Live and Learn…Social Media Style

Ever since the early days of the internet, you know back when we were all innocent, happily posting away, giddily anticipating as the square with the lightening (complete with sound effects) gave way to the one with the triangle…(or am I the only one who remembers the early days of dial up AOL?) There have also been warnings, few and quiet at first, becoming stronger and more dire as the years flew by…protect yourself and more importantly, your INFORMATION! Hackers are EVERYWHERE and they are looking for YOU!
As a college student I took the warnings with a grain of salt, taking the usual precautions: anti-virus software, awesome (I thought) passwords. Later as I became wiser and more involved with social media; I became a blogger, then later a public affairs officer and then a social media consultant; I became even more savvy to the evils of phishing, trojans, keystoke viruses and web/spider trawlers A.K.A. Hacker scum with nothing better to do than ruin your day, week, life…

However, as aforesaid social media consultant I had grown comfortable with my knowledge…a dangerous thing. I assumed I was safe..it would never happen to me…until it did.

Sometime yesterday my GMail account was viciously hacked. 623 emails (EVERYONE in my address book) was sent an untitled email with a link that appeared to be from Google but was actually a virus. Not only was this bad for my social life, but the emails that went out also went out to people I had sent resumes to, people that trusted me in my network (including government, politics, the military, social media and the entertainment industry) now all exposed for the world to see. The link was also conveniently posted to my Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIN and FriendFeed pages just in case you somehow missed the email! I was not only angry I was mortified!
To top it off when I decided to be proactive and change all my passwords I discovered my Google account had been disabled for a violation of TOS (since my ADsense address is also in my address book, Google was also sent the virus!) And I guess they don’t appreciate that sort of thing.
Well I immediately contacted them, Facebook, Twitter and most of my other services to let them know what was going on. Thankfully Google did not take the most extreme measure which would be to ban me forever from all Google services, but I did get a really stern email about taking preventitive measures in the future which made me feel about two inches tall. And I of course had to send out about a million emails, tweets and posts to apologize for the hacking, which more than a few did not take lightly.
Well, what’s done is done. Did I learn anything? Hell yes. Am I a little humbled by my experience? Absolutely. Am I getting new virus software, changing passwords and encrypting the hell out of everything? Duh.

Live and Learn.

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Should PR and Media Pro’s Offer Opinions?

I was recently contacted by Jess Todd about a particular controversy that I couldn’t help but weigh in on. For the entire encounter you can read over his blog, but in a nutshell he was basically lambasted for offering his opinions on a topic that he happened to know something about, rather than go the standard PR route. Those of you in PR know what I’m talking about, something  happens, or will happen and you send a release, the reporters call and you hand them off to an “expert” of some sort, or occasionally just someone else. Well what Todd did was streamline the process by contacting the media directly and simply stating that ” “as a media consultant, I have thoughts and opinions on the story and am available for interview or quotes.”

A few media outlets took him up on his offer and called him. Others however…went off calling his methods into question, accusing him of dictating what they should print, that it was their job to go find the “news” yada yada yada.

So this brings up a very good question. Is there a more efficient way to do things, some of the time? I have never been one to say that just because we have new methods we have to use them exclusively. However there have been many times when I knew I could make the reporter’s job a hell of a lot easier if I simply contacted them first with ALL the info they would need, rather than require them to have to go on a fishing expedition that they most likely don’t have time for anyway. So many story ideas get dropped for this very reason. Tight deadlines and stiff competition for space/time means that the days of the reporter who does all his or her own pounding of the pavement are long gone. PR professionals are here to help…so let us help. So to get back to the particular situation, which was his commenting on the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, he shot me an email saying he wanted my take on the situation and my response to him was this:

“I think you are actually right on the money. I used to work in-house PR sending out the standard releases and when reporters would call, it was always me putting them in touch with someone else, one more step for them to take, and not because I wasn’t qualified but because that was simply how things were done where I worked. We were PR people, and treated by management as having little value – just get the right people to the reporters. Well, having been in the media business myself, having worked as a social media consultant, I too have an opinion on many subjects. Am I always the best? No. Am I an expert at everything I like to talk about? No. But then I don’t claim to be either. I am simply someone with experience that knows a few things about what is going on in the world, especially if it has to do with social media, PR or wildlife conservation.”

Where is the best place for those of us who have become hybrids at what we do? Is there a time when being efficient becomes overstepping our bounds as PR and Media professionals? Professionally I find nothing wrong with what Todd did or the idea of offering our services straight out whether they be quotes, opinions, whatever help we can provide to reporters so that they can get their job done faster, better and with better quality. Isn’t that after all one of the core responsibilities of public relations?

I applaud Todd for staying on top of the newest methods of breaking through to media. In today’s lighting quick world, when a plane crash is faster tweeted than reported on the six-o-clock news, it is all too important that people like him, people like me even continue the all important work of media and social media research to make sure that the public is always well-informed.

Think I’m wrong? Right? Have your own opinion you’re just dying to share? I welcome your comments.

(image courtesy of PRtalknow.com)

Using your Backstory to Shape your Online Persona

“Everyone is a storyteller”  –Michael Margolis

I recently had the privilege of listening to a webinar broadcast from SXSW 2011 (where I so wish I could be right now) by the author and master storyteller, Michael Margolis. Despite tuning in a little late, the first comment I caught really made me sit up and pay attention; and that was that as social media entrepreneurs we are all essentially storytellers, that our success or failure depends on our ability to relate our story to our audience.

As a trained journalist, Communications & Outreach Specialist, PR pro and freelance writer by trade this totally made sense to me. after all, isn’t it my job to relate to those who I am working with by finding the common ground, by sharing my story in the hopes that there will indeed be a shared empathetic connection?

I think his primary point was to use your “back-story” to shape your online persona, the parts of yourself that you put out there for others to either accept, judge or completely ignore. The idea that we can reinterpret a past event through new perspectives and may even learn something new just made total sense to me. After all, don’t we all live according to a certain revisionist history to a point anyway? Seems to me that as we look back on what made us who we are, we may even learn something new to add to the story.

So what’s your back-story? I’m thinking that I can totally be a superhero if I want to be. I did after all graduate early, make it through college with honors while a single parent (at least in the beginning) and then became known for my social media knowledge through rigorous self tutelage (thanks @blogbloketips, @socialmediatoday, @socialguide and @HollyHoffman for that!)

So maybe from now on I am going to work on developing my back-story. Interested? Well you don’t have to take my word for it. You can download the free e-book “Story Manifesto” or buy your very own copy from the Get Storied website.


So What’s your back-story and how do you use it to engage with your clients? I’d love to hear all about it!


Blogger’s Little Helpers

I recently came across a little thing on Twitter that many may already be familiar with but which I had only seen occasionally and never really followed up on. A little thing called the Follow Friday helper.

Apparently there are several of these services in existence and they all work mostly the same way. They analyze your Twitter account and then give you suggestions for your #Follow Friday listings.

At first I thought, wow, what a neat idea. I registered and then pressed the magic button to see what suggestions it would give me. Now I am not knocking the followers it listed. They were all great and the good thing about the service is that is does give you justification for why it chose that person. Either they mentioned you, RT’d you, or somehow or another engaged in a lovely act of reciprocity that garnered them a nod from the algorithm used by the Follow Friday helper program.

What I noticed however is that the main people it suggested are the people I tend to talk a lot with on Twitter. Again, not that I wouldn’t recommend them…I usually do. But that isn’t what I generally use my #FF listings for. When the time rolls around for me to make suggestions I really try to make it personal.

Maybe I am still idealistic (or maybe I am just not huge and famous enough) but I still take the time to go back through my list of 500 or so followers and look for those that had something interesting to say over the past week. Something that caught my attention, or someone who needs a boost – maybe they are really awesome, have a ton of potential but just need a few people to help push them into the spotlight. I love it when I do that for somebody. Everybody needs a little good karma now and then.

So it seemed to me that by automating the process it was impersonalizing it as well and I am not into that. Maybe one day, when I have millions of followers…I would consider it but at the same time it seems like the same argument as the automated welcome message debate.  Those who are successful will tell you that having an automated welcome message is a big NO-NO. It turns people off. If someone decides to follow you, it is because they saw something they liked. If you can’t be bothered to welcome them, send a quick hello without a sales pitch, or an auto-DM, then maybe you really are not worth their time after all.

I know what you are thinking, if I sent a message every time I got a new follower I would be tweeting constantly. Well I don’t do that either. I keep track of my new followers using a column on my Tweetdeck. Then once a week or so I send out a welcome to my new followers, thanking them for following me. Takes maybe five minutes of my time.

Therefore, while some of these services might be neat, I think that I will stick with doing my #FF’s the old-fashioned way, and keep things personal. After all, just because you are online doesn’t mean you are not reaching out to people.

What do you think? Do you use any blogging/Twitter “helpers”? Where do you fall on the automation debate? Is there a point where using a service becomes necessary?

Staying Innovative is Crucial for Conservation

With so many non-profits and NGO’s, not to mention all the state and federal agencies vying for a piece of the continually shrinking resource pie, it is no secret that to remain in the conservation game, being innovative has become a critical component for survival.

The old stand-by tricks of the trade are no longer returning the numbers they used to which is part of why so many have turned to using social media. But just “using” social media or creating a social media plan is not enough.

In order to stay ahead of the game, you have to almost stay ahead of social media, a nearly impossible task. That means having at least one or more dedicated staff members that just work on social media campaigns, not just a summer intern. They stay current on what’s out there, using valid search methods and make sure your organization is represented on all the major social networks where it is relevant to be present.

But as the great Cat in the Hat said, “that is not all, oh no, that is not all.”

Twitter and Facebook, while important are considered the norm by today’s social media standards. To stay ahead and keep today’s 5-second attention spans on your web sites (and hopefully clicking on your donation buttons) you have got to have an innovative approach. You need something that will not only capture attention but then nudge them to act upon an impulse. Not an easy task I know (In fact I am currently working on a thesis about this very topic so please feel free to comment, I need all the help I can get!!)

First take a look at this list. I found it while perusing a great blog called NowSourcing and although a bit dated, it has some tremendous resources.

Next take a look around you and ask a few key marketing and demographic questions. Who are you trying to reach? What kind of sites do they generally frequent? What is your key demographic. Most organizations have access to this type of information and can sit down and come up with a list pretty easily.

Once you have your list, it is time to get creative. Brainstorm all the ways (in 140 characters or less if you can) that you can appeal your organization’s latest achievement to all the different demographics you listed. Try humor, trivia, promotion, a plea, whatever and see what you come up with. The point is start getting the creative juices flowing.The upside of this is that if you come away with anything really good, it is already pre-packaged for Twitter!

Once you are feeling a little looser, take your demographic and start researching some new networks where you might be able to connect with them. Depending on the type of organization you are a part of this could be Care2, GovLoop, GreenWalla, etc. Again be creative. Enter some key words into a few search engines and see what pops up, whether they be blogs, web sites, online magazines etc. Make a note of these search results and where you can begin to interact. Don’t hide your identity, the point is to get your organization’s name out there, to show you have an interest where your customers/constituents are spending time.

Okay, so you have a pretty good idea where your audience is spending their time and you’ve created a decent, maybe even humorous list of possible tweets/pitches for your organization. Now for the next step – to find out who is already talking about you and plug in.

Similar to the keyword search you used before, you will be using some social media tools to locate just how far your actual reach is on the web using klout, backtweet, twitter reach etc. A great discussion of these tools can be found here. What these will do for you is to help you determine just how influential you are being with your current campaigns, and where you may need to beef up your efforts.

So hopefully this short refresher has helped you but please note that this is a continuing work in progress. What additional ways do you stay on your toes in the name of conservation?

Being Green in Theory v. Practice

the ridiculous-nous of a dollarI must say that I am so tired of getting pile after pile of JUNK mail from groups (that for the sake of this post shall remain nameless…well that and I happen to be a card-carrying member of a few of them) that claim to want to save the planet in some form or fashion, whether it’s dirty coal one day or drowned polar bears the next…they fill your mailbox with pleas for your hard-earned dollar but seem to ignore one of the most basic and vital resources known to mankind as a species…clean air…produced in part by the very trees (some of them OLD GROWTH) cut down so that they could mail out their solicitations, most of which will never even be read, much less recycled and will likely wind up in some landfill taking up even more space and causing even more problems for these groups to complain about creating a new impetus for them to send out a whole new round of solicitations about these “new” problems to an uninterested public!

Whew! What an opening rant…

Ok, now let’s get serious folks. Yes I may be a hard-core environmental fanatic, but I make mistakes, have my failings, am outright lazy once in a while.(I sadly admit that even I have thrown away recyclable items without a twinge of remorse when tired, in a hurry with screaming toddlers strapped to both hips….) But, for the most part, I am working to be a responsible citizen, not just of my community, or even my country, but of my planet. I try to instill in my children the basic moral principles that less is more, and that homemade is from the heart. We avoid the big box retailers when possible, rarely eat junk, recycle regularly, endure the dirty looks we STILL get as we haul our cloth bags, walk more than drive and bundle up rather than crank up the thermostat.

Despite all these efforts, they can’t seem to avoid the barrage of mail we receive on a near daily basis asking for our support (which means money) and the really slick and cool ones promise that if we respond in 30 days we get a lovely reproduction 1930’s explorers backpack! How cool is that??

Just make sure you read the fine print…(you know the one that tells you that in exchange for that awesome backpack, only 5 cents of your $30 donation will actually help save the imperiled penguins, drowning polar bears or whichever cause it happens to be this month.)

Now please don’t assume I am bashing the wonderful work done by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund. As a contributing member I do receive an annual report each year with an informative breakdown of how their money is spent each fiscal year. I study those charts and graphs ( and I am NO math major) and think to myself that a better use of such a  large chunk of  the money dedicated to marketing (to gain new members, raise more dues, and other advertisements) could be better spent on actually reaching out to college advocacy groups (the ones that are not afraid yet to write their congressmen and women and march on Washington in protest), providing grants to grassroots groups making real changes in communities,  etc.

To me it just makes more sense to spend that large  ( and I do mean large….well it is certainly many times more than I and probably most of my entire  staff make in a single year, but then I am a state employee so I guess I am probably not the best example to go by)

So for those of you out there…what are your thoughts on this???  Even using 100% recycled paper, should these organizations cut back their marketing and PR funding and maybe divert that money elsewhere where it might do more good? Please leave your comments below and let me know the following:

  1. Should these organizations reallocate their funding  to include more grassroots/ college advocacy movement workshop/events?
  2. Do These groups spend too much on marketing/PR/postage/etc?
  3. Is adequate research being done to ensure quality ROI for money and time spent?

I look forward to your time and answers. and if you feel more comfortable sending a more in-depth but private response, please feel free to email me a personal response.

I look forward to putting together these answers and then crafting a very nice letter to the presidents and CEO’s of some of these organizations, many of which I have faithfully supported in excess for more than 20 years. I want to know just how MY money has really helped (if at all beyond padding his or her salary while I struggle to feed my family) and whether or not they are truly following their own green  advice in both practice as well as theory…..

Until we meet again…..

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.