Monthly Archives: January 2010

Is Your Agency Showing?

Post I wrote for Marketing Conversation:

Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Blog and John Cass from PR Communications recently sent out a request for readers to give their thoughts on content writing and social media engagement on behalf of clients and whether or not this brings into question the issue of transparency.

Recently, there has been a tremendous upswing of companies and organizations adopting some sort of social media in their marketing portfolio.  And with this growth, more and more of these companies are hiring agencies to implement social media initiatives.  As Toby says: “Social Media is a beast that needs to be fed.” And sometimes the only way this can be done is to hire someone to do it.

The potential problem with this model is that the public could feel they are being misled by these companies and the agencies they hire to represent them.  The beauty of social media is the ability to listen, learn, and build honest relationships; but if you don’t know who you are interacting with, the relationship could be sacrificed.

However, I don’t think it matters who is doing the responding, as long as they are responding.  The goal of social media is to facilitate discussion and generate attention through tweets and posts by real people.  The company name on that person’s business card doesn’t matter.  The agency is an extension of the client, and as long as the agency is well-informed, genuinely interested, authentic and responsive –  everything should be good.

I recently started doing some blogger outreach for Abraham Harrison and I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance and impact of transparency in the work I’ve been doing.  Here are some things I’ve learned so far, both from training and from actually doing it:

  • Be responsive, friendly, authentic and apologetic (if necessary).
  • Respond with personality, not like a robot.
  • If asked, be honest about who you are.  If necessary, respond with something like this: “I work for a PR company called Abraham Harrison and we are helping Company X spread the word about such and such cause.”
  • Know how to answer questions, respond to comments but also when to ask your contact at Company X to step in and provide information.  Don’t make things up if you don’t know; better to just ask and find out the answer.

I’ve noticed that people really don’t care that they have been contacted by a PR company on behalf of so and so company.  Most are just impressed that there is an actual person behind the message.

I think that if there are people out there who can outsource their online dating successfully a la Tim Ferriss (I mean talk about transparency issues), then outsourcing your social media implementation shouldn’t be a problem.

I’m looking foward to see what Toby and John compile about this topic from all the experts in the field.

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DC bag fee…not really so bad

As many of my fellow D.C. residents already know, we now have to pay 5 cents for each plastic shopping bag we take at grocery, drug and liquor stores.  The law was instituted on January 1st this year in an effort to help close a nearly $104 million budget gap and to generate funds to help clean up the Anacostia River.

While many people are annoyed by yet another ploy by the government to tax its citizens, I think its a great idea.  I’ve had a number of reusable shopping bags for what seems like years, but I always forget them on my way to the store.  Last week I was charged almost a $1.00 for plastic shopping bags, and I was happy to pay it.  I just throw all those bags away anyway, and they probably end up in the Anacostia for all I know.

But this week was different.  I remembered my bags!  And so did at least 10 or so other shoppers I saw with reusable bags in their carts.  If my Safeway at 5th and K is any indication, then it seems like the bag fee is affecting people’s habits and they are changing behaviors.  So good work D.C.  You may not get $104 million out of it, but at least people are listening and grocery shopping is a little “greener” now.

Remember to bring your reusable bags everyone!  Or bring some extra quarters.

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Humor from American University

Thanks Today@AU campus wide email for this gem today:

ANNOUNCEMENTS

General

Announcing Auditions for a Staged Reading of Beautiful. Seeking AU women of all ages and ethnicities, but size does matter! We are looking for full-figured shapely, healthy, hearty, and voluptuous women! Auditions will be held Monday, January 25 and Tuesday, January 26, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Wellness Center, McCabe Hall. Please e-mail beautifultheplay@gmail.com to receive audition materials. The production will be a staged reading and will only be a three-week commitment. Beautiful, a play by Gina Evers about body, women, love, size, and life, will be performed February 18-19.

Bon Appetit Specials. Enjoy a baked potato bar meal swipe between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. today in the Tavern. Go to www.cafebonappetit.com/americanuniversity for more information.

So if you really want to make the cut ladies, you have the potato bar to help you out.

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Plastic Surgery Face

One of my fondest memories of interning at the Kennedy Center in D.C. was working at prestigious events like the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Symphony Orchestra Season Opening Ball.  And a favorite pastime of the interns working at these events was to try and spot the best plastic surgery face among Washington’s finest (I was young, bored and underpaid, okay?).  But these ladies really weren’t fooling anyone.

Now I’m definitely not against Botox or a nip/tuck here and there in order to maintain some degree of youthfulness, but I do have a problem with 1) girls in their 20’s getting their faces cut up and 2) going overboard with the procedures and getting “plastic surgery face.”  Heidi Montag’s recent 10 procedure face reconstruction violates both.

Heidi can do what she wants; she has the money and time to do so. But what I think will be hilarious is that all the kids she’ll have will probably inherit every single feature that she hated about herself and had replaced.  Way to go Heidi.  In one way or another you’ve already told the world you think your own kids are ugly.

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Is Marketing Corrupting Twitter?

I read this post today by Marc Meyer at Direct Marketing Observations called “The sea change in Twitter sentiment” where he reflects, ever so eloquently, on the changing nature of Twitter: from conversation to broadcast.  He says:

Conversations on Twitter have deteriorated into flat out unadulterated pimping of one’s wares, or the company they work for.

As new marketers and companies flock to Twitter, their predisposed notions of how to use Twitter have been fueled not only by us subconsciously, but also by other marketers and individuals who “think” that the best way to use Twitter is as a one to many broadcast mechanism.

Subconsciously, we have become a party to and have embraced traditional marketing on Twitter.

I agree.  As more and more people and businesses learn to use Twitter and other social media tools to connect to potential consumers they are missing the point of the medium…it’s a conversation, not a broadcast.  Followers want to know about your product, want to ask questions about it, want to get special deals on it, want to call you out when it sucks, and want a real person with whom they can relate to respond.  It’s all part of the beauty of directly connecting with consumers.  But as Meyer points out, Twitter is seen by some as just a place to “pimp wares.”

I was also  disheartened to learn about how some celebrities, like Kim Kardashian, are paid upwards of $10,000 per tweet to tell their followers they love Carl’s Jr. and their Reebok EasyTones.  Twitter was a way for us normal folks to get a glimpse into the glamorous (or not so glamorous) lives of celebs (they’re just like us!), but now Twitter is just another way for them to make a buck – or 10,000 – by taking advantage of our Twitter trust.

So companies and advertisers, I hope you continue to use Twitter as part of your marketing strategy, its a wonderful way to reach your consumers.  But do it right.  Don’t corrupt it with your “buy me, buy me, buy me” plugs or surreptitious celebrity endorsement.  Make it an honest conversation, and people will respond accordingly.

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PR is like, totally cool now

Let’s hope the warm and fuzzy feelings continue.   From the Economist:

According to data from Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS), a private-equity firm, spending on public relations in America grew by more than 4% in 2008 and nearly 3% in 2009 to $3.7 billion. That is remarkable when compared with other forms of marketing. Spending on advertising contracted by nearly 3% in 2008 and by 8% in the past year. PR’s position looks even rosier when word-of-mouth marketing, which includes services that PR firms often manage, such as outreach to bloggers, is included. Spending on such things increased by more than 10% in 2009.

Read the whole article here.

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It’s All About the Frame

An essential part of communication – be it political, commercial, love letters, whatever – is how the receivers of the messages you create interpret and understand them.  Public relations  includes the  practice of designing these messages in such a way to focus on a particular dimension of a particular issue…in other words, framing the message.

Take for example, climate change.  How many of you associate climate change with the lone polar bear floating on his ever-shrinking iceberg?  This frame highlights the environmental seriousness of the issue and the threat of global warming to animals and their native habitats, but unfortunately has done little to generate the type of public support needed to seriously address the issue.  Although Mr. Polar Bear is cute, his plight is not enough to make you (or me) really pay attention.

But what if I told you that climate change makes your allergies worse?  That it presents a risk to public health?  Paying more attention now, huh? It’s all about which dimension of an issue you highlight that makes people pay more or less attention to your messages.

I’ve written all this because 1.)  I’m a know-it-all grad student now, and 2.) I just read an amazing article on Newsweek called The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage that beautifully re-frames the gay marriage argument to say that gay marriage does not conflict with, but actually reinforces the values conservatives prize.

Read the article.  It made me want to stand up in my apartment and applaud.

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