Wednesday, April 29, 2009


How PR is like running a small business

I had the opportunity to sit down and meet with some local small business owners here in St. Paul the other day, and afterward, it came to me - if you are a PR pro, you are also a small business. Let me explain.

In today's economic climate, owning and operating a small business is tough. Consumer spending is down, retail numbers are horrible and even though consumer confidence increased in April (I completely disagree) business is still tough. There were a few businesses I spoke with that had sales that were similar year-over-year or even slightly up; but overall, most businesses were experiencing a decrease. As PR pros, we are facing decreasing budgets and the elimination of positions.

Businesses are having sales, creating promotional events and even attempting to re-brand, all in an effort of differentiating themselves from the competition. As PR pros, we need to take this time to re-do our image as well. Whether it's getting accredited, attending seminars and conferences or educating ourselves on other faucets of PR and marketing. Why? All in an effort to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

I see a lot of businesses starting to implement new aspects into their current business. One example, the popcorn and ice cream shop by my office has started to sell other candy, tins, root beer floats. They didn't have these items a year ago, but the economy is forcing them to do anything they can to increase sales. It's paid off as the business is already 20% ahead of where they were last year. As a PR pro, you better be dipping into social media, you better be learning SEO, you better be learning a new trade. Why? To increase sales, or in our world, your marketability.

What it boils down to is, like a small business, you need to be continually seeking to improve your craft and give consumers, businesses, etc. a reason to shop at your store. What are you doing to drive sales to your business? Are you adding additional good and services to your current inventory?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


My challenge to you

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Web 2.0 isn't about you

Why are you on Twitter? Why did you create a Facebook profile? Is your Web 2.0 goal to build your personal brand? If you are participating on Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms based solely to advance your own individual goals, then you have the wrong mindset. Don’t get me wrong, advancing yourself professionally is important and you should always be trying to build your own brand. What I am saying, though, is that if you are engaging in Web 2.0 for that reason alone, you are missing the purpose and benefit of Web 2.0.

In my opinion, your purpose with online media should be focused on building a community and engaging with others. It should be about listening first and talking second. From a goal standpoint, this should be your primary mission.

Based on this belief, I believe celebrities are going about Twitter with the wrong approach. Promoting one’s movie should be a tactic, not the goal or purpose. Utilizing Facebook to sell an album is a great marketing strategy for artists, but it shouldn’t be the reason behind they implement Web 2.0.

The same can be said for the “regular Joe” on Twitter. The key to success is by being able to add something of value. Ask yourself, “what am I bringing to the conversation?” Are you bringing anything valuable and useful or are you simply trying to promote yourself and push your agenda?

Let’s be honest, PR folks like the hear themselves talk. There’s nothing wrong with that. We should be vocal people. We should have opinions. We should strive for improvement. But are you that kid in class who’s simply raising his or her hand and participating just to make it be known that you're present? Speaking up more frequently isn’t necessarily going to be the determining factor whether you get an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ with Twitter.

Remember folks, if you engage and build properly, then the rest will come. As much as it may hurt, this time, it's not about you.

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Friday, April 17, 2009


Ashton punks Twitter

If you're online and into Web 2.0, you've probably heard about Ashton Kutcher's Twitter challenge with CNN. Twitter is going crazy with this with people are on both sides of the argument. Personally, I am on the "con" side of this publicity stunt. Here's why:

On the surface, this is great for Twitter. Getting mainstream coverage is huge for the growth of Twitter and getting its name in traditional media is vital to its success. Although "big names" on Twitter is nothing new - see @tonyhawk @the_real_shaq, the recent press definitely helps. Heck, even @oprah is on now. So in that sense, this is good for Twitter. However, I don't think this does anything to prove the value of Twitter.

Yes, this shows that Twitter is popular and that messages move quickly on Twitter; but it doesn't show the true value behind Twitter. In my opinion, the true value of Twitter is the ability to share knowledge and create relationships. Others may use it for something else. This "challenge" does nothing to show Twitter's unique ability for a person to interact and form relationships. In fact, I'd go on the record to say that Ashton's quest for 1 million followers is nothing more than him saying "I'm more important than you, so follow me."

News came out early today that Ashton did in fact reach 1 million before CNN. So now what? What was the goal of reaching 1 million? Simply to say you did it first? It's my belief that this had nothing to do with a challenge, rather simply a publicity stunt. And it was quite brilliant. Do you think it was merely a coincidence that Ashton started to up his Twitter activity around the same time he's shooting a movie? Again, I think it's quite brilliant. But it goes against all that's Twitter (that could be another post).

In the end, all this "challenge" did was reinforce that fact that Americans are obsessed with celebrities and those who are "famous." Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake - all could have achieved this same result had they decided to go public. It doesn't prove the strength or influence of Ashton, nor does it indicate anything about Twitter.

The icing on the cake? He took out a billboard! Lame and desperate, in my opinion.

Your thoughts?

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Sunday, April 12, 2009


A big fumble by the NFL

With the popularity of social media continuing to rise, it’s common for incidents to arise from online accounts. A few months ago an employee of the Philadelphia Eagles got fired after he posted a comment on Facebook about an Eagles player being trade. This week, news came about via Mashable’s Web site about the NFL creating fake Facebook profiles in an attempt to get dirt on potential prospects. At first I was taken back and immediately criticized the NFL. But looking back on it, I don’t have an issue with the premise behind the tactic; but I do see the actual tactic being unethical.

It’s common sense that employers check the online profiles of potential candidates when interviewing. There’s the common adage “if you don’t want your mother to see it, then it probably shouldn’t be online.” I have no problem with this and actually think it’s a great thing to do. You can learn a lot from people by their Facebook profile or blog. It’s an easy and cheap way for HR personnel to quickly weed out those who they feel wouldn’t be a good match for their organization.

So what’s the difference between Company A doing it and the NFL? The NFL is a business and with their push to improve their image, monitoring online accounts makes sense. However, creating a fake profile simply to gain access to view a profile reminds me of a snaky con-man. It brings up the image of that used-car salesman that everyone tries to avoid - it’s slimy.

One of the issues with the emergence of Web 2.0 is knowing and understanding the motive behind the participant. Some companies and employees are great about coming out and announcing their affiliation. Others, not so much. This has been a criticism of PR professionals for years and PR 101 teaches the importance of identifying yourself and your intentions. Actions like this - the NFL creating fake profiles - go completely against what an organization should be doing to sharpen its image.

A few keys to remember when integrating Web 2.0
* Image from

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Thursday, April 2, 2009


Spam is good for Twitter

Before you start scratching your head on why I would suggest that spam is good, let me clarify. Spam, in its current stage on Twitter, is actually good. Let me try to explain my madness.

How can something defined as disruptive be thought of as beneficial? In its current stage on Twitter, spam actually confirms that Twitter is mainstream. It confirms that Twitter isn't just a useless fad. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying spam alone defines Twitter and proves it's effective - that is achieved by a successful marketing and communications plan. Spam usually follows where users are gathering. Again, another way to reassure that Twitter is growing and the potential to reach and engage with your audience is something that needs to be considered.

Like most SM tools, spam is easily ignored on Twitter. All spam can do right now via Twitter is follow you. That's pretty harmless. If it's a nuisance, simply block it. The only really problem, and it's more an annoyance than a threat, is the "auto-dm." Again, that's something easily treated by blocking the person who sent the auto-dm.

Think about it, all popular and effective communication channels have had spam at one point. Telephone? Yep. TV? Yep. E-mail? Definitely. Spam isn't usually associated with useless and deserted channels. MySpace had it's run with spam, Facebook has had its and now Twitter is finally getting blasted.

The point of this post was to show that with popularity comes spam. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. For those who aren't "sold" on Twitter yet, the presence of spam is a clear indication that Twitter is just beginning to grow. If you haven't had a conversation about creating a presence on Twitter, you need to immediately. Not being on Twitter means potentially missing a huge segment of your audience that you could be engaging with.

Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do, states: " knows how we shop. Google knows what we're looking for. And Twitter is headed to knowing the most about what we’re doing and thinking." So come jump on the wagon and emerge yourself with a powerful and effective communication tool.

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