Our Favorite Things…for the Multi-Tasker

If you work in PR, chances are good that you’re a master multi-tasker. But even the best juggler needs a helping hand from time to time. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favorite apps, gadgets and websites to help you streamline your act and even add to it without dropping a single ball.

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  • Mynd – it’s a calendar app, but breaks a very busy day down visually into very simple to consume blocks. So you know what’s next, who you’re meeting with and what tasks you have to get done. It can also sync with Waze so if you are traveling to a meeting it will tell you ahead of time if there is heavy traffic and you need to leave early.

 

  • I’m going “old school” with this one and recommending the original Amazon Kindle (at a very palatable $70). If you’re anything like me and amass a ridiculous amount of books on your “to-read” list, but never have enough time to get to them, the Kindle is your answer. Whether you’re in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, mid-commute or simply find yourself with a few minutes to spare, you can download all your books to one compact device & carry them with you to start chipping away at the pile. Get through your must-reads before they collect any more dust on those bookshelves!

 

  • Check app – I have it on my iPad and I can check my bank accounts balances for payments and deposits and I can also check on how my mutual funds and stocks are doing…all in one place with one touch.

 

  • iPad – or any good tablet that supports the same capabilities. I can access my email, view documents, update and monitor my social profiles, read books via Kindle or Nook apps, browse the web, manage my banking needs, shop, entertain my kids in line at the grocery store watching Paw Patrol (again), and countless other tasks and activities all in one place. It’s brilliant.

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  • I covet Yipit this time of year – it’s an aggregator for all the social selling apps, but in one place, so when online shopping, instead of scouring Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. for deals, Yipit sends me a daily list of all deals in one spot (they tweet them, too). Extremely helpful – I think it’s the best kept secret!

 

We know these are very few of the many time saving and time enriching tools out there. So, please share your favorites in the comments. The more we share, the more we all benefit. And this is the giving season after all.

 

Cheers!

Influencers Who Inspire: Interview with Jon Swartz of USA TODAY

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

In a special edition of our “Influencers Who Inspire” series, we’re chatting with award-winning technology journalist, author and avid San Francisco Giants fan, Jon Swartz. Jon shares his thoughts on smart phones and peer pressure, guerrilla marketing tactics that actually work and how reporting compares to baseball.

We read your article on BlackBerry’s Z10 launch and their plans for a comeback; so tell us, what is your ‘go to’ mobile device?

I used a BlackBerry up until two years ago when the trackball wasn’t working as well as it should. At the time, I faced some peer pressure from my colleagues in the Valley to get an iPhone. There used to be a lot of iPhone bias in Silicon Valley, but it has gone away now for the most part. More people are using Androids, and I would certainly consider a move to a BlackBerry or Android from the iPhone. I can live without the iPhone. I find the battery life is awful, and I have to have a charger with me at all times. As a result, more restaurants and bars have charging stations (at SXSW we saw this all over the place).

You know, BlackBerry CEO (Thorsten Heins) is right; he calls the iPhone passé and says they (BlackBerry) have the same problem that Apple did. “We need to earn our laurels back.” It’s true because in tech things become old fast; the shelf life of these things aren’t very long now. Apple has traditionally done a great job of that, making the old version obsolete as they quickly move on to the next thing. So it’s no surprise others are following suit here.

We know you are huge San Francisco Giants fan. How did your obsession with baseball begin?

When I was six I went to my first game. I also got to see Willie Mays play when I was a kid, so that got me hooked for life. I also loved playing the sport. You become infatuated with it, and it never loses you. Baseball also has a long season, and it takes a lot of patience. It’s a lot like reading a novel. It’s not like other sports where the season is more like a quick sprint. The upside is that you can go to a game and actually explain what’s happening. You can also count on always seeing something different. I have probably been to more than 1000 games, and there is always something new to explain or something you haven’t seen happen before.

Baseball is a half-year long, and it changes with the seasons. In spring there is so much optimism, and then comes the summer when things really heat up. In the fall when things wither away, it gets dark and cold and with it comes a sense of desperation when the season ends. That is the beauty of the game. It’s very logical to me and different to other sports in that you can’t run out the clock. You HAVE to finish the game. No matter how well you played and how many runs you are up by, you have to FINISH.

Are there any lessons from baseball that can be applied to business?

Yes, I would never assume anything about anything. Baseball teaches you that you can’t assume something is over until it’s over. Like in 2002 (World Series game) when the Giants had a five-run lead over the Angels with only eight outs left. They had to keep playing until the end and ended up losing the game.

It sounds a little corny but in baseball it’s a different sport. It’s hard to excel if you have to prove it every day. That’s the same as being a reporter; you have to prove yourself daily, but when it’s over it’s over. With so much content and so many articles, today the shelf life for stories is too short. You finish a great story and you are proud of it for about 20 minutes before you have to do something else. You have to move on.

We are all constantly inundated and bombarded with news from all different sources. So every day you have to reinvent yourself to always do more. It’s like Freddy Lynn (MVP and Rookie of the Year) – he came out of nowhere like a comet. But then pitchers found his weaknesses. Unless you can adapt and reinvent yourself every day, you will hit a rut. BlackBerry went through it, and Apple went through it, too. In tech it happens all the time.

Speaking of re-inventing, with the most powerful images getting clicks in social media today, do you find yourself framing your stories differently with visuals or video in mind now?

I do think more about storytelling and how to interest the reader, but rather than visuals, it’s more about the people and the stories. It is necessary to think that way, though, and I am trying to do more of it.

How has your job changed in the last six months?

It’s crazy. In addition to reporting, I oversee all tech coverage in the paper. So I edit and manage people, too. While I’m talking to you I’m editing a story. It’s actually a story on baseball, and it’s coming out next week. There is no shortage of data in baseball, but trying to figure out which data to use and how to use it is the challenge. Just like in reporting, in baseball they too are struggling with deciding how much time to give to data. I have ton of notes but the bigger problem is what parts to use in the story. People ask all the time, “Why you didn’t include us or mention us?” There is only so much you can do given bandwidth and the amount of content to sift through. I write for people who are on the go and always busy, and you have to find a way to keep your story succinct.

Would you tell a student today to go into journalism?

I would say if you are a good writer you can work anywhere, as everyone wants content today. It is so important to have good writers. Smart companies like Salesforce and Mark Benioff understand you need to tell stories to get your customers to want to buy your products.

Has working with PR people changed?

Not really; I have been working with the same people for the last 10 years or so, and pretty much the same good ones. I always work with a core group of 50 of them that I seem to always interact with. It is like cultivating any relationship you built it over time.

What kind of (PR) people do you like to work with?

They should know their company well. Most people I work with have been there a long time. I like working with internal people who can get you what you need faster. They are usually more responsive. I work with a lot of good people. People at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple; they are all on top of things and respond. Apple is much more responsive, and Yahoo is getting that way, too. They don’t have a choice anymore. Everyone used to have to wait to go to Apple, but now they have to cooperate with us and be responsive.

What was the nicest/most memorable thing someone has done for you?

I have so many stories of people doing something for me in my personal life. But in work life, I would say the most memorable “nice” things people do for me and/or others are services like the airport limos at SXSW and the SXSW survival bag. There was a company called Tagged that provided airport limos to drive us from the airport to town at SXSW. That was nice, convenient and smart.

If you had to cook one meal what would it be?

Pasta. Everyone likes and agrees on it in our family. Jackie is Italian, and pasta is the one thing that I would get no argument on.

What do you do when you’re not working, or at a baseball game?

We have four kids ages 12-25, so it’s a full house, and we are always going from one event to another with them so that means not a lot of free time. We do like to travel a lot to different places and really enjoy our time away.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Writing cover stories and features I can spend time on. It’s rewarding to do something that no one else is doing. Feature writing is a little different than what everyone else is doing. You always remember your great feature stories. They include more original thinking and have a long-term impact on things to come. They give you something to be proud of.

Facebook Just Made Your “Friends” More Likeable with Graph Search

By now you’ve heard the news that Facebook has announced Graph Search, eloquently explained here by Steven Levy at Wired. While the tech world buzzes about Google’s reaction, the everyday user of Facebook is trying to make sense of it all – and probably worried that marketers are going to stalk them even more now – and privacy activists are sure to help them shake in their boots.

But let’s slow down for a minute. Isn’t garnering information from your friends and fans a good thing? Don’t you want to better understand your network, and be able to both gain and share information in a more targeted way? For example, I don’t want to bombard all of my “friends” with my current diet habits as I’m doing a 21-day Paleo challenge. But I would love to know which friends have also done it in the past, what their experience was, and any advice they have to share. Sure, I can post that question on my timeline, but it’s momentary – maybe some friends will see it, but many will not as it gets buried within the rest of their scrolling “news.” I also don’t want to ask the question and tag people because it’s just obnoxious how the question is then plastered on their Wall (or in their notifications, pending approval), and I’m not totally sure which of my 1300 or so friends it would be appropriate to ask. It’s just not a very gracious way to ask your network questions. In fact, here’s what it looks like right now in Facebook:

But from what I understand, with Graph Search, I can easily do just what the name implied – search my network (social graph)  and find those in it who might be interested in this particular topic, based on their updates, information and posts. I could query “friends of mine who have tried Paleo,” and Facebook would immediately provide me with data that I could then use to ask an appropriate question – or share information – to friends who might actually care. That means I annoy less and connect better on topical information. Or, perhaps you’re interviewing for a new job and you want to know if any of your friends have worked at the company you’re considering. Not many of us know the career history of all of our “friends,” and we’re not about to go searching through everyone’s bio – on Facebook or on Linkedin, for that matter. If Facebook could deliver an instantaneous list of “friends who have worked at EMC,” for example, you could easily ask them what it was like, if they recommend it, etc. (Granted, Linkedin allows you to search by people/companies.)

But what about privacy?

This is, understandably, always the first question that comes to mind when Facebook makes a new announcement. We’ve been conditioned not to trust them, and often we have reason. But again, from what I understand, Graph Search simply allows you to make better use of information already available to you. They’re not unveiling information you’re not already sharing – they’re just indexing it in a way that allows your friends and fans to easily search it at any time.

Personally I’ve been wanting Facebook to make it easier to search details on my network. Yes, I have lists and privacy settings, and as long as Facebook is honoring those, I’m happy to be able to go back into someone’s “archives” in a more organized and instant way to find relevancy to what I want to ask or share. Nothing’s changed from the old adage, “If you wouldn’t put it on a billboard, don’t put it on a social network.” (No matter what the privacy settings. )

And anyway – didn’t we all already know that the Internet is forever?

Here are a few of the more choice quotes from Levy’s article – they may help you quick study the news:

  • Nobody has feared this day more than Google, which suddenly faces a competitor able to index tons of data that Google’s own search engine can’t access.
  • Facebook is helping them [users] tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands.
  • “People use search engines to answer questions,” Zuckerberg says. “But we can answer a set of questions that no one else can really answer. All those other services are indexing primarily public information, and stuff in Facebook isn’t out there in the world — it’s stuff that people share. There’s no real way to cut through the contents of what people are sharing, to fulfill big human needs about discovery, to find people you wouldn’t otherwise be connected with. And we thought we should do something about that. We’re the only service in the world that can do that.”
  • Thanks to Graph Search, people will almost certainly use Facebook in entirely new ways: to seek out dates, recruit for job openings, find buddies to go out with on short notice, and look for new restaurants and other businesses. Most strikingly, it expands Facebook’s core mission — not just obsessively connecting users with people they already know, but becoming a vehicle of discovery.
  • Graph Search will be improved based on how people actually use it. So Facebook plans a slow introduction, limiting the initial rollout to a small number of users. Zuckerberg’s expectation is that by the time it becomes available to millions it will be considerably improved.

And, as GigaOm tells us, “It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.”

As a marketer, I can’t help but be excited about this news – discovering, sharing and positioning information is what we do for a living. But I’m also interested from a personal standpoint because I think it will make me a better Facebook “friend” in many ways. What do you think? Are you excited or nervous about this rollout?

ADDENDUM 

I just learned from Robert Scoble that you can sign up to try it: “To get the Graph Search on Facebook you have to sign up at http://facebook.com/graphsearch and it will roll out over next few months.”

I did, and here’s a look at the sample search it ran for me – looks good, although I’d love to be able to query something more specific.

 

Looking for CoTweet Alternatives? Our Comparison of Social Media Management Options

If you are a standard CoTweet user, you have probably heard that on February 15, 2012, ExactTarget will be replacing the free service CoTweet with the premium service SocialEngage – with a free trial for 30 days. To help those of you that may be scrambling for an alternative, we did some leg work for you. Below you’ll find a comparison of features and functionality across SocialEngage and other popular social media management tools in the interest of deciding which  alternative is best for standard CoTweet users. The factors considered in this comparison include the ability to pre schedule posts, view messages and replies, as well as multiple user and team members support, and of course, pricing.

SocialEngage http://www.cotweet.com

Billed as the next chapter for CoTweet, SocialEngage has the same general interface (single column display with sidebar navigation) plus many new features. Pricing for SocialEngage is not available online. To find out more about SocialEngage you must provide an email to download a digital brochure and then speak with a salesperson for a price.

HootSuite http://www.hootsuite.com

Creating and scheduling posts are simple tasks with HootSuite. It features an intuitive interface using tab navigation for each profile, multiple columns for displaying streams (feeds, mentions, messages) and a side toolbar to access features. HootSuite also features custom analytic reporting and supports adding profiles from most social networks.

TweetDeck http://www.tweetdeck.com

TweetDeck is available as a web or desktop application and is very easy to create and schedule posts from multiple profiles. It features a simple multiple column interface and a top toolbar. You may add multiple columns and assign feeds, mentions, messages and more from unlimited social profiles. Unfortunately there is no team member support.

MarketMeSuite http://www.marketmesuite.com

MarketMeSuite has an interface that is very similar to CoTweet; and offers similar functionality with the addition of adding profiles from LinkedIn and Facebook, but currently not Pages. MarketMeSuite is in beta with some additional functionality still in development, including analytic reporting.

Roost http://www.roost.com

Creating and scheduling posts is not a quick process with Roost. The wizard-like interface walks you through 4 steps to create a message. The application encourages you to create a campaign for the an entire week and has a feature that recommends content based on sources you choose. Team members are not supported.

Seesmic http://www.seesmic.com

Seemic offers a plethora of apps for web, desktops, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. The simple interface uses multiple column display and sidebar navigation – similar to TweetDeck. Seesmic supports unlimited social profiles, but there is no team member support.

Buffer http://www.bufferapp.com

Buffer is an interesting and different paradigm from CoTweet. The idea is that when you come across something you like, simply add it to your “buffer” – a queue from which Buffer publishes at established times of the day. Adding posts in Buffer is very straight forward, however, you do not have the ability to pick individual date/times for your posts. Adding posts from web or mobile device to Buffer is a snap, with browser plugins available for most browsers, Android and Google Reader.

Recommended Alternatives for Standard CoTweet Users
In consideration of all the factors used to compare these services, MarketMeSuite is the only service that offers all the functionality of CoTweet for the same price: free.  CoTweet users will find the interface to be very familiar, while offering some additional features.  MarketMeSuite is a beta service and some of the functionality is still in development, so some change is expected.  For more information, MarketMeSuite has provided a Getting Started Video.

If you would rather avoid using a beta service and are willing to pay a premium, HootSuite is the most affordable option.  It offers all the same functionality of CoTweet plus custom analytic reporting and support for most social networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.

We hope this has been a helpful overview of some of the popular social media management tools available for those standard CoTweet users trying to decide on the best alternative.

Influencers Who Inspire Series: Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology.com

We begin our PerkettPR “Influencers Who Inspire” series with a chat with Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com.

Ramon is a journalist, technology evangelist & editor of Smallbiztechnology.com, author of “Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses” & “Technology Resources for Growing Businesses” and a national, in-demand speaker.

What made you choose journalism as a profession? 

I didn’t choose it,  it chose me and it was quite accidental. I just really loved to write and so I started writing, then one day Black Enterprise and Inc. Magazine said could you write some articles for us – and the rest is history :)

What four  or five things are always “routine” in your day?

Deleting email, sorting email, sending email, toggling tons of tabs in my browser, wishing I could do puppet shows for poor kids in Mexico, Dominican Republic or somewhere.

Why is small business technology news of interest to you in particular? What has it taught you?

Not sure. I’ve always been a tech tinkerer (as in take apart talking teddy bears in the 1970′s/80′s, shutting off the lights in my home, etc). I think this love of tech and the blend of my love of reading/writing became the love of small business technology news. It has taught me that things change, companies go and come but relationships are forever, ideas are a dime a dozen, successful execution is all that matters.

 Over the years you have had the opportunity to interview some truly great public figures and influencers (such as Hillary Clinton). What has been your favorite interview thus far? Why?

A few things stand out… Back in the days when I didn’t know how to be a journalist I tried to slip Bill Gates a hand written note. His team saw it and took the note away. I didn’t know you were supposed to asked his PR person to interview him. This was many years ago.  I opened an event for Michael Dell and he said he read my blog – that was cool.  Scott Trip founder of TripIt – his story of his company’s growth was really nice (listen to customers). In another context I’ve meet President Obama, President Bush (both) and several other heads of state.  I also really love SXSW and other events where I can meet with my media peers from the world of small business.

What tips do you have to help PR professionals better work with you?

True relationships are so important; where I like you and you like me. Not giving me a story that does not fit. Knowing that I love the story and the market at times more than the feeds and speeds of a product. I like talking to people, but I’m also a massive reader so I get much more (at times) out of some video, blog posts, pdfs and other things than a phone call with an executive running a prepared PPT.  NOTE: the PPT talks are GOOD I just mean that there are other ways to get one’s message across.

What advice would you give to a small business to help them continue to compete with larger competitors this year?

Wow….I could write a book on that.

1)  Be honest

2) Over give

3) Be very excited

4) Do not take NO for an answer

5) There is plenty of room at the table for the big guys and the little guys

6) Fit in where you can and show your value

7) Don’t be afraid of big companies – even those who are direct competitors

8) Big companies who are evaluating you and a bigger one of your competitors will give you a big chance if you’re prepared

9) If you screw up, fess up and OVER make it right

10) I could go on…

You traveled a lot as executive producer of the Small Business Technology Tour and for other events you attended in 2011. What travel secrets save you time, money or sanity when you are on the road?

Plan in advance. Be redundant (I often have 2 notebooks, a tablet and 2 phones) failure is NOT an option. Leverage your network of friends. Pay people (even friends/or “child labor”) for work done (even if you ask for a discount). Review, review, review. Get a team member (I have lots of areas where I’m not so great – hence my team shine in those areas), have a virtual team – even if you are solo,  your virtual 1099 team can do wonders.

How do you unwind after a hectic work week? Do you have any interesting hobbies or little known facts about yourself you would like to share?

I play piano, love doing puppet shows, love joking around and laughing loud, love great food at restaurants (I hate those restaurants that give you a big white plate and a tiny piece of food and charge you $78 for it), watching movies (Bourne, Bauer, Ethan (as in MI3) are my heroes and others like that). But really in my downtime – I TOTALLY ENJOY email, RSS feeds, Twitter – related to small biz tech (I know it’s lame but I really, really LOVE IT).

What are you most looking forward to in 2012?

I’d love to speak lots more to audiences on tech, marketing/pr and/or entrepreneurship. I’d love to provide more content on my own site and for others. I’d love to speak lots more to audiences on tech, marketing/pr and/or entrepreneurship (you know I think I wrote that twice..hmmm). Event production is tough, but I really love it and I think I do it well so working with bigger companies to produce events for their audiences would be like mint!

I’m looking forward to being 40 years old in 2012!

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Do you have any follow-up questions for Ramon? Suggestions for other influencers you would like to see interviewed in the PerkettPR Influencers Who Inspire Series? Please add them in the comments below.