There's no standard definition of public relations--it generally includes things like internal communications, media relations, investor relations, community relations, crisis communications and a several other marketing subdisciplines. But one near constant in PR is the need to communicate through someone else--a reporter, an analyst, a blogger, an employee who you'd like to be an ambassador of sorts to other people.
Over the past few years, the media relations world has had to adjust the way it reaches audiences or constituents because the media itself is under such pressure. As advertising revenues have dropped, magazines, newspapers and broadcast outlets have laid off journalists and pushed assignments out to cheaper freelancers, offered more syndicated content than original material or folded altogether.
[Two great and very different resources that can help you keep abreast of these changes are Paul Gillin's Newspaper Death Watch blog ("Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism") and, on Twitter, themediaisdying.]
The media is, as people who are good at commiserating often say, "going through a tough time." As a result, companies can't rely on reporters covering them the way they could in the past, particularly if they're using old tactics to communicate.
So how are forward-looking companies dealing with this bump in the road? Largely by understanding that success in media relations today means ability to create smart, oftentimes visually appealing content that journalists can use. This tends not to be a press release about your latest product upgrade; rather, it's insight about trends, timely expert commentary, a willingness to be controversial, graphics and video, and articles or blog posts that require minimal editing.
Companies, even their marketers, often don't have a feel for what, of all the things they could say or do, is going to capture the most media attention. It's the PR person's responsibility to advise on topics like this.
It's also the PR person's job to help produce content. When companies know they're going to want a lot of it, though--a blog created and constantly updated, extensive white papers written and so on--many healthy mid-sized and large businesses have turned over the past few years to that pool of journalists who have been laid off or chosen to leave their publications for more stable environments.
In a podcast with Fresh Ground, Steve Wildstrom, who covered technology for BusinessWeek for years and is one of the most widely known tech correspondents, talks about how some reporters have become "journalists in residence" blogging for companies, not about products, but about topics of "intense interest" to those companies. He happens to be blogging for NVIDIA. Other examples abound--check out my colleague Tim Whitman's recent run-down of who's employing some very prominent security industry journalists, including Ryan Naraine, Dennis Fisher, Rob Lemos, Brian Fonseca and Joris Evers.
Mr. Wildstrom said that he thought his work might meet with some resistance from former colleagues, but that's not been the case.
I was also reminded of the primacy of good content when I checked out the DK Books video on "The Future of Publishing" that's been making the rounds through March. "Content is more important than packaging," they say. DK is talking about the book industry, but when I look at the changes in tech and business journalism, I think DK's assessment is equally apt.
The intersection of PR and SEO for B2B tech and healthcare companies is My Current Obsession. Naturally, then, I'm fascinated by how Google works. We all know it's a Google world, right, but I care in particular about Google's treatment of news releases and content generated by the media.
I was interested, then, in last week's BusinessWire post on "Why Your Release Might Not Make it Into Google News." Not often, but every now and again a client doesn't find their release on Google News and they wonder what happened. Sometimes they ask us to "call Google and fix it." Tragically, we can't do that, so it's going to be easier to write the release in the first place to maximize its chances of getting picked up by Google News.
In the BusinessWire blog entry, Joseph Miller lists four reasons that releases may not be indexed by Google News: the release is too short (fewer than 125 words), too large (e.g., an earnings release with huge associated tables), appears to be fragmented into unrelated bullet points and, most important, the title is too long. Specifically, Mr. Miller says, a news release headline shouldn't exceed 22 words.
Really long press release titles should be avoided because they're clumsy, of course. Beyond that basic guideline, we've understood for some time the importance of prominently including keywords in press release headlines to improve SEO--they should appear toward the beginning of titles. It's useful to also know now that verbose headlines not only don't help SEO, they likely hurt it by causing releases to be tossed out by Google News altogether.
Several months ago Dan Lyons wrote an interesting article on the iPad and the concept of vertical integration. Unlike most computer/laptop/tablet manufacturers that build products using other company's technologies (i.e., Windows and Intel), Apple designed and built the iPad essentially by themselves, down to the chips.
The pros and cons of vertical integration are straight forward. Pros; you control the entire design,
cost structure, development and integration, which means you can have a much tighter control on quality, user experience and profits. Cons; you are the sole innovator, while competitive technologies can leverage technology breakthroughs by their partner ecosystem, and their are limited economies of scale unless you achieve mass market share.
This religious debate of vertical integration and technology specialization exists in virtually every market. In the storage industry, EMC and NetApp have held a stranglehold on the market, offering proprietary and high priced devices. Due to their market share and the perception of unmatched value they have managed to create, there is little chance that an alternative company delivering products based on vertical integration could succeed. Hence the rise of technology specialists such as Nexenta that offers storage software that can go on any X86 compatible server (think Linux or Windows on any x86 server for a corollary in the compute market). Other examples include SugarCRM delivering its open source CRM application to its army of cloud partners to take on Salesforce.com's proprietary single vendor SaaS model, and Morphlabs cloud management infrastructure software empowering managed service providers to compete with Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure.
Trying to read the tea leaves from the Apple history of vertical integration to decide which model will ultimately succeed is inconclusive. In computers and laptops, Apple has never had a dominant market share, even in the last decade of their rebirth, but in the MP3 player market, iPod is the market force. In addition, while consumers can easily be swayed by image and brand, the corporate buyer will always choose technologies with the highest value-to-cost ratio, even in bull markets. And this ratio is always highest in commodity markets driven by technology specialization.
As the International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 conference comes to a close, I can’t help but to be in awe at how much the show, and the technology, has progressed. What started with a 5 lb. leather case that plugged into my car’s cigarette lighter has evolved to a touch screen that lets me watch live TV. Oh, and it’s still a phone too.
Consider this statistic: there were 1.5 trillion text messages sent in 2009 (according to CTIA). That’s at least 220 text messages for everyone on the planet, and the last time I checked, everyone on the planet does not have a cell phone...though we’re getting there. It makes you wonder what’s going to be the next mainstream “application” for the wireless industry.
I have to think it will grow out of the 4G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. Most of us are impatient, so no matter how cool an application is, if we have to wait for it, we lose interest quickly. These high-bandwidth networks promise to change all that.
I’m betting on applications that relate to higher quality videos/images, iPad and Kindle-based applications and gaming. I picked these three categories because there are already large markets for the “wired” versions. Uploading an image, downloading a new book or magazine and beating your best friend at Madden Football are already popular. The ability to duplicate these activities anywhere via a mobile device will surely create a number of new market winners. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the buzz at next year’s show.
I started my day at CTIA yesterday at the IDC breakfast where we heard from several analysts with updates on semiconductor trends for mobile devices, sustainable practices in the mobile industry, and user interface trends.
On the semiconductor front, 4G won't bring in significant revenues for chip vendors until 2013 according to IDG. The big six vendors who control the lion's share of the market are offering platform and vertically integrated solutions to capture BOM and create stickiiness. More market consolidation is expected.
With corporate responsibility becoming a big part of branding and PR, the mobile phone industry has started to embrace sustainable practices. The first step is reducing packaging, which has an environmental impact (reduced landfill, lower emissions) as well as driving down costs of shipping and packaging manufacuring. Mobile vendors are also looking at hazardous waste reduction and handset recycling. Stephen Drake ranked Nokia highest in his green comparison of mobile vendors, with Sony Erickson and Apple in the numbers 2 and 3 spots.
William Stofega looked at the various user interface approaches on mobile devices. He mentioned a few innovations worth checking out. Eye gaze technologies use gaze control for gaming. Synaptics in collaboration with TAT Design debuted a squeezable mobile device, the Fuse, late last year. Approaches that give the user a feeling of texture are on the horizon. He also predicted that patent wars over touch technology could decide which vendors win over the hearts and wallets of consumers.
I'm off to the show floor for the last day of CTIA 2010.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the PR News Measurement Summit in Washington D.C. It was a gathering of a few hundred PR professionals interested in advancing PR measurement and sharing best practices for tying public relations to business results. The topics would be of interest to anyone in consumer, technology or cleantech public relations.
There were a half-dozen sessions, but there were a few themes that ran throughout them.
1) The Fallacy of AVE. Last year, the IPR and other professional PR organizations condemned ad value equivalency as a faulty measure of public relations success (and I cheered them on). It was a handy crutch in the past, but not something that measured the right results and did not have a good correlation to an organization's business results. I swear the room was never more energized than when people were criticizing this flawed metric that uses one industry's benchmarks to try to justify something completely different.
One of the presenters at the conference introduced a relatively new metric "Weighted Media Costs" I applaud the work the creators of this metric have done, but I still see it as AVE wearing a tuxedo. I have yet to be convinced otherwise. Anytime you use ad space cost, but remove the dollar signs so as to differentiate yourself from AVE, you are already starting down a very slippery slope.
2) Social media has permeated B2B, B2C and the government. Almost every presentation showcased how companies were engaging and measuring social media. From a personal point of view, it also validated the approach we take at Schwartz. The focus on tying PR to business results was used by all presenters- from the largest agencies to large multinationals. While there was some discussion of tactics and tools (Legistalker, Socialmention and Twiangulate seemed to be the most popular free tools) the focus was on getting meaningful measurement without breaking the bank.
3) Government and public affairs have embraced social media. While many of us know that at some level, and it was definitely proven in the latest Massachusetts Senate race, some of the metrics are telling:
64% of Congressional staff say “blogs are more useful than mainstream media for identifying future national political problems and debates.” (PR Week)
Congress has embraced multiple platforms:
96% have Facebook pages 79% have YouTube channels 41% have Twitter accounts
The key takeaway from the whole conference? One I have been championing for years. For public relations to continue to grow and be an essential element of an organization's business strategy, PR professionals need to relate their activities to business results.
eMarketer's got an informative post from Debra Aho Williamson this week, "Why Social Media Makes Sense for B2B Marketers." She presents some info on the different ways that B2B and B2C companies measure the success of social media programs. The top three for both are website traffic, brand awareness and engagement with prospects.
Here's where they diverge: B2Bs are more interested than B2Cs in using social media to generate a high volume of quality leads and, not so surprisingly, they're less likely to evaluate success by looking at a direct increase in revenue. I assume this is because every B2B marketer knows how difficult it normally is to draw a straight line from any single marketing activity to an actual sale.
To help generate those leads that B2Bs want to see, Williamson mentions a product from Optify. One that a number of technology PR clients at Schwartz have been using is from HubSpot. What's particularly interesting to me, as a PR person, is that HubSpot allows us to see which articles in the media (social or professional) drive traffic and, in turn, sales leads to clients' websites. That helps us fine tune technology PR programs over time.
Another current post I found valuable was from Chris Koch, who offered advice on "How to use social media for B2B." He talks about monitoring, engaging and managing. "Wait a minute," I thought when I read his post, "what about measuring?"
I had a hard time not seeing measurement on his list, so read back over his previous posts to see Koch had stated earlier that "[s]ocial media is notoriously difficult to measure and ROI is unclear. Therefore, social media should be used as a platform to drive traffic to the channels that are easier to measure and have proven ROI. There should also be a way to get customers and prospects from social media into systems for tracking and managing interactions (e.g., CRM)."
I agree with his first and third statements and am still thinking about the second. But clearly his observations and eMarketer's survey results are in line with each other: informed B2B marketers look to social media today for traffic and leads, but not--yet--ROI.
Measurement techniques and the necessary link between social media and CRM or marketing automation systems haven't kept pace with B2Bs' use of social media. Looking at increases in traffic and leads, though, it's natural to expect quantifiable returns to soon become clear.
By guest blogger Joe Palladino, Senior Account Executive
With the International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 show in full swing, the floor is buzzing with new uses for wireless technologies and the need for increased bandwidth. Wireless technology has become a component in virtually every industry, and we can clearly see that CTIA is embracing the many verticals finding its new capabilities, efficiencies and revenue streams. Now we just need the bandwidth to handle it all.
CTIA Chairman Ralph de la Vega, also the president and CEO of AT&T’s mobile division, addressed mobile broadband, next-generation networks and the need to increase wireless bandwidth. In his keynote speech, de la Vega noted that the FCC is working to increase frequency spectrum, but predicted that we’ll outstrip even the capabilities of the new frequencies in short time. Carriers will need to redouble their efforts to get next-generation networks in place to meet increasing needs as virtually every industry moves toward wireless solutions.
By guest blogger Avi Dines, Director, Accounts & Digital Content
I’m sitting 1,300 miles away from VoiceCon Orlando, but feel as connected as ever. The news deluge from the event, including articles, blogs and tweets, along with live TV feeds from conference keynotes provides a good flavor for the conference activities. Keeping track of Schwartz clients as well as other industry players has never been easier. Here is a sampling.
Schwartz client Digium continues to turn heads and impress with its Voice over IP Unified Communications solution Switchvox. ChannelWeb highlights Switchvox SMB 4.5 here. The company also announced the winner of its Extreme Phone Makeover, awarding a new Switchvox Unified Communications system and Polycom® SoundPoint® IP phones, valued up to $10,000, to Boys and Girls Club of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Empirix OneSight also made ChannelWeb’s Top 25 products to see at VoiceCon. The company set the stage for the conference, kicking off with President, Strategic Networks Group, Lisa Pierce's panel on SIP Trunking, and by all accounts it was a lively session discussing the various bugaboos that arise from trying to recreate the consistency of TDM in SIP trunk environments.
Siemens Enterprise Communications has made two announcements at VoiceCon so far. The first is OpenScape UC Server 2010, unified communications (UC) optimized for the data center and virtualized environments. The company also announced a partnership with VMware for virtualized real-time communications deployment. Siemens Enterprise Communications also made a splash with a keynote from Senior Vice President, Voice & Applications Solutions Mark C. Straton, which can be seen – on demand – through VoiceCon TV. Along with informative content about the company and current state of UC, the presentation dazzled with a customer guest, lasers, a video and 3D presentation for attendees.
Kudos to VoiceCon, attendee bloggers and myriad news sources for keeping us up-to-speed with the action on the ground.
By guest blogger Rob Skinner, Senior Media Strategist
Based on the day one buzz, a primary theme at this year’s CTIA WIRELESS 2010 (running today through Thursday, March 25) centers on putting wireless networks to work for more than just voice. For the carriers, this means pushing into device categories beyond handsets, including e-books, net books and tablets.
What’s more interesting to me, however, is extending this theme beyond the consumer. Accenture, for example, is leading a panel on the smarter use of energy, and this year’s show marks the debut of a Telehealth pavilion, where vendors show how wireless can improve patients’ quality of life—arguably far more meaningful areas of the economy than the latest iPhone app or gaming device.
On a personal level, I often ask myself how “wireless” can become synonymous with “sustainability” when my mobile provider sees fit to charge an extra fee for the millisecond bursts that text messages require, even as my family stays well below the allotted minutes on our voice plan each month. Can’t they just count that text as a minute used against our voice plan? What’s so special about it?
But this is the way carriers are set up, to maximize ARPU by any means available. And who can blame them?
Contrast the consumer’s experience with the aims of Schwartz client KORE Telematics, an MVNO that is entirely dedicated to making wireless data connectivity work for many of the applications noted above. As company President and COO Alex Brisbourne eloquently puts it, “We realized in 2003 that application providers simply cannot operate profitably under traditional plan-based pricing, and introduced the industry’s first ‘pay for what you use’ model at that time.”
KORE is now pushing this concept one level further with a new rate model for wireless data that self-adjusts according to the customer’s usage patterns. They call it IntelliRate, and KORE believes that bringing the price point of wireless data services more closely in step with commercial bottom lines allows wireless innovation to move more doggedly toward fostering sustainable businesses. The strategy is sound, and I look forward to seeing how it takes hold in the market.
Written by guest blogger Martin Gleissner, Schwartz Stockholm
Judging by the number of exhibitors and attendees, the 2010 Mobile World Congress was a big success. There was an optimistic spirit at exhibitors’ booths, the conference sessions and the networking parties. However, there is still a level of uncertainty in the industry that was best illustrated by the absence of any major news announcements.
The initial buzz at the show was that Nokia, the world’s largest mobile handset manufacturer, would not be announcing any new products at the conference, a first in the history of the show. Many took this as a sign of weakness, but in retrospect it was a wise decision, giving the company the opportunity to evaluate the state of the market rather than create hype with little substance.
The biggest trend in the handset world is the rapid rise of Google’s Android, which has been embraced by a wide range of handset manufacturers. However, it remains unclear whether Google’s OS alone will help to solve the problems of the established phone manufacturers. More important will be innovative applications and user features that get built on the Android operating system.
Microsoft has thus far neglected the average consumer in its ambitions to conquer smart phone power users (most of whom are businesspeople) but they caused quite a stir at MWC with the launch of Windows Phone 7, which will be available later this year. Debuting to generally positive reviews in the media, Phone 7’s visual, iconic interface challenges the iPhone and targets the technically savvy consumers who are using social media and gaming applications.
Despite Microsoft’s public relations success, Google’s Android was the clear winner of the mobile OS battle in Barcelona, albeit with the obvious absence of Apple from the festivities. Apple’s absence from the show was strategically smart and predictable. They are in the position of power in the mobile industry where they can watch from a distance as the competition works hard to catch up.
One overriding trend that became apparent at this year’s MWC was the emphasis on business customers. Phones and other gadgets are still the eye candy that gets the most attention. But since wireless devices are now an integral part of every corporate environment, management security issues are as important as games and GPS features. And one should not forget to mention that there is a cloud (a computing one at that) hovering above the wireless industry that will have drive even further business applications and processes through mobile devices in 2011.
It will be interesting to see what will happen to App World in 2011. A real world manifestation of the app stores hosted by Apple, Blackberry and the service providers, MWC’s App World was a small exhibition hall, scrunched in a corner at the very end of the conference complex. This was by far the most colorful hall, with mostly small booths and small companies that are delivering innovations for phones, VoIP apps, barcode scanners, maps and games. It would great to see some of the small App World players make it over to the hall where the big boys can be found.
There was a lot that went on today at SxSW, but it all seemed to revolve around Twitter. From @Ev’s keynote introducing @anywhere to panels, hallway discussions and hordes of techies tweeting while dancing and singing at TechKaraoke.
Twitter does a good job of explaining the new service, but basically it allows any site to tag content to Twitter that let’ people follow feeds from the site (or people mentioned on the site) without leaving the site. It looks cool, but it did not blow the audience away. I see any savvy consumer technology or B2B public relations professional who is creating content making use of it eventually in the content they create for their brands.
The panel after the keynote was moderated by Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) and had a number of opinionated, passionate and interesting social media personalities, including @scobleizer and @pistachio.
They basically highlighted their favorite Twitter tools. I thought some of them might be of interest to our readers, so I wanted to highlight a few.
Oneforty.com – Basically, @pistachio’s Twitter App Store, complete with rankings and reviews. Spend time there if you haven’t already.
The most interesting panel of the entire show (for me at least) happened at 5:00 p.m. in a remote hotel. During the 90 minutes, Citibank revealed the process and procedures they used to secure approval for social media engagement in a heavily regulated environment. I will write more on it later, for it is worth a blog post on its own.
Today was my last day at SxSW. It lived up to the promise. Great sessions, good people and thought provoking ideas. The dominant themes of the conference were mobility, connectivity and crowdsourcing (with a very focused financial services minor). Over the next few weeks I will share additional insights on this blog. There is a lot that I didn’t cover, but hopefully the snapshots over the past few days will give our readers some useful insight. I will be digesting what I learned at the show in the weeks to come.
The day started off with a great Social Media Breakfast Austin/SxSW where I had a chance to hang out with a few hundred other social media professionals. I saw some old friends and met a few new people with some really interesting companies. I ended up reconnecting with many of them at the Microsoft party later in the evening.
Compared to the first two days of the SxSW, the panels were interesting, but not as strong.
The first panel I attended took a look at the use of applications for extending the brand. The main takeaways were the iPhone is now the dominant brand platform, eclipsing Facebook (for the company has more control). The general consensus from the audience and panel ties into the theme I raised yesterday in my banking recap: The future is mobile. They also emphasized the brand needs to take a backseat in the application or consumers won’t stay engaged.
One if the most interesting points in the session was the debate over the use of apps for engaging consumers. The general consensus is one most consumer technology marketing people have heard for years “The days of brands doing traditional marketing are gone. They need to engage customers in social dialogue and provide utility, or they won’t have lasting relationship.”
A strong counterargument that was advanced speaks for itself “I like toothpaste, but don’t want to have a two way conversation with it.”
That being said, what Charmin has done with mothers rating bathrooms shows the type of discussions one can have for common household items.
The second panel I attended was hosted by Scott Kirsner and dealt with effective ways to build a cult (or Facebook and Twitter followers…your choice). While there was little earth-shattering about the discussion, it reinforced that building a community usually takes time, it requires constantly refreshed new content and it has to *be* a community. Talking to customers does not draw a crowd. Talking *with* customers draws a crowd. The filmmaker he interviewed advocated letting fans be part of the process. Engage them. They them use your content, have fun with it and create new things. They will help promote your movie (or software) much more if they feel a sense of some ownership. The final important point was that if your content isn’t embeddable, it’s like you are leaving on a roadtrip without any gas.
Finally I attended a session with Peter Molyneux, one of the most influential game designers of the past 30 years. I went both because I have worked with many game companies and because the topic intrigued me – How can videogames speak to the heart? I thought there are lessons that could be applied to public relations and marketing. To my surprise, I think I was the only non-filmmaker or game designer in the room.
The first thing Molyneux said tied back to the first panel on mobile apps and the theme that emerged today. Movies can never engage like games. Movies want flaccid robots. Think about that in terms of traditional public relations or marketing, and now how PR has evolved. By making consumers’ voices heard, knowing they have a stake in your brand, companies can create an emotional connection they could never create through shouting.
So the question is, how are we as public relations professionals working to create that connection every day?
Were there other panels I missed? Let me know what you think about SxSW.
SxSW today for me was all about something near and dear to my heart (and many of my clients) banking and payments. I managed to carve out enough time to attend three banking sessions. The sessions ran the gamut from tips for personal finance to the future of banking and the role of geeks in finance.
There a few lessons any financial services technology company should carve in stone, but these rules also apply to consumer technology and other markets.
Consumers are dead. (or at least dying). They are evolving into active participants. They don’t want to pick from a menu, or be given one choice, they want to be empowered. Smart banks and financial technology companies are empowering consumers and giving them actionable advice and data.
Financial services UI (user interfaces) need a revamp. I know Mint.com has done it, as has my client Fiserv. Both are putting great emphasis on this. I see it as another variation on death by PowerPoint. Having tons of data can be great, but you need quick, actionable intelligence to make the right decision.
At first the second session was being bit too anti-bank. Banks serve a role, and all agree banks are essential. The challenge is many FIs are risking being disintermediated by third-party developers that don’t work with the bank. That’s what all the panelists in the second session we championing, so banks should pay attention and work on innovation within their services and offerings.
Mint.com has been very successful to date, and its executives were featured on two panels. There were a few key points I thought were of interest:
Mint.com built its following by hanging out where the consumers are, rather than creating their own community. They find it more effective. I believe both have their place, but it ties back into the fundamental premise of successful social media engagement – strategy before social.
Mint also does not buy PPC, they have found creating short videos and making them widely available to be most effective. Their consumers prefer that type of activity, and it lets them provide a richer (no pun intended), more detailed experience.
The consensus in multiple panels was the future of banking is mobile. But mobile information is just the first step, financial institutions need to focus on transactional capabilities, as well as advice and counsel. Getting tailored advice on your cell phone is much more valuable. That’s a message every good marketer knows – tailored, relevant and useful information engenders more loyalty.
Consumers need to pay attention as well. According to the speaker in the first session, Ramit Sethi, consumers are fundamentally delusional when it comes to money: 20% of people polled think they will get rich via the lottery and 3% though an insurance settlement.
While yesterday was all about the human network, Day 2 of SxSW was about the evolving financial network. There are a lot of interesting things on the horizon. As a final note, if you haven’t checked out CreditKarma yet, you should. A very interesting site that brings a lot of value to helping consumers improve their credit score.
It’s a good thing I am a morning person and registered early, as this line demonstrates. Many of the folks in the line missed the first sessions. (This is the line to get into the exhibit hall to register)
The first session at SxSW dealt with social media marketing, and while it covered many thing I already knew, there were a number of interesting insights to take from it. One of the points the speakers (Chris Winfield and Tony Adam) made is one I have been making for years – Web 1.0 (forums) still matter. The power of niche social media sites and networks can trump the power of Digg, Facebook and others. You eliminate much of the chaff and keep just the wheat.
Two key things I was reminded of in the session that I thought might be of interest to technology public relations pros:
When trying to find the most popular niche boards, http://rankings.big-boards.com/ is a good place to start.
Being engaged (without spamming) on Yahoo! Answers can also advance thought leadership campaigns.
The second session, with Brian Solis talking about the themes in his new book, Engage, was a great session packed with good advice. A lot of it was a positive reaffirmation of what many companies engaging in social media are already doing, but there were some new ways of thinking about things that he drove home. He seems to have taken the Tipping Point categories and expanded on them to identify the types of people that you tend to interact with on social networks, and how you can impact their hearts and minds. This has some intriguing implications and is with thinking about much more than most people do.
He also reinforced a point from the first session. The networks don’t matter, the channels will change, it’s the human network that we are all a part of that is truly driving and advancing the social media change and the impact it is having on business. Companies that enter the network in the right way can have a significant impact. Those that do not, may do OK, but will never excel.
He also drove home a point Schwartz’s president, Bryan Scanlon, has been making quite a bit recently - listening and talking aren’t enough. You need content to drive the discussion. Every company is now its own CNN, and they need to promote what they do, listen, and interact. They can’t rely on the media to give them pre-made programs (articles) anymore. There is much more to the channel than their ever was and technology, consumer, green, and healthcare PR pros need to pay attention.
Some other elements on which I will expound in more detail in later posts include:
Most social networks are matriarchies
The social compass is a good guide to developing a coherent and effective social media strategy
Social media engagement fails if there is not a human in some way associated with the brand
B2B Tech companies were the first to adopt social media with developer forums. There are benefits many B2B tech companies are overlooking.
Banks and other location based venues should look at foursquare. Now 1500 venues are giving rewards to their mayors and driving traffic and deeper relationships.
Check back tomorrow for more highlights from SxSW.
If you are reading this and at the conference, what were some of the best lessons you learned today?
CTIA is only 11 days away. Is your PR campaign up to speed? Here at the agency, we started discussing CTIA with clients several months ago and submitted executives to speak on CTIA panels. Our outreach to pre-registered media began in late February. By now, meetings between our clients and press or analysts have been confirmed. In fact, the schedules of many preregistered media are full.
We're putting finishing touches on press releases that will be issued at or immediately before the show. In every case, the release is written to optimize for SEO, and will also be published on sites that optimize for social media like Pitch Engine.
There are still opportunities to get into CTIA coverage. Reporters from trade publications are currently lining up video interviews to post on their sites during the show. The agency has been approached by top IT and wireless media with invitations to submit experts who can discuss trends or news.
The show daily published by Wireless Week has closed its planned editorial. We conducted those show daily interviews earlier this week. For instance, Alex Brisbourne, the president and COO of KORE Telematics, was interviewed for his views about smart grids.
If you plan to issue significant news at the show, you still have the opportunity to reach out to the reporters who are at CTIA looking for news, filing online, blogging and Tweeting. Also, think about posting your releases on CTIA's press room. Reporters are sure to check it during the show.
SxSW starts today, and there will be five days full of panels, discussions and debates of interest to technology and consumer technology companies, social media and public relations professionals. I checked in this morning, and found out SxSW is not really a morning crowd...
I will be live tweeting and blogging regularly from some of the most interesting panels and sessions. What struck me as I was perusing the program is the amount of attention being given to online banking and the future of finance. There are about a half dozen programs on the topic.
So check in at the Crossroads throughout the weekend for my updates and thoughts on this dynamic gathering.
Last month, I attended the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium’s "HIT 2010: HIT at a Crossroads" event. Why is health IT (HIT) at a crossroads? We’re at a critical juncture in the history of the healthcare industry. The industry and the government must figure out how to progress from the enactment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 to making billions of dollars available to providers to use healthcare IT in meaningful ways. We need to move from the ideas to the action.
One topic that I found to be interesting was the Regional Extension Center, which will offer providers in Massachusetts technical assistance, guidance and information to update their medical record systems and train workers on new technologies. The US Department of Health and Human Services awarded $375 million to 32 nonprofits for Regional Extension Centers around the country.
Rick Shoup, Ph.D., director of the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative) and Massachusetts State HIT Coordinator, said that the state has appropriated $15M for 2009. The Regional Extension Center will not only create jobs, but should also help hospitals and providers figure out what they need to do to comply with meaningful use and implement EHRs.
Ray Campbell, MHDC’s executive director and CEO, said that the key to disseminating knowledge and experience will be through the Regional Exchange Centers. The MHDC is working on a mentor program to do just this, as well as a private online community.
John Glaser, senior advisor, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CIO of Partners HealthCare, also spoke at the conference. He is a major advocate for electronic health records and said that that interoperable electronic health records are a critical contributor to efforts to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of care. Requirements for meaningful use include maintaining an up-to-date list of current and active diagnoses, sending reminders as needed to patients and providing summaries of care.
One thing I found during the show is that although the industry is honing in on the definition of meaningful use, it’s still not entirely clear how they are going to check off all of the boxes. A healthcare IT marketer’s challenge is to take what’s there and develop a vision for how you can add value. If we know that e-prescribing, certification, interoperability, test result management, patient safety and quality reporting are pieces of information available, the HIT marketer will speak with decision-makers about how their products meet these requirements now and in the future. HIT marketers should also find out how they can partner with the Regional Extension Centers.
In the absence of certainty, the HIT marketers and the Regional Extension Centers might be the ones to ensure that providers will approach meaningful use appropriately for their organizations, and implement the right processes and technologies to comply with the requirements.
Yesterday I attended Xconomy’s Mobile Madness event. The afternoon ended with a “Mobile Smackdown” moderated by John Landry, a member of CommonAngels. Each of the various mobile platforms was represented on the panel: Apple, Blackberry, Google/Android, Microsoft and RIM.
The smackdown was all about the relative merits of each platform for developers. Cimarron Buser of Apperian ably represented the Apple camp, reminding us that the iPhone is the game-changing innovation in the mobile marketplace.
John Landry went right to the heart of the conundrum for developers, though, when he asked whether anyone is making any money. The Apple walled garden has generated hundreds of applications for the iPhone that are sold through the iStore. With most apps offered for free or just a few dollars, “Is this a cottage industry?” he asked. Turns out that long tail markets are great for consumers, not so great for developers who’d like to build a real business with significant revenues.
At the end of the panel, Landry asked for a show of hands on which platform offers the most promise. Android won, by a big margin. Google just announced its app store for business, Google Apps Marketplace. Since application developers can charge real money in the business market, this was good news for the Android fans at Mobile Madness.
The brand and messages a company starts with usually don't last forever. Markets evolve and with them so do a company's strategy, product/service offerings, competitors, level of recognition and customer expectations. These days, it’s important to be flexible and to be able to adjust with forces within and external to the company.
We enjoy working with our clients to ensure their messaging resonates with the media. One client, Phytel, which provides physicians with technology to deliver timely, coordinated care to their patients, spent a couple of months on a branding exercise. The executive team put its assumptions aside and took a hard look at the following questions with a fresh set of eyes going into 2010.
What does Phytel do well? What do our customers value? What is the area of the market that we can own (or lead)?
These are questions that can help define Phytel’s brand or promise to its customers, while helping to position Phytel in the marketplace. After dozens of interviews with key clients, internal interviews and thought leaders in the industry, they analyzed the results and did more brainstorming. They realized the market is Population Health Management. The new tagline is: Engaging Patients. Better Outcomes.
This is an excellent result for several reasons. First, it truly captures what Phytel does. Second, it’s not a seismic shift, but rather something the company can grab onto and take with it for many years. It won’t be a hard message to portray to its customers or the media. In fact, they tried it on for size at HIMSS last week. The VP of marketing told me journalists understood the message and reacted very favorably.
One aspect I liked about the approach Phytel took in its branding exercise was that it consulted with employees and customers. As Tony Roberts, a change management expert, suggests, “Employees mustn't feel like they are losing their identity for no reason. It can't be done by management dictates -- 'We are changing.' Anything to do with the brand needs consultation with employees and customers to let them have their say."
I might also point out that this new message isn’t a drastic change, but rather one that will better portray the company’s identity and direction going forward from both the sales and PR angles. Phytel understands its brand is evolving and improving with the times, but not changing the core identity drastically.
This week's issue of PRWeek describes a holiday Twitter campaign that Schwartz designed and executed for Australian client RetailMeNot.com.
RetailMeNot is an online discount and coupon site. They're a current Schwartz client, but this article focuses on a push made around the 2009 holiday shopping season to reach RetailMeNot's target demographic of women between the ages of 18 and 39 with messages about new merchants, discounts and other offers to help drive website traffic.
Check out PRWeek for a description of Twitter tactics. The result was a 70 percent increase in referral traffic to RetailMeNot.com and continued strong traffic after the conclusion of this particular campaign. Pretty nice for a campaign that lasted just over a month.