizing and operating without noble permission. The new class gathered strength through collaboration and was sustained by the wealth and success that cooperation created.

The powerful needed something those gaining power had cultivated. In this case, it was buckets of money needed to buy influence, armies and weapons. Little did the nobility know they were laying the foundation for the demise of feudalism. When it died, technology, innovation, creativity and scientific innovation flourished, and industrialism prevailed.

We already know that social media has changed how we relate to each other and that using it correctly can tip the balance of power in our favour. Social media shares many of the features of the guilds and trade associations that rose to power at the end of the Middle Ages: it is collaborative, widespread and accessible. Most importantly, it operates under the radar of existing power and controls, and those who use it well are in demand. These attributes put pressure on those who hold traditional power to share it or risk losing it altogether.

Social media networks have already had a significant impact on our political, economic and social systems. It is not yet clear whether deeper transformation is ahead, but like the powerful guilds and trade associations of the middle ages, the seeds of change are here to stay.

Posted in Crisis Communications, public relations, Reputation Management, Social Media, Stakeholder Relations, Uncategorized | Leave a comment