How Good a Story-Teller are You?

I hemmed and hawed for a couple of weeks over the subject of this post. I am right in the middle of several projects and quite frankly could have written about any of them but as I am going to be a guest lecturer in the one and only Professor Karen Russell’s Classroom this Friday I felt that topic of properly engaging an audience perfectly fitted the bill.

Okay, first a little background. Way back when I was a lowly undergraduate struggling along with the rest of my class to figure out where I was going in life, (I will admit to being a little more anxious than most of my fellow students seeing as I had about 10 years and 2 kids on most of them) I met a really cool teacher. For whatever reason, call it fate or whatever, we just sort of clicked. We had kids roughly the same age and we were both into this “new” social media revolution. She assigned the class to start a blog, and here five years later, I am still at it. I found something I love to do. Something I enjoy so much in fact that I actually have started several others for various reasons and have helped various non-profits set up ones of their own. Over the last five years, Karen has given me feedback, advice, and friendship and has rightfully earned the title of blogging mentor. Now on to the rest of this post.

I have been studying social media for the past four years. My teachers are people that you are probably pretty familiar with if you follow social media at all. I’m talking about Blog Bloke, Holly Hoffman, Tiffany Mollohan, Lisa Barone, Kelley Crane, Matt Chevront, Michael Margolis, Daren Rowse, Eric Qualman and course Chris Brogan. Some of these I met via Brazen Careerist, an awesome site that brings a whole bunch of us bloggers together regularly in a comfortable forum where we can bounce ideas off one another and share both good and bad ideas. Others I’ve met only in passing, either through Twitter or one of my blogs but I can honestly say that I’ve learned something valuable from each and every one of them.

Recently I have been reading a fantastic book by Annette Simmons entitled “Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins”. When I first started reading it, I will admit it was out of pure curiosity, being a writer and a storyteller by trade. By the time I realized it was actually a book geared towards marketers I was enjoying it so much that I kept right on reading, figuring that the lessons learned could very well apply to just about anyone who makes a living from stringing words together, whether in a sales pitch or an article in a magazine.

So how does this apply to social media? I mean this post is about what I plan to talk about as a THE guest speaker for the 5990H class at the University of Georgia on Friday so I guess I should get to the point.

Social media is like any other media in that those who have the gift of being able to intuitively tune in to their audiences are going to be the most successful. To be able to do this you have to be able to suppress your natural inclinations towards objective thinking, you know the type of thing that has been ingrained into us since we were barely knee-high. This idea that everything must be logical, must have a justifiable cause and effect. This thinking will only slow you down when it comes to getting in tune with those who will ultimately become your bread and butter.

Lost yet? Here is an example. say that a particular client loves the color red, songs by Bach and moonlit walks along the beach. You have been hired to create a social media campaign for a new brand of breath fresheners. Objectively speaking the clients subjective whims have nothing to do with the product. But putting objective aside you decide to do a couple of independent online surveys to see if any of the target audience may also have similar associations with their breath freshener products. 

As it turns out, your cleverly worded survey brings in surprising results. Putting objective numbers and statistics aside you decide to run with your campaign which features individuals being carried away by their breath fresheners….taken over in a dream like state. The video shorts were posted on YouTube and the Twitter and Facebook campaign solicited consumers to send in their own experiences with their favorite brand of X breath freshener, whether it be a magical proposal moment or just a fun moment.

The client was impressed.  They had expected a presentation of numbers, target markets, graphs and the like.Objective stuff.Instead they got a series of stories told right from the mouths of the consumers, The subjective. What better way to sell a product than to tell a great story. One that can be repeated over and over again.

So I ask you. How good a storyteller are you?

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Is the traditional press release dead?

Recently I had a conversation with my boss as we carpooled back to the office from Atlanta. The gist of the conversation revolved around my attempts to assuage my guilt at feeling that maybe I wasn’t fulfilling all of my technical job duties. Don’t get me wrong, I work my butt off, but as our budget continues to be slashed and more and more people find greener grass on the other side of the fence (at least I am hoping they are), my day-to-day duties have changed, evolved and increased into new and exciting (but exhausting) avenues.

For starters I am not writing 2-3 press releases every week anymore. When I mentioned this, my boss was quick to point out that even though I wasn’t writing out releases, I was still promoting content, probably more so than when I was submitting the standard releases. By utilizing our social media platforms I was reaching a larger audience in real-time – can’t get that kind of reach necessarily with an article in the local paper. Also more and more bloggers were picking up on things I was putting on Facebook and twitter – so in reality I was actually creating more buzz than ever before.

Also – many of the traditional media outlets are cutting their print editions more and more. Very little actually goes into those small rolled up bug squashers still hand delivered right to your door. Now days, people read their news online so the bulk of the news that is picked up, either by traditional release or by other means ends up online, not the traditional “front page”.

I actually spend a large part of my time researching new media outlets, demographics and social media (as a science of all things), rather than writing press releases. I still work in the field and have a blast documenting the work that first drew me to conservation in the first place, but now I am also learning how to market what I’m passionate about, so that maybe others will become as fiercely devoted to it as well.

So back to the title of this post. Is the traditional press release dead? Maybe not. There will probably always be the mom and pop grocer that sells bait, milk and hands out a weekly fishing report with info from a press release (probably verbatim). But in the grand scheme of things, most organizations have or will soon have to move beyond the comfort zone of what’s easy and step out into the scary world of new media.

Use Social Media to Work Smarter Not Harder…

During tough times such as now doing more with less has become the norm’ rather than the exception. Therefore, why should your social media strategy be any different. Many organizations are hesitant to allow workers to have access to social media applications at their work-stations even now amidst all the positive and compelling  evidence of the amazing things being accomplished. This is due primarily to the fear that employees will become distracted by the inherent social factor, the farm town gifts, mafia wars, pokes, super pokes and redundant quizzes. However by cracking down it’s possible that they are missing prime opportunities to optimize their brand, content and social currency.

Employee Evolution claims that the best strategy is to make every employee a social media representative, a tool for furthering the needs of the organization rather than a weight around the neck used to slow momentum.

I tend to agree with this view point. By allowing employees to take part while on the clock, you are giving them ownership of the brand, creating a sense of pride and loyalty that will ultimately serve to benefit the organization. Want to convince your supervisor? Here are a few key points to remember when presenting the case for social media at work:

  1. Empower by encouragement-Give a person ownership and you will create a sense of pride, empowering them and also helping to ensure that they will be good public representatives of the organization. If you have ownership then you feel loyalty towards the organization that creates that feeling. Simple right?
  2. Make everyone an equal-This is a big one. Rather than getting caught up in silo-type thinking, allowing only either the top reps or the grunts to speak out, let everyone be on equal footing. This supports the first point about empowerment. Doing this helps to humanize an organization making them appear to be much friendlier and appealing to the public.
  3. Build creativity while cutting costs-Allowing everyone to participate means that an entire collection of creative minds with different skill sets will be utilized rather than a select few. Creativity tends to stagnate if not poked occasionally with the big fork of distinction. You also save money by taking advantage of existing resources, and who doesn’t want to save money?

Do you work for a progressive organization? Share your story about how you engage with the public via social media at work. Is it working for your company? Or do the employees take advantage? If you are banned from using social media while on the clock, why do you think that is?

 

 

“World of Mouth” – a clear example…. It always comes back around.

In my last post I mentioned Erik Qualman’s book “Socialnomics” – in chapter five he goes into detail about how more and more we care about what our networks have to say about products and services than what we hear from commercials, print ads and so forth.

However, we can’t completely discount great customer service when it happens – know why? Because a good review has the same opportunity to go viral as one simply spoken about at the water cooler.

Earlier this week, my division at work put in orders for out business planner refills for the 2010 year. I had decided the one I was using was really not suitable and really wanted to go with the super “Master Planner” 2-page per day organizer designed by Franklin Covey. So I get my order and it is only the pages, no binder….I was a little miffed, checked the catalog and sure enough, the product number only indicated the refill. So I thought, ok, no big deal, I will just look through the Staples catalog (my org is contracted with them) and find the planner. Let the frustration begin.

First I checked the catalog – no planner big enough…then I checked the website…no binder. At this point I was very, very frustrated and felt entirely PISSED off that a company would carry refill pages for a binder they did not carry. On a lark I went on the Franklin Covey web site and guess what….they DON’T carry one either!!!!! Can you believe it? Franklin Covey, a huge name in personal organizers sells an AWESOME refill but not a binder that it will fit in.

I called Staples and talked to a wonderful young woman who seemed as perplexed as I was. Guess what she did. First she did her own search, then she took down my info and promised to call back. I admit I was skeptical but let it go…until 15 minutes later she called back. She had scoured the web and found a binder that would fit my refill – on Daytimer.com…now that is awesome customer service.

Not only did she seem genuinely concerned, but in order to help me sat a satisfied customer she checked her competitors web sites to  help me find what I needed.

Maybe Staples and Franklin Covey as organizations messed up…but that woman provided excellent customer service, which speaks volumes about the organization she works for.

Thanks a million and thanks to Staples for hiring such great customer service reps.

So as an addendum, you can bet that although I was disappointed with the product availability, I was very happy with the service and would definitely recommend Staples to others.

Next time you are answering a question from a potential client or customer, when you know you have to give them “bad” news – consider the method of delivery and how else you might help them. It can mean the difference between someone having a bad experience and passing that on, or someone maybe not getting what they want, but passing on good word of mouth about how well they were treated-which ultimately is more important than a product or service anyway over the long run.

Everyday Public Relations is Going Green!


WARNING: The following post contains some controversial opinions but is not meant to offend. These are simply my thoughts and ideas. Feel free to share your own, and all constructive criticism is welcome as always; but please no unsupported arguments or religious debates. Thanks.

A long time coming, Everyday Public Relations is making some changes. While still focused primarily on PR in our everyday lives, you may begin to notice that more and more posts have a conservation angle to them. You’ll see ideas and tips for those who practice “green” PR as well as helpful social media hints for those in the conservation world.

To better explain this change let me start by telling you that I have these two great passions in life. (I actually have more, but only two relate to my career directly.) I love PR & Communications and I love conservation work. I have been lucky so far in that I get to combine the two on a regular basis. Working for a conservation organization as a public affairs officer has really been the best job I’ve ever had.

I do not however come into the world of conservation as a blind idealist or a hopeless treehugger. My viewpoints on the subject may seem a little extreme, and are hard to define, but I will try, in an effort to help my readers understand the nature of some of my posts.

Here goes: The planet Earth is the greatest evolutionary miracle that man has ever known. “What about people?” you cry. We (humans) are but one species, a blink of an eye on a planet that has seen more change, more wonder than any other that we currently know about. Throughout the studies done to explore space, our final frontier, it has been determined that our home planet is the only one of its kind – and is that way because everything came together so perfectly, at just the right time. Practically the definition of a miracle.

Now whether you attribute this miracle to God, the Big Bang or some other theory is your opinion and not something I care to debate. I do not judge and do not care for those who do.

Humans will not be around forever. Sad, I suppose but true. Eventually the Earth will die, as everything that exists and has ever exists does. It is an unavoidable truth-the planet’s lifespan will one day conclude.

Now that we are all depressed thinking about the end of the world let me say this. The timing of that inevitable event depends largely on our treatment of this blue and green world we call home. This is what I want to change.

I love this planet, down to its smallest bugs. I’m fascinated by life. To that end I want to share the wonder I experience on a daily basis with as many people and future generations as I can. I want my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and so forth to know the simple joy of a summer night listening to a chorus of frogs; the majestic imposing beauty of the Rocky Mountains; the frozen seemingly endless oceans of the south pole with so much life teeming underneath the ice; the intracacies of a mountain bog’s eco-system and the awe of a fire rushing across a prairie-renewing life from its ashy wake. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

There is not a ton of money in conservation work or what has been dubbed “green pr” by some. Often you work long hours for little pay, much of your efforts being difficult and thankless. If you don’t love it, or have some greater calling, you burn out fast. It is demanding and despite the growing green movement, often your audience is stubborn, set in their ways. money driven or simply indifferent, which is the worst of all.

So…that being said, and I know I’ve gone on a good while now, my blog is changing, I think for the better. I want to really reach out to those who are using their PR and communications skills for more than just to make a profit. If I can help those working for a better world via PR and social media then I have been successful. There will still be solid tips on using public relations, and social media in the new world of work, there will simply be the added component of using what I know to help others help the planet…for as long as it remains our home.

Hope you stick around and join the conservation. I look forward to your comments.

An Ethical Dilemma

If you work in public relations then sooner or later you will confront this issue. You know the one I mean where you have to decide whether your job is worth the flak you receive over a decision that was made way above you but has filtered down the line until finally you are the one who must “handle” the negative fallout.

I like to think I am an ethical person. I believe that the best policy in most cases is honesty. I do concede that there are some situations where you have a need to know situation and the general public simply does not need to know, but for 99% of the issues I deal with, honesty is always the best policy.

Therefore it was a little upsetting to be dealing with the negative press surrounding a decision that way predates my employment, by more than a year.

The field of public relations has received so much grief lately that I hesitate to add any more fuel to the fire….but there are times when you have to stand your ground and stand up for the principles you believe in. (At least until you reach your breaking point)

I was asked to write a release about a breaking news situation at work. A situation that resulted from a decision made by some nameless suit way before I ever came along. The issue at hand was one that got a ton of people (read activists) fired up. A few years ago I would have been on the front lines with them protesting the absurdity of the situation but now…well lets just say I have a better understanding of the issues and can clearly see both sides. I am not saying that my understanding makes things right or wrong, just that I am more informed than the average greenpeace’er.

So I have been answering media calls, responding with our standard response, all the while feeling pretty crappy about what I was saying.

So where do you draw the line?

When do your personal ethics have to supersede your loyalty to your employer?

I guess I still don’t know.

Maybe I am a sell out…maybe I just realize that I have a family of four counting on me to bring home a paycheck, but I didn’t once cross the line and mix my personal feelings with the “Official” stand of my organization. I did it. This time.

I can honestly say that I won’t do it forever. There will come a day when I say, I have had enough and just walk away. Until then…

Don’t judge me. We are all guilty of selling out at some point, (regardless if you admit or not)and until you reach that point, you have no idea what it feels like.

“Forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters…”

Got a comment. I’d like to hear it.

An Ethical Dilemma

If you work in public relations then sooner or later you will confront this issue. You know the one I mean where you have to decide whether your job is worth the flak you receive over a decision that was made way above you but has filtered down the line until finally you are the one who must “handle” the negative fallout.

I like to think I am an ethical person. I believe that the best policy in most cases is honesty. I do concede that there are some situations where you have a need to know situation and the general public simply does not need to know, but for 99% of the issues I deal with, honesty is always the best policy.

Therefore it was a little upsetting to be dealing with the negative press surrounding a decision that way predates my employment, by more than a year.

The field of public relations has received so much grief lately that I hesitate to add any more fuel to the fire….but there are times when you have to stand your ground and stand up for the principles you believe in. (At least until you reach your breaking point)

I was asked to write a release about a breaking news situation at work. A situation that resulted from a decision made by some nameless suit way before I ever came along. The issue at hand was one that got a ton of people (read activists) fired up. A few years ago I would have been on the front lines with them protesting the absurdity of the situation but now…well lets just say I have a better understanding of the issues and can clearly see both sides. I am not saying that my understanding makes things right or wrong, just that I am more informed than the average greenpeace’er.

So I have been answering media calls, responding with our standard response, all the while feeling pretty crappy about what I was saying.

So where do you draw the line?

When do your personal ethics have to supersede your loyalty to your employer?

I guess I still don’t know.

Maybe I am a sell out…maybe I just realize that I have a family of four counting on me to bring home a paycheck, but I didn’t once cross the line and mix my personal feelings with the “Official” stand of my organization. I did it. This time.

I can honestly say that I won’t do it forever. There will come a day when I say, I have had enough and just walk away. Until then…

Don’t judge me. We are all guilty of selling out at some point, (regardless if you admit or not)and until you reach that point, you have no idea what it feels like.

“Forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters…”

Got a comment. I’d like to hear it.