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!

Persuasive Picks for the week of 05/03/10

Social-media games: Badges or badgering?
CNET staff writer Caroline McCarthy expands on the growing popularity of “badge-based” achievements popping up on websites like The Huffington Post and applications like Foursquare as forms of incentive to interact.

Are your social media metrics diagnostic or objective?
Christopher S. Penn provides an entertaining and informative explanation of the difference between diagnostic and objective social media metrics. His post clearly shows the importance of knowing the difference.

How social media has changed executive roles
SFGate staff writer Benny Evangelista shares this brief interview with Charlene Li about the new wave of Open Leadership that is changing the way executives manage their leadership roles.

Sorry Guys: When It Comes to Your Audience, Size DOES Matter
Justin Kownacki hits the nail on the head with this fantastic post about the long winded debate between quantity versus quality when it comes to follower numbers on social networks. Read on for the secret to success.

Social media used to market Mother’s Day
USA Today’s Bruce Horovitz provides numerous examples of how brands are leveraging social media with targeted campaigns to attract your dollars when it comes to paying homage to Mom this Mother’s Day.

Photo Credit: Nerd Merit Badges

Persuasive Picks for the week of 05/12/08

Why Twitter Matters
As the popularity of Twitter continues to grow, we’re starting to see it gain more mainstream press coverage. This post on BusinessWeek.com by Stephen Baker dives into what the future might hold for the Twitterverse.

Best Social Media Advice From This Site
Chris Brogan compiles some of the best and most informative posts on his site and breaks them up into categories for mass consumption. Enjoy filling your brain with this Social Media feast!

Answers to all of your Groundswell questions
From one information packed pick to another! Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li provide answers to the many Groundswell related questions that came to them from the 700+ people who joined their recent webinar.

SEO Quick Tips
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is generally an area of expertise that can take a good portion of mental bandwidth to master. However, most readers will find value in getting some exposure to the basics. Steve Spalding from the “How to Spilt an Atom” blog posted these SEO Quick Tips that were shared with him by Mark Hager of Knoxville, TN Web Design.

CBS to Acquire CNET for $1.8 Billion
Definitely the most highly “tweeted” acquisition story this week. It should be interesting to see how CNET’s content changes and what plans CBS really has in-store post merger.

Top Time-wasters for Web Workers (And How to Cure Them)
Valuable advice for those (like you) who utilize the web on a daily basis. Just be sure to practice the cures AFTER you finish being distracted by this week’s Persuasive Picks!!

Drop the Excuses and Start Participating

As you may know through my various Tweets, I spoke yesterday at the Ragan Corporate Communicators Conference in Chicago with our EVP, Heather Mosley. We substituted at the last minute for another speaker who dropped out unexpectedly. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous coming in as the backup substitute – none of the conference materials had indicated any change in the session until about one hour beforehand, when it was announced at the opening session. It was definitely on our minds that the audience had been expecting some heavy lifters (a much larger, global agency) to discuss digital marketing. I’m not a “digital marketer” and we had only a few days to pull together our presentation. Would we disappoint them? Could we teach them anything new? Would they walk away feeling the session was valuable? What if they already know everything we were talking about?

We changed the subject matter to something more our in line with our expertise, of course. At PerkettPR, we’re enthusiastic about social media and the opportunities – and challenges – that it presents to the PR profession. Our session was titled, “Join the Conversation: More Effective PR Through Social Media.”

For some, this may seem to be an oxy moron. Many constituents are shouting from the rooftops that PR is dead – due to social media. I completely disagree. I think it’s forcing us to evolve – but that’s a good thing. Social media presents amazing opportunities for communications professionals to engage with their publics in ways never before possible. For me, it’s thrilling. I am so enthusiastic about social media that I liken it to wanting to jump on the couch like Tom Cruise to emphatically express my love for it.

Yesterday, as we started speaking on this topic, the majority of faces in the room looked at us like we were crazy. Facebook for business? Linkedin Answers? Link love on blogs? Twitter-what??? Although, their eyes did light up when Heather explained Twitter like this: It’s like entering a noisy, crowded stadium and saying, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’… The entire stadium quiets to silence and everyone sits down except for four people that raise their hand and say ‘I can help!’…It’s that powerful and can provide a whole new lifeline of resources to draw from.

We had expected that the majority of the room would not yet be embracing social media (luckily, we were right or we could have been really boring). We knew we weren’t going to be in a room full of technology PR professionals. However, I’m also surprised at how many communicators haven’t embraced what is arguably the biggest evolution of our industry in decades…and their reasoning has nothing to do with technology.

Here are some of the questions and objections to social media participation that really stood out for me:

1) How do you find the time
2) What do you do if someone says something negative about you in the blogosphere?
3) How do you get corporate management to let you participate in social media?

I could go on and on about these topics but I’ll try to keep my recommendations simple.

1) If you don’t find the time I believe you will be out of a job. This is the way communications is going. Participate or be left behind. It’s that simple. Seriously.

Okay, okay, I did provide real tips such as: start slowly; join Twitter and observe for a while. Try to go on a few times a day to begin – post a question in the morning. Come back at noon and check for responses in DMs or aggregators like Tweet Scan. Post thank yous/follow up and another question. Come back before the end of your day and repeat. This can take ½ hour total.

2) It depends. Was it a customer? Was it a competitor? Was there any truth to the complaint or comment? There is no one right answer but there are guidelines to keep in mind – transparency and common sense being two of them.

We provided a few examples from experiences with our own clients. Two different crisis and two different recommendations: one, a posted apology and two, a personal phone call to the blogger. Different situations that called for different actions. In the end, both were turned around by … participating.

3) My answer for this today is simple – hand them a copy of the new book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. (Really, it should be required reading for all marketers, communicators and C-level executives.)

Better yet, read it first, highlight the parts that apply to you and the company (and trust me, no matter what industry you are in, there are examples that will apply to you) and put it on every corporate executive’s desk. Include a sticky note with this great quote – one of many – from the book:

“…While you can’t stop it, you can understand it.”

And just for good measure – maybe include another of my favorite quotes from Charlene Li: “While you cannot control word of mouth, you can influence it.” Then explain to them that you cannot do either of these things if you are not allowed to participate.

I hope we helped some communicators at the conference to begin to understand “it.” Forrester calls it the groundswell. Others call it Web 2.0 and still others the new social landscape. Whatever you call it, it’s here to stay…so jump in!

I’d love to hear comments from you, Dear Community, as well. Can you chime in with your ideas and help these professionals learn? After all, isn’t that the spirit of what this new social movement is all about? (Thank you, in advance!)

Persuasive Picks for the week of 04/14/08

This week’s picks include some diverse topics like podcasting and viral marketing. Enjoy!

Embrace unsatisfied customers to bolster your brand?
Stephen Shankland posted this great article on the CNET News Blog that was based on discussions during a panel at the Ad:Tech conference earlier this week. Do the people who handle customer complaints and the social network-savvy folks in your company reside in different departments? Check this post out for good examples of why merging these groups together can be a positive change for your company.

“Podcasting 101″ on KCBS with Tim Coyne & Lance Anderson
If “Podcasting” is still a foreign word to you, then take a look at this short clip of LA-based podcasters Tim Coyne and Lance Anderson as they help explain the basics during a CBS news TV segment.

BlogPulse: Metrics Based on Conversation
As the search for the “silver bullet” of Social Media/Blog metrics continues, take a peek at this surface level view of BlogPulse as an alternative tool to using Technorati or Google Blog Search.

Groundswell Discussion Forum Now Open
Following the release of his and Charlene Li’s highly anticipated book, “Groundswell,” co-author Josh Bernoff announced the launch of the official discussion forum site in support of the book. Everyone is invited to participate and join in the conversations starting there now.

What I’ve Learned About Viral Marketing in Three Weeks
Diana Huff continues to deliver up useful content for the B2B marketer with this post on the reality of viral marketing and includes links to some useful resources on the topic.