Actually, Pay Attention To That (Wo)man Behind the Curtain

Last week Hubspot – via Twitter Grader – highlighted the The 100 Most Powerful Women On Twitter which included a lot of influential and interesting women I expected to see there, such as Ann Handley, Jennifer Leggio, Beth Kanter, and Charlene Li, and a few surprises that I wouldn’t have readily thought of, but are very interesting to follow nonetheless. Happily, we also noted that our CEO, Christine Perkett@missusp was also included within the Top 25 women on this list – of course, we’re not surprised because we know how hard she works to keep on top of the industry, as the PR and social media landscape constantly changes. But we are very proud and impressed nonetheless. (Is this a good time to ask for a raise?)

After the initial hoopla on Twitter about the list and congratulating the women we know personally, Christine asked on Twitter, “so what does it all mean.” I’ve thought about this before when lists like this come out – do they really mean anything, and if so, what? Does the general public really care who is influential on Twitter? Are these people really influential or do they merely appear to be, to those of us who are really ingrained in social media?

After thinking about it for awhile, I’ve come up with what this particular list it means to me – I would love to hear your thoughts on what it means to you or to the rest of the world.

  1. PR professionals – from “flaks” to influencers – when I started in PR, those in my profession were completely behind the scenes – like the Wizard of Oz sitting behind the curtain pulling the strings. We are in the business of making our clients stars, so naturally, we don’t make the story about us, nor should we. However, along the way, we learn a lot – about our clients, their business, the market and how it changes. We have to learn about new technologies, trends, products, and publications, giving us more than a layman’s knowledge of many different industries. The rise of social media, however, has given us a voice and has allowed us to highlight our expertise and the value we can offer to others without being overly promotional. Certainly, our clients are still the stars – we still devote 95% of our time to them, but a handful of smart PR folks are now also seen as experts who have influence in the industry. And you know what – our public influence is being asked about more and more by prospects, and evaluated by clients – if we are selling the ability to influence audiences and teach our clients how to become more influential in their industries, it makes sense that we should be have our own strong industry credibility.
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  3. Journalists and PR professionals can play nicely together – Take a look at those on this list and the other “Twitter influencer” lists that are posted regularly. They now contain reporters, bloggers and PR professionals (among others) – and because of their involvement in social media, a lot of them know and respect each other more than ever. For every blog post that fuels the journalists vs. PR “flacks” debate, there are hundreds of social media interactions every day between the media and PR that help bridge the gap and help the two get to know each other better and more personally. When you can see each other as people/friends and not the enemy, it is easier for everyone to do their job. Watching Christine joke with several of the other “top influencer” bloggers and journalists on Twitter after this list came out really drove this home for me.
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  5. PR professionals are trail blazers – at least in the tech industry. Many years ago, Christine told our staff that we needed to “figure out what these blogs are all about” then a few years later that we needed to start figuring out what social networking was all about – Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Whrrl, etc. – so that we could evaluate how it should be used in our business and for our clients – and if it should be. Christine always takes the reins for our company to ensure we try out and experiment with new technologies for ourselves before we try them for clients. Often people think that it’s only the “techies or the journalists” that are first adopters of technology, but many smart PR companies are the first to appear on new social sites and are among the first with the new gadget or toy because we pay attention and have close relationships with those influencers shaping the market. If we’re doing our job right, we realize value and ROI before the public does – thanks to being privy to many start ups and innovative new advances by existing companies, working early with the reporters and influencers who evaluate them and their products, and paying attention to where the tech industry is headed. Also, because we’re responsible for counseling our clients on how what works, what doesn’t and where they should pay attention. In fact, we’re often involved in product direction and development discussions because we have a pulse on where the industry is headed.

Our discussion about this list on Twitter prompted Hubspot to offer to sponsor a meetup for the top 100 women on this list – PerkettPR is considering organizing this event, but we want it to be more than a Tweet-up – we would like it to offer value to attendees and to maybe even benefit a charity. Would you attend an event that offered insight from the Top 100 women influencers on Twitter? If so, what would you like to get out of it? Tell us here and help us create a fantastic event!

Do Hugs Belong in Business?

A group of us at PerkettPR have been debating this topic for some time now. It seems to us that women in particular face a conundrum when it comes to business greeting situations. For some reason, it’s often awkward because many people tend to hug women instead of shake their hands. With men, the handshake is the protocol. But for women, it seems the protocol is up in the air.

Do you hug, do you shake hands, do you air kiss? Maybe in the fashion world the air kiss works but otherwise, it just feels awkward and insincere. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned handshake? I personally like the unspoken challenge when someone grabs your hand and squeezes hard during the handshake. You know it’s a bit of a power test. But the hug? Almost condescending when it comes from a man (let’s be gentle with the ladies?), and often awkward when it comes from a female counterpart (especially an unknown, such as a prospective client). And the air kiss? Depends on the business, but mostly, it feels insincere.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are colleagues and clients that I’ve worked with for years that warrant a hug – and who I’m perfectly comfortable with on that level. But here’s the dilemma to that – you enter a business meeting, hug the colleagues you’ve known for years and then you turn to someone you’ve just met. What do you do? Do you hug them? That feels strange. If you don’t hug them, will they be offended? When they just saw you hug everyone else, they may wonder if you’re going to hug them – then you go to shake their hand while they lean in for a hug. Aw-kward.

Sometimes, when you don’t see a colleague or a client for a while, they’ll hug you instead of shake your hand. But in day-to-day situations you wouldn’t do this, so why do it at all? Of course, there are times when hugs and high fives are warranted all around, perhaps, such as when a great piece of new business is closed, or a team challenge is won.

Do hugs belong in business? Do you hug colleagues or clients? Do you always greet them this way, or just when you haven’t seen them in a while? What’s the protocol – if there is one? We’d love your opinions.

 

 

 

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Charissa Cowart of FOX News is One Very Busy Journalist

And you thought journalists were just journalists. Charissa Cowart, media personality and trendspotter from WALA-TV “FOX10″ News in Alabama, proves once again that journalists are people too. From reporting to fashion design, blogging to gaming, she is one busy – and interesting – person. And she has some good advice about wings vs. legs…

PPR:  What is your main beat at FOX News in Alabama?
CC: I report on anything Internet-related, from sex offenders on social networking sites, to the coolest tech gadgets, fun websites or Steve Jobs’ fake obituaries. I have a segment called the Daily Dot Com and literally, everyday is something different for me to report on. In addition, I am the web producer so I do everything to keep our website up and running with fresh content when I’m not on the air.

PPR:  You started the Web site FashionTrendSpotting.com – what is this and how did you get started?
CC:  Fashion Trend Spotting is a new idea I built in my brain and finally released in the form of a blog. Basically it is the idea that I can spot trends in everyday people. I want to make everyday people part of the “fashion industry” instead of the few “big names” who tell us what is “in” this season. I know that there are very fashionable people out in the world who have a keen eye for fashion in their own way but have never had the chance to show that. So, in the future I will be traveling across the globe to spot these people and use their fashion as inspiration to design my own clothing line. On each article of clothing you will see a tag with information about me and Fashion Trend Spotting along with information about the person who the inspiration came from. In short, the fashion industry is YOU and ME.

PPR:  You also write for StartupsLive.tv – why did you decide to do this among your already busy schedule?
CC:  Well, first of all I LOVE to stay busy. I am at my happiest when I am immersed in “stuff.” Rather than written text like a blog, Lucky Startups is a company that interviews any and all startups across the globe. I am a correspondent and I interview CEO’s of startup companies Live online using Skype. It gives them a Free avenue to get their company or website out to the world.

PPR:  What do you most like about Twitter?
CC:  Connections, Connections, Connections!! I love meeting new people, but with my busy schedule there isn’t much time for relaxed socializing. With Twitter I can meet and connect, network with so many very intelligent and creative people while writing my blog, or preparing for a Lucky Startups interview or feeding my dog (I use the iPhone there). It’s just a great way to connect and network with so many brilliant, fun, and humorous people on the web.

PPR:  What is your one fashion “must have”?
CC:  Just one?!? Ok, ok, if I have to pick just one I would say high heels. I think so often it’s the shoes that make the outfit!

PPR:  Beyond fashion which we know you love, what are some of your personal hobbies?
CC:  I love playing Nintendo Wii – yes I’m a gamer, I might not look or sound like one, but I am. I also love to play board games with my friends, dance (Salsa and Swing), sing at the top of my lungs in the car, twirl – yes I said twirl. Wow, I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but when I’m at home in my socks I like to pick up my dog (Sam) and twirl on the kitchen tile. It makes me feel like a little girl again – even if it’s just for a few seconds. I think every female should do something, anything that allows her to feel like a little girl again, try it, you’ll love it! I also love, love, love to eat pizza and watch Gilmore Girls re-runs. I recently got engaged (about a week ago) so now my newest hobby is planning the wedding of my dreams. Oh and I love to play on Twitter, edit videos, take pictures…

PPR:  If you were not a journalist, what would you be?
CC:  A professional Figure Skater. I trained in figure skating for almost 10 years throughout middle school and high school. I loved every minute of it and was planning to go to the Olympics, but when I got to college and became involved in the school’s news program, that took up all of my time and my plans soon changed, which isn’t a bad thing. If not a figure skater, then I would be a Wedding Planner or a Chef – the only problem is I don’t know how to cook!

PPR:  Where do you want to take your next vacation?
CC:  Fiji, no wait – Italy, or how about snow skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming! I would go ANYWHERE right now for a vacation as long as I could relax away from stress. Honestly, right now Tweeting feels like a vacation – that’s how crazy life gets sometimes in the news business.

PPR:  Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?
CC:  I did! ….. Oh you want to know what they were? My first is to chase my dreams as if I have wings and not legs. The other is not to forget about my resolution.

PPR:  What change are you hoping to see in 2009?
CC:  I guess I can speak for everyone by saying I pray our economic instability becomes stable in the U.S.

Supporting Women in Business – Congratulations to The Stevie Awards Winners

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business were announced today and of course we send out personal congratulations to our client Constant Contact – winner of Best Entrepreneur – Non-Services Businesses – up to 2,500 Employees. Constant Contact, led by Gail Goodman, has a laser focus on delivering the best customer service and intuitive email marketing and interactive communications offerings for SMBs – and it’s great to see their hard work recognized. Congratulations!

Other interesting companies who won or were finalists in their categories include Care.com – a new place to find a baby or pet sitter; SheSpeaks – a national network of women who share their feedback and influence products, services and issues on the world around them; and The Baby Planners – a concierge and consulting service that caters to the needs of expectant parents.

It was great to see a variety of regions represented by the winning companies – from coast to coast, interesting emerging start ups and tenacious executives are profiled. For a full list of winners and finalists, visit The Stevie Awards.