Introductions, Referrals, Recommendations and References – Not Created Equally Online

In these days of social media madness and online relationships, it can take even more work to be sure that who you’re talking to is genuine, qualified and credible. I’ve noticed that people ask for things online in a more bold way than they used to, when face-to-face relationships ruled. Just this week I’ve been asked to write references for people I don’t know, link to and “check out and promote” several products – ranging from consumer goods and business apps, to social media training services – all of which I’ve never tried (PS you know this is what companies pay me to do, right?), and to make introductions for someone to another person who I’m not even connected with or know. What is it about digital relationships that make people so bold? How much clout do you give referrals or recommendations on networking communities and online reputation graders such as Klout, BranchOut, RateStars, Namyz and countless others? How do you handle it when a near (or total) stranger asks for a referral or other validation? Sometimes you might not even think too much about it because social networks make it so easy to just provide a recommendation without really thinking it through.

Managing your personal brand is important, yes. Ensuring your online activity is of positive quality – absolutely essential in business. Showcasing a robust online “rolodex” and “Klout score” is also key for most business professionals – especially in social marketing. But asking for and displaying recommendations or “references” from folks that really don’t know you or your work is a little misleading – and in my opinion, getting to become a disturbing “norm.” Asking for an introduction is one thing, but introductions, referrals, recommendations and references are not created equally. Do you know the difference?

  • Introduction – offering to introduce someone to a professional who works in a certain industry or could provide services that a company is seeking. Perhaps you just know of them and are connecting them with someone seeking vendors.
  • Referral – similar to an introduction, a referral could include someone you haven’t worked with, as long as you make that clear, such as, “I see you are seeking a socially savvy PR firm. I have heard that PerkettPR is great, although I’ve never personally worked with them.” These are also often made as a result of being connected online in communities such as Namyz or BranchOut.
  • Recommendation – usually involves knowing the work of a particular person, company or product, such as “I recommend PerkettPR because I’ve seen their digital work and am always impressed,” or “I tried this product and it worked for me.” Recommendations are big on Linkedin – but it’s important to note that many times people ask others to provide them without actually having worked together. It’s kind of like “link love” – I’ll give you one if you give me one. Make sure it’s a legit recommendation.
  • Reference – this is key. A reference is usually what someone asks for when they’ve been through all of the above… Such as, “Okay, I was introduced or referred to you, I received or read a few recommendations from folks in the industry who know of you and have seen your work, now I’d like to talk to someone who has actually worked with you and can talk to the results that you delivered, your work style, etc.”

And why should you care? I can think of a few reasons – both personal and professional:

  • Are you hiring employees?
  • Qualifying a vendor?
  • Hiring a services firm (like PR)?
  • Comparing products?

These are important business developments and should be vetted appropriately. Make sure you know the difference between someone providing a recommended vendor or individual based on word of mouth, and an actual reference based on experience. Online relationships have blurred the lines and sometimes people are providing recommendations to others just for popularity points, unfortunately. Be sure that you speak to actual references when hiring an employee, vendor or services firm, especially. The online world can still be misleading.

I also suggest doing some of your own digging to find people or companies who have worked with the person or vendor before – that aren’t on their reference list. For example, if you’re seeking a new PR firm, Google who a specific firm has worked with and reach out to someone there to ask about their experience. Sometimes the unlisted references are the best references.

Pssst, We’re Recruiting, Spread the Word

I’m happy to say that we’re on the hunt for some new, innovative employees. I wanted to spread the word as much as possible, so in addition to updating our careers page on the web site, I interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging to share the following details. Thanks in advance for passing it along.

Are you a PR 2.0 expert with proven experience in both traditional programs and new media? PerkettPR is recruiting!

PerkettPR is seeking Account Strategists who can demonstrate the proven ability to run traditional PR programs such as media relations, customer/partner programs, speaking engagements, events initiatives and grassroots campaigns, as well as new media and digital production: social media campaigns, video, podcasts, etc.

Specifically, you must:

  • have a minimum of five years related experience
  • demonstrate results or case studies in PR and new media as well as client service
  • be comfortable – experience preferred – working from a home office
  • have experience in technology but demonstrate a willingness to work in industries such as healthcare, fashion, travel, entertainment. If you have specific experience to bring to the table, please highlight it
  • have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • show us why you are a standout – what will you teach us?
  • do your homework – communicate your understanding of who we are, our culture and how we are unique in the industry

Ideally, you will:

  • have a sense of humor – for fun and for sanity!
  • be in or near Boston, NYC, San Francisco or Detroit
  • not lead with “why I want to work from home”
  • have PR agency experience or client service experience
  • be creative in how and where you apply/show us your work
  • understand the bigger picture and give us an idea of how you will not only help deliver the best client service but help our organization grow and innovate

BIG HINT: if you follow @PerkettPR on Twitter and DM us that you have sent a resume, it will be more noticeable…

Submit your details to careers(at)perkettpr(dot)com and in the subject line, please indicate the position (Account Strategist) and location, (Boston, NY, Detroit or San Francisco). Visit our website for more details. Thanks for reading.

So you think you can intern? PerkettPR launches contest for first-ever internships at digital PR agency

If you’ve read this blog you know we talk a lot about the impact that social media is having on the PR world. Recognizing the value of an integrated agency approach, we’ve expanded our services over the last two years to include social media and digital production services – all of which we provide in-house (as opposed to outsourcing, which many agencies do). As a result, Our PR strategies call for a lot of new thinking, digital tactics and technical capabilities. We also recognize (along with the experts that we respect) that the recipe for success is still being perfected. We believe bright people with good ideas and an interest in the future of communications can have an impact right now.

Are you up for discovering new paths to success for clients?  Do you see value in digital communications and social media for marketing and PR? We want to hear from you! We recognize that the newest generation of employees entering the workforce are more naturally inclined to have this skill set in place. Therefore, for the first time in over a decade of business, PerkettPR is looking for interns that are capable of opening our eyes to new possibilities, executing on important communications strategies and excited to learn just how a PR firm helps companies and brands effectively communicate with key audiences.

Think you’ve got what it takes to intern at a virtual agency? Enter our contest for the chance to work with a nationwide, senior-level team in either Boston, Detroit or San Francisco.

Here are the official application guidelines:

  • The paid internship program will be awarded to up to three accomplished students or graduates with studies in public relations, communications, business, video production, English, journalism or marketing
  • Length of internship will be determined with individual contacts
  • We’re looking – ideally – for one intern in (or near) each city: Boston, Detroit, San Francisco
  • Submissions must be sent via video message (Facebook* or Seesmic**), blog post (yours with a link to ours), Twitter pitch campaign, or on our Facebook page. Or, better yet, something you create – show us  something we have never seen before. The submission is open to your creative interpretation – just don’t send us a paper resume. Show us your work digitally.
  • Must have excellent writing and research skills.
  • Must have a fully functional home “office” and be willing to meet and work remotely with co-workers at least once a week
  • Interns will work with PerkettPR’s PR and Social Media teams to study, create and implement social media, digital content and PR programs and services. They may also have exposure to and contact with clients, partners and journalists.
  • Submissions or links may also be emailed to: IWantToIntern[at]perkettpr.com.
  • Finalists will be asked for full resumes.

Applications will be accepted through June 26. A handful of finalists that will then be interviewed for the position in late June/early July.

Here’s what we’re looking for you to answer in your submission:

1.  Who are you, what do you do and where are you?
2.  What is social media?
3.  How does it play a role in PR? How can they both benefit businesses?
4.  What great examples of PR and social media integration have you seen? What makes it great?
5.  Where is the future of corporate/brand communications heading?
6.  List three words people would use to describe you.
7.  Why do you want to work for PerkettPR?
8.  What will you bring to our agency that no other candidate will?
9.  What is your favorite tech gadget or site and why?
10. Who is one person in business that you admire?

*  Video submissions to our Facebook page can be left on our wall after you become a “fan.”

** Video submissions can also be left right here as a reply on this post via the Seesmic widget that is accessible below the comments area. A free Seesmic account is required.