Monday, March 30, 2009
I've always been one that loves to learn. I'm a firm believer that if you aren't constantly learning new things, you're doing yourself an injustice. Being content, for me, is boring. I like to be challenged. In today's current economic crisis, it's vital that you differentiate yourself. Setting yourself apart from the competition is key to a) keeping your job, b) getting a new job and c) coming out of the recession successfully (both for yourself and your company).
My goal for 2009 was to get more involved in the PR landscape here in Minnesota. If I wanted to make a name for myself in PR and if I wanted to find success as a PR professional, I believed it was vital for me to become active. My first step was to join Minnesota PRSA. I went back and forth on this and debated whether it was beneficial to join a professional organization. Although I've only been active for 3-4 months, it has been my greatest decision as a PR pro. Through PRSA, I've met, in my opinion, some of the smartest PR people out there. Through MNPRSA's mentor program, I've met @bskogrand of Risdall, who was instrumental in suggesting I blog again and get involved in PRSA. This has led to many professional relationships I've begun to develop as well as hone some basic PR skills.
One of my favorite experiences in networking is the availability of new and useful information from like-minded professionals. I've mentioned Twitter on previous posts and I continue to believe it has the biggest ROI & ROE of any social media platform. Twitter has allowed me to connect with people across the country, as well as locally. @arikhanson is full of experience and useful information (check out his blog). @cubanlaf, @djwolter, @harvatin are all folks who I've learned a ton off of by simply sitting back and listening/reading their tweets. Smart folks that I wouldn't have met had I not networked and gotten involved.
A few keys to networking:
- Offer value. Networking is like PR - it's suppose to be two-way. While people love offering their help, it makes networking easier and more fun when both can contribute.
- Be sociable. One would think this is an obvious, but you'd be surprised that some people simply show up to an event and expect to network. You need to be involved. Introduce yourself, ask questions, etc.
- Be thankful and respectful. Don't be someone who uses others. Be respectful. Realize that professionals have other responsibilities. At the same time, follow up and give thanks. A thank you can go a long way.
- Have a plan. Why are you networking? What do you hope to gain? What do you plan on contributing? Be proactive, not reactive.
- Give back. Be a mentor, get involved. Just like you, there are others out there looking for help and looking to network.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Remember the basics
There’s a big push in marketing and communications toward businesses and consumers developing a presence in social media. You’ve all heard of the numerous platforms and I’m confident that a majority of you currently participate on one, or have at least used one in the past year. However, despite all the rage to learn and experiment with SM, I think it’s important to remember to go back and touch up on some PR basics.
Like the popular saying, “Remember where you came from,” I think it’s important for a PR professional to remember the groundwork that pubic relations is built upon. With the emergence of social media, I fear that the basic skills; such as writing and research, will go to the wayside. Being able to craft a clear, concise message is vital to PR. Texting is up, face-to-face interaction is down. 140 character tweets are the “hot thing,” picking up a phone is dying. Heck, even the role of a traditional journalist is changing.
A few keys to remember if you are involved in PR:
- Writing is key. No matter the medium, a clear and concise message is the most important aspect of a successful PR campaign.
- Research. I think this is one of the more overlooked aspects of PR. Often times, people think you can simply jump and get immediate results. My question: how do you know the results you are looking for if you haven’t done any research?
- People skills. Despite the technological advancements, having the ability to develop relationships and carry out face-to-face conversations is still vital to PR. After all, isn’t that what we’re suppose to be experts at doing?
- R-A-C-E. This was the first thing I learned in PR and to this day, remains the absolute first step in any PR activity I do. Research. Action. Communication. Evaluation. Know this, use this.
While I agree that PR needs to continue to evolve and I am fascinated with the new resources communicators have, having a strong foundation is still vital to successful PR.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Twitter: The hot ticket
I don't hide the fact that Twitter is, by far, my favorite social platform. For me, I feel it allows me to connect and build relationships in a far more productive manner than other social media platforms - both personally and professionally. As Twitter continues to gain users and continue to be the "hot ticket," there are sure to be a few flaws that come along. The two biggest potential flaws are: 1) unnecessary following & 2) companies joining for the wrong reasons.
1) Unnecessary following: Everyone wants to be popular or appear to be popular. There's a big misconception with Twitter, that the number of followers one has, the more "legit" they must be. While this thought process holds some validity, you need to truly decipher why a certain person has a large following. Some are "experts" and major players in certain industries, PR has @prsarahevans. However, there's a trend of following people, just to be able to build one's own volume. Remember, Twitter should be about quality not quantity.
2) Joining for wrong reasons: By now the word is out, Twitter is the new social media platform that everyone is on. Why aren't you? You must be behind the times, right? Not necessarily. As more consumers join Twitter, there is going to be an ongoing trend of companies joining Twitter. I've read articles recently urging more and more businesses to hop on the wagon and "get with it." But before you decide if you or your company should have a presence on Twitter, sit back and evaluate this tactic. Joining Twitter shouldn't be "because everyone else is" or "because my competitor is." You need to treat Twitter like any other business decision and research, research, research. Realize that Twitter will require effort and a strategic plan. You won't get results by simply jumping in. You need to engage your community and build rapport. You need to listen. You need to provide a benefit to those that follow. A successful Twitter account requires time and effort. It can provide countless benefits if done properly, you just need to sit down and determine what your goal is and if Twitter is the best resource to reach that goal.
I love Twitter. I put in a lot of time and effort into my account and I've learned far more than I ever expected. I'm a firm believer that Twitter is by far the best social media tool for consumers and businesses. But like everything else, you only get what you put into it.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Social media & nonprofit integration
A topic that has been of interest to me recently has been the integration of social media within the nonprofit sector. I’ve recently started to work with a local nonprofit in town helping revamp its public relations plan. My initial conversation with the Director involved a discussion on his impression surrounding social media. Immediately, he went to Facebook and YouTube; and as expected, his views were what I expected - a lack of understanding.
@arikhanson, a fellow PR pro, recently blogged that social media allows a nonprofit to build relationships. And isn’t that what’s key to a successful nonprofit? Social media allows a nonprofit to effectively engage with its community and increase awareness of its mission. The key is to utilize SM tools properly.
A few other reasons to integrate social media:
Cost. There’s been some discussion that social media isn’t as cheap as it’s made out to be. However, when you factor in return on engagement, social media can be significantly cheaper than other tools a nonprofit can implement.
Sharing Capacity. Social media has the potential to have a large reach. Building a strong network, you have the ability to reach a significant amount of people that may be inaccessible through other vehicles. You can also share photos, news releases, past news, etc. through online tools. This makes it easier for the media, volunteers and donors to access information.
Awareness/Reach. Let’s face it, the trend is moving toward more online involvement. If social media is where people are, it would be foolish not to reach these people. While you don’t want to forget about your current volunteer and donor base, having a strong online presence allows the potential to reach new volunteers, donors, media outlets.
The key to a successful integration is to remember that social media is not meant to be a replacement, rather an additional tool. Social media isn’t meant to be the sole resource. It’s meant to compliment other PR and marketing efforts a nonprofit is using. It isn’t for everyone organization, however, results speak for themselves for organizations that have implemented social media into their campaign.
So take a look, you don’t have much to lose. However, you may have a lot to gain!
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