Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking ahead to 2010

If you didn't see my previous post about the value of not vewing the media as an adversary, check it out.  I like it, I hope you do too.  Once again, it's good to be back and I'm looking forward to a great 2010.  So with that in mind, as many of you sit back and reflect on the past 360-odd days and peer cautiously into the next year, I wanted to take a moment and discuss 2010.

First, though, I wanted to thank all of you who sent me their wishlist of topics they'd like to see on the blog.  As I figured, the response was overwhelmingly tilted towards social media issues.  I also received a lot of requests to continue to give some personal insight into the inner workings of the news.  To that end, I have a series of interviews arranged with folks who work in newsrooms, both locally and nationally so you can hear, in their own words, how a newsroom operates.  Hopefully it will also helpy ou understand their thought processes better as well.

When it comes to the social media angle, we'll take that journey together as the social media world continues to evolve and new tools are added almost daily.

With that in mind, here is an interesting article from BusinessWeek, discussing some of the biggest myths of social media.  Here is a teaser from that article:

Anyone can do it. A surfeit of whiz kids and more experienced marketers are claiming to be social media experts and even social media gurus. Search the bios of Robert Scoble's 56,838 Twitter followers using Tweepsearch (www.tweepsearch.com), an index of the bios of Twitter users, and you'll find:
• 4,273 Internet marketers
• 1,652 social media marketers
• 513 social media consultants
• 272 social media strategists
• 180 social media experts
• 98 social media gurus
• 58 Internet marketing gurus
How many of them have actually created a successful campaign for clients using social media tools? I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find half a dozen with real track records. 

I have to say that while I don't agree with everything in the article, I think it does make some excellent points.  Social media is NOT a guaranteed, sure-fire way to achieve success.  It is simply one tool in your kit.  As I've said before, you need a comprehensive plan that also utilizes traditional media, public outreach and some basic marketing/advertising.

Don't let the budget figures in the article scare you away.  Remember, this article is geared at larger businesses who are considering large, national social media campaigns.  These kinds of efforts could be costly.  But you can be successful with your social media and pr campaign without busting your bank.  It does take extra effort, an investment of manpower and some money, but done right, you can get a much bigger bang for your buck than many larger firms who will undoubtedly spend hundreds of thousands on their campaigns in 2010.

Plan For Success:

So there you sit, wondering how to make social media and public relations work for you and your small business or non-profit.  Perhaps you've learned a few things by reading this blog and by using other resources at your disposal.  The hard part, however, is how to put that new-found knowledge to use.

First, have a plan.  You have a plan, a vision, for your organization, you have to have a plan and a vision for your social media dn pr efforts as well.  Look ahead to your year.  Target specific events, celebrations, anniversaries, holidays, etc. that you have coming up.  Think about how your organization can use these events to spread the word about who you are and what you do.  Remember to keep in mind the lessons of the news peg and storytelling (character, relevance, timeliness, impact, wow factor) to catch the interest of both the general public and journalists.  Some things you can do to help your plan include:

a.  Put together a calendar to keep track of your potential pr and social media outreach events
b.  Write down your public relations and social media goals for the year.  Maybe you want to gain a certain number of new volunteers or donors, or perhaps you want to have a certain number of news stories on your organization.  The list should also include a "dream list," or a list of magazines, news shows, blogs, etc., that you want to be mentioned in.  This gives you a goal that may seem just out of reach, but will be a motivating factor in your efforts.

Be prepared.  Small businesses and non-profits often miss out on great pr because they're not prepared to react quickly when opportunity arises.  One of our clients when I was with the PRAS Group, was Big Box storage.  One night they were watching the news and saw a story about a large apartment fire i Boulder.  They quickly mobilized and got some of their storage boxes up to the fire to help those families displaced by the fire.  They got some great positive public outreach as well as some fantastic news coverage from their efforts.  They were ready to move quickly and decisively when the opportunity presented itself.  A few tips on being prepared:

a.  Have your press kit ready to go.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, you don't have to have a tailored press kit or release ready to go, just a basic kit that outlines your organization's philosphy, history, the important players, some photos and generic video that you can use for any situation.  If you have this all onine on your website, you'll never be caught unprepared to give out information when asked.
b.  Have your message ready. It's very likely that your organization has a mission statement.  That's not necessarily your "message" but it can act as a guide to creating your message.  We'll discuss exactly what a "message" is in upcoming entries, but for the time being, think of what you tell people about your organization when asked at parties or other social events.  Boil that answer down to one or two sentences, and you have, essentially, your message.  If you have your message, your organization's focus, memorized, then you will be able to insert that message into every public interaction you're involved with.  The more people hear your message, the more they'll understand your organization and the more they'll remember you, your business or non-profit and what you stand for.

Focus.  You may already be using some form of social media.  That is great.  But don't get bogged down in trying to learn every single social media tool out there.  Find three social media tools that you feel comfortable using and then focus on using those tools.  Learn everything you can about them.  Figure out how to use them effectively to market your organization.  This could be a combination of Facebook, Twitter and blogging.  It could be using podcasts, video, whatever tools you decide to use, use them regularly.

Learn a new tool monthly.  This may sound like a contradiction to the previous paragraph, but it's not.  This is simply saying to keep up with the changes.  Social media changes are coming fast, almost daily, if you don't keep up with the new tools available to you, you will be left behind.  You don't have to use the new tools if you don't feel like they will be helpful.  But if you have a solid base of social media tools that you use all the time, it becomes much easier to mix in a new tool to test its effectiveness from time to time.  As you learn more about what's out there, your social media arsenal will grow, right along with your business.

Don't get discouraged.  Simply posting a blog, a podcast and Facebook entries won't bring success overnight.  It takes time.  You have to use your tools regularly, daily, weekly, maybe even hourly.  Remember, the average person usually has to see or hear something three times before they remember it.  You are trying to establish a presence among your audience and potential audience.  You have to stay in their face a little bit.  You may not see a jump in your business in the first week or month of your efforts.  You may get turned down several times when you pitch to local newsrooms.  But keep posting, keep pitching and keep a high profile.  You WILL start to see your base of customers or shareholders grow.  One quick note here; I'll be discussing how to measure your social media efforts in upcoming entries.  It IS important to be able to measure your social media and even your traditional media efforts so you know where your time is being spent most effectively.  Ask customers or shareholders how they found out about you and even ask them their opinion of your social media efforts.  One of the great aspects of social media is that it's so interactive.  Listen to the people posting on your blog, or Facebook page, etc.  They'll guide you just as consumers guide sales strategies.

Here is one tip that I can't stress enough; 
Do something you've never done before.  If you don't already use an e-newsletter, put one together.  If you already have a newsletter, then start a blog.  Start a podcast, start using video, sign up for Facebook or Twitter if you already haven't.  The point is to do something that you're not doing now.  All of these things require little, if any, financial commitment.  Your pr and social media outreach has to grow just as your business grows.

It's always exciting to end one year and look ahead to a new year.  It's a time for a fresh start, a time for goal-setting and high hopes.  Here's hoping we all have a happy, healthy and successful 2010!

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