Testing Out Facebook’s New Ad Product: Promoting Posts

As Social Media Specialist at Curry College in Milton, MA, I manage a bunch of Facebook Pages and was recently presented with a cool opportunity from Facebook to participate in a product research study (applicable to just one of the college’s pages – the main, institutional one.) I have dabbled in using ads (mainly ‘Sponsored Stories) on the site, and have experienced solid results driving page likes, and by participating we would receieve a $250 ad credit – a no brainer. Plus I was curious to use the new ad product.

Image

The ad product we would be testing out and providing comments on is called “Promoting Posts.”

Full Promoting Posts PDF Guide.

We had Commencement coming up fast, so I worked with our graphic design department to create a jpg. announcing how our community could use social to interact with each other, friends, family and staff during the ceremony and that we could then post and “promote.” At that time we had been reaching on average 600 people per post (I just created the page in September 2011).  So, I promoted the post for $5.00 and monitored closely (you can promote a post that you’ve created within the past 3 days just by clicking “Promote” under the post.) The promotion runs for 3 days automatically and you can pause or stop the promotion of the post (which can be photos, status updates, offers, videos and questions) before the 3 days are up. From what I saw and was told the promoted post is pushed into more newsfeeds than normal of a pages’ fans and for people interacting with the post (liking it, commenting, sharing etc.), into more of their friends newsfeeds – thereby increasing awareness and hopefully, Actions.

Importantly, when being served up in the newsfeed it’s fairly subtle that it’s a promoted post, as the only sign is the word “Sponsored” displayed under the post.

Also, the post becomes a “Sponsored Story” being displayed in the right hand column with your friend’s names who liked it, commented on it or shared it attached.

Here are the results of the 3-day campaign to promote our “pre-commencement social graphic:” (Note the 19 Actions are just for the post being displayed in newsfeeds, when it was simultaneously served up as a Sponsored Story it received 14 more Actions. You can see these results in the same Campaigns and Ads section in Facebook, and under the first screenshot below.)

So, as you can see we reached more people than average (although, this bump might be explained by Commencement being our biggest event of the year, and the social media call to action) – but Facebook also provides a couple other cool metrics by which to judge the campaign’s success – Click Through Rate (CTR) and Actions. I was happy with the 9.555% CTR and can see promoting an interesting post that points to your website working quite well. In terms of the 33 Actions, I wasn’t as happy, as we’ve experienced many more than that organically on a similar photo post.

At the end of week two I was emailed a brief survey, completed it and was indeed sent the ad coupon code. So, all-in-all I was happy to have participated and if/once this ad product is available for all, I would try it again (especially to see how successfully it works driving folks to our website or a landing page). What do you think? Are there negative implications for a brand paying to promote one of their posts?

Note: I posted the pre-commencement social graphic normally (not using the ad product) one day before promoting it, so the slight discrepancy in likes, comments and 1 share shown in the screen shot above is due to this fact. The total 33 Actions is just for the campaign.

The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age, a report by the FCC

Is it possible to capture how much the information revolution has changed our world?

I was just listening to the weekly radio show On The Media (June 17th 2011 episode), when I heard a segment about the FCC’s recently released 360 page report that OTM calls “one of the most comprehensive overviews of the US media ever produced,” and in its scope, certainly attempts to answer the quote above in the affirmative.

The report, authored by the segment’s guest and head of the project Steven Waldman, is titled The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age.” The project and subsequent report is the product of over two years of work and “600 interviews and workshops held all over the country,” and the findings in my opinion are vastly interesting. I therefore wanted to share the full report and some of its salient findings with you.

First, here are a few key discoveries the project uncovers pertaining to local reporting and digital media:

  • While the media, in general, are rich and vigorous, local reporting has taken a “palpable hit.”
  • Neither old or new media seem to have the resources to hold government accountable (i.e. local accountability reporting.) For example, the report states that 27 states have no reporters in the nation’s capital.
  • Even as information blooms online, journalism’s crucial function as a local watchdog has been stymied.
  • As technology offered people new choices, upending traditional news biz models and causing massive job losses (approx. 13,400 newspaper newsroom positions in just past four years,) gaps in coverage have been created in which even the fast-growing digital world has yet to fill.
  • At a time when digital media is empowering more and more people, there is a countervailing trend occurring where citizens are shifting power to institutions because institutions (govn’t, companies etc.) are in a better position to drive the story-lines.
  • Far from being nearly extinct, the traditional media players (i.e. TV Stations, Newspapers) are the largest providers of local news online.
  • Individual citizens need to be thinking about this issue as an important part of building a better community and better country.

After reading please come back and add your comments below as to what you think of the FCC’s report. Thanks!

Here is the OTM Transcript:

OTM June  17th

Here is the full PDF of the report:

The_Information_Needs_of_Communities

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When it Comes to Digital Literacy, “The Window of Opportunity Is Being Lost”


I was recently turned on to Douglas Rushkoff by a tweet sent out by Mitch Joel, of the highly regarded blog Six Pixels of Separation. Being a recent graduate student in communications and new media, and an ardent admirer of Marshall McLuhan, I was thrilled to find his work.

http://twitter.com/#!/mitchjoel/status/66669238001213441

Rushkoff, an “author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other’s values,” is a brilliant speaker and a master when it comes to making media theory accessible. His ideas on digital technology and our resulting ability to be participant human beings in a digital age are striking.

Therefore, I decided to re-post his November 10th, 2010 talk that he gave at Google. I highly recommend watching the whole thing.

But if you feel you can’t watch it all at once, skip to about 17:25 in the video when Rushkoff discusses the fact digital technology has a “bias” towards time. You’ll be glad you did!

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Marketing Objectives, Strategy and Tactics Made Clear by the Show COPS


Throughout my collegiate career, studying both journalism and PR, I have found that the best way to learn about (and retain) complex and even not-so-complex ideas was to be provided with real-world, pragmatic examples (obviously, an even better route is actually taking part; i.e. experiential learning). But nonetheless, for our present purposes lets discuss the power and clarity of real events/life as examples when it comes to understanding and learning.
market

When we were studying heavy topics such as journalistic law and ethics, the confidentiality of sources and the federal shield law, our kind professor at U-Mass spent a good amount of time discussing Judith Miller and the leak of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.  This real-world example/event contained vivid lessons of the importance of the freedom of the press, the fundamental role the confidentiality of sources plays in journalism’s ability to function as the “watch dog,” and it even illustrated the issues that arise from the mixing (i.e. conglomeration) of corporations and the press. I learned a lot.

A Strategic Approach to Digital Marketing Initiatives

I know from my own experience and casual reading of blogs and articles that the world of digital marketing planning and execution, specifically the steps involving the setting of objectives, strategy and tactics, is a bit murky and can become hard to order. And therefore it ends up detrimentally affecting the overall initiative/campaign.

So, how about a real-world example to shed some light on the differences between marketing objectives, strategy and tactics? This will also hopefully illustrate how these planning steps fit in and build off of each other to equal an effective initiative or program. (I do recognize that there are more steps involved, such as timescales and evaluation, but I want to concentrate here on what I see as the most misunderstood aspects of the planning and managing process).

Bad Boys, Bad Boys…

Two Of Them
As I was watching COPS recently I began to think about the major goal that the two partners had (“making it home safe at the end of the night,” as one cop said), and how they worked to achieve it. I’ll define the objective “making it home safe” as walking through their own doors at the end of their shift, having incurred no personal injury. Soon, I recognized that this specific example would perhaps make the topic of marketing objectives, strategy and tactics a little bit clearer. Lets begin with the two cops’ objective.

Objective (What do the cops want to achieve?):

  • As I mentioned above, these two cops want to make it home safe after willingly immersing themselves in danger all night.

Stakeholders/Publics (Who do they talk to/and who can affect their objective?

  • Criminals, victims, witnesses, the general public. These are all groups of people that define what the police do and can affect the two cops’ objective of making it home safe. Much analysis and research has been done and statistics are available for police brass to consider when developing the protocol (e.g. use harsher methods/communication with criminals than witnesses) that deals with these groups while on the job.

An example of how these stakeholders can affect the objective: The two police officers finally are able to enact a traffic stop after a suspected bank robber leads them on a 90mph chase over 10 miles. Then instead of listening to police commands to lie down face first, the criminal makes a beeline for the nearest bush to hide in or fence to jump over (this example will become clearer in the tactics section, I promise!). By running the criminal puts the cops’ objective at risk. As the cops chase the criminal a neighbor could mistake them for burglars, they could get hit by a car or the suspect could all of a sudden spin around and brandish a weapon etc. Therefore, the cops want to lessen the chance for this uncertainty, this lack of control to occur. Which leads us perfectly to the content of the initiative.

Content (What do our two cops say?):

  • Remember that devising the content of an initiative or program is very specific to the individual situation. For our present example the nature of the “initiative” is mainly one of information (one-way messages with little to no dialogue but that still persuades), so an example of a real message here is “For our safety we are putting you in handcuffs. You are not under arrest.” See how this may influence an individual to comply and importantly, how it’s related to the cops’ main objective? Here is a link to a pretty decent deck that covers developing simple campaign messages.

Strategy (What is the overall approach the two cops take; the rationale behind the tactics?):

  • They act proactively and ask questions only after first squashing the threat. Open communications is key. The issue is safety (even for the criminals themselves), so all actions taken should lessen, in some way, the possible danger to the two cops on their beat and to the general public. So how do the two cops implement this strategy? Tactics is how.

Tactics (What actions do the cops take that compliment each other & the objective?):

  • As I alluded to earlier in the content section, if there is any inkling of danger or uncertainty the handcuffs come out first, then the cops question and search. Questioning and searching are also tactics meant to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved (and specifically, for the two cops).
  • If the cops have information of a serious crime having taken place earlier by a suspect and/or the stop poses a significant risk to the police for any reason (e.g. a weapon is seen), our two cops will enact a “high risk” or what is termed a felony stop. This is different than a “regular” stop because of the tactics used – the cops will pull their gun before approaching, they communicate specific verbal commands and radio the dispatcher of their intent to perform the “high risk” stop (i.e. open communications).
  • The use of the radio: communicating openly and at all times where they are and what actions they are taking is a tactic that is meant to ensure the two cops get home safe. For example, the two partners run into a suspect who they can’t control. They radio dispatch who sends in reinforcements who then help the two cops subdue the criminal, hopefully without anyone getting hurt.
  • Ask everyone for identification. Its safer to know who you’re dealing with right?
  • The use of canine (K9) officers to go in and disable the threat. The use of dogs also prevents the two cops having to rush in themselves to dangerous situations and it then improves their chances of making it home safe.

Hopefully this real-world example has shed some light on the difference between objectives, strategy and tactics and has illustrated the interrelated nature of these salient steps that go into a marketing/PR initiative or program. Do you have any other real-world examples that have helped you understand and learn?

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Market Photo credit: Tiffa 130

Two cops Photo credit: Kevin Spencer

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Blogging While Living (B.W.L.)


I know, I know.. I beat myself up daily that its been a month or so since I last posted. Every part of my being knows that what makes a blog successful is fresh, compelling and useful content – and posting once a month is not fresh, compelling or useful. I won’t get into the “reasons” why there has been a lack of posts, one, because if you look at such prolific bloggers like Seth Godin and Brian Solis, there really are no good excuses, and two, it sounds self-serving – and self-serving blabbering does not make compelling or useful content in my humble opinion.

Posting Fresh Content

Therefore, lets turn this ugly faux pas of mine into a helpful discussion on the best practices of blogging. But wait, isn’t there already a plethora of info in the blogosphere on this very topic and freshness is key, right? So, to make this dialogue more interesting, (dare I say compelling?) and useful for young communicators, lets discuss best practices of blogging, keeping in mind one specific element that no doubt relates and applies to everyone today in our hectic, 24/7 always-on world – how do we keep up with posting solid and fresh content while working, going to school, reading, researching and spending time with our family and friends?

Some questions to help guide the comments.

1) When stretched for time is it better to post nothing at all or rushed, mediocre content? Why?

2) Where do you get your inspiration/ideas from and how do you translate them onto the page?

3.) What are acceptable intervals for posting (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly)?

4.) How important is time management here? Strategies?

Thanks and please join in with your comments, suggestions and questions.

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How to Grow a Strong Twitter Network Through Great Content, Human Voice & Blocking the Bums


It’s been a little while since I wrote an explicit “Resources for Young Communicators” type post, and since this space is designed to help guide us young students, graduates and professionals as we journey through and excel in the communications field, I decided to embark on a quick “How to.” Put it into practice, add some patience and empathy and your efforts will blossom into your very own, strong social community.

In terms of social networks today, Twitter is by far my favorite and one that definitely lives, breathes and flourishes through an open culture kept alive by personal interests, universal sharing and even altruism. I am growing a solid community of folks and haven’t ever resorted to tricks or automatic baloney to do it. I don’t have thousands of followers, but the ones I do have are mostly thought leaders in their own right, as they understand the power of social media and the human need for autonomy, membership and community.

Some choose to ignore the mores that go along with this open culture. I choose not to. For illustration of how to go and stunt your network, think about this: an account that doesn’t have a dedicated, curious and community-minded person behind it ( & instead is wild-eyed with profit) will not receive any “sincere” followers in return, consequently won’t engage in beneficial sharing and will ultimately be relegated to shouting unintelligibly and alone in the wind.

But if you want to foster a community of creative and kind people who you can share with, and can both give and receive value from, keep reading my friend.

Building a community takes time and effort

Twitter, like any other social network, has intrinsic rules and a culture that can only be discerned through observing first and then genuinely participating in that culture. No matter what you do, if you don’t observe the rules of the road your efforts on the service will be for naught – and more importantly, you will not discover the bounties and advantages that will eventually come your way if you do.

Below are some quick (but vital) tips and actions that I personally utilize everyday on Twitter that will show you how to go about growing an authentic, strong and fertile network, which can then help you to find and score jobs; introduce you to esoteric and important ideas, topical information and events, offer a springboard into notoriety as a reliable and compelling pro, and feed your inherent human desire for connection and knowledge.

Some steps to follow

1.) First, find and listen in on the people in your field that you find interesting and that have been on Twitter for a while. Use services such as ListoriousTwitter search and Twellow. You will know when to move on to step 2.

2.) Post current, meaningful content, with links, that will be of value for people in your field and your soon-to-be budding network. Find different sources everyday, so for example don’t always post updates linking to the New York Times or Mashable etc. Post at least 5 a day but do not go crazy.

3.) Follow stimulating people, and keep following even if they don’t follow you back.

4.) @ mention people that you find compelling and engage in conversations about their content. Don’t be shy!

5.) Always send either a DM or a simple @ mention if your stuff is retweeted – this shows your on top of your game and that you are a caring and appreciative person (all great qualities for communicators). Also make an effort to retweet others.

6.) I like to tweet updates w/out a link that shows a real, human voice. Do this fairly often.

7.) Tweet positive. Being negative on Twitter doesn’t fly too well and will scare people away. Also related to this is to practice being altruistic. A great example of this unselfish care for others are the moderators & founders of chats such as #Commschat#PRStudChat who take the time to inform others and help students find jobs and network.

8.) This is a rather controversial step but one that I find pretty important: block the bums. This means actually clicking the link that blocks an account such as the robots; pushy marketers who post 10 misspelled posts a minute; the people with very large discrepancies between followers & follows and possibly people without links in their bios (or bios at all for that matter).

I feel that by blocking the undesirables you actually cleanse your network and put into action the proverbial belief that it’s not about numbers on Twitter (quantity), but the quality of your network. I also know myself that if I see someone with a ton of obvious bots following them, I probably won’t follow them myself (something to do with the old “company you keep” adage.

That’s it. Please join in and comment in the comment section and let us know what you do to cultivate a strong Twitter network and how you feel about blocking folks.

Photo credit: Joshua Davis

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Live Twitter Chats: A Perusal for PR Pros

Quite obviously the dark days of the old school broadcast mentality are dead and gone. Good Riddance.

And we all know social media is empowering public relations and marketing professionals to have conversations directly with the publics that define and matter most to the brands they represent. But one of the most attractive and inspiring aspects of social media is that people with common interests, professions and goals now, and with a robust sense of community, can easily share info, tips, trends, questions and solutions surrounding best practices or they can simply just listen to the collective from the comfort of their own homes – but in the age of transparency and participation this is not always recommended.

These days, it’s all about utilitarian information, conversations, niches, communities, stories and the value that each possess and can bring to someone else. A perfect example of people utilizing social media to assemble and virtually interact amongst themselves for the purposes and betterment of all of those things I just mentioned above is the live Twitter Chat.

Twitter Chats are group conversations on Twitter centered around a distinct topic or issue, for example, “financial well-being for nonprofit employes.” Chats are usually steered by a moderator or guest host and the larger ones can have general rules in place to foster seamless and polite talk. These conversations, which can include hundreds of people, are conveniently organized around and searchable by tweets with a common hashtag (e.g.#foodchat).

There are also web-based applications that can be used to track and participate in these live and spirited conversations, but what I will concentrate on here are a few of the most salient weekly Twitter Chats that are a must for those of us looking to break into public relations, learn to ethically and effectively apply the tactics and strategies used everyday to drive action and get results and harness the digital evolution which is blazing forward at incredible speeds. A caveat;  As I write this post, I myself am still learning about and exploring these Twitter Chats and will therefore be embarking on the journey with you – so look for me out there in the Twitterverse!

Live Twitter Chats for PR Pros

1. #CommsChat: This UK-based Chat is cofounded and produced by Adam Vincenziniand Emily Cagleand goes live on Mondays starting at 8:00 pm UK time, which is 3:00 pm EST for us on the east coast. These conversations are based around “all aspects relating to communications including PR, traditional & social media, journalism, blogging, marketing and more.” What makes this a must for us is that knowledgable pros, from varying communications disciplines, participate in and share their experiences and opinions with the community. Social and New Media have blurred the lines between these disciplines and have made integrated and collaborative campaigns essential, so this Chat rocks. Check it out.

2. #blogchat: This weekly conversation takes place on Sunday nights at 8:00 pm Central, which is 9:00 pm EST. The host of the Chat is Mark Collier, a social media consultant, speaker and trainer. Each week a different blogging topic is chosen, with Chats covering such topics as “how to optimize your blog for search engines” and “how a company can pick its blogging team.” The value inherent in this Chat is quite obvious – blogging, whether personally or for business is an easy and effective way to establish thought leadership. Create awesome content that also solves people’s problems or gives them value in some way and get noticed by the world – whether your goal is to get noticed by prospective employers or by consumers. It is one of the most important topics for us as young communicators.

3. #journchat: Hosted by Sara Evans, this Twitter Chat between journalists, PR professionals and bloggers goes live Monday nights from 7:00-10:00 pm CT, which is 8:00-11:00 pm EST. Concerning the ethos behind the Chat Evans writes, “I believe there is a need in this evolving world of media and public relations for some major dialogue between those who make it happen.” This is one of the best and most dynamic Chats around, and we should certainly be participating in it because the folks having the conversations comprise the very influencers, we as PR pros, should be familiar with and knowledgable about.

4. #pr20chat: Weekly Tuesday Chat about Public Relations 2.0 at 8:00-9:00 pm EST. This conversation is moderated by @PRtini and @JGoldsborough. I included this Chat on the list because its community’s focus is on “how social media influences PR professionals’ engagement with ALL publics (not just the media and bloggers).” This Chat, combined with #journchat should give some insightful ideas on the strengthening of relationships and engagement with all the stakeholders we are expected to reach and interact with, genuinely and effectively. Here’s a recent transcript of the Chat to check out for yourself.

5. #socialmedia: This Chat is serious. The guys behind this weekly Chat, live every Tuesday from 12:00-1:00 pm EST, are Jason Breed and Marc Meyer. In the interest of space their bios are here. The Chat hosts “Leaders of Fortune class companies as moderators and participants to share, moderate and challenge this group to come up with industry specific best practices, new concepts, etc. related to #socialmedia.”

What makes this Chat a must is that the topics covered on a weekly basis are among the most challenging but interesting and definitely critical for us as communicators. For example, on June 22nd the Chat featured Shel Holtz who guided conversation on The New Digital Press Release. Also, check out their site to stay up on special events and the specific hashtags to follow for them (e.g. #sm65).

Let me know in the comments section if there any other conversations that we, as young, driven communicators should know about.

Thanks.

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7 Crucial e-books for Young Communicators

As this is mainly a blog for younger, entry-level communicators, I often want to post resources that will aid in navigating the PR, Marketing and Journalism landscapes and provide powerful and effective tips, tools and techniques to those in search of them.

Because communications, sales and specifically public relations and web marketing now revolve around creating and building useful and valuable content for niche audiences (the Long Tail), and establishing thought leadership and brands, free industry e-books from companies and individuals have become quite prevalent and very important (for both the companies themselves and their customers). As David Meerman Scott says, we must all “think like a publisher.”

Therefore, I scoured the Internet and came up with a list of 7 valuable e-books for young communicators from today’s thought leaders. I realize that this has been done many times before, but I’m attempting to zero in on e-books that specifically provide value to us as young professionals. Enjoy!

  • Brink: SHIFT’s Todd Defren wrote this e-book on social media, consisting of his best thinking over the past five years and offered it for free on his blog PR Squared. Defren explains the book best: “Let’s face it: most of this blog’s readers already ‘get it.’ You understand that we are poised on the ‘brink’ of amazing change. You can already see how social media is irresistibly changing the face of marketing. But, I’ll bet you have a ton of friends who either ‘don’t get it’ or only ‘kinda-sorta do.'” What I find handy here is that Defren illustrates, using real situations faced by real companies and through a familiar human voice, how we as communicators can/should create interactive channels through which we share, learn and directly participate within the appropriate markets that define our business.
  • Social Media Marketing GPS: “Interviews with 40 Marketing Leaders” by Toby Bloomberg. Shel Israel writes in the forward that “SMGPS will tell you the why & how using social media, 1 tweet at a time. You’ll learn essentials in digestible little spoonfuls.” This e-book focuses on conversational methods of marketing and succinctly explains why old broadcast practices are becoming obsolete. I found useful and engaging the format of this resource with the short, but concise interviews and answers from practitioners (thankfully “digestible,” considering the info overload we face today), with each of their Twitter handles easily accessible for following. Especially worthwhile is the section on metrics – what to measure in social media marketing and why – as well as the section on the esoteric but meaningful topic “social media ethics.”
  • The New Rules of PR: “How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly.”  e-book from author, keynote speaker and marketing strategist David Meerman Scott. Although the e-book is from 2006 I include it here because crafting releases is something new hires are usually tasked with and because it lays a solid foundation for current industry practice today – PR and web 2.0. He writes, “It is time to step it up and consider the promise Web 2.0 public relations holds.” I also put this on the list because the implications of a proper, effective press release strategy are far-reaching and integral to PR best practices. Meerman makes plain the utility and power of utilizing the press release as a direct consumer-communication channel. Take heed!
  • Geeks Guide to Promoting Yourself with Twitter: “Promote yourself or your business in 140 characters or less on Twitter.” This e-book is produced by GeekPreneur and it explains why you need to be on the service, the ins-and-outs of promoting yourself on Twitter once there and how to brand your business on Twitter, among other nuggets. This is basically just a refresher for most but I believe it is relevant to us young communicators because it explains how to take hold of the service, its various “Twitter Tools,” and how to then utilize it to create a more interactive experience, which results in getting your name out there as someone who is adept in social media and has something valuable to offer. It also helps sow the seeds of a community that you can learn from and rely on in your burgeoning career.
  • The Social Web Analytics e-book: This highly detailed and informative e-book is from Philip Sheldrake , a partner at Influence Crowd LLC. The author writes “I review [in the book] how all organisations can try and make the most of the unprecedented wealth of information afforded by the Social Web, the incredible facility to ‘listen in’ on conversations close to their heart, and to initiate and engage in this dialogue.” The really insightful part of this book, which also touches on the semantic web, is that Sheldrake explores “text mining technologies,” the disadvantages of traditional market research and the advantages of continuous engagement instead. He also covers the controversial but increasingly important terrain of measuring and evaluating PR and marketing campaigns. This adds context to the metrics section of SMGPS found above – Really important aspects of any strategy or campaign in today’s business environment.
  • Marketing in 2009: “12 marketing professionals reveal their execution imperatives.” e-book from Valeria Maltoni and offered on her blog Conversation Agent. I included this book because it explores traditional marketing quite well and from different angles, as well as what social media means to it. Why some organizations won’t adopt social media in their business strategies and the necessity of building internal social media evangelists is discussed. I think its important for millennials to understand the big picture (not just social media), and where we have been.
  • Johnson & Johnson Does New Media: case study e-book by Ron Ploof. This e-book is solid because it is a case study, and as such, it provides (although somewhat specific to 1 company) a detailed picture and an opportunity for the reader to sharpen their analytical and problem solving skills. It chronicles J&J’s journey into the world of New and Social Media and it includes some links to their various social and multimedia efforts. The lessons contained within could possibly be used to illustrate to management the utility and advantages of an online communications campaign.

Bonus
Here are some bonuses –  Ragan.com offers a great list of PR, Marketing and Media podcasts.

  • The Essential Guide to Social Media: e-book by Thought Leader Brian Solis. An outline of social media tools and resources needed to listen and participate, guiding PR, customer service, product development, and marketing. This e-book is essential because it covers a wide array of PR 2.0 topics as it explains the vital role social science plays in social media – blazing a trail to success for us in a very clear and conversational tone. And what would a social media list be without Brian Solis?

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Photo credit: Daniel Lobo

Passion, Engagement, Altruism = Genuine Relationships

Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy.”

This startling postulation, written approximately ten years ago by Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger (@dweinberger), could not have been more prescient as it clearly describes the power, altruism and utility of horizontal connections and conversations currently taking place everyday among people and their communities. Power no longer flows from the top and that is just fine with me.

Before the hyperlink essentially altered how information was put together and shared and before it fundamentally transformed, for some progressive thinkers, how business hierarchies were imagined and practiced, the ruling mantra was as the 17th century French author La Rochefoucauld advanced: “It is not enough that I succeed. It is also necessary that my friends fail.” Thankfully, in the age of the hyperlink as well as Web 2.0, Social Media, and personalized, substantive information that knows no boundaries, this outdated way of thinking and doing business is receding into the shadows. Genuine connections between people with like-minded interests and passions are being easily formed, nurtured and are resulting in mutually beneficial relationships and rewards.

“Hyperlinks are in fact conversations”

Importantly, and quite beneficial for young communicators, in the age of  Web 2.0 and Social Media, the people of experience and authority are now willing and able to deftly share what they have found to work best in their respective industries and careers, what doesn’t work and what they themselves are most passionate about. Thought Leaders are having altruistic conversations with everyone – online and in the real world – because in the digital, social marketplace of ideas, everyone’s voices count. These new influencers understand this fact, and quite frankly, this perceptive understanding is part of the reason they are Thought Leaders in the first place.

I began to think about this fascinating topic with greater keenness after recently engaging myself, with some people on Twitter, as well as on some other social media networks. I am in essence just starting out in the communications field (I have the education and some real world experience, but I’m looking for and craving more practical, “in the trenches” experience) and I will graduate with a M.A. in PR and Advertising in December. I mention this not because I’m being immodest, but because it gives some context to my main point.

Although I do not have many years of experiential experience in the fields I’m most passionate about – Public Relations, Marketing and Journalism, I have jumped in – transparently and passionately, in reading blogs, books, professional communicator’s Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr streams, white papers and presentations. And through listening to, participating in and creating and sharing content myself, reaching out to this community that I am most ardent about has enabled me to make connections and form relationships with people, which would be virtually impossible in the days before a “hyperlinked” way of thinking and doing business –  possibly because of technology and/or because of structures and fear.

No more. For one brief example, I recently wrote a post on this blog and included some solid content from knowledgeable industry sources that would be helpful for us as young communicators. I then linked to their respective blogs etc. I tweeted about the post on Twitter, mentioning one specific sources’ contribution when I later updated the post. He soon took the time to retweet it, leave a comment on my blog and consequently the post was then retweeted by other folks who no doubt saw it in his Twitter stream (I say this because they were not yet followers of mine). Because of his effort, I’m now even more interested in and give well-deserved credence to what he writes about and the experiences he has while working in communications, public relations and marketing. And hopefully, in return I can offer him some insight into topics or issues that interest him.

In my opinion, this is one small example of how passion, engagement and altruism can engender and equal horizontal, mutually beneficial and genuine relationships in the age of social media, and quite significantly, can continue to imbue the practice of public relations with meaning and value.

*Update* For further, rich context along the same lines as the topic of the post above, see this piece by Jonathan Stray (@jonathanstray) on the value and purpose of linking out in journalistic articles. Reasons #1, & #3 for linking out that Stray includes is especially relevant and adds illustration and context to the point of my post. Good piece, check it out!

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Helpful Links and PR/Marketing Books for Communications Graduates

As you may know by reading my recent posts on this blog, I’m currently a graduate student passionate about digital marketing and emerging media, and I am looking to break into the field.

To accomplish this goal I have been studying for the past 6 years straight, forming a strong educational background in both traditional and new, digital media, and discovering how these two areas might converge. Also, how they can and should reinforce and complement each other effectively during a campaign.

I’ve also been immersed in discovering how to spot and create newsworthy content, as well as the journalism, advertising and public relations industries and their respective strategies and practices.

During that time I have been reading voraciously about digital media and communication trends, traditional public relations, metrics and most interesting and compelling to me – PR in the era of web 2.0 and social media. For young communications professionals, such as myself, I wanted to share my current favorites when it comes to sources of relevant, engaging and most of all, helpful information about public relations today.

1. First and foremost, the Institute for Public Relations’s website is a great treasure trove of research, education and news related to the practice and the science behind public relations. Through its Essential Knowledge Project, the site provides free documents for downloading, which cover a multitude of topics related to the industry, and they are extremely enlightening for new college graduates or anyone for that matter that wants to keep up on excellent public relations practice. For example, the most recent docs I grabbed are titled “Social Media & Strategic Communications,” and “Using Web Analytics to Measure the Impact of Earned Online Media on Business Outcomes.”

2. Another well-known but useful website that covers with some breadth the public relations career choice, such as wages, projections and job outlook, is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 edition for Public Relations Specialists. I would recommend this particular source of info more for someone considering the profession because you can learn about the nature of the work here and you can discover if its something that might interest you and be a good fit. I found the section on training, qualifications and the opportunities for advancement useful because it helped me to find what employers in the communications industry are currently looking for. Consequently, it also helped me to choose the academic and real-world paths that would best augment the skills I already have and make them more marketable.

3. Next, I highly recommend the newly released (2010) PR “handbook” by Robert L. Dilenschneider, of the Dilenschneider Group, titled “The AMA Handbook of Public Relations.” What I really like about this book and one of the main reasons I actually purchased it is because Dilenschneider writes it not only for the “digital immigrants” already in the field who need to catch up on social media and digital apps, and those who may want to rethink how to do their jobs, but it is also written for “The digital-savvy Millennials (born between 1980 and 2001) who know technology quite well, but not how to apply it to business and organizational problems.”

I believe this fact as well as the succinct information and relatively concentrated strategies contained  inside, which highlight the advantages of combining the tools and techniques of the Internet with a conventional understanding of communications, makes this a very useful handbook in today’s changing world of influence and democratized media.

4. Another popular book that deals with the evolution of public relations and how what matters most is individual “people” not impersonal, mass audiences, is “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” by Brian Solis (@Brian Solis) and Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge). This book is great for college graduates or anyone in school looking to learn about the current iteration and practice of PR. The book is invaluable in explaining how to manage reputations and brands, effectively solve stakeholders’ problems and also how to form strong, genuine relationships between the brands we represent and the public, all by utilizing and transparently participating in social media and the communities that people are now forming and interacting in daily with great research, fervor and care.

Speaking with a “human voice” is key in PR and this book illustrates in detail how best to do this, and ever more importantly, how to convince those in the C-Suites of its value. I was assigned this book for a graduate course in 2009 called “New Media, New Markets” and I have reread it twice since! Check it out.

5. Lastly, I recommend the following blogs for new communications professionals such as myself:

Slice– This blog is from the staff at SHIFT Communications in Boston and it offers “snackable pr.”  One reason I recommend it to those just starting out and the reason that I read it myself is because it is written by staff, therefore it can give you a good idea of the type of blogging PR agencies look for when hiring new people, and it will undoubtably give you a leg up if you are hired and asked to write on an company blog etc. It also contains some great info on new technology and how to utilize it in your daily job as a communications specialist. (For example check out this new post on TwAitter).

Bad Pitch Blog– This is a cool blog written by marketing communicator Kevin Dugan (@prblog) and former journalist and author Richard Laermer (@laermer). The reasoning behind including this blog here is because “effective” pitching that offers mutually beneficial opportunities is such a large part of excellent public relations. The blog is humorous, topical (which is key in PR) and it has a great angle and insight because Dugan is so familiar w/ media and what makes an effective pitch as well as anything to do w/ media relations.

Obviously there are plenty of other great sources on PR for young professionals and these are just the current ones I’m personally perusing. So, if you have any ideas on cool blogs, books, websites, white papers, slides presentations etc. that we should be checking out let me know!

*Update* Here is a great post by Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology) of the blog Digital Marketing Mercenary, which suggests the “Top 11 Must Read Social Media and Marketing Articles for 2009.” A few of his picks are especially relevant to this blog post; ideas and guidance for young communicator’s looking for PR/Social Media best practices. Here is the post:

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A Reflection and Life Lessons

I traveled last night to Cambridge for a congenial reception held by the research center & think tank Political Research Associates (PRA) for the introduction of their new Executive Director, Tarso Luis Ramos. In 2008, and a junior in college, I served as the Public Relations/Editorial Intern for the progressive organization and I know Luis Ramos from my time there when he was the Research Director. So, I was appreciative and excited to be invited to attend the event. Even though I became lost on my way back to Brighton (instead of a 15 minute ride it took me 2 hours!), I was glad I went because besides seeing old friends, the evening got me critically thinking about the profession of public relations, what I have learned since an intern there and what I ultimately want out of a career in the field.

As I was sitting in our host’s spacious but increasingly humid living room, I began to think back when I was just starting the internship and what I then perceived was the practice of PR and what its true value and contribution was to the public good as well to the client, organization etc. At that time I had a picture in my mind of PR practice that could best be described by the press agentry/publicity model.

In this one-way asymmetrical model, PR serves a promotional function where the practitioner is a “conduit,” as Millar & Heath write, between an organization and a passive public. There is no strategic management of an organization’s communication function and there is no two-way dialogue between an organization and its stakeholders. Therefore, the organization does not implement any  much needed changes in behavior because they do not open themselves up to receiving relevant info from these stakeholders – for one, because there is no listening or engagement on the part of the organization and two, because the sole purpose here is to push the message out, with very little if at all, research and feedback. “All publicity is good publicity,” right? Wrong. Strong, mutually-beneficial relationships can not and do not form this way. That’s just a fact.

When I first started the internship I received their media list, among other materials, and then began to update it for new contacts that I believed would be interested in giving our authors time and our message, that PRA produces quality, important and useful progressive research and analysis, play. Right off the bat I wrote three or so press releases, back-grounders and put together a media kit.

Unfortunately and incorrectly, I then began a campaign of just blasting out emails, making calls and waiting for responses. There was very little research, genuine engagement on my part, ranking of strategic stakeholders in order of importance and listening first before contacting the media and PRA’s ally’s. Instead of finding out how these producers, journalists and analysts preferred to be contacted, as well as what they cared  and wrote about, I’m sad to say I engaged for the most part in a one-way transfer of information, concentrating on getting the organization into the media and to then achieve publicity for them.

After the first couple of weeks I did see some results (I booked a few interviews in the media for our authors and got an article excerpt placed on an ally’s website), but while I was thinking about how best to make connections and get results, I began to understand what was missing and needed to be put into place to achieve lasting brand recognition and loyalty as well as effective communication with PRA’s stakeholders, such as the media, local government, employees and influencers.

For example, there wasn’t a clear understanding of the power and utility of the iconic Cluetrain Manifesto’s assertion that “markets are conversations,” and that instead of just pushing “the facts,” with a relatively static press release template, a story must be told that connects with each of the niche communities that we are ultimately trying to reach and benefit with our products or services. There wasn’t a strong effort to elicit any response or action on the part of the public and there wasn’t transparent participation or an effort to form lasting, solid relationships. I could go on but I want to make this as succinct as possible.

Now, I can attribute this lack of knowledge and initiative to my inexperience mostly, the length of time I had at the job (about 3 months), and the small, dedicated but overworked and underfunded staff. I believe the important thing now is that I recognize my shortcomings and have been able to correct them and move forward as a stronger communicator at my present job in Suffolk University’s College of Arts & Sciences’ Communications Dept., with a much more strategic and deeper understanding of the practice of PR. Importantly, I understand that the practice of PR has always been oversimplified and that its value to society as a communication mechanism for binding society together and facilitating the “marketplace of ideas” is in fact vital. Considering these facts, the current socialization of media and the power and opportunity PR 2.o provides us, I look to the future with excitement and no regret.

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Notes on a Public Relations Career


Public Relations’ evolution is so interesting to me and its current practice squarely puts a large hole in the proselytized image that sometimes emanates from journalists (my B.A. is in Journalism and I love and respect the profession), and others, who see PR as solely publicity.

One reason I say this is as @briansolis & @dbreakenridge write in their 2009 book “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,”

“Social media is changing PR outreach from pitching to personalized & genuine engagement.”

After years of hearing how PR practitioners were just “shills” for publicity and are squarely in the employment and camp of large, powerful corporations and will with-hold the “truth” to the very detriment of the public good, I am now excited and actually proud to be embarking on a career of public relations and the unprecedented opportunities stemming from PR 2.0 inspire me.

PR 2.0, according to SolisBreakenridge, was born “through the analysis of how the web and multimedia were redefining PR and marketing communications, while also creating a new tool kit to reinvent how companies communicate” with the people and stakeholders important to them.

I believe strongly this evolution has changed the profession and industry in such a way that while it still calls for the traditional skills of succinct & effective writing, critical thinking and speaking, but it also now calls for a different set of skills that in my opinion, I excel at. And at the same time, I enjoy employing and exploring. For example, these skills that I’m talking about include empathy for and skillful understanding of other people, transparent and genuine participation in social networks instead of marketing at folks and also understanding the importance of dialogue vs. monologue especially in terms of seeing markets as two-way conversations, “not message throwing.”

In terms of “planting seeds” first before jumping right in to these social communities as a marketer, Solis & Breakenridge write, and I whole-hartedly agree with, that we should form and nurture altruistic relationships and understand the community’s sociology so we can be sure to contribute in a meaningful way. If this is not further evidence of the true value of PR I do not know what is. Any thoughts?

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