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 21, 2011
Last week, the conversation here was about ways to listen (and hear) and on joining the conversation on the Internet. In this post, I want to tie social media/electronic tools back to the traditional tools many of us cut our public relations teeth on.
In the late 1970s when I began my career, we hand delivered news releases to local media and mailed (yes, snail mailed) releases to out of town media. We arranged events and wrote tons of speeches for our clients to get word out at key constituent meetings. Newsletters and mass communication were mimeographed, and we did all our work on typewriters.
Today, many of the tools are still important, especially relationships with key influencers. I always tell my clients it’s important to work in both worlds using tools based on the needs outlined in an overall strategy. Take, for example a client who wants to sell businesses a product that comes with a high price point, but it’s a younger tech savvy group that understands its use in the work place.
Executives in a larger company are more likely to respond to information received through a chamber of commerce or rotary meeting, or on traditional news programs. They might have a couple social media accounts but aren’t using them the same way younger staff might be. Younger employees are more likely learn from their peers on social media and less likely to read/watch traditional news programs. Without using tools in both worlds, you’ll limit your exposure.
Regardless of which tools you use, developing a story around your program is critical. Think about your story from the perspective of the reader, and not that of the company marketers. Focus first on the features the customer/target will get and then the advantages and benefits. Leave the boilerplate to the end, or incorporate it into the features.
The tactics you choose should include traditional news releases, speaking engagements at business meetings as well as a series of Google+, Facebook and Twitter campaigns chosen because you know where individuals decisions makers can be reached.
What hasn’t changed today is the importance of reaching out to individuals who can help you tell your story. More about that tomorrow.
Part 1: Listening (And Hearing) Crucial In Communication Plans
Part 2: Now That You Know What’s Being Said, Join the Conversation
Part 4: Reach Out and Engage Someone
October 4, 2011
I’ve posted quite a bit about the importance of planning before beginning a communications program. As strategic guides for management, we need to keep our eye on the goals and objectives of our plans. It makes us look smarter to management and also guides us through the year.
Once you’ve completed measurable goals and objectives, the next steps are determining your audience (also called stakeholder) and strategies.
I find the audience part is the easier of these two tasks. Geographic and age targets are fairly easily set. When psychographics are added, it can be more difficult but is still something familiar to many. Often, actually choosing a subset of the overall market that can be the challenge. I like to explain to management that just because our focus is on Alaskans 18-34 living off the road system doesn’t mean that a 45 year old in Anchorage won’t see the message.
The confusion often sets in when it’s time to select strategies and tactics. I’m often asked to explain the difference and find an analogy that works for me:
Think of it as a road trip. The strategy is the road you choose to drive on while the tactics are the vehicles you take on the road.
On last week’s PR20chat the discussion came up again and Jeremy Pepper said a former boss who used the World War II Battle of Normandy as an example:
Goal is to take the beach. Strategy is who lands where. Tactics is what they use
In the Universal Accreditation Board’s APR Study Guide, they add that strategies determine the “how” in a plan while the tactics are the “what.”
Understanding the importance of planning and the elements therein is one of the most important aspects of public relations for professionals who want to be known for strategy. Securing APR certification is critical for public relations and communication pros who want recognition as strategic partners. While studying for the test (which I highly recommend), professionals learn more than 30 KSAs (knowledge, skills and assessments) critical to senior communicators.
But, back to strategies. Do you have an analogy you use to separate strategies from tactics? Do you always include at least one strategy in your plans? Why or why not?