Tag Archives: strategy

Public Relations Isn’t the Cherry on Top

April 23, 2012

1 Comment

Photo courtesy of Flickr user SeRVe Photography

"Let's bring PR in so they'll get us some media coverage for the new launch!"

"Let's make sure we have PR look this over to make us sound better."

"Can you have PR develop a plan to make sure the public thinks we're awesome?"

"Our customers keep complaining about our product – can we get PR in here to help drown that out with good stuff instead?" 

"No one is following our Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Foursquare account – can PR go get us more fans/followers/likes/subscribers/friends?"

We've all heard these things at one point or another in our career because people continue to misunderstand what public relations is. Despite coming up with new definitions, there continues to be a lack of awareness on the part of our clients, colleagues, and friends about what we actually do and the value that we bring to a business. PR isn't:

  • Some transactional activity that's thought about only after the advertising campaign is created.
  • Something that's brought in after the product is completed and you're gearing up for launch.
  • About getting media coverage.
  • About making the public think your product is the best or that your company is awesome
  • About generating "buzz"
  • Something that's going to cover up bigger issues like customer service or product quality

Public Relations is much deeper than all of this. Public Relations is about – you guessed it – building and maintaining relationships with the public, the very public buying your products, walking into your stores, writing about your company, and telling their friends about their experiences. Those users, demographics, markets, and audiences that you and your analysts always talk about? They're actual human beings. Human beings with very loud voices who can, at moment's notice, make or break your business. Your brand isn't determined by what you say you are, but by what you actually do. It's determined by what your customers see and hear from you every day.

The general public has never had more power than they do right now. Yet, businesses continue to try to take the easy way out clumsily advertising, optimizing, and marketing to these people like they're switches that can be turned on and off if we hit the right levers. What most companies don't realize is that not only is the public more powerful than ever, they are also smarter than ever too. Your customers, employees, and partners want require more than a company talking at them – they want a company that talks with them. They want to talk to actual people. They want companies who care about more than selling more widgets. They want companies who think about something other than their own bottom line. 

Paradoxically, organizations continue to look at public relations practitioners – the very people trained in developing and maintaining these relationships that are more important than ever – as little more than an afterthought. "Oh yeah – we're going to need PR to drum up some media coverage too!" Smart organizations are realizing that marketing and advertising can only take them so far. As my favorite book, the Cluetrain Manifesto says –

"We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with."

Successful organizations are integrating public relations earlier and deeper than ever before. Instead of being a key component of their marketing campaigns, PR is now becoming an integral part of their business plans. This integration, while more time-consuming, has many benefits:

  • Online communities of advocates who promote your brand not because they're being paid or because they have to, but because they truly love your brand
  • Consumers who are more likely to forgive when you inevitably make a mistake
  • Employees who truly love your brand and who act as an extension of your marketing department through their everyday work
  • People who will pay a little more for your product because they trust you
  • Reporters who call you asking for story ideas instead of the other way around
  • Organizations who voluntarily cross-promote your products/services because they trust and respect you
  • People who will leap to your defense in the face of attacks and criticism
  • A corporate voice that sounds authentically human instead of stiff, hollow, and fake
  • Content that is entertaining, informative, and/or useful instead of screaming BUY OUR STUFF NOW!!!!
  • Issues that never become full-blown crises because of the relationships that have been built with employees, customers, media, and partners
  • Corporate counsel that represents the public, not just the bottom line or the shareholder

The public is more powerful now than ever before and good public relations has never been important for your brand. Shouldn't PR become more than a bullet point at the end of the agenda, more than last department to get budget allocations, more than the cherry on top of the sundae? Shouldn't your relationships with the public be a key component of everything you do?

Continue reading...

The Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist: An Introspection

November 17, 2010

7 Comments

“The Social Media Strategist must choose one of two career paths – build proactive programs now…or be relegated to ongoing cleanup as social media help desk.”

Not surprisingly, Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group have put together yet another thought-provoking report chock full of statistics, research, and stories – “The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist. Be Proactive or Become ‘Social Media Help Desk.” As I clicked through the report, I found that I couldn’t put it down – it did a fantastic job of putting into words some of the things that I, and many of my #gov20 counterparts have been talking about, not on the conference stages, but in the hallways of events like Gov 2.0 Summit and Gov 2.0 Expo.

The whole report is a must read, and I encourage anyone who’s leading any sort of social media effort, public or private sector, big or small organization, to read it. For me, it made me look in the mirror and contemplate exactly which phase of this career path I’m in, where I want to go, and what I need to do to get there.

Click to see full-size image on Jeremiah's Flickr page

I find myself at Phase 4: Career Decision Point (see graphic at left and on page 10 in the report below). I mentioned this to some of my colleagues the other day – it’s almost like we built this great start-up and are now struggling with how to turn the cool start-up into a scalable business. We’ve  made a ton of progress over the last three years, but as more and more business units across the firm become aware of the new business we’ve brought in, the impacts that we’ve had, and the skills that we have, we’ve found that we’re receiving a TON of new requests ranging from the harmless – “can I buy a drink and chat about social media capabilities?” to the endless time sucks – “would you mind if my team bounced some ideas off of you every now and then?”

The biggest reason for my team’s success isn’t our social media skills, but our willingness to take risks and rally stakeholders from across the organization (page 12). We have 25,000 people spread across the world and in seemingly hundreds of different business units. However, our approach has always been and always will be, that social media doesn’t and can’t exist in a vacuum.  This isn’t something that one team owns.  Rather, we purposely set out to ensure that we’ve brought the folks from our Privacy, IT, Legal, Training, and HR teams into the fold.  As I’ve told many of my colleagues – I’m not all that smart, I’ve just become friends with a lot of really really smart people :).

Over the last year, I’ve found myself less and less in the trenches, and spending more time developing and implementing our overall strategy, and securing the top cover that’s needed for the rest of my team (page 13). Three years ago, I was THE guy to talk with about all of the latest and greatest social media tools and technologies. Now, I’m much more likely to redirect those sorts of questions to someone else on my team as they’re working with this stuff day in and day out with our clients. I’ve discovered that I welcomed this evolution with a combination of trepidation and relief. On the one hand, I’ve been able to focus more of my time on scaling our social media capabilities and laying the foundation so that it becomes a true capability, not just something that I do. On the other, I sometimes miss the day-to-day excitement of working with one client.

Our social media capabilities resemble the Dandelion model (page 15).  Because Booz Allen is such a huge organization that

Altimeter's Dandelion Model

Altimeter's "Multiple Hub and Spoke" or Dandelion Model

encompasses so many different disciplines, we realized early on that there was no way that a small team was going to be able to serve the entire organization (the Hub and Spoke model). That’s why we set out to identify leaders in different business units across the organization who could serve as other hubs within their teams.  That’s why in addition to the people on my team with communication backgrounds, we also have people like Tim Lisko with deep privacy and security skills, Walton Smith and his team with their IT and Enterprise 2.0 skills, Darren West and his team’s analytical experience, and so on and so on. This diversity not only allows us to scale, it allows us to dive much deeper into these others areas of social media that no one team could do on their own.

Internal education is a primary objective of ours this year as well (page 17). Whether through our reverse mentoring program or our new hire orientation classes, we’ve committed to ensuring that social media just becomes something that we do, regardless of team or discipline. It needs to become integrated into everything that we do. This then sets the foundation for other innovative ideas for how they can use social media better in their work.

Dedicated resources are still hard to come by (page 18). While our senior leadership has unanimously bought into the power of social media and have been a key reason for the success we’ve had so far, identifying and securing the right people to serve the enterprise has been a challenge. You see, the people who are the best for this role are also really really good at other things too.  And other people realize that too. Smart, innovative, skilled consultants are quickly snatched up by other project managers, so when the decision comes down to staffing those people on client-billable projects or internal programs like this, guess who wins out? (not that I necessarily disagree – just that it makes scaling these programs all the more challenging).

The end goal remains the same – “in five years, this role doesn’t exist.”  (page 20). I said this last year and someone in the Altimeter study agreed with me. I don’t want this to become something where my team and I are relied upon for every little thing involving social media. The goal is to make this just something we do. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to identify other leaders in the organization and empower them to become another hub with their own spokes. As more and more of these hubs are formed, the need for a dedicated “social media guy” will decrease.  As my friend John Scardino said on our internal Yammer network the other day, (paraphrasing) “I feel like I was helping to lead the growth and adoption of this community at first, and now, it’s almost like the community is self-sustaining and other leaders are emerging to take on those roles.”  I think my role is to help identify and develop that next wave of social media leaders, so that it truly becomes integrated across the firm.

Have you read the report yet? If not, I’d recommend downloading it and as you’re reading it, perform a similar audit of your role in your organization.  You might be surprised what you find out.

The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist. Be Proactive or Become ‘Social Media Help Desk’

Continue reading...