“Traditional Tactics and Digital Dimensions: Strategic Thinking on PR, IR and Media Relations in the Conversational Age”

I attended a Marketwire breakfast this morning called “Traditional Tactics and Digital Dimensions: Strategic Thinking on PR, IR and Media Relations in the Conversational Age.”  The moderator was Anthony DeRico, director of digital media at Nielson and co-founder of Think Communications.  The panelists were Ruth Cotter, director of investor relations and treasury at AMD, Courtney Barnes, vice president and director of content strategy at MH Group (she’s also co-author of “Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications“), Kellie Parker, community manager at SEGA of America, and Rachel Polish, vice president at 360 Digital Influence at Ogilvy.

It was an interesting panel about best practices and how to run a true social media program rather than (as Polish said) “sprinkle social media into the business”.  With the different types of businesses being represented it was interesting to see how each of them are using social media. 

SEGA uses it widely and very loosely as in they post on their blog vlogs about “free stuff Friday” and they’ll post on Twitter about how someone used an old version of a SEGA game. Parker said that she also “re writes” press release in their blog so that it’s simple to understand language and will then link to the release. Very simple but she said it completely captures the audience. 

Cotter from AMD had a completely different story.  As the IR person, she was very reluctant to use social media but realized that there could be some great benefits of it.  She’ll answer questions and give AMD a friendly personality online rather than the stiff corporate role she plays while not online.  Not to say that she starts all Tweets or blogs with “Dude!” but it’s just a much more casual setting.  She said social media helps also when executives are out on the road she’ll have them do a video and post it to their blog so that the executives provide a face to an old school Silicon Valley company – simply humanizing the brand.  She also mentioned how she has created a traffic light system for blogs.  Red means you can’t blog about it at all, green means go ahead and yellow means you have to get approval from the social media team in order to do it.  She also said that gives bloggers ‘licenses” to blog and said that it works well. 

Polish talked a lot about how the Coast Guard uses social media and how she has helped companies.  Barnes had mostly examples of how she has helped folks begin programs and how they’re using it.

They all agreed that companies have gone from asking the question “why should I use social media?” to “how can I use social media?”  They also agreed that there have to be policies set in place so that all employees are aware of what they can and can’t say on all social networks – including their personal Facebook accounts.

There are so many ways to engage with your customers and prospects and social media is just another form of doing it.  Take advantage of the captive audience that you have with tools such as blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.  But once you commit, you have to stick with it!

Do you have any tips for using social media to connect with your customers?


When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade

The past year has been pretty crazy for social media followers. What was once a distant concept has been adapted by businesses to reach beyond the traditional marketing campaign. Companies that have a handful of employees are now using social media to reach out to prospects and multi-national and multi-million dollar companies are using social media to build customer loyalty. Some companies are even using it to develop product roadmaps.

Social media has also hit the mainstream. Take a look at these examples;

The Vatican announced last week that they are now using Facebook. You can join their 1,400 fans here.

San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, announced his running for California Governor on YouTube and the city now has its 311 Operation Center using Twitter tweeting to its 1,500 followers of what’s going on in the city by the bay.

President Obama’s team brought social media to the masses during the 2008 President campaign with LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and many other social media mediums.

I think we all remember the CNN vs. Ashton Kutcher race to have 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. (personally, I think this was all just a publicity stunt because it’s not about the number of followers you have, but the quality)

Most recently, Lance Armstrong today announced the birth of his son, Max, on Twitter.

My point with this post isn’t to say that everyone is using social media so you should too. My point is that your customers are using social media so you should be there to see what they’re saying, see what interests them and to connect with them. Your customers follow politics, watch CNN and enjoy watching professional athletes. Find the voice of your customers.

I’m signed up for sites, now what?
Although it doesn’t take long to set up a Twitter or Facebook account, it takes time to manage them and to use them strategically. Social media isn’t about putting a check next to things that have to be done this year. If you start a blog, write! If you have a YouTube channel, post things to it. Although it’s a simple concept, make sure that you have the resources to do it properly.

Social media is a chance for you to connect with your customers and prospects in a non-traditional way. When appropriate, make sure that you are letting your constituents/customers/prospects know that you’re listening to what they are posting. You don’t need to respond to every comment, but you need to be aware of every comment.

Social media is also a two way street. It’s not a tool for your customers and prospects to ask you questions and you to do nothing about. Likewise, it’s not for you to just push out information. Ask questions, get folks engaged, have a call to action. Why not post on LinkedIn your new corporate blog and have people respond to it. Ask them if they agree or if they have better solutions. Ask them if they have blog suggestions. Get folks involved. It’s not called “social” media for nothing!

I was on a Webinar yesterday hosted by Social Media Magic and they help companies create social media strategies. They are one of many companies that can help you. If you’re lost and don’t know where to start, ask. There are many companies, books and Websites that can help you get started. Also feel free to check out what other companies are doing and take note of where they are strong and what aspects of their social media campaign are weak.

Simply put, use the tools when given them. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

The Voice Heard Around the World

There seems to be a lot of news lately about people getting fired from their jobs because of stuff they said on social networks. Here’s a video report by CNN today on two folks who used to work at Houston’s restaurant who got fired for ranting about a manager on a private group within MySpace. Then there was last week’s news where two employees of KFC got fired for well, doing things you don’t want done to your food. (the video is no longer available online)

We sometimes forget that the Internet is a powerful tool/vehicle for spreading our voice. If I make one comment online (good or bad), it can be easily and quickly spread to all parts of the world to people I don’t even know.

So what does this mean to me, the customer reference/loyalty professional? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, know what your customers are saying about you. Listen to them and help them solve problems rather than helping them become a problem. As businesses, we’re all online and so are your customers. Be aware of what folks are saying by searching for your company, product, brand online via tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Google. You can’t know too much about what your customers are saying. And worse case scenario, you stop a mess before it happens. Not only can you use these tools to reactively see what customers are saying about you, but you can use them proactively too. Ask questions and get answers before you make a mistake.

Remember a few months back the big blow up about the new Motrin ad for moms? (here’s the video if you forgot) Who would have thought that it would cause such a backlash? Motrin was aware of its customers (apparently they were a bit late) and they pulled the ad because there was such a forceful backlash to the commercial. (I personally liked it but the only thing I’m a mom to is a 24lb dog that I don’t carry around all day).

If you only get one thing out of this post, get this…know what your customers are saying and do something about it because no voice on the Internet goes unheard.