No, not another “five brand lessons you learn from Springsteen” post

by Jon Newman

This is a big week for me.  In the next week or so I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen live.  Twice.

In the past I might have fallen victim to the same “crutch” that other blogger sometimes depend on.  I’ll admit to it, I’ve also done it in the past.  That’s taking something you are doing or are passionate about and stretching that into a blog post about three or five or seven lessons you can learn from that person or thing.

At first it was cute, then it grew a little tiresome and then it became the thing that everyone did.

I’m stopping now.

In this social world I’m finding it harder and harder to separate the personal from the professional.  More times than not lately I’ve been chided by some who have grown tired about my Facebook posting or tweeting about Springsteen, or Rutgers, or the Mets, or my other passions.  By not connecting my passions directly to a blog post I hope I’m giving them one less thing to chide me about.

If I sound a little bitter, well maybe I am.  If social sharing is not created to share things that you are truly passionate about then what is it there for?  Please tell me it’s not just about sharing your latest views about marketing, PR or advertising because if it is the world would then be a truly boring place.

Maybe I/we are somewhat to blame for that.  Maybe we get so caught up on the use of social media, we forget what it is there for, for people to just share.

If you don’t like what I’m sharing then feel free to unfollow, unfan, unlink, unpin and unconnect with me.  I’m not forcing you to do any of that, it is your choice.

As Springsteen says in “The Ties That Bind,”

It’s a long dark highway and a thin white line Connecting baby, your heart to mine.

Maybe we should look at social media as that highway and its thin white line.  You can ride it with me, or get off at the next exit.  You can choose and should choose the Ties That Bind.

Shit, there I go using Springsteen to teach a lesson in a blog post.  Damn.

#PRSARVA and social media, now what?

It could have been the “level” of the people in the room since it was billed as a professional development session.

It could have been the amount of attention, time and effort people are spending on social media these days.

It could have been a lot of factors coming together at once.

But I came away extremely impressed with the group at spoke to and with at PRSARVA’s professional development event last Friday.

Here are the presentation slides for all who want to take a look…

Click here to view presentation

If social media is a ladder and each step up is another level of education and commitment then I think Richmond’s PR and marketing community has climbed another rung or two over the last six-to-twelve months.

Outstanding crowd at PRSA session last week.

In the past, my hope as a speaker was to get everyone to the same level of understanding with a great deal of teaching going on in similar hour-long sessions.  Last Friday, it was clear that everyone in the room was on the same page and my role was more of a validator than teacher.  My hope is that each person came away with one little nugget as opposed to many bars of gold.

Needless to say I was impressed.

So where (as a community) do we go from here?   I think while we continue to educate ourselves about the new platforms, etc. that seem to pop up daily, it’s time to focus more on getting better on the core work.  Some of the themes of the presentation (storytelling, using images, understanding mobile and its opportunities) will hopefully help you focus.

Thanks again for the opportunity to present.  I really learned a lot.

#PRSARVA, what do you want to hear?

It wasn’t an easy call to make, especially at 6 in the morning.

I had to call Jennifer Pounders and tell her “you know that PRSARVA professional development session that I’m supposed to be leading in a hour?  Well, THAT’s not going to happen…”  She handled the curve ball with her usual grace and proceeded to call all the folks who had registered.  Thanks, Jen.

Long story short, I found out after a doctors visit that I had walking pneumonia and it was probably a good thing that I passed on speaking as I would have infected about 70 of Richmond’s stellar PR and marketing community.

So what do you want to hear???

So the session has been rescheduled for May 18 (two weeks of antibiotics later and I’m as good as new) and from what I understand the number of attendees has now risen.  There are a few slots left and you can register here.

I’m still planning to cover Facebook Timeline for Brands, the growing social media platform Pinterest, and touch on mobile.

But the main reason for this post is to solicit any other ideas or things that you’d like to hear about or want be to cover.

So please take a minute if you’re planning to attend ( and even if you aren’t) and comment below to help me add a topic or two to the session.

Thanks so much.

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.

The Official Hodges Facebook Timeline Cheatsheet

As a public service (as promised) and also because we’re really swell, here’s the official Hodges Digital “cheatsheet” for Facebook Timeline for Brands.

From the Hodges Digital FB Timeline Cheatsheet

This six-page PDF gives you more than enough information to be “dangerous” as you navigate next week’s official change to Timeline.

It includes advice, shortcuts and key points that everyone should know.

Click here to download the HDS Timeline Cheatsheet

Please feel free to download, share, spread the gospel, etc.

Facebook Timeline for Brands: It’s Crunch Time

by Jon Newman

Don’t be nervous.  Change is good.

That should be the Facebook brand statement.

Just when you get used to things, the mother of all social media platforms changes things up.  No change in recent history has given more marketing folks heartburn as the coming change of Facebook Brands Pages to the Facebook Timeline format.

Timeline for famed soccer club Manchester United.

The change is official in just a few days (March 30) and Jim Belosic does a great job of helping marketing folks face this reality in this blog post on PR Daily.

We at THP and HDS have been spending lots of time getting clients ready for this change as well.  In addition, I’ve been asked to speak to a PRSARVA group about those changes in April (don’t worry I’ll cover Pinterest too).   For some reason I hear seats are going fast so you may want to register here.

I agree with all of Jim’s points but folks really need to focus on:

  • The use of the cover photo as a means to show your brand without being too “promotional.”
  • The increasing importance of custom apps and what they can do to improve the virality of your page.
  • The need to use timeline to tell a creative story and move the conversation forward.
  • The importance of pinning your posts and milestones.

Later this week in this space, we’ll be making a Timeline for Brands “cheat sheet” of sorts available, so look for that by Friday.

Don’t want to give away too many spoilers on my talk but the bottom line is you have about a week….are you ready?

Quick hits: Pinterest, Twitter and what is Carnival thinking???

Some quick hitters for a Tuesday:

We (Britt Farrah @saidlikefarrah) and I started our second semester teaching social media at VCU yesterday some interesting observations from questions we asked our predominantly PR majors…

  • Most of them preferred Twitter over Facebook and other social media platforms.  In the couple of years that I’ve been asking college students this question, this is the first time ever that they selected Twitter.  In fact, this is the first time that most of the class even was “on” Twitter.  Maybe this is because the class is made up of PR majors but maybe this is a change in social media course.  We shall see….
  • I asked if they ever heard of Pinterest (my new social media obsession) and not a surprise but most of the women raised their hands.  The “pinning” platform is all the rage of the female set.  What was surprising is how some of the women expressed an almost obsessive relationship with the platform, spending hours pinning.  I for one am waiting for my Gentlemint invite to come in the email.

Finally, not related to the class but to PR in general, is Carnival Cruise lines smoking crack or what?

All I got on a Tuesday….you?

Facebook’s Timeline Cover is valuable brand space

Time to get on my PR/social media soup box and proclaim from on high:

IF YOU ARE A BRAND, COMPANY OR ORGANIZATION AND NOT MAKING IT EASY FOR FOLKS TO SHOW YOUR “COLORS” THROUGH THEIR TIMELINE COVER THEN SHAME ON YOU!

So what do I mean when I say “show your colors?”  My current example (below) comes from my own timeline which is now sporting art work supplied by my fellow Springsteen fans promoting his new album coming out in March.

Think of the “cover” as the new expanded billboard version of your profile picture (interesting article on it here).  Now instead of changing your profile picture to show your allegiance to a cause, team or organization or to promote an upcoming event, you can have it live separately on your cover.  It’s also takes about three seconds to change the cover so you can switch it out pretty easily.

Since people will now see someone’s  Timeline when they seek them out on Facebook, think of how important the cover can be in the promotion of a brand, cause, team or event.  It’s really a low-cost no-brainer.  All you have to do is create and supply your evangelists with the artwork and let them do the viral work for you by sending the photo or illustration to all their friends.

Off the soap box now.  Please return to your normal Friday schedules.

Is Facebook getting way to complicated?

Great time yesterday presenting for our client, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, at two marketing/communications seminars about the current state of social media.  These sessions, which the FCEDA provides to anyone, are a great way for businesses and organizations large and small to learn the latest about advertising, PR, social media, etc.

Because of the wide range of businesses and groups represented it’s hard to cover all the bases on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, etc. but our main focus for this group was Facebook.  Mainly because of the sheer numbers of Facebook members and the fact that’s where most marketers start to develop their social media communities.

As usual we got lots of questions based on the changes Facebook has made in the last year: Timeline, Ticker, EdgeRank, changes to advertising and privacy.  Frankly after each of the two-hour sessions it was amazing that we didn’t see more heads literally spinning out of the room.

And then last night Facebook launched Facebook Actions, which will add more action verbs to the Facebook experience, making “like” look tame in comparison.

It all got me thinking this morning, is Facebook becoming too complicated for its own good?

I know the end game is about monetizing the platform but by focusing on ways to make money off the big brands will Facebook make it too difficult for the little guy to market to his or her customers?  In addition will all these new walls, tickers, apps and buttons make it too difficult for the core Facebook user, use Facebook period?

One on side, we seem to complain about Facebook changes, get used to them after a while, and then six months later wonder why we even complained in the first place.  But one the other side, when does too much really become too much?

I’d love for you to answer that question in the comment section below.  I’m going to be watching this one pretty carefully in the coming months.

Things I learned during my blog’s summer vacation.

Okay…so it’s been a while.  Shoot me.

Rather than start things with a great PR or social media proclamation, let’s ease back into the swing of things with some random thoughts on things that have popped into my brain over the course of the last few weeks.

  • There will never be a plan for Shockoe Bottom.
  • Google+ is interesting but I’m still waiting to see the business applications for it.
  • You can only stave off your wife and kids wanting a new dog for so long.
  • There are members of Richmond’s social media community who really need to get over themselves.
  • It’s amazing how many people will help others find a job in our “creative” community if you ask them.
  • Alcohol tastes really good when drunk out of a mason jar.
  • The Mets have the amazing ability to keep my attention just long enough to get me to football season.
  • You can never have too much new business on the table.
  • Amber Naslund is a great social media leader and an even better human being.
  • College Football is about to change in a geometric way.
  • Bruce will never be able to replace the BigMan, but we need a tour any way.
  • Children will survive two weeks at sleep away camp.
  • Our Pig Pickin on October 15th will definitely “kick things up a notch” (you’re all invited, BTW).
  • My wife is wonderful and is making “The Year of Me” a year I will never forget.

This fall should be exciting with work stuff and teaching a social media course at VCU but I promise to gear up the blog again if for no other reason than to be an example for the students in our class.

 

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