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!)

How Twitter Can Expand Your World – Frenemies and All

We admit, Twitter is difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective. You really need to participate in the community to understand its value. But once you do engage, the power of this eclectic community comes shining through.

Several of us at PerkettPR have personal Twitter accounts and we also have a corporate entity where we share news, poll the community, post blog entries, track events and more. Twitter has become a fantastic resource for our firm professionally and for many of us, personally. So what have we gleamed from Twitter? Everything from tips on restaurants, travel services, books, technology and more, to new relationships across the globe – including many with like-minded PR professionals – who we’ll call “Frenemies.”

Although we continue to compete for business with many of our Frenemies, we have also united with them in a way we never would have before Twitter. It has provided us the opportunity to see each other beyond the walls of the firms we work for – to appreciate our industry colleagues’ writing, strategies and accomplishments, and even to commiserate over similar struggles.

Through Twitter, we’ve had the opportunity to build relationships like never before – not only with other PR and social media professionals, but reporters, bloggers, analysts and others in relevant – and sometimes not-at-all-relevant – industries. Without Twitter, Jeremiah Owyang and Guy Kawasaki might never have chatted with us about various topics – professional and personal – much less visited and mentioned our blog and our website.

Participating in debates about the debates, rallying around a community member fighting breast cancer, supporting the case of a missing child, and even an unexpected death in the community have all been part of our various experiences on Twitter in the last few months alone. We share lively business-related discussions within the community that often extend to each other’s blogs – sharing ideas, “joining together” on issues such as “the death of PR,” the value of social media or something more personal such as parenting woes.

Twitter has not only helped us to extend our network and knowledge significantly, but provided us with a new avenue to prove that PR executives do have substance and can participate in industry conversations. We have also learned that we have more in common with our competitors than we ever thought possible. They are human, they are smart and we can learn from them. We embrace them as our “frenemies” because we still need to compete – which makes for another interesting future blog post …

The relationships may begin on Twitter – but they don’t end there. We have followed up and met face-to-face with “Followers” from “Twitterverse” at various industry events. Twitter is a great opportunity to expand not only your contacts database but your view of the world. Log on, join the community – we bet you’ll learn something new immediately.

Crunchies or Crashies?

Crunchies or Crashies, call them what you like..either way call it an entertaining evening in San Francisco on Friday.

The Crunchies 2007

Attending the Crunchies was a great way to end a very busy work week. Upon arriving at the Herbst Theatre it was clear the bubble was back in full effect (or on its way to bursting, according to the usual cynics and of course the Richter Scales). Though the exuberance was rational, there were some flash signs of the days of old, the folks from Tesla Motors had one of their super-spendy electric cars parked out in front of theatre (who said you had to sacrifice sophistication to go green?) and there were massive search lights attracting passers-by and pointing them in the right direction to tech party fun. The camera crews from the local broadcast stations and video bloggers like PopSnap’s Sarah Myers were circling Michael Arrington, and others, to get some good pre-awards ceremony sound bytes and, of course, the usual party crashers were there too.

As with other TechCrunch events, the place was filled with overly enthusiastic students and bloggers, budding entrepreneurs and established CEOs, as well as the marketing and PR folks like us doing their best to network while juggling flashing mobile devices, handshakes and a drink, pre-ceremony. All of us were in the same boat with our thoughts though, hoping to see our company or client take home one of the coveted Crunchie monkey statues, or, at the very least, be entertained on a Friday night — and that we were. Check out this hilarious (though somewhat vulgar) acceptance speech video from the fake Steve Jobs (Dan Lyons). Apparently no one from Apple was available to attend the ceremony and accept the award so the Crunchies had a great laugh at their expense, and so did the rest of us! Also check out the Cool Whip response from Twine in the first set of video interviews section — very funny guy. The Richter Scales also had us laughing with their catchy tech party song, Here Comes Another Bubble.

Arrington along with Om Malik (who courageously still made it on stage 15 days post heart surgery), Matt Marshall and Richard MacManus were all gracious hosts and entertaining presenters. The event flowed just as well as any other first-year awards ceremony, with a few hiccups, that Arrington was the first to point out and remedy, (like never, ever leaving the stage empty), and the unscripted “Blogger Bash” panel, moderated byDan Farber, that was a bit rushed. All in all, that the event was a great success for the four blogs that hosted, all the companies that were nominated, and for those that won the coveted, crazy monkey “Crunchie.” And for the rest of us, the night was a chance to celebrate what a cool and crazy year in tech it has been. It was great to see the tremendous amount of activity that has happened in tech this year culminate in one nicely put together event. Congratulations to all the winners, and look forward to seeing you all at the next big valley celebration sometime soon.

Thanks to Mike, Om, Matt, and Richard for hosting all of us tech geeks and reminding us what a great ride it’s been –so far (I mean the second time) ☺!

Sermo Named Media Brand of the Year

Congratulations to our client, Sermo, who was named Media Brand of the Year by Medical Marketing & Media. We are particularly excited about this accomplishment because Sermo took a chance in 2006 with PerkettPR – one of the only firms they interviewed that did not have a dedicated healthcare division – and it continues to be a fruitful relationship for both companies. We worked closely with their marketing team all year to spread the word about this one-of-a-kind community for physicians – and helped it to grow to 40,000 doctors and counting.

Sermo continues to revolutionize healthcare. The discussions held, and decisions made, within the community positively impact not only physicians, but the patients they care for and the pharmaceutical companies that want to forge a safer and more productive future through a more efficient exchange of knowledge and resources. Sermo is a Web-based community where physicians share observations from daily practice, discuss emerging trends and provide new insights into medications, devices and treatments.

“And since physicians have never before been able to talk with a unified
voice in such impressive numbers, sharing observations and insight
about treatments, drugs, devices and biologics, we expect Sermo to
continue to rock the pharma marketing world for some time to come.”

We couldn’t agree more! We are extremely proud of this award, thankful for such an interesting and savvy client, and excited to share even more interesting developments about Sermo in the year to come. Congratulations to Dr. Daniel Palestrant, Founder & CEO; Gina Ashe, CMO; Greg Shenk, Director of Communications and the entire team at Sermo! What a year!

Forbes Names the Web Celeb 25

Congratulations to the influencers of the influencers who were named “The Web Celeb 25″ by Forbes.

What’s most interesting about the list is that, while many tech leaders and bloggers are on the list (Mike Arrington – #2, congrats!), a celebrity gossip hound is at the top and a stay-at-home Mom has one of the most widely read blogs in the world.

It just goes to show once again that the Internet has evened the playing field – from authors and actors to the corner CEO’s office, the world is open for the taking and the Internet makes it possible for anyone to do so. What an exciting concept.