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.


The Social Media Secrets That No One Wants to Tell You

July 24, 2009

Every time I hand someone a strategic plan I get a little sad.

Not because the project is over (I’m usually pretty happy about that.)

Mostly it’s because – if I’ve done my job right – at that moment I’m staring face-to-face with a client who has a little spark in their eyes that seems to be saying, “Awesome. Now we are done.”

Then, like a oncologist looking at a suspicious mass on a CT scan, I have to be the bad guy and say to them, “Know what? Actually the hard part has just begun.”

This is particularly confusing when the client and I are talking about strategies for social media.

This stuff just looks so darn easy. They figure that once I give them a roadmap, some pretty apps and some technical partners to support them, they’re all set up for “strategic success.”

But what I CAN’T give them (and what they’ll need most to succeed), is the “social” part. That part they have to do themselves.

And that’s going to take some work.

There…I said it…successful marketing using social media takes work: dedicated, frequent, thoughtful and innovative work done by someone with some sort of interest and investment in your social circle and your brand.

(so, no…it’s not a good idea to outsource this stuff to a “Twitter intern.”)

Writing this blog post took some work. Sending a tweet out later to share with my network that it’s posted will take some work. Finding the time to read and respond to comments that are posted in reply will take some work.

And it’s going to cost some money.

(Man, I’m just full of fun news today, aren’t I?)

Because while I’m blogging and tweeting and replying, I’m using my billable time. I’m making a choice to invest my time in people and relationships and that may produce a (possibly career-transforming) return on investment down the road…or, just as easily, they may not.

So why bother?

First, It’s about the most fun work you can snag these days.

If you are using social media as a marketing or public relations tool – and you are using it effectively – you won’t feel like a human press release feed, “socially” distributing lame marketing spam to the masses. Instead your job will be to have relationships – share stories, listen to concerns, offer advice, (and yes, from time to time, share your salesy news.)

If you make the process a habit, build a network based on authenticity and genuine interest in others and treat each social contact as the prime client engagement vehicle that it should be, you actually might have a delightful time.

Secondly, the stuff you put work into will last longer and ultimately have more value.

Look at weight loss. There are a million books, plans, tools and services out there that are essentially designed to avoid smacking you over the head with the cold hard reality of the matter: if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and move more.

No one really wants to hear that.

But the ones who do, and who accept it, are the ones who lose the weight and KEEP it off.

Same holds true for this “micro marketing” approach. Do the work, do it well and avoid being an ass while you’re doing it, and it will work.

Even better, it will deliver benefits to your doorstep that you could have never planned for.

And that, my friends, is the thing that puts a spark into my eyes.


Authenticity ain't pretty.

June 8, 2009

A number of years ago, I had a job working in a very small office.

Since I was young, spent most of my time there on the phone and had few co-workers, I decided to ditch the makeup routine and go to work “au natural.”

And nearly every day when I arrived at this job, my boss would invariably turn to me and say, “You look really tired this morning, Jen.”

Every day.

For months on end.

I always slept well the night before. I always came in showered, smartly dressed, perky and full of smiles. And still I kept wondering, “What is it about my appearance that suggests to this man that I am a haggard insomniac?”

Eventually, I informed my boss that telling a young woman that she looked like poo day after day wasn’t really a polite thing to do, and he quickly put the practice to rest.

Well THAT explains it.

Shortly thereafter, I met this man’s wife.

She was a well-manicured socialite with a giant rock on her hand and a mask of cosmetics covering her face.

Literally, it was a mask – her makeup had all been tattooed on.

Then, I kind of felt bad for my boss.

All along, I thought his behavior was about me looking abnormal, when in fact I had it totally backward. It was his perception of me that was the abnormal thing.

When this man rolled over each morning, he was greeted with perpetual ruby lips and kohl rimmed eyes – a vision of womanliness that would forever be immune to imperfection.

So when I walked in the office a few hours later with my puffy eyes, naked lips and yawns, I cracked his mirror right down the middle.

So where am I going with this?

I am reminded of this cracked-mirror phenomenon a lot lately when I’m talking to clients about social media.

After years of pushing out glossy marketing speak with the perception that audiences were sitting there like well coiffed mannequins just eating this stuff up, suddenly, some companies are hearing their consumers talk back to them.

And when they talk, they don’t sound like helpful brand evangelists participating in the world’s largest focus group.

They sound like ordinary humans.

Problem is, we humans are actually a cranky, rude, loony, witty, boring, sassy and sometimes terribly unruly bunch.

We swear. We get depressed. We fly off the handle. We gratuitously use the word “dude.” We throw our fickle love from social meme to social meme. We are authentically unpredictable.

Humans hate your marketing plan.

Humans don’t care about fitting into “user personas.” We don’t enter into dialogue with any thought to measurable outcomes. We don’t congregate to the social web to engage in a balanced banquet of conversations.

Instead, humans use the web as a raw and unruly buffet of ideas, opinions and discussion, and…

  • Sometimes the results leave us hungry for seconds.
  • Sometimes it make us wanna throw-up.
  • Sometimes it makes us laugh so hard that food comes right out of our noses.

And it’s all of these qualities that make the social web so attractive, amazing and challenging to navigate as a marketer.

Polished pitches and controlled messaging probably always will reign in marketing industry, just like some men will always prefer a Stepford wife with her beauty tattooed right on.

But as the social web becomes more powerful, it is my hope that authentic conversations – like authentic, unadorned faces – will get the respect they deserve.

Authenticity ain’t always pretty, folks, but there are great lessons we can learn if we can overcome our urge to prune, control and pretty it up whenever we come face-to-face with it.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll even learn to be a bit more authentic ourselves.


Authenticity ain’t pretty.

June 8, 2009

A number of years ago, I had a job working in a very small office.

Since I was young, spent most of my time there on the phone and had few co-workers, I decided to ditch the makeup routine and go to work “au natural.”

And nearly every day when I arrived at this job, my boss would invariably turn to me and say, “You look really tired this morning, Jen.”

Every day.

For months on end.

I always slept well the night before. I always came in showered, smartly dressed, perky and full of smiles. And still I kept wondering, “What is it about my appearance that suggests to this man that I am a haggard insomniac?”

Eventually, I informed my boss that telling a young woman that she looked like poo day after day wasn’t really a polite thing to do, and he quickly put the practice to rest.

Well THAT explains it.

Shortly thereafter, I met this man’s wife.

She was a well-manicured socialite with a giant rock on her hand and a mask of cosmetics covering her face.

Literally, it was a mask – her makeup had all been tattooed on.

Then, I kind of felt bad for my boss.

All along, I thought his behavior was about me looking abnormal, when in fact I had it totally backward. It was his perception of me that was the abnormal thing.

When this man rolled over each morning, he was greeted with perpetual ruby lips and kohl rimmed eyes – a vision of womanliness that would forever be immune to imperfection.

So when I walked in the office a few hours later with my puffy eyes, naked lips and yawns, I cracked his mirror right down the middle.

So where am I going with this?

I am reminded of this cracked-mirror phenomenon a lot lately when I’m talking to clients about social media.

After years of pushing out glossy marketing speak with the perception that audiences were sitting there like well coiffed mannequins just eating this stuff up, suddenly, some companies are hearing their consumers talk back to them.

And when they talk, they don’t sound like helpful brand evangelists participating in the world’s largest focus group.

They sound like ordinary humans.

Problem is, we humans are actually a cranky, rude, loony, witty, boring, sassy and sometimes terribly unruly bunch.

We swear. We get depressed. We fly off the handle. We gratuitously use the word “dude.” We throw our fickle love from social meme to social meme. We are authentically unpredictable.

Humans hate your marketing plan.

Humans don’t care about fitting into “user personas.” We don’t enter into dialogue with any thought to measurable outcomes. We don’t congregate to the social web to engage in a balanced banquet of conversations.

Instead, humans use the web as a raw and unruly buffet of ideas, opinions and discussion, and…

  • Sometimes the results leave us hungry for seconds.
  • Sometimes it make us wanna throw-up.
  • Sometimes it makes us laugh so hard that food comes right out of our noses.

And it’s all of these qualities that make the social web so attractive, amazing and challenging to navigate as a marketer.

Polished pitches and controlled messaging probably always will reign in marketing industry, just like some men will always prefer a Stepford wife with her beauty tattooed right on.

But as the social web becomes more powerful, it is my hope that authentic conversations – like authentic, unadorned faces – will get the respect they deserve.

Authenticity ain’t always pretty, folks, but there are great lessons we can learn if we can overcome our urge to prune, control and pretty it up whenever we come face-to-face with it.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll even learn to be a bit more authentic ourselves.


Listening – the first key to unlocking the potential of social media.

May 26, 2009

In my last post, I asserted that traditional press reports have no place in social media – online public relations campaigns simply can’t be measured the same way.

In Jason Baer’s (@Jaybaer) May 21 Twitter interview with Radian6’s Amber Naslund (@AmberCadabra), he asked, What do you see as the PR/ad/digital agency’s role in listening and social media?

To which Amber replied, “Translating intelligence into strategy and action. Being a guidepost and putting execution in the hands of the company.”

Beautifully put, Amber. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The value in reporting on social media monitoring lies in how we as PR professionals steer our clients to appropriate action.

Whether clients are active in the social media space or not, we first advise them that at the very least, they need to start listening to the conversations happening about them, their brand, their competitors and their industry.

These conversations are taking place on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, nings and more.

First, figure out what you need to listen for, and start monitoring.

• Establish keywords. Other than your company name, what do you want to listen for? People talking about industry trends? About your competitor? Establish a lean set of keywords that will offer glimpses into relevant conversations that can shape future communications strategy.

• Find your audience. Pay attention to where your key demographic is. If your primary audience is business women over the age of 40, you probably don’t need to spend a lot of time listening to the conversations happening on My Space.

• Observe search engine ranking. Think of SEO is the new “earned” PR placement. Pay attention not only to the rank of your company name, but to how the name ranks with key search terms.

• Consider opinion polling. Recently, I heard someone say they were working to establish a budget to poll a target audience. Gasp! Welcome to social media, where seeking the opinion of your audience is free, as long as you listen.

After monitoring the social media space, (and, making constant adjustments as needed) it’s time to start doing what Amber referred to as, “translating the intelligence.”

What can we glean from this information, and how can it be used to guide communications strategy?

• What is the tone of the conversation? (positive, negative, neutral?)
• Who is having the conversation? And, who is listening to them?
• On what social networks are these conversations taking place?
• How often do these conversations occur?

From this information, PR professionals can help clients to:

• Set benchmarks and establish goals.
• Determine and shape existing key messages.
• Make observations regarding timed release of information to coincide with when the conversations are taking place.
• Guide decisions on when and where to enter the conversation.
• Identify key influencers of your target audience.
• Recruit brand “evangelists.”
• Manage online reputation.
• Improve search engine ranking.
• Set benchmarks, goals and measure results.

So, are you ready to start listening?