Showing posts with label integrated communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label integrated communication. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 29

The PR Call To 'Be The Media' Is A Misnomer

There's no question that social media has become an important part of the media/public relations landscape. Given that the media have completely integrated social media into journalism, it makes sense. And social, after all, has been integrated into every facet of communication and beyond.

It has become such a big part of public relations that there is even some ground swell over the notion that public relations could eventually "be the media" with equal footing. And why not?

Some firms even say that it's essential if businesses want to "reassume direct control over their reputations and news flow." Others say that it's a surefire solution "to become a producer as opposed to a facilitator" and earn a larger piece of the MarComm budget. And yet others think that in doing so, they can "skip the media middle man all together." It might even be vital to do so in some cases.

Being the media is not an evolutionary step for public relations. 

You don't have to subscribe to the notion of content shock to see a real problem with companies attempting to circumvent the media. The real problem is that it moves public relations away from its core tenet to strengthen the relationships between the organization and various publics in favor of a top-down communication — the same one that social was once purported to solve once and for all.

It also changes the perspectives, objectives, and outcomes of the communication. As quasi media, companies are incentivized to measure the reach, engagement, and conversion outcomes over programs designed to ensure mutually beneficial and measurable outcomes for the organization and its publics. And while it's true both efforts can work in tandem, the thinking is light years apart.

Reputable public relations teams would never view the media as a 'middle man' but rather as one of its very important publics — a reasonably objective (hopefully) voice that assists in bringing clarity to important issues, even those that are relatively niche. They also also understand that the increasingly diminished role of the media leaves an organization front and center as a direct source that must compete for attention against anyone who is looking for link clicks.

In other words, skipping the so-called media middle man further fragments communication, with each organization vying for its share of spotlight. It also opens up cause for corporations to supplant independent news, justified by the mistaken belief that the concept of objective journalism is a myth.

It seems nowadays that many public relations professsionals (and journalists) fail to understand that objective journalism works because the method is objective, not necessarily the journalist. And when objective journalism is allowed to work, it serves organizations and the public by vetting any claims, setting the agenda, and supporting the truth when the facts are paramount to the public good.

The evolutionary next step of public relations is collaboration.

Don't misunderstand the message here. Content marketing, social media, and corporate journalism have become vital components for any communication plan. But all of these tactics work best when they are employed in tandem with media relations, public relations, and other collaborations — something that even marketers see as having tangible value across multiple media venues.

Sure, I've always been an advocate for integrated communication, direct-to-public public relations, and teaching public relations professionals to think like a journalist. And at the same time, when it comes to public relations specifically, I also remind students that the simplest definition of the field is to transform "us and them" into "we," which would include a shrinking pool of pure journalists.

Friday, December 7

Marketing Content: Small Business Tips

Pamela Muldoon at Next Stage Media has put together a decent list of four simple questions to ask for small businesses that want to explore content marketing. By using a jewelry store as an example, Muldoon was able to flesh up a content marketing primer that every business ought to think about.

The first four questions proposed by Next Stage Media.

1. What are the seasonal conversations and events for your business or industry? 

Muldoon suggests that first step of any content marketing begins with the easiest step first. Know when your customers think about your products. In this case, a jeweler ought to be planning for content on or around Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day.

Advice enhancement: While the advice is spot on, there are plenty of other prompts content marketers ought to consider. St. Patrick's Day, for example, screams emeralds. Many other gems have seasonal appeal too. And any jewelry can create dates by advocating community service and nonprofit connections.

2. What does your target audience need to know about your product(s) based on time of year?

It's ideal that Muldoon offers up some in-depth understanding about the customer's purchasing experience. In this example, she suggests knowing the purchasing cycle of the customer — knowing when they are about to propose and how far out they need to plan for the engagement ring.

Advice enhancement: This is all smart stuff. If you can raise the right questions and answers at the right time, people will be more likely to turn to you for advice. While that may seem hard to map out, many jewelers can look for proposal trends and then calculate how many months in advance people start thinking about it and shopping for rings.

3. What questions do the customers of your industry have that will improve their current situation?

One of the best prospects of social media is to move beyond the product. The point here is simple enough. For the most part, people can buy a 'diamond' anywhere. In order to be more successful, small businesses need to differentiate themselves in different ways. It could be the cuts, stones, designers, personal touch, customer service, or any number of differences.

Advice enhancement: Demonstrating a clear contrast between one business and another is critical regardless of the industry. This almost always goes beyond a unique selling proposition (USP) because most USPs are created based on what clients think is the best in their field as opposed to the differences that exist between them and another.

4. What else does your target audience spend money on throughout the year?

By far, this was one of my favorite bits of advice. Muldoon correctly establishes that people are 3-dimensional and cannot be afraid to provide content beyond their product offerings.

Advice enhancement: While Muldoon suggests offering a larger product portfolio to prospects, companies don't always have to move beyond their product or service offerings. Sometimes advice is enough, especially as it relates directly or indirectly back to the product. Ergo, depending on the jeweler, people (especially existing customers) might like to learn a few fashion tips or closely related topical advice, ranging from etiquette to experiences.

The best content marketing strategies consider marketing, public relations and editorial. 

While I'm not a fan of the pressures to increase the quantity of content marketing, I am very much in favor of improving content quality. All four questions are a solid first step for small businesses to appreciate that they might have something to contribute. Consider it a starter set because once a base is established there are dozens of unique aspects to every business, ranging from new products being introduced to caring for products long after the customer purchases them.

It's also a good idea to remember that text isn't the only form of content available. Video, images and interactive experiences can all play a role in developing context. And, above all, never forget to listen to walk-in customers, the questions they ask, and the stories about designers that they want to hear.

If you consider all the possibilities after launching base content, new paths will present themselves — areas that are underserved or co-op opportunities that never existed before. As they do, it will also become more clear that content marketing is shaping up to be one of the better integrated communication concepts that any company can effectively deploy next year as long as they think it through first.

Wednesday, November 14

Giving Traditional Ads Lift: Social Media

Coca-Cola Bears
One of the primary problems marketers and public relations professionals still face in attempting to explain social media is the measurement. It's a problem they created and they can't get out of it.

There are three reasons most social media measurements fail to impress executives. It's too broad in its attempt to quantify likes, followers, and fans. It's placed in a vacuum, without considering the interdependence of all marketing and communication. It's too direct response oriented, attempting to count clicks even if consumers respond to the social conversation in different ways — like visiting a store and actually buying something or bookmarking a link for future reference.

The reality of social media is the need for integration. 

New research published in the Journal of Marketing Research successfully creates a better understanding of the symbiotic relationship between traditional and social media. For 14 months, Andrew T. Stephen from the University of Pittsburgh and Jeff Galak from Carnegie Mellon University studied sales and media data provided by, an online company that facilitates small loans between individual investors and people in underdeveloped countries.

The authors considered a loan a sale, and categorized mentions of Kiva in newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio as traditional earned media, and mentions of Kiva on blogs and online social networks and communities as social earned media. In doing so, they found that each mention of Kiva in traditional media had the largest per-event impact on sales.

Over the time period studied, each unit of media publicity from a traditional media organization generated 894 additional sales from new customers and 403 additional sales from repeat customers. A blog mention, by comparison, generated 90 additional new sales and 63 additional repeat sales. A mention in an online community generated 99 additional new and 48 additional repeat sales.

The authors say the disparity between media forms is not surprising because traditional media typically has a much broader reach than social media. However, since social media mentions were much more frequent than those in traditional media, the authors found that when this was taken into account earned media in social channels had a substantially larger impact on sales than traditional earned media did.

The study also found that social earned media helps drive traditional earned media. "Conventional wisdom is that traditional earned media makes a large mass of people aware of something and then gets them talking. However, our findings suggest that the reverse may be more likely than previously thought," said the researchers.

Marketing, public relations, and communication needs to be integrated. 

You can find the study published here. But there is something else to consider. While awareness is frequently considered for its horizontal value (total impressions or reach), it has vertical value too — how deeply it penetrates, how long it will be remembered, how likely people will talk about it included.

When anyone mentions the Coca-Cola advertisements featuring polar bears, people respond with warm, affectionate, and almost nostalgic remembrance. This cultural penetration success story has very little to do with the total number of people reached times the total average of impressions per impression. Sure, those numbers help. But there are plenty of ad campaigns that never took off despite having the same numbers.

What made the Coca-Cola bears brilliant was the company's use of advanced animation (at the time) of the right characters at the right time while maintaining a hardwired connection to the fuzzy brand Coca-Cola wanted to reinforce. (Let's not forget that they did the same thing to Santa Claus.) It's pre-social success.

How this fits into social, though, is still pretty apparent. If an organization has a following on a social network, do you think those people will be more likely to see and remember a new ad? Or, perhaps, do you think people who see a new ad will be more likely to visit a social media outlet? Or, perhaps, if they share something related to the organization online do you think they might be sharing it offline too?

The point is that great communication doesn't confine itself to a medium. It's what gets in our heads or our hearts. Numbers alone will never do it. Because if it was all about numbers, every campaign would win.

Monday, August 1

Turning 20: Copywrite, Ink.

Copywrite, Ink.Copywrite, Ink. turns 20 in August. To put that in perspective, the creative computer of choice was a monochrome Mac Classic, preferably one with a flying toasters screen saver installed. Nirvana's Nevermind, led by the hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," became the most popular U.S. album of the year. And Tim Berners-Less had just announced the World Wide Web project.

The Cold War was over. The United States liberated Kuwait, and we entered a recession. Generation Xers were mostly pissed off.

I had already earned some agency experience. I worked at an agency and public utility while in college and living in Los Angeles and Reno. But even before I knew there was a communication field, I had done some freelance work right out of high school.

Ten Things You Might Learn After 20 Years With A Communication Firm.

1. People Are People. In working with, talking to, and interviewing some of the most prominent, influential, and wealthy individuals in the world and having the distinct pleasure of interviewing people whom others would consider nobodies, you eventually learn there is no difference between them. Both have invaluable insights and near-debilitating insecurities. The only time class, wealth, and status make a difference is when people allow their own sense of proportion to overshadow who they are, and that is a different problem all together. Treat people equally.

2. Own Every Mistake. Inevitability, you will meet business owners who have been taken advantage of or otherwise harmed by investors, clients, contractors, and employees. The truth is that every mistake directly links to the top, either in the decisions they make or the people they delegate those decisions to. More importantly, business isn't a science, which means there will be mistakes. Make them, own them, learn from them, and forgive them. You can't learn from mistakes you don't own.

3. Talk Is Cheap. Until it is written in a contract or cashed at the bank, promises are as tangible as the wind. Clients who promise the moon and the stars in exchange for breaks on the front end are disingenuous or delusional. The lesson here is simple enough. Treat those promises for what they are — an investment in someone else's business, budget, or career if they are a marketing manager — as much as your own exploration into an opportunity. Anything else is talk.

4. Everything Is Temporary. Companies grow, shrink, and change all the time. They will win, lose, rise, decline, and rise again. Never place too much emphasis on chasing after or catering to choice accounts at the expense of all other clients. The average account will stay with a good firm for four years (our average is significantly longer). Firms that feel secure are generally one change away from losing the account. It pays to value the time you have with an account, but not worship it.

5. Everyone Is Valuable. Everyone on your team is valuable. It doesn't matter who they are or what they do: volunteer, freelance, part time, full time. The person who cleans the office is just as important as the person who lands the account. Likewise, employees are valuable but they are hardly invaluable. Much like most accounts do not stay with one firm forever, neither do employees. Make the most of the time you have them aboard.

6. Offices Are Overrated. While some professionals excel in offices and it's worthwhile to maintain them from time to time, they aren't necessary for the success of a communication firm and can sometimes be a liability in terms of overhead. For anyone working out of a home office, recognize the only people who frown on it don't have enough experience to know that many journalists, musicians, producers, radio talk show hosts, business people, investors, executives, and like-minded professionals do most of their work from home offices. Do what works for you for now.

7. Planning Is Critical. Persistence and perseverance alone won't ensure survivability. After a firm becomes solvent, look to create contingency plans. Most agencies and firms fail, specifically, because their operations are based exclusively on accounts, which requires them to hire and lay off based on those accounts. Several agencies shuttered up in the last few years because of it, especially those tied to specific industries. Diversify industries, locations, and revenue strategies. Keep the faith for the best while planning for the worst.

8. Give Back, Not In. One of the smartest things any firm can do is align with nonprofits, giving them the opportunity to make new connections as well as support their community. On the flip side, giving back does not mean giving in or fooling yourself into believing you have ownership. Recognize when any commitment begins to take a negative turn and then walk away. Politics is a sure indicator. Business owners don't have time for it, whether it's a nonprofit or professional organization and participation can adversely affect all those connections when board leaders or executives split the group.

9. Politics Is Baloney. Firms need to be vigilant in keeping pace with politics to prevent unneeded regulations, but never let politics dictate the company's mission, vision, or values. Politics is largely a different world in that success has everything to with electability and almost nothing to do with accountability. Besides, any wagon you hitch your star to is only as good as the next election. Other than making a few contributions, it's best to stay as far away from it as possible and keep most opinions close to the vest. The person you insult over political differences could have been your client.

10. Social Media Is Social. When you make connections online, they are just as valuable as any you make offline. And because of this, they deserve the same reverence. Some communication professionals try to separate the two, but only because they have yet to learn that some of the best and brightest connections you make will never be tied to geography. They're not. It ties directly back into #1 above — if class, wealth, and status are meaningless, how you meet someone is even more so.

There are dozens more than those I've listed here, but they came to mind. So what's next? Nobody really knows the lessons they might learn along the way except for the ones they need to learn. For right now, we're satisfied working with two startups on their near-term launches, developing our alternative review site, and nurturing relationships with select clients, colleagues, and friends (maybe you too). And then, of course, there are a few personal projects always simmering. Other than that, we're grateful (and I'm grateful) that Copywrite, Ink. has crossed the 20-year mark.

Wednesday, June 15

Marketing Integration: More Than A To Do List

To DoSometimes I read something and it makes my head hurt. (Not really, I only wrote that for effect.) Eric Brown nearly did that with his post on un-integrating marketing.

"As of late I have found myself trying to be closer to the center, saying such things as you need an integrated marketing approach," he wrote on Social Media Explorer. "I think that is a mistake."

And then he goes on to suggest that we ought to all be asking: “What marketing venue or platform are you going to stop doing, before you start doing social media marketing?" And there's the problem. Integrated communication or integrated marketing has absolutely nothing to do with how many things a marketing department (and other departments) does.

It has more to do with developing a fluid plan on how to best achieve the strategic intent of the organization, usually with a set of priorities and then making sure the messages fit within some sort of context. Does anyone appreciate the difference?

The Un-Integrated Approach To Marketing And Public Relations.

I've sat in countless marketing meetings. The traditional approach — non-integrated — is simple enough. Everyone gathers around the table and reports on what they are doing.

"We're running a contest to get more Facebook friends," says the social media expert.

"We've successfully placed a story on how our CEO likes horses," says the public relations representative.

"We put together our projections for the next quarter to boost share prices," says investor relations.

"We're asking employees to donate canned goods for the local shelter," says community relations.

"We just finished the latest creative campaign and are making media buys. It's cool, wait until you see the fish," says the ad guy.

"We just mailed out 100,000 letters with coupons and anticipate a 1.2 percent return," exclaims the direct response ninja.

"Okay, I get direct response. But what does any of the rest of it have to do with sales?" grumbles the marketing guy. "We need a bigger sales force and a big tent sale."

And the list goes on, without anybody considering what is really happening. Multiple departments, in house or not, are running multiple objectives, almost none of which line up with what the organization does or differentiates itself in the market.

Social media is gathering fans. Public relations is placing stories. Investor relations is keeping people happy. Community relations makes people feel good. The creative department is driving awareness. Direct response is playing the odds. And marketing is trying to increase conversation rates (or whatever). That's a lot of objectives. Too many. And all of them have to do with disciplines, not what the company actually does.

The Integrated Approach To Communication Is Different.

Instead of playing round robin, various departments come together to discuss their top ideas on how to best communicate the objectives of the organization. It could be a product launch or perhaps something more generalized like becoming the subject matter expert in the space (hint: possibly because that's part of the company's mission).

Whatever. Let's say it's a product launch (to keep things simple).

The advertising department creates a campaign to launch the product, one that reinforces the unique selling proposition developed by marketing out of customer focus groups and other research. Social media says they will share the campaign (and any media mentions) across various networks and offer a product sample to select fans and friends.

integrationPublic relations sends the product out to various reviewers, but also sees an opportunity to partner with related organizations as stakeholders. Community relations supports the idea, suggesting 1 percent of sales could even benefit a nonprofit with which the organization is strategically aligned.

Direct response, rather than sending coupons, suggests that they vet their database after the initial campaign launch, targeting customers who would be interested but don't take action on the campaign. Marketing suggests that all these ideas are solid enough; the marketing department will brief all the salespeople so they can answer any questions online and off.

Investor relations agrees that it all sounds great, and is already working on a separate announcement that ties the campaign to beating analyst projections in the next quarter. That makes everyone happy, especially because they all have shares in the company.

You don't even have to ask what this approach might do for sales. Assuming the product isn't a flop, it would drive sales.

That's integrated communication. That's integrated marketing. And if the communication teams are doing anything but that, then they are wasting the marketing budget.

If more organizations did this, then fewer would ever have to consider the Stop Doing List that excited Brown. You don't need a "stop doing list" because the most expedient way to prevent useless tasks from getting on the to do list is to always make sure they line up with the strategic goals of the organization in the first place. That requires integration.

Even more importantly, integrated communication (or integrated marketing if you prefer) keeps everyone moving in the same direction with specific (but flexible) messages. Given that people are already exposed to enough messages every day to fill one or two novels, the chance they will remember more than one or two messages about your organization is miniscule. And for many organizations, if they even remember one it is an accomplishment.

None of this is designed to take away from Brown's considerable insights; it's only meant to elevate the discussion. And perhaps that discussion needs to be that there is only one consistency in communication. Most people define terms so differently that they don't always mean what they are saying in social media even when they think they do.

Thursday, July 22

Spooking Social Media: Ad Agencies Wake Up

One creative, interactive YouTube campaign and, suddenly, everyone's concerned about advertising agencies moving into social media. Some agencies, like Interpublic's Universal McCann and Publicis Groupe's Vivaki, are already building dedicated divisions.

It could reshape social, with some people concerned about the silos and buy-ups that I mentioned what seems like 100 years ago. Except, back then, I was talking to recruiters who "got" social media well before public relations professionals and communicators. Jim Durbin was listening. He recently outlined how social media stacks up in the job market.

Are There Consequences If Agencies Dominate Social Media?

If David Teicher with AdAge is right, it could lead to more silos (subdivisions) and shortcuts (blended earned/bought media). If Dave Fleet is right, it could lead to short-term spike campaigns (viral) and sub-optimal results (popular channel focus). If Todd Defren is right, then agencies will put campaigns before relationships.

They're all good arguments, but it really depends on the agency. I've worked with enough agencies that have created public relations divisions to know. Some shops integrate communication. Other shops dismiss the division as an "also have" service.

The same thing happened when agencies decided it was in their best interest to buy up Web design companies (and direct mail shops before that). Some shops develop great integrated campaigns. Other shops have an abundance of strong and weak components, skewing to what they know best. Almost all of them place an emphasis on creative over strategy, which might be why Old Spice lost some shine.

What about public relations? I might teach public relations classes, but I don't always understand public relations firms' business thinking. Many jumped on social media because they were threatened by losing some of their retainers to social media specialists and because media seemed to be losing its relevance.

Sure, a few have a passion for the space. But otherwise, it was a knee jerk with the argument that they were better at "relationships." Yet, if that is so, then why all the focus on finding influencers to replace journalists? That is what many of them are trying to do, which basically means they couldn't care less about the individual customer. That is the whole premise behind why some firms use Radian6, isn't it? Find out which commenters have juice?

It's Not Who Owns Social. It's Who Owns Strategic.

Communication strategy, not social media, is what will shape the future of communication. Someone has to stand at the helm of any communication program, and that usually means the marketer (internal) will most likely dictate the team, skewing to the areas of expertise where they feel they need the most help.

And if they need help with strategic direction, you can bank on the idea that whomever is given the strategic lead will decide the rest of the marketing mix — what percentage of the budget goes to marketing, advertising, public relations, or social media.

Next year, when one of my students in public relations asks me what they need to focus on to have a successful career in a communication-related field, I won't tell them to sharpen their social media skills (although they will need to know it). I'll tell them to sharpen their strategic skills because the people outlining the strategy are the people driving everything else.

When you think about it, that really levels the playing field, doesn't it? Every public relations firm, advertising agency, and social media boutique eventually develops at least one or two strategists (and sometimes they are not who the client thinks). If you ask me, strategy dictates whether a campaign will succeed or fail, not the tactic (social media) everyone has their eye on.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, May 13

Integrating Communication: No More Lines

Whether it's the Preakness with its "Get Your Preak On" advertising miss or it's the TomTom GPS ad that shares a voiceover session with Darth Vader, the lines between advertising and public relations are often blurred. As advertising campaigns sometimes become the topic of social media and social media feeds media, the best and the worst campaigns elicit public responses best left to public relations professionals.

Of course, today's communication streams don't have to be linear. The source of the original communication or reaction to an event can be initiated in any medium. Take the recent success of Liquid Mountaineering. How do you classify it?

Is it entertainment, with the participants merely sharing their new sport? Is it social media, given its home base blog and attention the it received? Is it public relations, given its exposure as a real new sport by WUSA in Washington, D.C. coverage? Is it advertising, with creative and professional long-format production quality?

As it turns out, it is an advertisement for Hi-Tec Sports that relies on social media as the medium. It has since earned as much media attention as it has its own Internet fan base, making the need for public relations as important as the original production.

The Future Of Communication Isn't Integrated. Integrated Communication Is Now.

Sure, there have been some complaints from agencies, marketing specialists, social media pros, and public relations professionals that prospective clients are confused. It's no longer uncommon for pitch lists to include some representative companies from each discipline. But while most of them look at each other's skills as competitive, the truth is that they are complementary.

Integrated communication isn't so much a point of view anymore. It's critical to successful communication. As for the future, the only firms that will survive are those that embrace it or learn to partner with companies that can round out areas where they are considerably deficient. As for the rest, saying you can do it all if you can't only lasts so long before the in-house marketing teams are brought up to speed.

The takeaway here is simple enough. A high percentage of successful and naturally occurring viral campaigns over the last year have employed integrated communication. A high percentage of failures have relied on communication well within the lines of a single discipline. Color outside the lines.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, February 3

Integrating Communication: Advertising-Driven Social Media

As mentioned before, there are many ways to integrate social media into organizational communication. And every model has a number of variables unique to an organization. The key component in every model, however, is integration.

Two weeks ago, we proposed what a public relations-driven social media program might look like. But what about advertising?

In social media circles, there tends to be a misconception that all advertising has to be interruption based. It's not really true. Advertising covers a broad spectrum of communication materials. And good advertising delineates itself into any number of purposes, including introduction, education, entertainment, and branding.

The best of it doesn't interrupt as much as it entices readers or viewers to enjoy the context of paid message as much as the editorial or entertainment content. It's the reason Super Bowl advertisements generate so much interest every year. And it's the reason good copywriters are able to develop skill sets to write messages for a large audience and yet, those audience members feel like the message is uniquely written for them.

An Advertising-Driven Social Media Model

The above illustration represents what an advertising-driven communication plan might look like with social media. In this model, advertising manages advertising functions and supports social media functions, with some crossover. For simplicity, we've broken it down into primary functions and then reinforced some shared functions.


• Managing traditional mass communication, which includes collateral, print, and broadcast. As long as there is mass media, even if it continues to serve increasingly smaller niches, the functions remain the same. What is different is that all of this communication has the additional role of helping consumers find two-way communication portals.

• Promotions, which include direct response campaigns, guerilla marketing, and special events (sometimes managed by public relations), post-purchase communication is managed by the team. Sure, some is interruption-based. But interruption-based communication is likely to continue as long as people respond to it.

• While Web sites were lumped into an online mass media category, the online environment has changed. One-dimensional, one-way static communication can only exist as an option for the most passive visitors. It's the primary reason people like Mitch Joel recently reminded communicators that Web sites are Web sites no more. Social media can help make them consumer functional.

Social Media.

• Maintain, manage, and promote the organization's blog or similar Web site function. This may include market intelligence (which is shared with the advertising team), but primarily consists of content development and content distribution that adds value for customers. While blogs are presentation oriented, they do provide for two-way communication.

• Maintain, manage, and develop the organization's social networks. This includes online programs and information sharing that nurtures true engagement and two-way communication in real time. Where advertising plays a role is that most social networks provide vehicles for advertising. If someone doesn't think online ads work, they are either delusional or have bad ads.

• Blogger outreach occurs directly and indirectly as bloggers may source content from the organization's blog or develop relationships with the social media team via any number of social networks. Where advertising can support this effort is in including some blogs (or group purchases) on media buys based on recommendations form the social media team.

Shared functions.

• Regardless of which team takes the lead, message development and branding become a shared function. Social media programs generally have a tone, much like any other communication. While some copywriters could cross-write mass media and social media content, not all copywriters can. It's a different style, one that borrows from journalism as much as advertising. Likewise, agencies can remain responsible for design, but only while working in tandem with social media teams.

• Research is also a shared function of both teams. Advertising (and marketing) have had a lead position in conducting consumer focus groups and demographic research for a long time. It's beneficial in message development. Where social media gives the entire component lift is in providing real-time snapshots of sentiment and analyzing trends.

• Even when a communication plan is primarily advertising-driven, modern companies still benefit from public relations. In this model, public relations works best when it supports paid placement and in support of blogger outreach (because journalists work online too).

Model Summation.

This model represents an approach to communication that emphasizes one-way communication, but is supported by two-way communication. It makes advertising more effective because instead of attempting to drive consumers to a point of sale or push an identity, it helps consumers find two-way communication points.

Why is that important? Specifically, advertising helps create demand and directs consumers to areas of optional engagement, which then directs people to demand fulfillment. And, depending on the company, social media can either support customers or serve as front line soft sales.

All that aside, the primary reason an integrated advertising-social media approach is much more powerful than traditional models is because, nowadays, most consumers look up products and companies online after seeing an advertisement (or editorial, for that matter). Social media represents the first opportunity to validate the product or service. Or, in other words, advertising introduces an identity while social media nurtures a brand relationship.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, January 20

Integrating Communication: PR-Driven Social Media

There are many ways to integrate social media into organizational communication and any model has a number of variables that would be unique to the organization. However, there is one common denominator. Integration requires thinking different.

In developing a working model to integrate social media into a public relations-driven communication plan*, experience has shown that social media tends to be too cumbersome for most public relations departments (and outside firms) to manage it like another bullet item under the laundry list of services adopted as public relations.

Sure, it can be done. It just doesn't seem to be done well very often.

From our experience, there are several tangible reasons to maintain some separation between the two communication roles as they work in tandem. First and foremost, social media, which mostly consists of two-way direct to public communication, tends to drive public relations away from its core function and world view. The result tends to produce one-way broadcast (spam) communication across social channels, customers being pushed off for lack of "influence," and time management issues related to the ratio of customers/bloggers as opposed to journalists.

*We'll cover other industry-driven models in the weeks ahead.

A Public Relations-Driven Social Media Model

The above illustration isn't theoretical. It was applied to a producer-managed theatrical release and build up to the home distribution release of an independent film by Sony. (For the purposes of post, we've removed the management paths which placed our role over five public relations firms while managing all aspects of the social media program).

In this model, public relations manages the public relations functions and social media manages social media functions, with some obvious areas for crossover communication. For simplicity, I'll break each team's role down to primary functions and then reinforce some shared functions.

Public Relations.

• Managing media relations, which includes press releases, interview pitches, and demonstrations. The function is designed to generate increased exposure. It's mostly one-way communication with journalists vetting information, tailoring content to meet the needs of their readers, and writing opinion-editorial pieces.

• Public outreach, which includes programs and communication materials for special publics (e.g., associations, special interest groups, unions, etc.) as well as direct to public communication and/or publicity. It's mostly one-way communication, with either group leaders informing members or the public receiving information.

• Blogger outreach, which includes either adding popular bloggers within the media relations mix or working with bloggers who have been referred by the social media team because they have special needs that are similar to journalists (such as requesting specific interviews, etc.).

Social Media.

• Maintain, manage, and promote the organization's blog. This may include market intelligence (which is shared with the public relations team), but primarily consists of content development and content distribution that adds value for customers. While blogs are presentation oriented, they do provide for two-way communication.

• Maintain, manage, and develop the organization's social networks. This includes online programs and information sharing that nurtures true engagement and two-way communication in real time. It may also include identifying forums beyond popular social networks where people ask questions that need to be answered. And, in this model, we allowed for advertising support specifically designed to drive customers toward networks where they can be engaged.

• Blogger outreach occurs directly and indirectly as bloggers may source content from the organization's blog or develop relationships with the social media team via any number of social networks. The benefit for the public relations team is that a social media team can determine which bloggers have information requests or require support more like a journalist.

Shared Functions.

• Blogger outreach, as mentioned above, works best with a public relations driven communication plan when the function is shared by public relations and social media. In effect, this approach allows the social media team to meet the daily needs (and recognition) of bloggers while referring bloggers with special needs (such as an interview request) to the public relations team.

• Since social media is its own environment, communication tends to be fluid. Journalists don't alway find stories via press releases or pitches. Story ideas and angles might develop from reading industry blogs, reading the organization's blog, or because most journalists are also members of various social networks.

• Research is also a shared function of both teams. While public relations has an obligation to track and analyze trends within specific markets, publics, or industries, social media professionals also track and analyze trends and sentiment via networks, blogs, and search engines.

Model Summation.

In summation, this model represents an approach to communication that allows for a series of direct and indirect one-way and two-way communication streams and engagement opportunities. The end result of an integrated strategy, assuming the communication is consistent, allows for a message to reach the public from multiple sources, provide multiple opportunities to verify or validate that message, and encourages direct engagement for the long term.

This is a much more powerful approach than traditional public relations models, especially in regard to media relations. Traditionally, companies relied on their brand, the reputation/relationship of their public relations firm, and the objective or biased reporting of a journalist to reach the public. If mistrust occurred at any point in this linear stream, the organization could be damaged for the life of the story or, in some cases, permanently.

I might add that there is a reason I did not add clear management paths to the model. The reason is simple. Social media fits differently for different companies. In this model, social media could maintain its own autonomous distinction, report to marketing, public relations (provided public relations affords the social media team some autonomy as the functions are largely different), or a more complicated model such as the one we worked on last year.

Wednesday, August 12

Owning Social: Digital Readiness Report

According to the the 2009 Digital Readiness Report, public relations leads marketing in the management of social media communications channels whereas marketing leads in managing e-mail marketing and SEO. While the sampling size is relatively thin, it does track a greater trend in communication. People are wondering who owns social media.

According to the report, it says that public relations has taken the lead in 51 percent of all organizations compared to 40.5 percent where marketing leads. The balance belongs to a mix of executive management, IT, and other departments.

Other Highlights Related To 'Owning' Social.

• Public relations is responsible for blogging at 49 percent of all organizations; marketing is responsible for blogging at
22% of all organizations.

• Public relations is responsible for social networking at 48 percent of all organizations; marketing is responsible for social networking at 27 percent of all organizations.

• Public relations is responsible for micro-blogging (which can be best defined as message services) at 52 percent of all organizations; marketing is responsible for microblogging at 22 percent of all organizations.

Why Would Public Relations Want To Own Social?

As traditional media continues to die or shift toward digital convergence, what has become a priority function of public relations professionals — securing editorial space — is slipping away. Never mind that public relations ought to be something else, the impression measures have changed as editorial space and circulation have shrunk.

While it's almost odd to think that communication professionals who would sometimes snub bloggers seeking content just a few years ago would suddenly make a play for the space out of necessity, the profession is seeking new revenue streams. For some, it's not just about online space; it's about everything they consider "below the line," which includes marketing functions that also garner media attention.

If there is any truth to this trend, public relations professionals are trending toward communication generalists: professionals who always had to look at the big picture. Since there is some evidence to support that it is happening, the real question to start asking is whether or not most public relations professionals are ready. Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer says no.

If There Is Confusion, It's Because Nobody Owns Social.

Although every spring and a few other times a year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I make the case that public relations professionals need to learn social media skill sets with increasing frequency and veracity to such a degree that class has evolved well beyond any textbook available, the truth is that nobody owns social media. Simply put, if there was ever a communication channel that required integration, this is it.

Tomorrow's communication professional needs skill sets that are not being taught as part of the curriculum because communication has largely become as departmentalized at universities as it has within many major corporations. Marketing emphasizes the classic strategies that businesses understand; advertising focuses on the creative properties of communication; public relations teaches how to reach the media (and hopefully other publics beyond that).

Meanwhile, most major companies then begin to split it up further, delegating some to IT, human resources, corporate communication, government affairs, investor relations, community relations, social media, front line sales, customer service, and so on and so forth. (Never mind that content development requires some strong editorial skills too.) And, often times, all of these departments work in specialized silos where the objective sometimes becomes dominating other departments instead of, you know, working to meet the objectives of the company.

So is there any wonder why companies are confused about social media?

Social media touches, crosses into, influences, and impacts all of these areas. And the percentage of professionals who understand this represent about a fraction of one percent (written for effect, and not a currently proven statistical truism). Worse, some relations professionals, at least in this market, are taking their social media training from some "social media experts" who have managed to make a splash online for themselves despite having no experience in communication.

There are, generally, people who say things like never mind conversations, jump in anyway. The result? We all have a better chance of reaching other communication-related professionals on Twitter than we ever have of reaching everyday consumers because the conversation is dominated by people in the field. (Don't get me wrong. I like Twitter, but it is not representative of an entire population of people who might care about every product.) That works for why I use Twitter. It does not nor will it work for some of our clients.

More importantly, platform training does not equal social media skill sets. Social media or social marketing or social networking or any of it is much more situational in setting objectives, developing content, and implementing strategies.

Until companies, and perhaps public relations professionals or whomever operates within the space understand this, executives will continue to be surprised to watch their stock fall away because the intern charged with making friends on the Internet entered a forum discussion about how many cell phones were being returned because they failed to meet expectations.

That's right. It doesn't matter how big your public relations firm is when that happens. Just saying. It happens. And it will continue to happen until communication becomes integrated.

Monday, August 3

Evolving Businesses: Copywrite, Ink. Turns 18

Reading the comments filed after Umair Haque's post The Value Every Business Needs to Create (hat tip: Valeria Maltoni) is a real treat.

Some people get it as a new definition of corporate responsibility and societal sustainability. Some people do not out of a cross between practicality and complacency. The answer, as always, is somewhere in between.

Haque is director of the Havas Media Lab and his work appears at Harvard Business Publishing. I read his stuff from time to time because he tends to ask "why not" more often than "why." But I have to admit I don't read his work faithfully because sometimes it reads as the continuous gauntlet being thrown down at private sector business. There is nothing wrong with that; someone needs to do it. Wingnuts often provide solutions even if you don't agree with the more uncompromising solutions.

He's right in that, as a whole, "health care industry profits, but Americans get poor health care. Automakers fought tooth and nail against making sustainably powered cars. Manufacturers of all stripes stay mum about environmental costs. Clothing companies can't break up with sweatshop labour." Etc. Add to that public relations firms, as a whole, have become complacent, weaving in the same old tired buzz words into poorly targeted, mass distributed news releases. (TechCrunch ought to add "leading company" to the list.)

His uncompromising position is still a bitter pill for many to entertain on a regular basis because businesses would give these things to Americans if Americans would be prepared to pay for the early adoption portion prior to mass distribution, much like they were willing to pay for flat screen televisions. Mostly, we aren't. Often, it takes an atrocity, tragedy, or visionary investment to shock the existing system enough to elevate something better. Otherwise, change happens in tiny drips.

Copywrite, Ink. Turns 18

Understanding this is the primary reason our company is turning 18 years old this month whereas so many others (including firms that used to be among the top agencies in the state) closed their doors. Most played systems that worked until they played out. Others tried to force innovations that no one wanted. A few adopted the language (integrated communication, for example) but not the meaning behind the words, cheapening the entire concept.

We're a bit different in that while we have all the skill sets available to transform floundering communication plans (and sometimes the aging operations to go with them) into winners, we don't begrudge those who want their point of entry to be the same old. In other words, we know a start-up company would be better off developing a core message before a logo, but there is no need to talk ourselves out of the relationship. (Not every date is ready to talk about kids before the first kiss.)

Politics is very much like that. As unfortunate as it is, politics requires politicians to sacrifice some tenets in order to get in the door. It used to be a path of compromise; nowadays, for many of them, it's better described as submission. As the first campaign manager we ever worked with once said, "change is great and necessary, but you cannot enact change until you get elected."

Business communication is very much like that too. You cannot prove your performance until you're working on the account. Change is much easier to enact from the inside out, which is how our company evolved to provide five services with agencies or companies able to customize the services they needed from us.

Ideally, we'd often do it differently, but there are just too many people who will say something requires too much heavy lifting. Usually, it doesn't. It only seems like it does because, for the person making that claim, it might be very heavy indeed.

As much as we'll enter where our client would like us to, Copywrite, Ink. continues to find new ways to evolve from its early entry as a writing services firm in 1991 (at a time when there was no such business). From there, we've added services such as creative direction (1996), strategic direction (1999), social media (2003), and opposition and market research (2006). In sum, we provide any number of single services or deeper than traditional full service, depending on client need.

What's next? There is always something in the works. But for now, we just decided it was time to provide our clients, colleagues, and friends a high-touch thank you and an invitation for a cup of tea. It makes sense to me. For all the talk of technology and employees being told of takeovers via tweet links, nothing beats the occasional face to face.

And what about your company? Is it running thin on value or thinking thick to keep pace with a world that promises to look very different? While we're always happy to chat with anyone to fill niche needs, we're especially interested in sitting down to discuss the real definition of integrated communication.

Blog Archive

by Richard R Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template