I am attending the FOSE conference (http://www.fose.com/) this week and will write about the show for the “Strategic Guy” blog, then sharing the content with Fast Company, Gooruze, the Customer Collective and MyRagan.com.
FOSE is the last of the federal government mega-shows, typically drawing more than 10,000 attendees who have an interest in the latest information technology, security, telecom and services offerings in the public sector. This year’s conference will feature about 400 exhibitors.
What to write? I’m considering a couple of different angles in follow-up to the article I drafted after the Satellite 2008 Conference a few weeks back.
Defying the Trade Show Conundrum
The Customer Collective
By Marc Hausman, Strategic Communications Group
I’ll most likely follow a best practices approach as it relates to marketing, sales and promotional activities. Stay tuned.
Monday, March 31, 2008
I am attending the FOSE conference (http://www.fose.com/) this week and will write about the show for the “Strategic Guy” blog, then sharing the content with Fast Company, Gooruze, the Customer Collective and MyRagan.com.
Friday, March 28, 2008
If you believe the analysts at digital measurement company Comscore (Nasdaq: SCOR), people aren’t clicking as often on Google paid ads.
Google's paid search growth soft again in February http://cwflyris.computerworld.com/t/3031073/408925/105489/2/
Web search traffic continues to accelerate though. This means the organic results delivered by Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. is increasing in importance. And that plays well for public relations professionals.
That’s because a driver of organic search engine optimization (SEO) is Web content. Whether it is traditional activities like press releases, article placements, analyst commentary or industry presentations, or social media initiatives related to executive blogging and social network engagement, the content produced in a PR program typically finds a home on the Web.
At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we’re getting deeply engaged with our clients to further understand how to best research, define and optimize the quality content we’re delivering to the market.
The value proposition for public relations has always been the increased awareness and third party credibility conferred by industry influencers creates an environment in which a company can more successfully execute its growth strategy. Let’s add organic SEO to the ROI mix. It’s meaningful…and measurable.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
It’s clear that social networking on the Internet is following the same path as television entertainment.
You have the horizontal sites -- such as LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace -- which are like your broadcast TV stations (NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX). Although these sites have sub-groups and forums based on interest, they are designed to cater to a broader audience.
Fragmentation is occurring rapidly with vertical social networking sites that cater to the interests of specific niche audiences. These sites are just like niche programming on cable television.
The most recent social network entry is WePlay.com from Creative Artists Agency. Billed as a “Facebook for Young Athletes,” this site targets youth sport participants and their families.
Here’s a good story in the New York Times on the site and its big-name supporters, including the NBA’s Tony Parker and LeBron James, as well as MLB’s Derek Jeter.
Social Site's New Friends Are Athletes
By TIM ARANGO
Why the similar evolution of these distinct media? It’s simple…they are all advertising driven. And advertisers want to reach customers and prospects in the most targeted (and economical) way.
For public relations professionals, it’s critical that we tailor content to the specific needs of the social network or community we are seeking to engage. At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) we refer to this as social network engagement.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
When a college-aged intern named Kathryn at Qorvis Communications fired off an Email to TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington requesting information on how to purchase an article reprint little did she know that she was about to experience the untamed ugliness of the blogosphere.
Qorvis Gets Crunched
For the sake of full disclosure, Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) competes against Qorvis from time-to-time. I know one of their partners – Doug Poretz (http://www.qorvis.com/an_influential_firm/bios/poretz_d.html) – fairly well and think highly of him and the firm.
I’m also an avid TechCrunch reader. I find the reporting, insight and analysis of their bloggers to be helpful in understanding the market, its players and the trends.
After reviewing the comments and dialogue on CrunchNotes (http://www.crunchnotes.com/?p=449) I think there are a couple of important lessons learned from this situation:
1. Similar to media outreach and industry analyst relations, PR consultancies must task its experienced and well-trained staff with blogger relations. The traditional agency model of cowboying up a group of junior staffers for tactical execution has proven ineffective. Bloggers must be treated with the same professional respect and courtesy as other influencers. It’s not happening right now. Arrington notes in his comments the constant deluge of press releases TechCrunch receives from uninformed PR hacks.
2. Regardless of the diligence and professionalism PR representatives demonstrate, we have to journey into the blogosphere with a thick skin. There’s no peer review process as there is in traditional publishing organizations. To get cut-through, many bloggers rely on an emotional, combative stance.
3. Never pick a fight when challenged. It merely confers credibility to the blogger’s post or comments and keeps the issue relevant. It was a misstep for Qorvis’ Seth Thomas Pietras to go after Arrington on his own blog. He will never win that fight.
Seth Thomas Pietras, March 22, 2008
Congratulations for picking on and publicly humiliating a college intern who was giving you the courtesy of asking permission to use your content for our benefit. Given how dumb this issue is, I’m baffled at the extent to which you all have gone to attack this smart, capable young woman. I hope you feel great about yourselves. Have a great long weekend.
Seth Thomas Pietras
Mike Arrington, March 22, 2008
Assuming you are actually with Qorvis.
I’m not sure you understand the amount of time that firms like yours take up by throwing random crap - mostly press releases - our way. To then send yet more email that shows you don’t know that we are not a print publication is yet more time wasted.
I took the time to post this in the hope that PR firms will begin waste less of my time in the future. In that way, it is an investment.
It may very well be that your intern is smart and capable. Combine that with an ability to do a Google search before sending out emails like this, and you’ve got yourself a winner. A quick tutorial to your staff on what a blog is and isn’t might be a good idea too. Or, as a last resort, actually visit my site.
You did not request permission to use my content. I get requests like that occasionally and know what they look like. You asked for a reprint of an article, which print publications do. So, in addition to wasting my time, you are also a liar.
Finally, I am not humiliating your intern specifically. Her last name was removed. I am “attacking” your firm, not an individual. If you take this kind of liberty when you spin your clients - specifically twisting the facts and then injecting emotion into your message, I feel badly for them. They deserve competent and ethical representation.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
When launching a public relations initiative where should we prioritize bloggers in the order of outreach? Do we connect with them prior to industry analysts? How about the trade press?
These questions were top of mind last week as I participated in a brainstorming session with the Tellabs team at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic). We planned out tactics to support an announcement of research that points to dissatisfaction among telecommunications professionals about broadband availability in the United States.
New survey finds gaps in U.S. broadbandIndustry professionals dissatisfied with broadband availability and definition
A few days later I came across a post from Nick O’Neill of social media consultancy Capital Interactive bemoaning an undisclosed company for not informing him of news prior to distributing a press release.
Lesson Learned: Embrace Your Local Bloggers
“Personally, I felt side swiped when a local company that I have directly communicated on a regular basis decided to announce a press release without first privately announcing the news to local bloggers,” O’Neill writes. “…Cater to the desires of local bloggers and you will be handsomely rewarded. Go against them, and you immediately have the most vocal group of individuals in the community building negative press for you business.”
O’Neill (and any blogger who feels this way) needs to get a clue. For starters, publicly traded companies have to follow well defined SEC guidelines related to the announcement of news. It’s called fair disclosure.
Bloggers also need to recognize that while they are an important channel to the market, in many instances they are of equal or less significance than other influencers, including journalists, analysts, academics, think tanks, etc. It’s not a knock, merely an acknowledgment that a trade editor who has a readership base of thousands will often be of higher priority.
O’Neill’s contention that a blogger slighted will turn angry captures my biggest concern about the blogosphere: irrational thinking without the peer review process that defines quality journalism and analyst commentary.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Social communities fall into two categories. There are the horizontal networks such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn which provide an excellent platform to stay connected with important contacts, network and share information.
In fact, Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) recently introduced a fan page on Facebook for current staffers, alumni of the agency, prospective employees and other contacts. We plan on sharing much of the professional development content we develop with this important network via Facebook. Check it out at:
The second type of social community is more vertically oriented networks that cater to professionals in a specific industry or a specific discipline. I am an active participate in a number of these vertical communities comprised of marketing, corporate communications and PR professionals, including Gooruze, The Customer Collective and MyRagan.
I recently joined At the Roundtable, a social network aligned with trade magazine Brandweek. So far...so good. The membership is high-quality, and the content produced via blog posts, contributed articles, discussion boards, etc. is strong.
Here's a link in case you are interested in joining: http://attheroundtable.com/
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wherever people of similar interests congregate marketers are soon to follow. It happened with newspapers and radio. Then in the 1960s broadcast television ushered in the great era of advertising which was followed 25 years later by the proliferation of cable programming.
The requirement to segment an audience for targeting and tailoring of message is the driver of communications. Gender…cultural background…age…income…topics of interest...these demographics and considerations influence nearly $300 billion in advertising expenditures a year in the United States.
It’s no secret we are now in a midst of a sea-change in the media advertisers use to connect with customers and prospects. For instance, digital signage networks powered by vendors such as Microspace Communications (http://www.microspace.com) deliver interactive and promotional content to consumers in retail, health club and restaurant venues.
This type of new media appeals to advertisers because it affords the ability to target by demographics and interest, as well as to reach consumers when they are in the buying mood. Consider Instant Access Media’s i-am TV (http://www.i-am.tv) which broadcasts video programming via satellite to a network of high-definition TV's located in the country's highest-traffic sports and neighborhood bars.
The Internet has proven to be the advertisers’ channel of choice in this era of new media. The numbers certainly prove this out. According to research firm Global Insight (http://www.globalinsight.com/), Internet advertising expenditures in 2007 reached $21 billion. While this remains shy of the $46 billion spent on broadcast television, Internet ad buys increased 26 percent this past year while TV dropped nearly two percent.
Moreover, Internet advertising expenditures are now greater than radio ($19 billion), as well as magazines and trade journals combined ($18 billion).
What does this shift in media preference mean for public relations professionals? We have to follow the advertising dollars, delivering content through the Internet and other channels of new media to extend awareness and generate third-party credibility.
It’s the credibility requirement that presents the challenge because in the new media environment PR cannot rely on journalists and industry analysts to validate positioning and messaging. At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we have learned that creativity in communications is paramount and can be delivered in a number of ways:
1. Development of crisp, concise press releases written in an editorial format with carefully selected key words for Web searchability. My colleague Chris Parente (http://cparente.wordpress.com/) wrote an article last year explaining why the press release is more important than ever to help companies connect with key stakeholders.
Call Off the Funeral, the Press Release is Alive and Well
2. Ongoing participation in social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc. through the development of a comprehensive profile, maintenance of an extensive list of contacts and participation in groups of interest.
3. Creation of “personalized” social networks using Web platforms like Ning, Flux or Bumpzee to engage with key audiences and promote thought leadership. Examples of vendor-created communities with influence include InMobile.org and The Customer Collective.
The tenets of public relations remain constant regardless the media. It’s about dialogue and discussion rather than merely promotion. That’s how you build credibility and why PR is an important complement to any advertising program.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I have good news! Using social media tools like Twitter conference participants can provide real-time feedback to speakers and panelists about the relevance and interest of their presentation.
I have bad news! Using social media tools like Twitter conference participants can provide real-time feedback to speakers and panelists about the relevance and interest of their presentation.
Business Week columnist Sarah Lacy got splattered with online tomatoes at the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival when her interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg failed to meet the expectations of the audience. They wanted to hear from Zuckerberg on issues such as trust, privacy and accessibility to software developers. Lacy focused her questions on his age and the company’s $15B valuation from Microsoft.
Rather than merely sit in torment, attendees fired up their cell phones and posted thoughts using Twitter. It led to an uncomfortable presentation and resulted in Facebook scheduling a follow-on session for attendees with Zuckerberg, minus Lacy.
The good news: this type of interaction, dialogue and engagement with an audience is at the very core of effective public relations. That’s how you build credibility and, ultimately, relationships with those who can influence the success of your business.
The bad news: public relations professionals are now challenged with monitoring audience feedback in near real-time and responding in rapid fashion.
At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we do a tremendous amount of prep work helping our clients prepare for conference speaking and panel presentations. What happens if we learn mid-stream a client presentation is falling flat?
Welcome to Conference 2.0
Monday, March 10, 2008
Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) is fortunate to be working on a corporate positioning and awareness campaign for government integration and services firm Altron. As part of our efforts, we've launched an executive blog for the company's new president, Mike Zaramba.
The initial post is an excellent read on how entrepreneurial-focused integrators in the public sector must strive to create a culture of opportunity for its employees.
Perspective: Executive Blog from Altron's Mike Zaramba
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I have to admit that I’ve had women on my mind this past week. It started on Tuesday when I read about Ask.com’s decision to reposition itself as the search engine of choice for married women living in the southern and mid-western part of the United States.
Ask.com seeks makeover as women's site
While I am all for focus and targeting the needs of a specific audience, I find Ask.com’s decision laughable. It’s too niche. Granted, the company’s roots are in helping people find answer to basic questions about recipes, hobbies, entertainment and health. (Remember the Ask Jeeves Butler icon?)
However, Ask.com has effectively reduced the size of its addressable market to a fraction of its competitors. That can’t be good for the company’s valuation. And considering the $2.3B InteractiveCorp laid out to buy Ask in 2005 I suspect they have written this off as a failure.
Next up was the New York Times article on Wowowow.com, a new site for women over 40. This company has some serious start power involved, including CBS News’ Lesley Stahl, and entertainers Candice Bergen, Whoopi Goldberg and Lilly Tomlin.
Will it find an audience? If the content is good it has a shot. Will it make money? That’s another question. There is tremendous competition for online advertising dollars.
Boldface in Cyberspace: It’s a Woman’s Domain
New York Times
And finally, I had a spirited conversation with my colleague Shany Seawright about the discrepancy in compensation among men and women in the public relations industry. According to a recent survey in PR Week magazine, men get paid a whole lot more for the same work.
It is unfortunate, yet something I don’t think about for a moment when hiring and compensating at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic). We are very lucky to have three incredibly talented women on our senior team. Each of their compensation plans are based on their performance against a mutually agreed upon set of objectives. Just like everyone else at the agency.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
About two years ago Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) implemented a flexible work policy for a majority of its professional staff. More than a work from home program, our approach is to empower employees to work where they want and when they want, using the results they produce and client responsiveness as benchmarks to evaluate performance.
For us, this has been a home run decision. I believe it has helped Strategic recruit and retain exceptional performers, establish relationships with a set of consultants who deliver tremendous value to our clients, and (most important) given each of us a healthier work/family balance.
We have also picked up a myriad of lessons learned along the way, including:
--Align the company’s business model and infrastructure (i.e. technology, office space, etc.) to be consistent with a flexible work environment.
--Identify the skill sets and personality traits a person must have to be successful in this environment, and then recruit accordingly.
--Require face-to-face interaction among client teams on a monthly basis to spur creativity and collaboration.
--Invest time and resources in professional development programs, including guest speakers, seminar attendance, book clubs, etc.
--Utilize social media as a platform to facilitate relationship building. Strategic’s Facebook fan page is a recent example (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Silver-Spring-MD/Strategic-Communications-Group/11060295377?ref=mf)
My expectation was that in time more companies would embrace a flexible work environment as a means of creating an environment in which employees are best set up for success. Imagine my surprise when I came across a recent Wall Street Journal article that reported on how a number of organizations were actually reducing the flexibility they offer employees, citing a need for greater collaboration and mentoring.
While I understand the rationale, I believe AT&T, Intel and HP are making a poor decision. Yes…it takes work, effort and investment to build culture, collaboration and mentoring in a flexible work environment.
It’s absolutely worth it though. Trust in high-quality professionals and the results are exciting.
Some Companies Rethink the Telecommuting Trend
Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Corporate marketing executives often acknowledge their inability to clearly measure the return on investment from their programs. That’s why there is a cliché in the industry that half of the marketing budget wasted. The problem is no one knows which half.
This is especially true when it comes to a company’s participation at a major industry conference or trade show. There are lots of costs, including the purchase of space, development of a booth and signage, marketing and sales collateral materials, and on-site advertising and sponsorships to draw traffic. Then there are the employee-related expenses incurred from travel and hotel, as well as the time to staff the booth.
The budget required for participation at even a modest-sized conference can easily top six figures. Even for such a significant spend, the return often remains fuzzy. Yet, the opportunities for lead generation, networking and branding presented at trade shows make the marketing investment a must-spend for most companies. It is just rare for a majority of an industry to come together in a single location.
This trade show conundrum was top of mind recently when I spent a few days at Access Intelligence’s Satellite 2008 industry conference (http://www.satellitetoday.com/satellite2008/) in Washington, DC. Despite the overall economic softness, providers of satellite technologies, services and products are faring quite well. The number of exhibitors and attendees was up, and the calendar was filled with interesting panel discussions during the day and vendor-sponsored networking events at night.
All of this activity created a challenging environment for an exhibitor to achieve its objectives at the conference, thereby realizing a measurable ROI. I spoke with a number of marketing and sales executives to learn what tactics they employed to make Satellite 2008 a smart investment for their company.
Even at big shows, think small. While a trade show allows a company to reach a broad segment of the market in a single location, it’s critical to personalize messaging for each high-value prospect in attendance. The weeks leading up to the conference present an ideal opportunity for sales executives to contact targets to invite them to visit the booth or, even better, arrange for one-on-one meetings.
At Satellite 2008, Ken Siegel, sales director at satellite services firm Knight Sky, LLC (http://www.knight-sky.com/), booked six prospect and partner meetings at the conference through his pre-show outreach.
View a conference as a platform to make a major announcement. We often tell our privately-held clients that a contract win, product launch or significant executive hire is only news when you choose to announce it. Trade shows present the ideal venue to issue a press release as it’s possible to increase analyst and media interest via in-person meetings.
Give a lot of consideration before deciding on a formal press conference though. Journalists often have meetings throughout the day and just don’t have the bandwidth to attend a group briefing.
Define a plan to qualify booth traffic. I typically take a few hours at every conference I attend to walk the exhibit hall. It gives me a chance to learn about new products and technologies on the market. Rarely am I a qualified prospect though. However, most corporate representatives are content to rattle on for 10 to 15 minutes without asking me a qualifying question, such as “what do you do?”
Exhibitors should train its staff to quickly assess who presents themselves at the booth. Prospects and partners get time and attention. Competitors, wanderers and mouse pad collectors get a brochure.
Be everywhere…without the spend. A number of companies at Satellite 2008 did an exceptional job leveraging partners to increase their own visibility. Thrane & Thrane (http://www.thrane.com/), a satellite terminal manufacturer, invested in their own booth and a hospitality suite. Yet, it was their display of product and demos with distributors that elevated their presence. I counted Thrane terminals showcased in about a half dozen booths.
Promote your corporate thought leaders. Most conferences offer a myriad of speaking and panel opportunities to exhibitors and industry experts. Public relations representatives should be on the phone with the conference organizers months in advance to offer up executives.
There are also typically one or two speakers who cancel at the last minute. Make a call a week before the show to see if you can slot an executive in to a recently opened spot on the conference agenda.
Finally, once a presentation opportunity is secured the prep work is more than pulling together a few Powerpoint slides. Will the conference organizers let a panel discussion be videotaped? It’s worth asking as that content makes for an excellent YouTube video to share with prospects who couldn’t attend the show.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Guess who first disclosed in February that Wal-Mart planned to stock only high-definition DVDs and players using the Blu-ray format, rather than the rival HD DVD system (a decision that effectively killed HD DVD). Was it a journalist? Analyst? Industry blogger?
Nope…it was Wal-Mart’s own blog, written by mid-level staffers without management or legal oversight.
Wal-Mart Tastemakers Write an Unfiltered Blog
New York Times
While social media advocates will cheer the company for its candor and customers may benefit from the honest assessment of product quality, I find this decision by Wal-Mart to be reckless and wrought with risk.
Wal-Mart is damaging its distributors and suppliers by allowing often uninformed staffers to pass judgment on products. How did these offerings get selected for shelf space to begin with?
If a product doesn't sell than by all means remove it from the store. However, you have to give it a chance. It just makes no sense for Wal-Mart to select a product for its stores and then stand by passively while an employee rips it on a blog.
I applaud Wal-Mart for embracing social media as a channel to engage the market. Just set some baseline rules for employees to follow. And make one of those rules not to stick it to the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers you maintain a business relationship with.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Public relations professionals have historically measured the success of their programs in several media-centric ways:
1. Advertising equivalency evaluations: the value of our coverage if we would have purchased it as advertising.
2. Share of voice: how much ink we received in comparison to a company’s competitors and how that has trended over time.
While it remains smart to evaluate media coverage as part of a program’s assessment, there also needs to be the recognition that the most important drivers of business success – lead generation and sales – are now greatly determined by Web search.
Public relations results, whether they are traditional press coverage, industry analyst commentary and/or social media, can positively impact a company’s rank via Google or Yahoo. The more content about a company on the Web with the right key words, the better the search results.
At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) we have begun to include pre- and post-campaign Web search evaluations as part of our assessment methodology. What key words should we use though? Do we rely on our clients to tell us what they think? Or is there a way we can more scientifically identify the right words to incorporate into our PR activities?
Here are two services worth checking out and, if appropriate, recommending to your clients. There’s a cost associated with each, but they do offer free trials.
Posted by Marc Hausman at 12:21 PM