Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gold Star Social Media Sites

Every few weeks I spend a couple of hours on a Sunday reviewing a myriad of Web 2.0 and social media sites that I’ve read about in trade press and blogs. My evaluation criteria include:

-Features and functionality
-Ease of use
-Integration with other social media offerings that have developed a following

Most important though I consider how a Web 2.0 offering could potentially help Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) accelerate the success of a client’s social media program.

Can we drive additional interest and attention to content? If it’s a community, does it present opportunities for lead generation and/or access to industry influencers? Does it bring a higher level of measurability to our program?

Here is a list of sites I reviewed this holiday weekend that our worth checking out:

Backtype: simple way to share your comments to blogs and in social bookmark sites with a network of contacts.

Mofuse: Easy-to-use platform to create a version of an existing Web site, microsite or blog that is accessible via a mobile phone. Check out the mobile version of the Strategic Guy blog.

Posterous: easy-to-use blog platform that allows you to post content by Email. Check out my new "personal" Strategic Guy blog.

Scribd: document sharing community and social network with group functionality organized by topic and areas for interest. Good way to share white papers, presentations, blog posts, etc.

Tip'd: social bookmark site for financial and investing news. Add this to digg, delicious, propeller, reddit, Stumbleupon and Mixx as social bookmark sites to use to virally spread the word about a client's business. You may also want to check out Diigo as a social bookmark site to virally spread content.

Viddler: similar to YouTube, a site to publish, tag and share videos.

Monday, December 22, 2008

In Remembrance, Bridget McCargo

I spend a lot of time with clients. From strategy discussions and performance review meetings to daily conversations evaluating corporate, market and competitor developments. I sweat their challenges. I share in their success.

In some instances, a good client relationship grows into a friendship. It happened with Mike Jalbert of EF Johnson Technologies and Andy Roscoe of GroupServe. And it happened with Jay McCargo of WAM!NET.

A few years back I attended Jay’s surprise birthday party and had the honor of meeting his family. They were warm, caring and friendly.

This morning I learned that Bridget McCargo (Jay’s wife) suffered a massive stroke on Monday, December 15. She was removed from life support assistance on Saturday and passed away soon thereafter. She is survived by Jay, a daughter Alexandra and a son Jay-Jay.

This is devastating news. Bridget had no significant medical issues preceding this tragic occurrence. Her weekend was like any other -- attending her kids’ sports events, hosting a baby shower and spending time with the family on Sunday.

Bad things happen to good people. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense. My thoughts and prayers go out to Jay and his family.

If you’d like to make a donation in Bridget’s honor, please contact:

Samaritan’s Purse
PO Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Heart Break Destiny

I consider myself fortunate to have now worked in the public relations agency business for more than 15 years. It’s the best job in the world with new challenges to take on, exciting market segments to work in and the opportunity to contribute to big-time success stories.

Like most professional services firms, the environment is often intense with a constant requirement to exceed expectations. And the benchmarks that clients use to evaluate performance (and funding) are typically unique to each engagement and, in many cases, outside of the agency’s control. They include:

-Market expertise
-Strategic counsel
-Tactical results
-Competitive pressures
-Macro economic conditions
-Responsive service and attention to detail

A sobering realization I have reached is that all client relationships will one day come to an end. I’ve had some personal heart breakers. Accounts like American Management Systems, SES Americom, Cysive, Tellabs and SAGA Software which helped shape who we are as an agency.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we strive to learn from every client engagement with the goal of improving our delivery of service, client responsiveness and market expertise.

Two recent surveys got me thinking about the fragile nature of client relationships:

Client turnover high in tech, southwest, survey finds

New Survey Reveals What Clients Want in an Agency

We are in the midst of conducting our own client satisfaction survey to evaluate Strategic’s performance in 2008 and more clearly define areas of focus for the coming year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

High on Conversations

It’s tough for corporate leadership to accept that most products and services have little (if any) competitive differentiation that truly matters to customers.

There may be slight feature set and functionality uniqueness, yet most offerings that survive past the launch phase address customer needs just fine. And pity the poor professional services providers as they are relegated to the “difference is our people” cliché.

This is why marketing, and corporate positioning through public relations and social media are so critical. People buy products and services that they perceive are different and special, and typically rely on companies they know and trust.

I think the New York Times’ new video-based viral marketing campaign called “Conversations” is a real home run. It presents well known celebrities, athletes and actors in a creative and unexpected way discussing their favorite section of

Plus, the newspaper has promoted the campaign through traditional channels such as advertising and public relations, as well as in social media circles. This has helped make the campaign a story in itself.

Good show, New York Times. You’ve got me as a reader!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Recessionary Tree Chopping

I was raking leaves in the yard a few Saturdays back when a guy with a tree cutting company pulled up in his truck.

“I’ll cut that down for you if you want,” he said, pointing to one of the three towering oaks in my front yard.

“I think that tree is still alive,” I responded. “You see all of these leaves. Lots of them came from that tree."

“Yeah, but I’ll give you a great price,” he replied.

After politely declining to chop down an 80-year-old tree, it struck me that times are tough for nearly every service provider. It wasn’t too long ago that I had to beg contractors to come by my house for a few minutes to give me an estimate on a patio replacement project.

How far are professional service providers like public relations consultancies willing to go to secure business? Will we take on any client? Will we be quick to hand over our intellectual property or discount our services?

Those questions came to mind when I came across this promotion in one of my LinkedIn groups. The folks at PerkettPR are apparently offering up a free social media boot camp along with an “incentive-driven three month trial” of services for any client that signs up by the end of the year.

I don’t personally know anyone at PerkettPR and I am sure they are a fine agency. For heaven’s sake though this smacks of desperation. That is not a brand attribute you want to promote as a provider of high-quality professional services, especially during a recession.

All public relations shops are hurting as clients pull back on promotional spending. Any PR executive who says otherwise is either a liar or delusional. There are ways to effectively manage through a downturn, yet publicly announcing that you are rolling back the prices and giving away intellectual property sure isn’t one of them.

As a service provider it’s OK to be aggressive and to cut deals with clients. Just do so quietly to ensure you’re not sacrificing your own reputation in the process.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

PR Shops Fall Down Globally

I once had a new business meeting in which the corporate marketing lead asked me about our Asian presence. “I know it’s a continent,” I responded. “And I can point to it on a map.” Not surprising, we were not the right PR partner for that company.

I’ve never believed a public relations consultancy like Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) needs to establish global capabilities – either organically or through participation in an agency network, such as IPREX, Eurocom Worldwide or the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN).

For starters, it is not consistent with our focus on representing a certain type of client at a specific time in its corporate maturation. This does limit the size of our addressable market and can potentially impact our overall growth potential.

However, we have made “great work for great clients” and an unwavering commitment to work/life balance for our employees our primary business goals. To achieve these benchmarks we are willing to sacrifice growth.

I also do not believe either agency model for the provision of global PR services actually delivers on the promise of consistent messaging and exceptional tactical results. The large firms with offices in major cities across the globe typically manage each as its own distinct profit/loss center. An office’s managing director is financially motivated to horde as much of the work as possible, regardless of what is in the client’s best interests.

The global value proposition for the networks of independent PR agencies also breaks down. On its Web site PRGN claims it provides access to the “resources, knowledge and diverse capabilities of all members around the world.” Yet, dig deeper and PRGN also plays up the fact that clients can “choose to work with one agency or several…to instruct agencies individually or through a single lead agency.”

OK…I understand the flexibility. But, this also devalues the importance PRGN places on global representation which is the very reason the network exists.

The most effective approach for the execution of a global campaign is for the client to define priorities, interview and select regional agencies, and then manage the implementation of the program to ensure collaboration. That takes a lot of time and work though, as well as creating an administrative requirement with purchase orders, invoices, etc. This is why a global resource is compelling.

So, let’s drop the nonsense about global agencies or networks working in lock-step to provide a consistent voice for a client regardless of the time zone. The value proposition is one of administrative convenience and time savings. It’s not about great work on a global scale.