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LinkedIn’s Powerful Share Button

Still unsure about the power of “sharing” on LinkedIn? Maybe this article from the Business Insider will change your mind.

Social Media: The Eight Stages of Listening by Jeremiah Owyang

Are You Afraid of Bloggers and Social Media? Maybe You Should Be.

Creative Commons License photo credit: M i x y

Are you or your Brand afraid of bloggers and social media? Well, maybe you should be–especially if your brand is still sitting on the side lines and not listening.  Jessica Gottlieb , a powerful voice on the Internet and a mom blogger,  recently wrote two excellent posts “Five Simple Steps to Bringing a Brand to their Virtual Knees” and  “Six Tips for Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid of Bloggers” . Gottlieb is that “Jessica Gottlieb” that started the “#MotrinMoms” backlash on Twitter in November 2008.

Gottlieb expressed her displeasure with Motrin’s ad campaign that she and others felt wasn’t supportive of new mothers and  in a series of tweets expressed that “picking on new mothers is vile.” Her tweets set off a reaction that reverberated across Twitter and then the Internet and finally the mainstream press and it wasn’t until Monday that Motrin finally responded to the moms they were trying so hard to connect with but by then the damage was done http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/11/17/motrin-mothers-groundswell-by-the-numbers/ .In just a weekend, the mommy bloggers had mobilized and expressed their anger in their own blogs, on Twitter, on FaceBook where they created a “Boycott Motrin” Group, on YouTube where they added their own videos, as well as on Flickr. That same weekend the controversy was picked up by mainstream media including the New York Times http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/moms-and-motrin/?scp=1&sq=Motrin%20Moms%202008&st=cse

The title alone of the first post should get your attention if you still think you can sit social media out. In her first post, Gottlieb clearly lays out the steps of how anyone with a blog and or a Twitter account and a handful of followers can take aim at a corporation. Jessica’s steps consist of:

1) Timing is everything: Large corporations close up in the evenings, and many are completely checked out on weekends. If you post something critical of them on a Friday evening, you have a two to three day head start on your buzz versus theirs.

2) Ask readers to take an action and report back: When you post about the evil corporation be sure to ask your readers to do something other than just read. Ask them to call or email (letter writing campaigns have gone the way of the brontosaurus).

3) Track and share the momentum: Set up a google alert. If you’re asking people to say #xyzstinks then you will want updates as quickly as possible so that you can support people who write #xyzstinks. As people are writing be sure to share it in public forums like Twitter, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg.

4) Go multimedia: Really, multimedia doesn’t mean internet, TV and radio. Multimedia (in our frame of reference) means text, audio and video. Post your message to your blog, to cinch, and to YouTube.

5) Get redundant: Stay on message and repeat it ad nauseum. I recognize that after a day or so it’s unlikely that you will care any longer, but stamina is everything. Constant blog posts in every blog you contribute to are key. Repeat steps one through four tirelessly.

As a PR professional, I recommend that companies pay attention to all of these steps but also take a closer look at step 1 –“Timing is everything.” Companies still naively think that if they have bad news that they are required to release they need to drop it on Fridays after the Stock Market closes. Depending on who you are and what you have to announce that just won’t fly anymore. You may think you are  pulling a fast one on the traditional press that follows your company but you won’t be pulling a fast one on the bloggers that work 24/7.  In addition, the tradional press may also spend the weekend digging up more to include in their story. And like Motrin, you might end up with quite a mess on your hands before the weekend even wraps up.

Maybe you might be thinking that since your company is B2B you don’t need to worry about a possible “groundswell” catching up to your company. Sure you want to bet on that? Jessica’s steps can be used just as easily to target B2B companies as easily as they can be used to target B2C companies.

If her first post gave you pause, then her second post “Six Tips for Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid of Bloggers”  can serve as a road map to get your company moving. Gottlieb recommends:

1. Build Social Capital early and often: The best way to make sure you never have a big problem with bloggers is by participating in their discussions before the drama.

2. Do not hand social media over to interns: Interns are adorable, and I recognize that businesses need them for things like answering phones and fetching coffee. However, when your intern is in charge of your facebook page you’ve just handed the keys over to someone who was probably delivering pizza last month.

3. Monitor your brand round the clock: Small businesses do it, because they have to. You need to also. It doesn’t have to be one person, but at the barest minimum a google alert with YourBrandHere and boycott, sucks, or criminal as a keyword will keep you informed of a tempest brewing.

4. Respond truthfully: One big criticism of of the Motrin fiasco is that the apology wasn’t sincere (authentic).

5. Don’t participate if you don’t have the resources: Really. I honest to goodness recommend that brands stay out of social media if they aren’t going to make it part of their business. Do not set up a facebook page and then let it sit there. If you want to protect your name online buy your URL’s, take your twitter ID’s and just park them. Don’t invite a conversation you won’t show up for.

6. Just be yourself. Social media isn’t about your brand, it’s about you.

Building social capital is critical and without it you won’t be able to build a good relationship with the community your business needs. It doesn’t mean pushing out non stop information about your company and products. It means “listening” first to the discussions in the communities you are looking for a home in. It then means offering useful information to that community or better sharing the information of the other community members first.

I also “love” that tip # 2 recommends that companies not turn over social media to interns. In the last year I have heard a number of companies –including PR companies– either talk about their plan to turn “social media” over to an intern or who have already done it and it always leaves me aghast. Just because an intern has been on FaceBook longer than anyone over 25—and that is because it was originally a college only community– doesn’t mean they have the expertise of company, customer, products or the industry you are in.  Would you really send your intern in to close a deal with a potential customer you have been chasing for years or to represent you to the technology reporter you want so badly to cover your company? Then why would you do it in social media?

One other tip I would offer is “transparency”. Gottlieb mentions in tip #4 being authentic—truthful. It is also important to remember in social media that people don’t want to talk with a logo. They want to talk with a person. If you’re tweeting say who you are right up there in your profile. If you have to talk behind a logo try to persuade management to add your name on the Twitter page so your followers can more easily engage with you.

Read the full posts. They are excellent.

Still afraid?

How to Get Good PR

Tiger Woods Slow Climb Back

Yesterday I watched Tiger Woods deliver his apology to his friends and his public. I was really curious from a public relations perspective what he would say, how he would say it, would he be convincing, and of course how he appeared. Obviously, it was very late in coming. He and his team went against every dictate in how they handled this crisis. But for me, the apology in its entirety marks his slow climb back. I was struck by a number of things but probably most of all by his appearance. I hope he makes it all the way back.

What Ben Bernanke Knows About Communication

Federal Reserve
Creative Commons License photo credit: skpy

What does Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke know about communicating that others don’t? In a recent article for Harvard Business, leadership consultant John Baldoni writes that it is Bernanke’s willingness “to speak last”. In Baldoni’s article “How to Communicate Like Ben Bernake” the author notes:

Bernanke, who established his academic credentials by researching and writing about the Great Depression, is first and foremost, as E.J. Dionne noted in the same interview, a straightforward speaker — people understand him. Bernanke, according to Brooks, also worked hard during the financial crisis to keep discussions going, even calling people back after a meeting to follow up. In this way, Bernanke seems more a legislator, one who works with peers, than an executive, one who dictates.

Baldoni recommends the following tips to keep conversation flowing:

Open up. If you want to keep discussion going, you should keep talking. If the topic is critical to the future of the company, throw out your calendar. Meet with your colleagues, even those who don’t agree with you, until you come to consensus, even if it’s only an agreement to keep talking. (Mediators employ this technique to help resolve disputes between adversaries.)

Give (a little) up. The secret to good conversation is give and take. Those who feel the need to impose their will gain little by talking. Those who want to reach consensus learn how to make concessions over small things to gain agreement over major issues. Dialogue is essential to facilitating that process.

Follow up. Important matters are seldom resolved with a single conversation or a single meeting. You will need to meet multiple times. Keep the dialogue going by following up with participants between meetings. The act of simple conversation can lead to greater understanding off issues and people.

You can read Baldoni’s entire article here.

Should Your CEO Have a Blog?

One of the central questions to ask when developing a social media strategy is whether the CEO of your company should have a blog. In Klaus Kneale’s article “CEOs Say: how to Be An Executive Blogger” on Forbes.com, Kneale takes a look at the art of CEO blogging and what it takes to get blogging right. The sub heading of Kneale’s article, “The Blogosphere can be a Minefield for Unprepared CEOs”, strikes at the heart of whether your CEO should be blogging.

Ushahidi in Forbes Magazine
Creative Commons License photo credit: whiteafrican

Kneale writes about Donato Montaro JR., chief executive officer of TradeKing, an online discount brokerage. Monato was an early adopter of blogging and has taken some steps to make sure he is getting his corporate blogging right. One of the steps he has taken was hiring a director of online content whose job is to ensure that “everything on the TradeKing Web site is clean, accurate and consistent with the company’s values. Including her boss’s online persona.”

Kneale reports:

But you’ve got to do it right or you shouldn’t be doing it at all. How do you do it right? It’s an open secret of corporate communications that many e-mails from CEOs aren’t actually written by CEOs. As social media take off in the corporate world, that’s not true only of e-mails. Blogs, too. Montanaro is ahead of the game in this. He has Jude Stewart draft blog posts for him (not all of them), based on meetings they have. Montanaro edits the drafts to make sure they sound like him and to add details Stewart didn’t have.

He’s careful about what he posts, too. His blog contains bits about spearfishing in the Bahamas, but it also is kept in line with the company’s marketing and customer service strategy and any legal regulations. CEOs always have to keep such things in mind when blogging.

If your CEO decides he is interested in starting a blog, there are other items he also needs to consider. Legal for one. The company needs to decide what role legal counsel will play. Will the CEO run all his posts through legal before publishing? Will the CEO coordinate with marketing and public relations about the message? How many hands will actually be involved? How will the company coordinate the publishing of each blog with its overall social media strategy? Will your CEO have an editorial calendar in place that can keep him on track?

Finally, Kneale writes that once everyone is on the same page –what becomes most crucial to the success of your CEOs blog are the headlines. “The best way to get your blog posts spreading to Facebook, Twitter, Digg and e-mail, and ultimately getting read, is by having good headlines.”

Is your CEO blogging?

Don’t let this happen to you; United Breaks Guitars

The power of social media. Hopefully United is listening.

Lance Armstrong Reports on Lance Armstrong; What does it mean for your Brand?

lance and levi after stage 15 — powered by http://www.livestrong.com
Two weeks ago Lance Armstrong stopped talking to the press. Initial reports were that he took this step after being angered over some media reports that he was responsible for a rider protest that occurred in Milan during the Giro D’Italia. But what’s interesting is that he is still talking to his fans, daily. And he is talking to  his fans directly through Twitter and his video blog postings without the traditional media.
In Robert Mackey’s article in today’s New York Times Lance Armstrong Covers Lance Armstrong” Mackey writes:
Given his immense fame, and the power of the new media tools he has obviously mastered, Mr. Armstrong is now free to cut out the middle man and go straight to the people.

Ever the competitor, Mr. Armstrong even seems to be enjoying tweaking his new rivals in the press corps, secure in the knowledge that he is scooping them hour after hour as he posts regular updates to his chatty Twitter feed, where he banters with other cyclists, comments on his comeback and even answers questions from some of his more than 933,000 followers.Last week he even took a moment to post this comment on a news report saying that some members of the cycling media had stopped quoting his tweets, in an effort to force him to engage with them:

Bitter sports reporters are boycotting @lancearmstrong’s Tweets. Good luck with that, and welcome to 2009.
Whether you applaud Lance for his media blackout or not what lessons can your brand take from his use of social media to stay in touch with his audience?

Pharma and Social Media; Can They Coexist

For nearly five years (2003-2008) I was the Public Relations counsel for a provider of predictive analytics and reporting software solutions that counted many of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies as its customers. My client’s software enabled life science and pharmaceutical researchers and analysts in drug discovery, development and clinical trials to more efficiently and accurately mine their data and utilize predictive analytics for their analysis. The work these researchers and analysts are doing is exciting and newsworthy.

However, there were many obstacles we ran into in getting the news out about the progress and innovation these researchers were achieving. The biggest hurdle was not with the individual researchers and analysts, but instead with the pharmaceutical companies’ corporate public relations and legal departments. So this week I was intrigued to see on Twitter that the April issue of Pharma Marketing News was “all about pharma & social media.”

Creation of Adam
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sebastian Bergmann

John Mack sets the stage for the issue by writing in the article “Social Media Opportunity or Nightmare” :

“Michelangelo’s nightmarish painting Last Judgement includes the image of a poor soul being dragged down to Hell by the devil’s agents. That image often comes to mind when I hear proponents of social media trying to persuade pharma marketers to just “dip their toe” in the social media waters. The other image I see is a shark lurking just below the water’s surface!”

Mack went on to argue:

“Many pharma marketers within drug companies and within agencies that work for drug companies are trying to move the needle forward to develop guidelines that the industry can follow. So far, however, they have left patients, physicians and other stakeholders out of the discussion. They have forgotten that patient empowerment built the very social networks that they wish to engage in. Personally, I believe pharmaceutical companies need to become truly patient-centric companies BEFORE they can even consider engaging in social media.”

Mack’s article reminded me of Jeremy Owyang’s blog “Troubled, Some Pharmaceuticals Turn a Blind Eye to the Blogosphere” from June 14, 2008 . In Owyang’s blog he reports:

“While this may not hold true for every pharmaceutical company, I recently met one who had banned it’s employees from monitoring blogs, social media and the online conversation.
[Why did this pharma company ban their employees to monitor blogs? If a patient complained about a treatment or medicine having ill-effects, then the pharma would would be liable to take action]. Responding to every customer can be very, very costly, considering how many people may be talking about medicines, often anonymously in online forums.”

It’s exciting to see that the pharmaceutical industry is now realizing it needs to be discussing and establishing guidelines for social media. Will pharma and social media be able to coexist? What do you think?