To Ghost Tweet or Not?

As Twitter becomes more prolific we find ourselves incorporating it into more and more marketing plans for our clients. Once we get client approval, the next question is always “will the client make the updates, or will the agency?” The answer depends on what the objectives of creating a Twitter page in the first place are. 

The client should make their own updates when building credibility is the main objective of the campaign.  One of the biggest benefits of social networking is to connect with a large number of people and ideally to eventually translate that relationship offline. If this is one of the goals of the Twitter account then the page should be set up as a personal page of someone within a company, rather than a company Twitter page.  This allows for a more personal connection that provides insights that don’t appear to be churned from the company’s PR team (even if they are). Even if the Twitter updater is an official spokesperson of the company, followers tend to take the information as more credible because they “know” the person from whom the information is coming. Like blogging, information posted to a Twitter page should be transparent. If the bio on the page is of an individual, then that individual should be the one making the updates. The instant that it’s discovered that someone is tweeting for them, especially when it’s the spokesperson for the company, all credibility is lost and it will be very hard, if not impossible, to regain. 

The key thing to remember here is that although tweets need to be fairly frequent, ideally multiple times per day, they’re only 140 characters (including the all essential link).  Tweets can be made while standing in line, sitting on the train, waiting for a meeting to start or in an elevator.  Although it’s a real commitment, it’s not a real time sucker, which helps when selling the “client update” option.  

On the other hand, it’s okay for an agency to make updates when the account has been created for a specific project or event with a definitive end date.  We’ve found that creating a Twitter account is particularly useful when planning an event and hoping to build some buzz around it beforehand.  Because these types of tweets aren’t necessarily company insight, but more facts about the event, it’s more accepted that someone other than a company insider might be making them.  However, make sure the profile for the account is more general, with the name of the event rather than of an individual person. 

Another example of when it’s okay for a Twitter page to be updated by an agency is when the page is that of the company’s and not a particular individual within the company.  The key here is that the agency will need access to company information so that the tweets are relevant and insightful, rather than an obvious attempt to distribute key messages.   

So, when you’re ready to build a Twitter account into a strategic marketing plan, make sure you define the objectives first, and the answer as to “who will tweet” will become more obvious.

The Wonders and Blunders of ’09

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well not if you are also trying to squeeze client news in between the countless holiday gift guides and best/worst of 2009 lists.

I personally love these ‘year in review’ lists, especially when you think that there is an editor out there wondering which unflattering photo of the Gosselins to include or whether you can honestly compare the impact of Susan Boyle to that of Sonia Sotomayor.

It has been a tough year, but everything is relative. In light of some of this year’s most memorable headlines we should consider ourselves lucky. Here are just a few, in no specific order:

PR can keep stories out of the headlines or save a bit of dignity and grace when all else is lost. It can also make a headline infamous, like Queensland, Australia’s ‘The Best Job in the World‘ candidate search did earlier this year. The stunt recently joined Taylor Herring’s prestigious ‘Publicity Stunt Hall of Fame‘ which showcases the best PR stunts of all time.

TIME's 'Person of the Year' Ben Barnanke
TIME's 'Person of the Year' Ben Barnanke

Tough economic times, political unrest and fears of swine flu swept the country, but balloon boy is really what kept us talking. TIME made a commendable choice of Ben Bernanke for their  ‘Person of the Year‘ honor, but you can’t help but wonder how many Americans said, “who?” We are a tabloid, celebrity-obsessed culture with a selective memory and short attention span, which is best seen when we try to rank the most influential happenings of a whole year.

The lists and recaps need to be broken down. In my opinion the best compilation is TIME’s Best/Worst Lists (don’t miss their Top 10 Lists or their ‘Year in Photos‘). Yahoo’s ‘Year in Review‘ also puts together a good collection, although slightly skewed towards tabloid stories. If you are looking for that kind of ‘news’, look no further than the People with their ‘Best of ’09‘ (and read this recent Newsweek, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth‘, article defending our celebrity fixation). Better yet, go all out and indulge in the Huffington Post‘s ‘Hot Messes of the 2000s‘. It seems like some have forgotten it is the end of the decade, so it’s a good thing Newsweek has it covered with their 20/10 Project.

The Gosselins dominated the 'news' is 2009.
The Gosselins dominated the 'news' in 2009.

After getting lost in a myriad of yearly recaps and reviews, I was interested to see what the UK’s Telegraph‘s ‘US Review of 2009‘ considered noteworthy. When browsing through this year’s recaps consider the source and the audience before judging their lists. After writing this post, I know taking stock of a year gone by not as easy as it seems! I wonder when someone will come out with a list of the best and worst ‘best/worst lists of 2009’?

Cheers to the holidays and ringing in 2010 with all its anticipated wonders and blunders.

The Silver Lining for Law Firms: Now May be the Best Time to Market

It’s been a tough year for most industries, and especially hard hit have been law firms. Associate pay cuts, restructuring of billable hours, cancellation of summer internships and the crumble of some major firms; it’s no wonder marketing is also seeing significant cuts.  Here’s the silver lining – now may be the best time yet to get out there and marketing your firm.  And possibly even better news, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg (or rather an associate and an end of year bonus).  Here are 10 marketing tips that you can start using now that won’t break the bank:

1)      Keep Attorney Bios Fresh – frequently update attorney bios with links to recent articles that have been written, quotes in the media, speaking engagements or CLE courses.  Keeping bios up-to-date not only keeps them from getting stale, but also gives additional credibility for anyone doing their own research online. In addition, including as many links as possible makes an information rich and easy to use web page.

2)      Record and Post – video on law firm websites not only increases search engine optimization, but also provides an additional, 3-dimensional perspective of the firm and its attorneys.  More than a stiff headshot, video conveys personality and expertise.  In addition, more and more media outlets are requesting to see video clips of attorneys before agreeing to an interview.  By posting video to your website you’re better positioning the firm’s attorneys for speaking and media opportunities.

3)      Make Your Firm’s Marketing Materials Downloadable – including a link to download the firm’s marketing materials on every page of the website is just one more way to put your message at the fingertips of those who may benefit.  Rather than having to dig around for print copies, pulling up the website and downloading a PDF takes less time, less cost and less trees (not to mention stress).  In addition, it drives increased traffic to your website.

4)      Create an Online Newsroom – more than just recent press releases, an online newsroom should include links or PDFs of recent media coverage, CLE course announcements, recent published article and anything else that may be of interest to clients or potential clients. An information rich newsroom may be the most useful page on your firm’s website when it comes to new business development.  

5)      Make Your Marketing Virtual – there are so many ways to make the leap from traditional marketing to web 2.0 and most cost little to nothing.  Every attorney should have a LinkedIn page that includes links to the firm’s website, links to recent coverage as well as links to the firm’s newsroom.  Post video on YouTube and link to it from the firm’s website.  E-blast clients, potential clients and anyone else who may care with client wins, firm news and links to recent media coverage.  Add a “tweet this” button to all firm news online and let your clients, friends and family do your marketing for you. 

6)      Blog – if you’ve got something to say, and most attorneys do, blog about it.  A blog doesn’t have to be filled with original thought or groundbreaking opinion, it simply needs to be interesting and if possible entertaining.  Personal thoughts about a recent legislation, comments about a news story, kudos on a job well done – as long as a blog is regularly updated, it can contain any number of things and can often serve as a great marketing tool for individual attorneys.

7)      Align Marketing and Business Goal – it’s vital that the goals of the marketing department and the overall business goals of the firm are aligned. Marketing and business development should always work together to create cohesive and consistent messaging for the firm.  Together marketing and business development should think holistically and only then can they part ways to execute specific tactics.

8)      Monitor Your Reputation Online – the proliferation of social media has provided an online focus group for anyone who knows where to look.  Regularly peruse areas on social media sites that commonly comment on the law and specific firms. Look at engagement levels on blogs, twitter feeds and facebook pages and read comment posted to online articles.  These often provide more insight than information in the article itself.  This will help you to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry as well as within your own firm.

9)      Ask “Why is This Important” First – before sitting down to write a press release on a recent client win or partner promotion, ask yourself “why should the media care.”  Sure, it’s great news for the firm, your client or new partner, but what’s really the news?  To make it important to a greater audience, including the media, figure out what the compelling story is.  Perhaps its part of a larger trend, or maybe it marks an important milestone for the firm; whatever it is, figure out why anyone would care to read it before you start writing.

10)   You Still Can’t Beat Face-to-Face – email, g-chat, IM, websites, YouTube, Twitter, facebook – there are so many ways to communicate with clients in an instant that we often forget the original form of communication: in-person.  Make time for more face-to-face meetings and you’ll find a connection that’s not possible with technology. It may be just the boost your client/attorney relationship needs.

SEO and PR..A Happy Marriage

As the gap between public relations and technology continues to shrink, many Search Engine Optimization and PR firms are finding ways to work together to meet the needs of their clients. Integrating talents not only brings expanded capabilities to each party, but allows for innovation, collaboration and ultimately, better results. Search Engine Optimization Public Relations (SEO PR) has become a common practice when creating press releases, web sites or other online materials. SEO PR is simply maximizing traditional public relations by combining the best practices of technology, linguistics and PR tactics to create prominent search engine visibility. In other words SEO PR not only helps promote your company’s key messages, but it also incorporates search engine-friendly communication through techniques such as optimizing copy in press releases, articles, social media sites, blogs, RSS feeds, and websites. The ultimate goal is to make sure your company is a priority amongst all the noise that exists on the web.

seo_dubai

A strong SEO PR campaign focuses on choosing the right keywords to create a balance between words that most accurately describe the company and those that are “search engine friendly,” that is, they have low competition in search queries. By optimizing and distributing press releases online and using RSS feeds and other forms of social media, the press release has the ability to grow behind just print media and have a longer life online. The release will often be picked up and archived by a multitude of sites that pull relevant news feeds, which means that the press release’s message gets instant online visibility, and if the content is something people want to read it will naturally spread through social bookmarking sites such as Digg or social networking sites like Twitter.

SEO efforts can be further strengthened by having the keywords included in the release’s copy link back to your website. Besides increased visibility, this can be very powerful as the sites that are likely to pick up your online release are usually relevant to the content being distributed, which helps increase your rankings. Remember to use relevant keywords as anchor text for your links, too, and avoid anchor text like “click here”. But don’t go overboard:  putting too many links in a press release, article or blog entry can actually negatively impact your rankings, so just choose the most relevant key words to highlight. Lastly, when you create a press release, make sure it’s newsworthy and relevant to your target audience to maximize exposure..

Besides optimizing your written online content, other PR strategies to help build SEO include:

  • Posting commentary on relevant industry blogs, forums or open source “wikis” with links back to your website can help boost visibility online.  Commentary should add value to readers, so it helps to keep blatantly self promotional language to a minimum.
  • Social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin are a no-brainer for companies looking to building web awareness. These sites have very high SEO visibility, are inexpensive and offer a relatively easy and instantaneous way to communicate company news, distribute video, post photos or start a discussion with target audiences. They are also much less expensive and time consuming than updating your own web site
  • Registering your company in online directories (such as Philly Ad Club) is another cost effective way to increase rankings. Potential clients may be searching these organizations for new potential partners, and if you’re not listed, you won’t be on their short list of targets.

    Like traditional PR, Clients are still extremely focused on immediate, demonstrable ROI rather than longer-term metrics such as branding, site stickiness, or correlating search behavior to other marketing/pr programs. Forms of measurable results therefore can be found in increased traffic to your web site, an increase in your keyword footprint, search engine rankings, online press release pickup and traffic generated from the release.

    SEO PR is evolving every day with the addition of new social networks, web sites and online tracking devices. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for SEO PR, there is almost always a unique mix that is right for your company. Smart use of PR and SEO provides a cost-effective way to harness the power of the web to help meet your marketing and business goals.


    Tiger Handling of Transgressions Not So Grrreat

    Spirit Airlines New "Eye of the Tiger" Ad
    Spirit Airlines New "Eye of the Tiger" Ad

    We’ve all caught Tiger Mania, but this time, the world’s highest paid and notoriously private athlete is at the center of a PR firestorm.  Yesterday, Tiger finally posted a second statement on his website following the release of a voicemail to US Weekly by a reality TV contestant /cocktail waitress who claims to have had an affair with the married superstar.  In it, Tiger admits to recent “transgressions” and asks for privacy:

    Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means…Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.”

    Sadly, the world (and yours truly), disagrees.  Since his bizarre car crash on November 27, Tiger’s silence and cancelled public appearances have fueled media coverage and wild fan speculation about what really happened. (Click here for a full timeline of events, courtesy of the LA TimesConsider this:

    • – Since posting his statement yesterday, Tigerwoods.com has logged over 13,600 comments from fans as of 1:20 p.m. today.
    • – Tiger Woods is of the most popular searches on Twitter today, with new posts going up a at a rate of over 67 posts per minute (that’s over 3000 posts/hr!) as of this morning
    • – Type in “Tiger Woods Scandal” into Google and you get 18,700,000 results.
    • – Companies have already started to cash in on the Tiger media firestorm. Spirit Airlines has posted an “Eye of the Tiger Sale,” which promises fares starting at $9 each way to  – you got it –   Florida.  (See the video via the Orlando Sentinel website here).

    If his goal is to control his previously carefully crafted image, manage rumors, or save his wife from further embarrassment in the press, then he needs to come out  – in public – and address the situation.  By failing to respond to the accident or the allegations of infidelity in a timely and transparant manner, he is simply fueling the fire.  Sadly, infidelity is no longer the social crime it once was.  Reputations and endorsements can be salvaged quickly by addressing the situation quickly, earnestly and directly.  (If you have any doubts, just ask David Letterman, whose quick witted confession on his late night television show mitigated what could have been a career ending story.)

    Like it or not, Tiger Woods is a global brand.  As the spokesperson for mega-brands like Nike Golf and Gillete, Tiger earned more than $100 million last year between earnings, endorsements and appearances.  His carefully crafted and squeeky-clean image drives record sales for brands he endorses and has made him the first athlete to earn $1 billion dollars.  For better or for worse, the public cares about his story.  If he doesn’t start telling his side of it soon (as in, yesterday), then the media  – or or another nightclub hostess –  will do it for him. If he hides out until the next tournament, every stroke on the golf course will be footnoted by this scandal.

    Until he comes out of hiding, I’ll be surfing TMZ and the Huffington Post for updates.  Stay tuned.*

    *Tiger was spared one close call today:  Hamptons party girl Rachel Uchitel canceled her scheduled tell all press conference for today.

    Make Your Marketing Dollars Count with PR

    It’s no surprise that when budgets get tight marketing is the first to get the axe.   The biggest reason for this comes down to the data:  Decision makers in the C-suite justify spending with hard numbers and most public relations campaigns fail to produce anything more than clipbooks, social media activity and advertising value equivalency.  What your public relations firm should be providing are outcome measures demonstrating that effective public relations programs drive business performance. 

    This may seem like a great idea in theory, but is it a reasonable request of your PR firm? Of course it is.  Public relations has the ability to generate revenue, enhance efficiency, identify and avoid potential crises, increase the likelihood to purchase your brand, reinforce organizational values, establish credibility, increase customer loyalty, influence customer and employee behavior and so much more.  The key to measuring these results? Establishing clear, measurable goals, creating an open dialogue between client and agency, and yes, some of the budget allotted specifically to the task of measurement.

    Share Information
    Inherently measurement is a comparative tool.  To determine whether a campaign is successful or not, the results need a benchmark from which to compare the results.  Depending on the goals established, the benchmark can be company performance over time, traffic to the company website, number of mentions in the press vs. the competition, etc.  Most companies have done some sort of analysis (as basic as it may have been) on their employees, customers, competition, sales, or any other aspect of the company.  This information can be invaluable for a new PR campaign and can serve as a benchmark to measure business outcomes against.  Providing this information to your PR firm is also a quick way to save some upfront costs.

    Think Beyond the Marketing Department
    The objectives of a public relations campaign should tie into the overall business objectives of the company.  More often than not a client will share with us their marketing objectives, but give no detail on the overall objectives and goals of the company.  For a campaign to be successful and provide results that influence business outcomes, every business objective needs to be taken into consideration, even if it’s not immediately apparent that it relates to marketing.  Don’t be afraid to tell your PR firm the full story.  The more information we have the better we will be able create a campaign that marries your communications and business objectives.   

    Hard Number Cost, Well, Hard Numbers
    There are many ways to analyze the results of a public relations campaign, ranging from free web tools like Google Analytics to more expensive software applications that can track and analyze media relations results.   According to USC Annenberg, a general rule of thumb is that the cost of measurement should average 3-7 percent of the total public relations budget.    The more detailed the analysis, the more time and resources necessary to be dedicated to the project. 

    Determining the results of a PR campaign is no longer a guessing game. With a dedicated PR team, a well thought-out strategy and plenty of planning, PR programs can drive business performance, which should make everyone happy.

    Sarah Palin Newsweek Cover

    This week’s Newsweek cover featured Sarah Palin….but not as you would normally expect. Palin is featured in running clothes, with the photo coming from a shoot she did for a story for Runners World. I had actually seen the original Runners World article as an avid runner who subscribes to magazine, but I glossed over it as I wasn’t going to be inspired to run faster or longer by reading about her routine. The cover has sparked a ton of controversy over the past few days as some view it as another attempt to portray her in a sexist matter rather than giving her the respect she deserves.The story was

    November 23, 2009 issue of Newsweek

    supposed to coincide with the release of her new book Going Rogue, but Newsweek took an interesting angle and I would argue it was an attempt to sell more magazines for a publication that is most likely struggling like many other news vehicles.

    Palin has responded with several interviews and the Facebook response has been overwhelming. Since the page was created on Monday night there have been close to 10,000 comments.  Some were encouraging people to cancel their subscription,  others posted sexist comments, and additional comments actually enjoyed viewing the former vice presidential candidate in a casual light.

    Newsweek has also been responding via media outlets. Managing Editor Daniel Klaidman was on yesterday’s Today Show talking to Matt Lauer about their choice.  They also have posted an official statement to their web site:

    “Today, NEWSWEEK’s Editor Jon Meacham has responded to critics. “We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do,” Meacham said. “We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard.”

    I’m not one to write politically charged blog posts so I refrain from voicing my opinion about Palin and her candidacy, however I will express my disdain for the way women in power are portrayed. They are either like Palin, noted for their good looks or chastised for their “bitchy attitude”.

    The media is an interesting beast and we will continue to see how it helps or destroys Palin’s climb up the political ladder.



    Will Philadelphia Win or Lose in the World Series Spotlight?

    As Philadephia gears up to host the world series for the second consecutive year, the city is trying to prepare itself to rise above its neighbor to the north, New York in more ways than one. The Phillies have helped to put Philadephia back on the map, but this weekend could turn out to be more of PR nightmare than something than something the city wants to be remembered for.

    The Yankees and Phillies will play the first of three games in Philadephia and it’s possible the city will be without public transportation. SEPTA Transport Workers Union Local 234, the union that represents approximately 5,000 operators and mechanics, could walk off the job by 12:01 a.m. on Saturday if an agreement isn’t reached.  The union is seeking to boost wages that average $52,000 and to keep health care contributions to about $10 a week. Gov. Rendell is urging the union to avoid their strike this weekend if it is still making progress with SEPTA in negotiations for a new contract as it would be “a little bit of black eye” for the city.

    About 800,000 people use SEPTA daily in the Philadelphia region and thousands of fans are planning on taking several forms of transportation including the Broad Street Line and buses to reach the game. Sunday, the South Philadelphia sports complexes not only play host to the Phillies and Yankees but, there will also be a Flyers game tomorrow afternoon, a Pearl Jam concert tomorrow night as the Spectrum finale, and an Eagles game Sunday afternoon. Without public transportation, it will be very difficult to compete for parking amongst all the events going on and the riots that might ensure are not something anyone can plan for.

    Despite the potential strike, hotels, restaurants and bars will fare very well this weekend. The Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, is estimating a total of $20 million to $25 million in visitor spending from up to three World Series games between the Phillies and the Yankees that will be played here. Even Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) is trying to spread the Philly love in Manhattan by buying cheesteaks for New Yorkers at Shorty’s, a popular Philadelphia sports bar in Manhattan and then inviting them to try a Pat’s or Geno’s back in Philly.

    Philadelphia will also become the media spotlight over the weekend and the city has the opportunity to prove to the world how great this city is…..that is if we don’t strike or have riots between Giants-Eagles and Yankees-Phillies fans. There is definitely a tremendous kickback for the city with the amount of TV airtime that goes to showing it off. We may not know how much revenue or ad dollars the city saves by having the Phillies in the World Series, but all the media attention is something money can’t buy.

    Philadelphians are constantly trying to prove their worth to New Yorkers, who say they have better food, shopping, attractions and sports. The mayors are even dueling in a fun loving bet, where the losing mayor will have to come paint a mural in the winning teams city wearing the opposite teams uniform. At least their bet does something good for both city’s images.

    While I won’t argue in favor of either city (hey I’m from Cleveland originally), I will say that no matter the outcome of the series, it will be exciting and hopefully we all make it out of this wacky Halloween sports crazy weekend alive.

    Live TV: A Love/Hate Relationship

    I don’t know about you but my coffee and cereal lost its luster while watching the Today Show this morning. During a live interview with the ‘balloon boy,” Flacon (I won’t even start on that), the 6 year old was apparently not feeling well. He was sick twice on national live television. Click here to view the interview.

    This is obviously the downside of live TV, which while unpleasant does not parallel such blunders like Janet Jackson’s ‘malfunction,’ the Ashley Simpson lip singing fiasco on SNL and the various f-bombs heard around the world. The FCC and I often disagree on how to ‘punish’ these people, but that is another entry.

    There is a special place in my heart for a specific breed of live bloopers and blunders- live news. Any public relations professional or publicist has felt the overwhelming fear and helplessness when an interview goes wildly out of control- whether it is their client or not. We feel it for both the interviewer and their subject, and often enjoy dissecting how it could have gone better/worse after it flops.

    The great thing about news bloopers is that everyone involved has done everything to make it as scripted as possible without losing the essence of a live interview. Typically all parties have been properly prepped. ‘Possible’ questions/answers have been outlined, wardrobes have been coordinated, and someone inevitably said to “just relax” or “act natural.” Properly preparing for a live interview is of the utmost importance because, as you have seen, anything can happen. Nerves, ear piece malfunctions or other unexpected interferences throw off an interview, and it is essential to have prepared talking points and key messages to fall back on. It is nerve racking to be live and I give the media and its subjects a great deal of credit not matter how an interview goes.

    But always remember, it probably could have been worse…