Creativity, social media, Strategy

Iron Chef – Social Media

So your boss is interested in social media.  They’ve read some blogs, checked out some illegally copyright-protected videos on YouTube, and even have a Facebook page and one of them fancy Tweety accounts.  Now they want you to come up with a social media plan to get them into as many Social Media groups as possible.  You’re on the verge of throwing out your company’s communications plan and starting from scratch, looking at every social media site you can lay your browser on.

(There are bosses who do get social media, and they aren’t are rare as you might think. So to get this out of the way, we’re not talking about them.)

First, don’t throw out the comms plan. While a lot of people talk about “social media strategy,” myself included, it’s important to remember that social media tools are just that – part of the communicator’s toolbox.

Actually, think of them as ingredients in a dish. (OK, I admit I’m still on a “No Reservations” high after tonight’s premier).  But more than that, the various tactics we will be looking at in this series (many of which you know, some of which you might not know or might not have thought about) are more than the proverbial “pieces to a puzzle.”  There is not one correct way to solve this puzzle.  Instead, there are myriad ways to use these tactics, and how I put together the social media sub-plan for a communications plan will probably be different from how Crosscut Communications will put one together.  And each of these will be different from how Drake Intelligence Group will develop one. And it goes without saying that someone like Chris Brogan will take those same ingredients and whip up a 15-course dinner (with fava beans and a nice chanti) compared to our barbeque cookouts.

Are any of us right?  Are any of us wrong? Not really, we just have different ways of approaching a challenge.

Continuing the cooking theme, every great chef has sous chefs, cooks and grill peeps to  help them keep running things smoothly and even provide input on new dishes. Now is a good time to raise the point that if you can, get a few creative pros together and let ideas bounce around.  You’re bound to get a lot more good ideas (as well as more ideas that’ll never fly).  Pay them for their time, let them give you some tasty morsels and then run with it.  A good social media PR peep should aim to make themselves redundant to your company when they are done training you.  As previously discussed, firms should take a serious look at content creation and how they can add that and other social media tools to an overall communications plan.

Now, your ingredients are coming up this week.  As they say on Iron Chef, “Allez Cuisine!”

Note: In this series I’m going to look at some social media/new media tools and briefly touch on what you can, can’t and possibly shouldn’t do (in my opinion).  The creativity will come from you.  This is in no way a complete list of all of the tools out there, and if I miss anyone’s favorite tool then please feel free to leave a comment or email or throw something blunt at me the next time you see me.

Management Consulting, social media, Strategy

Heads Up Corps, Be Careful How You Blog…

Because starting May 26th, you could be arrested and thrown in the dock in the United Kingdom for misrepresenting your company as a consumer (Walmarting Across America comes to mind here).

The legislation is already in practice in Europe, the UK is just getting into the act a little (fashionably ?) late.  On one hand this can be good because it’s going to cut down on the amount of BS astroturfing that companies and their PR firms do.  It’s a kind-of enforced authenticity.

Is this a good thing?  Isn’t it better if people know that a company isn’t communicating authentically of their own accords?  The press, and other bloggers, are more than happy to shine a light on the astroturfing efforts of those corporations and PR firms.  Isn’t that the way it should be?  Online news organizations, like the newly created New Mexico Independent or well-established PR Watch, are sprouting up to watchdog various organizations and report the news without fear or favor (if not partisanship).

And another question I’d like to ask is, for activist groups throughout Great Britain – do these rules apply for them as well?  Will the same group of activists who misrepresent themselves as a greater number of people (think about the blogger equivalent of a phone bank calling talk radio shows to comment) be subject to the same rules and punishment?  Ad Age explains the law as applying to “Brand Owners” and Greenpeace, or the Sierra Club, or the Christian Coalition, or Wake Up Walmart are all brands and should be subject to those laws as well.  All things being fair and all that.

What this means is that companies and organizations should be authentic and true in their online communications.  A lesson to corporations, activists and PR firms around the world: if you represent themselves truthfully when dealing with online and social media communities, they can avoid a lot, if not almost all of, these kinds of problems.

It will be interesting to watch Great Britain in the upcoming months and see what happens.

Hat Tip: Ad Age

Management Consulting, public relations, Strategy

“We have met the enemy…”

.. “and s/he is us”

I was talking with a co-worker a couple of days ago about all of the great stuff I learned at the PRSA and CASE conferences. Our conversation, as it does sometimes, veered into the number of alumni/a/ae/aeiou/eieio who start trashing the university upon graduation, and how that has been affecting our brand. It’s almost as if, in addition to the degree, we give them a card that tells them they can start talking about all of the stuff they didn’t like about the institution.

I could have, and have at various times, gone into “evangelist mode” talking about the great things going on around campus, or the really cool research our profs are doing. My view is, when talking about the university, I tend to talk about good people (students, staff, etc.) doing good work at a good school. My co-worker said that I was one of the rare exceptions, I graduated from the college I work at now, and I’m fired up about the school in general. (although not this fired up…)

Instead I started taking time to think about what our grads are saying. There’s the usual talk about the food or the facilities around campus (computer labs are always full, library’s not open 24-7) or that some of our faculty aren’t available at the necessary times or aren’t receptive to student concerns. These are all factors which have hurt the university’s brand, especially since we are not holding up our end of the bargain and addressing these students complaints when brought up. In the past we’ve tended to “shield up” when these concerns come to light and that is being reflected in the response of our alumni when they graduate. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of alumni out there who are proud graduates, and maybe this is nothing more than an expected percentage of students who were not happy with their experience in college.

Our uni. president mentioned this during his webcast last week to present his strategic plan for the next five years. One of the first things he addressed was openness and transparency with the public, our students and employees. This might be the opening our office is looking for to add blogging and more podcast/video work to our efforts. The key is going to be transparency, and if we can get everyone on board with facing our detractors and telling them what we are doing to improve the university, we might be able to reverse some of the negative feelings people have towards our university.

True? False? Indifferent? What do y’all think?