“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?

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.

BusinessWeek says smart companies are using Twitter and Facebook—are you? We can help.

I am honored to be featured again in BusinessWeek as one of 50 CEOs Who Twitter, as a part of a larger story on social media. As I was just discussing the growth of interest in social media campaigns this morning with the PerkettPR crew, this is a timely article. We continue to receive incoming queries from companies in many industries that want to learn how to elevate brand awareness with social media campaigns. The opportunities are both allowing us to expand the industries in which we work, the brands that we work with and the work that we do. We’re going far beyond traditional public relations and as I mentioned last week, we believe that this is the natural evolution for the PR industry.

That being said, so many of the brands that we speak with have no idea where to begin. They still aren’t convinced or sure of the value of “social media” and they want to approach it with kid gloves. They are worried about time, resources, control and execution. And we understand why – we’ve been there! We’ve also helped a lot of companies come from that place and embrace the opportunities of becoming a “social company.” And we love doing it because as you can see, we’re heavily involved in social media ourselves. We believe in it, we appreciate and understand it, and we continually see value and results from it.

Social Media U

To share our enthusiasm, we’re pleased to announce a new program designed to help companies in any industry understand and embrace social media for business. Our “Social Media U” offering was born out of the interest and feedback we’ve received for speaking on social media for business and social media for communicators. Sharing our best practices, experience and insights, Social Media U will help any executive make sense of the noise and clarify just what types of social strategies can work for your business. While articles like BusinessWeek’s are helpful, many executives need more than a DIY guide. And as the CEO of Forrester Research, George Colony, recently wrote, “You can’t understand Twitter, Facebook, or blogging by reading an article in a magazine or a report from your CMO. Sure, they can tell you what they are, but you won’t be able to truly understand how they could change your business unless you actually use them.”

That’s where we can help.

Quick facts about PerkettPR’s Social Media U:

  • Social Media U is an affordable, intensive half or full day workshop
  • While we prefer to meet face-to-face, we can (and have successfully done so) execute the workshop via web conference
  • We offer three levels of engagement to choose from – based on your knowledge level and needs
  • We’ll teach you what social media is and how to engage and embrace it for your business
  • Appropriate for any business that wants to understand social media, the potential value to their business, how to get started and how to maintain effective social strategies

What you’ll learn:

  • From the C-Suite to the front desk – why social media strategies involve everyone at your company
  • Why Facebook isn’t just for keeping up with friends and family, LinkedIn is so much more than a rolodex and how Twitter benefits your brand
  • How to effectively  monitor and respond in social media communities such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo! Answers and more
  • Which blogs matter to you and how to participate in the blogosphere even if you don’t have your own
  • How to easily create content for your blog, website and customer communications
  • Effective and realistic strategies for engaging customers, prospects and partners: from blog posts to video, Twitter to microsites
  • How to trust the community and build positive relationships for your company

Why we’re qualified

  • We’ve been integrating social media into PR campaigns for years now and have been recognized as one of a handful of PR firms leading the charge (many call it PR 2.0)
  • As senior PR professionals, we understand communications and the larger picture of how it must all come back to your company’s business goals – read here about why we think this matters
  • We’re heavily involved in social media for our own business
  • We’ve trained clients in many industries and of many sizes – from SMBs to public companies; fashion to technology – on effective social media strategies
  • We’ve presented strategies at numerous conferences for thousands of executives

For more information please email SMU[at]perkettpr.com – or call me personally: 781.834.5852.

UPDATE: Facebook Beacon – Maybe Not SO Transparent

12/7/2007: UPDATE – this week Facebook issued an apology and users can now opt out.

The advent of social media has had everyone throwing words around such as transparency, interaction and sharing. But the hoopla this week over Facebook’s Beacon suggests that the world is not as transparent and willing to share personal information as many business executives had hoped. Apparently the extent of how “social” consumers are willing to be is still a mystery to the business world.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Facebook announced Social Ads earlier this month, as well as the launch of Beacon, “a new way to socially distribute information on Facebook.” Beacon is “a core element of the Facebook Ads system for connecting businesses with users and targeting advertising to the audiences they want.”

With public outcry and petitions galore from Facebook users, the company has backed down a little and is now offering users the option to publish or not publish the information in the “stories” feed. It seems that all the social media fans are not willing to be quite so transparent as having their online shopping behavior become news to their “friends.” (Shocker!)

A universal opt-out has been unclear to-date, although Charlene Li of Forrester Research just published official word from Facebook that “Adding Beacon-generated stories will require an explicit opt-in by the member. Before, if the member did nothing, the story would appear.”

There’s always a catch to free services, friends – Facebook has just taken the online advertising model a bit too far. Duncan Riley of TechCrunch does a good job here of dissecting exactly what this means to users. We haven’t canceled our Facebook accounts – yet – have you?

Are We Too Old for Facebook?

We are doing a lot of work on the social networking front here at PerkettPR – training workshops, new hires/social media staff and holding some really valuable analyst and media discussions. We’re following Forrester Research as you know, and their Groundswell activities, as well as watching closely for great examples of business use of social media. Many of these include YouTube and LinkedIn and some are extending campaigns to Facebook, MySpace and others.

A few weeks ago, Dan Costa of PC Magazine, wrote about social networking and indicated that perhaps some of the more popular of these sites do not hold credible value for the over-30 crowd. His column, “MySpace is Not Your Space,” provides a guideline (his opinion) on who should be on which site. While we don’t totally agree – we think some of his thoughts on the use of these sites are short sighted – it’s interesting to think about. (For example, he states “I am not trying to keep the 50-something, married software engineer away from the 17-year old coed cheerleader majoring in Art History—although maybe I should be.” We don’t’ think that’s what professionals are focusing on with their use of these sites – and can’t the two co-exist without crossing paths? For example, if we’re trying to reach high school students for a campaign, isn’t it better that we are involved in and understand the medium that we are using?)

We believe that social networking will continue to evolve as an industry and, while Facebook may not launch a separate site as Dan suggests, it has inspired many new sites that do provide a more laser focus on specific issues and groups. For example, our client Sermo focuses on medical doctors, other focused sites already exist for PR professionals, the town you live in and various hobbies – even venture capitalism, as today’s Boston Globe reported on next month’s launch of VentureNetwork.vc, an online social network for professionals looking for another channel to connect and talk shop. The user numbers on these sites may not reach Facebook’s level, but as we all continue to figure out the value and monetary possibilities for such communities, the value will increase regardless of the numbers – camaraderie, additional support and encouragement, new networks, collective insight and more are invaluable.

For example, Guy Kawasaki wrote a great blog post at AlwaysOn regarding how one of the less-understood social networking tools, Twitter, can add value today. Many people out there don’t get the value of Twitter (we just started exploring this ourselves) and may say, as Dan does about MySpace and Facebook, that it’s a better tool for the younger crowd with time on their hands. Guy shows that it’s so much more – already driving “tens of thousands of page views,” debunking rumors and extending networks. And, since no one person seems to really have the answers on social networking’s value to business – yet – keep exploring, keep trialing and keep sharing your insights.