Five Things Marketers Could Learn from Ashton Kutcher

December 11, 2009

I try to keep up on news in my industry, so it was with great interest that I read the latest cover story in Fast Company about fellow Twitter lover, Ashton Kutcher and his production company, Katalyst.

The cover provocatively asks if Kutcher could be “a new kind of media mogul.”

My answer?

Unequivocally.

As a strategist, I can recognize a solid and smart marketing process when I see one – and Kutcher’s is watertight:

  1. Be hot, famous and prolific in some key social media channels.
  2. Watch as step 1 generates a large following of gawkers and fans.
  3. Watch as steps 1 and 2 attract large corporate brands who want to sell stuff to hordes of gawkers and fans.
  4. Let those brands piggyback on, or co-opt the content within, the aforementioned channels.
  5. Monetize participation, release co-opted content to the aforementioned hordes and make beaucoup money.

As the article states, Kutcher intends to become, “the first next-generation media mogul,” using his own brand as a springboard and syndication system.

And, I have no doubt he’ll be successful at it.

But his strategy (heck, his whole company) is uniquely suited to capitalize on Kutcher’s stature, connections and lifestyle.

So where does this leave the rest of us whose personal brands aren’t so much springboards as they are teeny planks?

Me? I was never on a TV show. I’m not married to a celebrity. I have no pre-existing corporate endorsements. I’ve never punk’d Justin Timberlake so bad that he nearly cried (btw…that was a great episode, AK).

And yet, I’m working this space just as aggressively as Kutcher and his posse. And, I’m looking to magazines like Fast Company for ideas and inspiration on how to be successful in my own right.

Is there anything a regular lady from the Midwest like me can learn from “team Ashton?”

While the consensus online seems to be that Fast Company took a gigantic jump over a very attractive shark in writing this article, I still think the answer is “yes.”

1. Find your hook

I’ve got two words for you: trucker hat. Kutcher knows the value of a gimmick, a prank or a well-positioned must-have accessory, and he works that sucker for all its worth.

Do you have a “trucker hat” idea for your business?

  • Is your value prop that you “do good work?” (Congrats, that’s true for every other company in America too. What else you got?) Are you the “first,” the “best,” the “only,” or the “award-winning” anything?
  • Is your hook easy to identify, ubiquitous and a key player in every facet of your overall marketing strategy?
  • Will your hook translate well across multiple platforms and media spaces?

2. Mix the mediums

Social is not the end-all, be-all of marketing. Part of the key to the success of Kutcher’s company is that they are integrating content across multiple platforms, and seeding projects in television, movies and the Web.

Are you thinking outside of the social media box, too?

  • Are you creating marketing content that is snackable, portable and customizable across a range of platforms?
  • Are all your marketing channels designed to work together symbiotically?
  • Are you keeping an eye on emerging technologies so you can be the first to identify the new places where your clients or customers might want to play?

3. Pretty it up

Yeah, Kutcher’s good looks are doing him some favors in his race to “mogul-ness.” But, “be hotter” isn’t a real practical strategy for the rest of us to pursue. Perhaps a more tangible lesson we can learn from this former model is that working your looks is just as important as having them.

Is your company ready for its close-up?

  • Do you have a consistent and appealing visual identity across all your marketing platforms and spaces?
  • How is that headshot of yours holding up? (Is it reinforcing your brand, or is it just a so-so pic you shot with your laptop cam?)
  • Are you striking some awesome, “blue steel” marketing “poses” via your podcasts, video and writing?

4. Keep an eye on the Benjamins

Kutcher knows Hollywood, and he’s cannibalizing that world to build his new business model. One lesson we can learn from him (and that world), is that everything costs money. (In Hollywood, it takes a village to raise a celebrity…and all those villagers need to get paid.)

Are you ready to capitalize on your new media investments?

  • Are you approaching your contacts and pitching unique marketing partnerships where you can share the work and the wealth?
  • Do you have clear strategies in place for ensuring that the content you give away will come back to you as revenue down the road?
  • Have you identified some companies who are doing this well? Are you tracking their every move and taking copious notes?

5. Enjoy yourself

For all we know, Ashton Kutcher could be reading Ayn Rand books in his spare time. But in public, the AK brand is all about having fun. And you know what? People loooove to have fun, and they are attracted to other people having fun. Marketing doesn’t get any more simple than that.

Are you having any fun?

  • Do people enjoy reading/watching/listening to your marketing? (Um…do you?) Is it interesting? Provocative? Funny?
  • Are you enthusiastic about what you do? Are you letting that enthusiasm bleed into and invigorate your brand?
  • Are you remembering to break a few rules now and again?

Ultimately, Ashton is an anomaly…

So it doesn’t really matter if he’s the “first next-generation media mogul,” or not.

Really, the more interesting question is…

…who will be the second?




TWEETWALLS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE “YO MAMA IS SOOO UGLY…”

November 23, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you: The Tweetwall – the hottest new accessory for events in the digital age.

If you haven’t seen one yet, give it time. They’re quickly becoming ubiquitous.

(How ubiquitous? How about the fact that you can now tweet prayers to appear in an aggregated feed for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?)

For those of you who are new to the concept, a Tweetwall is a projection of an aggregated; auto-refreshing conversational feed, that’s often occurring simultaneously as a real-time event or gathering.

As an events tool, Tweetwalls make a lot of sense.

Increasingly events have “back channel” conversations that are equally as compelling as the “front channel” ones. Incorporating a Tweetwall into the experience allows you to marry these on-line and offline conversations and connections.

Additionally, live streaming, social networking and virtual reality have begun to blur the distinction between being virtually present at an events and actually being there in the flesh. A Tweetwall is an excellent way to give your virtual friends a seat at the table too.

But, like any other technology advancement, there is a wrong and a right way to use a Tweetwall.

Before you jump in, here are some tips to help you avoid making any rookie mistakes.

Tweeters + Speakers = Not a Match Made in Heaven

The first exposure most of us have with Tweetwalls are at conferences or workshops where the feed is being projected behind a live presenter.

At first glance, this seems like a natural and smart move.

But as one who’s coordinated, watched and presented in front of Tweetwalls for over a year, let me be explicitly clear on one thing. In my opinion…

Tweetwalls do not belong behind presenters.

Never.

Never ever.

It’s an ineffective logistics choice from many perspectives:

  • If you have one presenter competing for focus with a wall of moving images, the wall will win every time. The images effectively neuter the presenter and dim the volume on any words that come out of their mouth.
  • By giving the audience play-by-play equal standing as the presenter’s words, you are creating an environment that nurtures a horde of armchair Simon Cowells – each one free to lob critiques at a “performer” who has no idea they are being publicly judged and no ability to defend themselves (as the comments are often appearing literally, behind their back.)
  • Presenters – especially solo presenters — can’t talk, and read your real-time feedback on their talk, simultaneously. And increasingly they are facing rooms full of people who are looking down and typing, so it’s impossible for them to distinguish who is unhappy with the presentation and who is just IMing their friend. If you hate the session, be a grown-up and just walk out. That’s a clue that every presenter can understand.
  • Even if your audience is professional about their tweets, all it takes is for one person to highjack your hashtag and say something inappropriate on your big screen (such as “you suck, get your fat ass off the stage.”*) for you to have a PR nightmare on your hands. Sadly, anonymity tends to breed brutishness in audiences, and a cutting remark never remains alone in a feed for long.
  • Even if a presenter stinks, we should honor the fact that it takes connections to land the gig, time and skills to build the presentation and guts to get up on stage. Any presenter, whether they are good or bad, deserves the time and space to present their materials without a wall of “co-presenters” metaphorically jumping in to add their comments very 10 seconds.

Good Places for a Tweetwall

Make no mistake, I think that Tweetwalls belong at events…just not behind the speakers.

So what’s a better way to use them?

  • Place Tweetwalls within other areas of your event space so they can be accessed without pulling focus from your programming (such as hallways and lounge spaces).
  • Tweetwalls are a great feature for events where there is no formal programming (like an open house or party). In these cases, the wall provides a natural and dynamic center of attention and hub for on and off line conversation.
  • Get away from the “wall” concept and focus on creating other forums where you can aggregate event conversations. For instance, dedicate a page of your event website to the feed or create a conference-specific mobile app that will allow people to observe and engage wherever they are.

No matter what format you choose, just make sure your Tweetwall strategy is a solid one:

  • Your Tweetwall should be set up to auto refresh, so it is self-maintaining.
  • Your Tweetwall can (and should) be visually branded to match your company or event. (It is a communications tools like any other you would employ.)
  • Your Tweetwall feed should be monitored, (essentially you are inviting people to participate in a dialogue within your brand space – you don’t have to moderate the conversation, but it’s good business sense to at least know what it consisted of.)

You don’t have to do all this leg work yourselves. My friends at Clockwork Active Media Systems recently build a new tool called tweetwally that can do a lot of this work for you. I highly recommend checking it out.

Don’t Forget: Tweetwalls Never Die

It’s tempting to think of Tweetwalls in one-off terms: you build it, post it and then shut it down when the event is over.

But the reality is that your Tweetwall feed is full of valuable content that will continue to live online long after your event has been put to pasture.

So give some thought to how you can mine and capitalize on this content:

  • Are you reviewing the feed post-event and following back anyone who chimed in the conversation whom you didn’t already know?
  • Are you capturing quotes from the feed that you could use for future marketing purposes?
  • Are you following up with anyone who made disgruntled comments to let them know that their voices were heard?
  • Are you generating any post-event blog posts to address the “uber” dialogue that you see running through the feed?
  • Are you pulling out constructive criticism from the feed and relaying it back to your presenter(s) in a format that will help them to improve their presenting skills?
  • Are you shifting the conversation over to a future event’s hashtag so you can effectively end this conversation and begin another?

Tweetwalls are undeniably cool. And I believe they signal the beginning of a natural evolution to a future where events will have indistinguishable on and offline experience.

Just be sure to use them strategically.

Virtual sticks and stones also break no bones, but a mismanaged Tweetwall can certainly hurt you.

*Sadly, this is an actual tweet I saw displayed during someone’s presentation.


TWEETWALLS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE "YO MAMA IS SOOO UGLY…"

November 23, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you: The Tweetwall – the hottest new accessory for events in the digital age.

If you haven’t seen one yet, give it time. They’re quickly becoming ubiquitous.

(How ubiquitous? How about the fact that you can now tweet prayers to appear in an aggregated feed for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?)

For those of you who are new to the concept, a Tweetwall is a projection of an aggregated; auto-refreshing conversational feed, that’s often occurring simultaneously as a real-time event or gathering.

As an events tool, Tweetwalls make a lot of sense.

Increasingly events have “back channel” conversations that are equally as compelling as the “front channel” ones. Incorporating a Tweetwall into the experience allows you to marry these on-line and offline conversations and connections.

Additionally, live streaming, social networking and virtual reality have begun to blur the distinction between being virtually present at an events and actually being there in the flesh. A Tweetwall is an excellent way to give your virtual friends a seat at the table too.

But, like any other technology advancement, there is a wrong and a right way to use a Tweetwall.

Before you jump in, here are some tips to help you avoid making any rookie mistakes.

Tweeters + Speakers = Not a Match Made in Heaven

The first exposure most of us have with Tweetwalls are at conferences or workshops where the feed is being projected behind a live presenter.

At first glance, this seems like a natural and smart move.

But as one who’s coordinated, watched and presented in front of Tweetwalls for over a year, let me be explicitly clear on one thing. In my opinion…

Tweetwalls do not belong behind presenters.

Never.

Never ever.

It’s an ineffective logistics choice from many perspectives:

  • If you have one presenter competing for focus with a wall of moving images, the wall will win every time. The images effectively neuter the presenter and dim the volume on any words that come out of their mouth.
  • By giving the audience play-by-play equal standing as the presenter’s words, you are creating an environment that nurtures a horde of armchair Simon Cowells – each one free to lob critiques at a “performer” who has no idea they are being publicly judged and no ability to defend themselves (as the comments are often appearing literally, behind their back.)
  • Presenters – especially solo presenters — can’t talk, and read your real-time feedback on their talk, simultaneously. And increasingly they are facing rooms full of people who are looking down and typing, so it’s impossible for them to distinguish who is unhappy with the presentation and who is just IMing their friend. If you hate the session, be a grown-up and just walk out. That’s a clue that every presenter can understand.
  • Even if your audience is professional about their tweets, all it takes is for one person to highjack your hashtag and say something inappropriate on your big screen (such as “you suck, get your fat ass off the stage.”*) for you to have a PR nightmare on your hands. Sadly, anonymity tends to breed brutishness in audiences, and a cutting remark never remains alone in a feed for long.
  • Even if a presenter stinks, we should honor the fact that it takes connections to land the gig, time and skills to build the presentation and guts to get up on stage. Any presenter, whether they are good or bad, deserves the time and space to present their materials without a wall of “co-presenters” metaphorically jumping in to add their comments very 10 seconds.

Good Places for a Tweetwall

Make no mistake, I think that Tweetwalls belong at events…just not behind the speakers.

So what’s a better way to use them?

  • Place Tweetwalls within other areas of your event space so they can be accessed without pulling focus from your programming (such as hallways and lounge spaces).
  • Tweetwalls are a great feature for events where there is no formal programming (like an open house or party). In these cases, the wall provides a natural and dynamic center of attention and hub for on and off line conversation.
  • Get away from the “wall” concept and focus on creating other forums where you can aggregate event conversations. For instance, dedicate a page of your event website to the feed or create a conference-specific mobile app that will allow people to observe and engage wherever they are.

No matter what format you choose, just make sure your Tweetwall strategy is a solid one:

  • Your Tweetwall should be set up to auto refresh, so it is self-maintaining.
  • Your Tweetwall can (and should) be visually branded to match your company or event. (It is a communications tools like any other you would employ.)
  • Your Tweetwall feed should be monitored, (essentially you are inviting people to participate in a dialogue within your brand space – you don’t have to moderate the conversation, but it’s good business sense to at least know what it consisted of.)

You don’t have to do all this leg work yourselves. My friends at Clockwork Active Media Systems recently build a new tool called tweetwally that can do a lot of this work for you. I highly recommend checking it out.

Don’t Forget: Tweetwalls Never Die

It’s tempting to think of Tweetwalls in one-off terms: you build it, post it and then shut it down when the event is over.

But the reality is that your Tweetwall feed is full of valuable content that will continue to live online long after your event has been put to pasture.

So give some thought to how you can mine and capitalize on this content:

  • Are you reviewing the feed post-event and following back anyone who chimed in the conversation whom you didn’t already know?
  • Are you capturing quotes from the feed that you could use for future marketing purposes?
  • Are you following up with anyone who made disgruntled comments to let them know that their voices were heard?
  • Are you generating any post-event blog posts to address the “uber” dialogue that you see running through the feed?
  • Are you pulling out constructive criticism from the feed and relaying it back to your presenter(s) in a format that will help them to improve their presenting skills?
  • Are you shifting the conversation over to a future event’s hashtag so you can effectively end this conversation and begin another?

Tweetwalls are undeniably cool. And I believe they signal the beginning of a natural evolution to a future where events will have indistinguishable on and offline experience.

Just be sure to use them strategically.

Virtual sticks and stones also break no bones, but a mismanaged Tweetwall can certainly hurt you.

*Sadly, this is an actual tweet I saw displayed during someone’s presentation.


Saying Goodbye to the MIMA Summit

October 19, 2009

Like a recent high school grad packing up to go to college, the process of putting to bed my fourth and final MIMA Summit has been one tinged with nostalgia, laughter and some sadness (but surprisingly, few regrets).

From my first Summit back in 2006, (Me to MIMA: “Can I see the budget?” MIMA to me: “Um…budget?”) to watching a crowd of over 1,000 people geek out to Seth Godin a few weeks ago, it’s been a long and exciting journey.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way…

1. User Experience Doesn’t Just Apply to the Web

In my world, “users” live on and off line. Anytime I create an experience that someone is going to interact with, explore and well, live within, I call that a “user experience.”

And when it comes to planning events, creating a good user experience is my number one priority.

Think about it, the best events (like the best web sites) are designed in such a way that you don’t even know why you like them, you just do.

It’s the little touches and attention to pre-event details that make that happen.

Before each event, my team and I walk through each step of the day with the user/attendee in mind…

Photo courtsey of TKA Photography

Photo courtsey of TKA Photography

  • What door will they walk through when they arrive?
  • Should there be a sign there?
  • How big should the sign be?
  • Will the facility be O.K. if we mount a sign or do we need to have them supply us with an easel?
  • If we need an easel, how much will the facility charge us for it?
  • Will our budget allow for that?

And so on…

Multiply this process by hundreds of decisions, and you can see why this process is labor intensive, but also critical to each event’s success.

2. Fortune Favors the Brave

Since my client has been a rotating cast of MIMA board volunteers, it would have been pretty easy to play nice and produce a safe and tidy event year after year.

Unfortunately, “safe and tidy” hold little interest for me.

Each year, I brought some big ideas and goals to the MIMA table and fought hard to gamble on taking the more difficult road in order to achieve the bigger success.

My pitch to MIMA?

“I’ll handle the guts, and you guys will get the glory. Please, just trust me.”

And you know what?

For the most part, they did…year after year.

So thank you MIMA. I am tough and I push. But I also know that you’re sitting at the top of a much higher hill than when I started working with you back in 2006, so it wasn’t all for naught.

3. The Bigger They Come, the Softer They Fall

I’ve dealt with hundreds of speakers while producing the Summit. And I’ve seen my fair share of douchebags and divas from among their ranks.

Interestingly, the speakers who cause the most ruckuses are the ones I never expect to be a problem. The more famous they are, the nicer they end up being (yes, I’m talking to you Mr. Godin. You are a delightful and quirky little dude).

If I’ve learned anything about working with speakers who are “internet celebrities,” it’s that you need to watch out for the mid-level fame chasers.

(That, and, the end of the day, everyone still needs to have access to a bathroom before they go on stage.)

4. Technology and Conferences Were Made to Be BFF

One of the best parts of producing the Summit was the opportunity to create experiences for people who love technology.

Since this playing field is constantly changing, it’s been hard work to keep up and keep it relevant. And it’s forced me to look at tools not just as pretty cherries that we can plop on top of the Summit experience, but as vehicles for increasing dialogue, interaction and the exchange of information.

It’s been a challenge, but I must admit, I’ve loved every geeky minute of it.

The intersection of on and offline experiences via events is a rapidly emerging playing field and I intend to keep my company firmly in the center of the all excitement in the years ahead.

5. You Can’t Do It Alone

Here’s the truth, 2006 Summit presenters…you didn’t meet me in person when you spoke at that Summit because I couldn’t walk.

(Yep. I ran that sucker flat on my back with a spinal cord injury, on the floor of little room in the corner of the Depot.)

Want to know how I pulled it off?

I got peeps.

I’ve probably worked with over 100 volunteers in my four years of planning the Summit. And I owe each and every one of them my thanks for helping me get the job done.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to the people who’ve signed up for multiple tours of Summit duty: Kary Delaria, Andrew Banas, Nate Mueller, Jackie and Brian Johnson from Fresh Color Press, Story Tellers Media & Communications and past and present MIMA board members Kelly Burkhart, Kristina Halvorson, Julie Vollenweider and Matt Wilson.

Bonus lesson: People don’t read programs.

Seriously. What’s with that?

That’s all….my big revelations and remembrances from four years of Summit excitement.

Thanks to everyone involved with the conferences for the memories, the support and even the bitchy survey results (I read every last one of them).

Good luck to MIMA on their plans for the 2010 event and don’t worry about me folks….

…me and my peeps? We’re just getting started.


TALKING ‘BOUT AN EVOLUTION (of PR, that is)

September 17, 2009

PR is in a state of flux. It’s teetering on the edge of what it was, and what it can be.

It’s opportunistic. As professionals, this is a time for us to break all of the stereotypes and “bad PR” that our industry has garnered (flaks, manipulators, schmoozers) and shape the future of our trade.

This morning, Sarah Evans posed a call to action to PR pros, “Jot down (or type) your perception on the current state of PR.” Well, thank you, Sarah, for finally giving me the motivation to pull this post out of my head and put pen to paper (err…key to screen…?)

Social media is allowing us to get back to the very essence of our craft – managing the communication between an organization and its publics by building rapport with key stakeholders – in a more meaningful and authentic way than ever before.

In her post on June 30, Beth Harte backs up the claim that “PR has never been truly authentic.” Think about it. We write articles for our clients and slap another person’s name on it so they can get the byline. We draft press releases and quotes that can be published for the public to read it as another person’s word. We craft key messages and train our clients on speaking points and ways to always incorporate these messages into interviews and conversation as though it’s natural.

To me, the very act of pitching any of this to a journalist has always felt terribly inauthentic.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALLOWING US TO EVOLVE

Sometimes in order to embrace innovation we need to blend it with existing methodologies and processes (what we know and how we do it) to eventually propel change, technology and comprehension across the bell curve of adoption.Brian SolisDictionary Series - Religion: evolution

Everything evolves with time. Why are some PR pros so defensive of this natural progression? Technological advances are evolving (and revolutionizing) the medical field, the music industry, e-commerce – why should marketing/communications/public relations be any different?

And, let me state for the record that this evolution doesn’t necessarily make our job easier. In fact, if done correctly, it’s requiring us to take a more strategic approach. Clearly define our audiences. Tailor messages to individuals. And, (gasp) engage in ongoing, open, dialogue.

Using social media platforms, we can and are:

Evolving the press release.

Earlier this summer, Kane Consulting invited Jason Kinztler, founder of Pitch Engine to Minneapolis to deliver the keynote address of our PR 2.0 conference (an homage to the wonderful works of Brian Solis). During his keynote address, Jason asked, “Is the press release dead?” His response, “No, but it is evolving.”

Social media releases allow us to deliver a message in an optimized package (including images, podcasts, and additional resources) to add momentum to the conversation. Instead of blasting journalists on the wire, we can share the message unobtrusively (and, ideally with a well-targeted pitch) to bloggers, journalists, web writers, and even the public. And, with optimization and social sharing features, the message keeps on moving.

Evolving the pitch.

As a young(-ish) independent PR pro not working for a notable agency, I started to get very frustrated with placements always going to the big dogs. (Again, let’s think about Beth’s argument for how authentic we’ve been.) Enter social media. It has leveled the playing field. It gives us an ambient awareness of what journalists are interested in or working on. It enables the opportunity to engage with journalists, bloggers and influencers on everything from industry issues to taking the dog to the groomer. And guess what? When I have a relevant pitch, I’ve already established a rapport with this person.

(Easier or faster than blasting a release across the wire? Hell no. More effective in the long run? Hell yes.)

Evolving Measurement.

I’ve already argued that press reports, and the old-school way of measuring PR efforts, don’t translate to social media. How can it? If we’re evolving the press release and the pitch, and creating momentum through Social Media Optimization, the standards by which we monitor, report and calculate ROI must evolve. KD Paine has long been a thought leader and advocate for evolving measurement standards and looking at things like increased market share rather than trying to calculate the number of impressions and the ad equivalency of a blog or a Tweet. Additionally, PRSA is working to issue agreed upon standards (to which Katie also is contributing).

So, what is my perception on the current state of PR?

It’s evolving, and evolving at an incredibly fast and exciting pace. Incredible thought leaders have emerged, and we have the privilege and opportunity to contribute to the evolution – perhaps the revolution – of the very definition and techniques of the trade.


TALKING 'BOUT AN EVOLUTION (of PR, that is)

September 17, 2009

PR is in a state of flux. It’s teetering on the edge of what it was, and what it can be.

It’s opportunistic. As professionals, this is a time for us to break all of the stereotypes and “bad PR” that our industry has garnered (flaks, manipulators, schmoozers) and shape the future of our trade.

This morning, Sarah Evans posed a call to action to PR pros, “Jot down (or type) your perception on the current state of PR.” Well, thank you, Sarah, for finally giving me the motivation to pull this post out of my head and put pen to paper (err…key to screen…?)

Social media is allowing us to get back to the very essence of our craft – managing the communication between an organization and its publics by building rapport with key stakeholders – in a more meaningful and authentic way than ever before.

In her post on June 30, Beth Harte backs up the claim that “PR has never been truly authentic.” Think about it. We write articles for our clients and slap another person’s name on it so they can get the byline. We draft press releases and quotes that can be published for the public to read it as another person’s word. We craft key messages and train our clients on speaking points and ways to always incorporate these messages into interviews and conversation as though it’s natural.

To me, the very act of pitching any of this to a journalist has always felt terribly inauthentic.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALLOWING US TO EVOLVE

Sometimes in order to embrace innovation we need to blend it with existing methodologies and processes (what we know and how we do it) to eventually propel change, technology and comprehension across the bell curve of adoption.Brian SolisDictionary Series - Religion: evolution

Everything evolves with time. Why are some PR pros so defensive of this natural progression? Technological advances are evolving (and revolutionizing) the medical field, the music industry, e-commerce – why should marketing/communications/public relations be any different?

And, let me state for the record that this evolution doesn’t necessarily make our job easier. In fact, if done correctly, it’s requiring us to take a more strategic approach. Clearly define our audiences. Tailor messages to individuals. And, (gasp) engage in ongoing, open, dialogue.

Using social media platforms, we can and are:

Evolving the press release.

Earlier this summer, Kane Consulting invited Jason Kinztler, founder of Pitch Engine to Minneapolis to deliver the keynote address of our PR 2.0 conference (an homage to the wonderful works of Brian Solis). During his keynote address, Jason asked, “Is the press release dead?” His response, “No, but it is evolving.”

Social media releases allow us to deliver a message in an optimized package (including images, podcasts, and additional resources) to add momentum to the conversation. Instead of blasting journalists on the wire, we can share the message unobtrusively (and, ideally with a well-targeted pitch) to bloggers, journalists, web writers, and even the public. And, with optimization and social sharing features, the message keeps on moving.

Evolving the pitch.

As a young(-ish) independent PR pro not working for a notable agency, I started to get very frustrated with placements always going to the big dogs. (Again, let’s think about Beth’s argument for how authentic we’ve been.) Enter social media. It has leveled the playing field. It gives us an ambient awareness of what journalists are interested in or working on. It enables the opportunity to engage with journalists, bloggers and influencers on everything from industry issues to taking the dog to the groomer. And guess what? When I have a relevant pitch, I’ve already established a rapport with this person.

(Easier or faster than blasting a release across the wire? Hell no. More effective in the long run? Hell yes.)

Evolving Measurement.

I’ve already argued that press reports, and the old-school way of measuring PR efforts, don’t translate to social media. How can it? If we’re evolving the press release and the pitch, and creating momentum through Social Media Optimization, the standards by which we monitor, report and calculate ROI must evolve. KD Paine has long been a thought leader and advocate for evolving measurement standards and looking at things like increased market share rather than trying to calculate the number of impressions and the ad equivalency of a blog or a Tweet. Additionally, PRSA is working to issue agreed upon standards (to which Katie also is contributing).

So, what is my perception on the current state of PR?

It’s evolving, and evolving at an incredibly fast and exciting pace. Incredible thought leaders have emerged, and we have the privilege and opportunity to contribute to the evolution – perhaps the revolution – of the very definition and techniques of the trade.


I AM NOT FAMOUS. (AND YOU’RE PROBABLY NOT EITHER)

August 24, 2009

Recently a woman approached me at an event and we had a long chat.

She asked me some questions about a project I was working on. She relayed a story in which she and a group of her friends were all laughing about something I had said on Twitter. She filled me in on how her job search was going. Then she gave me a hug and left.

It was an interesting encounter – mostly because I had never met this woman before.

So how did we end up having a 15-minute heart to heart?

Well first, I made a decision a year or so ago to conduct my professional life in a bubble and I extended an open invitation for anyone to pop by and watch or eavesdrop.

Somewhere along the line, this particular woman took me up on my offer. And something I said or did vetted me and indicated to this woman that I was someone she should definitely meet.

A NEW WAY OF NETWORKING

Networking hasn’t always been this easy for me. In fact, when I started my business nearly 10 years ago, I had to work damn hard to make contacts and build relationships of any sort.

Then social media came along and the whole playing field changed.

Now I’m…

  • More recognized. Pictures of me, attached to things I have said, are floating all around the Internet. I happen to talk quite a lot, so this means that the reach and spread of this information is large.
  • More social. People who meet me already have an ambient awareness of what I do, whom I know and what I’m passionate about. That means I spend less time mired in small talk and more time engaged meaty conversations.
  • More connected. I invest a lot of energy in communicating with others online. As a result my network has slowly but surely continued to grow and evolve.

But you know what social media had not made me?

Famous.

“FAME” AND “RECOGNITION” ARE MERELY DISTANT COUSINS

There is a great chasm that exists between “famous” and “less invisible,” and I am not so naïve as to believe that social media has given me the tools to suddenly bridge it.

Just because someone…

  • knows who I’m talking to and what I’m working on,
  • has conversations about me with other people whom I also don’t know,
  • asks to become my “friend” or to “follow” my adventures,
  • becomes a “fan” of my work or indicates that they “like” my witty quip,

…does not make me famous.

It just makes me an effective participant in the social media space.

I talk a lot, so more people are hearing me.

I reach out, so more people are encountering me.

I share what I’m thinking, so more people are feeling like they know me.

That’s not an indication fame, just strategy and implementation working in calculated harmony.

MASTER OF THE MICROCOSM

Yes, it’s flattering to have complete strangers suddenly know who I am. However…

  • The guy scanning my stuff at Target? He’ll never read my blog.
  • The woman who cleaned my teeth? She’s not on Twitter.
  • My mother-in-law? She STILL doesn’t understand what the hell it is that I do.

This social media world is not really “the world.” It’s just a microcosm of people who are continually opting in and out of the “Jen Kane Diaries.”

So no, I’m not famous. And the cold hard reality is that most “social media celebrities” aren’t really either. (And yes, this post is for you, folks.)

What I am is prolific and transparent.

And, as we’ve learned from reality TV, if you go out of your way to make a flurry of public statements that are remotely salacious, scandalous, riotous or snarky, you will get noticed.

That doesn’t make you the next Dorothy Parker.

It just makes you slightly less boring than most other people.

And for now, “slightly less boring” suits me just fine.