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?




Social Media Monitoring and Measurement – A Customized Recipe.

December 1, 2009

A few weeks ago, Jennifer and I had the opportunity to participate in a master class with one of the PR industry’s most widely respected thought leaders, Brian Solis.

Among the plethora of smart ideas he presented, one topic was near and dear to my heart…social media monitoring.

Since I joined Kane Consulting, I’ve researched and experimented with the slew of tools that have been created to automatically monitor and measure conversations taking place across social media, and quite frankly, was coming up short.

I began creating my own systems – using one tool here, another there, going straight to the source here – hunting, pecking, uncovering, and analyzing gobs of data until it started to paint an accurate picture. And, generally after days of research for a particular client or project I’d be asking myself – is this worth it? Am I supposed to be putting this much time into all of this? Am I missing a better solution?

Well, my methods were validated as I sat in my seat listening to Brian Solis deliver his presentation.

Social media measurement is not standardized. It is customized.

Here’s where we come back to strategy. The how and what you monitor and measure must be in line with your strategic goals. And, one client’s goal or definition of success is not the same as another client’s.

We can run numbers and data on just about anything, but if it’s not in line with what you’re trying to achieve, so what and who cares?

The answer to “so what” and “who cares” is where the customization comes into play. It’s where the work begins. Where meaningful benchmarks are set; goals are established, and the distance between is measured and evaluated for progress and improvement.

Think about the end product, combine the right ingredients, taste, tweak, repeat.

This is the piece that no tool, no matter how sophisticated, can do for us.

Want it done right? Go to the source and do it yourself.

The online world is full of various social media search engines. As with any technology, some work better than others. They are quick, convenient, and can give us gobs of data.

Guess what, folks… these engines are no Google (and even Google is still working to perfect their own social search solution). The exact science behind social search is still being defined. Take a closer look, and you’ll see that each engine has its own algorithms, and will return results differently. If you want to use social search tools or software to click and create a report, be prepared to go through the results with a careful eye before passing it along (unless of course, you don’t anticipate anyone else reading it or using it to take any action, in which case, you better re-think your strategy).

Another tip I gathered from the PR master class with Brian Solis is that the most accurate data is found directly at the source. (This is no secret, right? If you want to know what time your friend’s party starts, do you ask the friend, or a search engine?)

Sure, it takes a little more time. And yes, you’ll need to dump the data into your own spreadsheet, weed out things that don’t apply and then run reports by hand. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s worth the extra effort to have the most accurate data from which to measure progress and make strategic decisions.


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.