BusinessWeek says smart companies are using Twitter and Facebook—are you? We can help.

I am honored to be featured again in BusinessWeek as one of 50 CEOs Who Twitter, as a part of a larger story on social media. As I was just discussing the growth of interest in social media campaigns this morning with the PerkettPR crew, this is a timely article. We continue to receive incoming queries from companies in many industries that want to learn how to elevate brand awareness with social media campaigns. The opportunities are both allowing us to expand the industries in which we work, the brands that we work with and the work that we do. We’re going far beyond traditional public relations and as I mentioned last week, we believe that this is the natural evolution for the PR industry.

That being said, so many of the brands that we speak with have no idea where to begin. They still aren’t convinced or sure of the value of “social media” and they want to approach it with kid gloves. They are worried about time, resources, control and execution. And we understand why – we’ve been there! We’ve also helped a lot of companies come from that place and embrace the opportunities of becoming a “social company.” And we love doing it because as you can see, we’re heavily involved in social media ourselves. We believe in it, we appreciate and understand it, and we continually see value and results from it.

Social Media U

To share our enthusiasm, we’re pleased to announce a new program designed to help companies in any industry understand and embrace social media for business. Our “Social Media U” offering was born out of the interest and feedback we’ve received for speaking on social media for business and social media for communicators. Sharing our best practices, experience and insights, Social Media U will help any executive make sense of the noise and clarify just what types of social strategies can work for your business. While articles like BusinessWeek’s are helpful, many executives need more than a DIY guide. And as the CEO of Forrester Research, George Colony, recently wrote, “You can’t understand Twitter, Facebook, or blogging by reading an article in a magazine or a report from your CMO. Sure, they can tell you what they are, but you won’t be able to truly understand how they could change your business unless you actually use them.”

That’s where we can help.

Quick facts about PerkettPR’s Social Media U:

  • Social Media U is an affordable, intensive half or full day workshop
  • While we prefer to meet face-to-face, we can (and have successfully done so) execute the workshop via web conference
  • We offer three levels of engagement to choose from – based on your knowledge level and needs
  • We’ll teach you what social media is and how to engage and embrace it for your business
  • Appropriate for any business that wants to understand social media, the potential value to their business, how to get started and how to maintain effective social strategies

What you’ll learn:

  • From the C-Suite to the front desk – why social media strategies involve everyone at your company
  • Why Facebook isn’t just for keeping up with friends and family, LinkedIn is so much more than a rolodex and how Twitter benefits your brand
  • How to effectively  monitor and respond in social media communities such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo! Answers and more
  • Which blogs matter to you and how to participate in the blogosphere even if you don’t have your own
  • How to easily create content for your blog, website and customer communications
  • Effective and realistic strategies for engaging customers, prospects and partners: from blog posts to video, Twitter to microsites
  • How to trust the community and build positive relationships for your company

Why we’re qualified

  • We’ve been integrating social media into PR campaigns for years now and have been recognized as one of a handful of PR firms leading the charge (many call it PR 2.0)
  • As senior PR professionals, we understand communications and the larger picture of how it must all come back to your company’s business goals – read here about why we think this matters
  • We’re heavily involved in social media for our own business
  • We’ve trained clients in many industries and of many sizes – from SMBs to public companies; fashion to technology – on effective social media strategies
  • We’ve presented strategies at numerous conferences for thousands of executives

For more information please email SMU[at]perkettpr.com – or call me personally: 781.834.5852.

Persuasive Picks for the Week of 05/03/09

The Seven Deadly Sins of Social MediaThe Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media
David Griner from Luckie & Company and TheSocialPath blog provides some helpful advice to companies looking to take the plunge into Social Media. He adds an entertaining twist to the subject by aligning the tips with the “Seven Deadly Sins.”

How Twitter Can Drive Your Bottom Line
Stephen DiMarco from the Compete.com blog posts some very interesting stats and examples of companies that have had impressive success in adding Twitter to their overall marketing strategy. Dell’s achievement of $1 million in sales – exclusively through Twitter – is just one of the examples shared. Read on for more.

A Second Look at Measuring the Corporate Blog
Kyle Flaherty of BreakingPoint Labs revisits the challenges of measuring your blog’s success and provides seven areas that he and his team focus on to conduct their own success measurement.

Micro-interactions Get People Talking. Thank You, Corner Bakery
With the rapid influx of “follower” collectors on Twitter, it’s refreshing to see the occasional example of real businesses integrating Twitter into their marketing strategy and doing it well. David Armano shares this quick example of how Corner Bakery is getting off to a great start on Twitter by making the right moves.

Will Social Media Save The Newspaper Industry?
We’ve seen a lot of announcements lately that newspapers across the country are slowly closing their doors. Many papers are scrambling to revise strategies that will allow them to keep their doors open, and many of those strategies involve social media. This post by David Finch on SocialMediaExplorer.com questions if that will be enough to keep them operating.

Your Turn: What Can We Do Better in Public Relations?

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent Tweet about a question he was asked during a briefing – “What can we do better?” – made me think this is a question we should be asking the industry more often. Of course, we have regular discussions with our clients about what we, as an agency, can be doing better. But as rumors of the PR industry dying continue (by the way, that’s been tossed around for years now), we thought we’d ask you, readers. PR isn’t dying – rather, it’s changing. But change is good – and we want to hear your thoughts on how PR should evolve and improve.

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It seems there are a lot of opinions out there about what PR is doing wrong or failing at, but very often these complaints are hollow – there aren’t specifics around what companies would like to see more of other than “media coverage.” So how can we as an industry improve? What do you think PR professionals could do better or differently? If you’ve got an opinion on the subject, here’s what we’d love to hear from you:

- What do you think PR professionals most need to improve or change? (We’d love to hear perspective from journalists, business owners, CMOs and VPs, branding and social media experts, etc.)

- In what areas would you like to see improvement? Media relations? Social media? Messaging? Strategy? Crisis Communications? Pitches? Writing? Thought leadership? Other?

- What is PR doing right these days?

- If you work with a PR agency, have they delivered what they promised when you hired them?

We’d love for you to leave your comments here or, if you’ve got a lot to say but want to keep it private, feel free to email me at chris[at]perkettpr.com or fill out our online questionnaire. If interest is high, we’ll gather and analyze the feedback and share some additional insights on how we think PR can improve the problem areas. In any event, let’s stop saying PR is dying. Let’s talk about how it’s evolving.

Thank you in advance!

From Fast Company to Boston Business Journal to Mass High Tech to… Peru? “Journalists Are People Too” Continues with Doug Banks

Doug Banks has seen his fair share of PR pitches – having worked at various tech publications over the years. In our continuing effort to help PR executives and journalists better understand each other, we interviewed Doug recently. From cold-weather camping with his children, to keeping the newsroom connected with Mass High Tech’s readers, Doug knows how to work hard, play hard and keep his priorities in check.

PPR: You are the Editor for Mass High Tech; how long have you been doing that and what do you find most fascinating about New England’s high tech industry?

I’ve been editor since 2005, when I came over from our sister paper, the Boston Business Journal. I started reporting in 1992, but I’ve been doing business journalism in Boston since 1998, when I joined the BBJ. I left there to go to Fast Company magazine from 2000-2001, where I got to see the highest heights of the tech industry and then one of the lowest lows (assuming we’re not at the lowest low right now). The most fascinating thing about New England’s high tech industry? Probably its ability to change, on the fly, without much notice. In barely four years, the complexion of this region’s economy has undergone seriously rapid transformation.

PPR: With all the chatter about traditional media and the PR industry dying, what are you guys doing to stay relevant, informed and connected at Mass High Tech?

Our readership is geographically and demographically niche, so we’ve been spared from some of the carnage going on nationally in journalism. But a bigger reason, I think, for our ability to not be dying, and to stay relevant, is our move last year to redesign our web site, add new industry-specific email newsletters and news digests, and get more active in the places our readers are hanging out and looking for their news. And that’s why you’ll find a better collection of RSS feeds, you’ll find us with a very active Twitter presence, and (at long last) finishing up a Facebook presence. We’re also doing more targeted things, such as launching new Linked In groups specifically for All-Stars and Women to Watch honorees to help them network with one another better.

Ultimately, it’s all about staying connected to our readers, knowing where they are and what they’re doing and reporting it in as many forms as necessary. And we’re the first to admit that we have a lot more to do.

PPR: What’s it like these days in the newsroom? What’s the most impactful change that you’ve experienced in your industry/job over the last five years?

It’s busier than ever. All newsrooms, not just ours, are so multimedia now. If you asked me 10 years ago, or even five years ago, how many reporters would have to tote video cameras around to capture video interviews while they’re doing interviews for the print edition and then for the web site, I would have thought you were crazy. Now we’re asking reporters to file information for creating online maps, mashups; we’re asking them to not only shoot video, but help edit it; we’re asking them to promote their stories on the social networks. I mean, they’re doing it all — it’s definitely different. And I will say this — it’s never boring.

PPR: It’s just warming up – what did you do to keep yourself entertained during New England’s long winter?

I love camping and I don’t let the cold stop me and my kids from enjoying the outdoors. My daughter and I love playing in the backyard snow, and my son and I recently went to Maine for an overnight camping trip. We also spent an outdoor activity day in Gardner and in January I organized an indoor overnight as part of a church-based scouting program I’m involved in. So entertainment, when you have kids, is never difficult.

PPR: Name the most interesting place you’ve ever visited.

Tough one. Most recently? Probably Bryce Canyon in Utah, in 2007. My daughter and son, 5 & 7 at the time, hiked the entire canyon, which is practically 8,000 feet above sea level. They’re hardcore.

PPR: TV, Internet or books?

I’m 30/30/30. Books in the morning when I first get up, Internet all day, TV at night to wind down.

PPR: Did you always want to be in journalism? If you weren’t an Editor, what would you be?

I always thought I wanted to be a teacher, but found that I was pretty good at digging up news, so I ended up as a reporter. And I still get to teach — I’ve been an adjunct at Emerson for a few years now and BU before that, as well as a number of community colleges when I first moved to Boston. If I weren’t an editor, I’d probably be a teacher of some kind.

PPR: What’s your favorite type of food?

Lebanese. My wife’s cooking, in particular.

PPR: What would we find on your iPod?

Podcasts? Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese language lessons; Music? R&B, soul and contemporary gospel. But mixed in with the Stevie Wonder and John Legend is some Pixies, early REM, Van Halen and U2. My tastes are eclectic.

PPR: What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

This July, I’m going to Peru, up the Amazon River, with a team of people to build a school/church building for a couple of local villages there. I haven’t done it yet, so it doesn’t really answer the question, but judging from how far remote we may be going, it’s the only thing I can think of at the moment.

PPR: What three words would other people would use to describe you?

Most people I know are too wordy to use just three words. I would hope they would use words like “authentic.”

PPR: What’s one thing that would surprise people about you?

For people who only know me through work? Probably my commitment to putting family and faith first. Work is important, but it doesn’t come close to those two things.

Valuable Content, Not Numbers, is What Really Matters in Social Media for Business

This morning I received a promotional email from a company that began with this line, “With over 1,700 followers on Twitter, [Company] is fast becoming a top industry resource…”

That statement fires me up for a few reasons:

1) Why do 1700 followers on Twitter make you an industry resource?

2) Who are the 1700 followers and why do you equate them with credibility of your organization (or to me) if you haven’t put them into context?

3) This was from a PR resource company and screams “bad pitch” to me – something the PR industry continues to suffer from.

Where is the context? Proof points? Value explanation?

This is the biggest issue I see right now in social media efforts from businesses: too much fluff and not enough valuable content. This email landed on the heels of a video I watched on Friday that raised hairs on my neck. It was a home-produced video commercial for a “service” (read: a set of video instructions) to help you “build your Twitter followers with no effort at all! Fully automated!” (I so vehemently disagree with its purpose that I can’t even bring myself to link to it here.)

Look, we’re all aware that there’s a certain level of narcissism to social media. We share every little thing we do, say or feel with near-strangers via microblogging, video, Facebook and more. We compare follower numbers, TwitPic everything we can, and debate over whether or not to employ a Guy Kawasaki-like Twitter strategy or not. Follower numbers do matter to a lot of people.

And while a large following can work for good causes – take Ashton Kutcher and CNN raising $$ to fight Malaria in their battle to reach 1M users – it’s not quite the same when you’re promoting a product or service. In other words, using social media for business has got to employ a smarter strategy. It’s easy to be viewed as genuine when raising money for a good cause. Building a genuine reputation when promoting your business takes a bit more effort.

That effort includes understanding social media – not just touting your use of it because it’s a hot buzz word or trend. Don’t mislead your prospects or customers by equating your “followers” on Twitter (or elsewhere) with value – unless you’ve done your homework and can explain how those numbers add value. I have over 10,000 followers on Twitter today but I wouldn’t tout those numbers as the value in a new business pitch. Rather, I would tout that I know how to identify and communicate with the specific followers within that number that would matter to the prospect. Or, that I know how to help build, grow and maintain a focused and valuable network for my clients (as I’ve done for myself and for others). My fashion industry friends are not going to matter to my VoIP or healthcare clients. My parenting discussions won’t relate to non-parenting Twitter pals. My marathon community doesn’t matter to my PR colleagues (well, not the ones who aren’t runners anyway). You get the point.

I am fully aware that the exciting opportunity in social media is to expand your network in ways never before possible. I agree that there are unprecedented opportunities for promoting and connecting. But people who are turning social media – especially Twitter – into a massive infomercial are missing the point. Even if you get 25,000 followers to your Twitter stream, if you don’t offer meaningful value to them, they aren’t going to stay, or buy your product, or read your blog. Say you’re Tweeting about mountain climbing gear and 75% of your followers are musicians who live in New York City. That means an even smaller percentage of those 25,000 followers are likely to be relevant customers. And that brings me back to touting your follower numbers alone as value. The value is in the content and the relationship (and how these relate to your ultimate goals), not the numbers.

The more popular social media becomes – like Twitter, for example – the more choosy I am becoming about who I’m connecting with – and the more I am learning about how to maintain value for different audiences. I want value out of these relationships – both work and personal value – and I’m finding that many of my friends are discovering this as well. I want to help my clients participate in social media intelligently – in a way that will bring value to their organization as well as their customers.

The booming popularity of social media has changed the focus – for those who truly get it – from building a large network to building a valuable network. I’ve got various examples to share on how to do this – but that’s another blog post.

What do you think?