Archive for May, 2010

Sony Online Entertainment Taps SHIFT Communications as AOR

Soe_logo_whiteOn the heels of our Quiznos win a few months ago, I am thrilled to announce that SHIFT’s Consumer Lifestyle practice continues to thrive, with the addition of Sony Online Entertainment to the Agency’s client roster.

This is an extra special win for us, for many reasons.  Obviously, it’s a big-time brand win, which further emphasizes SHIFT’s ability to contend in the major leagues.  Also, we get to work with Scott Gulbransen (that’s @sdgully to you Twitter folks), who we narrowly missed-out on working with at Intuit — but who has become a valued friend in the subsequent months.  The fact that we made a strong enough impression during a losing pitch to emerge as the victor during Scott’s subsequent agency review feels like a validation of our approach.

We are also delighted that SOE decided to tap SHIFT as its first-ever Agency of Record for corporate communications.  The gaming industry is bigger than the Hollywood box office, and game makers like Sony will increasingly be seen as production houses on a par with famous movie studios.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s still early days for this style of reputation management to take hold in gaming, and we’re aiming to help make SOE a trusted, exciting brand in this arena.

Lastly, I am a huge geek.  Our family was the first-and-only house on the block to buy Pong when it came out, and I’ve been a joystick jockey ever since.  SOE is the gaming giant that brought seminal multiplayer titles like Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies to market.  And in upcoming months we’ll be helping out with game titles such as DC Universe Online.  I’m in heaven.  (Think that’s just blowing smoke?  My firstborn son is named “Luke.”  Yes, after a certain Jedi.)

Thanks for putting up with this shameless self promotion!  I admit it, we’re feeling a li’l giddy…

"Sharing" is a Key to Social Strategy

Last month, Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang and Charlene Li hosted a webinar on “Getting Your Company Ready for a Social Strategy.”

It is a fantastic, high-level overview of the research and approaches that all companies should employ as they tiptoe into these waters.

Before you dive in to the deck below, consider how much time went into the creation of this 45–slide presentation.

The research. The graphics. The consideration of narrative flow. The debates that no doubt occurred within Altimeter about what content to include, and what to hold back, and what to expand on.

That’s a lot of work.

And yet they’ve offered it to us for free.

How many companies whose business models rely on “knowledge” would be willing to give away so much, for so little – for nothing?

How many companies and Social Media Smartypants have already been charging hefty fees to deliver presentations such as this one, to unwitting corporate paymasters?

“Knowledge is Power?”

Maybe “Sharing is Power.”

PR + Customer Service Merger Accelerating

About a year ago, I posted this graphic about “The Next 50 Years of Public Relations.”


At that point, my focus was primarily on the waning (but never unimportant) emphasis on “Media Relations.”  In the intervening months, as predicted, our role as “PR counselors” has evolved even more quickly than I suspected last June.

Yes, “Media Relations” is still a critical part of the job.  In fact, it may be more important than ever, as many clients now realize that mainstream media results can rev the engine of online chatter in social channels.

But I’ve been floored by the amount of “Customer Service” our team now handles.  This piece of the job accelerated far faster than I’d expected.

For some of our large consumer brands, particularly those who have asked us to be part of their extended brand management team, we are fielding scores of customer issues.

On any given day, the SHIFT team will:

  • Monitor for mentions of the brand and/or relevant keywords, across the web, including “owned” brand properties (e.g., Facebook Fanpage)
  • Flag and report on important issues and/or major crises related to consumer complaints and conversations
  • Respond on behalf of the brand to minor Customer Service issues
  • Identify and react to opportunities to insert the brand into a relevant conversation, in appropriate/respectful ways
  • Report all issues to the client team as necessary for data capture and/or escalation
  • Field and respond or direct Customer Service issues that come via the brand’s own website properties, including complaints and questions that come via email

And that’s just a partial list.  As noted on occassions too numerous to mention, Social Media is not only upending the Marketing Industry Players, it’s essentially crashing its way through any and all consumer-facing departments.

The “PR industry” continues to benefit.

How much longer before the PR team’s at the table with the Product Development team, counseling on “what the people want next?”

Related Posts:

Of Stars & Schmoes: The Mandate to Synch Social Media & Customer Service”

“This Is The Corp. Comms Dept. How May We Serve You Better?”

What is a Social Media Marketing Agency?

When Social Media became the Shiny Object of the marketing world, it blew up some common conceptions about “who does what.” As I’ve written before, we now see PR agencies backing into digital and digital/advertising agencies creeping into relationship-building practices, etc.

Result: prospective clients are confused.

Thus there have been cases when SHIFT is pitted against everyone from Razorfish (digital) to Arnold (advertising), and even Media Buyers(!), not to mention our erstwhile competitors from the traditional PR world.

We can’t blame the clients for this confusion; the infusion of Social Media principles across disciplines means that the current befuddlement is actually quite appropriate.

But, maybe we can take responsibility for clarifying things a bit?

To that end, I reached out to friend (and client – and sometime competitor!) Aaron Strout at Powered, and to friend (and partner – and sometime competitor!) Adam Cohen of Rosetta, to draft a few words about their companies and their capabilities – including some words on what they DON’T do.  I do the same, below.

The goal is to clarify the subtle differences between the capabilities and focus of pure-play Social Media Marketing (Powered), Interactive Agencies (Rosetta) and PR/Social Media Agencies (SHIFT).

See if you can spot the points of clarity, as well as the points of incongruity!


This is my company…
Powered is a dedicated social media agency that helps brands fully capitalize on their social initiatives. With 75 employees in four offices (Austin, New York City, Portland and San Francisco) we brings “best-in-class” expertise across the social spectrum to our clients by offering a combination of strategy, planning, activation and management for social presence and programs.

What we do…
We help big brands with strategy and activation (getting their key stakeholders like customers, prospects, partners or employees) to do things that create value for their brand. Those activities might include evangelizing, contributing, participating or learning.

Twitter_sxswThis is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)…
We’re really at our best when we’re helping big brands (mainly B2C) connect their social efforts to their marketing efforts. We start by fleshing out a cohesive strategy and then move toward the activation. In many cases, this includes focusing on things like influencer outreach, ambassador programs, Facebook Fanpages, applications and customer tabs and the building and managing of branded online communities.

This is when you should call someone else…
We’re still not particularly good at media buying, custom web development (outside of Facebook and community building), SEM and general site SEO. We also don’t do any traditional PR. For those activities, I’d strongly recommend talking to our friends at Rosetta and SHIFT, both of whom we partner/work with.

Rosetta Final Logo_021609ADAM COHEN, PARTNER, ROSETTA

This is my company…
Rosetta is the largest independent digital agency in the US. Using a patented approach to segmentation, called Personality® Segmentation (yep, it’s patented and a differentiator), which provides deep insights into the drivers of consumer behavior, Rosetta’s teams translate these insights into relevant marketing solutions to attract, retain and strengthen a brand’s most valuable customer relationships. With 720+ team members, Rosetta is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, with offices in NYC, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Denver and most recently Toronto.

What we do…
We help companies develop strategies and implement marketing tactics, combining the best of insight + technology – from eCommerce to Paid Search to Creative to Analytics to Relationship Marketing. With all the tools in a marketer’s toolbox, we strive to be a CMO’s most trusted partner.  Our industry expertise includes Retail & Consumer Products; Healthcare; Financial Services; Communications, Media & Technology, and B2B.

AdamCohenThis is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)…
We’re best when we bring to together marketing disciplines and industry acumen to provide measurable integrated solutions.  We shine we get the opportunity to demonstrate business results across tactics – like integrating eCommerce with paid search/SEO, driving the best creative with analytics and measurement, or infusing CRM with Personality Segmentation.

This is when you should call someone else…
Traditional media outlets are outside of our sweet spot (TV, print, radio), along with traditional PR.  Our social media practice is focused on infusing social into all of our marketing disciplines, but we are partnering with world-class agencies like SHIFT on outreach programs and Powered on designing the best approaches to engage and activate communities.


This is my company…
A top-25 PR agency in the U.S., with offices in NYC, San Francisco and Boston, SHIFT Communications is an agency that helps organizations of all sizes better communicate with the people that matter to their business.  Sometimes that’s “the media,” sometimes that’s “some loudmouth on Twitter.”  Companies ranging from Club Med to Quiznos, from tiny start-ups to established tech companies, look to SHIFT for counsel and execution on both branded and earned media.

What we do…
SHIFT emphasizes “on-going engagement” vs. spray-and-pray “campaigns.”  And because relationships change over time, our targets and tactics evolve as-needed.  Thus the portfolio of services a client will tap into may include: Traditional Media Relations (coverage in NYTimes, TODAY Show, eWeek, etc.) + Social Media Relations (dialogue with relevant Facebook Group admins, Twitterati, etc.) + Content and App Development + Community Management (running a YouTube channel or Facebook Fanpage).

TN-91_image_SHIFTThis is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)…
We are generally called on by large brands that need to be more nimble and engaging, or by small companies that want to take things to the next level.  If your company needs more overall visibility (“get ink!”); needs to better engage with consumers (“that Social Media stuff!”); or needs to brand or re-brand in the marketplace, it’s worth a conversation.

This is when you should call someone else…
While we bring plenty of creativity to the table, when it comes to execution portion of app development, videography, website development, advertising campaigns, media buying and SEO, SHIFT will turn to quality partners like Powered and Rosetta, among others.  Investor Relations is also not a core offering, though we routinely play a supporting role.

I want to thank my pals Adam and Aaron for helping out with this project.  Where we compete, we do so with respect and good humor.  Where we can cooperate, we do so with gumption and gusto.

What do you see on the horizon for Social Media Marketing consultants? Will the pendulum swing toward “best-of-breed” or “comprehensive” offerings?  What types of vendors are best adapted to survive the new era?

Client Face-Time = Improved Engagement

While in San Franciso this week, I engaged in a li’l experiment. I purchased 50 mini-cupcakes from a gourmet bakery and called the staff in to an impromptu meeting. Revealing the delicious treats to my appreciative, sugar-addicted colleagues, I made this proposition:

“For every 1 idea you offer about how to improve Client Service or Agency Morale, you get 1 cupcake. More ideas = more cupcakes!” Then I passed out a stack of index cards. Within 10 minutes, the cupcakes were largely gone and I had a tidy stack of great ideas about how to make SHIFT a better organization.

Among the ideas that cropped up with unexpected frequency: the junior staff was requesting more face time with their clients.

“We’d like more in-person meetings with clients so that they have more opportunities to get to know us as people/personalities.”

“More face-to-face meetings with clients: these meetings always have a different vibe and can be more productive.”

“Too many meetings are staffed only by senior execs. More face-time for junior staff with clients will empower junior folks (and give them a better sense of the client’s business and personal priorities), increase SHIFT’s overall relationships with clients, and make us all better PR counselors as we ‘learn in the moment.’”

Hard to argue with this line of thinking. More opportunities to create client rapport can only be a good thing, and let’s face it — that rapport will likely produce more committed PR teams that strive for even better results.

That’s an idea worth a cupcake.

Show some social media love would ya?

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