Archive for June, 2008

A New Corporate Blogger is Born

FF_108_kingpin1_fA few weeks ago, with the gorgeous Olympic Mountains as a backdrop, I was sitting in a meeting with my client, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser, along with Bill Hankes, the company’s VP of Corp Comms.  We were talking about Social Media; about the need for engagement; about our progress to-date.

I pointed to the launch of RealPlayer11 as an example of a “pretty good” success.  RP11 launched last year with supercool features like the ability to download DRM-free videos in virtually any format to your hard-drive, i.e., you could build your own YouTube library.  RP11 was also free of the old bloatware and upsell pop-ups that plagued earlier, flawed versions of the videoplayer. 

But, those previous versions of RP had burned a lot of bridges with online consumers.  Although the coverage by bloggers and mainstream writers was generally positive, the subsequent comments by end-users were invariably bitter.  One commenter went so far as to suggest that “Every time you launch RealPlayer, God kills a kitten.” (And worse, if you can believe that.)  Harsh!

But, we’d seen it coming.  Although never as promptly nor as broadly as we would have liked, we did do our best to ensure that the RP11 product manager responded to those posts (with sincere mea culpas for past indiscretions).  We also encouraged him to start-up his own temporary RealPlayer Blog to candidly address complaints.

Glaser agreed that our RP11 effort had been as successful as possible, given that our spokesman had been nominally available to help us out.  “How do we do better over time?” he asked.

At this point I made my pitch for a full-time Community Relations position.  The last year had been an exciting one for Real in terms of rehabbing its reputation through better offerings (including today’s news of the Rhapsody MP3 store), but, by taking a largely top-down, mainstream-media focused approach, the Company would never experience the groundswell of consumer support it needed to truly thrive.  (I should note that this pitch had the full and enthusiastic support of the VP of Corp Comms!)

To his credit, Glaser didn’t even blink.  “Do it,” he said, automagically funding fresh headcount for the Corp Comms group.  “Write-up the job description and make it happen.  Just make sure you hire the right person.”

I grabbed Bill’s arm and scurried out of there before Glaser could change his mind.  I knew exactly who they should hire for this newly-minted role.

N562430528_2701331_3876So let me introduce you to Lacy Kemp.  She’s held a variety of roles at RealNetworks, from admin to media producer.  I got to know her when she was Bill Hankes’s assistant.  Lacy was far from typical: she was edgy, funny, savvy, smart, engaged.  She quickly made her mark within Real; she was well-known and universally applauded.  She maintains a personal blog but is just getting started with Real’s “official” blog and Twitter account.

We’re just now getting Lacy set up with professional monitoring tools, a reading list, a Flipcam, etc.  It’s premature to expect immediate changes on Lacy’s watch, especially at such a large company – but for my part, I am enthused to know that someone as approachable and cool as Lacy Kemp will be a new, public face. For Real.

Loosey-Goosey Latin

IStock_000005315387XSmallAs promised, this week’s grammar post will take up the cause of proper usage of “i.e.” and “e.g.” as well as “etc.” and its overlooked cousin, “et al.” 

Prepare to be bored.

The “i.e. vs. e.g.” confusion was never a problem for the Romans.  That’s probably because they knew what these abbreviations originally meant!  The “i” and “e” of “i.e.” literally stand for “id est” … which is, simply, “it is.”  Easy!  You use “i.e.” when you mean to say, “in other words;” i.e., you are about to clarify your previous statement.  (See how I slipped that in?)

Good old “e.g.” is Latin for “exempli gratia” – it’s shorthand for, “for example.”  The best way to use “e.g.” is when you want to provide at least one example of what could easily be a longer list.  So, say you’re describing all of your favorite marketing techniques, e.g., direct mail and search engine optimization… You could have also listed a dozen other favored programs, but a couple of examples sufficed.  So you used “e.g.”

To sum up: use “i.e.” when you mean, “in other words.”  Use “e.g.” when you want to say, “for example.”

There are lots of places on the Web to learn such things.  I got the best info on the “i.e. vs. e.g.” issue from About.com.

Now, on to “etc.” and “et al.” 

“Etc.” means “and so forth,” or, “and other such things.”  When you’re using “etc.” you’re telling your readers that “this list (of items, concepts, etc.) could go on and on, but you get the gist.”  (Again, see how easily these ancient expressions slip into our modern writing?  Did you even catch it?  It’s been happening throughout this post.)

You can also spell it out: “et cetera.”  What you don’t want to ever do is precede “etc.” with an “and.”  That would be redundant.

“Et al” is trickier, which is why it is less frequently used.  It’s often unwittingly bumped aside by our friend “etc.” 

“Et al” means, “and others.”  It’s most often used when signifying a list of people related in some way, e.g., “Who’s on the Blogosphere’s A-List? You’ll often hear names like Scoble, Arrington, Rubel, et al.”  See how “etc.” could have easily taken the place of poor, misunderstood “et al?” 

Phew! 

While I am thankfully tapped-out on Latin stuff, I do have ideas for at least a couple more of these types of posts.  But, if you want to see this series continue any further, gang, please leave your own pet peeves in the Comments section.  Thanks!

The Strategy Behind the Radian6 Twebinar

Logo_rightToday is Twebinar Day.  The twebinar is a web-based Social Media Seminar conducted via online video sessions and in parallel via Twitter.  It’s sponsored by Radian6 and hosted by the irrepressible Chris Brogan

It starts at 2pm EST today.  Go sign-up

I was truly honored to be asked to participate along with a stellar cast-of-characters such as Rohit Bhargava, The Two Shels, Tim Ferriss, Chris Heuer, Dell’s Richard Binhammer, Paul Gillin, Kami Huyse and many others.

Some of my colleagues have already written up the details, such as Kami and Jason Falls, and Radian6’s own vp-marketing, David Alston.  Those posts all sum up the event nicely.  So, beyond asking you to visit those links and the Twebinar’s official site, I’ll pass on chatting up the details.

Post_method_2Instead I want to briefly look at the POST methodology of the Twebinar.  I do so without having spoken with Alston, so maybe he can weigh in via the Comments if I mess this up.  (POST is Forrester Research’s angle on how to think about social marketing strategies: it stands for People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology).

Radian6 is a “social media monitoring” firm.  The People they want to reach are, generally speaking, “marketers (in-house and agency) concerned about Social Media.” 

Thus the Objective of the Twebinar is to educate the decision-makers and decision-influencers among these marketers, and in so doing augment Radian6’s own expert credentials. 

Secondarily, Radian6 is trying to show that they have the leadership aura to attract all the cool kids to their brand.  The People who are concerned about how Social Media will impact Marketing are enthusiastic adherents to at least a subset of the experts presenting via the Twebinar.

The Strategy is based on “Content Marketing” and “Engagement.”  Provide high-value content, give it away for free, and provide legitimate avenues for discussion that will draw additional consumers into the fold.

Technologically (and tactically), the “high-value content” comes in the form of thoughtful video interviews with Social Media stars, which will be archived for future viewings.  These videos will be freely delivered to all participants, who need only register for free (can you say, “database marketing?”) … But, if the users don’t care to see the videos, they can still interact in a live & lively discussion with all the Twebinar’s experts, via Twitter. 

Radian6 is smart to not force the issue vis a vis registration.  The people who follow @twebinar on Twitter will likely wind up registering to see the vids anyway, when they see all the fun conversations going on!

So Radian6 is offering both archived video content that can be mined for ideas, and a time-delimited session of direct engagement with experts via Twitter.  All great content.  All for free.

Benefit to Radian6?  A big-time brand boost that will likely reverberate for weeks to come.

I’d hate to compete with Radian6.

 

DISCLOSURE: SHIFT Communications is a Radian6 client.  But I was not asked to write this post, nor did I collaborate with Radian6 in its development.  

How Social Media will Change Marketing

IStock_000005540740XSmallRight now all of Marketing is hip-deep in the assimilation of Social Media principles.

While there will be laggards, companies of all sizes are thinking about blogging and microblogging … They are reconsidering budgets to emphasize content production … They are at the very least starting to listen intently to the voices that discuss their brand; they are investing in monitoring tools and discussing techniques for engagement.

With all this hubbub, many marketers are wondering about what the “loss of control” will mean to their company, and even to their own employment.  How heavily should they invest in this Social Media stuff?

Meanwhile, some have argued, pretty convincingly, that the volume of chatter about Social Media has risen a li’l too quickly.  The carpetbaggers are coming to town.  

So on the one hand: huge pressure to conform to the Wisdom of Crowds.  On the other hand: maybe all this new-agey stuff about the loss-of-control is getting out of control? 

When this storm has finished wreaking its havoc, what will be left?  Will there still be a PR industry?  Will we still produce professional thirty-second tv commercials?  Will we still have telemarketers and direct mail and email marketing campaigns?   

Yes, Virginia, there will be a job in Marketing.

Humanization – customization – adaptation.  These are the watchwords for the future.

The faceless corporation will be “humanized” – that’s what blogging, tweeting, etc., are engendering.  Consumers will become as loyal to a brand’s employees as they had been to its excellent products. 

Tomorrow’s marketers will embrace human2human interactions as a means to communicate the good/bad about their brand.  This humanization process will create goodwill that attracts new buyers and will comfort the loyalists when stuff goes awry.  In fact, those loyalists will become the brand’s staunchest defenders.

IStock_000005779083XSmall“Customization” – it’s all about giving the people EXACTLY what they want: each one of ‘em.  In a globalized commercial society, plain folks have an earnest desire to be respected for their individuality. 

So you’ll still send an email blast, but rather than being mass-produced, it will be mass-customized, to meet the predetermined, opt-in preferences of the consumer targets.  Some folks will only want to hear from the brand if the communique comes with a coupon; some will want to hear about latest products, etc.

“Adaptation” – Social Media and other technology innovations are going to force those traditional marketing tools and techniques to change; ironically, more and more marketing activities will migrate online, to support more effective humanization and customization.

This is happening already.  For example, advertisers are seriously researching ways to ensure that their 30–second commercials still have impact when viewed in fast-forward mode (i.e., on digital video recorder like Tivo).  

I’m no futurist, but I play one in the blogosphere.  And while we’re engaged in the current upheaval, I see nothing but opportunity for tomorrow’s marketers.

Fourth Anniversary of PR-Squared

IStock_000005667722XSmallThis weekend (June 22) marks the 4th anniversary of this blog. 

Before drafting today’s post, I took a look at my post from 1 year ago.  If you bother to click through to last year’s anniversary entry, you’ll see that I used the opportunity to engage in some blatant linkbaiting!  But more importantly, I was struck by how much the concluding paragraph from that day still rings true for me a year later:

Working on PR-Squared has been inspirational to me.  This blog thrust me down the Social Media path, even as that path was first being hacked through the impenetrable weeds of the “1.0 Era.”  It’s been a journey of discovery that rekindled a belief that we PR pros are capable of greatness.  And that’s a feeling that comes from interacting with great people.

When I wrote that paragraph, Twitter did not exist (at least, not to my knowledge).  The subsequent rise of microblogging has not only vastly expanded the universe of marketers that I now know and respect, but also reconfirmed my belief that our industry is changing course.

We’re getting smarter, faster, better.  It’s becoming ever more clear that most PR people are happy to be authentic, honest, and o-u-t from behind the curtain.  Yes, we need to get better at writing, targeting, etc., but the sunlight of Social Media is slowly and inexorably disinfecting our industry. 

Huge differences have occurred in just a year.  The amount of change we’ve undergone in FOUR years is incalculable.  It’s a great time to be doing what we’re doing.




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