Archive for January, 2009

Are you on the right track?

January 26, 2009

So why would you use social media to market your products?  Is it because it’s what the cool kids are doing? I hope that’s not your rationale.  If that is your reason, then you’re probably not using it to its full potential.

Granted, the cool kids ARE doing it, but that’s not the point.  Social Media Marketing is an incredibly effective tool with a reach that is ultimately beyond being truly quantifiable.  Nevertheless, there are techniques to track many of the results of a Social Media Marketing campaign and use those results to determine ROI.

It’s not always easy, but it is absolutely essential to running a successful campaign.  More to the point, it’s essential to get your client’s CFO to sign off on that campaign.  We all understand the profound value of Social Media Marketing campaigns, but the reason we’re successful is because we know how to communicate that value to the campaign’s beneficiary.

Here is a quick primer on some of the more basic ways to track a Social Media Campaign:

1. Site Traffic: If the goal of your campaign is to increase brand awareness, then benchmarking and measuring spikes in traffic to your website and blog or numbers of followers on Twitter can serve as a rough indication of how a campaign is driving brand impressions.

2. Conversions: Similar to what you might do with an SEO campaign, having your Social Media Campaign tied to specific conversion goals on your site can provide you with very specific success benchmarks in the form of highly-qualified leads.

3. Backlinks: If the goal of your campaign is to build a general following, then you should be measuring increases in backlinks to your Website, blog, wiki or whatever happens to be the epicenter of that following.  They can be easily tracked with Google and give you a great feel for who’s taking you seriously enough to link to you.

There are much more involved techniques that we use, but these represent some simple ideas to start with.  I’d love to hear feedback and suggestions for other basic techniques!

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What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side”

January 22, 2009

I read an interesting blog post yesterday entitled “What all PR people should know about journalists”, written by Rohit Bhargava on his Influential Marketing Blog. The post had been “re-tweeted” by someone I follow on Twitter. As a former journalist who came over to the PR “Dark Side” 12 years ago, I was naturally intrigued. Mr. Bhargava listed six lessons that he has learned that “most journalists know and many PR professionals are blissfully unaware of.”

The six lessons are as follows: 1) Your BS is obvious 2) Timing trumps all 3) Reputation matters 4) Features are not as important as an angle 5) Speed and contactability make the difference 6) Peer pitching works. The writer expounds on this list here: http://tinyurl.com/7s3vxj, but if you’re a successful publicist, Mr. Bhargava’s insights will fall into the “duh” category. If you are a PR professional and this list is eye-opening, then you are either right out of school (you get a pass) or you really suck at your job and it’s people like you that give us flaks a bad name… But I digress.

My reason for writing this post is not to knock Mr. Bhargava’s blog post – he writes a very successful and generally insightful blog – rather, I’m tired of always hearing about what reporters think about us “annoying” publicists and how WE can do a better job. It’s about time we PR professionals enlighten you journalists about what we think about you and how YOU can do a better job. As someone who has worked on both sides of the phone, I have some lessons that I have learned along the way that, to turn Mr. Bhargava’s statement around, “most PR professionals know and many journalists are blissfully unaware of.”

Here’s my Top Ten List of What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side” (in no particular order):

1. The “Dark Side” is not that dark. I know it’s hard for many reporters to believe, but for the most part, PR folks are not evil like Darth Vader. OK, so Lizzie Grubman didn’t do us publicists any favors when she ran down a crowd of people in the Hamptons with her Mercedes several years ago shouting “F**k you, white trash”. That was really more of a “class warfare” issue anyway. Regardless, I can name plenty of reporters that have given the Fourth Estate a bad name. Does Jayson Blair ring a bell? So, please cut us some slack. We don’t look down on you, so please don’t look down on us. We’re just doing our job.

2. We don’t think you’re stupid. Contrary to what you may think, we’re not out to dupe you. There are some reporters out there that I’ve encountered over the years that truly believe that every pitch they receive is a ruse. We understand that if we don’t have an existing relationship that you’ll need to be more thorough in vetting the pitch, but trying to pull one over on you is not in our best interest or the best interest of our clients. Our reputation in this business is all we have. If a publicist loses their credibility, then they’re all done. Most good publicists understand what’s newsworthy and won’t waste your time overselling a great story about our client’s “new coffee flavor” for instance! We’ll save that story for when you owe us one.

3. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need us as much as we need you. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no need for query services like PR Newswire’s ProfNet or Peter Shankman’s HARO. You need sources and story ideas and we have them. What’s more, a good PR agency contact can be a direct conduit for multiple sources – one stop shopping!

4. Some day we may represent Bono or Bill Gates. OK, so we don’t always have the sexiest clients, but just as you may start out covering selectmen’s meetings for the Carlisle Mosquito and end up a columnist at The New York Times, we could some day represent a client you would desperately want to write about. Keep that in mind when you’re pooh-poohing our pitch about the new coffee shop that opened on Main Street.

5. We are just as busy as you are. You’re busy, we get it. So are we. Please don’t always act like you’re in the middle of breaking Watergate when we call. Just as you have editors riding you, we have clients that expect the cover of Time magazine. When we call, it’s usually just a quick follow up on something that we sent you. You can spare 60 seconds. Now, if we call you with a stupid question at 5:00 p.m. when we know that you are on deadline, please, feel free to blast us.

6. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. If our client is on the hot seat, we will unequivocally do everything we can, short of lying, to protect our client’s name and reputation. This is what they pay us for. At this point, all friendships between reporter and publicist must be suspended. We understand this and so should you. Getting the dirt and deciphering our “spin” is your problem. There is nothing unethical about putting a spin on the truth. Understand that we all carry the labels “Flak” & “Spinmeister” proudly. When the dust settles, we can be friends again.

7. You can’t always expect an exclusive. Just because we also gave the story to your cross-town rival, doesn’t mean we screwed you. While there are some stories that may deserve an exclusive for various reasons, most of the time it’s not a big deal if the other paper runs the same story on the same day. If you write for The Boston Globe, your readership isn’t reading the Boston Herald anyway. It’s safe to assume that if we don’t say ahead of time that we’re giving you an exclusive, then we’re not.

8. Please don’t call our clients directly. There’s a very good reason why our clients hire us, please don’t cut us out. We make our livelihood by publicizing CEOs and their companies. If they had the time and expertise to do this effectively, then they wouldn’t need us. When you go directly to our clients, it either really annoys them and we hear about it or they begin to wonder what they need us for – even though we’re the ones who initiated the relationship. Please call us if you want to talk to them.

9. Just because you didn’t think about it doesn’t make it a bad idea. PR professionals are a pretty creative bunch. One of the best methods of garnering press for our clients is to lump them into a larger trend piece. When we bring you an idea for a trend piece, please don’t turn your nose up at it. You can take credit for the idea. If you do decide to use it, just please include our client prominently in the story.

10. Don’t make us do your job. Please don’t send us interview questions for our clients to fill out the answers to. Some PR folks may disagree with me on this, but from my experience, this interview method creates more work for everyone involved and the answers to the questions are never as good as if the reporter spent 5 minutes on the phone asking the questions themselves.

Well, that’s my list. I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who read this who will disagree with some of my points. Conversely, I’m sure there will be others who feel I left out some critical insights. Either way, I welcome your feedback!

Twitter Breaks News While Traditional Media Sits in Midtown Traffic

January 21, 2009

When a major news event occurs, naturally, news stations and websites are often the first place readers go to get the latest information. With society and technology changing, however, social media has taken a step ahead of traditional media and has proved to be a reliable source for breaking news information.

When U.S Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the icy waters of the Hudson River last week, witnesses watched from their high-rise buildings, trying to decipher what had just taken place. The jetliner with 155 people on board had lost power in both engines after hitting a flock of birds’ shortly after departing from La Guardia Airport. Now national hero, Pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger, landed the plane safely (miraculously) in the river avoiding a disaster and saving the life of every passenger and flight attendant on board.

News of the crash spread instantaneously over the micro-blogging site Twitter, by New York City-based users witnessing the crash live. They were sharing pictures and first-hand accounts well before any TV networks were on-site. The first Twitter feed was a post by Janis Krums of Sarasota, Florida who had arrived to the scene on ferry just a few minutes after the jetliner had plunged into the Hudson. He had posted a picture on TwitPic (a tool that allows you to share photos on Twitter) just ten minutes after the crash, with a caption reading, “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” It was one of the first photos posted about the incident and has now been viewed by over 90,000 people.

Janis Krums' Photo of US Airways Flight 1549 in The Hudson River

Janis Krums' Photo of US Airways Flight 1549 in The Hudson River

The power of social media continues to connect people, media and technology. By embracing this power, sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming an essential part of modern society and communication, and are playing a role in the diminished usage and relevancy of more traditional media outlets.

The Hudson crash is yet another example of social media out-performing traditional media.

Hail To The CMS

January 20, 2009

On this historic day of the inauguration of Barack Obama, I can not think of a more fitting topic to write about than content management systems. What, you can’t see the parallel?

Ok, in all seriousness, when was the last time you updated the content on your website? 3 months? 6 months? Is this because you don’t have anyone in-house that knows how to update content on the website?

Right now we are in the digital age where content is king and having the same old, stale content on your site for months on end will not win you any repeat visitors. If this sounds familiar, then you are a prime candidate for a content management system (CMS), which allows non-technically proficient people to manage and update content on a website.

There certainly isn’t any shortage of content management solutions out there in the marketplace today, but how can you be sure which solution is best for your company’s needs? The trend seems to be moving towards open-source CMS options like Drupal and Joomla. These are attractive for a variety of reasons, one of the biggest being cost! Because there is no actual cost for the program (with traditional CMS solutions you will most likely pay licensing fees) your only costs are for customization and integration to the website. Also, since these are open-source solutions, there are thousands of developers across the world continually working on ways to make the system better. Think of all that techie brainpower collaborating!

We at 451 Marketing have found that with Drupal, the knowledge base out there on the web at our fingertips is extremely extensive. More than 300,000 user accounts have been created on Drupal.org, and over 2,000 people have signed up for developer accounts. Having this extremely large user base makes it much easier to get help and support when needed. Just Google “Drupal” and you will get millions of results for blogs and other resources.

Drupal isn’t always the best solution for every website. Sometimes it’s more cost effective for a company to have a custom built system that may only manage a couple portions of a website. This may include Career Opportunities, News, Company Bios, among others. This will give them control of areas of the website that would change most frequently without having to implement and customize a system that would control the entire site.

A great resource for comparing CMS features side by side can be found here: http://www.cmsmatrix.org. This includes open-source as well as traditional systems.

So take back control of your website, and take down that press release from 2002 on your homepage!

Building Your Brand In 2009 – Are You The Next Clint Eastwood?

January 16, 2009

A recent viewing of Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “Gran Torino,” got me thinking about a lot more than just the final scenes of the movie and its excellent screenplay. I actually began to think long and hard about Clint Eastwood, his performance, his career path, and even, his image.

In this particular film, part “Unforgiven”-style modern day case study of the impact of violence and vengeance, and part “Million Dollar Baby” examination of the potential for connectivity between very dissimilar people, Eastwood’s machismo drives every line and every scene. But upon reflection, I started thinking more about 78-year-old Clint Eastwood “the man,” or more specifically, Clint Eastwood “the brand.”

Eastwood has utilized the medium of film over the past 50 years to create a brand for himself that is so unequivocally his own; tough-minded, shrewd, battle-tested, just, arrogant, and private. Eastwood’s brand does not necessarily personify the man or even every single role he plays as an actor or director (see “Bridges of Madison County”), but it’s strong enough to typify a likeness that has persisted over time. In essence, film allowed Eastwood to both launch his brand and maintain it over the years. But it wasn’t easy. Despite beginning his movie career in 1955, it wasn’t until 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars” when Eastwood truly broke into the mainstream, and it was 1971’s “Dirty Harry” that officially signaled his ability to transcend genres with his brand; from spaghetti western’s to modern day examinations of violence and its consequences.

But more importantly, Eastwood’s brand consistency on the big screen ignited my thinking about how new media allows us all to create, maintain, and adjust our own brand image. Today, any average Joe can now use tools like Facebook or Myspace to develop (read: launch) their own brand profile by uploading all the relevant photos, videos, music, personality descriptions, etc. Without the power of film or television, internet users can create an image for themselves that personifies who they are (or who they want people to think they are), and they can even identify and attract their own audience. Sometimes finding this audience is as easy as a simple “friend request,” or as is the case with digital channels like Twitter and LinkedIn, the more attractive the profile (or online brand), the more likely the audience will grow. It’s simple brand marketing.

And unlike an actor, launching and maintaining your brand online can be free and easy. Without the startup costs, unexpectedly controversial or unconventional roles (or “off-brand” roles like “Bridges”), studio pressures or very public negative reviews, individuals can build and manage their brand on their own terms. And with the proliferation of new media into various channels, individuals can modify their image to please and engage different audiences (think of a LinkedIn profile as an individual’s attempt at creating their “Oscar Winning Brand”).

And the beauty of it, these same channels are just as useful for corporations, organizations, philanthropies, and all sorts of other groups looking to build or even recreate their brand.

New media, giving voices to the masses. Building your online brand would make Clint proud.

Go ahead, make his day.

Couch Potato Predictions

January 15, 2009

As we all turn a new page and start making plans for the coming year, those of us in marketing may want to reconsider this year’s online video strategy.

2008 was a landmark year for online video. Not only were 75% of the U.S. internet audience watching videos online, but the average online video viewer watched nearly four hours of online video per month. Hulu, one of the most popular sites for watching hit TV shows and movies online, launched in March. Now it’s hard for me to even imagine keeping up with my favorite TV shows without it. Tivo? Who needs it anymore? I can watch the latest “The Office” episode right on my laptop, anytime, and with limited commercial interruptions.

I had the opportunity to attend a MITX panel discussion a few weeks ago, entitled “Planning Your Online Video Strategy for 2009”. What inspired me most was the out-of-the-box solutions the panelists suggested. Online videos are much more than just an advertising venue concerned with logo placement and banner ads. Creating an online video is really about publishing, creative story-telling and engaging the viewer. Some of the most memorable videos of 2008 were either user-generated or created under relatively low budgets. Who can forget the chubby guy lip-synching to the “Numa Numa” song (a clip which later got used in a Weezer music video)? Or the “Where the Hell is Matt?” video of a man dancing across the world? And those are just two of hundreds of viral hits.

Dynamic videos, which have been under the radar until recently, will come full blast in 2009. You may have received a link during the presidential elections where the video plays out as if you were one of the candidates. Your name appears throughout the video on billboards, in the various news headlines seamlessly, and even tattoed on the lower back of an old lady.

By customizing videos in this manner, viewers will be more engaged in the story, and given the right technology, may even be able to drive how the story unfolds. To clarify, recall those decision-based storybooks where you flip to different pages depending on what you want the hero/heroine to do? Now picture that same user-driven approach within an interactive video, and you’ll catch a glimpse of what’s to come. No two viewers will experience the video the same. PermissionTV currently has a platform for creating these non-linear videos.

The MITX panel discussion also revolved around strategies for promoting your company’s videos on a blog, through social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) and even through other videos. You really don’t need an uber-professional crew of cameramen and actors to get a video done – use the resources that you have in-house and try to get as many online videos out there as you can. [check out this successful low-budget video by HubSpot: “You Oughta Know Inbound Marketing“]

The more creative or funny you can be with the story, the better. I’d also steer clear of creating very obvious self-promotion videos. Online video viewers are very savvy and can smell an ad campaign from a mile away. Interestingly, major corporations like Gatorade, JCPenny and EA Sports, who all launched successful viral videos last year, did so with very minimal branding incorporated. Check out EA Sports’ video response to a glitch caught in their Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 game “Tiger Woods Walks on Water” as well as JCPenny’s “Beware of the Doghouse” video. Both are extremely well done, with little self-promotion – and more importantly – they’re fun to watch while getting the message across.

It’s just a matter of time before every household has an internet-enabled TV set, and once that time comes, you want to be on-board with your own series of cool online videos. So pull out your digital cameras, figure out your strategy – and Action!

We’re Back!

January 14, 2009

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season. We here at 451 Marketing sure did!

I apologize that Heat has…er…cooled down a bit. It has been really busy around here, but that’s no excuse. We’re back now and we’re here to stay! My New Year’s resolution for 2009 is to make sure that Heat is updated regularly with interesting and helpful insights into all things (new) media! So please stop by often and let us know what you think. Maybe we can learn something from each other.

Cheers,

Tom Lee