Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Right Tech

Okay, so, I took a day off from posting.  Not because I forgot about the small businesses and non-profits out there waiting desperately for more insight on public relations and social media.  But I missed because I was much more engrossed something completely nerdy.  Truth be told, I spent a lot of Wednesday following the release announcement from Apple about their new iPad.  Plus, I took part in a social marketing webinar, hosted by Cisco, to get a little insight from marketing professionals about the impact of social media on small businesses.  I was also curious if there would be any conversation about the iPad at a webinar just hours after the new device was announced to the world.

Certainly, there was buzz.  People were talking about it.  People are still talking about it.  People will be talking about it for some time.  Already the internet is ablaze with analysis, and not everyone is impressed with Apples latest gizmo.  Funny that the same social media that Apple helped explode over the past few years with its iPhone and iMac is the same social media that's hammering it right now. 

But this isn't a review of the iPad.  Let's face it, most of us won't be owning one anytime soon.  And to be honest, none of us really need one, at least not right now, at least not until the bugs get worked out and the next generation changes the way we work, but that's beside the point.

There ARE some technological toys that you should be using if you're considering handling your own social media and public relations campaign.  Before I go further, a disclaimer.  I am not being paid by anyone to post these entries or promote a product.  You also have to know that I am a huge Mac fan, but, sadly, they're not paying me either. 

Here is a short list of the technological essentials you really have to use regularly in order to make your outreach efforts a success.

1.  A solid, dependable, desktop publishing program - I use InDesign.  It's a fantastic program, but you can get away with a more affordable program.  You need to be able to design and export your own press releases, pamphlets, brochures, any kind of collateral you'll need for both in-person outreach and online outreach.

2.  Basic video recording and editing tools - We've talked about the need for visuals in your campaign efforts.  This includes video.  As I've said before, you don't need to buy a TV-ready camera.  You can get by with a basic video recorder, a flip recorder, even your cellphone.  The point is, you need video to enhance your online platforms.  As for editing programs, well, we're not making Hollywood movies here.  I use Final Cut, and I love it, but that is likely too much program for most small businesses looking to put together short b-roll clips or event videos.  Mac has iMovie, which is pretty basic, easy to learn and simple to use.  For PC's, there's always Premier.  EditXpress, etc.  The point is, you can find some basic video editing programs that will meet your needs without breaking the bank.

3.  A Photo editing program - This ties into the same reasons why you need a good desktop publishing program.  You'll need to design eye-catching collateral.  Again, you don't need to be a master of design, and you don't need to have an expensive program.  Just something that allows you to edit, manipulate and create using existing images.

4.  Mobile access - In today's hustle and bustle world it's essential to keep up with what's happening around, not only in terms of getting and placing phone calls and emails, but staying up to the minute in terms of information.  Whether you're using a phone, a netbook or PDA, your ability to stay connected is more important today than ever before.

You may already be using some or all of these technologies every day.  In some cases, you may be using them as part of your outreach efforts already.  If so, good for you.  If not, get started.  It's never to late to start using the techonology available to help your business become a success.

A New Reality:

Speaking of technology, staying on top of the latest technological trends will help you stay on top of your game in terms of raising your organizations' profile.  Twitter, Facebook, Meetup, Digg, FindIt...all social media and online environments are constantly changing and updating to be bigger, faster, stronger...all looking to be the six million dollar man of the internet.

For instance, here is an article from the PersonalizeMedia site.  It's about a new program called "Augmented Reality".  For small businesses and non-profits, it's a kind of technology that could truly enhance your sales and or donations. 

Here is a short excerpt from the article.  For the entire article, click on the link above.:

New Playgrounds: Augmented Reality Story Worlds

by Gary Hayes · 15 comments
Was going to call this Augmented Reality Story Environments but…:)
It is fascinating to see how quickly Augmented Reality (AR) is permeating our lives and the blogosphere. But what will the mass adoption of mobile devices that allow you to layer ‘virtual story worlds’ over the real world mean for new forms of entertainment & marketing? Also what will it mean when celebrities and audience/users, begin to merge – avatars appearing in broadcast TV and film/gamestars composited into our homes?
I have posted about the cross-reality evolution over the last 3 years on this blog under a general mixed-reality umbrella. Now we have every blogger & journalist talking about their AR engaged iPhone, DSi, PSP or smart mobile as if they have discovered some advanced alien technology. But is it really is a game changer, a new playground for storytellers? A window to another world at one end through to a simple layered utility at the other. Actors and fantasy characters deliver lines, embedded in real world scenes, you find the hidden virtual treasure, the historical or future backstories and clues, video, sound, images – even fellow ‘players’ morph into strange aliens or dissapear, you leave red herrings or leave help for other players the possiblities, endless.

There are other programs out there, such as "Kick Apps," "UberTwitter" and, well you get the idea.  It's hard work staying on top of all the new technologies out there.  This is where you can sign up for search engines to do some of the work for you.  Getting google alerts in your email will allow you to keep up with at least some of the latest technological advancements. 

Just like everything else, you don't have time to spend testing out every single new program.  But make a list of the ones that realy catch your eye.  Note the ones that you think might be able to help you be more efficient in your efforts or help you reach an audience you've been struggling with.  Then take an hour or two a week and try them out.  See what the fuss is about.

Also remember that not all new technologies will be successful.  Most will disappear into oblivion after a short time.  And, like the iPad, some will need a couple of generations to get it right before they'll be truly useful to you as a small business or non-profit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's all in the presentation!

Okay, so, I stole today's entry.  Well, I guess it's not really stealing if you give credit.  It's not even plagarizing, right?  Regardless, this came across my Twitter yesterday and I spent some time going through them and I was floored by the creativity and thought put into these presentations. 

I haven't spent a lot of time on the Woorkup website, but based on this entry alone, I think I'll be going back often to check in.  I also added it as a link to my website list on the sidebar.  The article was written by Stefano Mizzella and was posted on January 17th. 

Just a quick note, it takes a little time to go through all ten presentations, but all are well worth the time.  I suggest you brew some hot chocolate or crack open a beer if you have any free time this weekend and spend an hour or two going through these.  I guarantee you'll come away with some valuable insight and knowledge gained.

Here are a few examples from the article.  For the whole thing, click on the link above.  In the meantime, enjoy!

Digital Strangelove (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Internet)

9 Ways Your Business Could Be Using Social Media But Probably Isnt

22 Social Media Trends

Monday, January 25, 2010


For some reason, I've been singing the word, "interactivity" to that old Schoolhouse Rock tune, "Electricity".  Not sure why, but it amuses me.  There's been a lot of talk about social media changing long-standing, established paradigms.  Things like elections, movies, dating and even business have all been impacted by social media.  In fact, I think you'd probably be hard pressed to find one aspect of our daily lives that haven't been touched in some way by the burgeoning world of social media.  Hell, even our daily commute is "plugged in" with our Blackberries and iPhones.  We can get the latest updates from other drivers, get info. about speed traps from fellow commuters, even monitor traffic officials.

Here's an interesting article about how social media is even effecting the Grammies.  A quick thank you to Kirsten Hammling of Traction Media for the heads up about the article.  She posted it on her Facebook page, I saw it, and now you get to see it.  See?  Social media in action.

The article itself is from the Mashable website.  Really a great site for anyone interested in all things social media.  Here's a quick excerpt.  Click on the link to see the entire article.

"Social media introduces an entire paradigm shift into how the Academy can both connect with music lovers and with how its message is consumed and presented. That said, the Academy is aware that the paradigm shift is happening, not just to the industry, but to our culture as a whole. In order to stay relevant and connected, the Academy would have to embrace this new way of communicating. I spoke with Evan Greene, the Chief Marketing Officer of the Recording Academy about how the Grammys are embracing social media this year and how and why that decision was made."

There's a secret to effective use of social media that, clearly, some industries and organizations understand better than others.  The funny thing is that, it's not really a secret at all.  And if you can harness this powerful secret, you'll be way ahead of most of your competition in terms of your social media efforts.

Connectivity, Interactivity:

By now, we've all seen, and recognized, that social media increases your connectivity in ways few other media can.  Certainly more traditional media can connect you, or at the very least, expose you, to a mass audience.  But for the most part, more traditional media is a bit like a buckshot approach.  You get some coverage, and your story or message hits a random sampling of your potential audience.  Don't get me wrong, this is a vital part of your pr campaign. 

But what makes social media so unique is that it allows you to reach out to a much more focused group of individuals, allows you to really get your message across on a personal level while still maintaining control of how that message or story is told.  You cut out the middle man of producers, reporters and editors.  This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your own editing skills.  At least with social media, if things go wrong, there's no one to blame but yourself.

Social media allows you to go out and search for groups of like-minded people.  This is what is called the "Tribal Mentality."  Groups, or Tribes, are very beneficial for small businesses and non-profits.  They get you in touch with others who are interested in what you are interested in.  They might be folks looking for the kind of service or charity that you provide. 

There are groups on Facebook and Meetup and Twitter that are focused on helping Haiti, or aiding the homeless.  There are tech groups, religious groups, massage groups, medical groups.  Any kind of group that you can imagine, there's a good chance that there's a place reserved for it on most social media sites.

The trick is finding these groups.  Do your searches, look for specific keywords, peruse profiles.  This can be a time consuming effort, but it's one well worth your time.  I have several meetup groups I belong to that are focused specifically on startups, entrepreneurs, small business and non-profits. 

If you're a small business owner or non-profit director just making your first forays into social media, take the time to search out the groups that link in some way to your organization.  If you've been finding little success with your social media efforts thus far, start joining these groups.  You want to connect with people who might be interested in your business or non-profit, but they can't connect with you unless they know about you.  And one of the best ways of getting exposure to a group of people who might be interested in you is to join a group, regardless of what social media platform you use.

Now what?

Joining a group is really just the first start, though.  Once you find the right groups, and once you join, the real work begins.

One of the wonders of social media is that it allows for more interactivity than any other media outlet.  Certainly, talk radio, chatrooms and forums allow for interactivity, and, in reality, these are also tools of social media.  Live podcasts, message rooms, forum rooms, chatrooms can all be found within some social media groups.  Even Facebook is starting  a live chatroom feature.  Being able to talk to others within the group you belong to is a great way to let people know who you are in an anonymous, relaxed setting.

But even without these tools, being in a group allows for you to make constant updates, respond to other members' updates, start topic discussions and offer content to other members so they get a better idea of who you are and what you do.

Patience is a big word here.  If you're like most of the small business owners and non-profit directors, you want the overnight success.  And it would be nice if you could simply post something to your Facebook page or Twitter page and suddenly everyone takes notice of you.  But that just doesn't happen.  It takes time to make those connections and raise your profile.  But being active and allowing interactivity with your content is a way to speed up that relationship building process. 

As I write this, a commercial just played for the mattress-maker, "Tempurpedic".  Usually I wouldn't notice commercials like these, but the ad made a point to ask viewers to check Twitter and Facebook, and to ask friends who have used their product, to get feedback about the product. 

It wasn't a hard sell, just an encouragement to use their social media connections to get real life information from other consumers about Tempurpedic.  It's a slightly risky campaign, but one that I think will probably be very effective. 

This is the kind of interactivity that can build a following very quickly.  You're not just posting information about a product.  You're not even posting testimonials.  You're literally asking people to interact with others for honest, real time feedback.  Try doing that with your product or service.  If you're a non-profit, have users ask some of your staff or charity recipients to tell their stories in their own words. This is powerful stuff.

In groups, offer advice, answer questions, conduct interviews, or open yourself up to be interviewed.  Interactivity is social media's powerful secret.  Obviously you have to provide contect that other users will find helpful and useful and interesting.  Remember, useful and interesting is the cornerstone of successful pr and social media.  But even if you're posting useful and intersting content it might take a while for people to take notice.  Remember, you have all the tools, blogs, podcasts, IM's, chatrooms, groups, etc.  You have to use more than one, belong to more than one group, and be interactive on all of them.

Being interactive, listening to what others are saying and opening up a dialogue will speed up that process and allow you to build success.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Time keeps on slippin'

Greetings, and a good Friday to you all.  Today's entry is one that I've wanted to post since day one, but there were so many other issues to get into, I just haven't had the time, which, ironically, is the focus of the post; time.

Before I get there, though, here are a couple of great articles you ought to read as you delve deeper into your social media campaigns, and continue to develop your PR efforts.

Social Media and Politics:

Today's first article comes from the Huffington Post and deals with social media's role in the Brown vs. Coakley battle for the open Massachusettes Senate seat.  It is a thoughtful and well-balanced article on what Brown did well, an what Coakley didn't do so well in regards to using social media effectively.

Learning Social Media Lessons from Brown vs. Coakley
by: Lauren DeLisa Coleman

A few analysts are wisely looking at the impact of social media on the recent Senate election in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley. And by now certainly everyone and anyone who is interested has compared the Republican candidate's digital numbers over the Democratic candidate's numbers. Without a doubt, it seems the Democrats certainly missed many opportunities for harnessing the power of the on-line communication medium. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were, seemingly, used more effectively by state Senator Brown to promote his campaign and connect with supporters. In fact, a study conducted by the Emerging Media Research Council concluded just hours ago that Brown's use of social media also included boosting his name recognition from 51% in November to 95% in January.

If Kennedy was the first "Television President", then Obama was probably the first "Internet President" for his great use of online access and social media.  But like Kennedy, Obama was just the first, not necessarily the best.  Reagan was a masterful manipulator of the media, the best, in my opinion.  And now we see other politicians using the lessons of Obama and, in some cases, doing it better.  It will be interesting to see how social media impacts politics in the years to come.

Social Media, Small Biz, Customers:

Today's second article comes form an open forum site and focuses on a kind of specific market study.  It features how one small bag manufacturer is using social media in creative ways to connect with its customers and fans to build its brand name and client base.  A very interesting read for all small businesses.
How Social Media Helps One Small Business Connect with Fans
How Social Media Helps One Small Business Connect with Fans

Customers of Seattle-based bag manufacturer Tom Bihn are as passionate about the product as the company’s 22-person staff.
The company’s namesake has been designing and making bags for more than 20 years. He always has a sketchbook, regularly works on up to 10 designs at once and always sews the prototype of the new product himself, according to the company’s Web site.

A quick thought.  It's interesting to note that Tom Bihn uses multi-platforms for its social media, and is able to disseminate information across all of them.  But the strategy of attempting to not overlap information on the platforms is interesting.  What doesn't surprise, though, is that interactivity has been essential to growth.  Something to keep in mind when putting together your social media efforts.  Simply posting information doesn't do a whole lot, allowing customers to interact, though, is very effective.

Time Management:

And now to the point of today's post.  As I mentioned it deals with time.  Not the timing of pitching your story, or making your follow up phone calls or creating your PR campaign, although those are all important.

I'm talking about finding time to simply manage your social media efforts.  Taking the time to sit down, do your research and develop/create your social media campaign is a great start.  But once you have it planned out, and even implemented it, the real work begins.

I hear you already.  I've heard it every time I've spoken to small business owners and non-profit staff; "I just don't have time to manage my social media accounts every day."  I get it.  You're overworked, underpaid and stressed out dealing with everything from paying the electric bill, dealing with customers, handling staffing and still trying to find some time in the day for yourself.  Been there, done that.

But you HAVE to manage your social media accounts regularly.  Otherwise it becomes a non-factor in your overall publicity efforts.  Simply posting or updating a couple of times a month doesn't cut it.  You can't build a following, create a buzz or establish your brand and message with minimal effort.

What ends up happening, more often than not, is that small business owners or non-profit directors end up hiring a social media "expert" to manage their accounts for them.  That kind of defeats the purpose of this blog, since the goal is to find ways to help you save money by effectively handling your own campaigns.  Another danger to hiring an outside expert is that they aren't focused on your business.  Generally, these "experts" are handling multiple clients and your business receives a portion of their overall time.  They also may not be completely immersed in your organizations' culture, day to day activities and message.  This is a potential recipe for disaster.  

You want someone who is passionate about your organization, someone who lives and breathes your organizations' goals and culture.  You need someone who will treat your social media efforts with care and focus.  This isn't an "expert," it's you.

But the problem remains.  You feel you simply don't feel as if you have enough time to devote to successfully manage your own social media.  I say, hogwash.  You have all the tools you need at your disposal, you just need to start using them.

Let me say I'm not trying to tell you how to manage your time.  You know your business better than anyone, and you know your personal time restrictions better than I do.  But I know there are options that you probably haven't considered yet.

One of the biggest mistakes I see being made when handling time issues regarding social media campaigns is attempting to place the entire burden on the shoulders of one person.  For small businesses and non-profits, this is a bad idea.

It's a group effort:

As a small business owner, you have assembled what you hope is a quality staff.  You have allowed your staff to assume responsibilities that, at one time, used to belong to you.  Certainly you still oversee their work, and, as always, the buck stops with you.  The same is true of non-profit directors.  You delegate the work to be done.  

And yet, for some reason, when it comes to public relations or social media campaigns, owners and directors feel as if they have to either handle it all themselves or lay the work at the feet of one staffer.  Running an effective campaign is a lot like running your small business or non-profit.  

You have a boss, perhaps a manager and then staffers.  Why does it have to be different with a social media effort?  It doesn't.  It starts with the creation of the plan and continues into the implementation and management of the plan.  By allowing your staff, or a small group of staffers to participate in the creation and development of your social media plan, you not only allow them to feel like a major part of your organization, but you probably will end up with some really creative and unique ideas you might not have though of on your own.

This also has the added benefit of having several individuals in your organization being very familiar with the message, goals and tools of your plan.  This means more than one person is capable of effectively managing the campaign.  

A third benefit is that, once the campaign is up and running, your customers will have an opportunity to know several members of your staff.  Certainly customers or potential donors want to hear from the person at the top.  But they also want to feel comfortable with your staff and employees.  

Once you and your staff have created the plan and implemented it, start delegating.  Since everyone involved knows the overall plan and sees the big picture, they will be better equipped to manage a smaller portion of the campaign.  Give specific individuals responsibilities over different parts of the plan.

In other words, allow one to focus on the Facebook, give another staffer the Twitter, give another one, the blog responsibilities.  One gets video, one gets Digg, one gets Meetup and so one depending on how many you have involved in the process.  One staffer can also take time to handle more than one focus.  You should handle an aspect as well (I would recommend the blog since it is the most personal and therefore the most likely to meet with problems).  You as the owner or director, obviously need to approve their activities and oversee them.  A weekly lunch meeting to review and plan ahead will allow you to do this.

Allow the involved employees and staff an hour a day, or at night to focus on their aspect of the campaign.  Adjust for employee workload and responsibilities.  

Here are some tips to using your own staff to hep create and manage your social media campaign.

1.  Be inclusive - Allow staff and employees to participate, create and manage.

2.  Be clear in your goals and objectives - If your staff knows what the goals are, they can work together towards reaching those goals.

3.  Delegate - Don't try to do it all yourself.  Allow your staff to pitch in and help by assigning different aspects of the plan to individuals employees or volunteers.

4.  Oversee - While you have to trust your staffers, you're the one on the hotseat.  Make sure you regularly meet with your staffers to ensure you are all on the same page and going in the same direction.

5.  Communicate clearly - Make sure your staffers working with you on the campaign are talking to you and that you're talkign to them often.  Listen to their ideas in the beginning and even after the plan is in action.  Not communicating will allow your campaing to stagnate or, worse, fail.

This is just one way, and in my opinion the best way, to meet your social media needs.  Obviously you will find ways to make a plan like this work.  The bottom line, though, is that you can't take on the entire responsibility of managing your social media campaign yourself and do it successfully.  You have too many other things to deal with.  By delegating, you find more time in the efforts of your staff and employees.  Plus you harness the power of collaboration.  For small businesses and non-profits who work together on their social media efforts, the success will come much sooner than those who try to put the entire load on one person.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fundraising Fun!

First, sorry about the overuse of alliteration the past couple of days.  It's just that it's so darn enjoyable, I can't help myself.  It's simply too much fun to say consecutive words that start with the same letter.  What can I say, I'm a sucker for the classics.

Lately, I'm sure you've all been seeing a ton of postings on your Facebook page, Twitter, associated blogs, websites, emails, Linkedin, etc, accounts asking for donations for Haiti.  Perhaps you've seen similar postings about fundraisers designed to raise money for Haitian relief.  Welcome to the world of social media and fundraising. 

Because social media fundraising is still a relatively new phenomenon, there are still questions regarding exactly how successfull it has been, or will be in raising the kind of donations normally raised by more traditional fundraising efforts.  My hunch is that while social media fundraising might still not be the powerhouse that proven efforts are, it's close, and getting closer. 

I mean, let's face it, social media fundraising sounds like a fundraisers wet dream.  Generate tons of interest, a following and donations by the boatload, all without having to shell out the money for onsite expenses, coordinating volunteers and dealing with the headaches of permits, vendors and rental space.

But is fundraising simply about raising money for a cause?  You might think it is, but as you probably already know as a non-profit or small business owner, actually raising money is only a part of why organizations get involved in charities.  A large part to be sure, but there are other goals to fundraising, goals that social media can't always achieve alone.

A recent article in the Courier-News online, a newspaper in the suburbs of Chicago, focused on the fundraising efforts of a few of the local charities.  Here's a short excerpt from the article:

Just dance: How nonprofits are raising funds

PADS is among several area nonprofits that put together their own events to raise money. Other upcoming examples include this Friday's Tenth Annual Distinguished Citizens Dinner, "All That Jazz!", a night of music and food which benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin. The Association for Individual Development holds its 11th annual telethon on March 6 and is looking for 800 volunteers to assist at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove with the goal of raising $125,000.

Take a look at your own fundraising efforts and ask when the last time you were able to raise over $100,000 dollars.  What is PADS, and others like them doing that perhaps you aren't?  And why are they still spending their time on event fundraisers when social media is experiencing such great growth in rounding up donations?

Fundraising; not just for non-profits anymore.  Or, Community outreach works!

As you already know, for non-profits and small businesses fundraising is both a way to raise money and a way to meet important individuals who can be valuable assets to your organization.  Developing relationship with key people is a large part of networking and growing your company or non-profit.  Certainly social media is a great way to begin to establish and grow those relationships, but nothing is more effective than face to face meetings.

There is a reason why public relations firms continue to place so much emphasis on community outreach efforts.  When I was working for MGA Communications in Denver, we were handling Shell Oil as they were planning to expand their oil shale operation on Colorado's Western Slope.  This meant not only working with governmental agencies and dealing with a media that was split on the benefits of reviving a program that left the area high and dry 30 years earlier.  It also meant convincing the residents that the program was both not dangerous, but also a boon economically and socially to the small towns that dotted the landscape around the project.

To do this, we had to convince the residents, the editors of the local papers, the local bloggers and civic leaders.  This isn't something that can be done through some carefully placed stories, superbly crafted news releases and Facebook postings (although at the time, it probably would have been emails and MySpace notes). 

This had to be done face to face.  So MGA put together a travelling exhibit to be taken from town to town.  Residents and other shareholders were invited to meetings with Shell Oil management and spokespeople and researchers in an effort to ease some of the peoples' concerns.  Dinners were held, meetings were conducted, information disseminated. 

But perhaps the most important aspect of the community outreach effort in this case was the key relationships built with local leaders during the whirlwind tour.  Certainly the information released was valuable and important.  But the face to face interaction went a long way to gaining the support of civic and community leaders, which helped Shell gain more support from those who lived in the area.

Your business and non-profit benefits in the same way every time you foray out into the public.  I'm not talking about handing out pamphlets on the street.  There's little to no interaction in this method.  No, I'm talking about full blown, staged event, whether you organize the event yourself, or piggy back onto a previously staged event.

Not your father's Facebook:

But let's take another look at some of the charities mentioned in the above article.  These particular non-profits are staging events designed to attract a specific audience and they're doing it in the name of raising money for a cause.  Too often charities and small businesses do the absolute minimum in terms of staging an event when it comes to fundraising.  Hosting a guest bartender night at a local bar, or a costume night at a club or theater takes little imagination but they are quick and cheap.  They also don't bring in the kind of donors with deep pocketbooks.  On the other hand, golf tournaments ususally bring in an audience that has money to donate, but they are time consumign and expensive to coordinate and stage. 

Finding unique events, with a real theme that is fun, but will also attract the right people who will be able to donate and are individuals who you want to meet and can help your organization down the road, is difficult.  But that's only the start of your problems when staging a fundraising event.

This is where social media comes into play.  Certainly it seems as if a lot of folks are bypassing the face to face events for the quicker social media donation route.  But, again, this cuts out an important reason to host fundraising events in the first place.  That doesn't mean social media doesn't have a place in your fundraising efforts. 

Once you've created the event, set a date and time and location, you use social media to advertise said event.  You can also use traditional media to get the word out, but social media will allow you to reach out to specific groups and individuals that may not hear about your event through more traditional means.

So far, this is all pretty much par for the course, but why stop using social media just because the party has started?  One of the more unique uses of social media in terms of fundraising involves real-time connectivity to other locations involved in the same activity.

Recently a small business in Apple Valley used their Facebook, blog and video connections to host a fundraising event for the homeless in LA., Chicago and New York.  The parties took place simultaneously.  It was a simple idea in terms of the party itself.  But it was billed as a nationwide party.  Clubs in New York were done up to feel like LA, while clubs in LA had a definite New York Feel.  Chicago just got to party. 

Attendees were able to listen to bands play live from LA, and vice-versa.  They were able to talk directly to partiers across the country and leave blog comments during the party.  Meanwhile those in other cities unable to attend the parties themselves were encouraged to start their own parties to raise money and received live video feeds of all three events.  Remote partiers were also able to send live feeds of their event at the same time.

The event raised nearly half a million dollars.  The key to the success of this event wasn't just dressing up a club and asking for people to come, enjoy themselves and donate money.  The people came for an experience, for the opportunity to be part of something bigger than a single fundraising event.  The organizers promoted the event across social media circles and then used those same tools to allow others to experience the fun across the country.  Donations came in from across the country, from those able to participate even though they were hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles away from the main events.

Social media has certainly changed the way small businesses and non-profits interact with the public, and hence, how they handle fundraising and community outreach efforts.  The catch is that, in the end, face to face will still always prove more valuable than simple online interaction.  Social media can be a powerful tool in promoting those face to face events, and can even be used to enhance those events even as they're taking place. 

Just like public relations, social media is a much more effective tool to fundraise with when it's used in combination with other methods and tools. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Viral Virus

I want to talk to you about Viral Videos today, obviously spurred on by the "Pants on the Ground" phenomenon that has swept the country.  Video is a proven method for attracting viewers to your social media sites and groups, but how much can a viral video help your organization, and is it always the best idea to "go viral" to raise your profile?  I'll get to those questions and more in just one second, but first, a few notes.

Thank you to my friend Vivian who posted this link about NBC's handling of the Leno/Conan battle to my Facebook page as a recommendation for the blog.  While it doesn't really deal with public relations or social media exactly, it's still an interesting read for small businesses and non-profit directors. 

The fallout from the Conon vs. Leno snafu has erupted in a way that, I think, caught some at NBC very much by surprise.  Once again, though, we see social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter having a significant impact on the conversations over this fiasco.  Hundreds of groups have emerged supporting one side or the other.  So far, most of the groups I've seen have been in support of Conan early on.  However, lately I've seen a bit of a backlash against this surge of "Conanity" as the Leno camp gets it in gear.  It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, as Letterman, and Ferguson and the other late night combatants spew their video jokes all over the internet.  Regardless of how it turns out, it certainly has been entertaining to watch.

Also, here are a few link regarding yesterdays entry on social media and how it impacts business to business ventures.

The first link is a list of the top 10 social networks for entrepreneurs.  It's from the Mashable Social Media Guide website, which has tons of great information for anyone interested in learning more about social media, how it works and what tools are out there for you to use. 

The second link is from the Listorious website and is a listing of the top entrepreneur Twitter lists.  Both are very informative links and both sites offer a great deal of information for small business owners and non-profits.  Checking in with entrepreneurs on a regular basis is a great way to round up new business and donors and sponsors.  These aren't just listings of startups, but individuals who are out there every day doing the same things you are.  Once again, social media proves an effective method to help build business partnerships.

Today's Topic: Viral Video

Today I wanted to discuss the concept of "Viral".  What is it?  How does it work?  How can you get in on the fun? 

First, something that goes viral is something that is let loose into the public domain and, very quickly, becomes an overnight phenomenon.  Within a short time, people are talking about it around watercoolers, in bars, at home.  What makes it viral is the fact that there is very little promotion involved in its success and little to no news coverage.  Think of it as gossip in a small town.  Something happens.  One person tells two people, those two people tell two people and those people tell more people and on and on until the entire town knows about the event in question.  Kind of like an idea pyramid scheme, with a little game of telephone thrown in.

Viral campaigns have been around a long time, long before the internet.  Companies would create a buzz around a product or service by pouring money into finely crafted commercial campaigns.  Clever jingles were some of the first "viral" campaigns.  The Oscar Meyer song, the Dr. Pepper jingle, the "I'd Like to buy the World a Coke" commercial, all great examples of how a company used video, music and a great idea to create buzz.  And that's really what viral is all about; creating "buzz".  Movie studios used to do something similar with their trailers.  Get people talking about you, your product or service.  That was the whole idea behind something going "viral", although it wasn't called viral back then, just good marketing.

Then the internet hit, social media began to emerge and going viral became something new.  Anyone could go viral.  Comedian Dane Cook used the internet and social media to grow a huge following among college students around the country.  Almost overnight, he went from obscure funny man to nationally known star.

That's one example of viral really having a positive impact on a career or business.  But when you think viral, it's likely you think of something that rarely has anything to do with small businesses or non-profits.  You think funny videos.  Off the top of my head, I can rattle off about a hundred viral videos that have reached near legendary status.  The Light Saber Kid, the Surprised Kitty, athletes jumping out of a swimming pool.

The one thing that remains a constant to those pre-internet days is video.  Today, in order to go viral, you HAVE to use video.  Most of the time, we even call it, "Viral Video".  Just as with everything else regarding the internet and social media, it took a little while, but viral video is starting to make real headway in terms of economic viability.

Not only can it help raise the profile of a company, it can also negatively impact the bottom line of a company.  Kobe Bryan jumping over a car was a viral video, which then became a popular television commercial.  Movies such as Sector 9 and Avatar, though both on complete different spectrums of budget and fanfare, both used integrated social media and online access to help create a buzz around the release dates.  The 2009 movie, Paranormal Activity, also used a vast viral video campaign, as well as an organized social media drive to ultimately grow a following and expand its art-theater showings to a national multi-plex appearances.

The dark side of going Viral:

But all is not good news with viral videos.  One just has to look at the Dominoe's Pizza video, showing a couple of employees doing some really nasty stuff to the food, to know that that was one viral video Dominoe's wishes had never been released.  It didn't take long for people to see that video and send it to their friends, who sent it to their friends and so on until it nearly sunk the national pizza chain.  Imagine that.  A couple of bored teens nearly destroyed an established multi-billion dollar company.  Now just imagine if that had been your company. 

Let's take another look at a more recent viral video.  The "Pants on the Ground" song that has seemingly taken the U.S. by storm.  At first glance, it might seems like just a stupid song, performed by a less than stellar singer.  So why, you might ask has it become the unofficial theme song for January, 2010?  One word; entertainment.

You see, viral videos aren't much different than the news industry or entertainment industry or even your small business or non-profit.  In the end, the video MUST provide viewers with something they want to see.  Not something they are forced to see, but something that is so interesting, so quirky, so different, they just MUST see it.  Something they will go out of their way to search for and watch.

The song in question provides this.  First, like the song or not (and for the record, I'm not a big fan of it) it is catchy.  It has rythm, and a memorable little tune, such as it is.  The words may not make sense, but it's simple and repetitive.

Second, the performer is unique.  Not flashy, not smooth, but normal, like you or me.  He's just a guy off the street who seems a little crazy.  Like a car accident you HAVE to look when you see the video.  It's funny and painful all at the same time, which makes it intriguing. 

So let's see, we have a few common factors for viral videos that we can easily list:

1.  Simple
2.  Unique/Quirky
3.  Repetitive
4.  Relatively short
5.  Relatable
6.  Interesting/funny/painful...either way you put it, it's intriguing.

You may look at this list and think to yourself.  "I can make a viral video," and maybe you can.  But be careful, because the list of people who have actively gone out with the purpose of making a viral video is long.  The list of people who have succeeded is pretty short.  And this includes major corporations.  Companies with money and time at their disposal. 

For instance, here is a video launched by Toyota as part of their "Yourotheryou" campaign.  Take a look at it:

This video was meant to be the start of something viral.  Unfortunately, being pranked for five straight days borders on stalking, and, of course, a lawsuit soon followed.  Not surprisingly, the campaign has been discontinued. 

This is a great example of a company trying something unique, and funny and even relatable (who hasn't pranked a friend).  But it wasn't simple enough, short enough and it reeked of creepiness.  Creepy isn't necessarily viral video gold.

And yet, another series of viral videos involves pranks and has been viewed so often, the two men involved scored a sponsorship deal from AXE.  You might have seen the videos, on Collegehumor.com, under "Prank War".  Here is one of them in case you haven't seen any of them.

So why is THIS prank video so popular, whereas the Toyota viral video not only failed miserably, but led to at least one lawsuit?  The most obvious answer is that the prank war only involves two people, friends, who are aware that at some point they will be pranked.  You might feel a little bad for the one getting pranked, but you know it's all in fun and you, as the viewer get the thrill of watching, like a voyeur, from afar. 

Second, the concept is simple and fairly repetitive.  You know a single prank will be played, the prankster explains breifly what will happen and then it happens.  You watch, you laugh, you share.  The viewer doesn't have to contact anyone, do anything, think something up.  They simply have to click play and enjoy.  Unlike the Toyota video which relies on viewer participation. 

Third, there is a level of intrigue with the prank war.  The viewer will come back again and again to see how the next prank will one-up the previous prank.  How do you best a prank where you thought you might die?  Tune in, come back and see!

This same technique holds true for other viral series such as Gossip girl, where viewers would come back again and again to follow up on the life of a, seemingly, real girl as she told about all the crazy things that went on in her life. 

There are even viral video sites now, such as collegehumor.com, funnyordie.com and failblog.com where everyday folks post their videos and photos in an attempt to gain some notariety for their work.

Your Viral Effort:

So how can you use viral video to promote your business or raise the profile of your non-profit?  Honestly, in some cases, you probably won't be able to.  BUT, you can use video in your social media efforts to help attract viewers to your group, site, blog, etc. 

A couple of things to keep in mind as you move forward with this. 

1.  You don't need a high end video camera to do this - Nearly any of today's mid-range video cameras will give you the video you want.  You can even shoot it on a videophone if you choose, although the sound and video isn't great, it's video, which will always draw more eyes to your site.

2.  You don't need high end editing equipment either - I use Final Cut Pro, which can be expensive.  But you can get away with iMovie, which comes free with new macs, or any number of very cheap editing programs for PC's.  These are pretty easy to learn and within a day you can start posting video to your sites.

3.  Shoot short videos - You want to give the viewer something worth viewing, but not too long that they'll get bored.  Anywhere between 30-seconds and 3 minutes is probably your target.  Less than 30 seconds, and it's probably too short.  More than 3 minutes and you're starting to lose the viewer.  Remember, people want something they can watch quickly, enjoy, share and move on.  One of the most amazing videos I've ever seens involves a beat boxing flute player, as well as a dancing marionette on a beach in Brazil.  I loved them.  But I didn't share them, because they were simply too long for most of my friends to sit through.  Sad but true.  Shorter is often better.

4.  Make sure what you shoot is interesting - This doesn't mean you have to shoot people doing crazy things.  Simply shooting what your company does can be interesting depending on the audience.  I love a show called "How It's Made" which is basically video of factories making all kinds of things with a simple voiceover.  It's fascintaing to watch because it gives me an insight into something I didn't know.  It doesn't always have to be funny, but it always has to be interesting.

This last tip is sometimes hard to define.  What is interesting?  Again, just like when you're creating and pitching a story for pr purposes, you have to know your audience.  If you know what they'll like, then it will be easier for you to create something they'll find interesting.

One final tip:  Don't go out looking to shoot something that will go viral.  Focus on quality and create something that you like and enjoy and want others to see.  Because the problem with viral is that while it often creates huge buzz for a short period of time, it is also quickly forgotten.  Gauranteed that within a month, the "Pants on the Ground" fad will be gone, replaced by something equally silly. 

But if you consistently create videos that you are proud of, and do it regularly, then you will attract viewers that will stick around and potentially positively impact your organization.  While viral is great, you're looking for something with more lasting power that speaks well of your organization.  Hopefully one of the videos you produce goes viral.  But if not, at least you'll be using video effectively and growing your organization intelligently.  And that beats being a flash in the pan any day of the week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A different kind of audience

A quick note:

First, thank you to those of you who commented on my Martin Luther King entry.  Please note that neither the King entry, or the Haiti entry was designed to minimize the achievements of a great man, or lessen the impact of the tragedy taking place in Port Au Prince. 

When I first started working in news, I had a news director tell me once, after a particularly disasterous day, that every event is a learning experience.  I believed it then, I believe it now.  For small business owners and non-profits, learning lessons is always best when it doesn't impact the bottom line.  By being able to look at what is happening in Haiti from a distance, or by looking at the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the distance of time, we can learn some valuable lessons hard-earned by other people. 

Careful study of past and present events only serves to make us wiser and smarter, whether it's in life, or as a small business owner or non-profit director.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get to topic at hand, shall we?

Business to Business:

So far, I've spent an awful lot of time focusing on how small businesses and non-profits can reach out to potential customers and shareholders.  But what if your business doesn't often deal face to face with customers?  What if you're most important business partners are other businesses?  Do the rules of public relations and social media still apply? 

In short, they do.  The biggest difference between the two is the audience, and hence, the media outlets you target.  For most of your public relations and social media efforts you will be targeting outlets that do one of two things; cater to the largest possible audience, or cater to a select, focused audience that will find your product or service appealing.  In this way, you're doing pretty much the same thing when targeting other businesses with your social media and public relations efforts.

From a traditional media public relations standpoint, reaching out to other businesses is fairly simple.  You will still stay true to your message, create your story and pitch that story to producers, editors and reporters.  The major difference will be the outlets themselves.  Instead of pitching your story to outlets such as The Denver Post, KOA radio, Channel 9 News (for the locals reading) or NBC, New York Times and NPR, you'll be pitching your story to a much more focused media. 

Business for Breakfast, The Denver Business Journal (again for locals), MSNBC, Entrepreneur Magazine; all will be at the top of your pitch for business to business coverage.  You don't have to drastically change your pitch for these outlets, just keep in mind their audience.  Instead of pitching a story that appeals to general mass public, pitch stories that interest other business owners.

How does your product or service save them time and money?  How can you help them with staffing issues?  Accounting issues?  Governmental red tape?  These are questions you probably ask yourself all the time, so it stands to reason other small business owners are wondering the same things and looking for solutions. 

It's when we get to the realm of social media and online media that things start to get a little trickier in regards to business to business outreach.

Social Media Impact:

We KNOW, for a fact, that social media is successfull in reaching the masses, generating interest and creating buzz.  The question really is; how much is social media impacting business to business interaction?  Short answer...we just don't know right now.  Certainly there is an active business to business environment online.  But how much does it truly impact the bottom line of small businesses?  It's really too early to tell.  Business analysts agree that social media is impacting small businesses, in mostly a positive way, but how much is still a mystery.

One thing can be assumed, however.  As social media continues to grow and we learn how to use it more effectively, it will continue to have a growing positive impact on profits for small businesses.  Already there are a multitude of online e-zines, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts and sites dedicated specifically to business to business ventures and interaction.  And more are sure to follow.

You can pitch your stories to many of these already existing sites in the effort to get your message out before a focused audience.  But what about sites such as Twitter, Digg, Meetup, Facebook and other social media sites that seem more designed to reach the general masses than specific business entities?


One of the wonderful, and scary, things about the internet environment is its swift changing nature.  It didn't take long before specialization started to emerge.  Like the segmentation experienced by broadcast entities when digital began to take hold, social media underwent the same kind of change structural change almost immediately.

Groups pages, specialized Facebook sites (such at Petbook and Catbook) began to take hold.  Special group segments on Flickr and and focused search tools for Digg and Google have long been in place.  Even Twitter has group Twitter tools small businesses, entrepreneurs and non-profits can use. 

The point is, social media is just as segmented as most other media these days.  The trick is finding the right groups to become a part of and start being active in those groups.  In many ways, it's similar to the brick and mortar world of business that most of you operate in every day.  Chambers of Commerce around the country now can be accessed through most social media sites.  The same goes for many of the other "traditional" business groups you've probably been associated with, or worked with in the past. 

What is different today is that instead of meeting once a month at a meet n greet, you have access to all the members daily through social media tools.  You can interact with them constantly if you wish, instead of just intermittently.  Use this to your advantage.  You don't have to suddenly abandon the proven business groups you have been involved with over the years.  Instead, use social media to enhance those group interactions.  If a business group you belong to doesn't have social media access, take the initiative and start a Facebook page or Meetup group.  You'll find that not only will the current members likely become more active, but you'll begin attracting new members and potentially breath new life into your group.

Perhaps you won't be able to motivate a flash mob, or create a viral video that will spread like wildfire among fellow business owners, but you don't have to.  Your target is much more focused.  You don't need to dazzle with silly videos or with trumped up online gimmicks.  In some ways your job is easier online with fellow businesses because you already speak the same language.  You already have one important thing in common, and that is your business experience.  Social media simply will allow you to speak that language to more fellow owners at one time than ever before.

Here are some tips to using social media for B2B outreach:

1.  Target your audience - Just as in general social media and pr outreach, your audience matters.  You need to make sure that your message is reaching the right individuals.

2.  Target the correct media - This includes online media and traditional media.  Make sure you're pitching your story to the right online publications if you're looking for business specific story coverage.

3.  Find your niche - Search the social media tools that you use regularly.  Find the segments within those tools that focus specifically on other businesses.  These can be groups, meetups, twitter pages, separate websites, anything that speaks directly to your audience.

4.  Institute social media in existing groups - Social media can help an existing business group grow and help you stay in contact with other businesses that might be beneficial to you.

5.  Look for potential business partners/clients in unique places - One of the great things about social media is that like minds can gather virtually whenever they want.  If your small business does a lot of work with specific charities or regularly participates in or sponsors an event, you might find that other small businesses do the same.  You can find potential business everywhere.  Use social media tools to join groups dedicated to the kinds of charities or events you actively participate in and make sure others know who you are and what you do.  You might find other businesses involved in the same activities and relationships could grow from there.

Non-profits benefit, too:

Non-profits aren't excluded from this conversation either.  Obviously, individual donors are the lifeblood of most non-profits.  But there are a multitude of businesses that are run by owners who believe in the same causes you do.  Find business groups that believe in the same things you do, or have members who participate in the kinds of events or charities that your organization supports. 

In the end, business is about relationships, and social media is about building relationships.  Running a successfull non-profit is about building relationships as well.  It seems like a natural fit to use social media to help grow the relationships to improve the success of your small business or non-profit. 

And the good news is that the opportunities will continue to grow through 2010 and beyond.  Any small business not utilizing social media in their everyday outreach or in their business to business outreach will likely lose out to those that use it effectively within a very short time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Wonder of King

I sit here today, enjoying a beautiful afternoon, having taken the dog swimming, not too much on my plate to deal with, and watching a documentary on Martin Luther King Jr. on the History Channel (one of my favorite stations ever, by the way). 

I thought about not posting today.  I also considered posting something about the power of social media to create a virtual "flashfire" of pop culture from time to time.  The focus was going to be the "Pants on the ground" song that seems to be everywhere I turn, and, inexplicably, more popular that even Simon Cowell could have imagined, even after he prophetically claimed the song could become a "hit".  And so it came to pass.

And I think I will still make a comment on the phenomenon of "Pants on the ground," only I'll juxtaposition it with a look at the the historic accomplishments of MLK Jr. 

Just as in the tragedy of Haiti, and even the viral explosion of "Pants on the ground", there are lessons to be learned from what King and his civil rights movement achieved in the turbulent 60's.  Small business owners, and particularly non-profits, can look at the movement made over a relatively short period of time and adopt some of the strategies used by King to promote their own agendas, whatever they be. 

The Lessons of King:

Just as generals and CEO's of today study the lessons and techniques of Sun Tzu's "Art of War," business owners of today and agents of social change (non-profits) can study the lessons and techniques of King, even though the times, and methods, have changed drastically.

I'll get into the differences in a bit, because the differences matter.  In some cases, the changes empower us more than ever.  In some cases they hinder us more than we might have been 40 years ago. 

But let's look at the basis for success that King used that still matter today, and will forever matter when it comes to meeting success.

King had a vision - He knew what he wanted to accomplish.

King had a planHe knew how to achieve his vision, and stuck to his plan even when things went wrong.  He certainly adapted his plan when necessary, but he never wavered from his overall plan, nor from his overall goal and vision.  His plan of peaceful resistance, made famous by Ghandi decades earlier, was successful, perhaps even beyond his expectations.

King had infrastructure - King built an organization with leaders spread out across his target states who helped in making decisions, and organizing the youth and activist members of the community into a single, unified force.  He was the leader, but he delegated and communicated with all the leaders within his organization.

King picked his fights - King knew what he wanted to accomplish.  He knew he couldn't change the hearts and minds of all bigots and racists in America.  But he knew he could help enact legislation to protect and uplift minorities.  He didn't fight everywhere, he chose his battles and more often than not, won them.

King was inclusive - Listen to the "I Have a Dream" speech if you have time.  More than once, he spoke of justice for everyone.  Not just African-Americans, but for all the downtrodden, the poor, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, White, Black, Hispanic; all people of America.  His message wasn't just equality for Blacks, but equality for everyone.  A message the resonated with a great portion of the American population.

King used his contacts - Obviously, MLK had contact with the President of the United States, whether it was Kennedy or Johnson.  He communicated with them and used his contact with the most powerful men in the world to help create legislation that eventually became law of the land.

King listened - MLK had his visions, his goals and his plan, but he also listened to what those around him were saying.  He wanted to be informed at all times.  He not only listened to those he was trying to help, but also to his advisors, he listened to his enemies, he listened to those with power and without.  He listened and he digested, and he moved forward with all of this information in hand.  He rarely moved forward without being informed from all camps.
King sacrificed - I'm not sure I need to explain this at length.  Safe to say, MLK sacrificed time, money, energy, blood sweat, tears, freedom and even his life, to achieve his goals.

King believed in what he was doing - Simply put, it's outrageous to think he, or anyone would have done what he did without truly believing, deep down, that what he was doing was right. 

Look at that list, and I'm sure I missed some things that should be included, and understand how all of those characteristics can be directly applied to success in any venture you take even today.  If you're a small business owner or a non-profit, if you apply these same characteristics to your organizations, it's more likely than not, you'll be a success, particularly in your public relations and social media efforts.  If you truly believe in what you are promoting, have a plan, stick to that plan, listen, communicate, sacrifice, pick your battles, remain inclusive and use your staff effectively, your outreach campaign will succeed, period.

Media then, media now:

But one has to wonder how a single man was able to mobilize millions of Americans in the mid-60's without the use of the internet, a small budget and little to no advertising.  Seriously, ask the best PR person you know and ask them to create and grow a national grassroots movement with those restrictions, and they'll laugh you out of the room.  And yet, this man from humble beginnings, accomplished all that and more.

And let me be the first to say, I'd laugh you out of the room as well for the simple reason that it can't be done today.  America is a different place now than it was four decades ago.  It's dramatically different than it was just ten years ago.  Americans today have more options about where they get their information.  Today we are bombarded with messages from all around us.  We are more picky, more cynical and more distracted than ever before. 

Let's take a look at the media world in which MLK lived in during his civil rights movement.  Outlets of information were limited at the time.  Television was essentially just hitting its stride as a major influencer of American life when King began his campaign.  Kennedy was the first President to truly realize TV's potential and to use it to help become elected.  King learned from Kennedy.  At the time, the big three networks dominated news and information.  Every city had one, maybe two major paper and most likely one or two major news radio outlets.  What did this mean?  It meant King and his organization didnt' have to reach very far to reach the majority of Americans. 

Get covered on NBC's Nightly News, or ABC with Walter Cronkite, and you've reached a vast majority of the American population with your message and story.  King didn't have to do much to sell his story, obviously, because what he was doing was truly newsworthy, historic, in fact.  It was a no brainer for news executives at the time, much like it would be today.  The difference is, today the message would get lost, muddled and possibly obscured in the swirl of constant information being pumped out daily by television, cable, radio, satellite radio, magazines, online sites, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, social media websites, ezines, daily and weekly newspapers and various other focused publications.  It's nearly impossible today to reach the kind of saturation that King's movement reached in the 60's.  Even if an event were able to reach that level of awareness and coverage today, the ever-changing news cycles would quickly make it a non-story in a short period of time.

By being able to catch and maintain the focus and attention of the handful of major media outlets in the U.S., King was able to capture the imagination of a new generation of Americans and spread his message fairly quickly.  He was then able to use his on-ground grassroots organization to recruit participants for his marches.  He was able to publicize his struggle through effective use of the few major media outlets available to him at the time.  On top of that, the media of the day had fewer news cycles.  Once a major story or personality emerged, the news of the day took more time with a story, went more in-depth, gave the viewers, readers and listeners more to digest and understand.  King and the Civil Rights Movement remained a major news generator for years, something very hard to do in today's media environment.

Look at another historic sea-change taking place in America today.  Agree or disagree with the current administartions plans to change health care, one has to agree that a change of this magnitude is historic.  It's a complete paradigm change in how the U.S. handles health care for its population.  It should be a constant presence on news outlets everywhere, everday.  But it isn't.  It shows up every now and then when a vote is taken, or when something major happens, otherwise, it gets ignored or buried in the middle somewhere behind the latest Hollywood wedding.

And yet, these same media outlets that make King's kind of movement nearly impossible today, also can be used to inspire an outpouring of emotion, wonder, amusement, social change and assistance never before seen in our history. 

Going Viral:

Social issues such as conservationism, aid to Haiti, support for Olympic athletes, local schools, the war on poverty, the legalization of pot, all have been relatively successful in terms of getting their message out online and organizing grassroots movements through social media.

And this is where "Pants on the ground" comes into play.  I have been shocked, amazed and bemused at the explosion of popularity for this snippet of a song, based on the short performance of a man on "American Idol".  I received several postings of it on my Facebook page, as well as Twitter.  It was even sung by Brett Favre, the QB for the Vikings in the locker room after their big win over the Cowboys in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.  It blew up, but big.  And why was that?

Only one answer is adequate; the internet.  People saw it on TV during the broadcast, the AI folks put it up online and let human nature and social media take its course.  I'll admit the song is quirky, it's unique, it's slightly funny.  Like the opera singer from Britain, the video made the song and its performer an instant success.  But, like most pop culture fads in the U.S. today, it has no lasting power.  Within a month, the song will be long forgotten, replaced by some other overnight sensation.

This is the kind of thing that would hinder MLK today, and it's the kind of "flashfire" phenomenon that makes your job doing pr and social media for your organization both easier and harder than it's ever been.  You not only have to figure out a way to get your name and message out to the masses.  But once it's out there, you have to figure out a way to KEEP it out there.  And that's really the hard part.

You CAN organize successful grassroots movements using social media today.  You CAN reach a large portion of the public using traditional and new media outlets today.  You CAN keep your name in front of your potential audience using proven PR and community outreach methods today.  The trick is using them all together and using them wisely. 

What this means to you:

Perhaps, from a basic PR and communications standpoint, that's where we can learn some valuable lessons from Martin Luther King Jr.  His basic strategy was successful then, and something tells me, given his charisma, intelligence and drive, it would have been just as successful today.  Something to think about for anyone considering trying to implement social change in the U.S. today.  Certainly Obama is trying.  He's the most successful online President so far, and others will follow.  Even non-profits are figuring it out.  One need only look at the Haiti online presence to know that it's changing how Americans respond to those in need and get the message out for social issues. 

The reality is that the online world homogenizes and empowers us all to make change, to find happiness, and pursue our own vocations, vices and pleasures as we see fit, regardless of who we are or what we look like.  Perhaps today we are closer to MLK's dream than ever before, and it's thanks, in part to a world and technology that no one 40 years ago could ever have imagined.