Persuasive Picks for the week of 07/27/09

Three Instantly Effective Social Media Strategies
Alexandra Samuel, CEO of Social Signal, outlines three great options for building a robust social media presence, regardless of budget. Her article in BusinessWeek suggest companies use simple and quick innovations, building on existing tools and established best practices.

Facebook and MySpace: Beware Of The Mommy Bloggers
Mediapost’s Catharine. P Taylor reviews how mommy bloggers inadvertently, perhaps, uncovered a central truth about social media marketing: it isn’t at all about carefully targeted display ads, or search ads, but about relationship-building.

Who is responsible for your social media strategy? This article by Wayne Kurtzman on Media Bullseye debates whether or not you should hire an entry-level person to manage your “dances with the public” and reminds us that “They are speaking for your company on the world wide stage.” Other important caveats: “One: These are not small companies. Two: Nothing personal, but these companies do not understand social media. Three: as a good friend reminded me, this is all too new – there are no experts.”

As a remote workforce, we’re more than familiar with the importance of self-discipline and internal motivation as critical success factors. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at these and other crucial elements of success for future workers facing the disappearance of traditional office environments. Alexandra Levit asks, “What’s in Your Future?”

If you still aren’t convinced that social media is a strategy you should add to your marketing, customer service and sales mix, read “Managing an Online Reputation” from Kermit Pattison in The New York Times. “Your customers are talking about you — and the whole world is listening.”


Innovation in IT from … a PR company? Forrester Research Reports on PerkettPR’s “Golden Image” Standard

Update: Chris Silva, analyst at Forrester Research, kindly posted additional information and insight into the report, here.

When I started PerkettPR over a decade ago, I knew I wanted to do something different. My goal was to build a new kind of PR firm that focused on superior client service through senior-level talent. I didn’t think much about my IT innovation in building a virtual  infrastructure – I just wanted to offer an excellent and productive work environment for employees throughout the nation. And I wanted to ensure that, just like their office counterparts, they had everything they needed to be successful in their day to day work.

I’ve always been driven to go beyond the norm and it’s no different for me in business. Just as everyone else is learning something, I want to be moving on to the next big thing. It’s that kind of initiative that led me to build not only an innovative PR agency – but an innovative business. When we started our agency in 1998, virtual workers were still viewed with a skeptical eye, green was just a Crayola color (#21) and SaaS (known as “on-demand” at the time) was something only a few companies (including our clients) were aware of. So it was an honor to have the last decade of our work at PerkettPR – encompassing all three of those elements – turned into an independent report from Forrester Research Inc.

You can download the entire case study (registration or login required), learn how Forrester can assist in developing virtual and remote workers, and learn how PerkettPR leverages a “golden image” standard – including remote support technologies, robust storage capabilities, collaboration tools, and being proactive about green IT initiatives.

As a virtual organization, we have worked very hard to establish a specific culture (one that is clear to both our geographically-diverse employees, and to our clients who know that good teams matter in PR) – as well as a technically-savvy organization that constantly discovers and implements the best new technologies to keep our workforce productive. Thanks very much to Forrester analysts Chris Silva and Doug Washburn for taking a closer look. I hope readers will find the study helpful and informative.

No “I” in TEAM – why we’re all now in sales, PR and customer service

There’s an age-old argument that has traditionally taken place among the walls of corporate America regarding the relationship between marketing, PR, sales and customer service: who is responsible for (and receives credit for) leads? What is the process for turning leads into customers and who “closes”? Once that happens, who is responsible for keeping customers happy and informed? The traditional answers might look something like this:

a) PR – awareness that supports sales’ efforts; sales – responsible for actual leads

b) Sales

c) Customer service

Truth be told, now more than ever, each of these constituents must work together – in essence, sharing all of these responsibilities – to ensure a wholly positive prospect or customer experience. With the rise of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook for direct engagement and interaction, the lines are a bit more blurred – we are all selling or promoting to prospects and caring for our customers.

Take, for example, two recent examples from my own life:

1) I recently had to have GE come out to fix my refrigerator (again…but that’s a different blog post). The repairman came, said he fixed the part, took his check and went along his merry way. The next morning, I woke up to a freezer that still wasn’t fixed and a refrigerator that was 60 degrees! Now I had two problems instead of one and I was not happy. I called customer service. The woman on the other end knew I was upset. She said the repair (read: sales) schedule couldn’t fit me in for another week. I didn’t take kindly to that answer and as such, she quickly found an opening for me on the next day. This woman recognized a customer service issue that could have turned into both a negative sales experience (if I had patience and a lot of ice, I could have called an independent repair shop) and negative buzz (PR). She salvaged a customer and a negative Tweet or two… Now, I expect the repairman to come back and treat me as nicely as she did – and to apologize for the inconvenience. I’ll let you know how that goes. But if he doesn’t, which experience will I remember the most?

2) I went to St. Louis last week and Tweeted that I was searching for a good hotel. A PR rep from the Hyatt Regency St. Louis contacted me on Twitter and presented a really great offer. Although I received other recommendations from my online communities, I was impressed with the effort that this woman put into treating me as a customer who mattered. As a PR rep, she could have very easily just answered my question with “Try the Hyatt” and a link – but instead she took on the role of sales, securing a discount code and taking the time to interact back and forth with me to “close the deal.” She not only promoted her company and made a sale, but she set the precedent for my expectations around their customer service. I am happy to say that the remainder of the experience upheld the standards of expectations that she set in her interactions with me. As a result, I Tweeted about my gratitude and here I am writing a blog post recommending that you try the Hyatt if you ever visit St. Louis.

The definitive lines of responsibility are, of course, still important as business executives specialize in one area or another – sales, customer service, product development, PR, etc. However, at the pace of business today – and the public engagement that customers now expect – those lines need to be a bit more flexible within organizations. Different departments need to support each other more than ever – and communicate better than ever.

Be sure that you prepare your company with consistent and persistent messaging, clear guidelines for communication and definitive processes for working across departments. Lead with the attitude that every employee has the same goal – to make your company great and your customers happy – and be sure to rethink policies that might otherwise detract from that initiative.

As transparency continues to be expected and business is conducted in a more public forum than ever before, every employee is essentially selling, promoting and representing their respective companies in every move they make. Be sure you prepare your staff to represent your brand in the right light.

Thank you for your support – Banker & Tradesman’s readers voted us the #2 PR firm

A while ago we asked our community of clients, partners, friends and supporters to vote for us – if you liked our work and believed we deserved it – in the Banker & Tradesman’s “Best of 2009″ Reader’s Poll. And vote you did! I’m thrilled to announce that we received the silver award for Best Public Relations Agency among the Bay State’s financial and real estate community. Not only did the publication receive three times more votes than last  year (across all categories), but you wrote us onto a ballot on which we were not originally listed. We know this took time and effort and we thank you!

B&T’s Best is “an annual tribute to the companies that readers have determined to be, simply, the best at what they do. This is a subjective, not objective, reader poll. It does not measure who writes the most business or has the most revenue. What it does measure is the loyalty and satisfaction readers have with vendors.”

We can’t think of a better honor than to be recognized for doing great work and delivering client satisfaction. Thank you so much to those of you who voted, to our clients for choosing to work with us, to our partners for supporting us and to our staff of exceptional employees who work every day to deliver superior client service and results across tech, healthcare, financial and consumer industries. I am grateful and very, very proud.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 07/19/09

Twitter 101Twitter Launches “Twitter 101″- Step One Of The Business Plan
Still looking for self-help in understanding what Twitter is and how to use it? Now you can get that information straight from the source with Twitter’s new online guide for business.

Nine Marketing Tips from a Six-Year Old’s Lemonade Stand
Jim Lodico guest posts on WebDesignerDepot.com with this great set of marketing tips inspired by his daughter’s lemonade stand.

Why Customer Service Should Be in Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Tamar Weinberg shares this great post that reminds us how important customer service can be when engaging in social marketing strategies.

Deep social media engagement pays dividends
Sally Falkow provides an overview (with links to the source) on the eConsultancy.com blog of a recent ENGAGEMENTdb study thats shows how companies with the deepest and widest social media efforts gained revenue over the last 12 months.

Amazon Buys Zappos, Gives Press the Boot
Amazon and Zappos show that sometimes you can deliver the news on your own terms without the help of the media. It was certainly an interesting move considering the size of the news – and it has been yielding opinions on both sides of the fence. Here’s the video that Jeff Bezos released on YouTube: