Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Social Media - Being Genuine is Key

We all know the stereotypical image of the publicist; a bullying, Blackberry-obsessed, cut-throat, 'kill their own mother to get an article on the front page of The New York Times' screaming mess.  We’ve created the monsters and myths and now we have to live with the consequences.  It's not pretty.

But do not despair publicists for there is still hope for us all! Now is the time to not only rebrand ourselves, but to really change the way we reach out to the people!  No more jargon to clients about Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare blah blah blah! No, it is ideas, not technology that we must embrace.

Consumers, smarter than ever, can smell bull from a mile away – you know that eye catching headline, the one you spent ages getting the key words all lined up and ready to go, well that smelt the worst.

Guarded, mistrustful, and much much MUCH more intelligent than people dared give them credit for in past, consumers get dizzy from all the spin that's thrown at them. In short, they assume deception.

So what can we do?

Being relatively new to this PR business (around 5+ years now) I consider myself somewhat of a New Age publicist.  Quite simply I live and I die by these three criteria: 

1) Listening.
2) Thinking like a consumer.
3) Being as creative as I can whilst monitoring my competitors.

1) Listen.

Gone are the days when publicists dictated reality. We don't control the news anymore, if we ever did. You want to claim that your client's product is the best in the world, well it damned well better be. If it isn’t then there's a wealth of customers on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Forums claiming otherwise.  I know who I believe.

If your claims don't match what’s being said on the web (aka the reality) then mistrust between company and product increases even more. This makes your job, as a publicist, a million times harder. Listen to your target audience before you say a thing. There are a wealth of monitoring tools out there, most free, so there are no excuses. If a customer voices their dislike just acknowledge it! Trust me, ignoring a negative comment does not stop them from existing. Also, if you take one thing away from this blog entry promise me one thing....you will never delete a negative comment from your Facebook page. This is social media suicide.  I'm speaking from experience...hey, we all had to learn sometime!

2) Think like a consumer (this is easy, you are one).

Do you know why I consider myself a good social media advisor? Easy - I use social media sites 24/7 just like the consumer I am. Sure we are not all the same, but  I feel like I know certain benchmarks that work. 

Example of thinking like a consumer:

If a client asks me to create a Facebook page for them I only have to ask myself, “why would I add your page and what do I gain from doing so?” If I can’t find an answer then that raises some serious concerns. Does the client have the willingness to pull some resources together e.g., money, manpower, time for meetings etc to provide valuable content to it's fans? Social media, despite the myth, is not cheap...time is money my friends.

So what am I trying to say? Well, I don’t ‘like’ a page because I like a brand; I ‘like’ a page as I gain something valuable from doing so e.g., exclusive information only available to fans, exclusive coupons, latest deals, insider information etc. Always think like a consumer and your content has a better chance of gaining some coveted ROI (I will be posting about ROI in the next few months).

3) Be creative (oh, and monitor your competitors).

And so we reach the final part of my philosophy. Be creative and monitor/learn from your competitors. I’m on Twitter and Facebook Monday – Sunday. It’s hard, frustrating and time-consuming work (yes I know it’s a shock…social media is not easy), but the more you put in, the more you get out. 

Read every article and book you can get your hands on…and don't be afraid to experiment. We are all learning here. I’ve made mistakes but I’ve also had incredible successes. The world is moving so fast that we, as professionals, have to adapt to the latest technologies and develop our skills from day-to-day. 

Recommended Reading: 

Final Thoughts

We now have a wealth of case studies and successful campaigns. Not all have worked, but we can always learn something, even from failures. 

I will now leave you with one of the most creative examples of social media I think I have ever seen. It incorporates all of my criteria; Listening, thinking like a consumer and being creative (actually, being very brave.)

“After ranking last in a consumer preferences survey of national chains in 2009, Domino’s Pizza launched its humility-filled Domino’s Pizza Turnaround campaign, which featured consumers hating on the product. Consumers complained that Domino’s Pizza crust tasted like cardboard and its sauce tasted like ketchup, among other pitfalls. Domino’s listened and its chefs got to work, reinventing a “new pizza.” (Mashable)


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