Is Your Twitter Preview Selling You Short?

When I first ventured into Twitter, it was hard to discern who to follow and why I should pay attention to certain people and accounts. I sought out people with backgrounds in PR, social media, retail, marketing, and other areas in which I wanted to become knowledgeable in as well as share my knowledge.

TwitterOne thing quickly became apparent — not everyone uses Twitter in the same way. And that is a good thing for the most part. But more and more I continue to see people and brands using Twitter as a broadcast tool and not an engagement tool.

Traditional media is all about the broadcast method. It’s push marketing. Social media is about engagement, interaction, and exchange. It’s pull marketing at its finest. It has the ability to draw in prospects and customers. It provides brands and individuals the ultimate means to court opportunity. Social media shortens the distance between you and your customer, and your product or service and the end user.

But what happens when you are scrolling through Twitter and come across a brand account or individual to connect with and their feed is cluttered with posts that scream, “It’s all about me!” For instance, there are no posts where a customer is offered help or assistance. There is no evidence of discussion about the latest news from Mashable. In fact, there are no replies to anyone. Instead the feed consists of retweets and self-promotion. Not exactly a giant “Welcome” mat, is it?

Mark W. Schaefer said at the Social Media Masters (#SMM) conference I attended in Toronto last year, “If your website is the movie, let Twitter be your trailer.” Your Twitter profile and the handful of tweets in view when someone pulls up your profile should give your next potential follower a hint of what’s to come. Your Twitter profile especially as it appears on a mobile device only gives a snapshot of what they will see and be subject to once they click the “follow” button.

Your Twitter preview, or trailer, sets the stage for the ultimate big show — your website. Use Twitter to position your brand as the brand of choice. Stand out against your competitors and build credibility and authority with every tweet. This Twitter snapshot should present your brand as accurately as possible. Are you driven by customer service? Are you driven by the best products in the industry? Give future customers enough intrigue to click through to your website where you drive the sale. Manage the relationship and leverage your social presence to keep your audience in the seats right through to the end credits.

What would be your recommendation to a brand trying to improve their Twitter presence? Please leave a comment below.

Hollywood Spin: Great Movies Pulling Back the Curtain on PR

The West Wing was one of the first shows that treated the communications/PR profession with some class. Allison Janney’s character was one to watch. She was thorough, principled, and savvy enough to know when she was being played by both sides. And I *loved* that the top-notch PR role model was a woman. C.J. Cregg was my hero as I began my PR career.

 

Hollywood tends to gloss over the unhappy endings though, and there is always a potential for an unhappy ending in the world of PR. Public relations has the ability to sway the masses your way or to turn them completely against you (and this can happen regardless of what is factually sound).

 

Here are my top picks for Hollywood movies that pull back the curtain on the sometimes mysterious world of public relations:

 

  1. All The President’s Men—Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman set a new standard for showing how journalism interacts with public relations and its practitioners. This movie practically serves as a step-by-step re-enactment on the role two obscure reporters for the Washington Post played in the Watergate political scandal. The fallout included talks of impeachment; though ultimately President Richard Nixon resigned instead.
  2. The Queen—Helen Mirren’s performance was indeed Oscar-worthy. Her portrayal of Her Royal Highness following the untimely death of her former daughter-in-law and mother to the future king of England, Princess Diana, showed how difficult it can be to direct those who live in ivory towers during a crisis. Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to advise Her Majesty on what her people need and expect from the Royal Family during this time of national grief but the Queen can’t bring herself to empathize with the grieving masses. The Royal PR team has been instructed to put distance between the Royal House of Windsor and Princess Diana after the messy divorce from Prince Charles. But the people have not forgotten their Princess and mourn her death very publicly in the streets. All the while, Blair tries to convince Queen Elizabeth to show some emotion—any emotion—before a PR nightmare ensues. It’s a great example of how you are not your audience. And in times of crises, being human is more important than being right.
  3. Thank You for Smoking—The audience can’t help but pull for rascally Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhardt) who portrays a glib tobacco lobbyist, but comes off as more of a publicist. The kicker here is Naylor doesn’t even deny the inherent and proven health risks of smoking. On the contrary, he defends the cigarette industry. Considering how much Gen X’ers and beyond have been preached to about the sins of smoking, this film is a great example of spin at work (p.s. PR professionals hate that word).

 

Honourable mentions go to 2 movies displaying polar opposite views of the communications/PR profession:

Michael Clayton—Tilda Swinton as Karen Crowder presents us with a new face of betrayal. The steely coolness of a female lawyer who will stop at nothing to protect her client—even if it means lying, accepting a bribe, and attempted murder. This movie is all about the dark side of public relations and advocacy. (Interestingly enough, another George Clooney movie, The Ides of March, is equally dark and scathing. The audience is given a front row seat at how much backroom negotiation and posturing go on behind seemingly closed doors at election time. With stellar performances by Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti this film portrays political strategists (usually former PR wonks) as soulless with a complete disregard for ethics or the truth. It’s only the truth if it helps your candidate destroy the opponent, collateral damage be damned.

Charlotte’s Web—Most of us have read this cherished story as a child. But consider this angle as an adult: Great PR saved Wilbur’s life. Written by E.B. White, co-author of the definitive PR and journalism guide The Elements of Style, this movie should inspire all PR practitioners and communicators to hold high their professional code of conduct and push us to strive for excellence.

 

Public relations and communications as professions can open up opportunities to shape policy, public opinion, and change behaviours. Practitioners can and do influence many decisions affecting most of us in some way, shape or form. Influence and how these professionals wield it become the difference between creating spin or creating an environment ripe for education and transformation.

Social media boundaries: Should worlds collide?

Has the arrival of social media challenged the traditional separation between personal and work lives? What should guide the decision to allow business contacts to connect through Facebook and other social media tools that also reach friends and family? How are you personally managing the blurred lines between personal and professional lives?

Social Media FacebookMixing the professional and personal is easy in today’s social media landscape. But just because it is easy, does not mean it should be done. Obviously social media has challenged the traditional separation between personal and work lives. However, it is up to individuals to decide how much of that self they wish to put out there for public consumption.

There are number of common sense guidelines one can employ when using social media sites to connect and share. Good questions to ask when posting anything to personal or professional social media sites are: If this post were to appear on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow, would I be proud to have it attributed to me? Could this be considered offensive to anyone I am connected to? Does this post go against the image I wish to maintain both professionally and personally? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it would be wise to reevaluate the reasoning for posting it in the first place.

Furthermore, why is it that even though one is passionate about work and life the two should intersect at all? There are boundaries for a reason. No one outside of immediate family (and even that could be debated) wants to know everything about you from your political/religious leanings to your 100 pet peeves. There is a time and place for everything and social media makes easy to forget what belongs where and why.

If you have “friended” your boss on Facebook, inevitably there will come a point in time when you are going to be job hunting or looking to move on to a different company. Why expose yourself and your boss or coworkers to this hopelessly awkward situation? Or if your boss “friends” you on Facebook, do you really want him/her to see the pictures from the pool party last weekend? Do you want co-workers or potential employers to be privy to the occasional vent? LinkedIn is more appropriate and geared toward maintaining the professional career and Facebook is meant for the more personal aspects of life. Connections may exist and cross-over between the two accounts, but how much sharing and with whom is ultimately up to the individual user to decide. Check your privacy settings frequently. Be aware of your company’s social media policy (they do have one, right?) and ensure your profiles adhere to their codes of conduct.

Do keep in mind there is no reason why one *must* accept every invitation to connect via Facebook or LinkedIn.  Accept the ones that apply to that specific profile you are comfortable with and decline the ones you wish to keep out of your personal or professional business. If probed about why you did not accept the request, one can diplomatically state, “I prefer to use <insert social media site here> for my professional/personal contacts. Let’s try to connect on <other social media site> instead.” Simple, truthful and it creates boundaries.

As an employee, it can be awkward  to blur the lines of the professional and personal. Recall how George Costanza from Seinfeld once said, “Worlds cannot collide!” Business is business and always will be. Take whatever steps necessary to ensure that your connections view you with respect and have no qualms about recommending your skills and abilities (either professional or personal) to their connections and networks. After all, that is what social media is about – your personal net promoter score. Be the best brand you can be.

What do you do to protect your personal brand? How do you see personal and professional merging in social media? Leave a comment below!

Be Newsworthy: How to Drive Better PR Results

Every PR professional can recall cringe-worthy moments standing in front of her/his boss’ desk, or in a meeting, and being told to put out a press release for something that is most definitely not newsworthy. Every CEO likes to think the latest corporate development, product, or idea is surely worthy of a press release. But PR professionals know the goal is to pique editorial interest enough that it leads to a interview, then a story, and therefore it takes discretion in discerning what is truly newsworthy. One cannot lose sight that wasting an editor’s time will not bode well for building credibility as a reliable news source.

Press ReleaseToday more than ever, editors are bombarded with hundreds of press releases and pitches promising the Next Big Story. Unless your press release is specific, targeted, and well written (and yes, grammar counts) with the audience in mind, your press release or pitch will sit in an editor’s inbox never to see the light of day. Writing and pitching with the audience and the editor in mind can help land you a coveted spot on the front page or at least a prominent spot, the subject of a product review, or deemed an expert source to be interviewed.

Sending a press release in an email

Writers and public relations professionals can get caught up in their own hype and forget to put the “news” in news release by providing editors with basic details (who, what, when, where, why, and how) and targeted information. In this day and age, it is best to send news releases and pitches via email. Writers and editors are increasingly using smartphones on the go as well as tablets. Don’t risk sending an attachment the recipient may not be able to open. Instead always place the news release in the body of the email. With the prominence of smartphones, it makes sense most journalists and editors are connected to their mobile phones to stay on top of stories, meet with sources, attend news worthy events, and stay connected with readers and social media.

Being the go-to person for your client or organization means the media knows they can trust you and you’re connected. You’re not just concerned with serving your ends but making the jobs of journalists and editors as easy as possible. Sending your news release via email means you have one glance to get someone’s attention. Therefore, one must choose a compelling subject line. Do not use all CAPS in your subject line. Do not just enter “News release” in the subject line. Use the subject line to offer a snapshot of your story to capture the journalist/editor’s interest enough to click “open” and read your pitch. Consistent and concise communications are the building blocks of every public relations professional and their campaigns.

Achieving your goal—getting coverage for your story and getting your message out—requires persistence and relationship building. Mind your reputation and operate with integrity and consistency. Editors and writers will grow to trust your pitches and your ability to think about what they need to whet the appetites of their readers and deliver real news.

Have you ever done a press release before? What were some of the challenges you’ve experienced? Leave a comment below!