Image courtesy of Zimbio.com
By Erin Rohr
At 2 p.m. on July 6, President Obama went where no president has gone before. He stepped into the East Room of the White House and went directly to the podium to address the United States. However, instead of looking out to a live audience such as at a traditional town hall meeting, he turned to his computer screen, pressed a button and went live to millions via Twitter.
Anyone, anywhere could login to Twitter, use the hashtag #askobama and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and executive chairman, would ask the President to respond. While Obama was answering questions, a video of the meeting and every tweet streamed live on the official Town Hall website. The White House had three objectives for the meeting:
Amplify the president’s message by making it available in new spaces.
Make the White House more accessible to people by answering their questions.
Increase participation in government by using different venues.
Many political experts expect social media to have an impact on the 2012 presidential election. Several Republican Party candidates participated remotely during the first-ever Twitter debate on July 20. And it doesn’t stop there. Facebook recently announced a partnership with NBC News for a presidential debate just before the New Hampshire primaries. Twitter is also considering something similar.
Politicians are beginning to use social media for campaigning purposes, but they are just getting started. Anyone from university presidents to J.J Foley’s bar in Boston now use social media to connect with their audiences, so why not politicians? It’s a risky move considering the potential repercussions of these public conversations, but politicians are following the innovative and creative lead of the private sector. As citizens engage with their leaders on social media, it will likely force politicians to be more accountable for their commitment to serve.
Do you think social media will make the difference between winners and losers in the 2012 election?
In early July, our Boston PR firm read a blog by Rodger Johnson on Get Social PR, “Public Relations Professionals: Should PR Interns Pitch To The Media.” It was based on Johnson’s participation in a poll regarding whether or not interns should be relied upon to pitch to the media and perform other daily PR tasks. The blogger concludes that, “…agency owners and corporate communication managers should bring their interns into the inner circle. Teach them what they know, let them fail and make those mistakes teaching moments...”
In the past, PR agencies have been wary of letting interns participate in more high-level pitching activities because clients want the agencies’ best people on their accounts. However, times have changed. We believe that everyone, no matter what his or her experience level, has something to offer our clients. Experience has proven this philosophy.
Metis is a big believer in the Northeastern University cooperative education program (co-op). In fact, that’s exactly how I met Metis’ founders, Cathy Caldeira and Courtney Hurst, when I was a co-op student more than 10 years ago. Every six months, Metis welcomes new students for 40 hours a week to learn the ways of the trade, and we are committed to putting these interns on the path to becoming PR pros. If it weren’t for actually performing daily PR activities, these interns wouldn’t be as successful when they graduate.
We’ve taught all of our co-op students the tricks of the trade, sent them out into the world for others to benefit from our training, and also have hired several full-time. Most of these Metis alums have developed relationships with reporters and industry influencers in their six months here and understand what it takes to be successful when they leave.
Results talk. If an agency is producing results, exceeding expectations and serving as a true partner to a client’s organization, does it really matter if an intern is participating on the account?
I have been a fan of summer reading lists since I was assigned The Pearl by John Steinbeck in eighth grade. As I got older and really embraced my geekdom, I substituted the required reading for series of books like the Lord of the Rings trilogy or George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. One of my favorite "series" of books is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, although I admit I never read another one after I finished the second book, Speaker for the Dead.
As a token nerd girl, I often try to merge my extreme love of sci fi, comics and fantasy fiction into the world of business, wondering how I would fare if the existence of the human race depended upon my leadership. I always turn to Ender's Game, which can be an essential text for managers and sci-fi fans alike.
Card’s plot hinges on a war of the worlds between humans and “buggers” in which a brilliant child is humanity’s last hope. The themes, though, are all about management. Among them are these lessons:
1. It’s lonely at the top. Suck it up.
From the moment the military identifies six-year-old Ender Wiggins as the genius for whom they have waited, he is isolated. Ender is often lonely as he rises through the ranks of child warriors. He occasionally laughs with his peers. He earns their respect. But he remains apart from them, and he finally accepts this is how it must be. He is not an average soldier, and he cannot succeed as commander if he acts as if he were.
2. Give your soldiers room to fail or excel on their own.
Ender observes soldiers’ innate abilities and puts them in positions in which they should shine. Then, he lets them succeed or fail on their own merits. This builds their self-confidence and allows Ender to focus on strategy, rather than micromanaging every tactical decision.
3. Lower the stakes. (Spoiler alert.)
It’s a lot easier for inexperienced but talented people to flourish when they feel there is room for failure. If they fear a misstep will bring about the end of the world, they are likely to avoid the kind of risk-taking that can lead to greatness. Ender ultimately triumphs because he believes he is playing a war game, not fighting the battle that could obliterate humankind.
4. Management by manipulation is weak management.
Ender is the younger brother of two genius siblings whose styles of managing peers, adults and society differ greatly from his own. His older brother manages by fear, identifying weakness and exploiting it. His sister manages by flattery, praising people in order to manipulate them. While both siblings attain success, they never meet the standard Ender sets to succeed and build capable support teams.
Despite the strange dreams it inspires, Ender’s Game is instructive for any manager who aspires to create a successful, empowered corporate army.
Do you take your management cues from unlikely sources? Share one with us.
We often run into clients who approach social media as simply a numbers game — how many followers do I have, and how many people like my brand on Facebook? But research suggests that fewer than 20 percent of visitors who like a business page on Facebook return
after taking that action. To effectively market via social media, brands have to be just that: social. Social media marketing is about how active and engaged your fans and followers are, rather than how many you have.
Don’t get me wrong; it is great to have high numbers in these metrics. But would you rather have 50 fans with whom you interact, who buy your products, re-tweet your tweets, and provide reviews of your products, or 500 inactive fans who provide no ROI? Fan and follower numbers have little financial impact if you are solely broadcasting promotions at them over social media. You must create a relationship with your fans; if you provide thought leadership and interact with them, ROI will follow.
A good way to measure engagement is through shares, inbound links, blog comments, and similar metrics. But just as relationships take effort to cultivate, so does social media engagement. Have patience; it takes time for people to become socially invested in your brand.
So next time a client tells you he wants more followers and fans, ask him why. Does the client know what impact (or lack thereof) these metrics have, or does he just want to top a competitor? Converting fans and followers into purchasers through true engagement yields far better results. How do you approach authentic engagement on social media?
As I agonize over what to bring to the company potluck next week, I am struck by the similarities between such a meal and today’s PR environment. Gone are the days when clients feasted from a set menu at a fixed price. Today’s clients can pick and choose from a wide buffet of options, allowing them to customize their programs with ease.
In this environment, there are a few rules that are as important to PR planning as they are to potluck preparation: Determine if any of the items are against your dietary restrictions.
Are there programs that would be fattening to your budget? Content creation, for example, can be a rich dish unless there is already a wealth of existing material that can do the job.Don’t be a hog. As with all meals, make sure you balance your plate with a variety of dishes. If you take a heaping serving of media relations and nothing else, you will miss out on components that could help you reach your goals.
Don’t be stingy, either. To leave with a full belly, you have to eat, and to meet your company’s marketing goals, you have to invest time and effort. Without the proper support from executives, programs rarely achieve their objectives.
Contribute to the feast. Your expertise and direction will make the PR program that much more effective. You have to be committed to working with your PR firm – treat it as part of your in-house marketing team.
Do you have a PR potluck rule? Add one to the list.
In PR, there is never really such a thing as logging-off. To provide our clients with the best possible service, we have to be in the know when it comes to trends, relationships, action items and even the best places to grab a bite to eat. Luckily, there are some great apps out there to help us stay organized and in control no matter in what situation we find ourselves. Here are a few of my favorites:Hashable
– This app takes all the best business features from your favorite social networks -- like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook -- and puts them all right at your fingertips. It allows you to easily manage and update your contacts, keep track of people you just met and provide introductions for others via e-mail and Twitter.Say What?
– Stay on top of the latest trends, no matter where you are. Say What? Takes your selected keywords and scans Twitter, Digg, blogs and forums and provides you with ongoing updates.Evernote
– This is a great tool to help you stay on top of important tasks on those days when all you do is go from meeting to meeting. With Evernote, you can create text notes, snap shots and voice recordings that you can review later to make sure you didn’t miss anything.Flipboard
– This app easily organizes your favorite media outlets, Twitter groups and social media feeds and delivers all the updates to your phone in an easy-to-read magazine-style format. You can even share articles and provide comments, so you never feel like you are out of the loop.Urbanspoon
– If you are on-the-go and need to entertain clients or media contacts, just shake your phone and Urbanspoon provides restaurant suggestions for your area. Keep shaking until you find a restaurant you’d like to try.
In May, Metis celebrated its six-year anniversary – a big milestone for some of us who have been with the company for many years. To celebrate, we headed to New Orleans, where our two co-founders attended Loyola University New Orleans
, or as we say, “Where it all began.”
Some of our team members had never been to New Orleans before, so it was a great opportunity to see the city, eat some gumbo, listen to some jazz
, and let loose.
What are the business benefits of a work-free retreat? Well:
- Celebrate success and long-standing relationships. For companies lucky enough to employ amazing people, it is a privilege to celebrate anniversaries and milestones with those who made it happen. Take the time to reward yourself and your employees, and prepare for the work that will go into reaching the next milestone.
- Honor beginnings. It’s important to look back on how things began. By returning to New Orleans, our team was able to visit the stomping grounds that are an integral part of our founders’ history and the source of the PR ideals, beliefs and values of our company.
- Offer services. When we weren’t eating and drinking all that marvelous city had to offer, we stopped by Loyola Professor Dr. Cathy Rogers’ PR class, which was about to compete in the nationwide Bateman Case Study Competition. We offered advice, criticism and well wishes. (Congrats to the team for placing second!)
- Expand horizons and experience new cultures. We were so thankful to experience the music, food, heritage, history and architecture of NOLA. Traveling to new places and expanding cultural views helps build stronger teams. When you escape the daily office minutia, bonds form over shared experiences and inside jokes, only increasing employee loyalty and dedication.
- Be thankful. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Your employees will be forever thankful to you for creating new memories and honoring their hard work. (Please consider this our cheesy “thank you” to Metis’ very generous founders. )
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to work fewer hours in a business where you need to be available 24/7? For some of us PR flacks, it takes 10 to 13 hours per day to cater to clients, speak with the media, mediate calls and e-mails, write content and deal with company crises. Well, last month, Aimee Groth at Business Insider delivered a perfect overview of how to work fewer hours and still be successful in her article, “Why Successful People Leave Work Early
I’ve learned that one of my strengths that clients, colleagues and contacts respect and rely on is my quick responsiveness and ability to get things done in a timely manner. But Groth writes that in order to leave work early and still be successful, you need to stop checking your e-mail every two minutes and answering every phone call. She writes, “according to a study published in the Psychological Review conducted by Dr. K. Anders Ericcson, the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time. Then give yourself a break before getting back to work.” This approach is also cited in Timothy Ferriss’ New York Times bestseller, “The 4-Hour Work Week.” He discusses how 80 percent of outputs come from 20 percent of inputs.
Can that be true? I actually think so given the research behind this philosophy. In fact, one marketing professional, Pete Williams of Preneur Group, confirms this with a sea of case study testimonials he mentions during a video
Therefore, my goal for the next year is to embrace this theory and live by the following tips for working less while remaining effective:
- Beat distractions and focus
- Stop procrastinating
- Keep meetings to 15 minutes
- Leverage technology and strong industry relationships
- Be accessible but not psycho about responding
Who’s with me?