Communication in our century

 

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Welcome to the Content Marketing Revolution

Today’s post is courtesy of Edelman Digital and though the main focus of the piece is content marketing on social media (meaning it should fall under Social Media Wednesdays), it is important to view this new way of content marketing as a PR Tip necessary in order to adapt to the dynamic changes taking place in the world of public relations.

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keyboard

Posted by 

Edelman Digital, Melbourne

Follow on Twitter @trevoryoung

While corporate gets hung up on the tactical aspects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the real action is bubbling beneath the surface. For many it’s not as sexy as the social technology platforms we hear about and see in the media every day but it’s equally powerful. Indeed, it’s the ‘secret sauce’ – the fuel that keeps the social web cranking along at breakneck speed.

I’m talking about content and how it can be used to keep your brand connected to the people who matter most to your business, cause or issue – how it can help organisations to:

  • Attract Attention
  • Gain respect
  • Build trust

… with longer-term goal of generating leads and ultimately growing sales revenue. (And let’s face it, which brands don’t want to tick those boxes?).

Emerging from Social Shadows

While we’re (finally) starting to take the notion of social media more seriously here in Australia, in the US the concept of ‘content marketing’ has emerged from the social shadows and is set to explode.

The creation, sharing (and in some instances, curation) of content is becoming a cornerstone marketing activity for many major brands and fast-growth companies.

Strategic Intent

Content can include everything from videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers and case studies through to blog posts, infographics, webinars, microblogging (Twitter), online news releases, mobile phone apps and interactive newsrooms. Used effectively and with strategic intent, content marketing is a powerful means of reaching and engaging with current and potential customers, media and other influencers.

The irony, however, is that despite its huge growth, content marketing is not exactly new. Videos, hard-copy newsletters and custom-published magazines – all corporate communication tools that have been around for years – can be considered content.

Why the sudden interest in content as a cornerstone marketing strategy?

Blame (or more importantly, thank!) the emergence of the social web.

Distribution Channels

Today, any person, company or organisation can establish its own online TV show (vodcast), radio station (podcast) or web-based magazine (blog), while social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook serve as effective and powerful two-way content distribution channels.

Think about it for a moment. Let the concept percolate a bit – swill it around in your mind.

At the risk of repeating myself, we can now communicate directly with the people who matter most to the success of our business – and we can do it with a degree of scale and intensity of connection we’ve not been able to do before. I might also add: cost-effectively and in real-time.

This presents massive opportunities for companies and organisations to bypass the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ – journalists and editors – and engage directly with their constituents.

Empathy and Respect

But this opportunity comes with a caveat – several, actually.

Content marketing is not a sales pitch. Have empathy for your audience. Treat them with respect.

Create compelling content that’s interesting, relevant and worthwhile to your audience: it’s about them, not you.

Solve problems experienced by your audience (add value); tap into the experts in your company (hidden assets); provide credible information (without selling); and shine the spotlight on your customers (take a back seat).

Content marketing can be a powerful strategy. Get involved, but use it cleverly and respectfully … and reap the benefits!

Image credit: Rafael Peñaloza

What’s Missing From Your LINKEDIN Profile?

Today’s post is courtesy of Beyond the Hype posted by Lois Paul. 

 

One of my particular passions is to help the executives I work with become stronger storytellers. I always advise them to make sure that the first place an influencer or conference organizer looking for an article source or a speaker will go to “check them out” is LinkedIn, so it’s really important that they have an effective profile. I then proceed to audit their current profile and tell them the missing elements they need to fix to help them stand out from the crowd. 

There have been posts on how to put together an effective LinkedIn profile, including this one I noticed while Tweeting during Sunday’s less than scintillating Super Bowl. They include basic recommendations such as clearly listing your name, your title, your company, your actual location (as close as you can get) up front, along with your key industry. Industry can be tricky for IT professionals who participate in other industries such as Financial Services, Health Care or Manufacturing because you can only choose one industry on LinkedIn. However, you can highlight Skills in other sections of your profile if you determine that it’s important that you are associated with your core industry first and your IT expertise second.

The biggest missed opportunity on LinkedIn for most executive spokespeople, in my humble opinion, is the Summary option in the Background section. Most people list their chronological job experience in this section without a Summary. A good Summary is a few short paragraphs that describe what you do today for your company, threading in the key  messages or themes you can talk about and demonstrating the strengths you bring to the market, your company and your customers. If done right, the Summary definitely is about the individual, but it also provides goodness and positioning for your company.

 
Here’s an example of a great Summary that Mark Bernardo, GM of Automation Software for GE Intelligent Platforms, includes in his LinkedIn profile:

1“I have worked in industrial automation as a supplier from every angle—engineering, new product introduction, quality and customer support. With over 25 years of experience, I help customers optimize their processes and increase business performance. To remain competitive, to keep their municipalities or shareholders happy, I believe facilities will need to find ways to empower today’s workforce—a workforce that wears multiple hats, has increased responsibilities, and needs to do more with less at a faster pace than ever before. 

Knowledge workers are critical to the equation; we need to help them use technology to free up their time so they can work smarter. At GE, we are working to change the game through the use of SCADA, mobility, integrated analytics, collaboration and high performance solutions. Through an enhanced paradigm called Real Time Operational Intelligence (RtOI), we can marry these capabilities together and provide the right information to the right people with the right context when and where they need it so they can make the right decision for their operation. I’m proud to lead the Automation Software division here at GE Intelligent Platforms and add our thumbprint to the innovations taking place in this space.”

Mark is a very effective spokesperson and this Summary makes it clear to anyone who checks LinkedIn what his expertise and views are before they contact him. He also does a good job of highlighting what his company does for customers.

Beyond the Summary, your Experience should include not just a litany of jobs you’ve held and timeframes for those positions, but a short description of what you did for each job that highlights your expertise that would make you a good spokesperson. Only the most recent positions that are relevant to your current position and thought leadership platform need to be fully fleshed out.

Another missed opportunity is the Contact Information section of the LinkedIn profile. Most of these include links to corporate websites or blogs, Twitter handles, and possibly email. What’s usually missing is a brief sentence or two that describes your passion or interest, such as “Contact Sam Smith to discuss how the Internet of Things is impacting the semiconductor industry” or “Mary Jones is always interested in a lively discussion of all things mobile, especially related to how companies need to make sure they are balancing the security of mobile devices and the need to address employees desire to BYOD.” You see the difference?

Overall, LinkedIn is not just an online public resume repository. And it’s not just a place you can use to find a new job. It’s a place for someone to get a feel for you and your background and to sample your thinking and your knowledge. They can learn more about you with a more thorough LinkedIn profile that has you telling them what you do and why you do it, backed up by any relevant blog posts, articles or white papers you have written, as well as video interviews or podcasts. We recently were able to secure a keynote speaking opportunity for one of our clients based on the strength of a video clip we shared with the conference organizer. Having that kind of work sample on your LinkedIn profile is a great resource that may create great results like that for you.

Because LinkedIn is also a living breathing profile, it should be refreshed and updated regularly with new content that makes sure that any new aspects of your work or your thinking are appropropriately represented. If you purchase a higher level participation in LinkedIn, it will guide you (in some cases, to an annoying degree) to make these updates frequently. They are worthwhile, even if you do have to spend some time “turning off” the helpful reminders.

2Last point:  I personally am not a fan of the Endorsements on LinkedIn.  This does not imply any disrespect to anyone who has endorsed me for any of the skills I have listed.  I just don’t find this section helpful so I don’t use it at all.

Recommendations can serve as more powerful third-party endorsements to help learn a bit more about a person. However, I still firmly believe that the best way to represent who you truly are on LinkedIn is to use your own words in the Summary and Contact sections in particular, as well as the links to published materials or videos.  Don’t miss the opportunity to make LinkedIn an effective way to position you as someone who would be a great source for an article or a white paper on  the key themes or issues you care about.  If you skip this step, you may not make the cut for the busy editor or show organizer who is moving fast.

What PR Courses Actually Need To Teach PR Undergraduates

Ed Zitron PROn today’s Monday PR Tips we have Ed Zitron, the founder of EZ-PR, a PR and Media Relations company based in New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also of the author of “This Is How You Pitch: How To Kick Ass In Your First Years of PR,” an Amazon bestseller in the PR category. He has worked with companies large and small, including Target and The Nature Publishing Group, as well as smaller startups and tech figureheads.

He was featured in PR in Your Pajamas and discussed the information gap between the PR taught in institutions of higher learning and what graduates need to know and actually experience in the industry.

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In 2005, I took a public relations course at a major state university – PR 101 – and remember the lesson plans clearly:

  • the history of PR
  • writing a “communications brief”
  • writing a press release
  • press conferences

Eventually, I moved on to further classes. They mostly covered press conferences and “advance communications,” a vague summary of different techniques that you might want to use in general PR… activities.

At no point did the courses actually address the media.

This was nearly a full year before Twitter would launch. Facebook wasn’t available outside of colleges. Jon Gruber had been writing for 3 years, and TechCrunch would launch not too long after. Thus we completely missed a chunk of the “social” aspect that makes up the new world of PR, or indeed the importance of bloggers.

Regardless, reading over current PR courses and many textbooks used in courses, it’s clear PR undergrads are being taught to do things that are not part of most PR people’s days. Yes, it’s very exciting to be taught that you’ll be handling big campaigns, or “handling webinars,” or how important AP Style is (which in the grand scheme of things is mostly irrelevant), or how to handle a press conference — one of the most irrelevant skills that you’ll find before a career in high-end corporate PR.

While it may not be deliberate, this is a horrible misrepresentation of the industry as a whole and is leading students down a dark, dark path. The reason behind the failure at the educational level is simple: Many of these teachers are either not active practitioners, or others are fundamentally not good at major parts of the current world of PR. It’s easy to become obsolete if you’re teaching but not practicing.

After some research, I’ve come up with what I believe are the core elements that need to be applied to just about every PR curriculum. They are:

The Realities of PR

PR is no longer about event management. It is not press conferences. It is not glitz and glamor and fancy parties. At least not initially. The world of PR they are entering is cold, over-staffed, over-worked drudgery. It is mostly behind a computer, and the salaries are lower than ever. It’s potentially immensely lucrative if you become well-connected. It does not start that way.

These core lessons need to be ingested immediately:

  • The best way to network is to be yourself. It is not to have a personal brand or “love the media.” It’s about being an interesting human being.
  • Read a lot more. Reading and knowing the news and the world around you is more valuable than being popular on Facebook or loving to party.
  • PR is not flashy, and you will probably not deal with flashy clients for a long time. Many PR agencies sell themselves as working on huge clients like P&G, Samsung, and Gucci. This is not what most will do initially. They will probably work in small tech firms or with restaurants or with non-profits – immensely demanding clients that will not educate them.
  • The first years of PR will be a lot of document-writing, package-stuffing and document work. This fact is for some reason completely hidden from new PR professionals.

Media Relations

Many PR professionals on many blogs say media relations isn’t the core of PR. It isn’t a thing that you “have” to do. I’m sorry, but it is. It always will be, especially for new PR people.

The core elements of media relations are:

  • Researching an outlet and a reporter. This should focus on how to read properly, how to understand and have a rapport with a reporter, and how to understand the structure of each news outlet.
  • Writing a pitch. This should be taught in such a way as to write a pitch that will work to get a response and what you want, under 150 words. This is a very specific skill that is almost totally diametric to how Public Relations courses are taught.
  • The difference between a blogger, a reporter and a producer. The first two parts are somewhat blurred these days – a reporter can blog at a newspaper and a blogger can be called a reporter. However these people are fundamentally different and need to be approached in different ways, especially TV and radio producers.
  • What things are truly newsworthy, and how to actually get reporters to care about them. If a teacher can’t teach this, and teach the reality that many stories are kind of boring, they are not worth their salt.
  • How to actually talk to a person whom you want to write a story. This is really about not talking to them about anything and getting to know what they want to hear about. Once you know that, you can send it to them. Or not, when you don’t have it.

The Reality of Social Media

Social media is taught in a critically dishonest manner by the education system. It’s really exciting to talk about social media in a way that suggests it’s the new golden goose — that a single tweet can spread your news faster than anything else, and that, you too, could have thousands or millions of followers who will share your news in the most passive and useful manner.

Social media classes need to teach:

  • How to use Twitter or Facebook or Instagram in a real sense. You should not just be tweeting out endless praise for your company, or how great you are. You should be an honest company or an honest person.
  • You don’t need always need Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. There is no actual need to have every company with a social presence. Conversely, for many brick and mortar businesses, such as Angie’s List and Houzz for contractors and service businesses, some social media platforms are incredibly important.
  • How a real social media following is built through trust and a reason to actually care. If a company or a restaurant or anyone is just spilling out fatuous nonsense about their lives or how great they are, very few people are going to care.
  • That a social media calendar or strategy can be a waste of time. Mapping out a bunch of tweets or Facebook updates or “special days” for many companies isn’t necessary unless they have an active Facebook or Twitter following.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything they should know, but the core problem with PR education is that a 101 class should give the basics — the groundwork from which a real PR professional should theoretically grow. In the same way that pre-med and med schools exist to give the factual and theoretical ideas that will be used in the actual workplace, PR courses need to provide the theoretical foundation and background knowledge today’s PR professionals will need in their day-to-day work.

What is Professionalism?

Professionalism

Professionalism is a requirement in every job sector under the sun. Whether you are a tailor or a governor, one needs to be skilled, have an ability to make morally sound judgements and be polite and well-mannered in every context. Above all you have to be well trained in that particular skill set in order to do the job well. Watching news on local stations raises serious concerns of professionalism ‘levels’ not just in our politicians but journalists as well.

It goes unsaid- whatever our job description is, we need to be professional in the execution of our requirements. Kirk Hazlett, an Associate Professor of Communication at Curry College in Milton, MA wrote an article titled ‘Professionalism’- What does it really mean and he stated:

  • A professional exudes pride…of accomplishment…of character…of commitment to his or her chosen career field.
  • A professional devotes him- or herself to educating others as to the standards of conduct that define and guide those in that field.
  • A professional is one to whom others look instinctively as an example of “how I should act.”

During social hours with friends and family, one can easily tell whose boss is a professional and whose is not. Complain about our bosses seems to be the norm, and during this social activity, it is impossible to ignore the commonalities in complains lodged by different people.

Plenty a time bosses have been deemed as ‘unreasonable’ and lacking in rational as to what needs to be done. Shouting and yelling is another complaint made by many, not to mention shrewd business deals, overpromising/selling, broken promises and outright manipulation and bullying of others to get their way.

This is type of behaviour is not limited to bosses but employees as well. The purpose of this article is not to witch-hunt or crucify those around us that we deem ‘unprofessional’ in our field or outside, case in point how the Orange Democratic Movement elections were conducted on Friday.  It is easy to throw stones at others for their lack of professionalism. However, there is need to look at ourselves and ask the question, ‘Am I a professional?’

There are general guidelines of what a professional is and those can be found in the Code of Conduct section of the organization manual but professionalism is more than that. It is not merely doing everything by the book but also about character and a commitment to one’s career. Professionalism is a state of being. Are you a person that people look at and think, ‘I would like to be like them.’?

Being punctual to work and meeting deadlines, always being respectful to others despite position/status, constantly updating self to the happening of one’s industry in order to remain relevant, being truthful and not prone to tantrums when things get out of hand- the small things matter. And whether you realize it or not, people observe everything you do.

In order to become a professional, it is important to observe people you deem professional and note their actions and attitudes. You however need not just mimic all they do but rather adopt those actions and attitudes to your own lifestyle and skill set. Steve Jobs is an inspiration to many worldwide, not just those in the tech industry. People take his positive attributes and apply them to their individual fields with the hope of making it in a big way as Jobs did.

Once you, after an honest analysis of self, have achieved ‘professional status’,  become a role model for others.