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)

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.

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

UPDATE:this post first appeared back in November. Due to a wordpress/human (??) error a first draft of it was re-posted on December 26th. I apologize for the double posting – still great info but the November final draft was much better.

Not long ago I was involved in a  discussion  about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. Always use the same Avatar for all your online networks. We are a visual species. We associate images with ideas and with people, that’s why ads have crazy, easily remembered images that pop out at you every time you turn on your TV. Also if you have the same avatar then no matter where you comment anywhere on the web, people will automatically associate the image with your blog/website. Applications like Facebook Connect and Disqus really make this easy.

3. There are many great resources for additional information about personal branding. The magazine put out by Dan Schwabel is wonderful as is his book, “Me 2.0” – if you are serious about building your personal brand. Take a look around the internet and invest in a few resources.

Have other ideas? Feel free to share!

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?

 

 

PR Tips: Public Relations on a (Very Tight) Budget

Today’s guest post comes from Ashley Wirthin, writer for Public Relations Blogger and marketing associate for H Media Group.

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Don't Let a Tight Budget Stop Your Campaign.

My senior year in college I worked for a non-profit as the event-coordinator intern, helping with an annual fundraiser. Even though the event was months to come when I began the internship, we seemed to always get behind in funds and deadlines.

While working, I learned a bit about PR, especially in relations to non-profits who seem to have an even smaller budget for advertising, PR, and marketing than your normal for-profit company. (The small company I work for now, which is comprised of 3 employees, seems to have a larger advertising budget.)

Here are a few things (some of which were free) I did to prepare and promote our event, and some things other local companies helped us to do through donations:

1.)   I requested the event to be added to event/community calendars. This involved contacting site admins, or simply adding the event myself. Most of these calendars allow you to submit your own information that will be moderated and added by the admin or editor. Others ask for an email with event information, but it all really depends. I simply searched in Google for event calendars for the local Portland area and added the event to most of what I found.

2.)   I posted the event information on my Facebook and MySpace accounts. (I wasn’t asked to, but I wanted to invite some of my friends, given they were able to attend the event.) This is a great way to get involvement and to rank in searches on the two social networking events, had someone searched for a similar event. Now, a year later, I would add Twitter and perhaps even LinkedIn to the mix and let my networks know about the event through those two vehicles as well.

3.)   We distributed and mailed a lot of flyers and postcards. On its own this is an expensive feat. However, we were lucky enough to get the printing donated by a local company in exchange for advertising. Collaborating and making a lot of calls and being persistent can help propel an already existing network of local companies and result in some donations of time or resources.

4.)   We printed flyers and posters and asked local companies (especially those that were sponsoring the event) to help out and place them in windows and on counters. We made sure to go local and throughout the Portland area.

5.)   With the help of a PR firm and PR specialists, we were able to get a radio spot with a local celebrity/personality and gave away tickets to the event. We also told local news about the event and a large TV news channel was present and recording at the event, even performing a few interviews. The PR firm also helped to get our stories in local papers and publications.

Along with these things, we sent out press releases (which can be done for free or at little cost, and can be handled internally), advertised (heavily) on our own website, and through other companies sponsoring, gained a lot of publicity and advertising on their sites when they would promote their sponsorship.  Some other things we could have done could have included creating a blog, held contests, or gotten in touch with bloggers who would have been interested in our event, both locally and topic related.

To further help your PR efforts, get involved in your community, network with local companies, and build up a professional set of contacts with which you can get in touch. Try not to get in contact with them only when you need something, but get in touch with them when you have something of value to offer. This can build a better relationship, and open the door for future collaborations.

Furthermore, make friends in the blogging world; having a good group of bloggers you are familiar with when you have a story to launch can be a great resource. Again, remember to offer something of value to them as well; they may be more prone to reciprocate in the future.

Like this? Check out Ashley’s blog now for more.

Ashley_Werthlin_14_AAshley Wirthlin is a Marketing Associate for H Media Group. She manages, edits, and writes at PublicRelationsBlogger daily. She is a recent marketing/management graduate of the University of Portland, and has experience working in marketing, non-profits, fundraising, and event coordination. PublicRelationsBlogger is an educational resource for anyone interested in the PR industry. Ashley plans to release a PR Certification program in early 2010.