March 21, 2013
Like many public relations professionals I have a series of Google Alerts that help me know who’s saying what about my company or me. It’s an excellent way to stay abreast of what’s being said about different issues. Yesterday’s alerts that came in for “The Barber Group” not only caught my eye, they nearly made me fall out of my chair:
Needless to say, I knew it wasn’t about me, or my company. But I did have some questions:
- Could potential clients think it was me? Do I need to scream from the rooftops “It’s not me!”
- Should I share it with clients so they know it’s not me?
- If someone Googles my company name, will this show up on top of the search results?
- Do I need to change my company name?
- Will it affect my credit rating?
- Could there be identity theft issues?
In taking a little time to assess the situation, I decided not to make any drastic changes for a variety of reasons. When I chose my company name, I knew there were other organizations with the same name. After all, Barber isn’t exactly an uncommon name. I’ve been using The Barber Group as my company name for nearly 13 years. It will take more than a guy from northwest Arkansas who had a company of the same name that stopped being in business six years ago to cause me to lose the brand equity I have on my own name. As a solo consultant, most groups are looking to hire me by looking for my name, or they have a qualifier with the company name such as public relations. Finally, most of my clients come from referrals from another client or professional.
But, when you’re thinking about things like a company name, it’s likely a good idea to consider how you make it something a bit more unique. At the same time, it’s also important the name you choose is not so complicated your customer won’t remember what it is.
If you need to set up Google Alerts, it’s not hard. Just head to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the information requested. Remember to use quotation marks if you have multiple words in a search. You may need to adjust search criteria as well if you’re not getting what you thought you might receive. As an example, the alerts I have for my company and me:
- Mdbarber – my preferred social network handle
- “Mary Deming Barber” – my professional name
- “Mary Barber” – the name I also use. Note this alert results in a lot of information not pertinent to me because my name is common. However, it takes only seconds to scan the email for information I need.
- “The Barber Group” – my company name
I hope my followers are okay with the fact I’m not on my way to Riker’s Island! I’m happy to stay put right here, fulfilling the mission of The Barber Group by continuing to help clients with strategic public relations efforts.
Image: Matt Obee via Flickr, CC 2.0
March 13, 2013
Over the past week or so I have heard this common refrain about social media…It’s not hard. Just get an account and do it.
I have been naïve to think we were beyond where businesses think social media is the easy road to increased profits and takes no planning or skill. For businesses to be successful socially, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Having a presence in social media should be part of the communications or marketing planning. Social media is one of the new tools communicators and marketers have in their toolbox along with traditional tools. Begin by asking a series of questions such as:
- What is it we want to do?
- What do we want to say?
- Who do we want to hear us?
- How will we know we’ve been successful?
- What are people saying about us now?
Once these questions are answered, it’s time to take a look at the tools to see which combination might be best. Traditional tools like press releases, signage, brochures and newsletters are likely still important. But businesses should look at adding a couple social networks as well, depending on the plan.
Each social network has different characteristics so one size doesn’t fit all. Demographic information is available for most social networks through the good folks at Pew Research.
Choose One or Two
Social media is about listening, responding, posting and engaging. If you’re not doing all of those things, you’re missing an important part of the picture. And that’s where starting small comes in. Don’t try to be everywhere but instead start with a plan to be social on one or two networks. Then grow as success comes, and the comfort level grows.
Even if you’re not engaging on more than one network, listen in to what’s being said about your company and your competition on other networks. Set up key word searches and Google Alerts to make sure you’re listening, even if you’re not ready to engage.
There’s an expectation in the social realm that you’ll respond, and fairly quickly. That’s where the social part comes in. It’s not about shouting & talking. It’s about chatting and having a conversation. It’s about solving problems. It’s about sharing news that the person wants to hear using the language that’s been crafted for the tool.
Probably need a Policy
Not wanting to gum up the works, but businesses that have employees handling their social media likely need to draft some simple guidelines and rules. These guide the employee and protect both the company and the employee. It’s also a good check to make sure you’re really ready.
What else do you wish organizations understood?
If you’re an organization getting started, what else do you like to know?
Image: 8 Eyes Photography via Flickr, CC 2.0
February 3, 2012
This week’s news regarding the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood sent shock waves around the world. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this has been an important lesson in the power of social media and individuals to affect a decision.
This has affected me, and many of my friends and colleagues, in a variety of ways:
- As a communications professional I have read many posts analyzing the communication strategies of both organizations. There will undoubtedly be many more.
- The situation also puts the spotlight on the research smart corporations should complete before selecting community partners.
- As an individual, there are also obvious implications for personal funding choices.
The need for this research doesn’t change because the issue changes. Research and a strategic focus should always be part of a giving strategy.
I don’t want to get into who’s right and who’s wrong here but instead provide a guide to choosing nonprofits you support – as an individual or as a corporation. If we haven’t seen anything else this week, we’ve certainly seen the power social media has in swaying public opinion.
I’m sure you’d agree you want 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. Here’s a portion of my post from January 20, 2010 detailing the research you can do before writing that check:
In talking with my children about the importance of giving and the school’s drive, we’ve also had to teach them a bit about what unfortunately might be called the seamier side of fundraising. As we saw after 9/11 and the 2005 tsunami, there are unscrupulous fundraisers who are more than happy to take your hard-earned dollars. It’s important to take a few minutes to make sure your money goes where you want it to go. Make sure you give to organizations you trust, or that your friends trust.
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. And, of course, there are any number of blogs and experts out there to tell you what to do as well. One of my favorite public relations people, Shonali Burke, offered her thoughts about the aftershocks on fundraising.
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.
November 16, 2011
After more than 30 years in public relations, I have seen a lot of change in our profession. As you might imagine, it’s especially noticeable in technology. What hasn’t changed is the need to be smart and strategic in order to be most effective. If you haven’t completely defined your problem, how can you know what to do to solve it?
It used to be that most research was fairly formal in that a study was done, a focus group conducted, etc. While these tools gave us valuable information, and still do today, there’s a lot more we can do to receive timely data. A big part of what I do is listening to and for clients. It’s about hearing what they are saying, and understanding what’s being said about them. A few ideas on places to begin listening:
- Set Google Alerts for the topics you care about.
- Subscribe to RSS feeds for people covering (blogs or traditional media) your topics.
- Set up a twitter search for the key words or hashtags you want to learn more about.
- Check twellow to find the influencers on Twitter in a specific geographic area.
- See if your industry has a Klout topic or influencers listed for your industry.
These are just a few of free tools that help you listen. There are many, many more you can find just by Googling “listening tools.” You may have to tweak your search terms to make sure you’re capturing the conversations.
To make sure you’re searching the right terms and listening where your customers are, do some of your own research. Have your customer service team ask those with whom they interact what sites they read and use? If you do a quarterly awareness study, include questions to find out where people are getting information pertaining to your industry or business.
Who influences the conversations has also changed considerably with the advent of blogging, Twitter and other social tools. It used to be influencers were titans of industry and community leaders. But today they are no longer just the people with reach, but the people who have influence over the people with reach.
Are there other ways you listen? Tools you use that others can easily access?
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss ways to join the discussion. Trust me. It’s not as scary as it may seem.
Part 2: Now That You Know What’s Being Said, Join the Conversation
Part 3: Successful PR Plans are a balance new and old tools and tactics
Part 4: Reach Out and Engage Someone
September 21, 2011
Last weekend I was in Walla Walla, Washington for the Whitman College Alumni Board meeting. We were basically a group of 13 people (graduates from between 1962 and 2007) from across the country joined by a common experience. A group committed to strengthening ties other alumnus have with the school.
Talk focused on finalizing our five-year strategic plan with a vision to create a place alumnus call “home.” We want to strengthen the bonds Whitties have with each other and the school.
It’s important to know the bonds are already pretty strong. We all realize our college experience is different from the experience many others have in college. Around 50 percent of our alums give financially to the school each year. Many more are involved through their volunteer effort. Many of us started the planning process by asking ourselves questions:
- What do I care most about regarding Whitman?
- Why do I care? After all it’s been more than 30 years!
- Who else cares? Why does that matter to me?
- How can I help those who care?
- What can I do to make more people to care?
By asking fellow alumni these questions, we’ll be able to create a plan that helps strengthen ties with the school. It’s a long-term project we’re excited about and hope is successful.
In thinking about it, these are great questions for communicators to ask when creating community relations plans. When I look at applying these lessons to clients, the same principles and similar questions apply:
- What do employees care most about? Why?
- What are the biggest needs in our community?
- How can we help strengthen the community?
- Is there a way our employees can also help through volunteering?
- What about our customers? Where do they want us to help?
- What can we do to make more people care about this?
The answers to these and other questions help provide a framework from which a targeted community relations plan can be developed. Like many other aspects of communications, without a plan that includes measurable goals you can’t possibly know if you’re truly been successful.
How do you help your clients make sure their community programs are on target and focus in areas they care about. How do you identify organizations that need your client’s help?
~It sounds simple but it’s really not.