Showing posts with label Amanda Chapel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amanda Chapel. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 3

Branding Employees: Chapel vs. Dell

While Tamera Kremer at Wildfire was covering the debate between RichardatDell and the fictional AmandaChapel on the value of making brand ambassadors out of employees, Adweek was covering Zappos.com. Zappos has already moved full steam ahead and is one of many companies that already consider employees brand ambassadors online.

In fact, according to the story, the vast majority of trial and repeat business at Zappos.com is driven by word of mouth and employees. Brian Kalma, director of creative services and brand marketing, employs the term "people planning," arguing that each employee needs to be a great point of contact with customers.

Indeed. So where is the debate?

Based on the comments on Wildfire, it seems Chapel was taking the position that “front-line folks that you’ve assigned to the ‘conversation’ on Dell’s behalf, particularly your Twitter social-media team, are making a complete mess of it.”

Richard has defended the Dell position by saying “We believe that social media helps us foster direct relationships, not just transactions with our customers. Think about your own customer relationships and to what extent they rely on the personal and professional interactions that you have.”

Amazingly, the debate seems to have some social media participants questioning the need to distinguish personal and professional brands online, a notion that seems contradictory to any sense of transparency that social media practitioners claim is critical to success. As I noted on Twitter, "trying to separate personal and professional brands is like arguing that you are a different person when you wear jeans or a suit." We can pretend people are somehow different, but it’s really not true.

Still, that is not to say employees acting as brand ambassadors can enjoy a free-for-all online. Common sense suggests if you wouldn’t say something to a customer offline, it’s probably a good idea to avoid saying it online, where it can be archived forever.

Look offline for online behavior guides.

This isn’t rocket science. The best companies already know that employees tend to be the best brand ambassadors, provided the company benefits from a strong internal communication program.

One of the examples I frequently share in explaining the impact of external public relations on internal audiences is how two different utility rate cases turned out. Without sharing the specifics here, one company started with a proactive internal communication program so by the time the rate case hit the papers, employees could explain the reasons behind the rate increase with friends, family, and neighbors. The other did not. The results were dramatically different, with one rate increase succeeding and other quickly turning into a crisis.

My point is simple enough. Front line employees have always been brand ambassadors. It’s not a new concept. So maybe the real question is: do companies realize blogging is front line communication and are they educating their employees well enough for them to deliver a return? Apparently, Zappos does.

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Wednesday, October 10

Advertising Online: Intel & Everybody


Advertising online is the only medium that has seen substantial gains in spending. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Internet ad revenue totaled almost $10 billion, which represents an increase of nearly 27 percent from the same period a year ago.

This is one of the reasons that Intel is bringing a larger portion of its extremely successful co-op advertising budget to the Internet with 10 to 20 percent of its own budget being spent online. And where the “Intel Inside” campaign goes, so goes Intel marketing partners — at least 35 percent of the ad dollars Intel provides must be devoted to online marketing.

“It was a big change for us,” said Kevin Burkum, vice president for marketing at the egg board in Park Ridge, Ill. told The New York Times. “TV is still very important to us, but it’s not the be-all and end-all as it used to be.”

Maybe that’s because Internet users are conducting about 1.4 million searches every minute — with about 60 percent of those searches occurring on Google. At least that is the word on MSNBC. Citing a study by comScore's qSearch 2.0 service, more than 37 billion searches worldwide went through Google in August. (Side note: they just bought Jaiku.)

Yahoo Inc. was second worldwide with 8.5 billion, followed by Baidu at 3.3 billion, Microsoft Corp. at 2.2 billion, and NHN at 2 billion.

With so many searches, online media buyers might be wondering if buying up keywords and Google click-throughs is the way to go. Sure, but it is not the only way and maybe not even the best way.

One of the more compelling studies that I’ve come across is from the Atlas Institute, which points out what I hope other advertisers and marketers know — 67 percent of all consumers are influenced by more than one ad before they purchase. In other words, they might see an ad here and go somewhere else, forget about it, see it again, conduct a search, and then click on it again.

It’s something to think about if you are a content provider. Your click-through ads have a greater chance of supporting someone else’s shared revenue. But more importantly, marketers might be a bit more careful about where they think click-through purchases are coming from … the prospect likely came from somewhere else.

All of it provides great food for thought and suddenly makes concepts like social media relevant. Thinking about this sure beats writing about the bubble. Besides, Eric Eggertson already did an outstanding cover of the bubble buzz around the second departure of the not-so-anonymous Amanda Chapel. I pretty much closed my case study on them in July after discovering they were causing their own brand damage.

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Monday, September 17

Walking Planks: Social Media Pirates


I first heard about the dreaded black spot while reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a coming of age story about swashbuckling adventures, treasure maps, one-legged seamen with parrots, and the dreaded “Black Spot.”

Hey! That almost sounds like social media when I read Eric Eggerston’s beautifully summed take away of Paull Young’s post, entitled “Young PR’s - Know Your Place.

“Don’t needlessly or carelessly piss all over someone who may be in a position to help or harm your career. Public relations, marketing … the people involved all know each other, talk to each other and compare notes about up-and-comers. They also throw business the way of people they think they can trust. Flame them at your peril,” says Eggerston, who writes one of my favorite blogs.

Arg! If you mess up, we’ll give you the Black Spot and, much like Billy Bones from Treasure Island, you will suffer a social media stroke and your blog will die.

To be certain, there is ample wisdom to be taken away from these posts despite my play on the idea that sometimes social media practitioners sound more like threatening pirates. It is true that if you launch a personal blog, you are making yourself semi-public, if not public. As such, you subject yourself to consequences. Random flames may carry with them some unintended penalties. And sometimes, even the most minor disagreements become the bane of the social media world — blogdramas.

So who knows, perhaps there is some logic in saying that, as Mitch Joel says, the soap opera aspect of social media “is hurting our industry and our ability to convince clients that these channels are excellent for their Marketing and Communications' needs (which it is).”

But at the same time, I don’t blame young professionals like Chris Clarke for mimicking the social media world created before he got here. On more than one occasion, I’ve read seasoned bloggers say “be bold or go home.” Be bold, they mean, but be bold against those who haven’t earned the eye patch. You know, I’m not defending the post, but Clarke was hardly the only one to target Joseph Jaffe.

Of the two posts, which is harsher? And of the two, which seems to have caused more outrage? To me, it seems that maybe Clarke is being singled out because he hasn’t earned his eye patch. Although I can’t call myself a fan, Amanda Chapel seems to have been given at least that much. And, as I have said before, Chapel and others exist because the public relations world seems to need them. It certainly embraces them. So who is to blame a younger professional for capitalizing on similar traffic spike generating content?

Before we get carried away, let me point out that this post isn’t about Jaffe or Chapel or Clarke. Everybody else can write about that.

What this post is about is an idea. And the idea is this: whereas name calling and blatant flame posts don’t lend anything to a discussion (though it happens to drive traffic and garner attention from what I’ve seen), neither does positioning social media into high school-like niches where the price of admission is blind acceptance of equally bold statements being put forth by “experts,” as defined by crazy measures like page rank.

As much as we don’t need a new generation of flamers, neither do we need a pirate-like society where select groups might dole out “Black Spots” to those they don’t like. The way I see it, social handshakes and eye patches might work in the short term, but most will unravel long term. The more exclusionary they become, the more likely they will be swallowed up by some greater group that develops around them.

So let’s not be so serious as to pretend social media is a new world when what it really is for businesses is a powerful communication tool (more about that on Wednesday). While my partner likens it to looking at the world through a magnifying glass — with egos sometimes growing to gigantic propositions — the same rules that apply to social media are the same ones that are always applied to communication: the bolder the statement, the more likely you are to receive attention.

The only difference is that it used to be journalists were the ones to knock down the bolder goofball ideas. Today, it can be anyone with a keyboard. So just like a public relations professional would not blacklist The New York Times, Clarke doesn’t need to be blacklisted either. He only needs to be proven wrong. So, Jaffe, prove him wrong. What can be easier than that?

Ho hum. Looking beyond the confines of this social media boat that seems to sail nowadays, I might point out that today’s collective practitioners face bigger challenges than young bloggers. And if we are being honest, I suspect some “experts” today will be distant memories in two years, eye patches and all.

“Har, har, look there captain! On the horizon... It’s an armada of advertising professionals to the east and a fleet of corporate communication professionals to the west. Darn, it looks as if their boats are bigger too.“

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Thursday, July 12

Calculating Identity: Career Distinction


After visiting Career Distinction and running its Online Identity Calculator on Tom Cruise yesterday (check the comments on the post), we started to wonder what would happen if we plugged in more people, ranging from notable bloggers to CEO bloggers to CEOs with no direct social media presence.

The mix is pretty eclectic, but it provides some interesting results. Keep in mind that our formula is less than scientific: we used the calculator (beta) to establish whether these individuals have an online identity that matches up with what seems to be their desired personal brand. Since the calculator only offers generalized definitions, we summed up the first three pages of a Google search.

Seth Godin — Digitally Distinct, 10
Desired: A bestselling author, entrepreneur, and agent of change.
Online: A leading marketing author and popular business blogger.

We picked Godin mostly because we had a hunch he would set the high water mark and, no surprise, he did. While there seems to be some slight variation between his desired and online brand, it’s only because the Godin brand overshadows the company he founded, Squiddo. In sum, his brand trends toward top online marketing expert/author (rather than entrepreneur and agent of change) and there is nothing wrong with that.

Johnathan Swartz — Digitally Distinct, 10
Desired: An approachable, likeable, creative, and unconventional CEO.
Actual: An approachable, likeable, creative, and unconventional CEO.

Swartz is the top CEO blogger for a reason. There is virtually no distinction between his online identity and his desired brand — he always presents compelling non-techno babble information to help businesses understand that technological advancements mean market opportunities as opposed to business threats. He does a near perfect job setting the cultural tone of Sun Microsystems and his views mirror what we’ve said for two years.

Jeffrey Immelt — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: A hardworking strategist who helped turn General Electric around.
Actual: A relentless workaholic whose biggest hope is everyone else can keep up.

Given Immelt devotes 12 weeks to foreign travel as one of our nation’s leading advocates for globalization, we’re not surprised he doesn’t have time to establish a direct social media presence. Still, as a Fortune 500 company CEO (top 10), others present who he is fairly well, with one small caveat — as much as he is admired, skeptics water down his ideas (despite results), leading us to believe he could score a 10 with a direct presence on the Internet.

Alan Meckler — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: A serious business executive and aggressive online CEO.
Actual: A straightforward executive who calls it like he sees it.

As one of the top 10 ten CEO bloggers, we’re not to surprised to see Meckler also scores near the top. There are some identity discrepancies, primarily because his writing and interview style come across as a tough-as-nails CEO when he’s much more approachable than that. Also, his view of Jupiterimages is obviously a bit biased when compared to his view of competitors, but we wouldn’t expect otherwise.

Scott Baradell — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: Accomplished brand strategist with corporate communications and journalism experience.
Actual: Journalist turned public relations strategist, which might explain why he never takes the industry too seriously.

With Baradell’s emphasis on public relations, media analysis, and blog entertainment, his online identity tends to shift away from brand strategist. But where his online personality works is that he is unquestionably adept at keeping things interesting. For evidence: check Media Orchard’s R Rating and his anagram post plug of Occam’s RazR among others.

Geoff Livingston — Digitally Distinct, 9
• Desired: A leading marketing expert and top-ranked marketing blogger/author.
• Actual: A seasoned marketing pro, social media analyst, and blogging guru.

For the most part, Livingston has achieved his desired online identity, especially since he has already been recognized as an area marketing blog guru by The Washington Post. Without question, he has some great posts that often cross over into legitimate trade journalism. With a book set for release and several post serials worth reading, he’s coming close to the tipping point. If there is one area to improve, it’s remembering that too much focus on others won’t brand you as a leader.

The Recruiting Animal — Digitally Distinct. 8 (7)
• Desired: The most outrageous and entertaining recruiting blogger and online radio host in history.
• Actual: The most outrageous and entertaining recruiting blogger and online radio host in history.

There is little doubt that The Recruiting Animal has achieved his online identity. He is a classic example of being positively infamous, with his stage name often appearing where you least expect it (even in places his peers might have missed). What’s equally interesting to me is that if we plug in The Recruiting Animal’s real name, his score drops to Digitally Dabbling, but all of the information about him remains on target (just slightly more serious).

Les Moonves — Digitally Disastrous, 8
Desired: A seasoned old school programmer who became CEO of a leading mass media company.
Actual: A CEO with a dated programming vision who calls the shots with little explanation.

Given our coverage of the Jericho cancellation protest (and reinstatement), we noticed that Moonves tends to leave people completely confused. On one hand, he wants CBS to lead the digital charge, but then doesn’t give new media much credit. He dumped Imus and dumbed down CBS News despite what ratings say, yet argued that the original cancellation of Jericho was based only on ratings. Given he has no direct social media presence, his brand is shaped almost entirely by mixed messages that paint him up as a CEO who likes to say “because I said so.”

David Neeleman — Digitally Disastrous, 8
Desired: A relentless innovator who challenged the airline industry to do better.
Actual: An ousted CEO trying to prove his relevance after a company crisis.

I read Neeleman’s blog because I admire what he has accomplished. Some people don’t get this in our coverage of the JetBlue crisis. They won’t get it here either as we’ve noticed a dramatic personal brand shift since his departure as CEO of JetBlue. He insists he is comfortable with the change despite several interviews that suggest otherwise. It doesn’t help that "Montgomery Burns" has taken over his flight log. It’s supposed to be funny, but only it reinforces questionable choices in the face of crisis.

Jason Goldberg — Digitally Disastrous, 7
• Desired: A successful entrepreneur who is leading innovator of the online recruiting community.
• Actual: A young, brash executive who gets caught up in online controversies and spins like there is no tomorrow.

There’s a boatload of information on the Web about Goldberg. Unfortunately, most of it doesn’t seem to have any relevance to what he wants to express about himself or his company. Most of it is about blog controversies, blatant spin, and a sometimes questionable management style. Other times, however, Goldberg even departs from this identity too, which makes people wonder how seriously they should take him. The odd attack-feint retreat-attack-retreat tactic doesn’t help.

Amanda Chapel — Digitally Disastrous, 7
• Desired: A mysterious and provocative foil for the online public relations community.
• Actual: A collective of anonymous writers who believe all publicity is good publicity.

There is a lot of information about the collective Chapel on the Web, but more and more of it has little relevance to what they want to express about themselves. As time goes on, it will be nearly impossible to remove all the irrelevant information. Some people have asked about my interest in Chapel, since they come up on my blog every now and again. Truth be told, I’m more interested in why Steve Rubel, Mark Ragan, and even Shel Holtz continue to feed the Chapel credibility. Is the public relations industry that boring or afraid to debate that it needs an anonymous ghost to do it for them?

Add it up and all of this seems to reinforce the most basic premise of my Fragile Brand Theory. You see, in almost every case listed above, without exception, the closer their personal and online brands are to the reality of who they are, the greater their measure of success in maintaining that brand. It also demonstrates, in a couple of instances, how one handles crisis or controversy can also enhance or erode brand credibility almost overnight.

In closing, just to be fair, we ran my identity too. While there is some discrepancy depending on how you type in my name, I came out with a Digitally Distinct 8 and Copywrite, Ink. with a Digitally Distinct 9. This stands to reason: establishing an online identity for the company ahead of me is by design.

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