Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blending Professional and Personal on Facebook

This is a big question for business people and few have managed to answer it completely, although there seems to be a consensus that the two should not mix.

Truth - I am not a huge Facebook user (I have probably a dozen friends, most of whom have found me, a mix of professional and personal) but I am an Admin on two professional sites and then my own.

As an independent, if I hide my page then people won’t be able to find me – and some of my company information is on there. So it’s available.

Remember Bristol Palin’s boyfriend whose MySpace page, until Jon Stewart found it, trumpeted how he wanted to party all day and night and never get married. We’ve also heard the stories about kids who applied to college and didn’t get in because some admissions officer decided to check out their MySpace or Facebook page. We all have to remember these are public spaces.

My “Facebook Friends” so far haven’t written anything that I wouldn’t want anyone else to see. We save that for emails – which we shouldn’t do either.

We are all experimenting with social networking and I’m not sure that anyone knows the right answer. For me - what am I supposed to tell clients or prospective ones if they want to Friend Me? Thanks but no thanks?

I did get an email from an association president in Chicago via Facebook who represents a group I do not think of as eco-friendly. He was trying to reach out to science teachers and asked if he could Friend Me.

I politely declined but sent him to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) page and the Coalition on Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) page. I also sent him a bio and my web address which he dutifully said he passed on to his PR director. One hand washes the other.

A recent discussion on the ASAE listserv and some polling of friends, colleagues and clients showed that we are all struggling with how to manage personal and professional. There does not seem to be a simple solution. I’ve left out names from the listserv since it’s for ASAE members only. Here is what I learned:

You Can Separate the Two In Some Form - A number of people I talked to use LinkedIn for business and keep Facebook for personal use. It does have controls so that people can’t see your page if you don’t Friend Them. You can also set it up so your Real Friends can see some information and your Professional Friends can see others. I have no idea how to do this but one of my clients who is getting an MBA told me he does it.

Independents Seem To Use Their Page for A Mix of Both - A small business owner echoed my issue. She said “I often receive requests from business contacts to connect as Friends. I'd prefer to keep them separated, but it looks like many others use Facebook for all purposes.”

Some Have a Personal and a Professional Page – The simplest way to do it is to have two pages – one for business and one for professional. Since so many organizations now have Facebook pages, it makes more sense to do it this way, to allay confusion.

This raises other issues too – Do you want to have your professional affiliation on your personal page (after all it is another form of contact. What if your company name is the same as your real name – will that confuse everyone?)

One big discussion among associations is that members started Facebook pages and they weren’t part of the “Brand” so they wanted to know whether others had asked them to stop. Most seemed reluctant to ask their members to stop – after all it was a form of member outreach and kind of flattering. The consensus was they had to learn to live with a lack of control – and might learn something from the chatter.

And then of course the biggest issue to me is What Really Is the Point of Facebook?

And that’s the question I cannot answer except for the data that I keep collecting.

It’s the most popular social networking tool

It helps you bond with clients/members, etc. in new ways

It gets you in front of people you would not reach any other way

It is a way to keep in touch with a broad network of people – who may be friends/potential clients/real clients – in a cool, fun, way

You’ve got to be on it to figure it out

The fastest growing group on Facebook is 40-plus

My 13 year-old son is less adamant about having a Facebook page because his mother is on it – and as more parents go on I’m sure the kids will leave and found something else.

And that’s my post for this holiday week. Happy Holidays to All.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Placing Science and Health Stories: What Works Now

Last Friday I attended a meeting for public information officers held by AAAS’ EurekAlert! news service. The room was packed with university, corporate, and other science communications leaders. It was one of the most informative presentations I’ve been too in a long time. Here are some highlights and lessons learned.

Panel members: Karl Bates, Director of Research Communications, Duke University; Nils Burzelius, Deputy National Editor/Science and Tom Kennedy Managing Editor for Multimedia, The Washington Post; Art Chimes, Host of Our Word science program, Voice of America; Jorge Ribas, Video Producer, Discovery News; Rea Blakey, Host of Discovery Health: CME (moderator).

Realities of this new media world:

Most people will be reading your information on 3” screens

Your readers/viewers can talk back to you and tell you that you are an idiot

You are just one click away from a referral to someone’s entire network

70% of the people who come to your site are there for two seconds

The main message of the panel was that video helps sell your story. You can buy a good hand-held video camera for around $100, and you should. Video makes press releases more compelling. Some ideas:

No more talking heads – They’re boring and people don’t listen. If you must do a talking head - dress him up. For a presentation on stem cells Duke ran footage of them as a backdrop. Stem cells have beautiful colors and are constantly changing.

Going viral – Just because you post video doesn’t mean it will be watched but if it’s creative and different you have a much better chance. Here are two examples:

Dancing Shrimp went up on YouTube to demonstrate an experiment scientists were doing. People started setting it to music and it ended up on the Today Show.

Particle Physics rap song – Student Kate McAlpine was trying to explain complex science with rap and it was picked up everywhere.

Raw footage is best – Say goodbye to expensively produced video and b-roll. The media prefers 90 seconds of raw footage that it can use in a longer piece. BTW the most popular videos on YouTube are 7-9 minutes.

Losing control of your footage – This is a fear from lawyers and many executives. While you can’t control every use you can watermark it so they know it’s yours and it will always have your brand on it.

Your expert on video – Think of it as an audition tape. The media wants to show viewers what scientists are working on – not just read about it.

Some other thoughts for communicating science and health:

Get your field researchers to set up an FTP site – Footage can be used to report as they go. Also get them to blog about what they’re doing so people can follow them.

Strong characters are a big plus – The media wants people who allow us to go inside of a situation and observe it. Also offer a pre-interview if you can’t get the real thing – it allows them to get a sense of what’s possible.

Get rid of the corporate blah, blah, blah press release – It’s better to write releases in a journalistic way – use multiple sources and data (make sure it’s sourced). This way it may get picked up as is.

The role of PIOs is changing – With all the lay-offs, PIOs have to help journalists and take on more responsibility. The media wants partnerships, strong credentials, expertise, knowledge and often help with fact checking.

For more information http://www.eurekalert.org/seminar/2008/video.php

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gossip Girl Goes Networking Among DC Marketers

Does anyone get business from networking events? I know I’m notoriously bad about follow-up, unless I see a genuine lead and connection to what I do, but I've been to many so here's a rundown.

First off – the vendors are out in force. Know the economy is bad but where are the potential clients? They only seem to go out if they are seriously worried about their jobs.

All opinions are mine so take it for what it’s worth.

The One Party (A combination of AMA/DC, Ad Club DC and others)
Holiday Party at Eye Bar.

A great big thank you to the advertising business. Haven’t been anywhere for a long time where there were so many good looking young men in one room. And they talk to me - not out of that kind of interest – but because they’re selling services and I’m old enough to be their – well let’s not go there - they think I am a potential client.

Atmosphere – Very New York, sparse with a lot of black and white, table in front like a chic club

Crowd – Young, smart, sophisticated – except for a few stragglers and older men talking to leggy 20-somethings

Food – Pan-Asian and good, but big gap between servings – people cannot exist on just dumplings

ROI – Good, didn’t meet a single potential client, but with alcohol included $62.50 for food and drinks a good buy – higher marks if you count the people watching.

IABC/DC Networking Group Holiday Party
Bar Louie Near Verizon Center

Packed – and I got there late. Stayed about 45 minutes past happy hour time as did many others. Kind of an even split between IABC and DC Networking Group but the latter stuck around longer. Bad idea to pick a place in a super crowded area on a game night. They should have told us to take metro. Parking was a nightmare – by the time I got there was a wreck so had a shot of tequila at the bar. That’s an icebreaker. Many people shopping for business - a lot of financial people and consultants. Did not see either of two IABC DC leaders but I may have missed them.

Atmosphere – Private room which is always good, pricey bar and over worked bartenders

Crowd - Professional, chummy, 40-something plus with a few exceptions, came away thinking DC Networking Group is a good one to join

Food – Pretzels, scary looking spinach dip and quesadillas. Isn’t this supposed to be a holiday party?

ROI – Good, it was only $15 to get in, and there were a ton of people there

IPRA (PRSA Independents) Holiday Lunch
Maggiano’s at Tyson’s Corner, VA

Smaller than I expected, again mostly vendors and independents, sit down lunch with a complimentary glass of wine (thank you for making it festive). Networking was limited to people at your table which was kind of a shame – although there was some time in the beginning to chat before we sat down. Talked mostly with someone from Marketwire – learned a lot about the service which competes with PR Newswire and others. He was very convincing on why it was a better alternative.

Atmosphere – Very festive, private room, for branding it was good image making

Crowd – A hodgepodge of young and old, friendly, many of them knew each other, mostly PR people

Food – At Maggianos you expect an Italian feast and that’s what it was

ROI – For the price it was the best deal in town.

Eco Tuesday
Tabaq Lounge, U St., DC

This group is new to DC and it was their first event although they evidently have chapters all over the country. There was a presentation by a business executive about being environmentally responsible which seemed really self-serving which is why I’m omitting his name. Mostly a networking opportunity but wasn’t sure why I was there. People stayed after because the presentation was long.

Atmosphere – This is a lovely restaurant but we were in the basement. It was a private room but had the feel of someone’s garage.

Crowd – Maybe 30 people with many young, passionate greenies and older consultants shopping for clients. One young woman talked about living in trees to protect them. Met someone who does image consulting – what is that? They teach you how to dress and talk – shouldn’t we have figured that out by now?

Food – None but it came with a free drink

ROI – OK depending on what you were looking for. I probably will not go to another for awhile until it builds momentum.

Capitol Communicators Group
George Washington University

These are monthly luncheons held by a group of PR professionals from Booz Allen (used to be NOAA), Johns Hopkins and NIH in different locations throughout DC. The group is free to join. This particular lunch was billed as a higher education PR lunch and it was – the head of George Washington University’s PR Tracy Schiario spoke and she was very dynamic. I had never thought about the fact that in the nation’s capitol she has to deal with world leaders, rock stars, etc. as well as construction accidents as well as keeping university president and academics happy.

Usually this group has several speakers who say very little. This one was much better and Tracy had more time.

Atmosphere – Small group, private room, very simple

Crowd – Maybe 30 people, it was more expensive than their usual lunches which run around $20, probably because they had to pay for the room. Other events are much more crowded.

Food – Yuck – they must have gotten it from the university cafeteria and for awhile they were out of silverware and anything green. Diet Coke went fast. Had to eat gooey, tasteless lasagna and drink the original Coke or starve.

ROI – For me good because I work in education but many could and did skip it.

MENG (Marketing Executives International Group)
AARP Headquarters

I was a guest in this group of people who have to meet a salary requirement of $160,000 plus a year to join. Not sure how they verify this but maybe they self select. These are very senior people who know their stuff. Emilio Pardo – head of branding at AARP spoke. (There’s a blog post here on his talk). Many smart people in the room – you could tell by the level of sophistication of the questions they asked. Well attended – 40-50 people. Met a man who markets high end boats – yes he needs marketing advice right now.

Atmosphere – Very corporate, a U-shaped table, tiny space for networking. AARP has that big corporation feel to it – moneyed, huge and long beautiful corridors

Crowd – A lot of gray hair in the room – I felt young which is rare

Food – Someone went to Costco before I think – those wrap sandwiches they sell and a salad with cafeteria looking dressing

ROI – It was under $20 and well worth it – almost all senior marketing executives with big jobs. Should have stayed after talk but it was a long day. They invited me back which is good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't Let Your Email Marketing Turn to Spam

Remember when SPAM used to be just gushy ham mixed with who knows what in a can?

Anyway data from Symantec (the Internet spam experts) shows that more than 30% of marketers who send out queries by email don’t even know their deletion rates. Not good.

For all of us who are spammed to death an interesting aside – in its most recent report Symantec detailed where most spam comes from. Here’s a breakdown:

U.S. – 26%
Brazil – 16%
China – 14%
Poland – 9%
South Korea – 8%
Germany - 7%
Turkey – 6%
Other – 24%

So the U.S. leads in spam generation – not surprising considering how much we all get. Want to get past the filters with your marketing materials? This post is dedicated to helping you do a better job of getting email into the hands of customers and prospects.

I talked to Pete Leibman, of TMA List Brokerage and Management who wrote a white paper on the topic. Here’s his advice.

Don’t include attachments in your emails – they often draw a false positive from spam filters.

Make your opt out button highly visible – put it at the top of messages. A simple, visible opt-out process often makes spam complaints less likely.

Create an email feedback loop – Marketers need to create (and monitor) an “abuse” email address such as buse@companydomain.com. For example, IBM’s address could be abuse@ibm.com or Verizon’s might be abuse@verizon.com. This is the default email address that ISPs use to communicate with email senders when email recipients have reported messages as spam to ISPs.

Test your content before you send. Run your content through a spam filter, such as Spam Assassin, before sending. This process can highlight content in your message that may lead to tagging it as spam.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Internet Ad Spending One Bright Spot in that Biz

A new study by the Direct Marketing Association points out that Internet ad spending is the one bright spot in a very gloomy world for advertisers. DMA measures email, SEO (search engine optimization), web sites, banner ads, affiliate marketing and other lead generation programs as advertising.

Research shows that a growing number of advertisers are allotting up to 20% of their ad budgets to the Internet. Total advertising spending in 2008 will be $339.9 billion. Direct marketing is slightly more than 50% of the total.

Anne Frankel, senior research manager of DMA, broke out the Internet advertising stats for us. She reports that:

It was $24.7 billion or 24.1% of total ad spending in 2008.

It is the only growth spot in advertising right now.

It is expected to climb about 3.7% in 2009, even as the rest of the ad market contracts.

Breakdown of Total US Ad Expenditures, 2008 (Billions of dollars)

Direct mail (catalog & non-catalog)$61.7
Telephone marketing $86.6
DR newspaper $38.8
DR television $75.9
DR magazine $18.2
DR radio $18.7
New media & other including billboards, etc. $39.4

Source: Direct Marketing Association, 2008

The growth in Internet advertising is despite the fact that its impact in many cases, other than affiliate marketing, is hard to measure. The current system – click through rates – does not translate into sales. But of course, with traditional advertising, clients can voice the same concerns.

The bottom line is the Internet needs to be part of your advertising mix, as does social media. If you are not there – you’ll miss a lot of potential customers.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What Keeps Marketers Up at Night

What do the questions/comments/messages that people post in the Marketing Executive Group on LinkedIn tell us? You would think that since there are 7,676 members as of December 1st, 2008 it would be a good bellwether for what marketers are doing, thinking, struggling with these days.

To keep it manageable, I only looked at the month of November. There were 100 posts which made figuring out the numbers quite easy. Here’s what I found.

Blatant self promotion – 38% of people who posted were selling themselves or their products/services and rarely pretending they were doing much else. This includes one marketing consultant who accounted for about 50% of it. I'm also including people who posted a question directly related to the name of their company or business – so it was simple to see where it was coming from. I guess this is becoming a new form of lead generation.

Marketing Questions – 37% appeared to be legitimate marketing questions centered around news of the day or a topic of interest. The consultant mentioned above posted a couple of these too. Questions that got 10 or more responses:

Which commercial do you like better? There was a link to two spots to choose from – and a request for a candid opinion. 11 comments.

Do you think social media/buzz marketing should become a topic taught at the undergraduate or graduate marketing level in college? 15 comments

Please share an inspiring quote. 30 comments

For those whose marketing budgets are determined by a % of sales, what are some reasonable numbers you are seeing? 13 comments

Please advise what Web 2.0 tools/strategies can be used to promote a chocolate bar? 16 comments

And my personal favorite - Why are "discussions" on this forum mostly self-serving spam? 26 comments

Job Seekers – 18% of posts were from people who posted their resumes and are looking for jobs.

The Rest – The other 7% were a combination of news, requests for partnerships, and international people checking in.

In social media there is a term called Lurker. These are the people who read the discussion boards but don't often comment. Personally when I start seeing blatant self promotion I stop reading. It's too much work to separate out the stuff that might be of interest.

So what does this mini-analysis tell us:

That we’re all experimenting with this forum and no one knows how to use it effectively.

That no one is policing this group's discussions.

That these boards are becoming places where marketers look for jobs.

That people respond to an eclectic mix of questions.

That blatant self-promotion was ignored - few or no comments were posted to these.

That we hurt the likelihood of people responding by posting things that don't help us.