PerkettPR’s “Influencers Who Inspire” Series Continues with Jason Falls

This week’s “Influencer Who Inspires” is Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer.  We admire Jason for his honest approach to social media and we are avid readers of his very popular site, Social Media Explorer.  Jason, who resides in Louisville, KY,  is an author, keynote speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer.  He continues to be a name that surfaces at or near the top of conversations and lists of thought leaders and top thinkers in the emerging world of social media marketing.

 

How would you describe what you do for a living?

I do one primary thing in about three different ways. SME Digital, my agency, helps companies develop digital and social marketing strategies, execute them and measure/optimize results to drive business (unit sales, revenue or costs). My information products add the other two components: Explore Events helps anyone who wants to attend a two-day, intensive digital marketing strategy event and The Conversation Report analyzes online conversations and reports insights around specific industries (or clients for custom reports) to help businesses make smarter decisions about their social marketing.  In a nutshell, – Agency – Events – Research – is what I do.

 

You recently tweeted to PR folks about how they approach you and that you are “one of them” – what prompted that and how do you handle being on both sides of the PR equation?

It was likely prompted by me being critical of public relations professionals, then having them attack me for it. Those that are easily put on the defensive about the PR craft tend to point fingers at me and infer that I don’t know PR, that I’m just a “social media consultant.” But I spent 20 years as a PR and journalism professional before social media marketing ever happened. So I was probably saying, “I am one. Thus, I’m qualified to point the finger a bit.” The way I handle it is by just trying to coach and teach and perhaps lead by example. ‘Lots of public relations professionals still assume that “spray and pray” and spamming people works best. I only hope to educate them that there might be a better way to approach outreach. Quality outreach is far better than quantity, and you can sleep at night knowing you’re not a spammer.

 

What’s next in PR now that social media is a given?

I think PR is the new journalism. With all the noise out there in the media world and declining numbers in usage and revenues in traditional mediums, public relations professionals (and current journalists who will become them) have the opportunity to become the media. Those that do so in compelling ways will have better public relations programs because they’ll become a direct conduit to their publics.

 

What’s the best social media campaign you’ve seen (besides your own) in 2012?

H&R Block’s Stache Act is by far the most compelling. To have a stoic, conservative brand like H&R Block get behind a silly tax incentive for mustached Americans and stage a Million Mustache March on Washington, etc., just gave the brand personality and showed that they could reach beyond the tried and true “Let us do your taxes” messaging, in order to reach a new audience.

That, and Charmin‘s Twitter account. Holy cripes, they’re funny.

 

How did you initially get your “feet wet” in social media?

I spent 8-10 years blogging and exploring social networks and forums for personal entertainment. My old humor blog actually gained a bit of traction when I moved it to MySpace in about 2003. I learned how to build an audience, promote my content and connect influencers to what I was doing. Then in 2006, I started from scratch with an arsenal of experience in the business segment rather than the one focused on telling dirty jokes and made up tales of drunken debauchery. Heh.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your book “No Bullshit Social Media” and why someone would want to purchase it?

Aside from the crafty title, the book’s real appeal is that it’s a blueprint for social media strategy. We walk you through the seven reasons (goals) your business might implement social media tactics and coach you through the process of developing a sound, strategic approach to using social that will drive measurable results.

 

As the Founder and CEO of Social Media Explorer, your approach with SME Digital involves Full Frontal ROI methodolgy, can you explain how this is unique to the industry?

The Full Frontal ROI methodology, which was developed by my partner, Nichole Kelly, essentially places social media marketing squarely in the crosshairs of business strategy. Everything we do is focused on real business metrics — unit sales, revenues and costs — rather than soft metrics. Sure, we can help you drive more fans and followers, but we know we’re ultimately judged on your bottom line and how social media and digital marketing contribute to it. So that’s what we focus on. It’s unique to the industry because most other social media agencies or digital marketing shops focus on the fluff metrics and Kumbaya of social media. We know it’s about business or it’s a hobby. And how many business owners out there consider what they spend time and money on to be a hobby?

 

What is next for you for the remainder of the year heading into 2013?

Two more Explore events (Orange County, Calif., this week; Portland (Ore.) in November), another The Conversation Report, this one on the restaurant industry, and continuing to help our clients kick ass. And I fully expect 2013 will be much of the same. That’s what we do.

 

Keeping up with the Kardashian Brand

Kardashian. Even if you don’t want to, you know the name. You may watch the slew of reality television shows associated with the name (Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney & Kim Kardashian Take New York, Khloe & Lamar). Or perhaps you shop at Dash (the Kardashian boutique) or Sears (the Kardashian Kollection clothing line). Or maybe you’ve read and weighed in about Kim Kardashian’s scandalous divorce with basketball pro Kris Humphries. Was it real? Was it fake? Was it all for money? Regardless, the name is everywhere (perfumes, weight loss supplements, jewelry, fitness videos, credit cards, cosmetics, Barbie dolls, etc). Hate it or love it, talent or no talent— no matter what you may think of the brand itself, it does have a powerful recognition — worth an estimated $65 million.

While a public divorce and paternity scandal (it’s rumored that the late Robert Kardashian isn’t the birth father of Khloe Kardashian) has kept the Kardashian name in the news, another PR and branding crisis may be looming. In recent news, the NY Post reported that the Kardashian brand is tarnishing — and fast. According to the article, “Ratings for the family’s reality show have plummeted, sales of magazines with Kim Kardashian’s mug go unsold, and her products are unmarketable, insiders say.” In fact the article continues to share some startling statistics that may just prove that the Kardashian brand is in trouble.

These include:

· E!’s Kardashian TV franchise — “Keeping up with the Kardashians” — suffered a 14 percent dip in Nielsen ratings, from 3.5 million viewers per episode last season to 3 million this season.

· Circulation at Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style and OK! dropped about 18 percent when a Kardashian was on the cover in December, publishers said.

· Skechers ditched Kim as the face of the company in 2011 — they’ve replaced her with a French bulldog.

In fact, 500,000 consumers have signed an online petition to boycott companies that partner with Kim Kardashian at BoycottKim.com. The site claims Kardashian has “made a mockery of American culture.” And while I can’t disagree, I also can’t stop watching.

This begs the question—what can be done to help save the seemingly toxic Kardashian brand? The answer may lay within the successful mastermind behind the brand, Kardashian mother, Kris Jenner. Kris manages all of her daughters’ careers and is president of her own production company, Jenner Communications. She’s proven that she’s a marketing and branding genius. From controlling the news to making sure consumers are left wanting more, Jenner has positively and continually exposed the Kardashian brand.

It will be interesting to see if the Kardashian brand is sustainable— where will it be in three years? What creative marketing tactics will be used to salvage the brand? Will the Kardashian brand find news way to connect with its audience, fans, and customers? What do you think? Are you ready for the Kardashian brand to retire? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

“New Marketing” and “Social PR” are Simple. Talk With Me.

I constantly see chatter, blogs, articles and tweets out there about “New marketing” and “How PR works – or if it’s even necessary” now that social media is so mainstream, easy and accessible. Oy, I am so tired of the misconceptions that social media has somehow replaced these important roles in business. But I’m even more tired of everyone over-thinking this whole “new marketing” thing. Is it really that complicated? Here are a few quick “rules” to it that I think anyone can grasp:

- Social media is a tactic tied into a larger communications strategy. Key word: strategy. Have one. Actually, have more than one, because it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that there are different communications strategies across different parts of your business. Communicating with customers about a service issue is not the same as trying to sell to a prospect or get the attention of a journalist. Make social media a part of how your business communicates. But don’t tell me your “social media plan” replaces solid marketing and PR.

- Marketing has changed in that marketers (and others, like politicians) now have to talk with their audience, not just at them. One of my favorite quotes on this is from Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff in the book Groundswell: “Marketers don’t understand channels where you have to talk and listen at the same time.” That was in 2009, and I think that while many marketers are now understanding that they need to be on social channels, they still don’t know how to start actual conversations that lead to valuable interactions between their business and its audiences.

- New marketers (and PR execs) make their audiences feel important. You can only do this by building a two-way relationship. That means that you listen as much as you “talk,” even when the “conversation” gets uncomfortable (i.e., complaints about your business or products). Be prepared to handle both your brand champions and your detractors – but always let them know how important they are by talking with them. Ask questions, recognize them, make it clear in your content (Twitter updates, Facebook posts, videos, what have you) that you’ve listened to them. Need an easy example? Think Old Spice. People watched, listened, shared because they were a part of it – feeling important and recognized – even if but for a second.

- Share great content. You’ve heard this a zillion times -  but maybe it’s more important to say share interactive and meaningful content that others will want to share as well. Oh, and it should be relevant to your business, whether it’s meant to be a revenue-generator, a branding campaign or simply an awareness builder. A favorite example of mine is Life is Good Radio. It’s sticky content that ties in perfectly to their culture and company mission. If you don’t know how to build good content, get help. Seriously – without it, you are not marketing in today’s world.

- Remember, it’s not that complicated. It’s just changed. Quite simply, you can’t dance if you don’t stop leaning against the wall hoping someone will talk to you. You have to start the conversation. If you don’t know what this means, you probably shouldn’t be in marketing in the first place.

What are your best tips for “new” marketers and social PR?

Who Owns Your Brand?

Right now we are participating in a Twebinar (think Webinar + Twitter) hosted by Chris Brogan and Radian 6 on the topic of “Who Owns the Brand?”

Do companies own their brand or do the customers own the brand? There are a lot of differing opinions on the subject. I believe companies own the brand – they just don’t have sole control over it (and really, never did – the Internet just makes this more glaring).

Companies set the stage for their brand by communicating their intentions, credibility and value. Customers help shape the brand, collaborate on its direction and share it (good or bad). Today, more than ever, the customer takes the brand a company presents and either accepts it or rejects it – spreading the word or influencing change (as Dell experienced with IdeaStorm).

A huge part of what direction your customers take the brand depends on the company keeping their brand promises. Smart companies recognize this and welcome customer influence by embracing them, conversing with them and inviting collaboration. That means listening and taking action based on customer feedback.

What do you think? Follow and join the conversation here (type in #tweb2) or visit Radian 6′s Twebinar to watch the recorded version and learn about future Twebinars.