Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creativity, Unexpected

My introductory sales pitch to a prospective client touches on the corporate attributes that define Strategic Communications Group (Strategic).  I like to keep things to a set of three which, in this case, include:

--Focus on a core set of client relationships;
--Commitment to work/life balance for employees; and
--Passionate pursuit of creativity in the development of social media marketing programs.

I had an interesting response last week from the director of communications at a mid-tier, publicly traded company in the Washington, DC area.  It went something like this:

“Creativity in communications can mean lots of different things in marketing.  Ask an ad agency and they’ll tell you its work that profiles and differentiates the brand.  A PR firm will say it’s an approach that produces a feature article.  A Web shop may say it is the use of hip new widget.  What does creativity mean to you?”

I fumbled the response a bit and, admittedly, over answered the question.  It’s not that I don’t know.  It was more of an issue that I had never been asked that question directly.

So, after a few days of contemplation I went back to the communications director with a simple thought – in social media, creativity is presenting the expected in an unexpected way.

Here are two examples:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding the Supportive Path

I’m fortunate to have such positive and productive relationships with my colleagues at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic).

Yet, I am not a friend or a cheerleader.  I don’t spew inspirational quotes.  And there is no gold star at the end of the day for a job well done.

That’s because I respect each of my colleagues professionally.  My job is to create an environment in which they are each set up for success, and be clear and consistent about expectations for performance.

It is then up to each individual to define and deliver on their own career path.  For the truly talented, this empowerment is motivation enough.

However, it is absolute requirement for me to be publicly supportive and stand behind each of my colleagues in client interactions.  Any disagreement I may have is shared in private for their consideration.

I raise this last point because of an article I recently read about a talk given by former Washington, DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee.  Lamenting the failure of the US educational system to adequately prepare children for a globally competitive world, Rhee placed much of the blame on parents who tell their kids they are great when they aren’t.

“My two girls play soccer, yet they suck at soccer,” Rhee said, as her young daughters sat mortified in the audience. 

Referring to the trophies and medals they’ve received for participation, Rhee continued, “We are so concerned with making children feel good about themselves.  But, we haven’t put in the time to make them good at anything.  We’ve managed to build a sense of complacency with our children.”

While I actually agree with Rhee’s contention about the harm done by this “everyone is a winner mentality”, I do take issue with the humiliation she chose to dump on her own daughters.

What possible purpose could that serve?  Will it make them tougher?  Inspire them to succeed?

Probably not.

The challenge in management is to find the path that allows you to be supportive, yet still set realistic expectations related to performance and professional growth.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Say "No" to Spray and Pray

The "spray and pray" methodology that has long defined media relations has gained a following in the world of social media marketing.  I've included below an Email that slipped its way through Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) spam filter.

I'm an ardent believer in the importance of promoting content created for distribution via social channels.  Yet, it has to be thought-leadership oriented (rather than promotional) and, equally important, relevant to the members of a targeted community.

Yes...that takes work, as well as an understanding of the needs of key audiences.

Apparently, Lee Somerstein doesn't like to put in much effort on behalf of his clients.  I don't smoke cigars or use any tobacco products, so I'm obviously not a member of any relevant online communities.

To me, this is spam.



Watch this video. At the end, you'll find out how you can get 20% off on your entire purchase at Rain City Cigar. This offer is limited to NEW CUSTOMERS so, if you've been in before, bring a cigar-smoking friend. And, join us this afternoon for our HUGE GENERAL CIGAR EVENT.
Lee Somerstein
CEO, Somerstein Communications
Creating Social Media Marketing Magic

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life as a Communications Hybrid

I've had a few new industry articles published this week, including the premiere of my "Executive Style" column for WashingtonExec magazine.  Please take a read at the links below when you have a moment.
Am I blogger?  A social media power user?  A journalist?  Some sort of hybrid?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter much.  Focus on producing content that engages, educates and entertains, and then utilize a mix of channels of communication to reach your most important audiences. 

WashingtonExec Magazine (August 2011)
By Marc Hausman, Strategic Communications Group
Many C-level executives consider their participation in charitable and community groups as important to the success of their company as any executive responsibility.  Whether it’s a board position, fundraising or event coordination, the active support of a well chosen not-for-profit enhances their own professional reputation, as well as the visibility of their company. 

Although these activities may comprise a compelling business ROI, the motivation for community and charitable giving has to be genuine and, in most instances, personal.  That’s certainly true for Iron Bow Technologies’ CEO Rene LaVigne. 

Washington Business Journal (August 2011)
By Marc Hausman, Strategic Communications Group

It is important to incorporate barriers to entry in your business strategy, and then articulate those barriers to the market through traditional and emerging channels of communication.  Fail to do so and you’ll possibly sacrifice sales, profitability, and corporate or product valuation.  Here are a few best practices worth considering.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One Candidate's Refreshingly Unexpected Approach

The vast majority of corporate and product communications are plagued by a lack of originality and creativity in their execution.

Take a stroll across the Web or flip through a magazine, wait 20 minutes and then take a stab at jotting down the names of companies that advertised.  It’s not so easy, right?

This me-too promotional mentality is prevalent in how individuals market themselves to prospective employers.  The methodology is typically a vanilla cover letter married up with a nondescript resume.

The candidate forces the hiring manager to do all of the work to determine if there’s a potential fit.  This is OK in a robust hiring environment with four percent unemployment. 

Yet, in today’s market with near double digit unemployment, blending in with a jostling crowd of wannabes is no way to win a coveted position.

Last week, a friend who is a senior hiring manager for an expanding business services company forwarded me a cover note from a potential hire that was refreshingly unexpected.  Whether you love or hate the approach, it garners attention and, in this case, resulted in a phone request for an interview.


20) I have successfully managed up to 28 salespeople.

19) I have a very high closing rate.

18) I'm very spontaneous, my great grandmother was Lizzie Borden.

17) I treat people the way that I want to be treated.

16) I have taken courses conducted by Tom Hopkins and Anthony Robbins.

15) Southwest is my favorite airline, I sill think the pilots and flight attendants are stoned.

14) I speak numerous languages including Cambridge lockjaw.

13) I workout (I have a six pack, it's in the fridge).

12) I'm never on time to work because I always arrive early.

11) I have two older sisters and have the scars to prove it (think of Tom Berenger in "Platoon").

10) I know the difference between there, their and they're AND too, to and two! as well as Rosanna, David, Alexis, Lewis and Patricia Arquette.

9) I have strong marketing experience.

8) Robert De Niro is my favorite actor (YOU TALKING TO ME!!!!!!).

7) I have never been arrested (well there was that time when I wore a yellow bandana in my back pocket).

6) I'm not on any type of medication except for Flinstones chewables, I love eating Dino.

5) I have had a return of investment ratio of 12 to 1.

4) I am a model in my spare time, a model citizen that is (we are in high demand).

3) My favorite comedy is Terms of Endearment, that Debra Winger is hilarious.

2) I have over twenty years of sales and sales management experience.

1) We are going to make a massive amount of money together.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Reliving the Dashed Dreams of Days Gone By

The Wall Street Journal just published an article about the boom now sweeping through the Silicon Valley’s public relations community as Web 2.0 start-ups clamor for market attention.  Some PR consultants are even back to accepting equity as payment for their services. 

This is pure craziness.  It’s absolute lunacy.  Good heavens… it's officially 1999!    

Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) went been down this path a decade ago.  We represented such dot com darlings as, OnScreen Interactive, and aTelo. 

Never again!  If a company cannot explain in plain English their business model and how they generate revenue, they are not in a position to derive value from any external communications activity.

Why these Web 2.0s may seem exciting, most represent unsustainable business for any public relations shop.  I know exactly where this ends because I’ve lived it -- broken hearts and unpaid invoices.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ZDNet's Tom Foremski Misses the Mark on Corporate Social Adoption

Ah…another cry for social media as merely a channel for listening, conversation and community.  Of course, it’s written by someone who has no revenue generation or profit and loss responsibilities.

ZDNet's Tom Foremski recent blog post "Social media is not corporate media" presents an idealistic, yet completely unsustainable view of how corporations should view their social participation.  He refers to organizations that actually attempt to derive a measurable return as merely creating some form of “mutant corporate media.”

Wrong…wrong…wrong!  What Foremski fails to grasp is that companies typically allocate budget and then maintain funding for activities that contribute to top-line revenue growth, profitability and/or cost control. 

This notion of social media as some sort of soft, relationship building vehicle with no measurable outcome is far-fetched.

My colleague and partner Chris Parente offers an insightful comment to Foremski’s column, which I have included below.

Chris’ thoughts are a lot kinder than my take:  “Hey Tom, go run a business line at ZDNet and be held accountable for meeting financial goals.  Then you can present a more realistic view of corporate social engagement.”  

Good points but some caveats
Tom -- good post. I can't disagree with anything you've said -- companies still think control, don't listen enough, and there sure are some smarmy, self-proclaimed experts out there who somehow get companies to pay them.
All that said, in the b2b and b2g worlds I live in, projects need to demonstrate some kind of quantifiable ROI to get funded. Period. Naked conversations that don't lead to anything won't cut it. My engagements are always more quality than quantity plays, so that no doubt helps.

If a client can publish truly interesting content on a regular basis (with my help of course), express an opinion, respond to comments and build an audience, there's nothing wrong with trying to appropriately monetize that audience.

Some successful tactics my agency has employed include off-line events, registration required content and social media mapping that moves a prospect through the sales tunnel.