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.

What is a Web. 2.0 PR Agency?

There’s a lot of buzz about PR these days. Is it dead? Has social media taken over? Does everyone do PR now? What’s wrong with PR? Why is it broken? Is it even necessary anymore?

The latest rant about how PR is broken comes from Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. I was on vacation when this post appeared so I did not participate in the comments parade (145 and counting!) following his post. But I have to say that I don’t blame him. Like Mike and his post-muse, Steve Rubel, I have recently experienced what it’s like to receive really bad, really off-focus PR pitches (since I started blogging outside of PerkettPR for This Mommy Gig, Women for Hire, etc.). The pitches I’ve received have embarrassed me, knowing that these are the professionals representing our industry… and doing such a bad job that reporters and bloggers are compelled to publicly cry out against PR in general. I don’t have time to read – let alone respond to – lazy, off-topic pitches and I’m pretty sure that I’m not even half as busy as guys like Mike.

All of this hoopla – combined with recent incoming new business inquires where prospects told me they are looking for a “Web 2.0 PR Agency” – has me thinking. Is there a difference between “traditional PR” and ” Web 2.0 PR?” Is PR really broken or are executives under pressures from clients who don’t understand, now more than ever, what PR is about? What is a Web 2.0 PR Agency, anyway? I think it depends on who you ask.

One prospect defined a “Web 2.0 PR Agency” through a series of posts describing the agency as having “current clients in the Web 2.0 space with funny sounding names” and the ability to demonstrate “out-of-the-boxiness” – preferably by wearing jeans and t-shirts to the pitch meeting and not bringing paper presentations. Numerous other prospects defined Web 2.0 PR as having a blog (you’d be surprised how many companies haven’t even taken this step yet). Still others said they were heavily weighing their decision on a new agency around the amount of Twitter followers or Facebook friends each agency had (although, since most agencies don’t yet have – or keep up – a corporate entity like @PerkettPR, they instead looked at one individual most of the time).

None of the above makes a successful “Web 2.0 PR Agency.” You can still abuse Twitter and Facebook if you use them to send bad pitches (or any pitches, in some cases). You can be a savvy PR firm and still wear suits (in fact 99 percent of the time if we showed up in jeans and a t-shirt, we’d never get the job). You can have thousands of followers on Twitter and not one of them who cares about your clients or their products (hence delivering no value).  Anyone can create a blog.

PR has always been about “people skills,” as vague as that sounds. It’s not only about how many existing relationships you have, but rather about the ability to connect with others in a valuable and meaningful way – whether we’ve met or not. It’s also about mutual benefit and communication – not just calling when you need something.  And finally, it’s about time – we’re not brain surgeons, but just as you could paint your own house, you most likely have other things you need to do, so you pay someone to do it for you. PR is not dead because everyone wants promotion. Some are good at doing it themselves, some need help and still others simply want to pay someone to do it for them.

A “Web 2.0 PR Agency” is simply one that understands the new ways that people are connecting and building relationships. They understand that today, “people skills,” go beyond attending networking events or taking a reporter to dinner once in awhile. They take the time to join the conversation, read and comment, share a bit of their own insights and give something back to the community in terms of participation. As Arrington said, “… participate in the fascinating conversations [and suddenly] you are a person that gives and takes. Someone who makes the overall network stronger.” PR executives can do this as well, if they make the time for it – think of what you can learn! In this regard, a good “Web 2.0 PR Agency” isn’t afraid to experiment and take chances – breaking out of the usual PR mold (which clearly isn’t working anymore).

Any “Web 2.0 PR Agency” understands that it may take more time to read, comment, write, build and share original content, and provide information – but that consistent participation is the key to success. You can’t watch from the sidelines anymore. PR agencies are suffering because they are used to maximizing billable hours by skimming the surface – they find a basic formula, teach junior executives what it is and apply it to all reporters, analysts, bloggers, etc. They don’t want to spend hours personalizing efforts for clients when they can service more clients – hence, more retainers – if one formula fits all.

This doesn’t work anymore yet they don’t know how to change. Managers demand reports of who received a press release, rather than recognizing the value in ongoing conversations and the time it takes to actually read and respond appropriately to individual constituents or to execute direct-to-customer communications. But it isn’t just agencies, the demand for such reports and lists – and the failure to recognize value in building relationships through two-way conversations – also lies with clients. They don’t measure conversations, they measure clips and ask for your Rolodex. Blasting news can quickly create a pretty list of reporters who the firm “pitched” and, sadly, can often create more quantity – not quality – “hits” than the time it takes to work with a reporter for a feature story or to build a viral campaign.

PR isn’t dead – it’s alive and well in almost anything you read on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more (disclosure: The Style Observer and Constant Contact are clients). Traditional PR (media, speaking, awards, analyst relations, events, etc.) can still be effective – but in conjunction with these new social channels. I believe a “Web 2.0 PR Agency” understands this, has come to grips with the fact that a reusable formula no longer works, takes the time to participate, and is flexible and wise enough to adapt to this reality – and teach clients how to do so as well.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 07/21/08

AOL is MeltingFull Text Of AOL Email: XDrive, AOL Pictures, MyMobile And Bluestring To Shut Down
Assets at AOL continue to crumble with the announcement of four product cuts following the recent coverage of cuts across cuts with their blogging properties their blogging properties. Mike Arrington shares the full text of the official email from AOL EVP Kevin Conroy in this post.

Facebook Connect: OpenID Without the Email
Nick O’Neill from the SocialTimes.com blog shares his view on Facebook’s recently announced “Facebook Connect” initiative that was announced at this week’s F8 Facebook Developer’s Conference. Audio of the Mark Zuckerburg Keynote is also available in a separate post.

What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites
The topic of Facebook Connect continues with this great post from Jeremiah Owyang that discusses what this new offering from Facebook might mean to corporations.

What are the five strengths of a Community Manager?
Many of last week’s picks centered around the topic of community. Here’s another good one to add to the bunch written by Mario Sundar, Community Evangelist & Chief Blogger at LinkedIn.

A Guy Walks Into a Bar…
Scott Monty reaches out to the Twitter community in search of answers (punch lines) to the question “How many social media experts does it take to change a lightbulb?” The humorous replies are featured in this post.

How to Build a Killer Social Network: Takeaway

AMABostonLast night, several of us from PerkettPR attended the AMA Boston meeting at the Exchange Conference Center. The sold-out event featured a keynote and panel entitled “How to Build a Killer Social Network: Understanding and Optimizing Social Media.”

John Moore, Senior Vice President and Director of Ideas and Innovation at Mullen Media Hub, got the evening started with a statistics-packed keynote presentation that covered the basics of social media and social networks. John did a good job getting everyone up to speed on the social networking landscape and provided some detailed examples of how XM Satellite Radio has used social networks to engage with their target audience.

John’s presentation laid the proper groundwork for the panel discussion led by Chris Brogan, VP Strategy & Technology for CrossTech Media. Panel members included Todd VanHoosear, Social Media Practice Leader from Topaz Partners, Tom Arrix, VP of Sales, East from Facebook and Dale Durrett, Eastern Region Sales Manager at LinkedIn. The panelists provided solid answers to Chris’s questions and they each provided their own perspectives on how get started and be successful in the social networking space.

The Takeaway

It’s not uncommon for a company to want to build their own social networking community. However, it’s important to remember that just because you build it, doesn’t mean the community will come. Yes, it’s fine to consider building your own, but it needs to be part of a larger, more diverse plan that also includes going out and interacting with the existing communities that align with your target market. Tom Arrix provided a takeaway that resonates this idea. He urged the attendees to first figure out if they want to engage with people who are like them or with people who are not like them, but who would benefit from their expertise.

The drive behind Tom’s advice is to help people decide what social networks they should join and interact with first. Existing customers and people who are familiar with your brand probably already congregate in similar online communities. Those who are not familiar with your brand, but would benefit from your expertise, might congregate in different social platforms. The objectives in your social networking strategy should help indicate which of these groups should get your attention first. After spending a good amount of time inside the existing communities, you’ll have a better understanding of how to build your own social networking community and increase its chance for success.

Unfortunately, video recording was not allowed during the panel portion of the evening, but John Moore’s keynote presentation should be available in the AMA Boston website in the near future.

Starry Eyed Over Social Media

The Internet has been ablaze the last few months about social media and business. Everyone is trying to figure out the value of the different sites – from the “oldies” like Facebook and LinkedIn to newbies like Twitter, Seesmic, Plurk, Brightkite, etc. The value of such communities is especially abuzz in the realms of marketing and communications. People are catching on that marketing and PR are now – more than ever – about building relationships (as opposed to spinning news). PR executives who are not engaging with constituents – media, customers, partners, colleagues, competitors – in these new communities are missing a huge competitive advantage and opportunity. But who are the right constituents?

Just like anything – it’s how you yield the sword, not the sword itself, in my humble opinion. While building a fan base, securing thousands of followers or becoming a “top friend” can be fun, when it comes to business, how do these numbers translate? Where does the value lie? Does having thousands of Twitter followers suddenly make you a “social media expert?”

The ability to use – or experience with – communities like Facebook and Twitter do not make anyone a communications expert. Sheer follower numbers do not necessarily mean value – at least not to everyone. I may have 1000+ followers but that doesn’t mean anything to my clients unless I’m gleaming value specific to their goals. And even if one of their goals is to increase their user base, not all – or even the majority – of those followers are going to be appropriate users for my client’s products.

What if the content I’m sharing on these communities is irrelevant or my approach is more personal than professional? For example, some Twitter users don’t actually converse – they just spew updates about their day. That doesn’t actually build relationships. Some don’t recognize Twitter as a business opportunity but just have fun with their followers. (The smart ones do both – personal and professional communications – for reasons discussed in previous posts). Others build corporate entities only to “spam” followers and quickly lose them. So, while having a great following on these communities is important, so is understanding how to participate appropriately and glean the right value from them – and how to combine that with other communications strategies.

A lot of folks in the industry are also abuzz about “social media experts.” We’ve had plenty of six figure-seeking applicants tell us they know everything there is to know about social media. Personally, I think there are very few who can truly call themselves experts in this arena – yet – and I’m not impressed when an applicant just runs down a list of “Twitterati” that they have on their follower list or “web celeb” Facebook friends list.

Don’t spew names. Give me an example of how these relationships have helped add business value to your organization or your client’s business. How did your relationships increase a company’s users? What strategy did you have in place for using social media to build a brand and what metrics have you used to measure that brand awareness? Just using social media does not mean you know how to tie it to the bigger picture. I find this to especially be true with the younger generation of workers. Yes, they know how to use social media and are fully immersed in it. But do they understand business strategy, marketing goals and how to leverage these communities for such? Some do, but the majority may not yet understand the intricacies of business relationships and communication.

When thinking about new media and marketing, don’t get too starry eyed just because social media is a hot topic right now. Just as anyone can put a press release across the wire, anyone can build a massive following in these communities. But if the tools aren’t used properly – and combined with other elements of the business to execute a larger strategy – they become useless from a business perspective. Sometimes they can even become harmful.

What do you think? Have you found value in hiring a social media expert? How do you define “expert?”