So yesterday, I went on a little rant about marketers coming to me rather than assuming I was going to go to them. Here's what I really meant to say:
Social media sites are not broadcast sites. If you are using Facebook and Twitter to send links to your own ads and "get your name out there," you're missing the point. These media are replacing old forms of communication because consumers have re-written the rules. With products like TiVo, XM, and Kindle, it's easy to avoid advertisements in television, radio, and newspapers. Marketers who follow email spam laws are required to have an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of their e-newsletters. And just like it's easy to follow a company on Facebook and Twitter, it's just as easy to stop following them.
Social media is about having a conversation. It's about engaging your audience, answering their questions, offering a business card if they ask for it. At a business dinner, no one gets up on the table to shout out their advertising pitch. Instead, relationships are made through hand-shakes and authentic conversations.
The same rules apply online. Don't use Facebook and Twitter to shout out whatever you want - because just as I would call security during a business dinner to have you removed, your messages can be ignored at the click of a button. If you want to shake hands and have a real conversation, I'm in!
Ladies and gentlemen of the marketing world, stop sending messages that tell me I should care. Instead, send something worth my time, something that can affect me, something awesome, and I will care. And in order to do that, spend a little time finding out about me instead of assuming I want to find out more about you.
I have plenty of information out there - I have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, blog, Pandora station, and YouTube channel. Program your messages to fit my interests and I'll pay attention. Send an ad out there and hope that I'm interested, and I'll probably ignore you.Oh, and if I do ignore you, it's not that I didn't see you the first time. So don't make your ads bigger, louder, and "in-the-way-er." Don't assume that I didn't click to your campaign because I wasn't paying attention, work harder to advertise toward people who care.
Glad I got that out of my system.....
The beginning of football season feels more like a holiday than some of the dates marked on our post office calendars. There are a lot of reasons for that, but regardless, it reminds me of an interesting marketing tactic that I've recently discussed with some area entrepreneurs.
"Own your own holiday" was the theme of the discussion, which branched from talking about the competition for big holidays like Thanksgiving and New Years. Around the traditional holiday seasons, we get cards from businesses and see special deals at our favorite retailers, but your business can stand out by inventing (or owning) its own holiday.
For example, what if your IT business had "Free Computer Update Day" every year? You could send out cards ahead of time and refer to the "holiday" throughout the year in your other marketing channels. Or what about reinventing "Friday the 13th?" This date occurs at least once every year, usually twice - encourage your customers not to be scared, but to get excited about the deals you'll offer them on these dates.
PS - GO BILLS!
In 1985, The Coca-Cola Company introduced a new formula for their classic beverage. The decision was backed by market research and analysis, interviews, focus groups, and taste-tests... and initially looked like a good idea. However, there was a huge backlash when consumers realized the new formula was completely replacing the old, and that they'd no longer have access to the drink they initially fell in love with. After protests started to break out, the company decided to bring the old formula back to the market as "Classic Coke," and they all lived happily ever after.
It's not such a terrible story, and Coke handled it the right way considering all the information available to them. They were trying to be transparent, letting their customers provide feedback and access to "New Coke" before it was available on the shelves. All the analyses suggested the formula would do better, but they forgot one important bit of transparency: they didn't tell people they were taking away the old stuff.
In retrospect, Coca-Cola handled the situation well (though at first, they tried too hard to defend their decision instead of continuing to listen to their consumers). They were transparent about the product change, in the same way they could have been transparent through today's social media outlets.
However, this is a prime example of the power of a company's brand. Throughout the process, Coke never gave its consumers a chance to comment on the brand. People didn't need something entirely new, they just needed something a bit sweeter to add to the existing product.
Social media has the potential to take transparency one step further - to expose a company's brand to comment and criticism. Had Facebook and Twitter been around in 1985, the company would have realized that people draw emotional connections to an historical brand name like Coke. You can't fault them for a lack of transparency... hindsight is 20-20. But thankfully, today there are new tools that provide companies access to consumer opinions of their brand identity.
To wrap up this three-part series on public relations and social media, I just want to drive home the power and importance of social media outlets, negative and positive. Companies who embrace transparency and work with the bloggers and Facebook users who have emotionally-vested interests in the brand have much more potential for success in today's marketing world.
Please feel free to add your own comments, thoughts, and case studies that involve social media. I'd love to hear them!
Ok, so I lied about spending my Labor Day weekend writing blog posts about PR case studies... it seemed like I'd have a lot more time to do so, but the beautiful September weather in upstate New York was so overwhelmingly rare that I had to take full advantage.
But we're back, and as I promised, it's time to dissect Sigg's recent announcement about BPA in their "eco-friendly" water bottles. I came across the news last week on the Yahoo! home page, and only time will tell how the PR team at Sigg handles the bad publicity, but so far, it doesn't seem like they're doing a great job.
Sigg has a semi-strong presence on social media, and it's tough to tell where the "official" accounts are, but the fact is their brand is losing its reputation faster than Milli Vanilli after a skipped record (maybe not that fast...). Read some of the excerpts below from different social media outlets:
"...what really shocks me is that I did not receive an e-mail or mailed notification from this company as I have ordered from them on-line before.""My SIGG water bottles, bought to replace BPA plastic, contain BPA, a fact SIGG glossed over: FAIL"
Patrick Smith, SIGG Facebook Page
"The business impact of their decision remains to be seen. It is clear, though, that they will lose the faith of a lot of their customers. Personally, will I buy bottles from SIGG in the future? No."
Alex Lewin, Feed Me Like You Mean It Blog
SIGG's official response came just 2 days ago. Apparently, they had more Labor Day plans than anticipated, as well. Moving forward, SIGG CEO Steve Wasik promises to keep consumers informed about new SIGG water bottles, make it easy for them to exchange their old bottles, and...
"Unveil an independently managed grant program to help fund BPA and chemical research that will help eliminate confusion and concern about this issue. While we have moved away from BPA in SIGG products, it continues to be used in countless products that we all use each day. If it poses a real threat, we want to help curb its use."
The company, and particularly the CEO, cites "naivety" about the responsibilities of being a green industry as part of their mistake. The apology letter, referenced above, contains hints of superiority and sarcasm toward seemingly uninformed consumers. There is still no link to social media pages from the official SIGG website. They're still missing a huge opportunity to win back their once-loyal base - the people who have now turned on them through their own connections.
SIGG, you're becoming a case study for ignorance towards social media marketing. Will you be the first big company to implode because "media relations" has a whole new meaning? As I mentioned earlier... time will tell.
Part 3 tomorrow: Today's version of the classic "Coke Classic" study
To celebrate Labor Day Weekend, I'm going to take a look at some interesting case studies in public relations and discuss how social media made (or could have made) a huge difference. I know, I know..... some of you are going to the beach and grilling hot dogs and throwing away all your white clothes this weekend. Those are all fun alternatives to PR case studies, but not as exciting.
So, for Part 1, we'll open our history books to 1982. Tylenol was a leader in the pain-killer market, but the company would face a huge crisis when an individual (or a few individuals) added cyanide to some containers of the over-the-counter drug. Seven people died in and around Chicago, and local news teams starting making phone calls to Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol.
The company hadn't heard about the problem before the phones starting ringing, and they could have reacted in a variety of ways, but admirably decided to alert the entire nation by recalling every container of Tylenol on the shelves. Rather than sending their condolences to the families of the deceased and moving on, they took full control of the situation and assured their customers all over the world that the drug was safe. They added tamper-proof lids so future consumers knew if a container was opened after it left the factory.Here's where social media could have (and would have) played a role. Rather than hearing about the disaster from news stations, Johnson and Johnson would have likely read about it on blogs, twitter feeds, and the Yahoo! home page. Rather than having a conversation with a few media outlets waiting to break the news, they would have been dousing wildfires like the brave men and women in Southern California.
For big businesses like Johnson and Johnson, the "social media-sphere" can seem like a natural disaster waiting to happen. One match on a pile of dry kindling, and we all know what happens. That's why it's more important than ever for businesses to have public relations foresight. But even more important, because only hindsight is 20-20, is for businesses to open up their channels of communication TODAY instead of waiting for the disaster to strike.
In large forests, conservationists will sometimes cut channels to divide the trees into sections and make wildfires easier to contain. In the same way, businesses should use social media outlets to get closer to their customers and build trust and loyalty. So when something bad happens, there are channels to navigate from the inside to contain the spread of harmful messages and rumors.
Part 2 tomorrow: Gauging Sigg's recent announcement about BPA in their water bottles
In case you weren't able to find all of the mistakes in yesterday's post about the importance of copyediting, here are the answers:
My Own Mistakes (done on purpose)
A couple years ago, my friend peeled the "next oil change" mileage sticker off her car and brought it to me. It said, "You're next oil change is due [...]". The national chain that took care of her car did a great job, but no one on the corporate ladder noticed the grammer mistake they'd eventually leave behind. It took a St. John Fisher Sports Management major to find it - and I'm sure she wasn't the only one.
From emails to e-newsletters, business cards to billboard's, correct grammar is essential to demonstrating quality, and professionalism. Even if there are only a few words on a sign, take the time to run it by a copyeditor before sending to the printer.
Anthony Pucci is a professional copyeditor in New York and Massachusetts. These are his Top 10 Reasons for hiring him:
Anthony's email address is email@example.com and his website is www.newyorkcopyeditor.com. Please do yourself, you're clients, and me a favor and contact him before you become another bad example on my blog (notice, by the way, these businesses are no small ventures):