Archive for April, 2010

The Flummoxed Marketer

IStock_000010899207XSmallI was chatting with a senior marketing exec recently and at one point in our conversation he basically threw up his hands and asked, “Is there any way we can slow this $#@& down a little bit?”

“It’s only been the last year in which I’ve convinced the C-suite folks to take bloggers seriously,” he complained.  “They still have serious doubts about the value of engagement on Twitter; they still think Facebook is for kids.”

“And so as a marketer who is at least TRYING to stay current in the industry, I am getting frustrated.”

“In the past few months we’ve been forced to get up to speed on Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, Facebook’s web-wide ‘Like’ concept, Google Buzz, Foursquare and geolocation, and iPad vs. iPhone app development — including Augmented Reality and QR codes.  ENOUGH, ALREADY!”

I proceeded to calm the fellow down with a quiet discussion of the POST Methodology — my version of, “Don’t worry, just do what makes sense to achieve your business objectives; no need to be cool for cool’s sake.”

I lauded him for his wariness of Shiny Objects.

But there was a part of me that sympathized.

This Social Media $#@& is changing FAST.  The one-upsmanship of major vendors is fascinating to industry watchers but daunting to implementors — especially when too few pundits are willing (or able) to cast a critical eye on each new advance.  There is little reward for being critical in an industry that rewards optimism.

But “fails” happen.

For example, there was every reason to believe Google Sidewiki had powerhouse potential.  JILLIONS of people have the Google Browser Toolbar installed.  Why wouldn’t toolbar users comment directly on the websites they visited, Yelp-style?

Same goes for Google Buzz: there are millions of Gmail users, and Buzz is now part of the Gmail interface.  Why wouldn’t Gmail users take up the Buzz concept?  Certainly there was enough “buzz” about both services to provide a solid launch into the adoption curve.  Few pundits were willing to count out the GOOG.  And yet… ?  I think it is safe to say that Sidewiki and Buzz are not big wins for Google.

Imagine being the marketer who (quite reasonably) refused to bet against Google, and oriented their resources to ensure they didn’t miss out on Sidewiki or Buzz-related opportunities? — And then saw their bosses grimace when (just a few months later) they considered the “opportunity cost” of focusing on Google Buzz vs. Facebook or Twitter-related marketing concepts.

The modern marketer is well within their rights to sit out a few cycles, to see what catches hold; to be the “fast follower” rather than the “early adopter.”  What they lose in early-onset admiration they will regain via smart execution.

Open Letter to Millennials: On Loyalty

IStock_000006320977XSmallLast week’s post — Open Letter to Millennials — lit up like a rocket.  Thank you all for the re-tweets and the truly thoughtful (if not always nice) comments.

One of the points that seemed to polarize Millennial readers was in this statement:

… stay put for a while.  I am talking 3 – 5 years, at least.  There is no such thing as a perfect fit.  You must create the perfect fit.  This is your apprenticeship period.  It is supposed to suck.  There are supposed to be crummy days when you feel under-appreciated.  Such days will occur no matter who signs your paycheck.

Many commenters felt that this was unreasonable, either because 3 – 5 years sounded too onerous to a new grad, or because they felt it removed the Employer’s responsibility to create a rewarding culture. I believe at least one commenter suggested that, “Loyalty is for suckers.” (Really?  I hope we never find ourselves in a foxhole together, chum.)

So I’d like to clarify, and offer examples.

First, the clarification: it is up to the employer to offer competitive compensation and a satisfying work environment. Period.  However, no employer will be able to offer competitive compensation and a satisfying work environment every single day, for every single employee.

So my point in last week’s post was to suggest that employees who encounter a rut or rough spot try to see it through, rather than throw in the towel.

That doesn’t mean “shackle yourself to the desk,” it means, “make sure you calmly alert the agency to your issues — and be a little patient as they suss out the solutions.” It won’t always work out.  But it may be worth the attempt.  That is Loyalty.

What are the benefits of Loyalty?

I’ll let some of SHIFT’s employees speak for themselves…

A vice-president-in-the-making, Danielle Mancano (a just-under-the-wire Millennial), has been a SHIFTer for 6 years.  For the first year, to be honest, Danielle was underappreciated.  It was not a perfect fit.  It kinda sucked for her at SHIFT.

Most people would have quit. How (and WHY?) did Danielle MAKE a perfect fit for herself at SHIFT?

MancanoIn my experience, most people who enter the PR industry are very Type-A, strive-for-perfection employees. I am no exception to this rule. I excelled in high school and college. I was used to being good at everything. When I started my PR career and didn’t perform well right away — trust me, I thought about quitting.

In fact I thought about quitting: Every. Single. Day.

Why was this job — this career I chose — so flippin’ difficult?

When I screwed up, opportunities were taken away from me and my confidence withered. I stopped putting myself out there and in turn, prevented myself from learning. When things shifted internally and I was placed on a new team, I promised myself I would start on a new path and speak up when I had questions or new ideas.

I finally started sharing, and found that people valued what I had to say. So, I continued talking and asking questions until things finally clicked for me. I stopped being afraid to give recommendations to clients; I stopped being afraid to be myself at work. When I let my personality show, I allowed myself to be part of SHIFT.

I could have succumbed to the niche that was originally designed for me and kept quiet. But that’s not who I am.  I refused to leave before proving myself.  In the process, I became more vocal and became part of SHIFT’s culture: by that point I couldn’t walk away. Had I given up, I would have missed the opportunity to be among such smart and talented people and to enjoy a growing career path.

And here’s Gen-Xer Catherine Allen, a VP at SHIFT.  When Catherine departed on maternity leave a few years ago, there was a whole lot of flux at the Agency.  I told her when she left that her job would absolutely be waiting for her when she got back — but that I could not guarantee she’d come back to the same team.

And indeed, I was more right than usual.  In her absence, Catherine’s ENTIRE TEAM was disassembled and folded into several other existing teams (long story.)  So after having built up her empire, Catherine returned to scorched earth.

Most people would have quit. How (and WHY?) did Catherine MAKE a perfect fit for herself at SHIFT?

AllenI was a little disheartened at first, sure.  I assumed it was my existing team and accounts that defined me as a valuable employee.  That wasn’t the case – it was the skill set of PR planning, account management and team guidance that SHIFT valued.  The Agency simply wanted to use those skills in a different way.

Instead of focusing on what was taken away, I chose to focus on what was given to me: an attractive blank slate and full senior management support to design my future.

Why look elsewhere?  I had a growth opportunity right here with amazing mentors who believed in me.  And unlike a new job, there was no stigma of needing to prove myself.

I fully enjoy my new team and our rewarding account work.  But there’s an added flipside I wouldn’t have imagined three years prior.  I get to watch, with a twinkle in my eye, former teammates flourish in new SHIFT roles.

Loyalty (on both of our sides) paid off.  Staying the course allowed me to create the job I wanted to have, and to more quickly accelerate my career growth.  It was hard, yes, but gave me the opportunity to do things my way.

(For the record, Catherine now runs one of the largest and most profitable teams in the Agency. Again.)

There’s something to be said for sticktoitiveness.

All that said, gang, I’d leave you with this: follow your heart.  If the job just plain old SUCKS, get another one.  If several jobs IN A ROW suck, get a new career.

Try to love what you do.

UPDATE: Jason Calacanis this week also talked about Gen Y.  Sense any similarities?

Optimism

Can you feel it?  Optimism is wiggling its way back into vogue. If you can set aside the polarized state of U.S. politics, everything else is starting to feel … better.  We’ve been in a deep, dark hole but have been clambering up toward the sunlight.

The journey has made start-ups leaner and stronger and braver.

The laid-off businessman whom many in the media called “the face of the Recession” is now gainfully employed.

“Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar signaled the economy is improving Monday with healthy outlook for the year and a sharp rebound from last year’s first-quarter loss.”

Businesses small and large are upping their IT investments this year.

And from yesterday’s NYTimes:

At malls from New Jersey to California, shoppers are snapping up electronics and furniture, as fears of joblessness yield to exuberance over rising stock prices. Tractor trailers and railroad cars haul swelling quantities of goods through transportation corridors, generating paychecks for truckers and repair crews.

On the factory floor, production is expanding, a point underscored by government data released Friday showing a hefty increase in March for orders of long-lasting manufactured items. In apartment towers and on cul-de-sacs, sales of new homes surged in March, climbing by 27 percent, amplifying hopes that a wrenching real estate disaster may finally be releasing its grip on the national economy.

Last but not least, the kids are all right.  And they’ve got Big Plans:

Video hat-tip: Jackie Huba.

Open Letter to Millennials (PR Industry Edition)

IStock_000009131941XSmallRiffing off of @BillSledzik’s terrific (and ultimately helpful) rant, “Dear Millennials: Your Parents Lied to You,” I wanted to spend a minute talking to these same Millennials as a prospective employer.  Here’s an Open Letter to Millennials (PR Industry Edition).

Hi gang –

When Professor Sledzik suggests that the real-world is tougher than you think, he’s spot-on.  Everything counts when you are job prospecting in the early days, including your writing style and use of grammar in resumes and cover letters; your clothes; your advance research and relevant questions in the interview; and, your attention to the niceties of follow-up.

Let me be even more specific.  When you are hunting for a job, it’s not about you.  It’s about me, the employer.  I recently chatted with a fellow industry vet who regaled me with stories of twenty-something job candidates whose questions included, “Why don’t you tell me why I’d want this job?” (That’s a terrible approach, in case you’re wondering.)

Your cover letter should be flawless and interesting.  Grammatical errors are perfectly acceptable — so long as you don’t mind if we immediately trash your letter. Get a friend, parent or professor to take a look.  Does the letter stand out, in a professional way, or is it generic?  Don’t try to be extra clever, just be sincere. I expect that you’ve done some research on potential employers and have made MY agency your top choice.  So, why is that?  And how can you help us?

Your resume should not be overstuffed with extraneous details.  I already know you don’t have a ton of experience; I don’t really expect it. Meanwhile, however, before you even send in that cover letter and resume, you should already be fairly visible on Twitter, Facebook and/or your own blog.  You’ve got time to surf the Web for fun; so carve out 30 minutes a day to post relevant content that prospective employers will find when they Google your name (which they will, by the way). If I already know OF you, I’ll be glad to get to actually know you; I’ll be excited to see your resume come through.

Your choice of clothes is also important, when you come in for the interview.  Once you get the job, you can wear jeans to the office pretty much every day.  UNTIL then, wear a professional outfit.  We need assurances that you care about your appearance, that we can trust you to wear appropriate attire to a client meeting.

Take out the nose ring for now, too.  While it may be a “part of your personality,” in the job search it’s about sublimating the all-important Y-O-U for the sake of the organization.  Yes, we do have a couple of employees who sport (subtle) body-art and metal accouterments… but they weren’t worn (or showing) during the interview.

Got the job interview scheduled? Great!  Now do some research.  Read the agency’s blog (or all of them, if there is more than one).  Read several weeks’ worth of posts.  Take a look at the client list.  Take a look at the newsroom.  Read the bios of the principals and other top execs.  Read up on the competition, too.  Then, COME WITH QUESTIONS.  If you don’t have a handful of thought-provoking questions, it’s a fail, dude.

And if you’ve been in a round-robin of interviews, and exhausted all your questions along the way, I still suggest you never tell your last interviewer, “All my questions have been answered by your colleagues — thanks, though!” Instead, either a) re-ask those same questions, to make the interviewer feel important, or better yet, b) ask follow-up questions based on previous answers.  This shows that you can think in-the-moment.  That’s a big plus.

OK, now, you GOT THE JOB!  Congrats!  Give me 2 more minutes to suggest what you do with it…

The Millennial Generation is already known for being self-involved and in-a-rush.  Luckily, many of you have the talent and drive to impress curmudgeonly Gen-X and Boomer employers, and we soon learn to look past those smarmy qualities.  But the fact remains that those perceptions will be hard to shake.  It will only get worse if you engage in a lot of job-hopping to find the perfect fit.

My advice then — and you may see it as biased — is to stay put for a while.  I am talking 3 – 5 years, at least.  There is no such thing as a perfect fit.  You must create the perfect fit.  This is your apprenticeship period.  It is supposed to suck.  There are supposed to be crummy days when you feel under-appreciated.  Such days will occur no matter who signs your paycheck.

But there are rewards for loyalty, I promise.  When I look around the table of my senior staff meetings at SHIFT, for example, most of the people at the meeting have been with the Agency for 5 – 10 years.  Some of them started out as interns, and now they run million-dollar teams.  All of ‘em are under 40 (i.e., it doesn’t take forever).  I am sure there were MANY days in the course of their careers at SHIFT when they felt underpaid or under-appreciated.  But sooner or later, those situations were rectified; adjustments were made; it is a process — one that required loyalty to something bigger than their bank account.

Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how many resumes I receive from “former vice presidents” of large PR agencies who are pretty clearly not VP material.  They were overpaid and over-promoted — prizes often awarded to folks who skip from agency to agency in search of a new title or extra $$$.  And when the economic downturn made that fact tough to hide, they find themselves scrapping for Account Manager positions.

Summing up?  Cultivate your personal brand.  Do your research.  Commit to quality.  Align yourself to the agency’s cause for the long-term.  Remember that it’s not all about you.  Then go kick some ass.

Thanks for listening,

Your Future Employer (who is HIRING, by the way)

Analysis: Promoted Tweets = Real-Time Promotions + Reputation Management

Icontexto-inside-twitterYesterday Twitter unveiled a major milestone in its monetization strategy: Promoted Tweets.  Smart folks like Peter Kim, Jeremiah Owyang, John Battelle and Steve Rubel are already on record with some initial, smart reactions.

While TechCrunch reports that initial response among users is pretty negative, I am inclined to give Twitter the benefit of the doubt: in fact, I think they approached this advertising platform with unusual degrees of thoughtfulness.  The Resonance factor in particular is well-considered and intriguing; it could become a model for relevance scoring as the real-time Web grows. See this AllThingsD liveblog of the announcement by Peter Kafka for a nice round-up.

What will Promoted Tweets mean for Marketing?

This is yet another mile marker for marketing via Social Media. Maybe it’s too early to be thinking like this, and maybe I am just groggy from x-country travel and too-little sleep, but I think Twitter’s Promoted Tweets platform conceivably offers TWO COMPELLING BREAKTHROUGHS.

BREAKTHROUGH #1:  “REAL-TIME” MARKETING.

Obviously it will be cool, reasonable, and effective for a brand like Starbucks or Quiznos (client) to ensure that anyone who searches for “coffee” or “lunch” sees a Promoted Tweet, especially if it’s tied to a promotion.  “Click here for a coupon you can bring to the store for $1 off your purchase.”

The fact that such an offer can now “float atop the stream” – as in, not get lost in it! – is compelling.  It will be even more impactful if those Promoted Tweets can be based on time-of-day: if that Quiznos tweet is only viewable within a 3 hour window, and/or the coupon is only usable til 4pm, it might get re-tweeted more hurriedly (achieving more Resonance) and cashed-in more frenziedly: We are talking about REAL-TIME MARKETING here, people.

While obviously these tweets should not be too spammy, overwrought nor cheesey, rest assured that this approach will be a big part of the grand experiment.

BREAKTHROUGH #2: REPUTATION MANAGEMENT.

This is where I believe Promoted Tweets will shine, more so than anticipated.  Think back to the Dominos Crisis of last year (it was actually a year ago this week!) … If Promoted Tweets had existed at that point, the company’s official reactions and mea-culpas in the following days could have been promoted, and would have achieved a permanent “above the stream” status during those challenging days.

One of the tough things about using Twitter, when you’re a brand in a crisis, is the frenzied responsiveness required. The official corporate stream can become a mishmash of responses to thousands of users, which are incomprehensible (and frankly boring) to everyone else following the handle.

How often can we see a brand say something to the effect of, “Thanks for the feedback, @username, we’re working on it!” before we tire of the Reputation Management Madness?

But Promoted Tweets allows a brand some BREATHING ROOM.  The Twitter wranglers can rest assured that while they are frantically monitoring and dealing with individual users, their OFFICIAL RESPONSE will continue to float above the stream for anyone who happens to search for their brand due to the crisis.  And brand supporters can re-tweet that official response much more easily and readily, which serves to keep it “resonating” and alive.

Once the crisis settles, a brand might elect to spend its “Promoted Tweeting” budget in boosting the tweets of its supporters.  I can readily see some brand enthusiasts vying for the “badge” of having had one of their tweets officially promoted by their favorite brands.  “Look, Ma, Starbucks promoted my tweet!  I am practically famous!”

Compelling stuff.  Tread carefully into this garden for now — it is still very early and there could be some points that I am fuzzy on.  For example, if you endeavor to use promotions for real-time marketing, you might need to worry about what happens when that “short-term” tweet is indexed in perpetuity by Google!

But take it seriously.  Experiment.




Show some social media love would ya?





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