The Matchbox.

Jul. 28

Google+ – Just a Fad or the Next Wave in Social Media

Like many involved and/or participating in the world of social media, I have closely followed the Google+ field test since its launch just about a month ago now. I’ve read lots of articles debating its effectiveness or sustainability against social media giants Facebook and Twitter and hopped on last week to give it a whirl. It has many of the same bells and whistles that Facebook offers, e.g., photo sharing, wall posts, messaging, etc. While it is somewhat confusing and initially complex to get started/sign-up, the new social network (Google is referring to it as a product rather than a network – semantics I say), I dig that you can assimilate people into different categories or “circles”. Today on Facebook, I have friends, acquaintances, people I didn’t want to accept an invitation but had to, and then work colleagues. It’s a mess. Google Plus eliminates the mess by categorizing the person accordingly. However, finding friends is a bit difficult as you need to use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo accounts, so it ends up being a manual slog.

The real question is will this take off and become a must-have, must-be-on, social sharing network? Google certainly has the numbers but I am rather skeptical that the non-millennial/gen-y and older crowds are going to embrace yet another network to manage. According to a PC World article today, Google+ is already suffering from a drop in engagement and overall web site traffic. Not good since it’s just one-month old. But, with other services and apps like Android, YouTube, Gmail, etc.., the new social network or “social circle” may have a fighting chance. What’s your take?

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Jul. 20

PR Measurement: Not One Size Fits All

It has been said many, many times – you can’t draw a straight line from PR to revenue. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t measure PR. Just make sure you are measuring the right elements of the program. Here are three measurements to consider when evaluating your PR success.  Note: These measurements do not directly apply to social media success. See my colleague Eve Sheridan’s post on Social Media Metrics: How Far Have We Come?

Traffic: Using Google Analytics or another analytics tool and appropriately optimizing your press releases can help measure the impact a press release has on website traffic. Unite your PR and SEO team to develop a PR keyword strategy that aligns with the overall SEO goals and can effectively measure the unique traffic driven by the press release.

Conversions: It is rare in PR to ever get a 1-to-1 ratio of media outreach attempts and coverage, but review the stats for insight on the success of your strategy and there is no harm in altering the strategy. Keep in mind, reaching the Wall Street Journal or TODAY Show will yield a much different conversion rate than a targeted campaign for a region or vertical market.

Tone: It is important to not only evaluate the number of media hits but also the value of the article tone and placement. An article that mentions your company name alongside other hot companies in the space in a high profile outlet may be just as valuable as a glowing profile piece in a regional outlet.

PR measurement is not one size fits all so it is key for PR firms and clients to work together to develop the right evaluations for your program.

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Jul. 08

Power of Media Shown in Casey Anthony Trial Coverage

I’ve followed the Casey Anthony case from the beginning and have always had a pit in my stomach regarding the tragic and suspicious death of such a bright-eyed little girl. But I had no idea it would have such an impact on me—as it has for so many Americans—and that I would consistently be looking for the next reported development. Sadly, there are many child murder cases, but how many end up captivating an entire nation?

In this case, we are reminded of the incredible power the media has in communicating a story. Journalists have held the cards in choosing which elements of the story to focus on, which parts of the courtroom footage to air and which “experts” to feature for commentary. Of course, some of the media took pointed sides throughout the trial, e.g., Nancy Grace, which often further fueled viewers’/readers’ emotions.

Regardless of whether you believe the jury reached the correct verdict, the media’s influence in covering the case has been immense. It is a reminder that widespread media biases are a reality – whether covering a major murder trial or other types of news – and that people, for better or worse, often form their opinions on a story or issue based on how journalists choose to slant their news coverage.

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Jun. 29

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

In the words of the amazing Sally Field, “You like me, you really like me.”  Our obsession with approvals or “likes” hasn’t changed much since the actress’ famous Academy Award acceptance speech. Today we most closely associate a “like” with Facebook, but many have raised an important question — what is the true value of a Facebook “like”? This topic permeates many social media/PR conversations, alongside 1) how do we increase our “likes” and 2) how do we measure our followers’ engagement?

recent study from Experian Hitwise (and covered by Ragan’s Kevin Allen) is beginning to answer the value question, estimating that for retailers, each acquired “like” leads to 20 extra visits to the company’s website in a year. That is a pretty powerful number — proving that businesses shouldn’t ignore their Facebook presence.

Today, participating in Facebook is almost as important as having a website. Given the network’s 500 million user base (and counting), businesses are missing a huge opportunity if they don’t at least have a basic business page with contact information.  This goes for BtoC and BtoB companies alike.  It’s obvious Facebook users enjoy not only connecting with friends and family, but also with their favorite businesses, brands and products. According to Facebook, the average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events.

The value of a Facebook “like” will be different for every company based on size, business type, industry, location and more.  And in the end, your goal shouldn’t be to rack up the largest number of “likes”, but instead to focus on a core group of quality connections who engage with your business, want to read your posts, view your photos/videos and create ongoing dialogue.

Not on Facebook yet and need more reason to jump on board?  Check out my colleague Eve Sheridan’s blog post here.

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Jun. 21

The Mystery of Mommy Bloggers – PR and Advertising Blurred

In the majority of households today, moms hold the buying power. Some stats cite US moms totaling 75 million, of which 85 percent influence or make the household purchases. Combine this with the rise of the mommy blogger – expected to reach nearly 4 million in 2011 – and moms are the Holy Grail for many consumer-focused products.

Mom bloggers represent a unique set of influencers with many varieties – some write product reviews, some offer coupons and deals, others offer real-life accounts of their experiences as a mom, and the list goes on. As a mom, I have some go-to reads for parenting tips, insights, recipes and comic relief. But as a PR professional, I struggle with the blurring between advertising and PR. While most mom bloggers say they accept PR pitches, many actually charge a fee for their posts.

We recently worked with a reputable mom blog network that has helped many well-known consumer product goods companies reach this powerful but precarious audience. Our goal was to introduce moms to a sales and shopping site. Having leveraged broadcast and other media channels to successfully drive traffic and usage of this client’s website, we expected a similar, positive traffic spike from a list of targeted and relevant mom bloggers interested in shopping and saving money. Surprisingly, our experience resulted in very little traffic.

While there is a “this is a sponsored post” disclaimer that may not stand out when the mom and/or her family is using, riding, wearing or giving away a highlighted product, I believe the PR influence of mommy bloggers has been overstated. They may have dedicated readers, but they fall short in driving traffic and users.

Have you had a different experience with mom bloggers promoting products? We’d love to hear your perspective.

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Jun. 13

Gone Fishin’

Like many other families with school-age children, summertime is our vacation time. In the media and PR world, summertime is known as a downtime when major efforts slow and preparations begin for Fall initiatives. Over the years, clients have resisted pushing out news in the summer in favor of waiting for the September buzz of activity when more eyeballs will be reached. But, is it really an effective strategy?

No one can dispute that readership or viewership wanes in the summer. But I have to wonder – with life less hectic and fewer conferences to attend and competing announcements to navigate, is quantity a better argument than quality? Personally, this is the time of year that I have (and relish) to really sink my teeth into industry articles and news – spending those extra 5-10 minutes to fully read and digest a relevant business or trade article, rather than quickly reading the headline and lead in the midst of ending one conference call, sending an email and running to an appointment. And, with journalists inundated with thousands of pitches and barely able to give anything its proper due during other times of year, summertime yields the opportunity for more extensive in-depth coverage of a news announcement or a trend story.

In fact, over the years, some of our best work and most extensive coverage for our clients has occurred in the summer. Last year, the agency helped client Localeze become a significant part of the Facebook Places launch in August, which yielded tremendous coverage and helped the business listings identity management provider become a household name in the industry. So, perhaps summertime deserves a new reputation among PR folks– the untapped prime-time?

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May. 23

Social Media Metrics – How Far Have We Come?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s impossible to ignore the omnipresence of social media in our daily lives – both personal and business – as well as its impact on society’s perceptions and decisions. Businesses still fall across the spectrum ranging from very little social engagement to multi-platform social media initiatives that reach a global audience, but adoption has steadfastly increased, and with it, continued questions about which metrics are most valuable.

At first, companies were only concerned about fans and followers – how many and how to get more. This was certainly important but didn’t address the quality of engagement. Next came monitoring the disposition of comments, posts and tweets, as well as tracking re-tweets/re-posts and evaluating the relevancy of the engaged audience. However, the question of ROI wasn’t answered and only basic social media monitoring tools were available to help track progress.

Even though the mainstream social media “past” only consists of a few years, today’s savvy companies have evolved tremendously with regard to social media programs, with many executing on multi-pronged strategic social media initiatives that require significant investment. As such, metrics have expanded to help prove ROI, including tracking web leads that originate from social sources, measuring the level of activity among all members of your social networks (length of time spent, number of pages visited, new vs. unique visitors), and evaluating quantity and sentiment of brand mentions across all social platforms.  These types of metrics are most measurable in larger organizations where the impact is clearer, and sophisticated social media monitoring tools are often needed. Also tracking these deeper elements requires time investment and close coordination with lead-gen and other online marketing initiatives.

In any case, this evolution of social metrics indicates a major shift in business thinking around social media participation – it is no longer an unproven, experimental strategy, but rather a powerful marketing force to be harnessed for real business returns.

 

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May. 11

Social Media Policies: College Bars Student from Graduation Ceremony for Facebook Entry

When a tornado hit St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C. last month, Roman Caple, a senior close to graduation was among many students concerned about returning to a campus without power and with fallen trees. Roman, the first among his extended family to graduate from college, expressed that concern on his Facebook page. School officials reacted and barred him from attending his graduation May 1. The media and students were shocked and particularly with the following statement: “As written in our Code of Conduct, Saint Augustine’s College students are expected to support the College’s mission. The College reserves the right to take appropriate actions when student conduct conflicts with the institutional mission.” More bad publicity followed and a public relations nightmare continues.

St. Augustine’s is among thousands of colleges and universities not coping with the new world of social media networking. Many organizations solve a Facebook or Twitter “problem” by firing an employee or, in this case, penalizing a student to teach a lesson. Not only is there negative publicity, employees and students are unclear as to what is or isn’t accepted.

I recently wrote about the importance of corporations – with management and employee representation – to create social media employee guidelines. Student and faculty guidelines for an educational institution also are a necessity. No guideline is going to be perfect but by harnessing the power of students, faculty, alumni and others, social media can be a friend not an enemy.

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Apr. 28

Make A Splash At Industry Events

Conferences can be a great forum for creating buzz for your company, while you meet with reporters, potential partners and prospect customers.  However, at events, big and small, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t prepare in advance.  To make the most of an upcoming trade show, follow these guidelines to stand out in the crowd.

1) Announce a new product, service or partnership

We don’t advise creating news just to distribute a press release at an event, but if a corporate announcement falls close to the date of a conference it is often worth the wait to release the news during that time.  In addition to your regular PR wire and media list distribution, share your news in the pressroom and at your trade booth.  If the event has an online forum for posting news, make sure you take advantage of that as well.

2) Connect with reporters on-site

Take a look at the press list and decide which reporters you would like to contact. Send an email requesting a short introductory briefing with advance news, if appropriate, to pique the reporter’s interest.  If your company news falls in line with the reporter’s beat, they will often make time to meet with you.

3) Use social media before, during and after the conference

Use Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with potential partners so you can schedule on-site meetings. During the show, make your presence known by sharing insights at the event related to the panels and keynote sessions.  Use the related conference hashtag to ensure visibility. And, don’t forget to follow up with new connections post-event.

 

4) Utilize YouTube, Flickr and SlideShare

If you are speaking at an event, utilize YouTube for posting videos and Flickr for sharing photos of your presentation.  SlideShare is also an excellent tool for making your slides available to attendees after the event.

5) Post a blog recap

If your company has a corporate blog, post your thoughts following the show – highlight an interesting panel or keynote – to increase your thought leadership presence.  Send the post to your new contacts.

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Apr. 21

PR is stressful? It’s all relative.

Sure, work is stressful, but I wouldn’t rate a PR pro as the No. 2 most stressful job behind a commercial airline pilot—as was recently reported by CareerCast. I’m sure there are many commercial airline pilots who don’t think they have the most stressful job either. Job stress and job satisfaction are relative and everyone’s job is stressful in its own right.

My friends in other professions concur – nurses, teachers, corporate and government executives, small business owners, engineers, stay-at-home moms – they all have stress. My professional stresses are rude reporters, tracking a 24X7 news cycle and client turnover.

But, at the end of the day, whether you are in PR or any other profession, you take the good with the bad. Hopefully, there are enough highs to outweigh the lows. For me, there are plenty of professional highs. For example:

  1. Landing a big story – Every client and industry has a different “holy grail” of media coverage but once you get it – or even something close – everything else seems good in the world.
  2. Developing relationships with reporters – While plenty of reporters are flip, others appreciate a symbiotic relationship with PR. It is rewarding when you develop a collaborative relationship with a reporter and share ideas.
  3. Helping businesses create an identity – Whether the businesses we help are large or small, they are all looking for visibility. Working with a largely unknown company and helping them get on the radar of their target audience – and get due credit for their expertise through our media strategies – is truly gratifying.

On days like this, life is good.

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