Posts tagged ‘Web 2.0’

We’re Back: And We’re Talking About Something More Important Than Social Media!

Realtors and every other type of businessperson — including PR people — are buried in articles, workshops, lectures and conferences about the importance of social media. And there’s no denying the importance of taking part in the digital world that’s taking over everything.

But social media doesn’t always work.

 

In-House Public Relations communications presentation to Realtors

In-House Public Relations’ Doug Fenichel, APR, asserted that thinking strategically about communicating what sets you apart will bring in business.

I know: heresy.  But even if you use the right  key words, optimize correctly, add video and put the links on every social medium you can think of, social media might not work.  The reason is simple: If you’re not addressing the right people with the right message at the right time the way they want to get it, your communications just won’t be effective.

Social media mavens sometimes forget to tell you this. But we talked about it in a great discussion with some Realtors at Century 21 Worden & Green in Hillsborough, N.J., the other night.  The participants ranged from one woman who used email but didn’t want any other part of Web 2.0, to a young guy who was really into social media — yes, they both could have been stereotypes for users of social media.

In between were a lot of folks trying to figure out how to use Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Trulia, Active Rain, their own websites and other digital tools effectively.  There are plenty of places to find how-to guides to figure out the specifics, so we took on the bigger picture.

I asked each person  how they were different from other Realtors and  how they were using that difference to generate business. Most hadn’t thought about it that way. I gave them 10 questions to consider before embarking on any communications initiative and I assured them that the goal in communications today was to engage customers. That’s thinking strategically and such strategies are best executed with a mix of tactics including social media.

You can see the slides and the 1o questions here: http://www.slideshare.net/dougtheprguy/what-makes-you-different-12872274   A strategic approach to communications, such as I’ve described in these slides, is what public relations people specialize in.

Those of us in real estate and  homebuilding are reinventing ourselves as the market begins to come back to life. The communications strategies you used before the crash won’t work. It’s more important than ever to think about how you’re communicating and know what you want to get out of those communications…and those 10 questions gave the folks at Century 21 the tools to start thinking about that.

What makes you different? How are you communicating that to generate business. And how do you know it’s working?

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May 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm

3 PR Lessons For All Businesses Observed While Spending Hurricane Irene In A Paramedic Truck

Natural disasters are strange times for me. I am a homeowner who is concerned for his home and family, a paramedic and a firefighter who is concerned for his brothers and sisters and wants to do what he can to help the victims of the event, and I’m a PR guy ready to help his clients prepare for the disaster and recovery from it. I always enjoy watching what others are doing and saying during the storm.

So having spent all of the storm weekend on a paramedic truck or a fire truck (up to about noon Monday) here are some observations:

  • Kudos to the public officials who got people out of harm’s way, knowing full well they were going to be criticized no matter what they did. They stayed on message with laser-like focus. While that message may have seemed obvious, everyone from governors to local officials transmitted the same message, the presentation was well orchestrated and consistent and it was presented across a variety of media. As a result, lives were saved. Even away from the most devastated areas, people were better prepared for flooding and power outages because of the focus on the message. And to those now complaining the dangers were oversold, well, I’ll be polite: Go find something better to do with your time…like help those without power and with basements full of water bail out. Or help those whose homes and businesses were destroyed rebuild. If nothing else, just stop and pay your respects to those who lost loved ones.   Are there messages here for how you run your business? Definitely: A simple message consistently and forcefully delivered at all levels of an organization will yield results. But someone will still bitch about it.
  •  If anyone still doubts still doubts that social media is main stream, look at the wide use it enjoyed during the storm. Many governmental entities, including the county and township in which I live, used a combination of Web sites, Twitter and Facebook to keep constituents up to date on information from road closings to dam bursts and evacuations to dealing with tainted food. News organizations gathered and used audience pix and videos. And the hospital where I’m a medic used text messaging, emails and Web sites to assure the staff was up to date and keep all of its EMS vehicles staffed and on the road. If all these organizations know they must use social media, don’t you think you should make sure you’re using the same channels to engage your audience?
  •  How did your crisis plan work? Did your employees know what your company was doing in preparation for and in recovery from the storm? Did your customers know? Did you have a crisis plan? Every organization should have a plan of what to do when it is threatened, whether by a competitor, a person’s deliberate or accidental action or a natural disaster that threatens its ability to provide whatever service it provides. If your crisis plan didn’t address the preparation and outcome of this hurricane, or if you winged it, maybe you should contact a public relations practitioner to help you better prepare for the next literal or figurative storm.

 Hurricane Irene gave us all stories to tell our friends and relatives. But it also should serve as a teaching moment. None of us want to see another Irene. But we will. And before we see a hurricane identified by the National Weather Service, we’ll likely see our businesses rocked by a figurative storm. Here are three lessons that can be applied.

Good luck.

August 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm 1 comment

Whole Foods Serves Some Crisis Management Lessons

If you think you’re immune to a crisis just because you’re not the biggest player around and you try to do things right, take a look at the controversy Whole Foods is dealing with. 

The store is well-known for having ethnic and special foods (disclosure: I shop there because it has products that meet some personal dietary needs). On its shelves are halal products, which are foods that meet Islamic dietary laws. When the company decided to promote those products to people who celebrate Ramadan, a period during which Muslims engage in rituals, including dietary practices, designed to encourage patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God (Muslim friends – jump in here if my description is inaccurate), an employee apparently wrote an email to his bosses questioning the idea.

I’m not sure how those goals can be bad, but apparently the employee was afraid that right-wing activists might have a problem with promoting something associated with Islam. His email somehow made it into the Houston Press  and on to Twitter, where it was taken as an official statement that the company was backing away from the promotion and – boom – Whole Foods found itself in crisis mode. 

Libba Letton, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods, Tuesday told me the company became aware of the issue because it monitors its online presence and because of the tweets.

“Folks brought it to our attention and we immediately sat down and figured out what happened,” she said. They quickly tweeted that the promotion was still on and reached out to those who had tweeted to tell them the promotion was not being cancelled. Libba and her colleagues also started calling newspapers where the story appeared. As the word spread, they began fielding calls from the media.

The fast reaction quelled the crisis before it got legs. It was still a story, but the company’s response circulated so quickly that the story was the Whole Foods’ plans to continue the promotion despite the rumor. The company’s blog continues to include lots of information about preparing for the holiday. The rapid response kept the issue from hurting Whole Foods, but Libba thinks it’ll be kept alive for a while by those who only listened to the initial, erroneous reports.

“It’s inconvenient,” she said. “We’ll have to continue to educate people about it on individual levels.”  

A crisis is anything that threatens an organizations reputation and its viability as a business. This certainly threatened Whole Foods’ reputation, but because of the company’s quick response, the damage was minimal.  There are lessons here for the rest of us:

  1. You will have a crisis.
  2. You need to be ready. Libba adds that you must act immediately. “Social media is so much faster than anything else,” she says.
  3. Assume that anything in writing – email, memos, correspondence – will wind up public, even (maybe especially) if marked “confidential.” Keep that in mind before you send counsel or opinions by email or paper memo.
  4. Social media is a two-edged sword. You must stay on top of what others are saying about your business. Your public relations team, whether internal or external, will have tools to help with that. Your PR team also can make sure that you’re ready when a crisis does hit.
  5. (Maybe 4A) There’s nothing wrong with asking colleagues and members of your network to let you know if they see or hear anything about your company. Part of Whole Foods’ early warning system was tweets and calls from people who saw the original postings.

Public relations practitioners are experts in social media and its role in creating and quelling crises. If you and your PR counselor haven’t discussed situations like the one that hit Whole Foods lately, use this column as a conversation starter. And if you need some crisis prevention and management advice, feel free to contact me.

Finally, to our Muslim friends: “Ramadan Mubarak.”

August 11, 2011 at 11:39 am 1 comment

Blogging is a great tool for small business owners

If the various ways of communicating and engaging on the Internet has “democratized” (is that really a word?) the media, it also has “equalized” (OK, a little better, but I hate ize words) public relations and business communications. One person really can run a worldwide business out of his or her basement.

While public relations used to be something used only by the largest companies, the craft’s ability to engage people means that small business, whether they know it or not, are engaged in PR. With that in mind, I had a great time the other night meeting with a group of small business owners at the Mendham (NJ) Business Association about blogging. The slides I created and presented are on Slideshare and  you can see them here.

Blogging is a great way to engage your customers, clients and even employees. I found some of the reasons people weren’t blogging interesting:

  •  “I have nothing to say.” Of course you do! You’re a business owner, which means you’re knowledgeable and passionate. You could write every day about your customers, tips on doing whatever it is you do or issues in your field that impact your clients (or customers or whatever you choose to call them).
  •  “I don’t know anything about the Web.”  Sites like WordPress and Blogger make it simple and tell you everything you need to know.
  • I don’t have the time.” So who does? Keeping your posts short is one of the keys to good readership. And if they’re not perfectly composed but the info is interesting, who cares?

Blogging is one of those activities that’s easy and fun. It’s just another habit to develop. We talked about the need to be honest and authentic, but when you’re speaking to business owners in a small town, that’s usually a given.

Let’s watch for some new blogs from businesses in Mendham, N.J.

July 22, 2011 at 8:06 am

Crisis Communications: Not Just For the Big Guys

More than three-quarters of companies recently surveyed by one of the nation’s largest public relations firms say they expect to have a crisis within the next year, according to PRWeek.  More than half of them agree that the rise in digital communications and new media make a crisis more likely and more difficult to manage.

While the Burson-Marsteller study, as reported in PR Week (I’ve posted the brief article here), is talking about large companies, it’s an issue smaller companies should think about, too.  Digital media and social networking make it possible for even a sole proprietorship to play in the big guys’ sandbox. What small businesses often don’t realize is that if they play in that big-guy sandbox, they must accept some big-guy liabilities.

Because In-House Public Relations is new and small, I talk with a lot of small businesses. They’re thinking about increasing sales. Very few want to talk about crisis management. Increased sales activities, however, means increased exposure (I know: It’s a problem you’d love to have).  I’m aware that small business people don’t often have time or money for a full crisis plan, but I try to at least have a conversation about crises:

  1. Being a small business in today’s Internet-driven business climate means more people are seeing you. That means you’re more vulnerable. An angry customer or employee, an innocent mistake, a problem with materials you use and you’re in the soup.
  2. Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re any less vulnerable. The wrong tweet or Facebook posting can land you in hot water. And you probably don’t have the financial cushion big companies have to ride out a crisis.
  3. Take a few minutes and develop a mini-plan:
    1. Understand what a crisis is: Anything that can threaten your reputation and your business.
    2. Have a list of who gets called ASAP. I tell people to put me on the list, along with the lawyer, insurance agent and financial counselor.
    3. Set up a way of monitoring what’s being said about you on a daily basis in the social world. That can be as basic as a Google alert or as complicated as monitoring and participating in social media channels. Don’t neglect traditional channels either.
    4. Think about your worst nightmare and have a plan – at least in your head – of what you’d do if it happened.
    5. Make sure someone else knows about this miniplan in case YOU are the crisis.

 It’s not much, but at least it starts the discussion.

 I’d love to hear from entrepreneurs and small business people: Have you thought about crisis management? If you’d like some help thinking about it, call me.

July 7, 2011 at 10:29 am

In-House PR is not just a blog anymore. It’s a full-service agency. May I help you?

I’ve been putting this off, but it’s time to make the big announcement: I’m hanging out my own shingle.

My new public relations firm will be called In-House Public Relations, and this blog will be my soap box. The firm, in fact, is named after the blog, which has been around for three years. It’s as good a reason for an agency’s name as any other.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh great. Just what we need: Another one-man PR shop.” I’ve said the same thing myself. But times have changed for me and for the business world. In addition, I bring something special the table: my energy, my outlook and my passion.

For more than 20 years, I’ve helped organizations large and small tell their stories, build their reputations and use strategic communications and engagement to meet their business goals. Being passionate about your reputation permeates an organization, influences the behavior of its employees and makes its stories compelling and credible. That, in turn, leads to business success.

In-House Public Relations will focus on real estate, homebuilding and related businesses, applying what I’ve learned over the past 11 years in that business. My sites also are set on clients in the public safety area, where I can combine my years of communications experience with my even-more years as a firefighter and paramedic. I’ve also worked in telecommunications, automotive, packaging and other areas. Naturally, I’m more than happy to work with any organization.

I moved from journalism to public relations to join the internal team that took AT&T through its historic break-up. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work with and around people who bring uncompromising quality to the job, as well as a high sense of ethics. By quality, I mean a strategic view, attention to the client’s needs, effective and measurable tactics and a lot of energy to get it all done.  The network of top-notch professionals I’ve put together over the years and through my active involvement with the Public Relations Society of America will become my clients’ network.

Over the years, I’ve successfully used most of the tools in my box: sales support, media relations, crisis management, employee communications, government affairs, special events and social networking. I have the insight and experience of a guy who’s been around the block once or twice and the technical skills to understand the latest social media trends. What’s equally important is I see how they all work together strategically.

So why head out on my own now? I believe the current economy is creating new opportunities. In-House Public Relations is an example of that new economy, and is taking advantage of the opportunities it has created.

As large companies shed staff in response to the economic downturn, those people used their expertise to set up smaller companies. While they might not be able to do things on the scale of their former employers, their smaller scale, lower overhead and more nimble structure enables them to do things their former employers couldn’t do. The Fortune-750 national homebuilder I worked for over the past decade has spun off at least two new homebuilders, a floor-covering store, home-design consultants, sales coaches and others…and now a public relations firm. These new, smaller companies also need public relations counsel, just as they need financial and legal counsel. A firm like mine can use its network to take care of a large national or regional organization’s needs, and we welcome that opportunity. But we have more flexibility and lower overhead, enabling us take care of these new companies’ needs, as well.

I’ve spent most of the past 20-odd years as a client. That is, I was the in-house public relations counsel for different organizations. I know what clients need. I know how I liked being treated. And now I’ve got the opportunity to meet that high bar for my clients.

And now, a demonstration of my new entrepreneurial technique: Give me a call. Let me be your in-house public relations counselor.  At least wish me good luck.

May 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Builders Show Was A Great Experience

Just back from the International Builders Show where, along with Cathie Daly, CEO of DesignEast Inc.; Randy Hix, an expert on real estate sales management; and Dottie Fawcett, of Constellation Web Solutions; I spoke about repositioning existing active-adult communities for today’s market.

I got to see some things I really liked…and some other things as well.

Top 5 Things I Liked!

  1. Social media being used well. While many tweets were ads, there were some good conversations, geo-tagging, blogs and other applications. I got to meet some of those with whom I’d been tweeting, like Carol Flammer and Kim Banks.
  2. MASCO’s Tweet-Up. Aside from belly-dancing at the Tavern Opa, I met others using social media. Especially enjoyed chatting with Perry Newman and Eric Hochstein, who are introducing Canadian and American businesses; and J. David Halloway, who showed us how American Technical Publishers produces training material the tried-and-true way (books) and as videos and other formats for smart phones, giving customers what the need in their preferred medium.
  3. ProBuild
    QRs like this were used on ProBuild's display to give visitors more info.

    QRs like this were used on ProBuild's display to give visitors more info.

    using QRs in their booth! Each corner had a QR that brought you to a Web page about a different business segment.

  4. Lots of media coverage regular newspapers, video, trade journals and bloggers. It just proves they’re talking about you…you might as well engage in the conversation. I can help.
  5. Lots of talented and enthusiastic people talking about a bright future for the homebuilding industry. Maybe not tomorrow, but a bright future.

 Top 5 Things That Could Have Been Better

  1. The internet service in my room at the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. C’mon guys: People attending shows at the convention center are probably working and need fast, dependable internet.
  2. Misuse of social media: When will companies (and their consultants) figure out that social media is a way to have a conversation, not another broadcast medium.
  3. Poor booth etiquette: I saw staffers eating lunch, absorbed in conversations, and (I swear!) sleeping. And, by the way, at what point does the building industry get sophisticated enough that we don’t need cute models in their booths?
  4. A media room full of paper press kits. At least distribute a CD or a thumb-drive. In a high-tech world, a paper folder full of pages sends a statement before a reporter even starts reading. Need help with that? Call me.
  5. Fed-Ex failing to deliver stuff to Southland Log Homes. I wonder who else they let down. But Giles Huggins and his team were doing a great job of overcoming the challenge and I’m looking forward to getting his information shortly.

It was a great show. I met lots of people, saw lots of new ideas and got thinking about a lot of ideas. I’ll be looking for a reason to go back again next February.

January 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

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