Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Archive for the ‘Demystifying Online Communications’ Category

Your Online Presence is Important!

Posted by B2W on June 18, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Editor & Publisher has an interesting article on which newspapers have the best websites. It’s all U.S.-based sites, but it’s worth a look. I know there is a great deal of talk about the death of newspapers, but I think the smart ones will reinvent themselves and have a stronger online presence.

Your online presence, no matter whether you are a newspaper, a not-for-profit, a small business, a large corporation or government is important. We talk to clients and workshop participants about this a great deal. Your website is key in your communications strategy. Without a good site and using Twitter, Facebook or any of the social media tools available to us, you are really not doing your organization justice.

Twitter is great for sharing and discovering information, but if you follow some of the best Tweets, they lead you back to a blog, a website or somewhere you can get more information. Don’t lead people back to an old website that hasn’t been updated in months.

Take a good look at your website – is it dynamic, do you have fresh content posted regularly, is there an opportunity for feedback and interactivity? What are your stats and are you digging in to see who is coming to your site, what they are engaged in, and what they stick around to read?

Online communication is of great value, but don’t run before you walk. Take a good look at your website and make sure it is of value to the people you want to engage in conversation.

Advertisements

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Social Media | Leave a Comment »

Who “Owns” Social Media?

Posted by B2W on May 26, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is a very interesting article by Adam Broitman on iMedia Connection on “Social Media: Whose Job Is It Anyway?” It is a question that is often asked by a range of professionals from front line staff that want to participate, to the communicators, to the CEO and board of directors. One of the key points we make when answering it—and the answer is a little different each time because the organization is different—is that if it is everyone’s job, it will end up being no one’s job. There has to be someone within the organization that “owns” social media.

That isn’t to say that several areas of an organization shouldn’t be involved in social media and I believe PR/Communications should have a seat at the planning table. There is often a blur between Marketing and PR in the online world and it’s important to recognize that. Another area that should be included is IT. At the core of doing anything online is the technology. Consulting with your IT team is important; they can help you avoid some challenges that only someone with technical knowledge could foresee. However, having said that, I believe that IT is a contributor to the common goal, not the manager of the process.

Much like communication impacts other areas of an organization, so does social media. Social media is about joining the conversation, it’s about connecting and communicating, and it’s an important component of your overall communications and marketing strategy.

We have had several clients come to us and say they have been asked to build a social media strategy. It’s always interesting when we dig a little deeper and see what they actually want to accomplish by creating this strategy. Looking at social media, communications and marketing as silos within an organization doesn’t work anymore, and it is a perception that can create challenges both internally and externally. In my opinion, there needs to be an integrated approach and Communications needs to be, if not the driving force, a strong partner in the planning and implementation.

So, whose job is it anyway? In most organizations right now, that’s a question that should be asked.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Marketing Communications, Social Media | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Are You Listening?

Posted by B2W on May 25, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There was an interesting article in BusinessWeek last week about Web 2.0 and managing corporate reputations. I am often asked about the challenges that come with the open conversations created by social media. It’s a valid concern for organizations and one that should be taken seriously.

Some organizations choose to block employee access to social networking sites. That seems to be old paradigm thinking to me and it is a bit like locking the barn door after the horse has already walked out. There are all sorts of ways around being blocked. Think about how many staff members have an iPhone or a BlackBerry and can get online that way (and that number is only growing) or they can use an Internet stick (we use one quite often when we give presentations to organizations). And – there is always time away from the office.

What if, instead of shutting it down or ignoring what is being said on the Web, you took the opportunity to find people in your organization that are online and ask for their input on what you should be doing online? What if it became someone’s role to see what is being said online and you took a good look it – especially if it is negative.

There are many horror stories about people saying things or uploading video online that they shouldn’t. We’re in a new age of freedoms and many of us are still finding our way around it. Mistakes are going to happen – and people seem to forget that what is written online may be read and passed on to many people. However, when I see some of the more “high profile” examples of things that are inappropriate, unprofessional or just plain wrong being put online, one question comes to mind: Does your organization have a social media policy that everyone in your organization is aware of – and understands? There are two sides to this kind of policy – what staff members can do or say online in regards to your organization and what they can’t. If you are going to tell them what is acceptable, you also need to outline what is not acceptable. There is a lot of gray area here and you really need to be clear.

There is risk involved with embracing social media (in my opinion, there are more risks involved in ignoring it), but there are also some amazing opportunities. You do have to be open to criticism and to learning some new things as you go, but there are incredible opportunities to extend your stakeholder community, to engage individuals and groups that are interested in what you do, and to join a conversation that is already happening.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Marketing Communications, Social Media | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Strategy Always Comes First

Posted by B2W on May 22, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is an interesting article in the New York Times about one of the “hot new jobs” – the social media specialist. Social media, emerging media, interactive media or online communication is becoming more and more mainstream. Communication has changed and organizations that want to engage with their stakeholders and community need to understand that and include social media in their strategic planning.

One of the key points that isn’t included in this article is where the social media specialist “lives” in an organization. Is he/she in the communications department, marketing, or sales? And how is social media being integrated throughout the organization? Is it being done in isolation, as an add-on, or “over there” kind of approach?

One of the challenges that come with the emergence of social media is that often communicators are asked to develop a “social media strategy.” What does that mean? Years ago, if someone said: “I need a brochure” – we, as communicators would take a step back and ask what the objective was and would work out whether a brochure was the right tool to meet the goal. It is no different now except the tools have changed.

Should your organization be on Twitter? That depends, what is your overall business strategy and communication objective? Should the CEO blog? Perhaps, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture before you allow a tool to drive your strategy.

I think that there are many opportunities to use social media strategically and it is an exciting and interesting time. I also think that there are many organizations that would benefit from taking a step back and reviewing their current communications strategy to see how and where social media tools can be of value.

I am glad to see that social media tools are becoming a part of a communicator’s toolkit– but don’t let the tail wag the dog. Develop your strategy first, then decide on the right tools for the job.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Marketing Communications, Social Media | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Social Media Mindset

Posted by B2W on May 15, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Paul Chaney of MarketingProfs has an excellent blog post entitled “Seven Social Media Mindset Markers.” He points out that many marketers – and, I would add communicators and PR people – have adopted social media tools without understanding the philosophy of social media.

The world is a different place because of online communication. We have struggled in finding the right “name” for social media – online communication, interactive PR, digital communication…it’s a challenge because by naming it something other than “communication,” we isolate it from traditional or classic communication, and that shouldn’t happen.

One of the key points I took away from the Ragan Social Media Conference in Vegas is that social media is today, it’s now, it’s a reality and that we have to stop thinking of it as this new, different “thing” or tool. It is a part of how the world connects and we need to embrace that communication has changed forever.

Having said that, in speaking with communicators, I often hear of the challenges that they face in convincing their senior executive or board of directors that social media is of value. There is a paradigm shift that needs to happen at organizations. At the core of this shift is the impact of social media on how we do business. I believe this is exactly what Chaney speaks about in this blog post. It is imperative that we change how we think about the way we communicate before we use social media tools.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Social Media | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

What Should You Listen To When It Comes To Social Media?

Posted by B2W on May 11, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent has a great blog post today about answering the social phone. The blog shows a presentation by David Alston of Radian6 that looks first at the worries and objections that people have using social media.

Valeria does an excellent job of building on what Alston notes in his presentation about what conversations you need to listen for in social media.

In this post Valeria points out that there are common questions being asked about what to listen to and where to listen. I hear these same questions at speaking engagements, during workshops and in potential client meetings. This is an excellent blog post that helps to answer those questions.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Social Media | Leave a Comment »

10 Tips You Need To Know

Posted by B2W on May 4, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is a great post on Todd Defren’s blog, it is written by Paula Drum, VP of Marketing at H&R Block. Ms. Drum saw the value of social media early and she is well-known as an innovator. It turns out she is leaving her current position to lead a to-be-announced e-commerce site. She cross-posts her final H&R Block post on PR-Squared (Defren’s blog) and it’s worth a read. It’s really worth a read.

In fact, Della Smith of QUAY Strategies and I are presenting a Social Media MasterClass today and as one of our going off script and finding interesting content online moments, we will bring participants to this blog post to read her points. They are incredibly valuable.

We wish Ms. Drum the best of luck – and as always, appreciate the great content on PR-Squared.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Marketing Communications, Social Media | 1 Comment »

The Obama Standard

Posted by B2W on May 1, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is a very interesting blog post at techpresident.com focusing on the tech side of Obama’s first 100 days in office. Don’t let the word “tech” throw you off – the technology used is important, but it’s just a vehicle for communication and conversation. As a communicator, this article hits some key points that you will find relevant.

In speaking at events, delivering workshops and collaborating with clients – many of the points touched upon in this article come up. Obama has made a commitment to move toward a more open and transparent form of Government – and while there are steps being taken to do this, it takes time. This is a big paradigm shift. Not just for the people implementing the tools, technology and developing the strategy, policy and process, but also for the people who are being asked to join the conversation. The logistical side takes time and resources, so does the culture shift.

This article also points out some of the misses from the Obama team; some initiatives are slower on the uptake or haven’t hit their stride yet. There are no hard and fast “blueprints” for opening up the conversation and making it work. There is some experimentation involved and some things will resonate with your community (the people formerly called “The Audience”) and some won’t. Sometimes, no matter how much research you do, you won’t know until you try.

We often refer to The Obama Standard. He has done a good job of starting the process of creating a government that provides a voice – through a range of initiatives including social media – to the people. While he has a much bigger budget than most organizations, he is still working through it step-by-step, project-by-project, and asking for input as they learn what works and what doesn’t.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Leadership, Social Media | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The medium IS the message – at least for now

Posted by B2W on April 22, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Craig McInnes had an interesting opinion article in The Vancouver Sun yesterday with the headline: Digital pictures are the tattoos of the Internet: You wear them forever. It is a great headline, a good piece and worth a read.

In the article, McInnes talks a little about Ray Lam, NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek and the Facebook photos that led to his resignation. He also mentions Sharon Smith, Mayor of Houston, B.C., who had a photo of her wearing only her chain of office show up online. There are many instances and incidents—political, corporate and personal—where inappropriate comments, images or videos have shown up on the Internet. McInnes is right, even if you pull them off your Facebook page, blog or website, chances are they are still out there somewhere and accessible.

We talk to clients a great deal about this new and unedited world when we consult on brand/reputation management as well as how to deal with an issue or crisis online. It’s a part of who we are today as communicators, professionals and people.

One key point that I think hasn’t been talked about a lot yet is that right now, it seems that the medium is the message – or at least provides news value. Ashton Kutcher takes on CNN and the discussion surrounds the ethical use of Twitter and whether Kutcher represents the “common” person. Somehow the story that this “stunt” (for lack of a better word) did something good for charity. Oprah starts to Tweet and pundits wonder if Twitter has jumped the shark. Never mind that Oprah is highly influential and does some good things for the world and might use Twitter to create positive change among her followers.

I think one of the most interesting cases of the medium overtaking the message is the miracle of the crash landing in the Hudson River by the US Airways pilot. There were some great stories about the miracle landing, the amazing abilities of the pilot and how the story was broke on Twitter. All good news stories. What I didn’t see much coverage on was the reason the plane crashed or much focus on that key point – THE PLANE CRASHED.

Right now, an organization that starts to use social media has a good chance of generating some coverage – good or bad – about their use of social media. Are they using it right, what does it mean for the organization, it is a good or bad thing for that particular tool?

Oprah on Twitter, oh my goodness, it’s gone mainstream and that’s a shame – cry the purists and early adopters. And I can see their point, to a degree. But aren’t these tools being developed to create opportunities for all of us to communicate?

Perhaps Oprah will use the tool more as a broadcast medium to send out messages rather than join the conversation. Personally, I give her more credit than that. However, if she does use it only as a one-way megaphone to talk at people, then either her specific community will either accept that form of communication from her or they will abandon her. At the core of it, usage depends on what your stakeholders and/or community will or won’t engage with. It’s all about them.

Social media has opened the door for real conversations. Some smart organizations realize the value of embracing the fact that the consumer now has a strong voice. These organizations also support, encourage and collaborate with their communities.

I have to admit, I can’t wait until this phase is over and social media is seen as what it is – another tool in the communicator’s tool belt. We can do some great things with the organizations we work with – both as in-house communicators and consultants. Don’t let the buzz around it all push you away from looking at what will work for you. 

 

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Interesting, Marketing Communications, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Social Media & The Grieving Process Have In Common

Posted by B2W on April 8, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is an interesting gap in knowledge and acceptance when it comes to online/social media in some organizations. I have seen a range of emotions about it from some senior executives (including communicators). And it hit me the other day – it’s not much different than the stages of grief that are often cited.

First we have denial. – Oh come on, this is just a trend. It will all work itself out and go away. Look at the dotcom boom and crash. This is all just a bunch of technology that has no business case for our organization. None of our stakeholders are using social media, right?

Then anger. – How are we supposed to add this to our plate? What do you mean our competition has 10,000 followers on Twitter and the CEO blogs everyday and LOVES it! What next? I just can’t keep up! How are they making money anyway…and why should this matter to us?!!! I will just pass this off to an intern and it won’t matter.

Followed by bargaining (or as we liked to call it the “pilot project”). – Ok, I will approve a small budget to try it this once. But <INSERT your supreme being here> (God, Universe, Board of Directors, Shareholders, etc.) if I do this – and it works, you need to give me help. And by the way Director of Communications, I think this falls under your department, don’t you?

Onto depression.Well, it worked…(sigh). We got responses from our stakeholders – and they’re excited about this opportunity to have an authentic conversation with us. I am beginning to realize the value – and what it all means (sigh). For the next month or two, I am not going to look at the report on the pilot project and just let it sit on my desk because I know there is so much to do and I don’t know where or how to start.

And finally onto acceptance, which can even lead to hope! This is by far the most exciting and rewarding stage – both for the organization and the individual. Realizing that not only is social media here to stay, but used strategically there is real value in it. The understanding that there are communities of people – decision makers, influencers, supporters – that want to interact with people in their organization dawns and it is exciting. Here is where you begin to embrace the fact that the world has changed and start to recognize the opportunities that come with this paradigm shift.

Below are a few random examples of how the world has changed.

In this report, a judge in the U.S. had to recently rule on a juror’s use of Twitter during a trial.

Here, a judge allowed a reporter to cover a federal trial using Twitter.

And here are some stats on the growth of Twitter and Facebook.


Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Interesting, Marketing Communications, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »