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Archive for January, 2009

As newspapers close their doors and magazines cease circulation, more and more journalists are stepping over to what many of them once considered the “dark side.” PR agencies are now populated with former journalists who bring their newsroom experience to the PR industry.

My concern with this is everyone seems to assume that every journalist is a good fit for PR. This isn’t true. Just because you’ve been on the receiving end of a pitch doesn’t mean you can make one.

Journalists are also used to telling everything. They dig for the secrets and bring them to the forefront. Many times in PR there are certain items that aren’t fit to publish or are said in confidence. This is a hard lesson for many journalists to learn. Sometimes the good (getting published) doesn’t out way the bad (secret revealed).

Also, there is a whole other side to PR than just pitching the media. Client services play a huge role in being a successful PR professional. Are you able to be an expert for your client? Can you handle managing a budget? Can you prepare a yearlong plan of strategies that will reach the client’s target audience? Do you know how to speak to the client when those strategies fail? Are you able to say no when the client’s idea just isn’t right? These are items you aren’t born with and definitely don’t learn while being a journalist. They are ones every PR professional must learn and that takes time. 

I’m not trying to say never hire a former journalist. I work with ones who bring fantastic insight and strong ideas to the table. I’m just asking the entire industry to pause and think about this a little more before every laid-off journalist jumps into agency life.

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Image Courtesy of The Meeting Institute

Last week was supposed to be our company’s retreat, which had to be postponed because of a rash of influenza that spread throughout the agency’s halls. So instead of attending the retreat I’d rather take pause to talk about the purpose of it here.

It is good every once and a while to take a break from the day-to-day stresses and think about how you can improve yourself, or in this case, the agency. Those times bring opportunity for growth. 

However, it is hard to grow when you don’t know where you are currently at. You have to first pause and breakdown your situation. At last year’s retreat we talked about the four stages of a team — form, storm, norm and perform. By knowing where you are in this cycle you can then discuss how to move to the next one. We all want to be in the perform stage so you have to figure out how you can get there. 

These same thoughts can be applied to my personal growth. Where am I at in my learning cycle? What are my strengths? What am I doing to use those? What are my weaknesses? What am I doing to help overcome or reduce those? 

By knowing where you are at then you can take steps to better yourself in the future.

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My company is just jumping into the social arena with a new Facebook page, Twitter account and hopefully soon, a blog. As I’ve been watching it unfold and participating in the process when I can, I have noticed how easy it is for one person’s voice to become the voice of the organization. It is an issue that all businesses must face when they enter Web 2.0. If only one person twitters or if only one person writes the copy on the Facebook page then how is the company’s voice being portrayed?

I know people from my company read this blog and so with a small shout out to them I bring up some points you may want to consider as your company enters the social media realm:

1. Think about the reasoning behind each social media outreach. Why do you use Twitter? Are you trying to be an expert in your field? Improving customer relations? Making business contacts? For KGBTexas, I believe the original purpose was to show our clients that we knew what Twitter was about. Okay, now that we’ve become mini-experts, what is the point? Why have a business account when your employees could (and already do) have their own? 

2. Keep that goal in mind throughout the lifecycle of the process. It is easy to get caught up in social media. You can easily spend hours every day connecting with new people, reading the words of experts and commenting on their thoughts. However, you came into this realm with a purpose in mind. Always ask yourself if what you are doing is to reach that purpose. If your goal is to obtain new clients, then use your Twitter account to do that. Be in circles with the types of businesses you serve. 

3. Convey personalities correctly. A main benefit and excitement of social media is that it allows everyone to display their distinct personalities. However when you start social media for your business you have to decide how those personalities will be conveyed. If the business has a Twitter account then the business’ point of view should be conveyed — not the person running the account. If you create a blog you get a few more options. Maybe you only have one author and that author represents the business’ voice. Or you let multiple employees write and each have their personality showcased. Do this with individual author pages where each employee writes his / her own bio. The same with a Facebook page. Let each person have a photo and write his / her own bio. If you’re going to let the individuals be shown let them fully embrace their personalities, their likes and dislikes and their beliefs. 

Obviously the more employees you bring in the more time you are taking away from their work. However, that is what social media is about. Your business isn’t about the work of just one person, so your social media efforts shouldn’t be too.

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Chris Brogan’s post last week “Take Charge of Your Career” made me start thinking about my own career. What can I do to help me grow as a professional? Here are a few things I’ve come up with. 

1. Mentor. By mentoring others I can learn so much more about myself and my career. Last week we had a job shadower in our office, and it was great to see someone so anxious to learn. That enthusiasm is contagious and something I need — something we all need.

2. Be mentored. I am not done learning. There are so many areas where I need help and need to grow. By asking for help and learning from others I will become a better asset to my company and to my clients. It is important to never stop learning and to always think you can learn more. 

3. Reach out to others. My whole purpose behind this blog  and my Twitter account is to interact with people I may otherwise not have met. I want people to provide me with insight into what is working in their careers. I want them to challenge my thinking.

4. Read. I only wish there was more time in the day to read all the great things people are writing. I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds and e-mail subscriptions, but even with that I don’t always have enough time to read everything. However, I am trying to prioritize my workday to ensure I can gain value from all the great suggestions out there. 

What else do you suggest? How can I grow? What have you found successful in your career?

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I will be the first to admit that Facebook isn’t high on my priority list. I can distinctly remember everyone back in college jumping on board the social media outlet and me just hanging back. 

I am now a Facebook member– feel free to come friend me (search Melanie Thompson, San Antonio) — but as I begin using the outlet I have become quite confused about the number of people whose pages are blocked from the general public. 

To me, social media is about being out there, welcoming conversations — see a related blog by Chris Brogan today. By blocking yourself from the outside I feel that you are doing a disservice to the whole purpose of Web 2.0. It is hard — nay impossible — to carry on a conversation with someone you can’t reach. And by forbidding me to interact with you without becoming your friend, how am I supposed to get true insight into your personality? Or is that in fact the best point of view to your personality.

I look at my Facebook page as another window to the community. Another avenue to spread my point of view, meet new business contacts and expand as a PR professional. To help me do this I have left my Facebook open to the public. 

If your page is blocked, please let me know why. As a Facebook beginner I am interested to hear how this impacts the number of friends you get, the conversations you have, etc. And do you look at your Facebook page as a personal outlet, a business outlet or both?

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  I’m waiting to see someone take the senior community by storm by creating a social media campaign that really reaches the older demographic. Yes, seniors are not known to be bloggers and rank the lowest in social media engagement studies. However, the demographic is growing.

If you think about it, there are many benefits to targeting seniors through this method. For one, seniors have the time. Many seniors are looking for someone or something to fill their post-retirement time. Engaging them in social media is the perfect thing to give them something to do and also help them feel connected to the mainstream population. 

Secondly, seniors are a growing demographic. This means it is an important audience to reach because of its buying power. Thus if you can make social media work for you, it can turn into a huge boom for your product.

 But while seniors are becoming more computer literate expecting them to  jump online and start blogging or adding you as a friend on Facebook is unrealistic. You have to create an avenue that seniors can understand and don’t feel overwhelmed by.

Then you have to introduce them to this avenue through channels they are already used to. Utilize their affinity to share their stories to help them connect. Have instructions. Make the page / site senior friendly. And know that whatever you create for seniors will not also reach teenagers. These are two different audiences and need to be approached in different ways.

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We’re only three weeks into 2009, and I can already see the big pitfall facing PR professionals (and in some way all businesses) this year — social media. I know what you’re thinking. Social media has been listed on almost every list as the trend of 2009. But that is the problem. 

For every new client coming this year, it seems like the natural reaction is they need a social media campaign. It isn’t true. Social media doesn’t work for every client. It isn’t the end all be all of PR strategy. It is really important that we, as PR professionals, take a step back and really think about the why. 

The strategy of a social media campaign is just as important as the strategy behind the entire PR campaign. You have to think about your target audience and how they can be reached. Certain demographics are on Twitter. Different ones are on Facebook. Way different ones are on MySpace. Suddenly jumping into everything social media with a Twitter account, Facebook page, blog, LinkedIn account, YouTube channel and Flickr page isn’t the way to go.

A social media campaign shouldn’t be done just for the sake of doing one. That’s the pitfall. So as you are planning for new clients and old, be sure you equip them with the right tactics to achieve their goals.

What do you think? What are the other pitfalls facing PR professionals this year?

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