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A bittersweet farewell

After going over our last reading, Social media ROI – a calculator for not for profit campaigns, I’m filled with a sense of awe and accomplishment.

Not necessarily because of the reading itself, but for what the reading represents.

The reading detailed how social media campaigns, specifically for non-profits, can be measured in dollar value. It also linked to a “calculator” that outlined the formula to determine whether or not using social media would be cost efficient.

Instead of regurgitating the formula, I’d like to speak to what this reading represents, and what this course as a whole has represented: the dawn of an era that we are already a part of… perhaps the “age of information.”

This course has been invaluable in opening my (if not all of your) eyes to what is out there. It’s forced us to step outside of our bubbles, and has exposed us to countless new phenomena, issues, ideas and happenings.

After all, who knew a calculator existed that could determine the value of a social media campaign? Who knew that online communities could serve as the new grief counsellors, or that Twitter could serve as a platform for both scientific experiments and pizza sales?

This course has helped me realize the power of the Internet (more specifically, Web 2.0), and that all of this information and more is (quite literally) at our fingertips.

The possibilities are endless, and in our social and professional lives, we are being thrust into this new world that is expanding exponentially.

Professionally, this course has given me a new perspective in terms of what my future career(s) may hold, what will be expected of me, and what I will need to do to stay afloat. It’s caused me to revise my personal ethics and moral standards, as it’s obvious that these facets will have to expand and adjust to fit each new wave of growth.

I took this course as an elective, but I think  it’s been one of the most useful courses I’ve taken so far in this degree. In fact, I think it should be made mandatory – not only in PR, but in degrees such as Business, Psychology, Sociology and Cultural Studies as well.

This has also been one of the most demanding courses I’ve taken so far. That being said, I think it’s been justified because of the massive amount that we’ve had to learn, and that without the push, we would not have retained nearly as much.

I’ve learned more from this blog than from most text books I’ve read, so thank you all for that!

Signing off for the last time…

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June 17, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | 2 Comments

Dell does Tweetzza (…so to speak)

I realize by now you’re all probably sick of me gushing over how relevant Brian Solis’ posts are on PR 2.0, but I really can’t help myself… so bare with me.

Yesterday, I posted a comment/reflection about Naked Pizza selling pizza via Twitter. This is an interesting concept (ie: using Twitter as a marketing tool to drive sales), and one we should take note of. With that as a background, when I checked Solis’ blog today, lo and behold was a post about how Dell  has been using its own Tweeting techniques to drive sales… in other words, my gushing about his relevance is justified!

Solis’ post describes how Dell used its Twitter account, @DellOutlet, to drive $2 million worth of sales.

They have done this by posting special offers and “nurturing customer relationships on Twitter” (I assume this means responding to customer Tweets, etc). The @DellOutlet account currently has close to 625,000 followers – in other words, they’ve essentially formed their own “micro community” with access to Dell’s exclusive deals.

To take a quote from Dell from Solis’ blog, “We’ve surpassed $2 million in revenue in terms of Dell Outlet sales, but we’re also seeing that it’s driving interest in new product as well. We’re seeing people come from @DellOutlet on Twitter into the Dell.com/outlet site, and then ultimately decide to purchase a new system from elsewhere on Dell.com. If we factor those new system purchases that come from @DellOutlet, we’re actually eclipsed $3 million in overall sales.”

WOOW!
(note the extra “O” for emphasis)

The Twitter technique has evidently worked very well for both Naked Pizza and Dell (both very different businesses). Not only has their tweeting boosted sales, it has fostered customer involement, thus loyalty to the brands and their products.

Solis’ friend who works at Dell, Richard Binhammer, noted, “…this is about putting the public back in public relations where relationships are direct. The dedicated practice of connecting with customers generates real results on many levels. While this announcement focuses on revenue results and referrals to dell.com, they are also reinforced by the relationships and direct connections we have with customers everyday using the Web.”

This train of thought (ie: conducting business via Twitter/social media) has raised some new questions for me:

 – Is this an example of a new “best practice” in public relations, or just strategic marketing strategy that’s replacing things like flyers and mailouts?

– And as a continuation to that,  where do we draw the line between marketing and PR in businesses’ use of social media tools?

– Will the use of social media to drive sales and/or nurture relationships serve to distinguish public relations practice, or will it do the opposite?

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | 1 Comment

Tweetzza!

One of the last readings that was posted, titled “We thinks we ❤ Twitter,” has further increased my fascination with Twitter and its function in society.

Just the other week, I blogged about the first scientific experiment that was conducted via Twitter (which I thought was absolutely fascinating), and this reading has opened a whole new can of worms in terms of what Twitter is capable of.

What essentially happened was this business, called Naked Pizza, used Twitter as a mechanism to sell their pizza. They asked people to join them on Twitter on May 29 (which they dubbed “eat like an ancestor day” – which means avoiding additives, preservatives, chemicals etc.) and order a pizza. In order to track people from Twitter,  they asked them to say “I’m calling from Twitter” when they placed their order.

The result? The two year old store set an overall one-day sales record, and 68.6% of total dollar sales came from customers who said “I’m calling from Twitter.”

WOW!

This is really exciting, and may represent some of the beginnings of the shift away from traditional marketing and towards what @nakedpizza (which, FYI, is Naked Pizza’s Twitter account & author of its media release) called “social influence marketing.”

@nakedpizza brought up an interesting point, however: perhaps not all businesses are suited to this type of marketing. Because social media at its best practice is transparent, it is important that a company has something good and worthwhile to talk about honestly.

Naked Pizza has been able to do this because they specialize in healthy food and have a social mission – in other words, they have something positive to Tweet about.

The shift towards so-called “social influence marketing” means businesses may have to look at the way they practice business, and according to @nakedpizza, ask themselves the following questions before they become genuinely involved in social media:

– “Was anyone exploited during the manufacturing of our goods?”
– “Will our product effect your health in negative ways?”
– “Are our products good for the environment?”

In other words, do they have anything positive to talk about? Or to spark online discussion about? And can they be transparent and open on a social platform (ie: do they have anything to hide)?

Hopefully this will force companies (old and new) to rethink their business models and begin to practise truly mutually beneficial business (truly good for the company and the customer).

Now I’ll turn this over to you, fellow bloggers:

  • What role do you think Twitter will (or can) play in product marketing?
  • Network building, scientific experiments, marketing and sales… what else is Twitter capable of?

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | 1 Comment

“Live the change you wish to see”

This week on PR 2.O, Brian Solis posted a paper he wrote about the impact of social media on PR practise as we know it: The State of PR, Marketing and Communications: You are the Future.

Though lengthy, this is a paper that is more than worth reading – its relevance to our futures in public relations can’t be argued.

The paper examines public relations in its current state,  including all of its shortcomings, malpractices and all of the stereotypes it has inherited over the years. Solis sums this up when he says (and please note I’ve bolded certain parts for impact):

Just ask any executive what comes to mind when you say “PR” and note the common misperception shared by many decision makers. The brutally honest responses, whether you agree or not, will represent more than we’d care to know or acknowledge. The assessments and responses will most likely span from “publicist” to “networker” to “press release” to some fallaciously degrading and sexist stereotypes of what PR people are, how they act, and what they look like. You’ll also summon war stories and bad experiences with PR people and agencies that unfortunately continue to reinforce the current state of PR crisis for the PR industry in general.

Social media offers our profession an opportunity to move away from malpractise and misconception, and a move toward transparency and genuine two-way communication… but this is easier said than done. To quote Solis again, “As long as PR agencies and consultants are profitable as is, why would they reinvent themselves?”

I witnessed this firsthand at my last work term at Harbinger, a successful PR/integrated marketing agency that handles clients such as Unilever (Dove, AXE, Hellmann’s, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s) and Corby (Absolut, Malibu, Havana Club, Beefeater). During my term, the company did an offsite to a social media presentation. During the question period that followed the presentation, it was apparent that my colleagues were not entirely convinced – about whether or not companies would adopt this new vision, how we, as agencies, could quantify our results without traditional media impressions, etc, and why we should make the switch in the first place when most of our tranditional campaigns were perceived as “successful.” For many of my colleagues, who have made very successful careers (and large paycheques) from becoming “experts” at traditional PR, the resistance was especially noticeable.

We, as aspiring PR practitioners on the cusp of graduation with previous field-related experience, find ourselves in an interesting situation – a kind of crossroads, if you will, between the old and the new. In Solis’ paper, he discusses the idea that PR is a dying profession… and perhaps it is. Perhaps the “traditional” PR (which according to Solis has meant, “relying on hyperbole and jargon filled press releases for coverage, spamming targets with irrelevant information, maintaining a superficial and shallow knowledge of the products and industries we represent, and maintaining distant and removed relations with those we wish to cover our stories“) will die as our predecessors retire. This means we are faced with a choice: between ahering to traditional practices, or embracing the unknown and starting to make the shift now.This course has made me feel as though, already, I’m behind when it comes to social media, and in fact has been a bit of a wake up call. It has forced me to think critically about what my career in public relations will hold, and has made me personally accountable to my role in my own development as a professional.

 I think through social media, we are being given a chance to renew the face of public relations. I feel as though we will be able to put so many of the “best practises” that we learn in school to use (ie: ethics, two-way communication, transparency) with the transfer of power that is occuring as more of the public’s voice is being heard through new channels. I feel like it’s beginning to sound cliche, but perhaps we will see the “public” put back in “public relations.”

I find this invigorating, and maybe it’s just because I’m in the bubble that is this class, but I truly feel motivated to be part of this change in our profession. It may be challenging, but I think ultimately it will be worthwhile and rewarding – for any of you that were in Wade Kenney’s Ethics class, I feel like this shift to transparency, honesty and genuine communication will make the pursuit of “eudaimon” that much more attainable.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment

“This is not a sponsored post”

Quick shout out to Brian Solis at PR 2.0 for being oh-so-relevant once again.

In his post on May 26, titled This is Not a Sponsored Post: What You Need to Know About Sponsored Conversations & the FTC, he touched on the subject we had debated briefly in class yesterday: companies paying bloggers to write favourably about them without a disclaimer.

As consumers look to bloggers  as both peers  and experts, they take their opinions into account when making buying decisions. Because of this social capital,  marketers and advertisers are beginning to view bloggers as potential “brand ambassadors” for their products.

Enter the “veil” that online communication can provide – increased anonymity, and a lack (thus far) of guidelines about who can write what, what can be said, etc. This ease means that marketers can, and have, commissioned bloggers (or posed as a blogger themselves) to write favourably about a product and/or brand.

The ethical issue about whether or not a blogger should disclaim sponsorship was raised in class, so for all of you that were biting your nails about what can be done about this, I’ll let Mr. Solis do the speaking:

“…that’s all about to change. Under new guidelines proposed by the Federal Trade Commission [FTC], brands and/or bloggers may be held liable should either the FTC or scorned consumers deem that the actions or claims misguided their decision and/or misrepresented actual performance or efficacy.

So, it looks like we might see some laws cracking down in the social-media-scape! Refreshing, especially with all of the government red tape that seems to block action when it comes to the ever-changing internet.

I’ll let Bri close this one off for me:

“With or without the new FTC guidelines, the practice of disclosure is not an option when the potential for significantly damaging customer relationships in a very public spotlight is at stake. Unfortunately, it’s not at the forefront of many of our marketing programs.”

Very interesting. Any thoughts?

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | 1 Comment

Twitter and discovering psychic ability… SERIOUSLY!

As a follow-up to one of my last posts, I’ve decided to take plunge and make my very own Twitter account (click here to follow me!).

Listening to our guest speakers yesterday and participating in their Twitter activity made me think of Twitter in a whole new light. The whole idea of using “hash tags” to organize tweets and thus participate in discussions really piqued my interest.  I was aware that they existed, but seeing them used in practice with the Kermit Card example really opened my eyes. As a new speck in the “Twitterverse”, I’ve decided to approach this new technology as a learning tool.

When I logged in to our blog today, this thought was solidified for me by what came up on the home page: A link to Richard Wiseman’s blog, a blog that is helping conduct the first ever scientific Twitter experiment! (To follow this experiment on Twitter, click here)

According to Richard, “The experiment will examine the possible existence of ‘remote viewing’ – the alleged ability to psychically identify a distant location.” The entire experiment will be conducted over Twitter, using only Tweets to communicate. I’m sorry, but I just think this is SO COOL – I will totally be following this, and I highly recommend that all of you do, too. If this experiment is successful, it will provide researchers with a whole new way of conducting social and scientific experiments – we’re witnessing history in the making!

To reiterate, I now interpret Twitter as a fantastic learning tool.  Of course there’s a lot of (often useless) noise to avoid, but I think that by following the right people and being involved in the right conversations, there is a tremendous amount of value in such a technology.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | 1 Comment

A tiny speck in the “Twitterverse”

So fellow bloggers, I’m looking for a bit of advice. After monitoring PR 2.0 this week, I’m facing a bit of a dilemma: To tweet, or not to tweet?

I feel like I’m learning so much, especially this semester, about the significance of social media in both our professional and personal lives. I’m also starting to believe that in order to be successful in our field, that we must be on top of all of the changes going on around us in order to stay relevant.

Sure, I’ve been a Facebook user since high school, but Twitter is something that I haven’t joined yet, and that I’m not 100% about in terms of whether or not I want to use… I suppose I’m still on the fence about whether or not I think it’s valuable to me. I think this may be because I’m unsure of how I would use it – Facebook has always been for my personal use, but perhaps Twitter would be more valuable to use as a learning/professional tool.

To bring this full circle, on PR 2.0, Brian Solis posted a model of something he and a colleague designed called the Twitterverse. I was looking at it, and it’s really amazing how Twitter has grown in such a short time, and how it’s come to touch (and become  intertwined) with so many things. Taking this into consideration, would I be missing out, and “missing the boat” so to speak, if I don’t join?

Should I just give in, and become another tiny speck in the “Twitterverse”?

May 27, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | 1 Comment

Second thoughts about Second Life

After my experience on Second Life today, I’m unsure of whether or not it’s something I would use as a part of my day-to-day life. To be totally honest, I found it a little bit scary, especially when I started meeting other people in the Second Life world.

To begin, it seemed sort of exciting to create an avatar – you can make them look like whatever you want! – but I found myself creating one in terms of what I would ideally want to look like in real life. I then thought – am I that unhappy with my own physical appearance that if given the chance, I would change all of it so drastically? And even if my avatar looks how I would want to look, why does it matter how it looks in this artificial world?

I even met a few avatars that weren’t from our class in Second Life. It was obvious that the way I felt about making my avatar (based on how I would ideally want to look) was not unique to just me. All of the girls were tall and slim with long flowing hair and little skimpy outfits, and all of the guys were tall and muscular and tanned. I even walked in on a conversation between two girl avatars chatting about how they liked on another’s hairstyles, and it turned out that they spent REAL MONEY to buy Second Life money in order to BUY these hairstyles. There are even separate websites, not connected to second life, where you can buy clothes and hairstyles, and BLOGS that are more or less based around being “hot” in Second Life. It just seemed so ridiculous! Are people so consumed with how other people will perceive them, that even online, they’re willing to spend real money on their artificial identity hot?

I think social media such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are certainly forums for narcissism to flourish in an unhealthy way, but there’s something distinctly disturbing about the narcissism I discovered on when it came to the avatars on Second Life.

Did anyone else encounter this strange type of behavior? And how did it make you feel to design what “you” would look like?

May 27, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | 2 Comments

Online relationships – (at least) two sides to the story

Elizabeth Barrette’s Meetspace made me consider something I hadn’t up until now: the role gender plays in an online setting. Because gender is intrinsically linked with identity, I wondered whether or not social media allows people to more truly be themselves, in terms of expression, than when interacting on a face-to-face basis.

This concept got me thinking. Depending on the medium, when interacting online, people are able to in a way “hide” behind their computers. They are able to say or do whatever they want with less personal accountability, thus fewer social consequences. In some ways, this could be a good thing – I think all people need an outlet it some form or another, and if someone was not comfortable expressing an aspect of their identity, such as gender orientation, on a face-to-face basis, then perhaps online media could provide them with a forum to talk about how they really feel without being judged.

There are (at least) two sides to every story, so I considered the negative aspects of being able to, in a way, “hide” and still interact online. Take online predators, for example, chatting with children and teens in chat rooms or other social media outlets and posing as someone they’re not. Also, the anonymity that online provides can be dangerous in that it allows participants to disseminate messages about and build followings for negative causes – hate sites, for example. 

To bring all of this back to the idea of gender – consider the phenomenon of online dating sites. Is it possible to build a legitimate relationship with a person in the absence of face-to-face contact, when the person could be lying about who they are? Or does online dating work for people who feel they’re more able to be themselves without being judged, and therefore find a compatible partner without the limitations that face-to-face contact can impose?

Any thoughts?

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | 2 Comments

Social press releases – how to combine the old with the new

On Monday, Brian Solis made a post on his blog that discusses the anatomy of a social press release  (this post is definitely worth taking a look at as its insights may benefit all of us in developing tactics for our client project pitches!).

To reiterate, the post is really worth looking at – I know that personally, I didn’t have a clear understanding about exactly what a social press release entailed – so this gave me a greater understanding of how we as PR practitioners can utilize social media to better communicate a message in a way that a traditional press release couldn’t.

To summarize, a social press release can include any material that will enhance the value of the message it’s sending – be it video, picture, or link – leaving the reader (in most cases, journalist) with a more complete impression. Not to sound cliche, but if a “picture paints a thousand words,” then as practitioners we can certainly use this visual impact as a way to communicate better and keep journalist’s attention better. It may allow us to convey a message better than 4 traditional pages worth of press release material ever could.

Brian Solis suggests blogs as a forum for these social press releases. To quote him, “It’s the most profound forum for actively demonstrating expertise and sharing vision and direction consistently over time. Blogs are also an ideal home for sharing news in a format that tells a story in a more human voice. It shouldn’t read as a typical release however. It should capture the essence of what’s new, unique, and worthy of attention and present it in a format that mirrors the story you would ultimately hope to read elsewhere – complete with all of the shareable media content that also speaks to people, their way.”

This point of view makes sense – but what about the old school journalists, who over the years, have developed names for themselves in traditional media as respected and reliable sources, and who aren’t social media savvy and would rather practice their craft in the good old fashioned way (the way that made them successful)?

We may have to rethink media relations practice completely in order to successfully integrate social media releases. Will this mean picking and choosing which journalists we think would be open to this new way of receiving our messages? Will this question provide a forum for discussion among PR practitioners and journalists about “what works”?

And from a client’s perspective – how can we explain all of this and still have them trust that their money is being put to good use… that there will be a result? A print article is (literally) black and white when it comes to coverage and audience impressions.

Any thoughts on how social media releases may change the face of media relations for PR practitioners?

Til my next post,

Laura

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | 1 Comment