Public relations

Spin Sucks - four topics every business owner needs to understand

Karen shared our #wwcbookclub book for April earlier this week and I’m writing about the same book again because there’s just that much to talk about with this book. Plus, we’re so excited for our friend Gini’s book launch! :)

In 2000 I started the Public Relations program at Algonquin College. I was freshly home from Korea, where I’d gone to spend almost a year teaching English after graduating with a BA in Psychology I wasn’t sure what to do with. 

I clearly remember one of the very first things the program coordinator said to us on the day I started this program.

“Public relations is not about being a spin doctor, but that’s what people think it is.”

It’s stuck with me for almost 14 years now because it’s true, people do think that people who work in PR are just “spinning” a story, but that’s really not what well-done PR is about.  Which is why I love reading Gini Dietrich’s blog and her books – she talks about and teaches PR the way it needs to be done so that people can understand it.

 Her lastest book, Spin Sucks, just launched and I was thrilled to get my hands on it early.  Now that I’ve read it (from cover to cover – rare for me!) here are my four reasons I think you should read this book, whether you’re a PR professional or not (though if you ARE a PR professional or student, you should just get it no matter what!)  Ok, they aren’t reasons exactly, they are topics I think all business owners need to understand: 

1)  What’s your media?

Owned, paid, shared, earned, what is the difference and which ones do you need?  Things have changed and you need to understand what kind of content you can have, what you currently do have, and what you want to have.  And while you’re at understanding all of these, what are the right and wrong ways to try to get each kind.

2)   Crisis communications 

I’m a big believer in being prepared and the book helps you know what to do when something bad happens to you or your business, whether it be a big incident or a small one.  No matter how much we’d like to protect ourselves from people saying things about us online we don’t want them to, we unfortunately don’t have the power.  There are some really solid suggestions on how to do deal with that in the book.  I’ll give you a hint on the most important part – don’t try to hide things.

3)   Storytelling 

People love a good story, and your story is the most interesting one of all when it comes to your business.  The book has some really great examples that showcase the importance of storytelling and points you to some of your favourite novels for inspiration.

4)   Google and Search Engine Optimization 

Gini covers the topic in a way that gives you ideas on what to do or not do to help your rankings in search. While I would love to keep writing 300 word posts, I now know that I really should be keeping the posts between 500-800 words or so, and I’ve been putting in a lot of effort to make that happen (and totally nailed it on this post! :).  Understanding how Google ranks your web site is so important and this book really taught me a lot and have brought a lot of things back top of mind for me. 

So there you have it, a bit of a taste for what I think you can learn from this book.  Check it out as soon as possible because if you take advantage before Saturday you get all kinds of awesome extra free stuff - and who doesn’t love free stuff? (answer: not me. *I* love free stuff)



One last note, for our Ottawa and Toronto readers: Gini’s coming to town next week (Karen and I will both be there)! She’ll be inToronto (#3tyyz) on Monday, the 7th and she’s coming to Ottawa (#3tyow) on Tuesday, the 8th.

April #WWCBookClub Twitter Chat

Mark your calendars, because April 24th from 9:00-10:00pm, we’re going to have a chat about #SpinSucks and everything you’ve learned! So, be sure to go buy the book now: PaperbackKindle (affiliate links).  

A job well done

You don’t have to look very far to find all the latest PR disasters in social media circles. Sometimes it’s indivdiuals that land in the hot seat, but most often it’s a brand or business. There are so many massive and not-so-massive gaffes on social media every day. It’s easy to pick them apart and create a list of how-to-avoid this or how-to-respond-appropriately to that posts. 

I want to switch it around.

I personally have many, many more positive stories to tell about social media than negative, even when the end result wasn’t quite what I expected. 

So, here’s the challenge I present to you:

Tell me the things businesses do that you LIKE (or love or have admiration and respect for). I want to hear positive stories.

Why is it so important to shine a spotlight on the positive work that businesses are doing? Because it’s much easier to focus on how to optimize social media using tactics that are documented to work. It’s quite another thing to respond to or anticipate a fallout.

So, tell me what you love to see businesses do in social media.

Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending January 14

CES might have been going on this week, but the rest of the world still kept journalists hopping on the social news - from SOPA to Google to a place called Boner's BBQ. I bet they never expected to be nationally known. And I'm officially not sharing just five links because the SOPA/Google stories are just too complex to throw just one out there.


Source: Stop SOPA Page on Google+

SOPA is the acronym for Stop Online Piracy Act and if you're not aware of it or think you're unaffected because you live outside the U.S., please read this brief overview or this more comprehensive overview (the long one is worth your time) to get up to speed. The U.S. is a world leader and they set precedents for other jurisdictions all the time AND your site may be "based" outside the U.S., but that doesn't mean it's immune from being affected. One interesting development (and I'm surprised it's taken so long to come to light) is that the sponsor of the bill appears to have his own copyright infringement issues. Tim O'Reilly shared his thoughts about SOPA with GigaOM this past week and I think he makes a lot of sense. Yesterday, the news out of the White House gives me hope that this will never see the light of day. Obama disagrees with some key parts of SOPA and PIPA, which leads some to believe he'll veto both if they pass. Following the release of the statement from the White House, Jeff Jarvis asks some pointed questions about where the U.S. Government will let this battle go in the future. This is important for all of us who want a free Internet. That really is what's at stake with should any of these bills pass. It's important enough to some that they're initiating a blackout this Wednesday.

It's hard to say whether Google or SOPA won the race to the top of the news heap this week. The release of "Search, plus Your World" has led to a vocal backlash where some believe this will lead to further anti-trust investigations and few speaking up to support it (including Matt Cutts, of course). Meanwhile, there's been a back and forth tiff between Twitter and Google that resembles something from the schoolyard. Facebook has been fairly "quiet" about the whole business. Mathew Ingram summarizes the entire Google search saga quite eloquently and points out that this war between Google and Twitter is only hurting users. Finally, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land did some pretty interesting analysis of real-life search examples if you'd like to see how this is working.

Marketers, PR reps and humans in general gasped in horror at Papa John's and Boner's BBQ for their unbelievably offensive treatment of customers this past week. And in true Gini Dietrich style, she's given them the advice they need to avoid the post-screw-up PR disaster that they've just experienced should future mishaps occur. I just hope more businesses start reading Spin Sucks so they respond appropriately and timely to avoid getting into these tangles in the first place.

Finally, this week Facebook - without much fanfare - rolled out sponsored posts that will appear in your news feed this week. I haven't seen any in my feed yet, but the majority of the pages I "like" are not the kind that would purchase this kind of advertising.


Who out there uses social media and has been followed by (or follows) someone claiming to be a guru, ninja or expert in social media? (I'm raising my hand.) Mitch Joel admits to being fascinated with Social Media and the rise of the social media celebrity. He raised some thought-provoking points this week about the social media Kool-Aid.

"Social business" is a term I've been hearing more and more lately - 2012 is apparently the year of the social business. I'm still making up my mind, but I don't think I particularly care for it. I'm not sure we need to designate everything social if it comes into close contact or touches social media. I'm not sure we need to have a term to reflect the changing culture of business with the rise of social media use. Widely accepted business practices have changed in the past and we didn't necessarily put a name on it. That said, there's a lot of wisdom in Pam Moore's tips for becoming a social business that businesses should heed.

You probably already read it, but it's worth repeating. Seth Godin's post this week on the TED imperative is short, sweet and so very well said. It's the Cole's(Cliff) notes version of Pam's post about social business, but it's really all anyone creating content needs.

Ever since I realized a friend in my teen years had a bit of a jealous streak aimed at a talent I had that they were less proficient with, I've felt strongly that we each have to accept our strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing them makes life easier and allows us to ask for help where we're weak and speak up to help where we're strong. Finding your strengths can be so empowering - here's a few tips on how to do it.

I sometimes struggle to work at home, but most of the time it's really productive. This article helped me see how I could do even better.

This week from The Media Mesh

This past week The Media Mesh started a new series, Social 101, and our first topic was Twitter. I hosted the first twitter chat for #MediaMeshBBC. And the Sixty Second Social this week was about social media shortcuts and trying to emulate high profile people. Coming up this week, I'll be sharing the details of our next Business Book Club assignment, going over the 5 Ws of Twitter and more!

Engagement isn't just something you do online - 5 tips for brands at conferences

In my professional life, engagement has been a buzz word for years for various reasons depending on the industry. Right now, I do a great deal of work in social media both personally and professionally and everybody talks about the importance of engagement. Not everyone understands how to do it well, though. This lack of understanding is particularly troublesome when you take the context of engagement "offline".

Source: CL Buchanan Photography

This past weekend, I attended Blissdom Canada, a writing and business conference that focuses on social media, marketing, public relations and blogging. Blissdom is geared toward females in this realm and, as such, attracts sponsors who gear their products toward females. Primarily food, travel, family vehicles, children's toys and household products. While I would personally love to see more tech industry brands represented, I recognize that there's a great divide between female-oriented conferences that always seem to be geared to the "mommy blogger" and other conferences that have a general audience. That's a discussion I could get into here, but I'll refrain for now. I have a few things I'd like to say to brands at conferences based on my first-hand experiences and second-hand stories (from a variety of conferences, not just Blissdom Canada).

1) Know what your goals are and why you're at the conference. When I walk up to you and say hello, I'd love to hear something from you. I'm not just walking by your booth to take what I can get. Now, if you had a stack of iPads, I might be tempted to grab and run but most of you don't have said iPads so get my attention another way. I happen to be a blogger who hasn't worked with brands very much and I don't seek out that relationship. So, why should I talk to you, try your product or potentially write about it? Having an awkward 20 seconds as I pass by on my way to the next booth means I'm going to forget about you even though you handed me a bag with your logo on it.

2) If you want to give away "swag", make it meaningful, useful and audience appropriate. There were several food companies at Blissdom Canada this year. Every last one of them showed and gave away products that are or can be controversial to various segments of the population, but most particularly among health-conscious mothers. Other brands handed a pile of paper or promotional items to visitors. All of this in the name of getting their name out there. To get noticed. To get exposure. I wonder how many of my fellow conference attendees made a generous addition to their recycling bin and the landfill today with these things they can't really use or don't want. (I vow here and now that the first brand I feel comfortable giving an endorsement and who does an eco-friendly promotion at a conference is getting a blog post from me - no strings attached to it.)

3) The Golden Rule is the best practice for booth staffing. I heard from countless people about a staffperson who was repeatedly rude or short with visitors. While I understand that a crowd around your booth can be overwhelming and your booth activity might be keeping you far busier than expected, staff should always be courteous to visitors and not treat them poorly. Here's why: I may not know that staffperson's name, but I know your brand name.

4) Social media conference engagement starts and ends online - before, during and after. Yes, you have a physical presence at the conference. Of course you're busy talking to the stream of people flooding your booth at all times of the day. Don't forget to check your twitter and facebook accounts. Attendees will interact with you during sessions and overnight when they have questions and comments. Be sure you have resources to stay just as engaged online as you are face-to-face.

5) Don't let the connection you made die: Follow-up. I've been the brand at conferences before. I know how busy it is when you get back to the office and work piled up while you're gone, in addition to all the new work generated by all the conversations you had at the conference. If you don't follow-up within the first two days after the conference, the adrenaline rush is going to fizzle out and your opportunity to engage potential influencers will vanish. When visitors finally get your email a week, two weeks, six months later it won't generate nearly the enthusiastic response you'd get if you sent it within the first two days to a week.

Reaching out to bloggers is an effective and efficient way to reach a targeted market with information about your product and services. As the marketing world catches on to just how valuable a relationship with bloggers can be, the brands who do that interaction right will stay ahead of the game in terms of their reach. The ones who don't will continue to rack up missed opportunities that will make them question the value of social media. The key to doing this right is to engage, engage, engage. It isn't about selling to your connections. It's about developing a relationship online and off.