Everyday PR

Alaska: The Ultimate in Sensory Satisfaction

Hubby and I recently had the privilege of spending 10 glorious days at Baranof Lodge in Southeast Alaska, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure highly recommended if you’re interested in a sensory experience that will exceed your expectations, if you need a reality check that not all is wrong with the world, if you want the kind of sleep that’s barely one level above comatose, and if you embrace nature, new things and fine cuisine. 

Spectacular view of a brown bear in search of a fish dinner.

Neither of us had ever been to the 49th state, only one of us had previously fished, and both of us regarded whales as overrated subjects for children’s movies.  Boy were we surprised to the point of near nirvana.  Following are high points of our trip, which can best be described as a series of life lessons about priorities, challenges, rewards and relationships.

*  A group –  from about 10 different states – that eats, hikes, fishes, relaxes, laughs, relaxes and celebrates together gets to know each other.  The camaraderie was amazing.

* Catching your first fish - or by the end of the week, your first fish of the day - and still feeling your heart skip a beat.

* Eating homemade pie made with wild blueberries picked just hours before.

* Watching young bears clumsily catch salmon in streams was like watching puppies who haven’t yet grown into their paws. 

* Feeling your eyeballs get wider and wider as you observe sleek humpback whales glistening, spouting, breaching and gliding through the ocean.

*  Beach combing on a deserted island picking over everything from microphones and mushrooms to barnacles and bones.

*  Hearing towering waterfalls, cooing ravens, growling sea lions and whispering white caps.

*  Sitting in 102-degree hot springs as geothermally heated by volcanoes while being mesmerized by bald eagles flying overhead.

*  Feeling the professional touch of a massage therapist to smooth out any muscle stress and tension – not that you would have any after spending time here.

*  Eating perfectly prepared, freshly caught dungeness crab from  a dock you can see from the table.

*  Hiking in the most luscious moss-covered floors of a forest soaking in the thousand different shades of green while snacking on wild raspberries

*  Realizing that, in nature, every creature seems to get along sharing the same space and resources.  Not every creature survives, but it’s not because of anything negative or self-induced from their heart or mind.  We can all learn from that.

For more photos and a great video, check out my Facebook page.

Enjoy!

Talk about Karma

UPDATE:  Shirley Sherrod files suit against Andrew Breitbart.  I hate it for him.

Former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod declined a job offer this week from Secretary Tom Vilsack, the same guy who prematurely fired her based on a selectively edited and gross misrepresentation of the facts on Andrew Brietbart’s Big Government blog.  Who could possibly argue with her decision?  Go for the consulting gig.  Even if that’s not in her future, her lawsuit against Brietbart for defamation should satisfy.   

As originally posted, this woman is not stupid and clearly can hold her own.  Too bad for Brietbart, Vilsack and the countless news editors, supervisors, bloggers, et al, who didn’t fact check the story before publicizing it and following the herd mentality.  They don’t deserve a single virtual Cup of Joe for their rush to judgment.  Too bad, so sad.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

PR Can’t Fix Operations

BP. Toyota. Goldman Sachs. No amount of public relations can completely nor quickly fix an operational problem of great magnitude.  This piece from The New York Times explains how and why public relations strategies can go just so far.  Read here.

How to Benefit from Social Media

This is the last of the three-part series on social media.  Abbie S. Fink, vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, talks about how her clients have benefited from using social media.  Abbie and I met years ago when I hired her in an agency capacity.  Thanks to social media, our relationship has evolved to one of great friendship and professional respect.

Q:  How have HMA and its clients  used social media?

A:  HMA’s staff embraced social media a couple years ago, starting with our blog. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter  last year. We began introducing the idea of social media to our clients in early 2008. We started with LinkedIn and blogging, easy points of access. For those who wanted more, we added Facebook and Twitter to the mix.

Q:   How have HMA and clients been able to promote/generate name awareness, particularly for nonprofits?

A:  Our not-for-profit clients led the way in actively participating in in social media. They have found social media to be a low-cost way to connect with potential consumers, donors, media, etc. to promote their mission, events, etc.  Strategies are developed, and together, we deliver on those strategies. We’ve also seen an increase in our business-to-business clients as well.  By embracing social media to engage with their clients, they have added a new dimension of “conversation” to the client relationships

Q:   Have you been able to quantify the impact of social media on the agency and/or its clients?

A:  That’s a tough question — anecdotally we know that social media is impacting our business and our clients’ business. This is a relatively new service offering for our clients, something that they are interested in pursuing. The challenge is still the ROI in terms of actual measurement. Using search and other tools we are able to look at mentions, what people are saying, and other forms of information gathering. In the not-for-profit sector, we can show increases in donor participation. Other things like website hits or blog comments are other ways to view impact. We’ve also started talking about what actions are being taken as a result of the client’s social media engagement. 

Q:  What do you see as the future of social media for agencies like yours?

A:  Social media is here to stay. What may change is the form in takes — today it’s Twitter, next year it might be something else. For agencies like HMA to stay relevant in the space, we need to be embracing it, using it, learning about it and then sharing that expertise and knowledge with current and prospective clients.

Q:  If you could give one piece of advice to organizations using social media, what would that be?

A:  Engage, converse and have fun. Social media is an excellent way to develop and maintain relationships — like no other form of customer/client engagement, social media lets you engage with your brand’s users.

Thanks so much to all the social media professionals who participated in this Q&A series.  If you have questions or suggestions regarding this topic, please send e-mail to shart@hartpr.com or directly contact any of the experts in this series. And if you like what you’ve read, please consider subscribing to EveryDayPR by clicking the Subscribe button at the top of this page.

How to Get Started in Social Media

This is the second in a series on social media.  Gini Dietrich of Arment Dietrich in Chicago talks about how her agency and clients get started in social media.  Gini’s background in social media comes from positioning her agency as her top client, which quickly led to professional presentations and speaking engagements on social media.  Her blog, Spin Sucks, is on the PRWeek Required Reading list. Most recently, the blog was named One of the 30 Best Blog Posts on Social Media I’ve Read in 2010 by A New Market Commentary.  If she’s not working, she’s thinking about work during her daily cycling.

Q.    Once organizations decide to use social media, how can agencies like yours help them get started?
A.   Our philosophy about social media is that you’re now able to participate in conversations happening online about you, your company, your
employees, and your competition. We help our clients use social media to enhance the relationships they have with customers, employees, and
prospects. And we look at four main goals:

*    Brand awareness

*    Brand loyalty

*    Talent recruitment, and/or

*    Prospecting

When an organization decides it’s time to jump on the bandwagon, we help them set up listening tools, we help them monitor the conversations, and
we make recommendations for when and how to join the conversations.  A lot of the time we spend with companies is looking at benchmarks and
then setting goals that drive increased dollars from the social media efforts. We coach, we brainstorm, we generate new ideas, we watch what they’re doing, and we make recommendations for changes or shifts.  Getting started is the easy part…we make the rest of it more manageable so they maintain a presence and are consistent, even during their busiest times.

Q.   What are some good ways to monitor social media?
A.  I love a few free tools:
* Set up Google alerts, if you haven’t already. You can create alerts for the company, your name, your competition, and the industry. It
allows you to monitor what is being said online and decide when and how to join the conversations.
* Set up social mention alerts. Just like Google alerts, it monitors what people are saying about you online. But the difference is that social mention looks only at the social channels so you start to receive information, such as tweets and comments on blogs.
* TweetDeck, Hootsuite or another desktop application allows you to set up searches. Like Google and social mention alerts, you can search different terms, but here it populates a column anytime anyone says anything on Twitter. It’s an easy way to monitor in a very time efficient manner.

Q.  How have your clients used social media monitoring as part of their overall PR plans/strategies?
A.  We’re seeing a shift with each of our clients – they’re not using it just for overall PR plans. They’re using it across the business – PR, marketing, sales, advertising, HR, customer service, and in the C-suite.  If there is a customer complaint on one of the social networks, customer service can respond to it instantaneously and fix a problem that otherwise might turn into a crisis. HR is using it to recruit talent they wouldn’t otherwise have access to without an expensive head hunter.  Sales is using it to network with prospects without having to make a cold call or go to a trade show. They’re networking 24/7. The C-suite is using it to demonstrate thought leadership, provide value, and build brand loyalty. And PR is using it to develop better relationships with all influencers, including bloggers, reporters, customers, employees, candidates, shareholders, and prospects.  This shift now allows us to do our jobs via additional dollar line items – some of our budgets come from marketing, some from sales, some from HR, and some from PR.

Q.    What do you see as the future of social media for service providers?
A.   Unlike anything before, social media allows service providers a way to spread a message quickly, to put out fires, to start fires, to become industry leaders, and to reach audiences around the globe. This is less about the canned messages we’re accustomed to writing. It’s less about training our executives what to say and what not to say. It’s less about picking up the phone and pitching stories to reporters. It’s less about designing extraordinary and expensive events. Once PR firms realize this, they’ll be able to help their clients have better relationships; build communities to drive revenue; create tribes of people who care about their products or services and are willing to tell their friends; and interact in places you never thought possible.

Q.    If you could give one piece of advice to organizations starting to use social media, what would that be?
A.   If you do only one thing, listen. It’s the foundation to social media, but also to communication and interaction with other human beings. Set up Google and social mention alerts – they come directly to your e-mail as often (or as little) as you like. And download a desktop application (such as TweetDeck or HootSuite) and create searches in there. Then open your application once a day and quickly scroll through your search columns to see what people are saying.

Next week, Abbie Fink of HMA in Phoenix talks about how to benefit from social media.  And if you like what you’ve read today, share the content via social media, of course.

Wise Words from Wynonna

Who knew that some of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard would come from Wynonna Judd?  I saw the international superstar speak this week at a monthly CABLE luncheon, and I can guarantee that nobody left without having a few belly laughs, some moments of reflection and a unanimous thank-you for the experience.  Self-described as a “passionate artist, philanthropist, and a farmer with the ability to kick anybody’s ass who’s new in the country music business with one hand tied behind my back”, Wynonna talked about her personal journey “to hell and back”.  A few years ago, she hit a wall and wanted to quit the business around the time her doctor told her to start taking care of her body or her career decision may be made for her.  Following a stint in rehab for her “addiction to food, OCD and perfectionism”, she changed her lifestyle.  Here are some wise words from Wynonna:

*  If you don’t care of yourself, no one else will.

*  Start learning to say “no”.

*  Perfectionism is the highest form of self abuse.

*  I don’t want to be bitter; I want to be better.

*  If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.

*  Give yourself daily affirmations – in the mirror – naked.

*  Your best is good enough.

*  Listen to your inner voice.

*  No more credit cards; pay cash for everything. 

*  You are more than your weight.

*  Stop drinking the poison expecting someone else to die.

*  Don’t give the devil rent-free space in your head.

*  Set boundaries.

*  Be the change you want to be.

And the most well-received advice by the 400+ women in attenance, and I quote, “Stop prioritorizing your schedule.  Schedule your priorities, and let the rest go.  Just go get a good book and a vibrator.”

For her authenticity, candor and connection, we honor Wynonna Judd with three virtual Cups of Joe. 

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

How to Know if you Need Social Media

Back by popular demand and in light of recent questions regarding social media, EveryDayPR offers a three-part Q&A series on social media with three experts from across the country.  The first of our series begins with Mark W. McClennan, APR, vice president at Schwartz Communications and chair of the Northeast District of PRSA.  I first met Mark at the 2009 Counselors Academy in Palm Springs.  Mark is one of the few professionals I know who can effectively communicate about how technology can be a meaningful part of an organization’s business strategy.  He’s also a lot of fun to be around.

Q. Why should organizations consider social media, especially when today’s economy is calling for people to do more with less?

A. I think that is a very telling question. That is like saying, I am so busy that I don’t have time to go the dentist. It may save you money in the short term, but long term you are looking ad greater expense and two root canals. Social media impacts every business. From the local plumber who is getting praised or savaged on his town’s Wiki, to the largest consumer goods company that is using it to find out what consumer want and launch new products. If you care about talking with your customers (or potential customers) and what to know what people are saying about you, you need to be involved.

Q.  How do organizations know what to do first – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.?

 A. With all due respect, that is the wrong question to ask. The channels aren’t the key things. In fact, in 5-10 years, the channels we know today may all be gone. Remember AltaVista and Earthlink? One of the biggest mistakes people make is asking “What’s my Facebook strategy?” The questions you need to ask first are:

a) Who am I trying to reach?

b) Why am I doing it, and what do I want to accomplish?

c) How does this support my overall corporate strategy?

d) Which channels and tools will best support the strategy?

Josh Bernoff says it better than I ever could in his book Groundswell, but basically, if you start the discussion with which channel to do first, you have already lost. And just because your competitor is using a certain channel, doesn’t mean you need to be. If you copy off the kid in the class who gets a D, you will get a D as well. Start with the basics and build from there.

Let me give you an example. I work with a health care IT company that makes software for doctors. We had been monitoring social media for a time (think of Twitter and Google Blogsearch as free business/competitive intelligence). We integrated social media as part of our overall communications strategy. One channel we identified was Facebook. Why? Because the client’s primary research showed that 75% of medical students spent a good deal of time on Facebook, with a small minority spending more than 40 hours a month (scary). We also knew they were receptive to information via that channel and that medical students tended to stay loyal to technology they used in school. So we knew it made sense and supported our business strategy.

Q. How much should organizations expect to invest in social media in the initial phases?

 A. I always tell my clients to start small. You can always grow your campaign and engagement. But if you run out of steam or reduce your engagement, you look like a worn out strip mall where half the storefronts are vacant. Research and planning will tell you how much you will need to invest to reach your own goals. Keep in mind, the majority of the cost may not be direct capital outlays, but is likely to be the time invested by your staff or agency.

Q. Where do you see the future of social media?

 A. Five years ago I was a social media skeptic. I was a tech-early adopter and was active on message boards, blogs etc., but I didn’t see any communities or channels that would influence the purchase of a $20 million piece of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Then I had an epiphany. Social media lets us do what good PR people have always wanted to do. Engage customers, conduct two-way symmetrical conversations and listen in on other conversations. A company seeking to build a concrete plant has always sought to do local grassroots engagement and has wanted to know what people are saying. Social media makes it cheaper, easier and quicker. 

Social media is as evolutionary to public relations as the Internet was in the early to mid 1990s. I remember when email pitches were a novelty and you had to conduct costly focus groups and polling. Now I speak with key reporters via IM and Twitter more than I email them, and I have better insight into many customer segments for less money.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to organizations considering using social media, what would that be?

A. Start today. Listen. Even if you don’t join the conversations, you need to know what is being said about you, your market and your competitors. Social media engagement is essential to strategic communications.

Next week Gini Dietrich of Arment Dietrich in Chicago talks about how to get started using social media.

Update: More Pee in Pool

UPDATE:  Wikileaks posts huge encrypted file on the Web.  Read the latest.

I rarely make judgment calls about public relations officials especially when they’re just trying to the best job they can with the information given to them.  But last week’s comments by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell put me over the edge.  In regard to the Wikileaks situation, the Pentagon ”demanded that Wikileaks return the documents. We want whatever they have returned to us and we want whatever copies they have expunged. We demand that they do the right thing. If doing the right thing is not good enough for them, then we will figure out what alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing.”  Stop it!  I’m so embarrassed for you, and here’s why:

*  I’m no technical giant but how can documents be “returned” as who knows who’s already downloaded the info, made copies, sent to others, what servers the info is on or en route, etc.  It’s like trying to get pee out of a pool.

*  Demanding someone in another country to do something is almost laughable as Australians aren’t bound by American laws.

*  Demanding that someone do the right thing is in the eye of the doer.

*  Admitting that you basically have no strategy beyond your demand sounds like you’re unprepared, unsure and unclear about what authority, legal or otherwise, that you have. 

While legal recourse remains questionable,a change of tone and content in messages from the Pentagon should be considered.  Think communication, resolution, negotiation, prevention and being proactive instead of reactive.  And if you going to use the “demand” word, use the “please” word with it.  A single virtual Cup of Joe to Geoff Morrell and the Pentagon for using a school yard tactic to get something you don’t have.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Dear John: It’s Over…TC…EOM

I have a friend who found out the bride called off their wedding via e-mail.  Another friend who was TUI (Texting Under the Influence) broke up with her boyfriend via her Blackberry.  Just last week, I was electronically lamblasted by someone who doesn’t even know me regarding a volunteer project.  Is avoiding other human beings supposed to be one of the purposes of today’s technology?  Are relationships with other people taking a back seat to greater familiarity with keyboards and “Send” buttons?

In "Up in the Air" Clooney's character understood the importance of face-to-face communication.

I know. I’m a dinosaur. I was late to the technology dance.  Even so, 2009 was the Year of Yearning and Learning for me, so I got on the social media bandwagon for the sake of my clients and my knowledge.  So I’m not completely archaic.  And while I agree that technology is great for targeted business communications, family emergencies and useful for staying in touch with people (don’t get me started on the quantitative aspect of followers and FB friends), I still don’t understand why the people in the above situations couldn’t pick up the phone or better yet, talk in person, especially over something like an engagement.

For some, maybe their choices reflect a broader issue of confrontation avoidance, which has never been a problem for the Hart lineage.  As physician and Buddhist Alex Lickerman put it, “Electronic media transmit emotion so poorly compared to in-person interaction….it blocks us from registering the negative emotional responses, which provides us the illusion we’re not really doing harm.  Unfortunately, this also usually means we don’t transmit these messages with as much empathy, and often find ourselves sending a different message than we intended.” Look at George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air” where he rightly explains to his boss that bad news must be communicated face to face.  He knows that the importance of one-on-one human interaction and how the impersonality of technology negatively impacts an already negative situation. 

So if grown-ups already are hiding behind technology about significant relationship issues, what does that say to the next generation that is practically conjoined with a computer?  How will they develop the skills necessary to have an intimate relationship with someone, much less carry on a functional  conversation? 

At the end of the day, healthy relationships with human beings – not computers –  are an essential component to quality of life.  In the “if you have something negative to say to me about this blog or anything else, say it to my face” category, call me.  Your comments also are welcome.

Ironically, we will be talking next week about how to get started in social media.  Stay tuned.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, APR, is an independent public relations consultant with 25+ years of experience. Beginning as a journalist, she represents clients in health care, financial, technology and real estate. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, she serves as Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for her local PRSA Chapter.

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