Making Your Community Relations Play

Community relations needs to be a large part of any overall communication campaign, whether you’re working in politics, corporate PR, nonprofit or association communications.

If you’re going to be serious about community relations, you have to be involved in your community (online or offline) long before you actually need them. You’re working to build up community capital that you can cash in later when you need your community to back your proposal. If you’re a local civic leader, you can even beat back the threat of being fired with enough community support.

But like anything worth doing it takes time and hard work.

Community relations isn’t like a spigot – you can’t just turn it on and have goodwill come flooding out. It takes time – venturing out to meet with members of your community, and not just your immediate community, but across a geographical and demographic layer beyond your comfort zone. You have to go to their local summer BBQ’s, shaking hands and kissing babies, much like the best politicians.

You have to be involved in local governmental affairs. You can’t imagine the importance of good relations with local officials when you are trying to work on your university’s master plan, or building support for a Bond Campaign.

If you work at a school, college or university, your job is supposed to be easier. You should have departments dedicated to building bridges to communities. Parent Associations. Alumni Departments. PTAs for K-12. School Spirit Organizations. They are out there. You have to give them reasons to support you. Involving yourself with them matters.

How do you do this?

Continue reading “Making Your Community Relations Play”

From the Archives – “Bigger Boobs Through Social Media?”

If you are interested in social media, and learning how to get started or engage more in this burgeoning online media-sphere, then you have probably run across quite a few stories/blogpieces/ads pimping how “You Can Get 10,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days!” or “You Too Can Become a Facebook Gawd!!1!!” and other such nonsense.  To me these are nothing more than just the latest “How To Get Bigger Boobs Through Social Media”-esque BS lures to remove you from your money or time (both of which are important).

A lot of these try to latch onto our need to be recognized, to be acknowledged quickly for our brilliance – and claim to provide a quick, “gimme gimme gimme now” fix to achieving this. Like most things in life and business, working in social media is going to require a lot of patience, time, strategic planning and hard work.

One of the big ideas these “plans” leave out – especially important if you are a business owner or corporate type – is the need for some kind of merging of your strategy between social media and communications. Social media are great tools for building additional communications and increasing your community outreach/developing a community relations platform, but they will never really replace your communications/pr strategy.  They can help augment it, but your social media outlets are really one more avenue to communicate with people, and need their own strategy to . But you need to have a firm strategy in place before you really jump in and drown in all the noise out there.

At the end of the day you’re not going to land 10,000 followers in a month, nor are you going to achieve deitific bliss on Facebook or – Buddha forgive – MySpace. As with most things in life, you need to work at it and show patience. Engage with your target audiences, look at the strategy you have developed – what do you want to say to them? What goals are you hoping to achieve? Why are you writing or recording?

From the Archives – PR Firms as “News Stations?”

(Originally written March 10, 2010 – crossposted at PR Open Mic)
Why aren’t Public Relations firms more effectively using new media tools to create their own “news stations,” reporting on what their clients are doing? As long as those firms fulfill government requirements for disclosure regarding clients/freebies/etc., it makes sense to create content to their client’s advantage.

Now this might seem to run counter to what I’ve said recently about the importance of companies taking control of their own social media messaging. It is important for your organization to create its own social media content, especially blogging and video work. But if you have a PR firm on contract, then you should let the firm showcase its content on their own blog.  It not only promotes the firm (and you as a client of the firm), it’s additional information about your organization that can be picked up by Google searches.

Why and how should a firm set up an online newsroom?

  • It’s like setting up any other blog, with categories and/or pages for each client, and using tags for subcategories.
  • With a WordPress theme like Thesis, and/or an SEO plug in like you’re posts about each client will also appear in an SEO-friendly format
  • Firms usually give the responsibility of creating basic content (press releases, story pitches, etc) to younger assistant account executives. Also put them in charge of creating the social media content as it relates to your clients.
  • Give these junior AE’s ownership of promoting their client on your Firm’s News Blog. This helps them to develop the needed social media skills for the changing PR sphere.
  • Firms should let their Account Executives promote this material to the media, especially the media in smaller communities where local news outlets might have suffered most from the recent economic crunch.

And as long as they follow some SEO rules (keeping in mind that SEO might become secondary from this point on, falling to more organic social connections) PR firms will be able to drive more online searches not just to their client’s site, but to their own as well, which can help in getting more business. (Since the firm can show potential new clients that they are able to work outside the traditional media, or even the recurring idea of “blogger relations”)

Now what do you think? Should more firms take the lead in developing their own news outlet for client and firm news? Or should they spend more time working with the traditional media?

Using the Message Matrix in Communications – An Overview

Political season is well upon us in the United States (for my International readers, both of you, you might find this interesting as well) and one of the tried-and-true keys to developing a message in a political/issues campaign quickly is to use a message matrix.

A message matrix lets you set up a grid and take a look at your situation and helps you answer the following questions:

1. What can your opponents/activists/competition say about your organization/product/etc?

2. What can your opponents/activists/competition say about themselves?

3. What can your organization say about itself/product/etc.?

4. What can your organization say about your opponents/activists/competition?

A basic message matrix

 

When you take the time to sit down and look at your matrix, this is the time you need to take a critical look at your organization and your competition. Be honest with your organization’s strengths and weakness, and develop your potential messages accordingly. As a part of the message box, you might want to conduct a SWOT and/or PESTLE analysis, depending on your time.

If you look at your competition or activist groups in advance, a message matrix can help you organize your thoughts as you prepare questions, responses and talking points before you need them. It’s always good to show the executive leadership you’re prepared in advance for any media problems they might run into. It can also help you determine those messages, talking points, and possible responses on the fly if you need to.

This is just an overview of the message box, we’ll get into closer detail soon enough. But keep in mind, these messages will probably need to be vetted by your legal department, executive leadership, etc.

Is this a Post-Blog Era?

An interesting question to ask, but it’s something that I’ve been pondering for a while. Ev Bogue brought this back to the front of my mind recently with his Google+ post stating his belief that we are in a post-blogging era.

I thought about it – I haven’t posted on here in a few months, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating content. In fact, between my Facebook page, Twitter account, InstagramTumblr (which currently is where I’m sorting through Instagram) and even Google+, I’m creating a lot more content and engaging with a lot of people, even if my blog doesn’t reflect that. (And this doesn’t even count my top secret new project or the Rugby SuperSite)

Is this really a blog-free era? And if so, what does this mean for companies (if GM is to be believed, buying Facebook ads doesn’t help with sales) or personal brands/regular people who are interesting in elevating their profile? These are some of the ideas I’ll be tackling in the near future here.  I’m curious about what your thoughts on the issue are.

– BH

Playing the Numbers Game

It’s easy to be lured into playing the numbers game in social media, or any kind of communications activity – basing your success on how many Facebook fans you have or how many people follow you on Twitter. These numbers tend to be arbitrary. Many times an organization will see a level of success with how they run their social media program and use those numbers to validate a need to not examine, tweak, or improve an organization’s program – often to their detriment.

This kind of strategy is a double-edged sword, because invariably other companies in your industry have larger follower numbers and those numbers can easily be used to detract from your accomplishments.

One of the best ways to avoid falling into this trap is to properly prepare your social media strategy, complete with an audit of your organization’s needs and how you are meeting those goals and objectives.

But you have to have a plan first. What do you want your social media campaign to accomplish? Very few organizations have the leisure to engage in social media without having a clear and measurable goal with a return on your investment in social media. It requires that your organization start off by asking some questions.

Continue reading “Playing the Numbers Game”

The Two Most Powerful Words in Strategic Communications?

(Other than “Payment Received” 😉 )

Many, many moons ago, when I was svelter around the waist and with less gray in my beard, I wanted to be an EMT. (emergency medical technician… you know, a dude in an ambulance) My interest developed after taking a first responder class in college, and I wanted to carry on my studies, possibly even working my way through school as an EMT.

(Thankfully, I passed the class but didn’t go on with becoming an EMT. It was fascinating and fun, but not for me.)

One of the first, and most important lessons I learned as an EMT were that the two most important words to an EMT were “It Depends.”

As my instructors drilled into my brain repeatedly throughout class, it was difficult understanding with certainty what was happening to a patient, because symptoms for a problem (i.e. a stroke) could manifest one way in one person, and a slightly different way in another person. Just enough to leave you wondering for sure what the problem was.

(There you go, you’ve just spared yourself 6 months of EMT classwork. You’re welcome. 😉 )

So what does this have to do with business, communications and social media?

I’m glad you asked.

Businesses, like people, are multifaceted. Large or small, Fortune 100 or Mom-and-Pop shops, they are all different entities mostly looking for the same goal – profit. Some consultants want to tell you that all businesses should act like the small, family-owned business, listening attentively to each customer. While that works for the small business, it’s harder to change the culture ingrained into larger companies into acting like a small business.

That doesn’t mean that larger businesses shouldn’t engage in social media. Hell, many large companies have great social programs. It does mean that each company has a different way to achieve social media nirvana, locating what works for them. It means that cookie cutter social media programs won’t necessarily work. You don’t just add water, mix and cook at 400 degrees for a successful program or strategy.

Each company, large or small, single people (athletes and celebrities?) or Japanese Zaibatsu conglomerates, needs to sit down and assess their communications and interaction goals, work on a pre-program audit – looking at their needs, the audiences they want to reach, how best to interact with those audiences. Developing lists of Twitter handles to engage with that make sense (why would a college need to interact with a 30-something professional, non-alumni with no kids? Is there a reason? There might be. What would it be? NOTE: I work at a university, and this is just an example that popped in my head and is not indicative of anything in that university’s strategy)

In short, you need to do your research. Do your homework! Conduct your communications, social media and other audits, ask questions. Make sure any social media company you work with knows how to do this, ask for definable and measurable goals.

Will the same social media strategy that works so well for Dell work for you? Remember…

“It Depends”