Doug Haslam

Gischeleman: "To Create With the Mind"

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45 Days To Compose A Tweet? Silly, But…

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If your social media decision making is as needlessly complicated as this infographic, you may want to make some changes.

Recently, a lot of social media professionals (like myself) got up in arms over a Business Insider article, “We Got A Look Inside The 45-Day Planning Process That Goes Into Creating A Single Corporate Tweet.”

It’s fun to get our undies in a collective twist over articles like this. In this case, the reaction was, “The ‘creative‘ agencies are ruining social! They are agonizing over each clever little piece of content!”

Well, kind of….

The article, very likely got it wrong. In fact, a representative from the agency cited in the article refuted that “45 days” fact directly. I’m sure you can find an example of rigid process run amok that compares in ridiculousness, but do you really want to look that hard? The time to compose the Tweet likely refers more to a planning process that any brand should go through to plan out its content.

What the article does raise are the questions of who is handling online social content, what is its ultimate goal, and how it is being handled. As someone with a PR background, I’m likely to think about how we can respond quickly to our environment and events, and how we can set up processes to minimize roadblocks to execution, rather than focusing on clever “creative.” My journalism background informs the need to plan ahead, as stated above, so that content is an ongoing stream- with spikes of opportunistic content and realish-time engagement on top of it, of course. Those in the advertising realm may think more in terms of that creative and planning- and may be a reason why some of us were willing to believe such a ridiculous story (I’m sure folks more involved in the ad industry might have their own take, and are welcome to the comment section here).

So, what does this article bring up in terms of corporate social media programs? Here are my thoughts:

More and more, advertising and marketing have a hand in social: Coming from a public relations background, I always watched with interest the “who owns social?” arguments. Of course, we PR flacks always said “Public relations, of course!” but it generally depends on the goals for social media. It also depends on the skills needed. More and more, experience with paid media is necessary. Do PR agencies and consultants have that experience? They are scrambling to get there. Also, the influx of “content marketing” tilts the scale towards those disciplines used to getting out creative – that is probably ad agencies or the more traditional “digital” marketing shops. Again, PR companies are working to bring those skills on board, as the PR side can still argue that company messaging, engagement, and the ability to respond quickly to news and crises are their sweet spots. It continues to be interesting to see not only how agencies evolve, but how companies who have done social longer evolve the way they treat their social content programs.

Planning is good: The idea that it should take 45 days to write a Tweet is absurd, but the idea that content should be planned out like a publisher would do it, and that it should be plugged in to a larger communications strategy, is not. The latter is probably what was going on at the agency profiled in the Business Insider piece. That doesn’t mean some companies don’t deliberate too much, though…

Process is not our enemy; patience is our friend: There is a difference between process and patience. While the notion of a committee of 13 people taking 45 days to write a Tweet is highly unlikely to be true, there are roadblocks to expediency everywhere. The trick is to know which ones you can eliminate (make it clear who owns final approvals and publishing, gain the trust of executives to move and make decisions), and which ones you need to simply make more efficient (work closely with lawyers on compliance, make it easy for subject experts to make their make their contributions). Also, have patience; “real-time marketing’ is great when it is warranted, but to get back to what could have been the point of the BI article, advance planning, and sowing seeds for a longer, more fruitful program are arguably more important than knee-jerk responses and “newsjacking” that may be at best tangential to your primary messaging. Take that thinking and applying it back to which disciplines are making the content decisions, how, and where. There are no right answers, but we’ll always have fun picking apart the wrong ones (right?).

I’d like to thank Business Insider for getting all the discussions moving over the past week or two with this act of what may well have been dubious journalism.

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Who Killed Scott Monty?

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Image by coltera on Flickr

Last week, Scott Monty, a friend I have known dating back to his Boston days, announced he was leaving his position at Ford Motors, where he ran digital communications, i.e. social media (or at least including social media).

The reaction? Well, Scott is popular and well-known in the social media community, and had a visible role in one of the world’s most famous companies, so I guess you could say people noticed. What was ridiculous, however, was the hand-wringing over what it meant for social media in corporations. Surely, it must be dead, as professionals with high-profiles have left Dell (Richard Binhammer) and Comcast (Frank Eliason) over the last year or two. Three makes a trend, right? One of the more picked-over posts has been Shel Israel’s “Will Big Brands Kill Social Media?

What nonsense. First off, we don’t know why Scott left Ford until he says so (as I write he has not announced what he is doing next, or if he even knows). What we do know is that he was at Ford for six years. In an industry where three years in one job is an eternity, Scott may have been growing moss at his feet, being in one place so long. It is natural to look for a new challenge if the current challenges have been exhausted, no matter how much we think landing a dream job will be the “forever job” where we grow and retire after many decades of service. Again, I don’t know why Scott left, but he stayed a lot longer than what is surely the industry average.

The idea that high profile people leaving their positions means the death of social media? Again, complete nonsense. See the landscape clearly, and you will note that the Fords, Dells and Comcasts of the world adopted social, at least to some scale, early. Other companies have too. But many others have not, or adopted much later. Perhaps these early adopters have reached a certain maturity stage where they change how they organize around social. Maybe not. But if we take Scott Monty’s example and add a rash assumption that there is change in Ford’s program, then companies starting now won’t get around to this “change” until 2020. I admit it’s ridiculous to apply that hard number to all companies, but that’s the point; there is still plenty of opportunity for strategists and tacticians to get their hands dirty helping companies navigate social media, content marketing, brand publishing, or whatever buzzword gains momentum between now and then.

There is a fine line between discussion and overreaction. I prefer to see a bigger picture.

P.S. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson of the For immediate Release Podcast did an interview with Scott on the topic here.

 

 

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The Social Media Backlash is Here

Well, it finally happened.

Almost a decade of hubris by a new wave of marketers telling that social media was the be-all and end-all, and declaring advertising “dead” has finally turned.

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Photo by Retis on Flickr

First, we have Bob Hoffman’s Advertising Week Europe speech, “The Golden Age of Bullshit” in which he defends the still-quite-alive-thank-you-very-much advertising industry from the slings and nerf-tipped arrows of “engagement” and “brand relationships” crowd.

Ok, fine.

Calling advertising dead was always over the top, and poking the bear inevitably results in a mauling. Hoffman followed up, unrepentantly, with a thoughtful blog post that yet continues his mockery of the self-appointed social media elite.

Ok, fine.

From within the comfortable confines of Social Media Marketing, I have always cast a cynical eye to what many of us referred to the “snake oil” of social: the over-reliance of engagement over results; the emphasis of soft results over hard numbers; the circling of the wagons-of-peers over the service of business goals.

But here’s the thing: that’s not the entirety of social media marketing. While he acknowledges that not all social media marketers are full of it, I do have the distinct  feeling that Hoffman has found a fun new axe to swing; he is going to use the fact that he is largely right as an excuse to beat social media into the ground in favor of King Ad, with a resulting swing of the pendulum all the way back until Madge is soaking in it up to her neck.

In the meantime, social media marketers have found religion; we are seeing multiple blog posts decrying the social media imperatives that brands need to engage as humans, that people want to be Facebook pals with corporations, all as if this were a new idea.

The latest I noticed is Jason Falls’ post, “An Apology to Brands on Behalf of Social Media Experts Everywhere.” In it, Jason (who I know and like from the Social Media blogging and conference circuit), lays out the crime that social media marketers have been committing against brands since the beginning: that our insistence that brands be “human” and engage” was a lie.

Speak for yourself, Jason. I won’t claim never to have fallen in with the “engage” crowd, but I’m not a big fan of one “guru” trying to speak for the entire industry. And since I had a cuss-word to start, I’ll keep this R-rated; we didn’t all fuck this up. In fact, most of us still think we haven’t fucked it up.

The smart people in the industry haven’t called for the end of advertising (as if we could); we valued engagement but not at the expense of sales and attainable metrics; we were aware of the scale of social media versus the rest of our clients’ and employers’ business goals.

The idea of brands being able to publish and speak for themselves online is still pretty new and still forming and changing–

— in fact, stop —

The whole reason this painful self-examination and these attempted assassinations by the never-threatened ad industry is clear: it’s Facebook ceasing to pretend that brand exposure is free, isn’t it? Just ask Jeff Esposito. This set off the hysteria in the guise of a salvo of smoke bombs to distract the world while social media scrambles to understand “paid media.” Pardon our appearance while we re-brand our industry.

–ok, where was I? Oh yes —

— Social media is still pretty new. We are going through painful transitions in some quarters. But you know what? The false social “gurus” will still be full of crap, and the people who are honestly helping companies- the majority of us – will still be helping companies succeed in their communications and marketing programs.

So, when Bob Hoffman speaks of the “roiling cesspool of arrogant, insufferable charlatans,” well, we know what small part of the social media crowd they are. So what? Clean up your own cesspool and stop making crappy ads (while you’re at it, tell Geico to pick a campaign and stick with it – what a waste of money. I vote for the lizard).

On each side of the coin, the people who are good at their jobs know the real impact of what they do, the real reach of what they try, and the pitfalls of doing the wrong thing. I don’t care if social media marketers want to figuratively light themselves on fire, and if ad people want stand by and  roast marshmallows; I’ll just continue to do work that interests me – and that I hope is good and has an impact within the wider world of marketing and communications.

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Life Without Television Without Pity

I guess we’ll have to spoil the networks now.

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“Spare the Snark, Spoil the Networks.” That was the long-time slogan of “Television Without Pity,” a web site and community that, its now-owner NBC-Universal recently announced, is shutting down April 4.

Why do I care? For a time, back in the day, I was a very active community member of the site, going by the easy-to-remember name “gischeleman.” While I was not a big early Internet user, certainly not pre-web, I had a passing familiarity with bulletin-board culture without the burning need to talk coding (I’m not a coder) or Star Trek (love it, but not that kind of a fan). OK, I’m pushing the stereotype buttons. But after watching the show “24” with my wife and I getting hooked for good after the first episode in 2001, I stumbled upon TWoP, and I was there to stay for a spell. I would devour the snarky and hilarious 8-page (what is a “page” on the Internet anyway?) recaps of the show authored by “gustave,” and later by “M. Giant,” whose recaps of “Walking Dead” I still read, and then head over to the forums. The forums, ruled with an iron fist (or rod) by the Mods, were a great way to share theories, plot holes, favorite lines, and even VHS tapes. At least once, I managed to snag a VHS copy of a missed episode from a fellow TWoP’er, which I would then pay forward in those pre-DVR days (OK, DVR’s existed, but most of us didn’t bother to have them). I also reveled not in the plot holes, but in the hilarious nicknames foisted upon the characters; where else would posters have the knowledge to christen Jude Ciccolella’s character on 24 the “Poor Man’s Hume Cronyn,” and even recently dub the buddy cop/android drama “Almost Human,” starring Karl Urban (the new Star Trek movies’ Dr. Leonard McCoy) as Bones & Yo-Yo?” (See, it’s funny because, ah, never mind…)   It was a real community, well-groomed and maintained, smart and snarky, and looking back it serves as a great example of my “nothin’s new no more” stance on social media; the platforms change, but they are built on ancient concepts of community and (in the best cases) civility. Bonus? Sometimes the shows’ producers and actors would take part and lend unprecedented credibility to these humble TV viewers.

While I read an contributed  mostly to the “24” forums, I moved around a bit as well, most notably to “Heroes,” “Star Trek: Enterprise” (home of “Captain Asshat”) and “Law & Order” (where posters tried to turn the phrase “Is it because I’m a lesbian?” into a meme- yeah, that word existed before LOLCats). Over time, other interests and commitments took over, and I visited less. I still go back from time to time to check in on “Walking Dead” chats and the long-running single “Saturday Night Live: More Cowbell” thread, but I haven’t been the good Couch Potato I once was – “Couch Potato” being the poster designation between “Video Archivist” and the seemingly unreachable “Fanatic” in the active poster rankings.

Some will say the site got less interesting after Bravo (the NBC-Universal property) bought TWoP in 2007; I am not so sure about that. The purchase did bring with it some unnecessary bells and whistles and eventually the departure of many of the original recap writes, but perhaps it was just time for TWoP (and its mascot, Tubey) to retire and admire the legacy spilled across the web like so many classically good/bad TV pilots.

Whatever the cause, in the end, the rod was not spared by the axe.

R.I.P., Tubey

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I Made Fun of Upworthy Headlines; What Happened Next was Amazing*


I like to be grumpy online about things that bug me; however, I try to be fair and limit my (usually) good-natured condemnations to an element that bugs me, rather than an entire organization or effort (an example of this ethos: think “people do stupid things” rather than “people are stupid”).

One good example of this is Upworthy. Nothing makes me crazier than the “Upworthy” style of headline, which usually goes along the lines of: “The Sun Rose Today: What Happened Next Will Amaze You.”

I guess I don’t like to be told that I will be amazed: I WILL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT.

However, what happened next shocked me; I quickly began to notice that some – perhaps many – of the stories being shared with these atrocious headlines were actually pretty interesting or moving (amazing? let’s not get carried away). How would I know that? Because friends- people I trust – said the content was worth looking at. When I bothered to click, it often was worth reading; at least, it was more often than I expected (I know, amazing, right?). That’s enough for this cynical old troll to stop crabbing.

So, no, Upworthy stories are not worthless; in fact, it’s just another lesson along the lines of “don’t judge a book by the Hello Kitty protective cover some shallow middle schooler put on it.”

I still hate the headlines- they do a disservice to the better stories out there.

And stop using the word amazing (or don’t); it has surely lost its meaning by now.

 

* Not really

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A Few Thoughts After Four Years of Working From Home

After four years of (mostly) working from home, I thought I had done it enough to add my thoughts to the pile of home office advice. Rather than playing off and parroting advice we have all been hearing for years, I thought I would simply write down what worked for me and what didn’t, bust a myth or two, and perhaps hear from some other folks’ experiences in the comments.

The Experts Are Right

You need a routine in a home office. No distractions, no housework, no TV. When I started working, I was working. Laundry, dishes et al can wait – with reasonable exceptions (if my son had a game that evening being home meant I could get his uniform in the wash if I had to).

Part of that routine is setting a space; I have an office in the home, which creates a boundary and a place to be away from other noise and distractions in the house. When I started working from home I thought that with a laptop I would work from wherever was comfortable. That proved to be only a part-time indulgence, particularly in the summer when I might work in the backyard on a sunny, quiet day.

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I did not set up a single-purpose office, though, so I often had office -mates (my wife working, or my son doing his homework at the family desktop computer).

One piece of flexibility I took advantage of sometimes was that I could work from coffee shops. If I needed to get out of the house or wanted to be closer to the school for an afternoon carpool, I would spend some time and use the new surroundings to refresh my mind. Camping out at a coffee shop all day? No thanks. I found I risked being obnoxious, even slightly creepy, and totally annoying if I had to take a phone call there. The coffee shop office has its limits, but the change of scenery or simply cutting down some travel time for later errands made it worth it.

Productivity is a Wash

I did have the frequent opportunity to work in an office over the last four years as well. When I did, I noticed that productivity was no better or worse at either location. What was different was how I felt about the productivity gaps. In the solitude of a home office, it meant forcing myself to get up and take a walk rather than stare at a screen and not get anything done. Some days, I felt as if I had spent hours not getting something done when the real time “wasted” was never anywhere near that.

At the “proper” office, it meant getting up and talking to colleagues, possibly disrupting their work flow as well – or having that done to me in turn. Was I more productive in one setting or the other? I don’t think so. The socialization took up as much time, maybe more, than the occasional breaks a solo worker needs.

On/Off Switch (The Experts Are Right II)

One skill I had to acquire early on was being able to change from “work” mode to  “home” mode while not changing buildings – or sometimes, rooms. I found that while in the past I would tote around my laptop at night – because if I was not at the office then it wasn’t work (right?) – working from home I needed a fresh break and would put the computer away completely in the evening. That rule (it wasn’t a rule, really) softened with time, but only after I got comfortable compartmentalizing “work” and “home” mindsets.

Flexibility: Some

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The main gain in flexibility working from home had to do with the lack of a commute. This meant I could start work early some days, or go to the gym later than I otherwise might (no more 5:45 dates with the elliptical machine); on the other end, it guaranteed I could make earlydinners or school pickups and events. I took advantage of this found time frequently, no question about it. Working from an office again will mean readjusting again and managing time and commitments like everyone else does.

I also have a cat. Cats rule as office mates.

I Wore Pants

No, I did not work naked. Or in my pajamas. I did wear shorts on hot summer days, where I tend not to dress like that in the office. Getting dressed is part of the routine mentioned above. While I did have the flexibility to wear whatever I wanted, it is important to inject a little civility into my demeanor.

Mind you, I’m not saying I never broke that rule.

One strange thing I did notice, however, had to do with footwear. A few weeks into my first summer, I noticed my feet were calloused in ways that I had never noticed. It turns out the culprits were sandals; never in my life had I worn sandals, but I had just bought a pair for summer wear.  I started wearing them every day around the house, much more than I might have anticipated (I never said “getting dressed” for telework meant strictly confirming to business casual).

Aside from dressing up, managing remote teams was another adjustment; however, remote teams are now much more common, and I don’t consider my remote communications skills to be unique to the home office, certainly not anymore.

Overall…

…working from home required some adjustments, but for the most part I don’t consider it radically different than working in an office. As I get back to a daily office grind soon, I may have some different feelings; we’ll see.

Those of you who work from home or do both – what is your take?

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Three Takeaways from Three Speakers: Social Media Club Boston on Viral Content

Social Media Club Boston held an excellent event* this past week at Northeastern University titled “The Myth, Money and Business Value of Viral Content.” The three presenters each brought his own unique take on the issue, and I had my own personal (if not unique) take from each one. Enough preamble, here are the themes:

Nothing’s New No More

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Ryan Cordell of Northeastern has been studying virality of content in the newspapers of the 19th century. Why is this interesting? It gives us a fresh look at the phenomenon of shared content through the habits of people in a different time, using the technology of the day. I won’t go into the details of his studies as it is easy to go down rat holes (after all we are talking about viral content), so please visit and peruse the site Cordell set up to show the results of his research.

What Cordell’s talk reinforced in me is that everything we – in the social media marketing space – hail as “new” or “revolutionary” is often a very old concept wrapped in a fresh coat of paint (or a new technology or medium). “Viral” content was not invented with YouTube, and it probably doesn’t start historically with the 19th century spread of newspapers either. We are always reinventing what we do – perhaps making it faster, using different memes (that’s not a new word either, so there). There is always something to learn about what we do now from what came before, even if it’s to discover that what we are having trouble learning now (why do people share, what makes something a sure-fire “viral” hit, etc.) was giving people fits back then as well.

By the way, an interesting side note is that Cordell is the man whose children started the “Dad will give us a puppy if we get a million likes” campaign on Facebook – remarkably, that was not part of his research but did end up being a great case study in viral accidents and how hard they are to replicate.

The Story of Viral Content is a Journal of Irreproducible Results**

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Rob Ciampa of Pixability takes great glee in destroying the myth of viral content. Many of us grumpy folks in the social media world pooh-pooh the notion of making a viral video, but Ciampa puts a practical argument behind such corrections. Of all the points he made about platforms, targeting and execution of videos, the one that really sticks is this: most viral video successes are one-offs. There is usually a second video, sure, but they tend to fail in becoming viral for various reasons (remember the second “Dollar Shave Club” video? Me neither).

So- after realizing we are not breaking new ground in creating sharable content, now we must remember that marketing fundamentals – and good content – are key to ensuring  that content is effective, rather than worrying about making a “viral sensation” as the primary driver.

Ongoing Success Trumps the One-Hit Wonder

12121891625_778e306dd9The final panelist, Matthew Wade of My Silent Bravery, performed a pair of his songs for us. This would be enough to cap the night by itself, but he also gave his thoughts on “viral” from the point of view of an artist trying to get noticed. I’ll distill his talk into this quote (paraphrased, so if I get it wrong I hope someone will correct me in comments):

“My approach is more of a long term goal. It’s really about trying to build your audience and your fanbase. You can have a million views but if you only have five subscribers, where is the built-in audience for your next video?”

 

*I can say it’s excellent without sounding like  bragging jackass because I am not currently on the SMC Boston board.

** But not the Journal of Irreproducible Results

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Pan-Mass Challenge 2013 Fundraising Review

The new calendar closed the book on my sixth year riding the Pan-Mass Challenge. First of all, one more big Thank You to everyone who supported my participation: those of you who donated money first of all, but anyone who lent moral support, helped me train, and even got me a ride home from the ferry (something I always manage to forget to arrange; it never fails).

I am officially signed up for the 2014 ride, and am looking forward to another year of training for this 2-day ride to fight cancer, and of raising money, 100% of which goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While the ride is in August, it is never too soon to donate – the link to do so is: http://bit.ly/pmcdoug.

The past few years, I have used this space to analyze my fundraising efforts and compare them to prior years. As with any analysis, the numbers are not just numbers, but hint at a story; finding and telling that story is the real fun part.

First up is the final number: the total amount raised. After a peak in 2010, this year’s total went up for the first time since then. It was an unexpected and welcome upturn, made possible not by a broader reach, but by some more generous sponsors, as we shall see:

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Average donation size skyrocketed in 2013. While the median donation amount was the usual $50, the average donation exceeded $70 for the only the second time. What helped? Two factors: first, I had three $500 donations (plus  one matching donation), after having none last year. These were all from people who increased their donations from previous years. Depending on the reasons, I will not expect that to sustain, but it shows that some steady donors can unexpectedly change their amounts. Additionally, I had one other matching corporate donation in a smaller amount, also contributing to the totals.

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Total donations slipped below 2010 levels. As shown above, the increased average donation erased this as an overall factor, but I should note this as a potential concern. Should I try to broaden my reach to new people in 2014?

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One new thing from last year that I continued was my email campaign to previous donors. I used MailChimp.com to manage the mails this time, and once again did two mailings: one in March and one in June. With MailChimp, I was able to design a still simple, but slightly more attractive email using one of my ride photos. This may have helped make the mailing more effective; as shown below, my percentage of returning donors was far higher than in any other year (more than 75%).

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I will definitely continue my email campaign for the 2014 Pan-Mass Challenge, but I will not assume the increased average donation rate will hold, and will think of ways to broaden my reach for the next fundraising campaign.

Wish me luck! And, if you are so inclined, help fight cancer with the Pan-Mass Challenge at http://bit.ly/pmcdoug. – Thank you!

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The Future of Agencies: Thoughts on Social Media Breakfast 33

Full House at Social Media Breakfast 33

Full House at Social Media Breakfast 33

Last week, Social Media Breakfast Boston convened once again: this time at the office of Racepoint Group, for a discussion titled The Evolution of PR, Marketing and Digital – What’s Next for the Agency World?”

I had been giving a lot of thought to this question over the past year, so I was eager to hear the opinions of the panelists and the questions from the audience.

I decided to distill each panelist’s spiel to one word, with the commentary a mix of my opinion and what the panelists actually said:

Dan Carter, Racepoint GroupCONVERGENCE

Having recently folded the sister company Digital Influence Group into Racepoint, Dan speaks from experience, seeing a greater need for a unified set of varied offerings, rather than a different agency for each need. The drivers for this? From a business standpoint, it’s a function of where the budgeting authority is coming from. From a professional standpoint, I personally have seen the need to make sure we put the different aspects of services together, the better to serve clients and win different types of business.

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Seth Bloom, FleishmanHillardCONTEXT

Seth used the game of Twister to illustrate his point: a game spinner with all one color and one hand would make for a very boring game; if you have a single service offering, people know what you do, but are you able to adapt to the needs of a client, which are usually customized and certainly mutable? The ideal is not the typical Twister spinning arrow piece, but actually one with greater shades of colors; more choices of services to be able to offer for each unique agency/client relationship.

 

Eric Fulwiler, MullenDIVERSITY

Eric is actually the one who used the word “context,” but this is my blog post so I am assigning key words where they fit in how I interpreted the talk. Mullen’s presence on the panel was unique in that it is most readily identified as an advertising agency, rather than PR. Still, Eric’s citation of the need for social to sit within all communications disciplines rings true throughout the agencies represented: will social cease to be a separate practice? I see a trend in that direction, as the need for social media to support, rather than stand apart from, PR, advertising and marketing means that all agencies need to diversify their offerings in order to serve a more complete communications mandate: and professionals, while likely remaining specialists at some point in their careers, must be able to reach across the lines of paid,  earned and owned media more readily.

Christine Perkett, PerkettPR, Inc.FLEXIBILITY

Christine spoke from the point of view of a small agency; the need for flexibility becomes evident when an agency’s services do not solely serve their traditional constituents (e.g. the marketing department). We may be doing work for customer service, or even sales or HR. Being able to adapt core skills to serve new masters is key in this context (there’s that word again).

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The most interesting part of the Q&A to me was the discussion of talent. What skills does one need now? The answer, I think, lies in what I wrote above: that specialization is a way in to the industry, but the need to understand and be able to bring together the different strands of the communications mix becomes more and more important – to professionals, as well as the companies and agencies they work for (or start).

Is the PR agency world converging? Will it bring a collision with the ad and digital marketing agency world? What does it mean for careers and for the future (or even the existence) of current agencies? My only prediction for 2014 is that we will be asking these questions mare and more, especially if we are not answering them.

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Planning and Measurement Lacking in Social Media (Other Than That, Everything is Great)

A few months ago, I attended a pair of events in Boston: BlogWell, in which several large brands presented case studies; and the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) Symposium, an annual presentation of research studies focusing on social media and other new platforms. While there were several great ideas and lots of useful information disseminated at both events, I came away with two painful but enlightening truths: companies still do not put enough planning into their social media programs and campaigns; and fewer companies than you might think actually measure their efforts.

At the SNCR symposium, among the many enlightening presentations was one I always look forward to: the annual study of social media adoption among Inc 500 and Fortune 500 companies, conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes of UMass Dartmouth. While tool adoption is always fascinating (apparently, blogs are not “dead,” as the prevalence of blogs among both groups of companies has grown to its highest levels in the last several years. 34 percent of the Fortune 500 now have corporate blogs, a new high-water mark (see the embedded presentation, below).

What was more interesting, and potentially alarming, however, was that the number of companies (among the Inc. 500) that actively monitor social media decreased to 63 percent – a majority, but marking a steady decline from 70% two years prior. Additionally, respondents to the survey generally said that marketing departments are in charge of social media planning (which sounds logical), but it was apparent from the presentation that respondents may have been making a best guess, and weren’t themselves directly responsible for planning.

This last point suggests the possibility that there is a gap in planning; that companies know they should use social media and have established presences, but aren’t necessarily attaching this to an overall plan. How do marketers get buy-in for these ideas from management? The sexiness of social media as new platforms will wear off, and I would think that more planning will be needed if to continue programs and conduct more campaigns – why it is not required now is a bit bewildering.

The other end of the planning chain is measurement, which brings me to things I heard a few weeks earlier at the BlogWell event in Boston. This series of events specializes in presenting real case studies from brands. While I will not name the companies involved, I will share this: invariably, audience members asked about results and metrics from their social media programs and campaigns. More than once I heard a version of this reply: “We don’t measure.” I found that astonishing; how can a program be accountable if they don’t measure their efforts? How can they sell a continued program or a new campaign? It is clear from the audience that some sort of success metrics are expected, much more perhaps than in the past – after all, what is a case study without a happy ending?

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It is clear that part of this issue is that in some aspects companies treat social media as experimental, when in reality it can be, and often is, a seamlessly-integrated part of a holistic communications program. As with planning, it is hard to imagine a future in which social media programs get continued support without demonstrating their success against business goals.

I saw these as “painful truths” as I heard them (I hope the look on my face as I realized what I was hearing didn’t give too much away); however, what I really think is that they are opportunities. Companies need guidance in connecting their programs to business and marketing goals, both from the outset (planning) and the results (measurement). Either way you look at it, there is still plenty of work to do at both ends in order to ensure success and provide accountability.

Photo credit: Measurement A” by Ktow on Flickr