PR pros should “dance with the one that brung you”

by Jon Newman

OK, here we go.  Time for your daily dose of blasphemy on this Thursday.   Hold on to your hats but this is something that’s been bothering me for a while especially as a personally stand one foot in each bucket.

Are we spending too much time focusing on social media when good old-fashioned public and media relations still works just fine?

Before you say Jon, we can and should do both, I will quickly agree with you but add that maybe we should prioritize the time spent on both so we meet all of our clients goals.

Is it summed up with a question I recently asked my PR/social media class at VCU as they were wrapping up their semester-long social media projects.  “Given the choice would you rather have a smooth and successful social media campaign for a client, or get them a media relations hit on Good Morning America or The New York Times?”  To a person (and they are pretty plugged into the changing PR landscape) they choice the big national media relations hit.

I can’t say that I disagree with them.

I haven’t changed my thinking about social media and what it can accomplish, I am saying we may be hitting a slight plateau.  Given the continued struggle to prove ROI and the fact that EVERYONE (ad agencies, marketers, the guy on the street corner) is offering what they claim to be as comprehensive social media consulting, maybe we in PR need to re-look at our core competencies and what we can still offer.

Sure the media pool is shrinking, but it’s not dead by a long shot.  And clients eyes still get really wide when they see their products or companies on TV, online and in print.  As it gets harder to “break through” on the internet interstate that Facebook has become and as we try on the fly to figure out if Pinterest is going to be the next big play or big fail, let’s not forget what has worked for us for the last century or so.

So while we blog and slog it out to see who will comment or share our next post, we may have clearer sailing and a larger “ROI” by making sure we still reach out to national media who still know and can report a good story when they see one.

No, I haven’t changed my overall thinking.  Yes, we at Hodges are still defining best practices for social community management and have three Facebook contests going on for clients simultaneously.  But we also just completed some very cool New York media tours that will bear tremendous fruit.

As Darrell Royal, the patriarch of University of Texas football used to say, “Don’t forget to dance with the one who brung ya.”

It’s gotten us this far.

And now for something completely different….

So this is my first vlog post.  Something new.  Topics today are a follow up to my “Twitter. Dead.” post.  Recent and upcoming speaking opportunities and what I’m discovering by doing them.  Please comment and react.  Thanks.

Thoughts on social media for internal communications

So my good friend and client Lisa Van Riper from the University of Richmond asked me to give a talk to her strategic PR grad school class at VCU.  The topic?  The use of social media for internal communications.

While I have read and thought a great deal on this topic THP’s client are only beginning to scratch the surface in their use of social media tools for internal comm.  I am a big believer that the brand begins within an organization and that employees can be your best spokespeople and evangelists, so using social media tools to create this “community” is a logicial step.

 After doing some research on the topic I found that a couple of my Twitter friends, Amber Naslund of Radian6 and Justin Goldsborough of Fleishman-Hillard had presented recently on the topic.  Both of their presentations are available on Slideshare.  I am stea….I mean using them liberally in my presentation Saturday.  With permission of course.

After noodling it around in my brain and seeing some work that others have done here are some best practices.

– Blogs/videos:  Not always on the core business but on other topics they can all related to.

– Brainstorming:  Creating platforms or using existing intranet tools to get people from all over the organization to brainstorm ideas is a no brainer.

– Basic information/news:  Intranets and wikis to provide updated information about the company helping make sure all associates are on the same page

– Social networking sites:  Think Facebook or Twitter but only for employees to communicate to other employees to talk about things (or share picture or videos, etc.) related to their work.

– Recruiting/retention:  More Linkedin-ish, helping employees network within the organization to move up or to find out what internal positions are available.

– Online training:  Videos, presentations, live tutorials.

– Online events: Through Ustream or Skype or existing intranet everyone can see what the leadership is up to.

– The future: Mobile:  Texting, training videos, podcasts, all to keep execs and rank and file engaged.

All exciting, all useful.  Many big name companies like Best Buy, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dell, etc. are the one’s putting these tools to great use.  But there’s one thing that can hinder social media from becoming the norm in business.

Money.

All of these tools, especially if they are custom-made portals, will cost money to personalize and build out.  Sure there are platforms one can access for free like Yammer and Ning that can get you part of the way there but how can smaller companies take advantage of these approaches?

I’d love to hear you thoughts on how social media for internal communications can become available and affordable for all businesses, not just the big ones.  Thanks.

Linkedin moves worth keeping eye on

When I talk in the office or to groups about social media platforms, I’m not real kind to Linkedin.

I understand its applications in the business world, but I have seen it as nothing more than a clunky, online Rolodex and a way to do online introductions.

With some news out today, I am reopening my mind to Linkedin (at least for the time being).

Mashable.com reports today that Linkedin has finally opened its platform to outside developers.  For social media folks could mean that Linkedin could be making the move from “black and white” to “color” finally following Facebook and Twitter into the more user-friendly 21st century.

And while it remains to be seen how outside APPS will transform Linkedin, the additional news that TweetDeck will be launching Linkedin integration later in the week.  For TweetDeckaholics like me, having Linkedin, well linked in, will only increase my use (and maybe others too) and understanding of how to incorporate the platform into personal and professional use for myself and my clients.

A personal aside, thanks to Judy Turk and Pam Lepley of VCU’s Masters Strategic Public Relations class for a chance to participate in a panel discussion on social media.  Always fun to see what others are thinking.

The whole PR kitchen sink…

On Saturday I once again found myself with a group of students (this time of the graduate variety) at VCU's School of Mass Communications

I could only spend about an hour with them because of family commitments, but I was about to sit in and listen to final presentations on digital or social marketing projects the group had been asked to collaborate on. 

The interesting thing is that just a month earlier most of these students were just using Facebook to talk amongst themselves and not as a PR tool.  At the direction of their professors, the students had spent the last month diving full force into the world of social marketing.  The results were impressive.  The traditional PR world better watch out.

As a result I find myself reflecting on the first four months of this blog as it chronicles our journey from "old" to "new" public relations/social marketing.  I, and some of the folks at work with at THP, were just like these students.  And while we have not for one second abandoned the traditional public relations that we know and love and pays our bills, we have embraced this new ingredient as well.

And we are about to put it to good use for a great cause – education.  It is rare that I use this space for client work, at least directly, but this time I will make an exception.  This week, THP and our friends at Siddall, Inc. are helping Virgnia's Community College's launch "Virgnia's Education Wizard," a great online tool that will help Virginia's high school students and those who are without a job and need retraining, get a handle on their next career and education moves.

At www.vawizard.org someone can take two assessment tests to figure out what careers they are interested in, what jobs are available in those fields, what kind of education it will take to get those jobs, how much the education will cost and how to parlay two years at a community college into a cost-effective college education.

The story is laid out in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch by Virginia's Community Colleges Chancellor Glenn Dubois.

For us, it is a project that allows us to throw the entire PR kitchen sink, including the latest social  marketing tools, out there and see how successful we can be.  From launching a six-city tour with Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine on Wednesday to the creation of Facebook fan pages and a Twitter persona based on the portal's tour guide, Ginny (please follow @ginnywiz and join us as we live tweet on Wednesday starting at around 11:30am), we are using all the old and new tools to reach students, parents, guidance counselors, business people and politicians.

We ask you to join in and follow us along the way.  If you want, please spread the word, become a fan, send a link, watch the media coverage and most importantly tell us how you think we are doing.  We will be sending updates from theworld famous THP Fan page as well (don't you just love the new format, btw?)

At the end of the day, just like the students at VCU, the only way we can truly learn how and if all this stuff works is by doing it and having fun. 

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