Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Consumers Tweet What?!

Very interesting blog post by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff today on Summize and TweetScan. Both tools allow you to search Twitter for certain key words and find tweets that correlate. My first thought as a PR person? What a great way to track what people are saying about my product!

As young PR pros, it is important for us to keep tabs on emerging consumer voices via social media to listen to what they are saying about the products and companies we represent. The tools mentioned in Josh’s blog post allow us to do so; to easily find what people are saying on Twitter.

Josh also has some interesting recommendations on how we can take action and respond to consumers via Twitter, in a very “non-creepy” sort of way (I hope). This is what he has to say:

If your product is just getting started or has a tight niche audience, then it's valuable to respond to many of your customers, with an @yourtwitterhandle type reply. This can have a "voice from the sky" quality so open the conversation carefully, e.g. "Saw your tweet, hope you are enjoying our product, tweet back if you have questions." For customers having problems that you can solve, this may be a great way to turn a detractor into a fan (if you can solve the problem, of course).
Just another way social media enables us to establish and maintain a positive relationship with our consumer base.

(BTW, I still hold firm on my prior claim that we shouldn't tweet pitches at reporters) :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Be Careful What You Tweet

Read this post on BusinessWeek by Stephan Baker a few weeks ago and found it interesting to hear a journalist’s perspective on a PR person’s intent to pitch via Twitter. Here’s the pitch:

Saw your Twitter post this morning about The Last Time. Love that song. I’m also a big fan of Dead Flowers.
Anyway, thought this story about businesses integrating voice into their every day apps might work for your blog. For me, what particularly stands out about voice integration is that it helps drive usage and makes of applications more effective, especially those that are hard for employees to adopt (i.e. CRM modules)…

The journalist’s reaction? Well, he “liked” the pitch enough to blog about it, so I’m guessing his reaction wasn’t so great.

Lesson learned? Twitter is a unique emerging microtrend, however I don’t think we are quite ready to use it as an avenue for pitching. Believe it or not, journalists are people too – and they have an uncannning ability to smell fake, even through e-mail. What struck me about this pitch was not that the pitching PR pro used a twitter post as means to establish a connection between the reporters’ interests and his/her product; it was his/her lack of sincerity.

When cultivating relationships with reporters, it is important for PR professionals to be sincere. In other words, focus on the relationship, not “what can this reporter do for me now.” The real benefit will be seen in the long term.

So where does Twitter fit in? At this point, Twitter should be used only to build and grow relationships with reporters and NOT as a pitching tool. Through Twitter, I can find that Charlene Li created an audio version of her book. Or that Scobleizer likes toolbars, especially this one. Or that Nate Elliot likes the new Live Search features. Or that Rafe Needleman is canceling his eFax account. (Oh wait, update: he is sticking with it for another few months until his subscription runs out).

Maybe once you have that relationship established, hey go for it. Pitch via twitter. But until then it would be wise to leave twitter to the tweeters.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Green my Launch Please

Another Earth Day has come and gone, and as expected countless companies, such as Coke, Home Depot and UPS, pounced on the ‘Go Green’ PR opp to increase public perception – and profit. Interesting observation – As companies filed for green-themed trademarks in preparation for the big launch day, the number of applications received by the US Trademark Office skyrocketed last year. According to Advertising Age, applications containing the word “green” more than doubled from 2006 to 2007; from 1,100 in 2006 to 2,400 in 2007. But green wasn’t the only word buzzing around consumer products. The word “eco” generated an increase in 900 applicants from 2006 – 2007, and the word “friendly” grew by 88%. Looks as if green caught flame fast!

Earlier on, I questioned the intent of companies who are reaching out to eco-conscious consumers, and it sounds as if I am not the only one who doubts the authenticity of companies’ efforts. Following Earth Day, several blogs began to pop up taking a skeptical outlook on companies’ intents to align green product launches with Earth Day. The general consensus? As consumers are beginning to distinguish marketing speak from real green efforts, businesses that are looking to break through the increased green messaging must prove their authenticity. This PRWeek states it best:

“As consumers are bombarded with more green messages, they are becoming wearier - and more critical - of what those eco-wrapped packages contain and who's
behind them.”
News flash to marketers – consumers are brighter than you think, and they are beginning to think to themselves, “you know, maybe Company X’s efforts to support the environment aren’t legit.”

BrandWeek provides an interesting take on the Green trend, recommending that companies should focus on green in a broader context:

“These days it seems like every brand manager wants his or her brand to be
green. Green is a microtrend that actually falls under the umbrella of the
larger, more strategic macrotrend: conscience.”

BrandWeek defines a macrotrend as “a fundamental, societal shift that influences consumer attitudes over a long period of time.” I like the outlook this article takes because it challenges marketing and PR professionals to deemphasize their focus on the “latest trend” and realign their attention on the bigger picture. So, instead of responding to consumer trends reactively, how can PR professionals get ahead of consumers and actually create the next trend, finding the next big microtrend within the overarching macrotrend? Something to think about.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

When Trends Become Process

In the public relations industry, specific and measurable trends phase in and out. Those trends are deemed the “next big thing” that PR agency professionals should focus their attention on and learn about so that they can provide “smart” recommendations to clients. Currently, agencies are focused on incorporating social media and digital strategy tactics into PR plans – in my opinion these are the two big “PR trends” that agency personnel should be focused on. In other words, web 2.0.

Yesterday in class, my Strategic Communications professor briefly posed a thought-provoking speculation – It is only a matter of time before these new “trends” become strategic processes. Hm, interesting. Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about how only 10% of agencies are in a position to advise clients on digital strategies? Well, that’s great if the agency you work for lies in that 10% (I suppose you could consider yourself an innovator) but the other 90% is beginning to catch on. Somewhere down the road that 90% will realize their clients also want to incorporate digital tactics into their PR plans. So they will start doing it too; and soon enough 100% of PR agencies will be adequately prepared to advise clients on digital strategies. That is the point where the next big trend becomes part of everyday process.

Do you remember the days when e-mail was just beginning to catch on? (OK, I must admit, I do remember these days, but barely. In fact, I believe I was in the fourth grade, still living in California, when my dad brought home our very first computer. It was a huge ol’ thing with a black screen that typed simple white letters. I believe we had e-mail then?) Side comments aside, I don’t think there’s a single agency practitioner who can imagine working without e-mail. This concept that was such a huge trend way back when is now engrained into our everyday corporate lives. And I also believe that Web 2.0 will head down that road someday as well. Perhaps we aren’t quite ready to make it part of our everyday process, but it will happen. Eventually.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Just Take It With You

To kick off class this morning, Deb went around the room and had each of us do the typical, name, place, bio, etc., but she also asked us to answer the question “In your opinion, what is the best invention?” I said e-mail :) but I noticed something interesting as we went around the room – nearly every person answered the question with an item that allows for greater portability. Some of the best inventions that were mentioned – the iphone, the laptop computer, the portable coffee mug, drive through restaurants…

Looking back 20, 15, even 10 years ago, the kind of portability we have today was something that was only imagined; strived for. What is it about being constantly ‘on the go’ that electrifies the American population?

I have a friend who studied in Greece and she noted the biggest thing that differentiates the Greek from the American population is how slow-paced it is. Dinners would last 4 hours. Classes were few and far between and homework was less strenuous. The Greeks did not try to pack 10 different activities into the time it would take to complete one. In class, when we were discussing the portable coffee cup, someone pointed out that European cars don’t even have cup holders! So why do we try to pack as much as we can and do as many things as possible into as little time as possible, always on the go? And with the creation of the iphone and other advanced portable technologies, where is our society headed down the road? Let me know your thoughts.

Continuing Education

Working in the technology PR realm, one (myself, at one point, included) might think that we often don’t receive the opportunity to exercise the “creative muscle” of the brain. Well, now I beg to differ. In fact, I believe that it is extremely important to incorporate creativity into the traditional office environment no matter what kind of PR or marketing you are doing. Which is why I signed up to take a course entitled “strategic creativity” at the UO Turnbull Center, taught by advertising professor Deb Morrison.

Yeah, it means getting up early on a Saturday morning; it means having to stay home and do homework on a Friday night; but so far the class has been well worth my time. This morning we discussed the elements of creativity and how it is embedded into different types of office environments – and how these different environments can produce a creative “roadblock.” Interesting stuff. I’m excited for next week when we begin to delve deeper into the creative process.

Looking at the bigger picture – I think it’s extremely important for young professionals, and even not-so-young professionals, to take every opportunity they can to continue their education, whether it be a class, workshop or even a new book. Public relations is a profession that is constantly changing and there are always new ways to look at everyday situations with a fresh perspective. However, it requires a bit of effort on the practitioner’s part. It involves asking – “What are the areas I need to concentrate on? Where can I grow and expand my skill set, networking aside?” For me, the answer was strategic creativity. How about you?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Focus Your Efforts

I recently had a current graduating senior ask me this question via LinkedIn, and I thought I would share a variation of my response with you all:

"How many jobs can I expect to apply to? Many or a few?"

Getting a job is tough, especially in today's economy where jobs are far and few and entry-levels are a dime a dozen. Therefore, it's only natural for you to want to apply for as many jobs as possible in hopes to at least snag one of them. However, I believe that this philosophy will only buy you a whole lot of stress for nothing.

Focus Your Efforts
Instead of applying to 30, 40, even 50 companies, I would recommend making a list of the companies you really want to work for and putting them in order of preference. Next, take your top 5 or 6 companies and only apply to those. I know this sounds scary (by nature, we want security) but just hear me out.

After you select the top few companies you want to apply to, focus your efforts on only those companies by following some of these general tips:

  • Thoroughly research each company on your list. Visit their Web site. Familiarize yourself with their mission statement. Research their case studies and know their clients. Do an Internet search for key leadership figures and read their blogs/LinkedIn profiles/etc. Basically, spend some time learning the in and outs of each company you apply for so you are educated going into the interview.
  • Tailor your cover letters and resumes to fit each company you are applying for. This might be a no brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many people send out a generic cover letter with the classic format. Instead, try looking at some of the skills the job requires and mention in your cover letter that you would be the perfect fit for the job because you have the skills necessary, then provide examples. Companies will be impressed you took the time to do this.
  • After you send your cover letter and resume, follow up. Give HR a quick call to see if they received your information and if they are interested in bringing you in for an interview.
  • Browse LinkedIn/Personal blogs/PRSA directories or ask around to find a contact within the firm. If you find someone, e-mail this person and ask about the company. Tell them you are interested in applying and ask if they would be willing to pass your resume along to HR. This may sound odd, but many professionals remember what it was like to be in your shoes and are willing to help out. Plus, several companies offer incentives to employees who recommend job candidates who are then hired ;)

Could you imagine doing all this if you applied to 50 different companies?! If you focus your efforts, you will stand out above all of the other job candidates who do apply to 50+ companies during their internship and job searches; the job candidates who don’t take the time to do the above. And, if the worst happens and you don’t get hired by one of your top few companies, simply make a new list and start the process over.

Additionally, if you do apply to 50+ companies, you might run into the problem where you get a few job offers – number 46 and 49 on your list perhaps. But the company you really want to work for is still making a decision. Shoot, now what? If you focus your efforts on your top few prospects, hopefully this will never happen :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Coke Steps up their Green Efforts

Wow, this is quite the new PR stunt for good ol' Coca-Cola. Who would have ever thought of making T-shirts out of plastic bottles? Coca-cola of course. Coke is yet another commonly criticized company that is stepping in to paint the world green by using recycled bottles to create a new clothing line for sale in Wal-Mart stores. Although I'm not sure how sincere Coca-Cola's efforts really are with this announcement, it's a great move and I give major kudos to Coke for thinking outside the box to jump on the green train. All in all, I think it will be a good way for the company to combat some of the criticism they have recently received in press surrounding their environmentally unfriendly practices, particularly appealing to the growing eco-friendly audience. Way to go Coke.

Now my only question to you is - Do you think Coke's new clothing line will actually gain traction in the fashion world? Would you sport a T-shirt made solely from recycled bottles?

My second question (okay so I guess the above wasn't my "only") - Why do you think Coke chose to sell their new line at Wal-Mart? Seems a bit contradictory to me, but nonetheless a good target fashion-wise.

*QUIZ* - How many cliche phrases did I use in the above blog post? Lol, too easy!

Dear Blog

I am sorry I have not posted this week. I broke my right arm and it has been rather hard to type. Plus, it has been busy at work. I know, excuses, excuses; I promise to feed you a new post next week.

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