Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tweets Can Be "Sweet" Deals!

Twitter, a real time short messaging service, has become extremely popular not only in the social realm, but the business world as well. As the economy nears what looks like a recession, businesses around the world are scrambling to find cost effective, and productive means of advertising. Twitter, a completely free social medium, could be just that "sweet" bargain companies are seeking.

This easy to use medium limits each instant message to 140 characters - they keep their tweets short and sweet! So how do such sweet tweets pay out for the companies that choose to utilize them? Sarah Milstein argues that there are many ways businesses may choose to use Twitter, in her Twitter know how. She first suggests that organizations use this micro-blog to share ideas about their field or profession. In sequential order steps two through five are: Show respect, Build your brand, Engage customers, and Provide customer service. Such uses, if carried out properly, may amalgamate to create productive results!

Another blog called How to Use Twitter - Tips for Bloggers, provides more insight on creating great tweets. I particularly enjoyed Darren's ( the author ) thoughts on opening multiple twitter accounts for varying uses. He also points out that you should work to use Twitter in an original and useful way. There are millions of tweets constantly being posted on twitter; thus, yours must stand out. That is, you must add value to your tweets and make every tweet count! He states that you are either hurting or improving your image/brand/reputation each and every time you tweet. This is true in all social mediums, as I noted in an earlier post: If you wouldn't put it on a billboard don't write it! Finally, asking your followers questions in your tweets is a great way to get conversation started.

Businesses can and should begin to use Twitter if they have not already. This social medium, like most others, can prove to be quite beneficial. My final thought on Twitter? It is sweet!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MSU: A Social Kind of Place

Kids go to college because they want to learn and yes, socialize. Socializing used to mean going out with friends, partying, etc. However, kids can now go to college and be "social" without ever leaving their dorm room. Regardless if this is healthy or not, social networking is extremely popular. So popular that universities across the nation are embracing it, using it, and using it well. Missouri State is no exception.

Missouri State University has developed and is utilizing a variety of social networking mediums. Some of these include twitter, facebook, and youtube. Brad Mitchell, MSU's new web and social media developer, has worked on and tweaked these mediums in both a fun and effective way. First, twitter has been set up to announce the latest news at MSU. This is done through a basic RSS feed from the homepage of MSU. Brad stated that this took very little time to set up, yet it looks very time consuming. Also, facebook is being utilized by MSU. A group has been created that now has thousands of fans (aka students or alumni of MSU). This social networking site creates a sense of community within MSU. Lastly, YouTube is being used by Missouri State University. Brad has uploaded a variety of videos that are then placed in categories. Some of these include: athletics, clubs, and student life. These videos are being watched by many, as the number of views is displayed under each video. The most popular videos so far are those involving sports. Using YouTube helps students see what is going on at MSU, as well as helping establish MSU as an up to date and technologically savvy place.

Social networking is no longer limited to individuals. Businesses, organizations, and yes, even, institutions are utilizing these highly popular mediums. As technology is changing, universities must change right along with them. MSU, through its use of these mediums, has proven it is quite a social place.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Podcast: Power

A podcast, or series of audio or video digital-media files, can be downloaded or distributed via RSS feeds. Podcasts, a very buzz worthy word, have a variety of uses. Some of these include: story-telling, informational guides, radio talk shows, interviews, tutorials, sportscasts, sharing music, and voicing one's personal opinions. Just as blogging, this new social medium gives individuals the chance to deliver or share their personal story or opinion without going through an intermediary or middle man. This elimination gives people and companies power. Power to control their message.

So, what does all this mean for a public relations professional? Well, it means one more medium to carry that very important message they are seeking to share. There are many things to consider when sending a message via podcast. First, create a fun and interesting graphic on your website indicating that you have podcasts available. This will ensure that your loyal online visitors ( who are probably already somewhat techologically savvy because they are online) , will be exposed to this. Next, provide helpful and basic instructions on what a podcast is. Only developed in August of 2004, this medium is still growing in popularity. Next, make certain that your podcast carries a message that makes sense. That means, use your podcast in both a creative and purposeful way. Maybe your podcast can help carry the theme of your organization's weekly blog ( you have one at this point I hope ). Also, promote your podcast! Use both traditional, and social news releases to inject your message into the inboxes of thousands of people. Creating an awareness about your podcast will send more users (note: not audiences, because social mediums are interactive and the audience becomes users as they seek or "pull" for the info.) to your website. Finally, send your podcast to a podcast directory! Why? Everybody is doing it. Podcast directories divide podcasts into categories and point users in your direction when they are looking for your information. Check out this directory: http://www.podcastalley.com/.

It is easy to see that podcasts have many uses and can help promote events. But before you can promote via podcast, you must drive people to your podcast. Podcasts equal more power. Power to control your message, and ultimately your company's destiny. So, what are you waiting for? Feel the power. Promote with a podcast.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

IMC: It makes me Glad!

If I see an ad, podcast, or social network group online, more than likely I will see the same image or a similar ad on tv, in a newspaper, or on a billboard. That is the goal of integrated marketing communications: consistency of brand. In the information age, pr professionals must strive to maintain a "single voice" image; thus, they must work hand in hand with marketing, and advertising. A holistic approach to both online and offline media gives a company the benefits of reiteration. This constant image shapes the users perception and brand image that can allow the company to stand out above the crowd.

The focused image creates a distinct awareness of the company and should also lead the user to some type of action. For example, I commonly associate Glad bags (trash bags) as the ones that make me happy. Why? They don't break when they are loaded down with trash. Glad has effectively put this image in my mind; thus, as I peruse the trash bag aisle and see Glad bags I feel positive they are quality, strong trash bags. Which brings me to my point: Glad has created a "single voice" through various pr and marketing strategies such as their website, online ads, tv ads, magazine ads, and more. Will this consistent image lead me to buy their product? Personally, it depends on my mood, the day, and my bank account. Regardless, Glad has worked to sell their product through an IMC approach in which all efforts are focused on consistency in image.

So where does this put public relations and marketing specialists? Well, it forces them to work together. An "old rule" was that these two departments and Advertising were entirely separate entities; however, this is no longer the case. All specialized areas must come together to create a positive, cohesive image for the company.

Three primary benefits of utilizing an IMC approach are increased brand loyalty, profit, and customer relationship retention. First, using an approach that integrates all departments and all mediums allows customers to have a tangible sense of what the company is all about. This very real perception increases the chances of their loyalty. Next, a complete and consistent message can help customers make a decision about what they buy. If they can identify with your company, then they are more likely to buy your product; thus, increasing your profit. Lastly, brand loyalty and purchasing of products can create business to customer relationships that provide a customer base as well as free buzz marketing. This relationship can be consistently reinforced through the IMC approach.

IMC takes a lot of effort, proper management, and much thought; however, all signs say you'll be Glad you did. :)

For a video tutorial on what IMC is click:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Storm: Social News Releases

Social news releases are taking the public relations field by storm. Just like regular thunderstorms, some people love them. They curl up, read books, and watch the clouds pour out rain. And then there are those who despise storms. They see them as dangerous and obtrusive to their daily plans. Like the storm or not, it has arrived.

Social news releases are multimedial releases that often feature things such as video clips, citations, links, blog posts, rss feeds, and more. The format most commonly used was created by a man named Todd Defren in 2006 (http://www.pr-squared.com/). This one-stop news release is loaded with information that journalists can take or leave. Regardless of how they use it, this release's multiple functions display the basic attributes of a traditional press release, plus much more. The much more is what enables so many individuals to learn from it, use it how they like, and pass it along in an easy and accurate way. Some individuals are such strong advocates for this new release format that they insist on literally killing the old, traditional format. Tom Forenski wrote a post that described just this: http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/. Forenski outlines many reasons that a pr professional should in fact put on their slicker and enjoy the rain.

So why should pr folks use this format and not the traditional format? Well, first let me say that a pr person, especially those operating around an older generation of professionals, should not eliminate the traditional format. Why not? The goal is to reach as many people as possible and that includes those who still use the format which is now considered "out of date" by so many. With that in mind, using the social news release is essential. First, most journalists are internet users. This means that they are probably technologically savvy and will utilize and appreciate this format. Next, the social news release format is viewed as less of a "spin" and more of a presentation of facts that can be used however the journalist sees fit. It aggregates a variety of components that create an overall look at both the news that is being promoted, as well as the company or organization behind the release. Finally, it creates more buzz about your company by providing numerous links to other social media that your company is utilizing. It optimizes your search engine numbers, making you easier to find by those who are "pulling" for you!

Storms are scary and sometimes if not properly prepared for, can cause some damage. So, like a storm, prepare for using a social news release. Learn how to use it and when to use it. Be ready so that when the time comes you will have your umbrella or slicker and be more than prepared to walk in the rain with the social media pros.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Join the social network party!

Social networks have evolved and it is essential that PR professionals become aware of this evolution. These networks are no longer just for kids to play games on, teenagers to observe their crush, and adults to search for old friends. Social networks, like a faucet, were merely leaking into the professional field a few years ago. Now with the water streaming full force, businesses are joining these networks everyday; thus, public relations professionals must understand how and why to use these extremely beneficial tools.

How? A good place for novices to start is http://www.commoncraft.com/. This site offers simple guides for using social networks. Another option is for professionals to look at what other companies are doing. How are those in a similar field utilizing these tools? If you work in pr for a theme park check and see what other theme parks are doing. This is not to suggest you should model just what they have done, but it is a great way to start.

Why utilize these networks? Why not? Obviously they can cost money and time; however, not to join would be like seeing a huge party outside your house with lots of free prizes and choosing to stay inside. Maybe you don't go to the social network party because you are scared. Scared of doing or saying something wrong, or simply wasting your time (or someone else's). These are all logical thoughts; however, they are all preventable.

In order to prevent "saying something wrong", I would advise companies to take social networking seriously. Never say or imply something that you would not put on a billboard or in a magazine ad. Simply be aware that this is just another form of advertising. Social networks can be used in a variety of ways. They may offer surveys, videos, RSS feeds, discussions and more. The opportunities are endless. Take for example Pizza Hut's use of facebook. Customers are now able to order pizza via facebook! With over 307,000 friends, Pizza Hut is certainly making good use of social networking.

Do not waster your time or other's time. If your company's budget is tight, then limit the amount of time you spend working on these networks. Your company may choose to hire one person to devote all their time to this endeavor. If so, make certain they are aware of the message you want to send to publics. Not doing so, may lead to inconsistency and this is the last thing pr folks want to do. A company should have a single voice and that voice is lead by the public relations specialists. It is also important to remember to be honest in social networks, encourage interaction, and participate in other groups. This creates more links to your page; thus, more face time.

Utilizing social networks such as facebook, myspace, and twitter can be challenging, yet rewarding. At the end of the day, I am certain you will be glad you joined the networking party (it beats staying in!).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Counting Chickens

A feed or really simple syndication (RSS), carries a message such as text-based blog entries, audio files, and news.These feeds often result from items that are updated regularly and have subscribers. These feeds are commonly full text in addition to some metadata.
The most obvious benefits to these feeds is that they are free of charge (for the most part, for now), quick and automatic. The fact that this medium is free is highly important. I think about garage sales. Do you ever recall going to a yard sale and there was that big bag on it that said "FREE"? I do. This is like an RSS feed in that we all see it, we are surprised by it, and intrigued; yet, if we take it we usually only like the stuff in the bag for a few days before we realize it is mostly junk. I say all this in both a positive and negative way. It is free (yay!). It is free (all this is mine?) . In addition to being monetarily free, an RSS is quick and somewhat hassle free for the organizations that use them. This means a number of things for those organizations. First, there is very little concern over "will the message go out in time?". Through an RSS, information is sent immediately upon update; thus, outside of the IT individual, no real time is spent in the delivering process. Next, this quickness fits in with the fast paced world that we live in. With everyone always in a hurry, this feed enables those on the go users to get the information they want. Which brings me to my next point.

RSS feeds enable users to get exactly what they want. We live in a country where we choose what type of drink we want, what color we want our hair to be, and what career we want to have. Now, with RSS feeds, we can choose what news we want to read. Although, we've always chosen what news we read, now we get to read ONLY what we find interesting. There is little or no wading through the unwanted stuff (making the assumption the subscriber subscribes only to the info. they want). This is beneficial in that it matches our interests specifically; however, it may create an unvaried makeup. Consider this: if a person continually gets the same information, from the same (hopefully unbiased, but lets be realistic, probably not) source, they may never be exposed to something different from what they believe. From a cognitive dissonance standpoint, this is a comfort, but consider all those times we change our views ( we are undoubtedly fickle). RSS feeds could potentially inhibit new viewpoints in an already very divided and stubborn society. Let's take a look at the other threat that results from that "more of the same" concept.

I think about when I subscribe to a magazine. At first, I am so excited everytime I open the mailbox. However, after about the 5th month or so, that magazine is not so intriguing. The articles begin looking the same and my time is precious, so I sometimes just toss that fun little mag to the side. So I wonder? Do RSS feeds, after time, get tossed to the side? That is, do people really read all those notifications every single time? Here's the issue. Organizations have no way of knowing; therefore, I feel this is the biggest weakness of a feed. When a medium is producing results, yet there is no way to measure them, companies risk counting their chickens before they are hatched.

RSS feeds are free, quick, and automatic; however, those that receive them may become bored or even suffer from information overload. With no precise manner to measure their readership, organizations must be careful not to assume a feed is truly carrying and delivering the message.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

To Blog or Not To Blog?

Blogging: A fickle, yet fun and fiercely entertaining feature that many companies are utilizing. So why do "many" utilize this social media, while some choose to remain "sitting in the dark?" I can't help but recall that I was one of those in that dark room up until about three weeks ago. So what draws people or organizations to these ever-changing diaries? Is it the real-life reenactment or its trendy nature? Is it the personal touch it contributes to a tall dark skyscraper? Or the blue eyes it adds to the face of the CEO? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do have an opinion. So, the question remains. To blog or not to blog?

The latter, of course. BLOG! After taking in B.J. Ochman's controversial article, "10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn't Blog", I was still not persuaded that a blog is detrimental to a company. First, Ochman claims that a blog is "guaranteed" to join all the other blogs that people do not read. My immediate thought is "I can tell your glass is half empty." With so many popular blogs, there is always that chance a company's blog could succeed. Ochman goes on to say that blogs require constant reading; thus, they take up too much time. I say read on! Most professionals read something, and to me that something is probably enough to create a blog per week from. Ochman then writes that blogs are not cheap, nor are they a "quick fix". Although I agree with her there, I must point out that blogs are sweeping the nation and the world. It is similiar to the question that many organizations faced years ago. Should we build a website for our customers/publics? This was not extremely cheap, nor was it a quick fix; however, it is easy to see now that making information accessible via a website is essential! There are millions of websites, but that is certainly no reason not to create one. Putting information out there is the best way to reach out to those who may want to reach back. Finally, Ochman says that you must work to drive individuals to your blog. Although this can be a hassle, I still think "So what?" All good mediums require work and even though results aren't immediate, they are still very real.

Blogs can be used in unique ways. I recently saw a show on HGTV entitled "Blog Cabin". This blog was created for viewers to build their own log cabin by blogging about the features they desired in the layout of a log cabin home. The producers developed a final product based off the blog, and created a show about building this "Blog Cabin". How inventive! Even though like Ochman said, this was not cheap, it was seemingly effective and fun! It "pulled" viewers in because they had a part in it.

Blogging, although time consuming and sometimes costly, is an new, helpful way companies and individuals can relate to their friends/publics. I believe there are more pros than cons in blogging, so I'll say it: "Blog on!".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

YouTube: Pot of Gold

YouTube has become the most popular video website, and for good reason. This easily accessible site allows anyone, anywhere, who has access to a computer, to upload their own videos; however, this site is not limited to individuals, as many companies and organizations are taking advantage of this new social media as well. This site, put simply, is a free medium that reaches thousands of people everyday. Public relations' professionals should consider YouTube the pot of gold at the end of the pr rainbow.
So, how could pr professionals spend this "pot of gold" wisely? Obviously, the first step is to do just that. Spend the gold - use YouTube! There are many ways pr folks could promote their company through this site. As I have perused YouTube, I have noticed that many simply place their tv commercials for viewers to see. Others may choose to post an informational video or biography of their company here. Another option is for a pr person to create an interactive activity through YouTube. Such an activity may invite publics to participate in a contest or game that allows them to feel recognized, while also gaining the organization more "face time". For example, MythBusters, a tv show, calls for viewers to submit videos about myths they are curious about. Another way companies could utilize YouTube is by posting a VNR, or video news release about their organization. Companies may also seek out the goodwill of their publics by posting a PSA, or public service announcement. If any interested publics "pull" for the organization's information, they will discover a message that reveals the core principles of that organization. Posting a PSA allows a company or campaign to declare themselves to those millions of people who YouTube everyday.
YouTube is clearly a medium that provides a multitude of benefits for it's users. First, YouTube provides free advertisement for companies, campaigns, and events. The fact that it is free is amazing, considering the cost that would normally be associated with reaching so many publics. Next, YouTube is trendy; thus, it is a way for technologically challenged companies to easily get "up to speed" with the latest trend. YouTube also is interactive, which replaces push media with pull media. This creates a desire within the publics to seek out information, because they may perceive some benefit from doing so. Finally, YouTube creates a community across the world. This sense of community can belong to all users, and can spread to the companies that utilize YouTube.
YouTube clearly has many positive elements, each representing a different aspect or different color in the rainbow. It is important to remember though, that each rainbow usually has some rain associated with it. First, YouTube allows anyone to post their opinions or beliefs, with no restraints of honesty or dishonesty. Potentially companies could suffer if individuals posted negative or untrue videos about their organization. Another weakness is that there is an open forum regarding each video. This could be positive if the comments were good; however, many are negative.
The primary public for YouTube are young adults, age 18-26. This age group uses YouTube the most, while mid-age adults come in next. As a pr professional, it is important to find a way to draw in these users, as well as your target market. One way I would draw in this group would be through providing not only a quality video, but also a unique video. With millions of videos uploaded to facebook, this is quite a challenge. The video should stand out, yet still be directly associated with the co. or event you are promoting. In addition to uniqueness, I would focus on creating a fun, interactive game or contest that thinks "outside the box". Millions of people love YouTube because it gives them a voice, so a pr professional should focus on giving their publics a voice. People simply want to know they matter; thus, an interactive video challenge could provide just that. Finally, an organization could consider advertising their contest via traditional mediums such as radio and newspaper. An e-news release could be sent out making publics aware of this challenge. The co. could post an announcement and link on their home webpage to YouTube. Such efforts would increase the number of views on the video; therefore, the video might make it on the most viewed video list for YouTube.
Overall, YouTube is a pot of gold that is worth the journey to the end of the rainbow. Pr professionals should undoubtedly use this wildly- popular medium to serve both their company and the publics' interests.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Dreams and Aspirations

Growing up, my mother always told me, "If you're going to dream, dream big." You see, my mother grew up in poverty and was not able to fulfill her dreams until the age of 40. She wanted more for me, so she and my father worked hard so that I might have opportunities they did not. Last week, as I was cleaning my room, I discovered the original tattered note she had tucked into my lunchbox. Her perfect handwriting declared those very words that I carry with me. I often come back to her words and ask myself, "Am I dreaming big?"
I believe that obtaining my M.A. in Communication is part of learning to dream big. Growing up on a small hog farm on the outskirts of town, I never dreamed I could or would end up getting my Masters. Sometimes I still pinch myself, and think "Really?". I love learning and I understand the importance of furthering my education; thus, being in this degree program is a declaration of sorts. I am declaring that I am capable, hard working, and I am willing to go the distance in order to be successful. Don't we all crave success?
Five years from now, I see myself in a variety of places. We all know life is unpredictable, but I still plan because not having a plan is like going on a road trip with no map. I am simply not that spontaneous. I plan to be working in the communication/public relations field. I would also like to be teaching at the collegiate level. I am currently a Teaching Assistant; thus, I will have two years of teaching public speaking under my belt at that point. I would love to teach at College of the Ozarks, which is where I completed my undergraduate studies. I also would like to have started a family in five years. I think of my mother's words, and my mind wanders. I would love to live in Washington D.C. for a couple years and work for the Republican party. I would also enjoy living in Colorado and working for Focus on the Family.
It's obvious there are many things I would like to do. Isn't that the beauty of dreaming though? I am thankful for my mother's words, because now I can see that I am learning to dream big.