Marketers and communication professionals alike agree that social media is here to stay. Facebook and Twitter have proven to be an effective tool to reach a targeted audience and to engage in a conversation that’s relative and important to business, often resulting in an impactful ROI.
However, there’s one social media channel that all too often is overlooked. I don’t know if it’s because we associate it with our own personal brand, but with more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is an often underutilized resource for B2B marketing.
If you haven’t already engaged in a LinkedIn influence campaign—think about this:
Access to a Targeted, Engaged Audience
Who are you trying to reach? As PR practitioners we hear it all the time: “We want to reach human resource professionals, dentists, surgeons, building property managers, we need a Facebook page!” Wrong. Facebook is a great resource to reach consumers, but not the most effective at influencing strategic business level decisions.
LinkedIn is the biggest professional social network in the world; the Group space within the network creates a forum for colleagues to exchange best practices with industry experts and is a prime platform to exchange ideas and information for marketers. For example, a quick group search on LinkedIn for “human resources” shows more than 3,800 groups with thousands of members and active discussions. It’s an easy opportunity to directly engage with a target audience.
Bolster Your Image
Before you engage first make sure your own LinkedIn page is up to snuff. Are you following relevant third party groups, or industry organizations? Are your employees following you? Your own page is a perfect platform to develop expertise and thought leadership. Create a weekly/biweekly editorial strategy, identify relevant topics and trends and have several different employees post a discussion to engage followers. Remember, it’s not a one-way street, be sure to monitor what’s being said with other groups and chime in.
How do I know it’s working? When communicating with different audiences, include a bit.ly or Google URL tracker to allow for trackable/measureable results. This will permit you to see how many people clicked on the information and if your message is resonating. For example, if your business has an annual award and you’d like to drive nominations, tracking your group discussion posts makes for an easy way to see which group is engaged and interested in the award and furthermore, which of your messages is resonating with them. Be sure to mix it up, post at different times with different messages, rather than using the same message.
Don’t Be a Quitter
Like all social media programs, it takes time and consistent engagement to see results. With a strong strategy in place, active engagement, a clear direction, goals, objectives and a touch of patience, you’ll be a LinkedIn groupie before you know it. And you’ll even have measurable results to support your latest addiction.
At the risk of using an Olympic metaphor one month too late, public relations has evolved into two forms of running. Social media is the sprinter, or Usain Bolt, and traditional media relations is Meb Keflezighi (if you know who he is), or the marathoner.
Social media is a world of short bursts in which you can largely control the narrative. With 140 character tweets, three paragraph blog posts and spontaneous Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, it’s possible to create the exact message you want to reach the exact audience at the exact time. If you can drive and control your campaign the way a sprinter rockets down his assigned 100 meters of space on a smooth precise track, you will win.
Media relations doesn’t work this way. You don’t have the control like you do with social media. Just like in a marathon where the weather and the course are as important as the competition, the success of a media relations campaign is not solely based on the quality of your narrative. It is impacted by outside factors such as a reporter’s subjective interest in the story, a larger competitor’s news trumping yours or last second external events that occupy the media agenda for days on end. You also must rely on outside parties like customer references and outside experts to tell your story, in the same way that a marathoner is dead without electrolytes and PowerBars. The campaign cycle for media relations is also a much longer process; results don’t happen overnight. It requires patience, endurance and flexibility, and to never give up until it is over.
Olympic sprinters and marathoners must specialize; endurance is useless to a sprinter and blinding speed is relevant for only the last 10 meters of a marathon. Companies however, must develop and execute a strategic social media and media relations campaign if they are going to win the gold medal of customer awareness that drives adoption.
More and more, I find myself defending the power of the telephone to persuade people. Have you ever had every committed attendee to a Facebook event invite actually show up for the physical event? I haven't.
Oftentimes, we marketers forget that while we are using Facebook and other social media channels to drive action, Facebook engagement and other social media channels might not be persuasive enough to actually drive action. Consider a recent political campaign I was involved in.
Friends of mine were supporting a group of candidates that hoped to become delegates to a national political convention. To earn a spot, they needed to be elected at a caucus, which is like a town-meeting style gathering of voters. Given the candidates and their supporters (namely, us) had nice social media audiences on Twitter and Facebook, and correspondingly elevated klout scores, this seemed like a natural case for using social media to drive a crowd.
But there was one big problem. The "ask" we were making was pretty significant. We were asking our friends to get out of bed on a nice Saturday morning, drive in their cars for up to thirty minutes to sit in a warm room for an extended period of time. All to cast a vote to send someone to a convention far, far away-- and a long time in the future.
While the likes and positive comments rushed in on Facebook, it took phone calls and personal contact to get people to attend. And in a significant percentage of cases, even those who confirmed on the phone didn't show up.
I have created an index that matches a required level of marketing interaction to specific actions or outcomes from a target audience. I call it the "get off the couch" index. It maps an escalating level of action (from liking on Facebook to physically attending an event) to an escalating level of engagement (from a Facebook ask to in-person persuasion with a reward). My index will be tinkered along the way, but for now, the relationship I have plotted is quite linear.
As B2B marketers, B2B content marketers, and tech PR professionals, we need to constantly be thinking about whether our ask, and the channel we are using to make the ask, is appropriate given the response we'd like to see. It should be a strongly considered variable when evaluating the success of an overall effort. Why didn't we get people to come to the event we hosted at a tradeshow? Maybe it was because for that particular outcome, Facebook engagement wasn't really the best vehicle for rallying a crowd.
I know when I host a party, I call people to remind them of the time and place and what to bring. I just don't want to be embarrassed. We need to apply that same logic to our professional lives as well.
The opinions expressed via “Wait A Minute” are of the authors and not necessarily of Schwartz MSL or MSLGROUP.
Today, we discussed the challenges of BYOD expense management policies. In the video, Philippe also shares a prediction on how corporate BYOD policies will change in the near future. For more information, download the Enterprise Mobility Forum’s free mobility policy guidebook.
Bob Brown, executive news editor of Network World, a coveted trade publication for technology companies, visited Schwartz MSL Boston offices recently. Bob works with Network World reporters to shape the weekly news coverage. With CTIA fast approaching, we sat down with him to learn about the key mobile and wireless trends that are going to make the headlines at the show this year. Bob also shared some useful tips on what kind of news the reporters are interested in covering and how companies can get featured in the publication.
In our continuing series of interviews with mobile influencers leading up to CTIA and Interop, Rob Skinner sat down with Craig Mathias, one of the most respected voices in wireless and enterprise mobile strategy. In a wide-ranging conversation, Craig discussed the hot-button issues in mobile, from carrier strategies around consumer data consumption to the landscape for mobile unified communications in the enterprise. We hope you enjoy his insights.
In our ongoing series on mobile and wireless trends, we spoke with the Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation (EMF), Philippe Winthrop. The EMF is an independent think tank providing thought leadership through the Enterprise Mobility Forum, the largest social network exclusively dedicated to enterprise mobility.
Philippe joined us at our studio to share his predictions on the future of the iPad, iPhone, Amazon Kindle Fire and other consumer devices in the enterprise.
With wireless and mobile trends likely to dominate the discussions at CTIA 2012, the show promises to be a great venue for organizations to network and learn more about this critical market. Vendors have many wonderful opportunities at the show to meet with influential journalists, analysts and other industry experts as the show ‘unofficially’ kicks off a busy year in marketing, sales and public relations for many companies. Being practical and creative is the best way to make an impact at the show.
To learn more about opportunities at CTIA 2012, Schwartz MSL has created a Road to CTIA 2012 Planning Guide to help you navigate the PR and marketing opportunities at the show, and give you useful advice on strategy, as well as a timeline to help you plan ahead and even some tips on other fun things to do in New Orleans.
For further advice or information on how Schwartz MSL can partner with you, download Road to CTIA 2012 Planning Guide.
Today was my last full day at SxSW and it was once again filled with great discussions. For once I decided to forgo payments panels, and spent more of my time in panels that discussed B2B social media as well as a panel on brand journalism, and yes, one on the future of money.
The brand journalism panel and B2B panels were filled with a lot of insight and tips that will be of interest to our B2B clients and to B2B communications professionals.
First, it is clear that B2B companies are embracing content marketing. According to a survey from Marketing Profs, 49% of companies plan to increase their content marketing spending in the next 12 months. The two biggest content challenges these companies face are: 41% their content is not engaging enough and 20% have trouble producing enough content. As trusted advisors, communications professionals need to find ways to help our clients overcome both of these challenges.
This brand journalism panel, and a solo presentation from Tim Washer, Cisco’s Senior Manager of Social Media, hit on a key issue: B2B companies need to remember to talk to people in a human way.
B2B purchasing decisions are made both on facts and emotions. If you sell on just speeds and feeds in a competitive market, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Communicators need to keep this in mind and call out the human elements inherent in any story.
Following are four other key insights it took from the panels today:
Gamification is everywhere and is starting to be used to drive B2B engagement. When people hear about gamification they tend to think of consumer brands, Foursquare badges or Scvngr. But Cisco has added badges to at least some of its blogs. Now visitors can receive badges for visiting the blogs, leaving their first comment, leaving 10 comments, Tweeting the blog post, etc. This is a great step. It is an easy and focused incentive to drive the business outcomes a company desires (engagement and awareness). IBM and Xerox also spoke about how they are using gamification, with IBM using it internally to drive activity and identify those most passionate about social media.
Re-examine how you gather registration information. Cisco and other B2B companies are using Facebook and OpenID to enable social login. Why does this matter? Since Cisco implemented it, they have seen a 40 percent reduction in cost and 20 percent increase in registration.
B2B Needs to embrace video – If your B2B company is not yet using video as part of its communications strategy you are missing great opportunities. Here is a great video from Cisco about how it is helping in Africa. It does a great job humanizing the story and moving it beyond the basics.
Look at humor. This one is near and dear to my heart as I do standup comedy in my spare time, and understand the power of humor in business. Humor in B2B can engage your prospects and customers. It is a positive emotion, humanizes the brand, builds goodwill and cuts through the noise. If you don’t have the budget, go to a film school and ask the professor for his best seniors. Offer them an internship and $1000 if you end up using their final product. One example of humor in action comes from this Cisco Valentine’s video. It has almost 200,000 views and drove coverage in the New York Times, Network World, Light Reading and other outlets. See it here.
If B2B communicators start doing just one of these things that they may not be doing today, they will help their brand prosper and their communications programs deliver greater ROI.
The five most quotable observations from Monday at SxSW:
Content is the new black
Your B2B story may not be good enough for TV, but it is good enough for YouTube, your clients and prospects
Information without analysis in the information age is as valuable as stone in the stone age
We make things complex because frequently we are too insecure to be simple. But look at Apple. Simplicity sells.
Question conventional wisdom. For Trulia, blogs about sports figures drove 3x the traffic as those about celebrities
In a guest post last week, Kitty Weldon, principal analyst for Enterprise Mobility Services at Current Analysis, offered her predictions on the iPad and BYOD. In the second part of our series, Kitty now shares her insight on mobile apps and telecom expense management.
While smartphones and tablets are becoming “must haves” for all mobile workers, how will enterprises keep telecom expenses in check as remote workers rack up increasing data and voice bills?
Telecom Expense Management (TEM) solutions have been available from platform vendors and their service provider partners for a long time to help optimize voice and data plans and show usage patterns. There were indications in 2011 that WiFi and “FMC” solutions, which can route mobile calls over wireline networks or WLANs, are finally gaining traction. Companies such as iPass and initiatives such as HotSpot 2.0 are making the WiFi experience more consistent and readily available, so that roaming employees can save money (on both voice and data) without the hassle of finding and paying separately for access to public WiFi hotspots.
AT&T just announced that there were a billion connections over its US and global hotspots in 2011, with a 350% increase in connections from the previous year. Even though the EU is mandating caps for voice and data roaming charges, there is more work to be done in 2012 (including the continuation of global partnerships such as the Freemove Alliance) to ensure that international travel does not negatively affect mobile budgets.
Mobile apps are all the rage for consumers, and often of great value to businesspeople as well. We asked Kitty for her thoughts on HTML5 Web apps, vs. native apps vs. hybrid apps; enterprise-developed apps vs. outsourced development vs. mobile application platforms/MEAPs.
When you compare approaches to app development, the lower development costs, larger target market and easier accessibility of HTML5 web apps are often contrasted to the potential for deeper integration with native enablers and other applications on a particular device platform. This debate will only get hotter in 2012, as mobile apps for the business sector become a focus of hungry developers looking for the next “new” market and hungry service providers looking to further monetize mobility services.
Once apps are developed using these approaches, they still have to be delivered and managed on an ongoing basis. Now that everything can be delivered from the cloud, there are choices to be made between enterprise server-based and hosted mobile application services that may leverage Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAPs).
The rise of the enterprise app store was also a big theme in 2011. A number of MDM providers are making basic app store enablement part of their platforms, but service providers are also developing (or accruing through partnerships) sets of horizontal and vertical applications (generally offered as a service) that may only require slight customization. This enterprise app store evolution will continue in a big way in 2012.
Read more about Kitty’s outlook for apps and TEM in her report, “Enterprise Mobility Services: Top Ten Trends for 2012,” available from Current Analysis. Next in part three: Kitty shares her predictions on Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications.
Today was a great day at SxSW. I had the pleasure of attending three different sessions on payments and mobile wallets, one on the future of retail and a most inspiring session that looked at updating classic iconic ads for today’s technology.
I was prepared to write a very payments-focused post. But as I was thinking about today, I realize the key lessons for PR and business professionals transcend the payments market. Every presenter today, in their own way, was talking about convergence.
What do I mean?
Too often communications, marketing and business professionals think about communications and sales channels. Despite our best efforts we silo our thoughts. What does mobile allow us to do for payments, what business use can we get from mobile devices, what is the future of digital video?
While that thinking is important, it can also be limiting. It was expressed in different ways on the different panels, but it came down to a few observations.
Mobile payments isn’t about payments. If all you think about is taking a contactless card and putting it on a smartphone, you are missing the bigger opportunity and the market won’t grow. Isis is taking it a step further and realizing that for mobile to succeed it needs to be better, faster and cheaper. As I discussed yesterday, they are betting on loyalty, security and a better shopping experience to be the growth drivers.
But the discussion at the FutureShop panel made me realize there is more to it than what even Isis is saying. We need convergence and to see how all the channels can work best together. The retailers on this panel were nowhere near as optimistic about NFC as the payments players in other sessions. But they saw an even bigger picture. Convenience and loyalty offers are great. But that is just looking at one side of the opportunity. When retailers configure their stores to take advantage of mobile technology, it will prosper. The speakers gave examples of one company that had a scavenger hunt like game that lead people through the store to daily specials. These retailers see the iPhone turning into the helpful sales clerk of years gone by.
Seth Priebatsch of Scvngr challenged the status quo, but he added another piece to the puzzle. With loyalty blending with analytics businesses and communicators can adjust consumer shopping habits using game theory. In Philadelphia they ran a 45-day test that showed rainy days correlated to significantly less restaurant revenue. So they designed dynamic deals to encourage people to visit a restaurant on rainy days and saw a significant business lift.
It is only by putting the wallet vision of ISIS together with the bricks and mortar innovations of Future Shop and some of Scvngr’s futuristic ideas that we truly can see the shape of the future of mobile payments come together. Without all three perspectives, without the gestalt of the different perspectives the success will not be complete.
This transcends payments. This is a lesson that communications professionals should take to heart. We need to make sure we are not narrowing our vision to influencer channels, social media strategy or analyst relations. Sure those can drive results. But we need to look not just at how they work together and challenge ourselves to find at new ways in which they can work together.
Google and Coke did just that with projectrebrief.com (along with other brands). The project updated four iconic ads for today’s mediums.
The premise was powerful, yet simple. We don’t want to do social media campaign. We want to do a campaign that is social. What Coke did is amazing. They made it possible for someone to actually send the world a Coke. Consumers could record a video on the site, and send a free Coke to a number of machines around the world. Someone would receive your message in less than 90 seconds (after it was reviewed for content) and could then thank you. You would receive that video a minute later.
It is powerful. It is social and it harnesses physical, digital and social channels to create a result much greater than the sum of the individual parts. More communicators need to think like that. If we do so, our programs will be much more compelling, we will gain better understanding of consumers and drive greater business results.
So join me in always looking for ways to advance convergence. We won’t regret it.
It was so popular yesterday, I decided to end with it again today. The five most quotable observations from Sunday at SxSW:
Pharma is not bad. Pharma is probably going to save your life
Security is not a selling point for consumers. Criminals will find ways, and consumers think the phone is less secure even if it is more secure.
We are on the precipice of shopper 3.0 – The combination of Wed, brick & mortar, and mobile.
Tools today are an extension of our mental, not physical self. The shape of technology tools has changed dramatically over time, this is not the case with many physical tools.
If you want to drive consumer engagement, get people to look forward, not back.
If you have any questions in this post, leave a comment or tweet me at @mcclennan to meet up at SxSWi.
Saturday at SxSW was much more interesting than Friday. I had the pleasure of attending a very wide range of panels. The topics included strategic communications, Dad bloggers, enterprise social media, the future of mobile wallets, a comedian/activist keynote, and a look inside Joss Whedon’s head. The panels were a mix of both aspirational visions and cautionary tales.
The sessions were all great learning experiences, but they present something of a challenge. How do you blend parenting lessons from Leviticus with social analytics and loyalty programs? While many of these sessions merit their own posts (and will likely get them in the future), I wanted to focus on overarching themes that I noticed.
I would say there were two key takeaways from these sessions.
Destroy the labels
Know who you are
From the Mmbile wallet to NFC Chips to Dad bloggers, people and companies are too often failing to reach their full potential because they are succumbing to easy labelization. Don’t get me wrong, there is immense power in the study of groups and flocking, but if you too quickly group someone, you may come to the wrong conclusion or miss opportunities. I saw that time and time again today.
This is particularly insidious when it comes to Mom bloggers. Mom bloggers are too often defined by who they are rather than who they write about. Very few “Dad” and “Mom” bloggers blog about parenting. They are parents who blog. A mom blogger who writes about beer or food, should not be lumped in the same category as one who writes about technology or parenting. I personally have seen too many companies make this mistake. The lists created by influencer tools may serve as a good start, but influencers are not Oreos. Each is unique and needs to be understood and communicated with in context.
The same lesson applies to the mobile wallet. First of all, there is a blurring between mobile wallet and P2P payments and this line needs to be clearly understood. It also applies to enterprise social media when “employees” are lumped together as one audience as companies roll out solutions. Some of the best advice from IBM today was to understand what your corporate culture is like and what tools employees use to work and to communicate, and enhance those existing tools rather than make everyone conform to new tools. If you try to force people to do something they do not want to do, you will end up with an empty wiki, upset employees and wasted budget.
The second point is to know who you are. If you have a niche, carve it out. Just don’t let others put you in that niche.
Isis in the digital wallet space seems to clearly know this. They understand that in order to convince people to move away from contactless cards and Mag Stripe they need to offer more to retailers and merchants. They are betting their success on the premise that bringing loyalty cards and coupons into an integrated whole to provide consumers savings and convenience; and providing retailers a chance to impact consumer purchasing behavior before a transaction will push them over the edge. (That and retailers being penalized by the issuers if they do not adopt NFC by 2015).
I am not sure I agree with them completely, and I know not everyone in the audience did. Consumers have shown amazing willingness to stay with what works. As one panelist pointed out, 10 years ago the cover of Card Transactions was “Mobile Commerce is Ready for Takeoff” and we are still discussing its pending rise today. Additionally, consumers have shown a willingness to have multiple loyalty cards and apps, and there are other alternatives to impact pre-shopping behavior today (such as eGiftcards – technology from a client of mine - and location based deals).
The audience definitely did not all agree about the easy path of NFC. My most popular tweet of the day was “NFC being positioned as the Borg. Do not resist. You will be assimilated.”
Knowing who you are also helped many companies in the first panel I attended of the day. The reaction to Zappos’ data breach was much less negative than most breaches of its type. That was because Zappos quickly communicated in a way that was appropriate for its customers.
This post is getting long, so I want to wrap it up with the five most quotable observations of the day:
Before you make a critical business decision, ask yourself – what would John Stewart say about it?
Great ideas are not always great and not always well received.
Bloggers have more influence over purchasing decisions than traditional celebrity endorsers do
48% of B2B CEOs say social media helped generate qualified leads
Voice of customer research is not for validation, it is for discovery
What new technologies and philosophies will dominate mobile-minded IT leaders this year and at the upcoming CTIA show? We asked Kitty Weldon, principal analyst for Enterprise Mobility Services at Current Analysis, to share her insight. In a three-part series, Kitty will forecast what we can expect to see in topics ranging from mobile apps to M2M.
In this post, Kitty discusses the rapid adoption of tablets in the enterprise. 2011 is often referred to as “the year of the tablet.” In Kitty’s report, “Enterprise Mobility Services: Top Ten Trends for 2012,” she notes that it was perhaps more accurately the year of the iPad. In fact, her #1 prediction for 2012 is the further expansion of tablets into the enterprise. We asked, “How will tablets play a bigger role in business, and which devices are likely to challenge the iPad’s dominance?”
While the iPad 2 became a popular business accessory (with a number of notable duds among Apple competitors), tablets have been driving mobile business applications, especially in retail and health care verticals. While smartphone applications are also improving, the bigger screen makes a tablet a better computing device, empowering sales and marketing efforts and allowing a much more effective display of all kinds of information, including charts, medical images, and product demos. Tablets are now being used in some cases as laptop replacements. There are also specialized MDM and security software and services offered by software vendors and mobile operators to protect enterprises from threats and data loss.
Another big market for tablets is education. Apple just introduced iBooks textbooks, which can be kept up-to-date automatically and offer interactive elements and unique navigation and study aids. 2012 may be the make-or-break year for Android tablets to finally emerge as desirable platforms, and for Microsoft/Nokia to meaningfully re-enter the mobile device fray with Windows 8 tablets (and Windows Phone smartphones). Right now, the tablets that are selling well are tied to broader ecosystems of content (iTunes and Amazon) or tablet-specific apps (Apple’s App Store).
Ultrabooks have also emerged as a major new category. They’re designed for mobility, while providing a full size keyboard and a reasonably powerful processor. The success of the Amazon Kindle Fire in the consumer market may also bring it into the business market as BYOD continues as a trend.
BYOD has become one of the hottest terms in IT. However, your research shows that not all enterprises have yet endorsed the practice. Will MDM platforms, dual-persona solutions and employee demand turn the tide for these enterprises?
Current Analysis research on BYOD usage was mixed (not every company is endorsing it; in fact, companies are simultaneously buying more tablets and smartphones for many employees). Service providers and MDM platform vendors focused strongly on “solving” the BYOD “problem” in 2011, with solutions ranging from secure containers, to rules and role-based device management offered as a service, to trials of dual-persona solutions to separate business and personal identities.
2012 will see the maturation of some of these promising solutions and their integration with existing MDM services from service providers. What makes dual persona solutions unique is that they focus as much on empowering the employee with the freedom to use his/her device the way they want, as on the company’s perspective of locking down sensitive data stores from unwarranted reach.
BYOD concerns also spawned an awakening about the importance of mobile security in 2011. While security software vendors are clearly excited about this, wireless operators and IT service providers are also planning a big role in 2012 by rolling out network-based solutions that can provide a range of functionality, including authentication, identity management, AV/firewall/anti-spam, loss and theft protection, VPNs, and on-device encryption. 2012 will see the maturation of some of these promising solutions and their integration with existing MDM services from service providers.
Next in part two of the series: Kitty shares her predictions on telecom expense management and mobile apps.
On Friday, the Boston Business Journal released its annual list of Boston PR firms and Schwartz MSL landed at #1 based on number of PR employees. We're pleased for the recognition and congratulate the other agencies that appear on the list.
The industry is growing, without a doubt. A little more than a year ago, the venerable U.S. News & World Report projected the number of PR jobs would increase by 24 percent between 2008 and 2018. Seems like we're seeing a nice amount of that growth here in Boston.
For the second year in a row, the Schwartz MSL Research Group worked with Business Wire to determine how many PR professionals are optimizing their news release headlines for SEO. There was slight improvement compared to last year, but there is still a long, long way to go.
The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz MSL, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.
This year, the Schwartz MSL Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2011 to August 25, 2011). This is the same period we examined last year. Since Schwartz MSL cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor.
Most PR professionals are not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz MSL is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 19.5% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer, a one percent increase over last year. When we look at 70 characters are less, the total is 23.7%, an increase of less than one percent.
While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,800 characters. The shortest headline we found was 21 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters, unchanged from 2010.
The Schwartz MSL Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, and the geographic headline faceoff, you can download it here
Just about everyone in marketing knows that many B2B companies are having a tough time integrating social media into their marketing mix. They understand they should do it, but oftentimes can't figure out how to do so. Plus, they're generally budget constrained, so can't hire experienced staff or consultants to create a solid strategy and then execute. The result is that many underfund initiatives centered on one or two social platforms and often skip right past the strategy step.
Certainly, there are examples of companies Getting It Right, but they feel like outliers at the moment.
One group of B2B marketers who I think are a part of that majority--those who are trying to figure it out, but not quite there yet--are manufacturers. A few weeks back, Derek Singleton blogged about this issue on Software Advice. Sourcing a Forrester Research report, he states that "only 30 percent of global manufacturers planned to increase social media spending in 2012."
Mr. Singleton is mostly interested in opportunities presented by social media for smaller manufacturers to do things like get feedback from customers and share their own thoughts. He's got several recommendations for those businesses. As I read his post, I wondered whether one additional use of social media for manufacturers, which often rely on networks of distributors to get their products into the hands of customers, might be supporting those partners by producing great social content that they can use.
It seems to me that a manufacturer looking to explore how social media might work for them could consider the recommendations from both of these posts if they know they want to do more work online to support sales, but often work through distributors or other partners.
For a reasonably recent (October 2011) look at how B2B marketers are faring with social media, download "Truth from the Trenches" from Penton Marketing Services. A few findings:
"81 percent of respondents told us they find online marketing moderately to extremely challenging."
"58 percent want [their] site to generate sales leads." [I'm shocked that the number is so low.]
"77 percent say their site is not that effective at generating sales leads."
Of those B2Bs using social media, 90% are on Facebook. Just 53% are on Twitter. Surprisingly, only one in three blog.
This May, the wireless industry will gather for one of its biggest events, CTIA Wireless. In addition to the trade show packed with vendor booths, the event will offer a variety of educational sessions. This presents an excellent opportunity for executives at forward-thinking wireless and mobile companies to position themselves as thought leaders at one of the industry’s most significant events. CTIA is currently accepting proposals for potential panelists and presenters at the event. This is an excellent way to build a reputation as a leader in wireless. Here are some of the tips we offer to our clients seeking speaking positions.
• Develop your proposal around a hot topic. The mobile industry is innovating quickly in a number of areas, from mobile payments to mobile device management, machine-to-machine communications and dozens of other areas that impact both consumers and businesses. These sweeping trends are catching the attention of CTIA attendees – your buyers. The speaking organizers at CTIA have assembled an agenda that helps explain emerging trends to attendees. In your proposal, focus on the emerging and broad trends where you can offer expertise.
• Struggling to find a topic that’s best for you? Engage in discussion with analysts in your market space and ask them what they’re hearing from the industry. Your investors can also be useful in providing a bird’s-eye view. Also comb through magazines and blogs for the hot topics that are most relevant to the industry.
• Develop relationships with decision-makers at CTIA. On a daily basis, CTIA staff and executives communicate with the industry’s leaders. Meet with influential leaders at CTIA team to share your opinions about industry trends from the front lines. You may then find yourself invited to speak on a panel.
• Propose a full panel, not an individual speaker. Executives from the leading companies in the mobile industry are chosen as keynote speakers and panelists. However, if you’re with a smaller company, you’ll need to get strategic. Think of the relationships you’ve built and leverage them. Is there a well-regarded analyst that shares your views? Do you have a customer that can provide real-world insight into your topic? How about a key partner from a highly visible wireless organization? Assemble a panel with all of these experts and offer an irresistible proposal to CTIA.
• If you are invited to speak at CTIA, pull out all the stops to make sure you ace the assignment. The CTIA staff closely monitor the success of individual speakers and panels. If your session attendees rate you highly, you have a greater chance of being invited back.
Make sure to get your speaking submission in by the deadline of January 15th. The competition for speaking opportunities is high, but the time spent in crafting a successful abstract is well worth the effort.
Need guidance in preparing a speaking submission? For further insight contact Schwartz MSL Boston at (781) 684-0770. The agency’s wireless practice represents some of the leading companies in mobile, and we can help you, too.
Yesterday I participated, along with Tom Lynch of interactive web marketing firm Astek Consulting, in a PR News webinar on SEO best practices. I'm not an SEO expert, but have developed a strong interest in search over the past several years. To me, it goes hand in hand with PR.
We all know that PR is about telling great stories. But to tell those stories, communicators have to create more content, and content of different types, than we did even a few years ago. At Schwartz MSL, our target audiences are generally online, so it makes sense to optimize that content for search to increase the likelihood that people who are looking for information on problems that our clients can solve find them online. I can't imagine running communications programs that don't take SEO into account.
If you're looking ahead to 2012 and planning your content and PR strategies, will you factor in SEO? Or do you feel that great content will be found and shared independent of optimization efforts?
Mitt Romney, presidential candidate and former governor of my home state of Massachusetts, was mocked a few weeks ago when he said that "corporations are people." It doesn't matter that it's not literally true, of course. It was his way of expressing the thought that every business, no matter how large, is comprised of individuals.
That's precisely the reason that B2B marketers struggle with use of social platforms such as Facebook. It's not devoted to supporting people's business personas, as LinkedIn is, and there's scant indication that anyone goes onto Facebook looking for information on B2B products. However, it's impossible to set aside the knowledge that Facebook is more frequently visited in the U.S. than Google and all those B2B buyers with their complex decision-making processes are, after all, individuals who more likely than not use it. Fortunately for those companies looking to interact with customers and potential customers on this platform, there are Facebook Pages.
Other B2B marketers are on the fence about use of Facebook. Conveniently, they haven't yet had to worry about another major social platform, Google+. Google made the decision about participation for them--it deletes profiles set up by brands--and today's announcement of nine new Google+ features doesn't include support for business profiles.
Such support is expected to be added, though, and I'd argue that business marketers shouldn't delay getting to know Google+'s features. Why? Three main reasons come to mind:
1. Most B2Bs care about search and Google+ profiles seem to top search results. My profile does, at any rate, and so do those of all of my colleagues. Check out the following chart from a 2011 Optify report (The Changing Face of SERPs: Organic Click-Through Rate). It shows how many more clicks the top search result receives than even positions two and three.
I don't think the need to understand Google+ and to potentially benefit from its favorable placement in search results can get much clearer, unless Google will force companies' Google+ profiles down in search results in a way that it's not currently doing with those of individuals. (For more on how Google+ is bringing search and social media together, check out this Brafton post.)
2. Google+ seems to be pushing other social platforms to adjust their own feature sets. I'd suggest that knowing what's up with Google+ may help marketers better understand how they can use Facebook, for example. Or, more importantly, understand how their "fans" may expect them to use Facebook.
3. Google+ circles, which allow users to present content to friends that's different from what they share with relatives, for instance, may eventually be of use to B2B marketers looking to create a different experience for customers using different product mixes, or individuals at different stages of the buying process.
Do you think Google+ is worth keeping an eye on? Or is it not worth the time if marketers are already reaching people on other social platforms?
Base One surveyed more than 1,000 people in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium and Italy in spring 2011. If your assignment includes European communications, the report is worth a look. It examines buyers' sources of information and, importantly, which of these have the most influence.
Here's a look at information sources used by UK decision-makers and changes between 2010 and 2011. In each year, the most relied upon sources are corporate websites, searches and industry media.
The report goes on to tease out opinions on social media and whether it's trustworthy or worth the time. It doesn't end with recommendations, but leaves it to the reader to determine what to take and apply to their own marketing strategy.
I read the report because a post on Forbes.com caught my eye, "Social is Intriguing, but Search is Proven." It displays a similar bar chart to the one above and concludes, "Don't let social media detract from the focus of optimizing your corporate website and search, both organic (SEO) and paid (PPC). Social media might pay off in the future, but search is a sure bet today."
Here's what I wish the report or the Forbes.com write-up had done: point out that if search matters to your business, so does social media. The number and quality of links to a website seem to be of great importance to search engines, as do pages on a site devoted to topics that people are searching on (as opposed to just promoting a brand). Blogs are a terrific way to add those pages and keep the content fresh over time and when it comes to links, about nine months ago, Google and Bing both said that they now look at links from social sites and consider the social authority of people who do the linking.
For more info on how social media may be increasing in importance to companies that care about search results, take a look at the SEOmoz report on Search Engine Ranking Factors. SEO experts polled by SEOmoz view "social signals at page level" and "social signals at domain level" as likely growing in importance.
If social media is becoming more important to search engines and search engines and corporate websites matter more to European B2B buyers, then I'd suggest that the role of social media may be obscured or underappreciated to some degree by the report on buyer behavior. B2B decision-makers may not be turning to Facebook and blogs for information as frequently as they do webinars, for example, but all those fresh blog posts and links from social sites and consequent improvements in search rankings may be an important reason that buyers are finding companies' sites in the first place.
A couple of days ago, I spent some time with colleagues learning about a tool to help identify online "influencers" -- the people many of our clients would like to reach, naturally. Those influencers are mostly not reporters, although it's interesting to see as we start using the tool that reporters are at the top of many of the search results.
It used to be that PR was largely about media relations, but now we of course know we need to look far beyond reporters. Journalists matter, but so do people who blog or tweet or otherwise share info about the topics they're passionate and knowledgeable about.
Anyway, so there we sit, talking about the new tool, which seems mercifully easy to use. Everything is rolling along until the person conducting the training comes to keywords -- you need to lose the SEO mindset, she says. To find the conversations you care about, don't use your SEO keywords.
Sacrilege! How about if you tell me next that down is up and the world is flat. I had to think it through for more than a couple of seconds (which I probably shouldn't admit) and now that I've started using the software, I'm still not sure that "leave SEO aside" is the most accurate description of what's required. I'm now thinking of it as keep what you know about SEO, but add phrases that people use when writing. For example, "buy for your SMB" might accompany "database security software."
I'm glad I worked through that potentially emotional issue. I really didn't want to think that the terms people use to find information that they care about should ever be anywhere other than the very front of my brain when I'm creating any sort of content.
By now you've probably seen The Content Grid v2 from Eloqua and JESS3. If you have not, it's lovely, so cast your gaze upon it:
It seems to me that to get to the content in the middle of that grid -- white papers, demos, case studies, press releases, analyst reports -- you'll often use a search engine. If the content lives on your website, on Twitter, on YouTube, it should be optimized, right? But, you say, that will naturally happen if you're creating content that speaks to problems and interests that people really have. Are fancy techniques necessary when you have fabulous content that speaks to your audience's issues?
Personally, I agree that some marketers are so in touch with their target audiences and so able to deal with both volume and quality that they can't help but create content that appeals to search engines. That's a fantastic thing. I'm guessing that many marketers, however, could use a few pointers. The ebooks, customer profiles, demos and graphics aren't flowing so freely that all the search stuff is going to work itself out.
In a month, I'll participate in a PR News discussion of "day-to-day SEO tactics" that should give people who don't have technical backgrounds some guidelines on creating content that can readily be found online. I'm looking forward to it because I know it'll make me even more focused on the subject. I don't want to "lose the SEO mindset."
How do you work info about search into your day? If the answer is "I don't," here are a few things you might check. They'll inform you without overwhelming you:
Schwartz friends and family might recall our December 2010 content marketing event with MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. We received great feedback on the talk and were happy to see the room packed, but guess it's to be expected--content is very much on marketers' minds, particularly as they consider social media and lead generation.
Yesterday my colleagues John Moran, Matt Duffy, Ross Levanto and I got to meet up with Ann again to chat about topics ranging from the importance of setting content marketing goals (and why "we want a Twitter strategy" is absolutely not an appropriate goal), to how content marketing and PR can work together, to the relative importance of optimizing all that content.
The real question, however, was whether it's acceptable to order and eat two entrees at a business lunch. (Answer: It's absolutely fine, and is best accompanied by your story about the time you vacuumed up 14 Krispy Kremes without getting sick.)
Fortunately, we left time to talk about Ann's new book with co-author C.C. Chapman, Content Rules. The book has become required reading for Schwartzers, not only because we offer content marketing alongside our public relations, social media and public affairs programs, but because its suggestions are valuable across industry segments, I'd argue, and for companies of all sizes.
Most authors and speakers assume that all marketers and communicators find value in hearing about big-budget case studies from major brands, but honestly, I check email when someone starts talking about what car and candy companies accomplished with high six-figure budgets. Content Rules shows you how to work with the story, money and time that you've got.
Check it out if you haven't already to see how content and content marketing might work for your business. I know we'll be pulling the book's recommendations into many of our own programs.
I've been considering a post I read last week from Joshua Benton on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog. I wouldn't say that I missed the point that Mr. Benton is making in "Decline, plateau, decline: New data on The Daily suggests a social media decline and a tough road ahead." He's talking about the early success, or maybe lack thereof, of The Daily, a news brand launched two months ago for the iPad. As I read his post, however, I thought about some general implications for how companies measure the effectiveness of PR programs.
In the post, Mr. Benton describes how he's extrapolating information about the size of the paid readership of The Daily. He has to resort to an educated guess because "[n]o one outside of News Corp. and Apple has a reliable way of knowing how often people read The Daily." Contrast this to data available about most websites and web-based publications, which can sort of be measured using tools like Alexa.com and Compete.com.
As a surrogate for those tools, Mr. Benton looks at stats about the volume of Daily articles that paid subscribers share via Twitter. Basically, more tweets probably indicate more readers. He knows that this is an imperfect measure, but it's what he's got. Using it, he's suggesting that the "general direction" for the publication is down.
That's probably interesting to the many people who are trying to figure out whether the iPad and other readers will help news publishers make more money. But for me, as a PR person, the take-away message is that as more content is consumed on iPads or other readers, it may become even tougher to measure the number of people a publication reaches. This makes the accuracy of one of the easiest PR metrics to gather--impressions--even more suspect.
But if publishers choose not to report their iPad or other reader figures, where does that leave PR people who tally results based on number of impressions? Making bigger and bigger guesses over time, it seems. To me, this argues for marketers making more of an effort to keep our collective eye on what really matters, which is action taken by people who read those articles. More website traffic? Shortened sales cycles? Improved reputation? These sorts of things can be tough or expensive to measure, so many companies pass them up in favor of what they can put their finger on.
Maybe Apple will become the new Cision and start selling data about how many people actually buy magazine and newspaper apps. In the meantime, I took Mr. Benton's post as a reminder to pay attention to evaluating what matters--action undertaken because of PR--and not to simply collect figures that are readily available.
Today, Salesforce announced its plan to acquire Radian6 for ~$326 million in cash and stock. Radian6 is one of the main social media monitoring and engagement tools we use at Schwartz Communications. This is good news for Radian6 employees, but what are the takeaways for the industry?
To my mind, it all boils down to another company betting that even more companies will realize the power of listening, and as a corollary, the power of engaging. Salesforce.com is one of the top sales and CRM solutions.
This is enhanced when you add inbound marketing companies, such as Hubspot, that can help sales and marketing nurture the most valuable customers and promising prospects. That is one reason Hubspot makes such a big deal of their Salesforce integration.
The social listening (and to a lesser extent engagement) offerings provided by Radian 6 are another piece in the customer engagement puzzle.
Good PR has always strived to understand the needs and desires of the customer and other key stakeholders. Only by understanding them can we give the most effective counsel to the organizations we represent. The future tie-in of sales/crm, social listening and nurturing should help companies develop deeper, more meaningful and effective relationships with their customers.
I am intrigued by the possibilities of this acquisition, but it will be interesting to see how it proceeds.
Some of Radian6’s greatest weaknesses are Salesforce's strengths. But I can also see the volume of data that Radian6 regularly captures overwhelming the needs and desires of many users and too much less than useful information being integrated into the Salesforce contact stream. As my wife often tells me, just because you hear what I am saying, doesn’t mean you are listening. The data is only good if it is processed and acted upon.
I don’t think this is the final piece of the puzzle. Integrating capabilities such as Rapleaf into the new Salesforce/Radian6 would create some very targeted and meaningful monitoring and lead to even greater success.
No matter how this acquisition proceeds, the winners will be the companies that increasingly engage with their customers through tailored, proactive communications.
Google has launched a magazine, Think Quarterly, and mailed the limited number of copies (they printed only 1,500) to advertising partners in the UK. The magazine, Google's first, was created and published in the UK and is also available online.
Since we, as lovers of technology PR, of course pay attention to Google and pitch editors of magazines (although it's not at all clear to me that Think Quarterly is pitchable), I thought the debut was worth noting. You may have caught the news yesterday on Mashable.
This issue is almost 70 pages long and is all about data, how people are trying to wade through it and find value ("data obesity and how to treat it"), how basing business on facts can be beneficial, etc. There are also several topics of interest to advertisers (e.g., "how to maximize return on search advertising").
Click on the image above if you like to check out the full issue.
Well it has been a week since the end of SxSW Interactive 2011. By this time, most of the attendees have recovered from the five days of non-stop seminars, parties, meet-ups and informal hallway networking. What did it all mean?
There are a few key takeaways from Schwartz’s discussions at SxSW that I thought would make sense to share with our readers.
Group Communications Overload – The “hot” market is definitely group messaging and communications. Between Foursquare, Gowalla, Scvngr, Whrrl, Hurricane Party, and others, there are more networks than ever before. To be honest, I see significant hurdles for most of these apps. The benefits of the new services are at most incremental over Foursquare and Gowalla, and do not give a reason to move. Hurricane Party impressed with its focus on parties, and is something I will check out at other industry events. But beyond that nice, I did not see market disruptors. We are seeing dot revs, not new products. The true innovators will need to be even more creative to stick out from the group communications babble.
Microblogging back channels are thriving – Every panelist faced competition – the Twitterstream. Between 20-40 people (including me) were using HootSuite or another tool to comment on what was being said, ask questions and be snarky. Those panelists that integrated the Twitterstream into their presentations had much more dynamic sessions. A few panelists even had other folks at their company monitoring the stream and providing real time feedback and commentary so they could focus on the talk, but also capitalize on the back channel discussion.
Uniform Optimism – Aside from the ubiquitous “SxSW isn’t what it used to be,” the people I spoke with at SxSW were uniformly optimistic. It didn’t matter if they were engineers, C-level, PR pros or venture capitalists. The attendees are all preparing for a coming innovation explosion. Most see it around mobile and connectivity, and I find it hard to disagree. This is no just limited to B2C, but B2B financial services markets are seeing the mobile possibilities.
This is just the beginning – Underlying the optimism was another undercurrent. Priebatsch from Scvngr talked about a coming layer (the game layer) that will go on top of the current social layer. I do not agree with all of his ideas, but it does show that there is still significant innovation to come. We are just at the infancy of the group communications. With the explosion of smartphones and apps, more sophisticated data modeling and group communications, what we see today will likely bear little resemblance to what we see in five years. And here at Schwartz we find that to be extremely invigorating.
For me, Sunday at SxSW could best have been described as analytics day. They decided to have all the research and measurement die-hards make the trek out to the AT&T Executive Conference center. The surroundings were plusher, the seats much more comfortable and the data was fascinating.
There were two interesting panels on measurement and analytics and the most exciting part is none of the speakers were from vendors. Shawn Brown from MIT’s Sloan Management Review and Chris Traganos at Harvard spoke about how they measured Web success and worked to increase traffic; while Elizabeth Winkler from the University of Texas - Austin, discussed how she and her colleagues developed a model that showed how Twitter chatter accurately predicted movie revenues.
Harvard was doing some very interesting things and relies primarily on five social media tools:
These are tools most of our readers know, but it shows that tools like these, used intelligently and backed by great content can deliver very good results. A few practical tips on how they grew traffic included advice such as:
Lots of tags are your friend: every story they push has 30 tags that are fed into blog aggregators
If you aren’t using Facebook’s OpenGraph and you create content, you need to start doing so. Instead of the share button, use the like button. Despite the power of the tool, you should check URL Linter to see what Facebook is getting and not getting.
Chartbeat is a perfect complement to Google Analytics. I haven’t used it on my sites, but I plan to check it out. It gives you real time analytics in a way Google does not.
Probably the biggest “huh” in the session was the tidbit that the smaller the URL, the less dense the QR code is, so it works faster. Keep using those URL shorteners, and make sure they point to a site that is optimized for mobile.
These are great practical tips for growing and analyzing site traffic.
This was a great primer for the next session that looked at how Twitter chatter could be used to tell how good a movie will do on a weekend. Elizabeth Winker and her team used a set of 20 servers to gather and aggregate tweets on movies and store than in a database for further analysis.
They first eliminated the false positives (which was very tricky for the movie “The Hangover”) and broke the results down by positive, negative and neutral using an automated system they built themselves. By then analyzing how many people said they planned to go to the movies and the reaction and buzz afterwards, they showed how positive Twitter chatter mapped nicely to box office sales for the 60 movies they analyzed.
One area Winker touched on briefly, but I think is worthy of further consideration is the power of Twitter and geolocation. They could map the Tweets on a certain movie to the subset of those that have enabled geolocation on their phones and break out the analysis and prediction on a regional level. This could help allocate ad and marketing spends to the areas where it is most needed. One Winkler didn’t explore that I would love to see is if there is greater correlation based on the chatter that is made immediately after a movie (which a movie company should be able to do by mapping the tweets to theatre locations). This also has implications for CPG and consumer technology companies.
The panels weren’t earth shattering, but they gave good practical advice and a glimpse into the future of quick, high-volume analytics.
Within SxSW there is a small group of die hard people that are involved in the financial services and banking industry that meet to discuss the role technology will play in the evolution of this market. Since I work with many companies in the financial services and payments industry, I always make it a point to check out the sessions.
The two most intriguing sessions of the second day of SxSW day both dealt with innovation. The first claimed to look at changes in the way lending happens thanks to new ways of looking at data. It really ended up being an excoriation of payday loans and an examination of new types of lending - from community based business loans to modified payday loans that are designed to focus solely on people paying their bills.
Payday loans and serving the underbanked are two issues that the industry has grappled with for a number of years. While I learned about some new technologies, a key takeaway is one that translates into the second session as well, clearly communicating your deals and offerings is a great way to build loyalty. And if you have a new service people need, they are likely to try it out.
The second panel of the day had a very unassuming name, "Banks, innovate or die!" it ended up being one of the most contentious and interesting panels I have been to in a while. A former Citibank employee, Lendingclub executive, SmartyPig and others were discussing the future of innovation in the banking industry.
The comments were cutting and included such gems as:
Citi is your bank, not your mother! It's not our job to remind you to pay your bills
Customer service is easy when you have just a few thousand customers
The key takeaways from this session were things that I have heard quite a few times in the past but are worth repeating:
People expect greater transparency from their financial institutions. To me though this is not necessarily how they are using your money, but helping customers better understand how their finances are being used as well as what fees they are being charged and what services are available. (full disclosure, Schwartz represents companies that provide services and products for banks and credit unions.)
Customer service is another challenge. Some called it a way to innovate, I see it more as a way to differentiate. It is important to note that the baseline customer service expectations continues to grow, so FIs that aren't using it as a way to get closer to the customer are missing opportunities and giving start ups and credit unions a chance to take their customers.
The most interesting point was made at the end of the session. The next battle for banks will not be against startups but likely against Google and Apple and others.
While the companies differed when discussing competitive threats, there was almost universal in identifying where they expect to see innovation over the next few years - mobile banking and payments. This is a shift even bigger than the introduction of the ATM, particularly as the younger generation that has their mobile phone as their main communications device begins to graduate college and enter the workforce. The moderator stated that by 2015 mobile will be the primary banking channel. The other area for innovation that many identified was in P2P loans.
The only other area of universal agreement was the need to revise FINRA rules to allow for greater social media engagement. Overall though the hours of discussion drove home two points:
The industry is experiencing a significant increase in the pace of innovation which will likely accelerate with mobile.
It is an exciting time to be working with companies in the financial services industry.
SxSW is alternately described as a tech party a la COMDEX in the mid 90s, Spring Break for techies, DEMO for those trying to reach young, hip, consumers and a conference that has jumped the shark. To me it is a great event and a great way to make connections, hear great speakers and have thought provoking conversations.To get myself in the right frame of mind, I listened to Alice's Restaurant on the plane flight to Austin.
For my first session at SxSW I went to hear industry pundit Brian Reich discuss how social media is like an asteroid approaching the earth. Basically his premise was that we need to fundamentally change the way we think about things, and nowhere is this more important than with those issues that transcend business (hunger, oppression, disaster relief). He believes that the way we address serious issues is no longer working.
We are not capitalizing on the power of the connected society. I agree with him in that the "networked" society is still in its infancy, and despite all our activities over the past 15 years, the true impact is still just now being felt.
What really stuck me was that many of the transcendent issues are the issues that businesses have been struggling with since the dawn of social media, and frankly, since communications became a strategic discipline.
How do we impact change?
Are we measuring the right things?
Raising awareness is a great and necessary first step, but it is not enough.
Don't get me wrong, there were great ideas that came out of the session (the crying need for more transparency in how donations are distributed, how giving people choices on how their money will be used will encourage more donations, etc.,)
I disagreed with some of the points being made. People that just gave money were being called lazy. I spoke up at that and pointed out there is a full spectrum of engagement. Business realize not everyone will be an evangelist for their product or spend hours on the messageboards answering questions. You need to treasure those folks, but you need to respect all stakeholders, regardless of their activity level. To do otherwise jeopardizes what you are trying to accomplish.
Another telling point to me is many of the people in the audience were from NGOs and were starting to realize the way they should measure needs to change. (I felt like I was at an IPR meeting). How many people tweeted about your cause is just a measure of activity. It's like the old days of PR measurement when hits were the only thing that mattered.
Even how much money you raise (while still vitally important) is just a measure of activity. The true way to impact change is to have NGOs and charitable organizations report on the tangible results. What did the money do?
In the end, the session was thought provoking and a great start to SxSW. It reminds us as communicators and interested parties that if we keep doing the same thing and just use new channels, we will have same challenges in new channels. We need to think differently and make sure we are solving causes, not just serving them.
Some obvious, and some not so obvious trends that we’ll likely see in Orlando
In less than two weeks, CTIA Wireless 2011 (@CTIAshow; #CTIAW11) will bring together 40,000 members of the North American wireless community, from carriers to device manufacturers to app providers to the technical widget makers that make wireless work.
As a PR industry executive that has followed, pitched, attended, applauded and even cursed CTIA Wireless for the past eight years, I feel partially qualified to make a predictions blog post (from a marketing/news-driven point of view). What better way to write a predictions blog than with a couple top three lists?
Let’s begin with the obvious predictions…
1) Tablet Obsession—Sorry smartphones, but tablets will take the device lead at CTIA. Manufactures like Samsung, RIM and Apple will all be pushing new tablets and their “first, best only” features, wicked fast operating systems and vertical applications, from healthcare to utilities to the boardroom.
2) 4G/LTE—We can’t talk about tablets and smartphones without mentioning the network. 4G and LTE certainly aren’t new topics, but the reality of these high-speed networks finally rolling out is sure to drive a number of discussions from the keynotes to show floor chatter. Look for data package debates to fall under this category. Side note: I frankly can’t hear “4G!” and not think about the Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber Super Bowl commercial.
3) Apps—Like a Chinese menu, there are apps for everyone and nearly every conceivable problem. Tablet applications are becoming more popular and Android and Microsoft apps are available in iPhone like numbers. In fact, MSFT recently announced that it’s adding 100 new mobile phone applications a day. My personal favorite app remains Shazam. I’ll be on the lookout for its replacement at CTIA Wireless 2011.
I conducted a little research before listing my not so obvious predictions. The following word cloud is the result of a Radian6 social media search on “CTIA Wireless” over the past 14 days. While nothing jaw-dropping presented itself, I think we can pull out a few conclusions.
Here’s the not so obvious list…
1) CTIA Goes Global—While the prominence of “international” in the word cloud is likely the direct result of the conference name, what caught my attention was “world” in the lower left portion of the cloud. While Mobile World Congress is still the king of international wireless shows, CTIA is gaining ground.
2) Innovation Driven by Smaller Players—Sure the carriers (see keynote) and the major device manufacturers will garner most of the media fanfare at CTIA, but if you look a little deeper, it is the emerging growth startups and app developers that drive the true innovation. Just check out this year’s Emerging Technology Award nominees…not many household names on the list. We are proud that Schwartz client WellDoc is on the list.
3) Marriage of Wireless and Retail—I’m not talking about retail stores for purchasing new devices, but more along the lines of retail communities adopting wireless as a marketing and selling tool. Expect a significant amount of news around retail-focused apps designed to help companies reach/influence more consumers on a regular basis to sell more stuff.
Marketing and PR people across the country are already attaching their company to larger trends with storylines and product news (both real and manufactured) to get on the crowded radar screens of the hundreds of media and bloggers attending CTIA Wireless 2011. It is a proven technique for getting smaller companies heard above the CTIA noise. So what trend are you riding to CTIA glory?
I read two good blog entries yesterday about how marketers need to make sure they’re creating content that is engaging. One of them was a piece in PRWeek written by Schwartz president Bryan Scanlon. (I’m sure you’re all shocked I would speak highly of a blog written by my boss.) The other was a blog by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, of whom I’m a big fan.
Both of them make basically the point that sometimes marketers lose track of the ultimate goal of content – to connect with or engage a community. In other words, yes, it’s important to create A LOT of content, but it’s more important that the content is educational and not overly self-promotional so your audience will come back for more. A marketer could create five eBooks and ten webinars in a year and say to their CEO, “You wanted content marketing, well mission accomplished!” But in reality, it only moves from being content creation to actual content marketingif you can show that you connected with the audience.
So how do you do this? There are many different ways to test whether your content is engaging, but as a start, I thought I’d just provide one thing to think about at each stage of deploying your content:
Before Deploying Content: This has been said before (and probably said best in Ann Handley’s book Content Rules), but before you put any content “out there,” you should make sure it’s solving a problem for your target audience. Ask yourself: “does my content explain a problem and provide a solution or does it only explain how my product/service works?” Ideally you’d present the problem, and help your audience to see many ways to solve it that will eventually lead them to you for help. Start with making it interesting, and hopefully the customers will come to you. This always reminds me of what 1960’s ad executive Howard Luck Gossage said: “People don’t read ads. People read what they’re interested in and sometimes it’s an ad.”
While Content is Being Consumed: Two words: trackable links. This is not at all a new way to measure engagement, but all of your content pieces should contain trackable links within them so you have data on which links were interesting enough for people to click on. It’s ok to say “500 people downloaded my eBook,” but it’s not a real measure of engagement unless you look at what they did once inside the eBook. You can also go way beyond data about clicks when measuring video content engagement using tools from VisibleGains and others. It’s critical to know how long people viewed certain segments and where there was drop off.
After: This may also seem obvious, but the best measure of engagement is what your audience does with the content after it was consumed. Did they forward or share the content with others or tweet about it? Did they come back and consume more content from you later (content that you were, of course, smart enough to push out to them)? Did you check in with them within a week and ask what they thought of the content? I’d rather have 200 people read a piece of content, share it, and return later for more content, than have 500 people read some content and never come back.
If you are interested in getting a marketing message in front of me, here's a quick look at my profile. I am on Facebook. I do use Twitter as well and occasionally will look for something on YouTube. I write as often as I can for this blog as well as my personal blog. I have been in the tech PR business for over 10 years.
What would one surmise from this short little survey? From a B2B perspective, if you are looking to market to a tech PR pro in the Boston area, you probably should develop strategies for social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. And you should evaluate if content I write for a blog has any impact in your lead generation activities. Of course, this assumes that other people in my profession with my length of tenure have the same social media habits that I do.
Unfortunately, there isn't too much research out there on specific social media usage. A recent study by IDG provides some good insight, but it leaves me asking more questions. It would be great to know, for example, if CIOs use Facebook as part of their tech buying decisions. More specifically, it would be great to know if CIOs in a particular market-- say, IT security-- are using the social media tools for this purpose. And those are just some questions I am thinking about today.
Since I get asked (a lot) about appropriate social media usage for B2B marketing, I wrote an eBook outlining some general best practices across all tech markets. Included are some recommendations on social media tools that all B2B tech PR and communication pros should be investigating.
The fact I can't find answers regarding social media usage, in reality, should not be a huge surprise. It's probably due to a couple of things. Even though it's been hyped for a long time, and even though social media programs are a part of every campaign Schwartz's executes for its clients, social media is still a relatively new concept.
However, at the same time, I think many of us marketers can get a bit caught up in the hype. We read about a company that uses Twitter in a major publication and instantly want a Twitter strategy of our own.
In the late fall of 2009, I attended a social media cluster event organized by the Mass Technology Leadership Council (Schwartz is a sponsor of the cluster). I asked the panel how they researched which social media channels their strategic audiences used. The panel universally answered that they didn't conduct research. Social media was a game of trial and error. They tried out a new Twitter handle, or ran a Facebook contest, and if it reached a key audience, they claimed victory.
Fortunately, for those of you out there investigating social media, certain strategies have already proven effective, and you don't need to try them to know they will work. Based on the social media programs we have managed at Schwartz, I offer the guidance in the eBook to the entire B2B tech PR and communications communities. I welcome your feedback.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group decided the best way to look ahead was to look back…specifically to look back at the lifecycle of the tech acronyms and buzzwords we have all grown to love (or hate).
This also gave us a chance to try Google Labs' new Ngram research tool. The search tool lets users examine the content of every book in the Google Books database, from 1800 to 2008, and determine how frequently a word appears. While this is by no means a comprehensive search, the database is large enough to identify some interesting trends.
For example this chart, which looks at some of the popular acronyms of the past few decades such as WYSIWYG and Y2K.
The new 2010 U.S. census data that is starting to be released today will have a profound impact on our economy. From shifting the balance of political power, to insights into changing American demographics, much of the data will take quite some time to digest.
Yet there are some practical concerns that public relations professionals should start incorporating starting today. Most importantly, the base numbers PR pros use when extrapolating from large, random-sample telephone surveys needs to change.
For the past 10 years of so, the more conservative approach has been to use the following data:
Number of Americans (total): 281,421,908 - It's actually the resident population as citizenship is not factored in to the number.
Number of Americans (over 18): 209.1 million
Number of households : 105.5 million
While we have to wait for many of the new numbers to come out, the main number is:
Number of Americans: (total): 308,745,538
Hopefully in February 2011 we will have updated information on how many Americans are over 18 and how many households there are.
While the Schwartz Communications Research Group typically uses the over 18 number for extrapolation, the overall number is important to note. If a survey found 5% of Americans engaged in an activity, this has shifted from 14 million to 15.4 million.
Note: Public relations professionals need to be careful when extrapolating data to be sure that it truly was a random sample, the sample size was large enough and they are following proper survey methodology.
The other element to stand out for me was the budget for the U.S. Census. It was more than $7 billion. (Although they should be applauded for coming in more than $1.8 billion under budget). Now who else would love a research budget like that?
What other information is striking you based on the Census report?
You've probably heard it a hundred times: Content is king. It's true that a well-executed blog can establish your executives as thought leaders, improve your site's SEO and help you engage with journalists, customers and prospects. But if you aren't seeing comments on your posts, it can start to feel like all of your work is for naught.
Before you consider give up on blogging, try these tips for increasing engagement and generating more comments:
Write timely and opinionated content. Controversy can get readers riled up enough to fire back, but even if you want to avoid risking offense, your content should be thought-provoking enough to encourage a response.
Ask for help. Send posts to customers, partners, other bloggers and industry contacts with a brief note explaining why you thought they'd find the post interesting and inviting them to respond. This can be effective as long as you don't overuse the tactic.
Comment on other blogs in your industry. If you want someone to read and comment on your blog, you should be commenting on theirs. When your fellow bloggers see you as an intelligent contributor to the conversation, they are more likely to reciprocate.
Make sure your posts are seen by tweeting them, posting them on LinkedIn, highlighting them on your homepage and sending them out in your newsletter.
When someone comments on your blog, respond in your comments to keep the debate going or even just to say thank you. If your readers feel like you're paying attention to them, they'll be inclined to comment again.
News release headlines are meant to convey information, draw a reader in, and aid SEO. But have public relations pros fallen victim to buzzword abuse in news release headlines?
Thankfully, the answer is no.
Earlier this month the Schwartz Communications’ Research Group released a brief that examined news release headlines and SEO. After analyzing more than 16,000 news release headlines from Business Wire, we found that more than 86% of news release headlines do not contain any of the top 20 buzzwords. Of course, that also means that 14% (or about 2200 releases/month) do contain a top 20 buzzword in the headline.
"Top" was the most overused buzzword, and it was used in only 1.9% of releases. This was followed by "solution" (1.83%). Following is the full chart.
The point here isn’t to say that you must avoid using these buzzwords at all costs, but it’s much more important to use the keywords being used in searches by your company’s target audience.
If you are interested in more information on this or other news release SEO topics, such as
Good writing should convey excitement, without the help of punctuation. A number of editors with whom we have spoken have a simple rule: you are allowed to use no more than three exclamation points in your writing your entire adult life.
While the Schwartz Research Group brief released this week looked at serious issues such as:
What are the most overused words in release headlines?
We also examined a few lighter issues. For example. The Schwartz Research Group analyzed the more than 16,000 releases issued over Business Wire in a 30 day period, and the good news is, only 0.5% of all releases contain “!”s in the headline. (Note, Schwartz excluded Yahoo! from the analysis, for that would skew the data).
Only 10 release headlines contained multiple exclamation points. For those who are curious, the Schwartz Research Group also found that only 0.4% of releases contained a question mark.
If you would like the full whitepaper, you can request it here.
The biggest trend words in B2B marketing today are: content marketing, lead nurturing and marketing automation. At Schwartz, we believe that a PR firm has the answers for making those concepts a permanent part of any communications program.
Respected journalist and marketer Bob Scheier agrees with us. While not calling out Schwartz by name, he notes how "forward-looking" PR agencies are using marketing automation software solutions such as Marketo, Eloqua and HubSpot. Schwartz recently announced a partnership with HubSpot.
Schwartz sees our services as having an ever-expanding role in marketing, and we are defining new services that connect visibility and influence to lead generation in a way that is measurable. An article in DemandGen Report that Bob Scheier refers to in his recent post quotes a director at Bulldog Solutions: “Marketers need to be able to identify new prospects, engage them effectively and hand them off seamlessly to sales. And they need to be able to prove that they did it." I could not agree more.
Beyond new services, which Schwartz will be rolling out and marketing more aggressively in the coming weeks, we are investing in skills that align directly to marketing automation roadblocks.
The same DemandGen Report article includes an infographic on the roadblocks themselves. According to an Executive Benchmark Assessment from Frost & Sullivan and Bulldog Solutions, 52-percent of respondents say that a lack of resources is the reason marketing automation has not been maximized. Forty-two percent say they don't have the right processes, and 32-percent claim they lack sufficient content.
Schwartz is investing in programs and processes that will address all three challenges. We understand fully the value of content to a marketing program. As Bob Scheier notes, a PR firm is closer to the strategic content of a given company than most audiences. We advocate for closed-loop programs that take an idea from strategy through impact, with methods for measuring effectiveness, repeating what works.
And our relationship with HubSpot (as well as Schwartz's own use of HubSpot) teaches our teams the tools available today that incorporate science and a measurement framework into the innovative and strategic marketing ideas we surmise; ideas that make full use of the multiple channels (traditional media, bloggers, search engine marketing and social media) available today.
The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. A company’s top keywords should be included in the headline when possible and should be placed early in the headline. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2010 to August 25, 2010). Since Schwartz cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor . The findings of this analysis were that the vast majority of PR practitioners are still not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 18.4% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer.
While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,000 characters. The shortest headline we found was 18 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters.
This shows that many companies still have room to improve their press releases (even the social media releases).
The Schwartz Communications Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, a geographic analysis of effective headline writing and other headline analysis, you can download it here
The middle of this week, I zoomed off to attend the Digital PR Next Practices Summit put on by PR News. New York is an easy trip, so maybe I shouldn't have packed my "tell me something I don't already know" attitude, but that's how I approach all conferences. If I have to so much as budge from my desk, it needs to be worth it.
PR News didn't disappoint. As I sat and waited in vain for a wireless signal adequate to let me use my computer (let's not talk about why one would hold a tech conference in a building that has an anemic wireless network ... or maybe it's my computer), I scanned the attendee list. About 275 communicators from a range of big companies, including many huge consumer, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and tech brands. Plus universities, non-profits, government agencies and even religious organizations.
I had to resort to tweeting from my BlackBerry, but at that point didn't care because I was excited to be around so many other PR people. They were friendly and you can imagine just how loud a room of nearly 300 professional communicators can get.
The conference turned out to be excellent and well worth the time and money. I won't recap every session, but here are a few of my top observations.
The first panel, "Creating the Digital PR Dream Team," dug into the topic of getting the people and resources together to engage in and measure social media. The three panelists, who were from GM, the Archer Group and Kaiser Permanente, shared very specific info about who's on their social media teams and how they interact with corporate comm's, marcom, legal and so on. They talked about what they collaborate with agencies to achieve and what they prefer to handle internally.
The director of social media and digital communications from GM, Mary Henige, said they create one or two videos a week to share. This reminded me of a fantastic InsideView infographic on social media stats that I'd seen the night before. It says that Fortune 100 companies create an average of 10 videos each month to share online. I don't always think big companies lead the way in PR, but clearly they've got the budgets required to clean up in video.
Lee Mikles, CEO of the Archer Group, urged attendees to "say no to the Twitern," or cheap labor brought on to handle a company's social media interactions.
This resonated with me because I personally can't stand it when companies assume that social is free. I know they want it to be free in the same way that I'd like someone to trim my hair for free. Because darn if it's not expensive and it seems like it should be cheap. But I don't want someone who doesn't listen to me and know what they're doing to take on the job and the same holds true for companies and digital media. Just because someone "grew up online" and uses Foursquare to let the world know every time they enter a Starbucks does not mean they understand your business, your industry or your customers' preferences and problems.
Holly Potter, VP of PR for Kaiser Permanente, answered a question about hiring social media specialists by saying that she didn't find much value in "siloed expertise." Those who claim to be social media gurus almost invariably are not.
I agree that we're all learning and learning quickly and think good sense dictates that one not pretend to be thoroughly knowledgeable about something that's changing as quickly as social media. For a few years now, I've been a very interested observer as individuals or small agencies have pushed a focus on social and claimed that companies can ignore branded media. It's human to have a strong interest in the new thing, but it's shortsighted and shows a basic lack of understanding, however, when companies opt to focus on social alone.
I think the fascination with the new is giving way now and has shifted over the past year to a more balanced perspective. For some companies, it reflects a newfound understanding that digital isn't free and that social and branded media are so thoroughly intertwined that they can't be pulled apart and managed in isolation.
After panels on new social media tools and measuring ROI, I had to take a break to charge my BlackBerry. So I skipped the talk on how VW successfully launched a mobile gaming application. I kind of regret it in that I want to know as much as possible about this stuff, but I think I was also voting with my feet. I'm informed but not always impressed by successful PR campaigns that were accompanied by big budgets.
A thoughtful keynote at lunch by Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy preceded a panel on identifying and engaging "the right" influencers. Then, on to the discussion that contained the most new info I absorbed all day--digital tactics and crisis communications.
Dallas Lawrence, managing director at Burson-Marsteller, made numerous good points, but one that really rose to the top of the pile was that it's too late for companies to get into social media when a crisis arises. (He said that crises can be brought about online by groups attacking your company or brand, by individuals who just don't like you or by external events.)
I suppose this is a bit like one of the basics of reputation management--if you work over time to develop a good reputation, you're better able to recover from crises. You may draw down your reservoir of good will, but at least you had something to draw upon and you're likely going to recover faster if people had a perception of you and it was positive. Perhaps they see the bad thing that happened as an aberration.
Mr. Lawrence noted that you can't adequately respond online if you aren't already part of online communities. Those communities may not be linked (e.g., people "following" you on Facebook aren't necessarily with you on Twitter), so it's not as if you can communicate through just one channel when things go wrong. You can't, for example, expect that if your company gets dragged through the mud in a video, you're going to be able to address the problem by communicating via a press release or corporate blog. You need to already be using the channels that your audiences choose to use in order to get through to them.
In all, I'm glad I stood up from my desk and attended the conference. What social media events have you found most informative lately?
Some of the brightest minds in public relations research and measurement today gathered for the first day of the Institute for Public Relations’ North American Summit on Measurement. They are here to share their best practices on research and measurement, and to discuss the future of PR measurement.
It was great to hear so many research professionals recommending the types of benchmarking that the Schwartz Research Group does as a matter of course our clients.
The summit began with @kdpaine and Dr. Don Stacks reviewing a number of core measurement best practices. Some of the things that jumped out at me were that:
• 66% of time if people say will do something, they will • PR campaigns that address and engage values can make a seismic shift when it comes to behavior • Research without proper analysis is just pretty charts • You must benchmark at the beginning of an engagement to identify if you met your campaign goals and objectives
While much of this was common sense, there were also very engaging discussions on the evolution of online surveys and best practices for increasing response rates and avoiding accidental bias; seven steps to measurement perfection; and new ways of measuring social media engagement.
To me, the highlight of the afternoon was the opportunity for us to speak with Dr. James and Larissa Grunig, two of the deans of PR measurement. I remember learning about Grunig’s two way symmetric communications model more than 20 years ago, and it is great to see how social media is causing the death of other models, and driving more companies to engage in true dialog (what Dr James Grunig has advocated for decades).
Grunig rightly pointed out many of the growing pain social media is going through, but is confident of its continued evolution and ability to drive deeper connections. He made a point that I have been evangelizing for a while – the core principles of good public relations have not been changed by social media. It has made symmetry, strategy, and engagement even more crucial.
One of the key themes that came across during the discussion was the role PR needs to play in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. While CSR has been a core element of public relations for quite a while, Grunig is seeing some of the largest companies internationally start to want to measure not just at the program level, but at the societal level.
Grunig opined that companies need to beware the CSR trap. CSR does not equal publicity for charitable giving. True corporate social responsibility projects align with the needs of the organization and will positively benefit all stakeholders. Some companies Grunig spoke with in Brazil are starting to consider both the environment and the next two generations of humans, animals and plants as stakeholders.
Overall, an excellent start to the summit. Tomorrow will look at global digital communications measurement, measuring influence and other topics.
Follow updates throughout the day at @mcclennan or #iprmeasure.
Our word cloud shows lots of blogging about broadband, spectrum and the FCC, as the Net Neutrality debate continued in high gear. Last week, CTIA provided its comments on net neutrality to the FCC, stating that the rules for the wired Internet don’t apply to the wireless ecosystem. No surprises here. Lowell MacAdam, president and CEO of Verizon, is keynoting at CTIA Wednesday morning, so attendees will likely hear more on this topic, in the vein of Verizon’s joint statement with Google in August.
Bloggers picked up on another piece of news that involved the FCC and CTIA. Researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center studied traffic data from the Fatality Accident Reporting System and texting data from the FCC and CTIA. They reported that accidents caused by texting while driving ended the lives of 16,141 Americans between 2001 and 2007.
This is a sobering statistic. Massachusetts is among 30 states that have clamped down on texting by teen drivers with a ban that goes into effect this month. Boston.com reported on another study last week, which claims that these laws have not yet lowered the accident rates.
RIM shows up prominently in the word cloud, too. Last week RIM made a big spash with its announcement of the Playbook tablet. With a slew of cutting-edge hardware features for business users, the Playbook also boasts one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems, from our client QNX. The BlackBerry Tablet OS is built on the QNX® Neutrino® microkernel architecture, one of the most reliable, secure and robust operating system architectures in the world, used to support mission-critical applications in everything from planes, trains and automobiles to medical equipment and the largest core routers that run the Internet.
We'll be blogging about the buzz at CTIA all week, so stay tuned.
The survey includes feedback from 132 marketing executives across several industries. Not a huge number of respondents, but okay, so let's see what they say.
Looking at expected marketing budget allocations over the next two or three years, 67% of respondents expect to spend more on social media. Digital comes in second at 64% and PR at 61%.
I'm not sure how marketers separate those three things in their minds--social media, PR and digital are very much intertwined these days. For example, I don't think most companies view social media as totally distinct from PR anymore. But you get the idea--these are three areas of anticipated growth.
TV and radio will continue to take a hit, it seems, with 74% of marketers cutting budgets. It makes sense if you consider that social and digital can be more carefully targeted toward desired audiences and that PR is increasingly measurable and more of a precision instrument than it was even just a few years ago.
Looking at the question of digital marketing, Booz finds that 87% of those surveyed want to build deeper insights into their client bases. (I'm not exactly sure what the other 13% would like to do--presumably distancing themselves from their clients isn't part of the overall game plan.) Developing custom content is important to 82% of those surveyed and to fully 90% of those classified as "marketing leaders."
It seems that content has quietly but quickly asserted itself as core to the marketing mix. Companies have obviously figured out that they have to be self-sufficient when it comes to telling their stories--they can't really count on anyone else doing it for them and it's necessary fuel for many a social media program.
We all like to think of ourselves as "marketing leaders," right? So how do these numbers compare to what you've got planned?
The image above is copyrighted by Kev Griffin and covered by a Creative Commons Licence.
Recently in the "You're the Boss" blog on NYTimes.com, Jennifer Walzer, CEO of entrepreneurial tech company Backup My Info!, documented her change of heart when it comes to hiring outside public relations help.
To me, a PR person, this post was fascinating and I give Ms. Walzer a lot of credit for sharing her thought process on a topic that many people make a show of dismissing outright. ("You don't need PR! Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Those people invariably work for companies that I've absolutely never heard of, but that's okay, right? I'm sure they're big in their own worlds.)
Ms. Walzer writes: "You may remember one of my posts from last year in which I talked about not needing a public relations firm because we were getting plenty of media coverage organically. Well, as I looked back on that coverage recently, I realized that it was more focused on me as a business owner than on the company and the team. And right now, I'm so busy building the company, training new employees, and managing my pregnancy that I haven't had time to seek speaking and interview opportunities."
This situation, in which an entrepreneur has had some PR success but needs to devote more time to running the business and to life in general, is a common one for many Schwartz clients. Or maybe something's happened--a competitor is starting to become more visible in the marketplace, the firm is about to achieve a substantial milestone and is ready to talk to a broader audience or industry analysts are telling the company that they're referring it to their own clients, who respond that they've "never heard of them"--and it becomes clear that they need to step it up on the PR front.
Social networking has obviously greased the skids for many smaller companies because it can allow them to attain a decent level of visibility by working through friends, and friends of friends. I've had CEOs tell me that they know it's time to hire a professional because they've tapped out their personal networks.
Have you seen the movie "Finding Nemo"? If so, you'll remember the last scene, in which a group of tropical fish have greatly exerted themselves to get out of their aquarium and make it to the ocean. Each has rolled its way across a busy street protected by a water-filled plastic bag and plopped into the ocean. Nice escape! Yet they're still in their bags, bobbing around. "Now what?" one asks.
The company that's worked hard to handle PR on its own, doing what it can when it can, seeing what's possible and being tantalized by it, but really not knowing what to do next, is a good candidate for hiring an external PR firm.
Ms. Walzer came to the decision that now's the time, but was worried about "shelling out money without any guarantee of performance." If I were her, I'd wonder about results, too--any executive would. In her case, she chose to evaluate the number of speaking engagements or media interviews her agency secured over a relatively short period of time. Some of the people who commented on the Times' blog entry noted that a PR person with a decent amount of experience in the client's industry can simply call in favors or work through established contacts to nail those numbers.
Of course they can. The real value of that project is helping the client get a feel for whether they work well with the PR team. Many companies can achieve a certain set of initial results from any number of firms, but stick around because they feel confident in their team over time--they become "sold" on the people and their ability to answer the "now what?" question, not just schedule a few interviews.
Once the PR team is past that "getting to know you" period and has established some confidence in their skills in generating an initial volley of whatever flavor of results the company is looking for, the question becomes "how extensive is your repertoire?" Just as the entrepreneur worked through her network and then hit a wall, will the PR team stop producing once past those first few months?
PR success over the long term rides on a number of factors and the effort that the PR team puts forth on your company's behalf to hit those initial metrics is only one of them. Here are just a few that come to mind for me:
1. PR team's ability to tell a great story--Running a solid PR program requires that you understand where your company fits against the much broader backdrop of your industry, as well as knowing what stories journalists want to tell. The New York Times did not give a small company an opportunity to talk about data backup; they gave a CEO the chance to explain how she changed her mind about an important business decision. Understanding that those are two totally different stories, but that both lead Times readers to http://www.backupmyinfo.com, is the PR person's job.
2. Willingness of your customers to validate your company's claims--The VP of marketing for a tech company is not, unfortunately, a highly credible media source. But his customers are, so the challenge is to get those customers to tell your company's story for you.
3. Nature of your technology--The tech industry goes through phases, as we're all well aware, and when a technology is hot, the PR team is going to have more tools at its disposal. Without a doubt, it's their job to help mundane technologies seem interesting, but that's a tall order when you're selling something like OEM components. PR success for that OEM is simply going to look different than PR success for other firms. Setting expectations properly is critical.
4. Client's ability to deliver--Even companies with a hot technology and enthusiastic customers can flub PR if they don't respond to their PR team in a timely manner. Any delay--whether it's getting a journalist information they've asked for, delivering products on time, producing a knowledgeable spokesperson for commentary or rising above internal politics and making a decision--causes the program to lose momentum. Many companies fail to appreciate how integral their active participation is to PR success.
5. PR agency's understanding of industry changes--PR, like every profession, evolves. I'd say that we're in the midst of what might, at some point in the future, appear to be a lurch forward brought about by changes in the media world and by the use of social technologies. If you remember your geology or evolutionary biology classes, you know about punctuated equilibrium--the theory that change happens slowly, but then the rate speeds up for a period of time. It's pretty clear that PR is changing quickly right now and your agency's ability to keep up with or lead it can play a part in your success.
What items have you found to be important over the long term when handling PR internally or working with an agency?
My post last week that highlighted the most overused words in a press releases was very well received. Since so many of you liked it, I decided to take it a step further and turn the top 25 buzzwords into Buzzword Bingo cards. I didn’t want to slight anyone, so I created one card based on Sherk’s recent post, and the other card based on David Meerman Scott’s post from last year.
Here they are for your viewing and reading pleasure. May you never complete a bingo!
I remember a time when everything was a robust, scalable, enterprise-wide, mission-critical, client/server, WYSIWYG, CORBA development solution with OLE.
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but there are definitely words that have been overused when it comes to press releases. In some cases, these words have been so overused, their meaning is completely devalued to the point the eye skips over them.
Recently one my clients sent me a link to a great post from Adam Sherk on The Most Overused Buzzwords and Marketing Speak in Press Releases. He did some great analysis of words overused in press releases for the past year. His post also reminded me of a David Meerman Scottpost on the topic from last year.
The lists are useful, but different people learn in different ways.
I decided to take Sherk’s list and turn it into a word cloud of the most overused words in PR. I weighted everything based on the actual frequency of appearance. To me the word cloud really drives home how some words are so overused they lose their meaning completely, even more than a list of the words.
So without further ado, the word cloud of the most overused words in press releases.
I applauded the effort, but didn't blog about it at the time, because it just seemed like common sense and the way Schwartz has been conducting public relations on behalf of our clients for years. As the Schwartz Communications Research Group continues to grow, though, I did want take a minute to chime in.
Some of the principles have always been the essential foundation of what we do as an agency and as responsible practitioners.
Measure results not activity
Quantify business impact when you can
Social media should be measured
AVEs (ad value equivalencies) don't measure PR
I was a bit surprised by the ordering of some of the other Principles as I have found more clients focus on message delivery/inclusion and would put that above tone. Typically, I would want to segment by message and then tone rather than the reverse.
These principles are essential for showing the true impact of public relations. Many practitioners talk about wanting a seat at the table. At Schwartz I have found we get our seat at the table by providing strategic counsel; showing the business impact of PR; understanding business drivers and challenges; and presenting creative ideas that support the business objectives.
I was recently speaking with a young man heading off to college to study engineering. I reminded him there are two key things every engineer needs to remember:
1) F=ma 2) You can’t push on a rope
I wish PR had a formula as easy as F=ma for calculating impact. But then I realized engineers don’t either.
For them impact is calculated: P=(Fimpact2L/2AE)=(m2σ2gh/LAE)=(m2gh/LAρ)=mgh
Just like there is no one measurement formula for impact, there is no one solution for PR measurement. What measurement is right for your company depends on your business objectives. Align measurement at the start of every engagement and measure results and you are off to a good start.
More companies are turning to Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels every day for customer service. When it is done well it creates engagement and a deeper bond with a dissatisfied customer. It can also help publicly turn a dissatisfied customer into an advocate. It also saves money compared to call center operations.
These are all good reasons for using social media for customer service. By the key phrase in the above paragraph is “when it is done well.” Too often companies are not following through on their promises or not creating useful feedback. Paul Gillin wrote about it recently here.
I have my own story to share. It is with the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego and Starwood Hotels. I was at the hotel last week and was grabbing breakfast before a client meeting. The dining room was less than half full. My colleague and I ordered eggs. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting. We really needed to leave then to make the client meeting on time, but we figured if we drove fast, we would still be OK.
We saw the waiter and asked “Excuse me, do you know if our breakfast will be coming soon?” The waiters helpful reply “I don’t know, if you care so much, why don’t you go in the kitchen and ask the chef.”
To say I was displeased with the response (and the service) is an understatement. I tweeted it out, and within an hour had a response from @StarwoodBuzz “@McClennan Sorry to hear about breakfast. If you DM us your stay details, we can follow up with the hotel for you.”
This was a perfect, textbook response and I was quite pleased. I shared the details with Starwood. They respond and asked me to follow them so they can DM back – even though no sensitive information is being shared, and if they lead with @McClennan, likely only I can see it.
The next day, I get a DM response “Thank you. I'm sending off your comments to the hotel so this can be improved 4 future guests. Pls DM if you wish to include your email add.”
There are a number of things wrong with that.
First, in business communications, there is no need to use “4”. We are engaged in a professional discourse. Second, it sounded from the first message that they were going to “follow up with the hotel for me” (i.e. do something about the situation). The personal message basically says, we will let the hotel know there is a complaint. Thanks. Bye.
I don’t need them to do that. I know how to call a manager, tweet and blog myself. Starwood Hotels failed by not providing a meaningful discussion once they engaged. I provided my email as requested, it’s been a week and I have not yet received a response from the hotel.
The end result? 1) A positive social media engagement turned sour and 2) The next time I am in San Diego, I will be staying in a Hilton.
What lessons can marketers, consumer and services public relations professionals take from this?
It is essential to listen to all social media channels, so you can address negative situations.
Listening isn’t enough – If you engage, you need to provide meaningful resolutions or you can do more harm than good.
Use DMs appropriately. Financial institutions and other regulated industries should use DMs. Hotels should not use DMs for form responses.
Over the weekend, I finished reading Gallipoli by Alan Moorehead. It was an engrossing, powerful read. For those not familiar with Gallipoli, it was a major campaign in World War I involving the British, French, and ANZAC invading a Turkish peninsula. It is a defining moment in Turkish history. In total more than 130,000 people died and there were more than 500,000 casualties. It was also a campaign fraught with missed opportunities.
As I was reading it, I could not help but draw comparisons to some common public relations mistakes that are still being made today. While I know there are perils of adopting military campaigns to business, there are a few lessons that I thought would be good to share.
Don’t be blinded by the new way of doing things—New technology is great, but it rarely completely replaces proven systems. In the case of Gallipoli, some British Generals took the new lessons learned in France and made them the only way to do things, without adapting them to the local setting. They refused to advance without strong artillery (which they didn’t have) even though there were no trenches and few opposing forces. As a result, they gave the Turkish Army time to dig trenches and bring in more forces.
The same can be applied to communications. Social media is empowering. It is an essential component of great communications in the modern communications era. Without it, companies are missing great opportunities and their campaigns won’t be as powerful. But traditional media, influencers, mavens, messaging and listening still apply. Don’t be blinded and only pay attention to the shiny object, or you will miss opportunities. Make sure your communications campaign is designed for your specific needs, and not a cookie-cutter “Social Media Scenario #1.”
If you wait for every “i” to be dotted, you will lose – Careful planning and strategy is essential to any communications campaign (particularly consumer PR), but planning at the expense of decisive action is a recipe for failure. The same applies to communications. Careful research and strategy is essential. But there is always one more question that can be asked. There is the temptation to wait for the perfect opportunity (brand name customer reference, analyst data, etc.,) but those situations are few and far between. You need to find ways to communicate effectively without having everything you need.
Don’t be dissuaded by setbacks and changes– The British were dissuaded a number of times when they could have had decisive victory by a minor setback or something not going exactly to plan. We do not operate in a static world, and plans will change. As communications professionals, we need to adapt to those changes and continue forward. Don’t overreact to minor announcements from competitors or allow them to change your overall strategy. Focus on your goal and keep driving to it. You win by moving forward, not by retreating or moving laterally. The same applies to communications and public relations campaigns.
Trust your people – There were times in the invasion when the senior managers were well removed from the front and couldn’t react to a changing and fluid situation. Even more telling, the junior officers were trained not to move without command from superiors. As a result, there were numerous examples of when the British opened an unopposed new front, but did not advance, because the staff on the ground waited for orders. The opportunities were lost.
The same holds true in communications. Managers need to avoid becoming logjams. Trust your staff and encourage them to seize any opportunity they see. If you train them well, you will avoid the careless mistakes. But if every small decision must be centrally approved, you will miss many great opportunities.
Earlier this week, the Publicity Club of New England recognized the best public relations and social media campaigns and tactics of the past year. The Bell Ringer judges were senior practitioners from Chicago and Boston.
Schwartz is proud that we have continued the tradition of being recognized with more Bell Ringer Awards for work we have done with our clients than any other PR Agency in New England.
Most gratifying to us this year is that we won 10 Gold Bells for our clients, and that Schwartz was recognized for having the two best campaigns of the year, winning both Gold and Silver Bells, for its work in the business-to-business, healthcare and high-tech public relations categories.
When asked by many, how do we continue to win so many awards, we believe it is based on two key elements:
1) As a strategic communications firm, we understand that we don’t succeed by ourselves. Schwartz works closely with our clients to make sure our communications, content and public relations activities help them realize their business objectives. It is this close relationship, senior level involvement and comprehensive approach - including social media, content marketing and inbound marketing services - that help our programs succeed.
2) We don’t expect our clients (or Bell Ringer judges) to measure our work based on the “thud factor”, or in social media Thud 2.0. Our work, and our award entries, are judged on how we helped public relations close the loop with sales, patient recruitment or other business objectives.
For the 2010 Bell Ringer Awards, this ranged from driving qualified leads from trade articles to creating enough demand to crash one client’s servers. It included driving hundreds of patient inquiries to cutting consumer misperceptions in half. It is based on helping drive hundreds of thousands in product sales to opening new channels with key prospects.
We are proud of the work of our employees and our clients. If you have any questions about how we can help your company, let us know.
Strong month for the Schwartz team with a SABRE Award in "Research for Publicity" for its work with Javelin Strategy & Research.
The Schwartz team and Javelin combined professional and social media to promote Javelin's annual identity fraud report, increasing media coverage 126 over previous years, and a whopping 97 percent of all articles emphasizing at least two key messages.
In addition to Javelin, some terrific clients were honored with nominations: medical device company Bioness, antivirus and desktop security software provider ESET and boutique healthcare investment services provider Leerink Swann. Although they didn't take home trophies, it's the first time Schwartz has emerged with four finalists in the SABRES and the work remains outstanding.
There's a great case study on Schwartz's work with Bioness, including a campaign that delivered $4M in sales leads. Check it out!
The classic 80s movie “When Harry Met Sally” follows two people through the years, originally stuck together for a Chicago-to-New York drive, then by chance bumping into each other and finally into love and a long relationship.
This is not unlike what we've seen happen with marketing and sales. Anyone with tenure in the business world knows that these two organizations need to be brilliantly in love and joined at the hip, moving together or else stumbling separately.
There was a time where a great “story” got ink and everyone was happy. Pump up the volume. But now, every good business is looking to connect the sales impact of initiatives, in marketing, public relations, everywhere. Many chief marketing officers are now experts in inbound lead generation, in addition to the traditional staple of brand, awareness and visibility. And the real magic is where they intersect, with one driving the other.
Today’s announcement of Schwartz's partnership with HubSpot is another great example of the transformational work we’ve been doing for years: tying storytelling to sales at all turns, and even rejecting stories that may seem to have cool headlines, but don’t move a needle on any measurable front.
Some of the most interesting work Schwartz is doing for its clients today is what we’ve dubbed “closed loop communications” --- being able to execute a strategy that loops directly into inbound marketing efforts. We’re creating content of interest, optimizing and pushing it out with professional and social media relations, search marketing and other services. That in turn is driving awareness, measured in web traffic and leads. Then we're reporting back on exactly what’s working, who’s looking and what’s prompting action in a client’s communities.
At Schwartz, we’ve nailed an outstanding strategy and process for doing this through many different types of approaches, tactics and tools, including inbound web marketing (leveraging HubSpot), digital video content (including some brilliant video marketing solutions from Visible Gains) and other strands. Whether you're in healthcare, technology, cleantech or consumer, we understand your business and the right mix of levers to pull, buttons to push, and people to influence to deliver tremendous impact.
The best meal on the menu is closed loop public relations. Order it.
In the bad days of PR measurement, some PR professionals would try to impress clients (or bosses) with the ‘Thud factor’ how big and heavy a clip book could they drop on a desk. It was all about volume, circulation and hits. But as KD Paine says, HITS stands for “How Idiots Track Success.” This lead some to focus on quantity rather than quality and to some inflated circulation and reach figures that didn't tie back in to core business objectives.
At Schwartz, and at many other firms and organizations, we focus on measuring outcomes and results. Impact and Influence are core. What business impact did our PR programs have?
Yes, we use measures such as share of voice and key message penetration. We look at conversion, change in consumer perception, increase in Web traffic, increase in searches and other metrics. These are elements of good PR measurement that have a tie back to business results. Many of these have a direct correlation.
But now I am seeing the poor measurement of yesterday rearing its ugly head in the social media world of today.
I call it Thud 2.0.
Instead of ‘hits’ the new Thud factor is “How many followers/fans” do you have. The bigger the better. People are flexing their social media muscle and getting out the measuring tape.
Of course, they are measuring the wrong thing.
At the Social Media Club Boston meeting Thursday last night, EMC, Vico Software, IDG and other companies showed us how they are measuring the right thing. Most impressive was Holly Allison. She handles public relations and marketing for Vico Software ( a company that makes software for commercial construction). She was showing how her efforts worked throughout the sales funnel and how they translated directly into sales. Yet she seemed apologetic for having such small followers or visits. She is selling to a much smaller B2B universe. The business results were impressive, so it doesn’t matter how big the bicep is…
The SMC session was an interesting contrast to a talk by Paul Gillin with the Mass Technology Leadership Council the day before. He exposed how many B2B executives with whom he speaks are still just looking at the Thud factor when it comes to social media. (Aside from a few that are showing a direct tie to more effective recruiting).
I plan to be writing much more on measurement in the coming months, but I wanted to start it off with a simple call to action. Resist Thud 2.0.
Make sure your social media efforts are tied to business results. Don’t become obsessed with followers. Look at how engaged they are. Do they click through to your Web site? Respond to tweets? Praise you to others? Purchase products?
The goal of social media for business should not be trying to see if you can be the most popular kid in school.
Last Friday The New York Times ran an illuminating feature on women in the technology world. "Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley" describes a tech and VC community that's perhaps not been overly welcoming to women. An excerpt:
"Tech communities in Silicon Valley and in other hubs -- like New York, Austin, Tex., and Boston ... -- pride themselves on operating as raw meritocracies ready to embrace anyone with a good idea, regardless of education, age or station in life.
"For women, though, that narrative often unfolds differently."
I'll pause right there and note that I almost didn't read this article because I figured I already knew what it would say. It's not that I think the issue must be avoided or that there is, in fact, no issue at all. It's just that I already know that men are well represented in the tech world and I don't need the Times to confirm it for me. I've long felt that I'm here to do a particular job and if I'm doing it for companies comprised mostly of men, marketing to people who are mostly men, so be it.
For example, I've never been one to attend women's networking events or to seek out interaction with people just because they're women. There's always a group of junior coworkers who I'm paying extra attention to at any given time and trying to help in some way, but I know I've not tried to "mentor" more women than men. Call me naive, but I'd rather not get too caught up in whether the person I'm working with is male or female--there's a finite number of hours in the day and I'd prefer to put my focus on the collaboration at hand.
So I don't think I'm particularly obtuse, but I just didn't feel like reading the Times article on women in high tech. I relented only because I felt I should read it simply to be informed, the same way I should be informed about the Google security breach or IBM's earnings. Here's what struck me:
- 35 percent of database administrators ARE women.
- 22 percent of network administrators ARE women.
- 20 percent of programmers and software engineers ARE women.
Those numbers are dismal, you're thinking. And in the grand scheme of things, they are. But to me they were eye-opening because I've had companies that market products to these people--to DBAs, to network or system administrators, to developers--tell me, literally, that these people are essentially all men. (Of course I know they're not all men. But I'd have believed that the numbers would've been similar to the figure below for women in hardware engineering, for example, at about eight percent.)
Acknowledging that a small but still significant percentage of potential customers are women--discontinuing the practice of assuming the prospects are just about all men--seems like a smart move for marketers of business technology.
So what does this mean in practical terms? My most basic observation is that as they move money from traditional advertising toward more personal interactions via social media and social networks, tech marketers have got to be in a better position to reach potential customers, partners and employees who are women. (Advertising from IT companies, when it exists, features images of guys in suits jumping over stuff, guys in suits shaking hands or stoic-looking guys keeping watch over servers, or it makes something of an attempt to be gender-neutral by showing the product or an abstract image.)
When it comes to PR, I think about tactics like arranging for clients speak to local groups of Java developers, for example, or Oracle database administrators. Those meetings have been successful vehicles for clients to make connections with potential customers. But knowing that people who have children are less likely to attend networking events in the evening than people who don't, and understanding that most women with children who work outside the home don't have stay-at-home husbands, one might assume that evening networking events may not draw as many women as, say, mid-day events.
I wonder whether this shift away from one-to-many toward one-to-one allows tech marketers to start targeting a small but still meaningful percentage of their potential customers in a more thoughtful, and successful, manner.
Today in advance of its Chirp Conference, stories appeared about how Twitter was going to start offering promoted tweets in 2010. People are commenting - What does this mean? Has Twitter flown the coop? Will fan backlash cause it to soon be singing in the Choir Invisible?
I for one am glad to see at least one way in which Twitter is monetizing its service. Despite what some companies have done, you can only go so far without positive cash flow. What does this mean to the average user?
Probably not that much.
A random, I mean highly targeted, Tweet will be inserted into a user's Twitter stream (not sure what that will do to my multiple TweetDeck stream). Initially they will only appear as a result of Twitter search. Ads/sponsored tweets will be removed if they don’t generate much engagement.
For those that follow a lot of people (like I do), that sponsored tweet may fly right by. For those that follow a few folks (which appears to be the majority of people not in marketing, PR or social media) it might be an unexpected interruption. But people will gloss over it quickly.
Reports have it that only one ad will appear at a time. This may make it difficult for the niche marketers. While I have a passion for personal financial management software, I also love soda and coffee, and expect Starbucks to trump any PFM vendor in terms of volume and response, relegating the PFM ads, I mean sponsored tweets, to much less frequent appearance.
What are some key takeaways for consumer technology, green and B2B marketers and PR professionals.
This is a new and intriguing way to leverage the Twitter channel to drive some short-term engagement and customer response.
Sponsored tweets are not a replacement for authentic, two-way conversations. They may help attract a new audience in a flock, but the audience will not necessarily be loyal, remain engaged or start to follow you. The only way to do that is through interaction and providing value beyond a deal of the day.
The sponsored tweets could be a good complement to existing initiatives and crisis communications campaigns. (I can foresee a day when Toyota uses a sponsored Tweet in the future to spread the word about its response to customer concerns).
This will benefit the brands that have an established Twitter presence. Do not think of this as a solution for building a long-term, loyal, base. You need to reach out to folks to do that, not expect them to reach out to you.
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.
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.
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.
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?
He describes how the agency, which serves established and entrepreneurial businesses in industries that include healthcare, technology, cleantech and professional services, performed over the past year and notes that our diversification across industries, lack of reliance of a handful of big clients for revenue, and ability to span social and traditional media at a time when many agencies push one over the other were sources of strength in 2009.
Bryan also answers questions about agency and client PR workloads in 2010 and notes that the recession has forced both ends of the PR team to focus on the highest value activities--those that help bring sales leads, drive website visits and close sales.
Most technology innovators are eager for positive, on-message media coverage to build their brands, drive sales leads or support other business goals. But unless you're already a tech industry behemoth, getting consistent, repeated media coverage across a variety of publications and channels takes some creativity, a fair amount of knowledge of what makes a good story and a ton of persistence.
When a technology company has before it an opportunity to work with a journalist, blogger or other influential individual, they're going to want to make that interaction as perfect as possible. Right?
You'd think so, but technology companies torpedo their chances of securing media coverage by doing, or by failing to do, some pretty elemental things. These mistakes have nothing to do with faulty communications strategy or going to the wrong journalist with the wrong story. They're more basic and they're pervasive in some companies' PR programs. Maybe the belief that the problems are small makes some people underappreciate their impact, but they kill coverage all the time.
The good news, then, is that they're fully within the tech company's control and doing this stuff right can make a huge difference in PR results. If the PR team detects these problems as they're occurring, they're remiss if they don't point them out, but ultimately only the tech company can fully correct these media relations errors.
1. Fail to provide a spokesperson. Your PR person has possibly just walked through walls to get a journalist to agree to talk with your company's expert. That reporter wants to hear from one of your smart people and if your industry is driven by breaking news, he needs to hear from that person minutes from now. In some cases, we may have the luxury of a couple of hours or days to provide an expert source. In either case, any small to mid-sized tech firm should be able to get an informed spokesperson on the phone quickly.
2. Neglect to prepare for the conversation. Your PR team will give you information about the blogger or journalist before your interview and tell you what she's been covering lately. You want to look at this information before, not during, the conversation. And there's no substitute for spending a little time reading the reporter's recent articles yourself. You'll feel more confident during the interview and be in a good position to give the journalist information that she'll find useful.
3. Miss scheduled briefings. Everyone's busy. Everyone also has a mobile device that allows them to contact their PR team before missing a briefing. Journalists are as stretched as anyone and we have to respect their time. Along those lines, we need to plan ahead to conduct the interview from an area with a decent cell connection and low background noise. Anything else will guarantee that the reporter will get off the phone with us at the earliest possible moment.
4. Respond on your own timetable. Media relations success is largely about being in the right place at the right time. A big part of that is understanding that reporters work on deadlines that are anything but leisurely; we have to conform to deadlines or forfeit coverage. It's hard for everyone involved, but if options are "I'm in the story" and "my competitor is in the story," priorities become a little clearer.
5. Decline to provide photos or graphics. Technology media are increasingly interested in telling stories that have a visual component. Your PR team should work with you to anticipate these needs, but when requests come for something we don't have on hand, know that providing it can mean the difference between coverage and exclusion from the story. Particularly when all that's required is a photo of the new executive, there's no reason for not being able to quickly provide one. Grab your camera and get it done.
6. Refuse to discuss pricing. Everyone who works in the B2B technology industry understands that there's no set price for anything and that stuff tends to be pretty expensive. And you didn't invent volume discounts--journalists understand the concept. So we need to have an answer to the elemental question, "how much does this cost?" Some journalists can't or won't cover our story without being able to say "pricing starts at ...."
7. Talk about confidential material and then ask the reporter not to use it. The #1 rule of media relations is "don't say anything you don't want to see in print." It's unfair to journalists to give them information that you later ask them not to use. They generally don't want to see you get into trouble, but you, in turn, should understand that it's a problem for them to not use material that they consider interesting. Don't put them or yourself into this painful position--if your PR team has asked you not to talk about how that big customer is using your product and about to toss the big vendor out on his ear, don't do it.
8. Decline to discuss competitors. Maybe we truly don't have any, but most tech companies do. We don't need to offer up information about competitors, but if asked, we do need a coherent answer. Your PR team will work with you to think through how to answer this question, but flat-out refusing to address it makes it hard for the reporter to cover you because he needs to be able to place your company, particularly if it's small, into some larger context. Really, we should view questions about competitors as opportunities to talk about who we're challenging.
9. Ask to review the article prior to publication. Some journalists will allow you to take a peek at quotes, but most will not. And protests about having been misquoted in the past aren't that convincing, so the key here is to work with your PR team before the interview to think critically about the messages you want to convey and then take care not to go off on a tangent. Normally if we prepare for conversations and stay focused, we will come out of interviews feeling comfortable, not worried about what we said and how it might have been interpreted.
10. Speak in PowerPoint. Reporters and bloggers don't want a canned presentation--they want information that's tailored for them. Your PR people should tell you that using a PPT for media briefings is generally discouraged. Nothing says "I've had this conversation with all your competitors" like reliance on canned information.
11. Be boring, ramble, speak in monotone or otherwise fail to sell. Your PR team will help you understand what the journalist wants to learn about, how much time she has and what messages you need to deliver. It's then on the spokesperson to seal the deal by offering informed and timely conversation. Spokespeople from most companies should adopt the mindset, because it's nearly always true, that they need the journalist more than the journalist needs them and that the interview is not going to be an intellectual give and take. The spokesperson's job is to inform or educate the journalist and to convince her that this subject is worth her time. Make it interesting or expect to hear from your PR team that the reporter will "keep the information on file."
12. Assume the relationship is personal. Journalists value connections to people at tech companies if and only if those connections yield useful information. Perhaps they included us in an article or two, and that's great, but the challenge is to keep coming back with fresh info. If we cease to provide that, we should expect to be left off the short list of companies to include in stories going forward.
Your PR team, whether they're inside your company or with an agency, should be working to keep you on the straight and narrow in all these areas. You can help your technology company eke out every last bit of media coverage if you understand that these little mistakes can have a significant impact on your coverage.
Technology companies that don't blog but know they should often ask where, exactly, they should blog. Should it be a part of the corporate website or kept separate on a platform like TypePad or Blogger?
Here are the basic factors that I take into account when I get this query:
- Most blogs, and hopefully all of those run by companies, have clear themes. If the general topics that the blog explores are in line with the messages that the business is trying to disseminate, it makes a lot of sense to have the blog on the company website and not hosted somewhere else. Readers will be able to easily jump from your blog to other resources that live on your website and vice versa.
- Plus, if you know you've got great stuff to say and think others might even want to link to your blog, having those inbound links pointing to your website and not to a site like TypePad should, over time, help elevate your site in the eyes of search engines. That's not likely to be the case immediately, but if you go with a blogging platform now--maybe you think it'll be more convenient--and figure you'll move your posts over to your company's website later, don't expect hard-earned links to follow you.
On the other hand, there are perfectly good reasons for separating the company website and blog:
- If your blog will focus on a brand that you're marketing to a different audience than the group of people who typically visit your website, you may do well to have the blog separate from the website and just link to one from the other. In this case, you may benefit (from branding and SEO standpoints) from being able to choose a different domain name and from being able to promote two distinct information resources. This arrangement makes sense if a company is trying to raise awareness of a medical condition, for example, but not promote its own products. It may also be the best course if an open source project has a large and active community apart from the project's corporate sponsor.
- Perhaps people from outside of your company regularly contribute to your blog and need to make clear that they're not too closely affiliated with the business. A situation such as this, where the blog may be viewed as a community resource--albeit one funded and largely driven by one vendor--may also be a good candidate for being hosted separately from the corporate site.
- If the blog isn't a company resource per se, but is really the CEO's or CTO's latest thoughts on a range of topics, it's likely best to host the blog elsewhere and just link to it from the company website.
In sum, I think the blog is best housed in the corporate website for the convenience of readers and to support SEO and branding unless the company intends the blog for a slice of its normal audience, has a specific need to separate brands or wants to underscore that an exec's musings are purely his or her own.
I'm a technology PR person and, as you'd expect, I read a lot. Most days, however, I don't have time to look at blogs that won't give me readily usable information. So lately I've been sorting out the stuff I really must read from sites that provide food for thought, but are maybe a little more academic or philosophical.
I thought I'd share a short list of blogs that I believe consistently give readers relevant, immediately usable information about B2B marketing and PR.
1. Social Media B2B--I recommend this one to clients every time I get the chance. One or two posts a day, many with an eye toward lead generation. This blog's total devotion to B2B is impressive; I think they know their audience well.
2. Journalistics--Practical insight into how media relations is really practiced today. (And no, it doesn't begin with a Vocus or Cision list.) If I were managing a PR agency or in-house program, I'd read this to help gauge whether my team was keeping pace with changes in the media and in PR.
3. B2B Ideas@Work Blog--If you like HubSpot and the concept of inbound marketing, as do a number of Schwartz clients, you'll be interested in this ad agency's blog.
4. CK's Blog--Help for traditional marketers who need a guide on getting going with social media and making it integral to their programs.
5. Social Media Today--Essential (yes, really) compilation of posts on all aspects of social media from dozens of bloggers. Theory plus execution ... what could be better?
Last week analyst Sean Corcoran of Forrester Research led off a social media roundtable hosted by Schwartz Communications in our Boston office and moderated by agency vice president John Moran. The roundtable also included three marketers from high tech and healthcare companies who shared their real world experiences implementing social media techniques integrated with their PR programs.
Social media is very real and marketers need to pay attention to it. According to Corcoran, four out of five online Americans now participate in social media each month. While marketers are optimistic about social media, Forrester found that it’s still only a fraction of budgets, with three-quarters of marketers budgeting $100,000 or less to social media marketing annually.
Having said all this, Corcoran cautioned against “Shiny Object Syndrome” when thinking about social media. If you’ve told your agency, “We need a social media program,” without knowing exactly how social media will help you meet your marketing goals, you’ve been infected with Shiny Object Syndrome – the pursuit of social media because it’s the latest marketing buzzword.
Corcoran advised that marketers resist Shiny Object Syndrome and instead assess their needs so they can adopt social media approaches that make sense. He recommended an approach he calls POST:
People – Assess your customers’ social activities
Objectives – Decide what you want to accomplish
Strategy – Plan for how relationships with customers will change as you engage in social media
Technology – Decide which social technologies to use
He also advised that marketers start small with social media and get some successes under their belts before expanding into new areas. At the same time, recognize that social media is a long-term strategy, not a campaign that you can turn on and off.
Andrew Levitt, founder and CEO of HealthTalker, recommended that marketers start with a strategy, not a social media strategy. Set specific goals and objectives. If a community exists where you can join the conversation, then join in, but if not, create your own.
Mary Pietrowski, director of consumer & e-marketing for Hologic, another Schwartz client, showed a great example of building community. Hologic created Voices of Mammosite to educate women about the advantages of partial breast irradiation as a treatment for breast cancer. The videos on the site profile women who’ve survived breast cancer, speaking directly to other women about their experiences. It’s a fascinating site and an award-winning social media program.
Matt Hines, marketing communications manager at CoreSecurity, brought a B2B perspective to the round table. Blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn are all key technologies that have helped CoreSecurity engage with customers and prospects. For instance, he noted that blogs are a great medium when you want to comment about major news in your market, like the acquisition of a competitor, without formally issuing a release.
Click here to download a PDF file of the presentations given by our speakers. Browse through the Schwartz blogs for more ideas about how to use social media in your PR program at www.schwartz-pr.com/blogs.
This week at the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo, analysts offered some hope to high tech marketers whose budgets have been trimmed during the recession. According to Gartner, the IT market hit bottom in 2009 and will start to slowly climb out of the trough in 2010 with a 3.3% increase in IT spending. However, IT spending won't rebound quickly. Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's global head of research, predicts that the market will not recover to 2008 levels until 2012. Technologies at the top of IT's agenda include cloud services, business intelligence, virtualization and social media.
This is good news for tech marketers caught in the budget squeeze mandated by investors and corporate boards when the recession accelerated. The challenge for marketers now is to position their companies to charge out of the recession in a stronger, more competitive position.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the bottom of the market is the right time to rev up your PR and digital marketing. Why? Because your competitors are also constrained by tight marketing budgets. The company that bets on growth and invests in marketing now will get more attention while the competition is quiet.
Right now PR and digital marketing are all about smart, creative approaches. Here are a few tips:
- Tap into relevant communities rather than investing in building your own. Use tools like Technorati and Radian6 to track social media conversations and figure out where you need to participate.
- Think like a reporter, not a sales person, when you create content for your blog. Attract prospects with useful information that draws inbound links and traffic. Use lots of photos and video, even for technical products.
- Expand your social media circles through blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Turn employees into ambassadors for your company by guiding them to reinforce the corporate brand. Microsoft's advice to thousands of employees who blog about the company: Be smart.
- Recognize the value of "conventional" media. According to the First Amendment Center, traditional media is still the primary news source for 72% of Americans. Traditional media coverage gets widely circulated on social media like Twitter, blogs, even email. It has a huge impact and credibility.
For some interesting examples of investing in marketing during a recession, check out this article by Andrew Razeghi at the Kellogg School of Management: http://tinyurl.com/6562pf.
Here at Schwartz, we've been talking quite a bit lately about measuring results of social media programs. Not just programs we've designed for clients, but those of people who we meet at conferences or with whom we're just chatting.
Without a doubt, many companies are thrilled with their involvement in social media. They love the outlet that participating in blogs or forums gives them, they're able to talk with people on Twitter whom they'd likely otherwise miss and they're connecting with patient communities on Facebook. (One client, Digium, gives us a tour of their use of social networking technologies here to gain "customer feedback, suggestions, highly qualified sales leads" and to talk with people in their industry.)
Some, though, are a little disappointed in social media. When I hear that, my first question is always "what did you hope to gain that you're not seeing?" I often wonder whether they're measuring success based on number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans--today's corporate version of a teenage popularity contest. This would be unfortunate because such metrics are nearly irrelevant for many B2B companies.
PR people need to keep in mind the Cheshire Cat's words of wisdom to Alice: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." It's our job to help clients think through exactly what they're trying to achieve and to recommend use of social platforms because they make sense, not because they exist and are free.
Last week I attended a Mass Technology Leadership Council discussion on social media and lead generation. Mark Roberge, HubSpot's VP of sales, led the talk. Toward the end, he turned the group's attention to measuring social media ROI--certainly a topic of interest to a number of people today. (Some great reads are here, here and here.)
Mr. Roberge talked about website visitors and sales leads--reasonably straightforward things to quantify and important metrics for any B2B company. He also talked about "SEO assets" such as inbound links and improved performance in organic search results. Those things take time to build--perhaps a problem is that some companies look for an immediate impact in this department when it may be more reasonable to expect a change in six months' time.
Just guessing, but I bet some of the letdown that a few companies feel stems from their desire to get something for next to nothing--a measurable impact from use of free technology. Certainly using social technologies is free, but so is calling up The Wall Street Journal or "Good Morning America." Anyone can do it--the question in every case is whether you've got anything interesting to say and can articulate it in something like a compelling manner. In any case, it's your PR person's job to figure it out.
Altogether, these things are a great reminder to me that B2B companies using social media--and their PR people--need to be clear in setting objectives and in understanding the likely timeframe for success.
I have had a couple of interesting conversations lately about the word "start-up."
When I first started in Boston high-tech PR at Schwartz, every company I worked with wanted to be a start-up. There was a romantic allure to being two guys in a garage (in fact I once helped a company with a name that was an acronym for "Guys in a Garage"). It represented an innovative spirit related to cultivating an idea and getting it to market.
The dot-com collapse in the late 1990's spoiled the idea of being a start-up. Suddenly the conventional wisdom made a start-up a risky bet. Many clients opted to be called "growing" or "emerging," rather than a start-up. There was just too much negative connotation around the concept.
Based on recent conversations I have had, however, there is building momentum for a re-emergence of the "start-up." Given the attention to new innovations, the entire entrepreneurial community is pointing to the start-up culture as a good thing. This is especially true within the clean tech market, and also within new data center technologies that focus on efficiencies.
I noticed more start-ups-- young and growing companies-- on the trade show floor at VMworld last week.
What has been clear to me from my years in PR and marketing is that there is always room for new ideas that lead to good companies. Whether you call yourself a start-up or something else, in reality, probably is not the point.
Not sure if I am supposed to give props to a competing agency on this space, but the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) invented by Shift Communications a few years back was a novel idea.
Today, the SMPR means different things to different people:
-- Originally, an SMPR meant content organized online so that it is easily digested by the media. Features are presented in bullets; it's easy to click from content to supporting quotes; and graphics and other content are easy to find to support a story.
-- Some services today describe an SMPR as a press release that is formatted and presented so it is easy to share. A newer example is Pitch Engine, where one finds readily available tools for sharing a release on Facebook, posting a release on Twitter, or using other social media platforms.
-- Certain news distribution services, such as PR Newswire or Business Wire, describe a SMPR as a release that is augmented by multimedia content, including videos or pictures, and a release that includes hyperlinks within the body of the release.
-- Some describe an SMPR as any combination of the above.
The reality is that press releases serve a far greater audience than just the press. Anyone who visits the web can end up reading a press release. Furthermore, since press releases are syndicated by distribution services and are often modified slightly and presented on news web sites, they can have significant SEO value.
The topic of the SMPR was front and center this week, mainly because of a webcast produced by Hubspot that noted how old fashioned press releases, without fancy graphics and presented as just plain text-- are more likely to be syndicated than any form of a SMPR. In addition, Hubspot postulated that the old fashioned releases were better for SEO, since links were more likely carried in the syndicated releases.
The report prompted some debate since Hubspot tried to find away to measure an instrument used in PR-- a marketing function that itself is very hard to measure.
Internally here at Schwartz, we have been debating SMPRs, press release distribution services and the role of a press release for some time. Here are a few points related to the conventional wisdom internally and the discussions this week:
-- Adding visuals or videos to a press release makes the press release more attractive to media and any other audience that views it,
-- For companies especially interested in SEO or web traffic, it's a better course to host visuals, video, graphics, etc. on the company's website, and then link back to the website from the press release,
-- Making the release easier to share is important, and the best press rooms today are those that incorporate tools for sharing content right in the press room,
There is no clear-cut guidance on this issue, and we're experimenting with a number of press release distribution options and press release formats here at Schwartz. If you are interested, keep reading this blog or drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For those of you who may not know Merv, he has been a significant figure in the technology analyst community for many years, first with Giga, and then later Forrester. I first met him when we represented Austin-based Pervasive Software for a number of years shortly after its IPO in the 90s. (Ron Harris was CEO and Rob Adams was the VP of Marketing.) Merv really got our story and had no problems setting us straight on the things we didn't get as we waged war with Oracle and Sybase---both of which were trying to move down into the embedded database market.
Like the best analysts, he never knee-jerked his judgement, and pushed in all the places that hurt with great suggestions for repair.
Anyway, enough memory lane. I encourage you to RSS to Merv's blog and reach out to him. He has a fantastic mind and terrific experience.
And this just in: Merv's BeyeNETWORK channel hits in a week. Stay tuned!