May 21, 2013
The devastation in Oklahoma yesterday has us all stunned and praying for those affected. Here in Alaska, the ice is breaking on our rural rivers and home are flooding in villages behind ice dams.
As we’ve come to expect, first responders are in place and helping people as quickly as possible. And, there is a plethora of requests for aid and ways to give aid. Thankfully most are valid but we’ve also come to expect the scammers in situations such as this. So, I’m reviving parts of posts I wrote more than a year ago about making smart giving choices.
The most important advice is to give to familiar nonprofits. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army already have Oklahoma disaster funds in place. In fact, their people are already in place giving the aid we’ve all come to expect.
- Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, donate online, or donate by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS.
- Donate online or text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts or make a donation by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
I’m sure you agree it’s important to know where your hard-earned dollars are going. It’s not that time consuming to make sure the vast majority of your check will go to direct services. Merriam Webster defines these as ”active service on cases and work with patients as distinguished from staff functions.”
While I understand completely the need for administrative costs, it’s important to understand the details behind those numbers and give your dollars where they’ll make the most impact. Guidestar and Charity Navigator both offer services that help you learn about nonprofits. United Way of America is another organization that thoroughly screens their partners before providing them funds.
If you have the time, an organization’s IRS Form 990 is a great source of information. Pay close attention to the percentages of funds that go to “program services” as compared to administrative costs. Program services funds are actually getting to those the organization helps while administrative costs are generally overhead. Personally, organizations I like to support keep their overhead to no more than 10% of expenses.
Whatever you decide to do, please give generously to those in need, hug those you care about and be grateful for what you have.
May 7, 2013
I was taking a break from client work earlier to catch up on items in my newsfeed. A post from Jeff Esposito caught my eye. It’s called “Are you bumping into your coworkers enough?” If you have coworkers you should read it. But I don’t, so why did I?
The same principles apply to those of us who’ve chosen to work independently. To summarize, Jeff says:
- People matter
- Relationships are key
- We need to break silos
As a solo PR person, I often spend my days in front of the computer working, by myself. But I’m really not alone. Facebook and Twitter have made sure that when I need a distraction (or when I don’t need one), they are there to help keep my finger on the pulse on what’s going on around me.
And the Solo PR community is really like having an agency at my fingertips. (Thank you Kellye Crane) If you haven’t, check out the weekly Twitter chat (#solopr) Wednesdays at 1 PM ET. We’ll solve the problems of people world and have a good laugh at the same time. It’s like a virtual coffee break and I try not to miss it.
But I need some “real life” breaks too. I get those by assembling some groups important to me from both my work and personal lives:
First Tuesdays – is a group of past presidents of the local PRSA Chapter. We gather (you guessed it) the first Tuesday of each month for lunch at a casual lunch spot. I send an e-reminder the week before and we promise to talk about those who don’t attend. It’s a great way to hear what’s happening in our community from different perspectives.
Master’s Lunch (okay, this one’s kind of fallen by the wayside) – This is the silo busting group. It’s a PR pro, web designer, strategic consultant and SEO expert who have lunch together once a month. We talk about what’s going on in our business worlds and how we can help each other.
iPad User Group – Yes, we have a group of close friends, all in similar professions, who gather every other Thursday to share new tools we’ve learned on our iPads. Again, I send an e-reminder. This has been a wonderful way for us to talk through tools we’ve found that make our work lives easier. We also talk about tools that don’t work and show each other fixes on our iPads. And, don’t worry…we won’t laugh too hard when we learn you don’t know how to back-up or sync your iTools.
Girlfriends Lunch – About four or five years ago, my best local friends and I decided to give each other the gift of time for Christmas. So, we have lunch the second Wednesday of each month. If it’s your turn to pay it’s also your turn to choose the restaurant. Since we’re also food lovers, we almost always check out new restaurants in town. This lunch is more personal where we talk about our kids – and our husbands – and more personal issues in our lives.
As an independent consultant, I know it’s my responsibility to set up these check-ins that give me a semblance to being in an office. I have to schedule time for them, and organize them because they are important to me. Of course, I also make time for my husband and our two sons, but that’s a completely different post.
What do you do to make sure you’re staying involved and aware of the world beyond your computer?
February 13, 2013
This morning’s Solo PR chat started with a robust discussion about blogging; whether or not to make your blog your home page. This quickly changed to a much broader discussion about blogging in general. The typical answer to questions like this is…it depends.
As with all aspects of public relations or strategic communication, a good plan is the best way to begin. Some questions to consider:
- Why do you want to blog?
- What do you hope to accomplish?
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want to talk about?
- What are you known for?
- What do you want to be known for?
- Is anyone else already blogging in this space?
- If so, how will your blog be different?
Once you decide to blog, and what to blog about, consider the time commitment. Begin with the assumption you can write, edit and post in 90 minutes to 2 hours. If that’s the case, block out time on your calendar to write your posts.
Based on the general topics you’ve defined through the planning process, outline some posts for at least the first three months. This should give you a base from which to build some consistency.
Several participants on this morning’s chat shared my issue with confidence. Do people really want to read what I write? For some reason, the public nature of blogging raises confidence issues for many of us who regularly write for others. One way to overcome that is to have a trusted colleague who’s in the target audience take a quick look at your posts before they go live. It often helps strengthen a post.
Once you’ve decided to blog and determined your topics, look at your website and see where the blog should live. That’s actually what started the discussion on the chat…whether your blog should be your home page or not. Again, look at what you’re trying to do and why. Should you even attach your blog to your business site? For some, the blog is their business site.
Chances are, as long as you’ve thought it through, whatever you decide will work. It’s just like many aspects of strategic communications:
One size doesn’t fit all.
February 4, 2013
Sunday’s Super Bowl was a nail biter; many say decided on the last play. For those of us in communications it was often the ads and surrounding conversation that held our attention.
In general I was a bit disappointed with the ads. There was the annual tasteless sex in Go Daddy and the blatant sexual overtones of the Calvin Klein ad. The beer ads were their usual boring selves and…I could go on. But I want to focus on four that stood out for me:
Jeep’s Tribute to the US military
Veterans returning from overseas duty get to nearly all of us and the Jeep ad was no exception. Oprah’s voiceover only added to the emotion of this spot. But did it sell Jeeps? Maybe not but it likely helps the brand.
Dodge’s Ode to the American Farmer
My youngest brother is a farmer, keeping my grandparent’s farm in our family and making sure our children understand how food gets to the table. The ad was a fitting tribute to one of the hardest working and least understood aspects of our society. But, like the Jeep ad, I’m not sure it sold any Dodge trucks.
Budweiser’s Clydesdale ad
I’m a sucker for Clydesdale ads and it seems everyone agrees as the ad took the #1 slot. They tell a human story with such emotion. Also, this ad included a social media tie-in with Budweiser’s first Twitter account to name the foal in the ad. This ad reinforced the Clydesdale’s place in our heart yet again. Still makes me a bit teary.
While not in the list of top five ads of the Super Bowl, Oreo definitely won the social media battle. Their ad, set in a library, was well received and sent thousands to their promotion on Instagram…cookie vs crème (all crème here). Then the lights went out in the Superdome and Oreo posted on social channels the tweet that communicators have been talking about since.
By getting a message out as quickly as they did, the company showed the difference between “doing” and “being” social. Of course, all the people were in the room at the right time to approve and execute the concept but that gets into the nitty gritty. Oreo’s social media team is obviously empowered to make instant decisions because they have the trust of the company.
It’s really important for organizations to understand that just doing social media isn’t all that’s needed today.
Organizations need to start living social.
They must understand the audiences and engage. It’s not enough anymore to post without responding. It’s not enough to post without reading the chatter that’s around your post.
The culture within the organization needs to include complete trust in the social media team to make on-the-spot decisions.
These are just some of the things I discuss with clients considering a new or expanded social media presence. Sometimes the answer is to wait to establish a presence until the company’s culture is ready. But we’re also reaching a point where social media is such a critical part of the communication mix, it’s more important than ever to have a presence. So, it’s time to change that culture, establish trust in the communications team, and bust down the silos to make it happen.
Is your company ready? What will it take to get ready? Because people are already talking about your organization and really wish you were listening.
January 8, 2013
Over the holidays I began to see more people (and I already thought there were a lot) talking about concerns surrounding privacy. I’ve long subscribed to the rule that if you don’t want to see your words in a New York Times headline, keep them to yourself. However, many people don’t see things that way. And many have been hit by not keeping things private.
A few things happened over the holidays that caused me to look a bit harder:
- Instagram planned to use the pictures “I” posted on their platform in advertising. User backlash over the proposed changed in the privacy clause in the terms of service was so intense they backed down. But for how long?
- Netflix is looking at sharing “my” movie orders on my social pages, like Facebook.
- Then the Wall Street Journal reported there’s no avoiding Google Plus as they are requiring a Google log-in to access all their products.
- Employers are no longer allowed to ask prospective employees for password access to social media accounts.
What’s interesting in these four instances is that the older audiences (and yes I put myself there) are up in arms over this seeming loss of privacy while the younger generation (teens through 30) are saying “c’est la vie.” Employers are reviewing social media profiles of prospective employees to make sure they’re socially ready for employment while younger people are asking “what’s the big deal”? Have digital natives become so dependent on their digital life that they don’t mind sharing it all?
On the other side of things, my two teens have basically abandoned Facebook because it doesn’t offer them enough substance anymore. It was just too mindless. One is not really using social media anymore while the other has migrated to Twitter and Instagram. While these two instances may not be the beginning of a trend, it’s definitely something to watch.
And, for Facebook, as the “older generation” becomes their mainstay, I believe privacy issues could very definitely be their demise. The ability to connect with one’s grade school colleagues is great but maybe not if selling one’s soul is also required.
What do you think? Is privacy more important than the friends you’ve connected with? Will you connect your accounts as Google is asking? Have we all just said good bye to privacy?