The Matchbox.

Apr. 14

Cheers to 1982!

Check out the latest edition of The Spark, Young & Associates’ newsletter, which we issued this morning. In it we mark Young & Associates’ 28th anniversary and offer B2B social media tips. Founder Jean Young offers a My Two Cents column on valuable marketing investments to support an aggressive public relations program and the PR Pulse looks at how to leverage vertical media for increased exposure. If you are not on the subscriber list but wish to be, let us know. Read the full edition here.

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Apr. 08

Apple’s iPad PR – A Bump in the Road

Apple’s public relations efforts around this week’s iPad launch seemed to go smoothly with stories in all major national news outlets and hype on social media sites and blogs. That was until a Wi-Fi issue was reported by users and was acknowledged by Apple on Monday. To handle the crisis and thwart negative feedback, Apple posted a message on its iPad support website saying: “Under certain conditions, iPad may not automatically rejoin a known Wi-Fi network after restart or waking from sleep.” Apple then offered a long list of tips for troubleshooting the problem.

Is this approach offering iPad owners enough support? Should Apple have communicated the issue in other ways? In my opinion, the company reacted quickly with a fast fix for users, but it didn’t address whether the issue would be resolved for future models. And, if the problem persists, should users return their iPad (likely something Apple would prefer to avoid)? As an Apple customer, I have always been pleased with their level of customer service. However, they better quickly correct the Wi-Fi issue on their “Wi-Fi product” before a social media attack unleashes on Twitter or YouTube. So far, even with the minor product mishap, press coverage remains positive for the most part and more than 300,000 iPads have been sold. Stay tuned.

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Mar. 29

Do In-Person Meetings Give a Stronger Positive Vibe?

I met a fellow technology PR professional at a local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event here in Denver a few weeks ago, and after swapping backgrounds and stories, she setup a networking meeting for me with one of her colleagues who manages similar types of PR and social media programs. Working from an independent office, I am equally comfortable with phone and in-person meetings, but the in-person exchanges are less frequent.

Anyway, I met my networking contact’s colleague for coffee downtown and we instantly hit it off. We pow-wowed in the middle of Starbuck’s and the conversation flowed through our professional backgrounds, industry best practices, and anecdotes of what has worked well for our respective companies. But, what really struck me was how the “face-to-face” element made it easier for us to be more forthcoming. Being in person facilitated a real positive vibe – seemingly more so than a phone conversation may have generated – as we fed off each other’s excitement and body language. In today’s “virtual” environment, being able to develop a relationship over the phone and email is still key (we have clients we’ve never met in person) but the face-to-face benefit is huge – perhaps that is why so many deals are forged from introductions at trade shows and conferences.

Of course, this is just my personal anecdote, and some of this depends on individuals’ preferences for how they communicate best, but I’d be interested in others’ experiences—do phone or in-person meetings forge stronger relationships or partnerships for you?

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Mar. 23

Get In the Game: The Value of a Tweet for BtoBs

In all industries these days you will find some social media presence; however, that doesn’t mean it is any less intimidating for the companies who have not yet embraced it. And there are many valid reasons for the adoption lag including the time and resource commitment, the permanence and lack of filter of all things on the Internet, or the challenge to measure the direct impact on the bottom line. Here are five reasons all BtoB companies need to consider a Twitter presence.

1) Participate: The time commitment for creating and monitoring social media content can be a barrier to entry for many companies. Twitter’s shorter posts (140 characters or less) provide a manageable foray into social media.

2) Extend: Twitter is another media channel that can be used to distribute thought leadership content and insight.

3) Build: Twitter is all about networking, communities and relationships, so use the channel to create a bigger brand audience.

4) Engage: While some may use Twitter as a one-way content distributor, it is a vehicle for dialogue and discussion with target audiences.

5) Boost: Having a Twitter account means an increase in content associated with your website – this is one element for improving SEO rankings. Twitter is also another avenue for increasing media awareness – the Internet is most reporters’ #1 source for researching news stories.

What value have you seen?

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Mar. 10

The Virtues of Virtual Vary

Early 1990’s, it was a big snowstorm. In my cul de sac, a dozen townhouses were isolated. No business was conducted. Even those with computers at home were hampered by broadband and Internet limitations. So we had a three-day party. Chili and beer. Pot roast and wine. Afternoon poker.

Fast forward to 2003 in Young & Associates’ expansive offices. It was an unusual morning. Two of the staff, unbeknownst to the other, announced they were moving from the area. To keep a successful team with a remarkable success record together, we decided to “go virtual”.

The “go” needed a lot of planning as our technology and work habits were geared to brick and mortar. An in-house committee reviewed and tested options to seamlessly connect remote offices, enhance intra- and inter- communication and ensure security.

Three years later, others moved and virtual became our way of life, both professionally and personally.  Although we still are exploring, here are some of the lessons we learned:

Take baby steps
– If you have employees who request working at home or you want to explore virtual options, do a test. Measure results.

Upgrade your technology for mobility
– Even if you don’t go virtual, today’s world requires the best in wireless and mobile capabilities for anyplace-anytime work environments.

Deal with the human issues –
Working in pajamas in a corner of your bedroom is not going to make it. Feeling isolated, yes, it is real. To ensure a team spirit we meet bi-annually.

Review, challenge & change
– What is and isn’t working? Formally review personal and professional issues. Something as simple as staff in different time zones impacts office hours. Make adjustments when needed.

I would like to hear your stories about working virtually, good and bad. And, do I miss the snow parties, you bet.

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Mar. 02

In Times of Crisis, Tell the Truth

Crisis communications has had its hands full over the last few weeks.  From the terrible tragedy at SeaWorld to continuing product issues at Toyota to the Tiger Woods’ scandal, crisis communications 101 has been in high demand.

When all is said and done, the first rule of crisis communications is simple and something your parents and teachers probably taught you at an early age – tell the truth.  Yes, I said it: the truth is a very powerful thing.  Public relations – in my opinion – shouldn’t be used to spin or cover up an issue that could damage the reputation of a theme park, an automaker or an athlete.  Instead, it should be used to tell the truth, explain to the public in a straightforward way the reason for the problem and focus on positive steps and actions that will take place in the future to prevent any further wrongdoing.

Of course, it is a challenge when your key spokespeople misspeak or crack under pressure during a press conference, but our role as PR professionals should be to coach them through tough times and give them a strong set of talking points to stick to when the media comes a calling.  Don’t get me wrong, rebuilding reputations is very tough work and takes time, but it can be done with a strategic communications plan that is built around the truth.

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Feb. 24

“Don’t Pee on Me and Tell Me It’s Raining”

In an effort to tighten the proverbial Y&A belt, we decided to forego conference attendance in favor of webinars, etc in 2009. This year, as things are on the upswing, I have been fortunate to get out of my lair and attend a few client trade conferences and seminars. For the larger events, I am amazed that conference organizers are still allowing presenters to so boldly pitch their own wares. Not to steal Judge Judy’s shtick, but “Don’t pee on me and tell me it’s raining.”

For the last few years, I have heard countless conference planners and owners bemoan decreasing attendance sponsorship and attendance numbers. No kidding. Why would I attend a conference and pay 1,000 bucks or more—plus travel expenses—only to hear a sales preso when I expected to come and learn something. If that’s the case, next time I’ll buy the $150 conference expo pass and go from booth to booth asking for my own tailored sales pitch. Conferences are always great for networking and exposing your organization, but there needs to be a safe haven for pure and simple learning.

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Feb. 17

Reflections on Four Feet of Snow

As the snow falls again in the DC-area today – luckily only brief snow showers – I still can’t get over last week’s record-breaking snowfall – 50+” at my house. Here are some reflections and anecdotes from Snowmageddon / Snowpocalypse.

1)    Thank You Social Media: Kudos to BWI airport in Baltimore for their ongoing Twitter program and regular website updates. I’m not the first to say this, but in today’s always-on world, getting minute-by-minute updates in a major weather event is wonderful – especially when you have to travel. (Wish I could say the same for the airlines.) I am happy to report that Jennifer MacLeid Qotb and I successfully and safely made it to Philadelphia and Manhattan for successful business meetings, and back to our homes right before the worst of Round Two hit. Jennifer flew in on one of the first flights to BWI early Monday morning ( Feb. 8 ) without a delay.

2)    Snow Daze: Working from home or telecommuting is not immune to snow days. Under blizzard conditions with the whole family home buzzing with excitement, it is hard to get in a full day’s work – and who doesn’t enjoy a snow day?

3)    Reconnecting and Uniting: Nothing like a major weather event to force you to slow down and reconnect. In a region dominated by horrendous traffic and bureaucratic red tape, the epic snowstorm(s) united communities against a common enemy – the weather!

4)    The Importance of Local News: While many of us in the area got hyperlocal news reports from Facebook, Twitter and blogs, the local television news was in its glory – out in the thick of it – with yard sticks for measuring the snow and Skype for taping segments where news trucks couldn’t go.

2010 DC-Area Blizzard Round Two

2010 DC-Area Blizzard Round Two

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Feb. 16

Ways to a Reporter’s (or Blogger’s) Heart

With Valentine’s Day fresh on the brain, I was thinking about how many of the same tenets for personal friendships or romantic relationships also apply to professional relationships with reporters or bloggers. The dance of communication (or miscommunication at times) plays a major role, and there must be interest on both sides for it to work. With the ”Hallmark holiday” in mind, I offer five ways to a reporter’s or blogger’s heart…Please drop a comment on whether these work for you or if you have others to add.

1)    Show a Common Interest – Do your research and demonstrate your familiarity with their work by reading their articles/posts before you contact them. This is a simple, but often overlooked, way to earn bonus points and to show them that you’ve tailored your story idea for them rather than a mass reporter e-mail.

2)    Know Their Communication Preferences – Is a particular reporter always on Twitter but you can’t get them on the phone or to respond to e-mail? I’ve recently had success with this one by sending a Twitter Direct Message to a hard-to-reach tech reporter (after we reciprocated follows) and got interest within minutes.

3)    Stay in Touch – After the correspondence for a particular story has wrapped it may seem unnecessary to continue the dialogue, but staying on the radar requires a little TLC. Don’t be afraid to check in again in a month or two if you have another valuable market perspective to share or to see what the reporter or blogger is working on now.

4)    Offer Interesting Stories – Reporters and bloggers are always looking for a unique perspective to capture readers’ attention, so up your chances of being included by giving them a spice of controversy (enough to pique attention without being reckless) or presenting a new or different angle for a relevant topic.

5)    Follow Through – Media contacts remember which marketing and PR professionals make their jobs easier by facilitating interviews around deadlines and providing requested follow-up material in a timely manner. They also remember the ones who don’t, so deliver on your promises before closing out an interview or story.

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Feb. 11

Product Placement, Anyone?

Personal email blasts. They remind me of chain letters, except the four or five old friends who have me on their lists don’t always require me to pass on or be cursed with “five years of bad luck.” Like personal blogs, the tone, e.g., “true” stories, jokes, and advice, usually reflect the person’s age, politics, interests and philosophy. As a whole, these folks are not Tweeters but they sure love their email blasts.

Several weeks ago, I received one that I actually looked at, a very sophisticated and well-produced video on YouTube re the “joys of getting old.” The jokes were pretty standard but it was obvious that this was not made in some senior’s basement. Then, halfway through the three-minute vignette, the geyser reaches into his frig and pulls out a bottle of Coca-Cola. Bingo. Paid, sealed and delivered by the folks who care about seniors…buying their product.

I made the mistake of sending back a comment that it was a Coca-Cola produced advertisement. Good grief, talk about the Holy Grail. Few of the group of eight believed that it was advertiser sponsored. Has YouTube and the “media” done such a good job that a public, even though it may be an over-50 crowd, believes that the corporate folks are not taking advantage of YouTube, Facebook and other social media tools to “sell”? Product placement, anyone?

So now, I’m curious. I’ve been looking for research on social media and unattributed advertising with little luck. Let me know if you have or see any good consumer studies. Oh, I got kicked off my friend’s email list. That’s all right. My mid-western friend still sends me dirty jokes.

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