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  • Justin Case You Were Wondering: My blog has changed addresses

    By Justin Goldsborough | January 27, 2011

    Hi there. Thanks for checking out my blog. Justin Case You Were Wondering has a new home these days at http://justincaseyouwerewondering.com. Please come continue the conversation at my new location.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Topics: Uncategorized | Comments Off

    An IMC evolution: From sales funnel to customer journey

    By Justin Goldsborough | December 14, 2010

    Traditional business sales funnel

    Customer journey

    Customer journey diagram

    (Both images/models courtesy of Fleishman-Hillard)

    I’m starting to see a change in marketing mentality. Are you seeing it? It’s happening slowly — change is never a quick thing — but it’s popping up here and there. Part of it is an increased adoption of the IMC mentality. And understanding that the consumer only sees one brand position from his/her perspective so the company needs to be united on all fronts internally. That’s an extremely important business culture change that is moving at glacier speed, but at least it’s moving and we’re starting to see more and more clients nod heads when we talk about an integrated approach.

    The second part is one I’m seeing gain more momentum and begin to move faster than the IMC shift. And that’s an evolved POV around the traditional business sales funnel — I like to call it the customer journey and have heard others call it that as well, including colleagues at Fleishman-Hillard who introduced the idea to me. Mack Collier described it in this post earlier this week as a shift from a product to a need mentality. IOW, well, here’s how he actually worded it when talking about a brand’s blog as a selling tool:

    “Most companies create blog content that directly promotes its products, because that’s what it wants to sell.  But for the most part, the content we WANT to see is content that shows us how the product will fit into our lives, or solve a problem for us.”

    Building relationships in the pre-consideration stage 

    See, what Mack has hit on here is a a valuable argument to bring up to the social media skeptics if you’re looking for one. Traditionally, the sales funnel started with a mass marketing campaign — maybe a TV ad or newspaper buy — that put the product out there for people to see. From there, companies saturated the market with their message in an attempt to make their product top of mind to a consumer who might be shopping for that type of item. Then, once the consumer actually made the purchase, the company wanted their information so they could continue marketing to them, sending them updates and keep the brand top of mind for that person. I may have left out a step or two, but you get the gist.

    What marketing couldn’t do through the traditional sales funnel was reach the consumer in the pre-consideration stage. At least, they couldn’t do that intentionally. And here’s a way that social media provides us an opportunity we never had before. Instead of owning their product, what if companies sought to own the need their consumers have. Or as my colleague Lauren Fernandez always says, “own your industry.”

    This could manifest itself in a number of ways. Mack uses the example of sharing with consumers how to become a better basketball player and how their product meets that need than just promoting a new basketball. By searching social networks and online communities for topics like basketball, basketball skills, coaching basketball and more, there’s an opportunity to find prospects in the pre-consideration stage and begin talking to them there. Another example I like is what Ford has done with the Ford Fiesta movement. They started introducing that car to consumers a year before it was even available. And the conversation was about finding out what people wanted in a car and how the Focus might fulfill that need rather than just promoting two years of low-interest financing. Scott Monty and team went much deeper than that.

    A third example would be a mattress company. Through the old sales funnel, the focus would be promoting the product and why it’s better than competitor models. But through the consumer journey, companies can use social media to form a relationship with the customer when he/she is just thinking about problems with sleep, i.e. insomnia. Starting the relationship then allows the brand to help the customer diagnose the issue(s) he/she is facing, connect the person with a community of “others like me” who have dealt with the same situation and then to be relevant to the consumer once he/she decides that a new mattress might help solve the need. At this point during the purchase stage, the combined 3rd-party endorsement and company endorsement of their product we’re used to seeing in the sales funnel model hopefully team up to lead to a purchase. But it’s the relationship-building in the pre-consideration stage — made possible by social media — that made the brand top of mind for the consumer.

    Customer or ambassador

    So how about after the product has been purchased? How does the relationship proceed? From a traditional sales funnel POV, once the customer buys, we hopefully have his/her information. He/she may even be part of a loyalty program and either way, there will likely be some type of consistent communication going out to the customer post-purchase (e-mail, direct mail, etc.). There is absolutely value in this approach. If anything, it keeps the brand top of mind for the consumer and builds on the relationship that was started when the sales transaction took place.

    But we can do better by following the customer journey model and our customers expect us to. Customers don’t just want a transactional relationship with the brands they buy from today. Service is under a microscope we’ve never seen before and those who take the extra steps make the extra sales. Just ask Tony Hsieh at Zappos how focusing the company’s culture around customer service has worked for him. Or maybe ask Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who paid almost $1 billion to buy Tony’s company in 2009.

    Following the customer journey model allows companies to provide that expected level of service and maintain a more-than-transactional relationship after the product has been bought. Imagine the difference between buying a new car and only hearing from the selling company via the mail and when you go in for an oil change versus a brand that uses its social media channels — and e-mail — to follow up with you post-purchase and make sure the experience is everything you thought it would be when you walked off the showroom floor and they handed you the keys.

    What’s the difference? Well, it’s simple really. The former results in a sale. The latter has the potential to result in an ambassador. There are all kinds of stats out there about the value of a brand ambassador. I heard one company in a presentation yesterday propose their brand ambassadors lead to as much as 5X more spending (through purchase and recommendation) than a customer who isn’t activated as an ambassador. Whether those numbers are high or low, we do know from research groups like Nielsen that consumers trust 3rd-party recommendations much more than they do brand messaging. So the value is there, even if we have trouble agreeing on how to quantify it.

    The evolution from funnel to journey is an important one. Even the terminology symbolizes the change companies need to make — from key messaging to relationships. For social media to work to its full potential, we as IMCers have to change the way we view our jobs and for some, have viewed them for years. That’s tough when almost every company you can find has a department called Product and has been conditioned to message the product. But it’s the right move to make, just like moving to an IMC approach is the best way to team up internally and connect with the consumer. Changing culture is tough. But I’m starting to see companies come along for the journey.

    Topics: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Why Klout scares me; Hint: It’s not the tool itself

    By Justin Goldsborough | December 11, 2010

    Oprah Klout

    Lot of people talking about influence and Klout lately. There was Chuck Hemann’s post on the Klout that stole Christmas (has potentially the best accompanying photo for a post ever). #u30pro covered the topic of influence and discussed Klout specifically last Thursday. Nate Riggs had an interesting post about his experiments with Klout and how he’s figured out certain behaviors that drive up your score. And as I’m writing this, I’ve just finished reading a post from GigaOM that asks “What if you were paid based on your Klout score?” and gives an example of how Salesforce is headed down that road with an internal social network.

    So I obviously missed the memo that it’s National Talk About Klout week. I’m wondering if this Sunday we should all change our avatars to our Klout scores and see who can make the biggest one-day jump. Maybe, as Chuck, Kasey Skala and I discussed earlier this week, bars and clubs will start letting people go to the front of the line if they have a Klout score over 75. If so, I’ve got some work to do :) .

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m bagging on Joe Fernandez and his Klout team — btw, Joe just sent me a tweet asking if he could answer any Klout questions, and I respect the hell out of people who listen and monitor on Twitter, so points for him. Kudos to Klout for the work they have done. As a PR pro, I understand the value of buzz and WOM. No one can deny that Klout definitely has people talking.

    That said, Klout scares me…a lot. But not because of the tool itself. No, I’m much more scared of the lazy PR and marketing pros who are looking for an easy way out when it comes to tracking influence; one number they can search within less than five minutes, use to prioritize an outreach list and call it a day. You can’t measure the impact of PR/Marketing efforts with one or two numbers. You couldn’t do it (accurately) with impressions and you can’t do it with Klout score either. Both numbers are just one piece of the puzzle, one chapter in the story.

    Case in point — an example that came up during #u30pro Thursday night. Oprah Winfrey has a Klout score of 73. But she hardly talks to anyone at all on Twitter. She posts very infrequently, and when she does, it’s almost always a one-way broadcast post. She isn’t engaging in any conversation. So is she using Twitter right? Well, Klout says she’s very influential. And I understand, it’s because of her reach — more than 4M followers. But I’d argue that through Twitter — which is what Klout measures — she has very little influence at all.

    That’s just the first part of the example. The second part is actually more important, IMO. Pew just came out with a study this week that says 18-29 year olds are the most active group on Twitter. Now not to stereotype, but how influential do you think Oprah is among 18-29 year old guys. I’m guessing hardly, if at all. So what’s the point I’m trying to make? Simply, that there is no such thing as universal influence on Twitter or anywhere else. It does not exist!

    The Klout conversation will be a positive if we can all take a step back and talk about what influence really means. Influence is not impressions. It’s not followers. And it’s not the same for every case or brand. For example, what’s influential to Hallmark, a client we work with at FHKC, may not be influential to the Ford Fiesta movement, or Jane, a senior at Northwestern. Influence doesn’t exist in a bubble. And if you are trying to put it in one, you are missing the bigger picture. It means different things to different people in different situations. There is no holy grail for influence. Just like there isn’t one for social media measurement.

    You and I have a responsibility when it comes to Klout or any tool like it. The first part of that responsibility is to understand the tool and what it does — check out Nate’s post for more on that. But the second part is to make sure the people in our industry understand what Klout is all about. That they understand even Klout CEO Joe Fernandez says “it’s not meant to replace common sense.”

    If PR and marketing pros walk away from Klout touting it as a one-stop solution for influence on Twitter, then we have failed to educate our peers on the value of this type of a tool — as one piece of the overall influence puzzle. But if a tool like Klout gets people talking about overall influence, how we misjudged it in the past (impressions) and the right way to judge it in the future, then it’s a conversation worth having. A conversation that is much less scary than at first glance.

    Topics: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Zuckerberg tells 60 Minutes that there’s room for Facebook and Google

    By Justin Goldsborough | December 5, 2010

    Mark Zuckerberg 60 Minutes interview, Part 1 

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    Mark Zuckerberg 60 Minutes interview, Part 2

    YouTube Preview Image

    Just got done watching Mark Zuckerberg’s interview on 60 Minutes. Decent interview, bit of a peak into the Facebook work culture and the guy himself. He pretty much stayed on message, but still liked the chance to hear him speak. What I found most interesting about the segment was Lesley Stahl’s attempts — there were several — to get Zuck riled up about the Facebook versus Google competition; or in my opinion, lack thereof.

    Have you ever noticed how we will look at situations and consumer behavior in completely unrealistic ways in order to try and make it measurable? PR and marketing were built on this phenomenon. How else do you explain guaranteed impressions and multipliers validated by the ridiculous misconception that everyone who gets a newspaper must read it from front to back?

    Earlier this year, Convio came out with a research study on how different generations engage with nonprofit organizations and donate. Side note: It’s a great study and you should really take a deep dive when you get the chance. But I bring the study up because it made one point loud and clear to me over all others — people do not have a channel-agnostic experience when they interact with each other or an organization. It would make it a ton easier of they did. And it would have been easier for Dylan if he didn’t get accused of cheating on the SATs the first time he took them. But often times the situation we hope for is not the reality we deal with, no matter how badly we want to shove a round peg in a square hole.

    Here’s how the revelation played out from Convio’s perspective. One of the main findings they came away with was that a person may see an ad about cause on TV, read a direct mail piece that points him/her to the organization’s Facebook page, where he/she may see several 3rd-party endorsements of the organization or stories about how it helped people in need. All three (and in many cases more) of these channels may finally lead the person to mail in a check to the organization. So when that’s all said and done…which channel gets the conversion credit? Because we have to attribute the donation to one channel so we can measure the channels against each other, right? Wrong. Or better yet, unrealistic. We’ll talk about why in a second.

    So back to 60 Minutes. Lesley Stahl really wanted Zuckerberg to say that Facebook is going head to head versus Google and trying to, as I believe she said it, “take over the Web.” And while Zuck was obviously media trained, I thought his answer to this question just showed that he understands how people use the Internet better than Stahl. And he should — he owns Facebook and I would venture to guess she doesn’t even have a profile. That guess comes not from her age, but from how she talked about Facebook in the interview.

    Anyway, Zuck said that Facebook isn’t competing against Google and that they want to create products that work with a lot of different technologies. And in my opinion, that makes the most sense. No one company is going to take over the Web. It’s too big, for one thing. But the more significant reason is that people don’t use the Web in a channel agnostic way. Find me someone who only uses Facebook or Google or Twitter or any one site or channel on the Web and I’ll give them my last year’s salary. The more likely scenario is that people will continue to use some of the new products Facebook offers, while also using Gmail, IM, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, work e-mail and more.

    Have you ever had a conversation with somebody using e-mail, IM and a social network? I see it, and do it, all the time. And while Stahl and others in our profession would like to pick a clear cut winner because we’re a capitalist society, survival of the fittest and all that, I’m hear to tell you that Facebook and Google can exist just fine on the same Interwebs (had to get that word in there). I’m not saying there may not be some competition between the two. But I am saying that the consumer — who we should all really be focusing on — doesn’t really care. He/she just wants to communicate with his/her friends, organizations, media, etc. in the easiest way possible.

    Zuckerberg obviously understands that’s how people use the Web. He wants Facebook to be as many places as possible, but he’s also realistic. I’d challenge all of us PR and marketing pros to be realistic as well and counsel our clients to see the whole picture. Technology, the Internet, yada yada is changing. May sound cliche, but we can’t look at it and measure it the same ways we always have. People don’t live life in a bubble and they don’t either turn in the 6 o’clock news, flip on the  radio or read it in the paper next day. 60 Minutes should really recognize that. After all, that was the most interesting part of the interview. The fact that Facebook’s 26-year-old CEO doesn’t think he has to take down Google because he understands how people use the Internet. Isn’t that why he’s been so successful?

    Topics: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Relationships and key messages like oil and water

    By Justin Goldsborough | November 30, 2010

    Oil and water

    Donna and Dylan. Dawson and Joey. Meredith and McSteamboaty — you know, the dude from Can’t Buy me Love. What do they all have in common? Besides making for some really poor yet really awesome TV shows over the past few years? They all had relationships that failed at one time or another because of lack of communication. And because it was in the script. But stick with me on the S.S. Analogy for a second here.

    Relationships fail all the time because people don’t listen and don’t talk to each other. And when they do, they don’t really say what’s on their mind. They say what they think they want to hear. Or worse, what they think they need to say. And when they say it, they know it’s a bunch of crap. But they say it anyway. Why else would Dylan tell Brenda he didn’t care if she went to Paris?

    The majority of companies that are struggling to foster engagement via social media these days aren’t really talking to their consumers. They’re talking at them. There’s a big difference. As PR/Marketing pros, we’re taught to think in key messages. We’re taught to write key messages for clients. And even in today’s social media world there is value in those key messages. Except when we decide to bring them into our social networks. Because here’s a hint I feel like I’ve shared 1,000 times but can’t say enough — people do not talk in key messages.

    Remember that bunch of crap we talked about earlier? You know, like the line Joey gave Dawson when she really wanted to be with Pacey (you are either very impressed or shaking your head at my knowledge of pop culture TV at this point :) ).  When brands post key messages — broadcast marketing messages — via social networks, your consumers see it as a bunch of crap. People don’t comment on crap, they don’t like crap and they definitely don’t share crap. So all kidding aside, it’s really important not to just fire off a Facebook post or tweet so you can cross it off your checklist. Think about what you are saying and how you’d react as a consumer.

    There was a great article in Ad Age this week about how random, off-topic posts can be the best route for brands when they’re looking to build relationships. My favorite example from that story was when Blackberry shared a Facebook post on May 4, National Star Wars Day. The post read simply: “May the 4th be with you.” Brian Wallace, BB VP-Global Digital recalled being asked why his company would share that type of a an off-topic post on Facebook.

    His answer: “My response was that this post reached over 150,000 people, 98 percent of the posts were positive, most tweets made a positive association with our brand, and it drove a 15 percent increase in our followers. Now what’s the value of all that to our company?”

    True, one post or comment doesn’t make or break a relationship. But the Star Wars post by Blackberry shows that they understand a couple of things the majority of companies are having a hard time getting through their heads:

    The flip side of the relationship building coin is that it isn’t easy. You don’t change a company’s PR and Marketing culture overnight. It takes patience, education and some trial by fire. So don’t try to do everything all at once. But do try infusing some real conversation into your social network posts. Really listen to people and provide them a chance to talk to others through conversations started by your brand. And don’t just post key message crap to check it off your list. That doesn’t help anybody.

    I’d love to end with an obscure reference to a Grey’s Anatomy episode, but sadly, I don’t really watch the show that much. I know, shame on me. Maybe I should start. Might give me something to suggest our clients post about on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

    Topics: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    HAPPO is a chance to put yourself out there

    By Justin Goldsborough | November 28, 2010

    happo_supporter_1501

    Note: HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out) is an online community started by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon. It’s members strive to help PR pros who are looking for jobs connect with organizations looking to hire in order to identify potential opportunities for both sides. I am the HAPPO regional champion for Kansas City. The next HAPPO online event is Dec. 8. Follow the #happo hashtag on Twitter for more details and to get involved.

    Looking for a job is hard work. Frustrating, embarrassing, lonely are all words I’ve used of heard others use to describe the process. Frustrating, because you don’t know where to start. Embarrassing, because it’s takes so long. Lonely, because it seems like you have to do it all by yourself and you’re the only one looking, while your friends all have jobs.

    I experienced all three of these emotions and more as a grad student at Northwestern in 2003 trying to find my first job out of high school. I wanted to find the job all by myself. I researched the opportunities myself, wrote the cover letters myself, updated my resume myself, put together the clip packets myself, reviewed all the materials myself. I didn’t reach out to friends, family, my adviser, even the placement office. Pretty impressive, huh?

    Try pretty stupid. I felt lost throughout the entire process and was frustrated that I was lost. I was about to graduate with a masters of journalism degree, shouldn’t I know how to go about getting an entry level journalism or PR job? Now I know the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.” But back then, I just kept blindly applying for jobs, often with mistakes in my cover letters, resumes or clips because I’d been the only one to review them. Talk about embarrassing. How about sending a cover letter to The Kansas City Star and realizing you forgot to capitalize the word Star. Something a second pair of eyes would have undoubtedly caught. And that’s just one example.

    But by far, without a doubt, the worst part of my grad school job search was trying to go through it alone. Especially because I didn’t have to. Northwestern had and still has a myriad of placement office resources. My friends would have been more than willing to help. I could have called up any colleagues from my Sprint internships, especially the ones I knew from IABC, and they would have lent a hand. And my family would have done whatever they could, even if that was just serving as my much-needed second set of eyes.

    I know all that now. But I was bound and determined to do it all myself, no matter how lonely I felt while doing it. Asking for help would be a sign that I couldn’t do it myself and I didn’t want to bother anyone. Everyone was so busy. It wasn’t until a year later — when I was offered a PR job at Sprint back in Kansas City only to have it frozen after I moved home — that I started asking for help and seeing the returns. I went to an IABC job fair for undergrads, despite being embarrassed to attend it since I was already in the “working world,” and made a ton of new connections. I did informational interviews and met people that way. And my then-girlfriend, now wife Maggie even offered her creative eye to help me build a more professional-looking portfolio.

    I share this story because, as cliche as it may sound, after I got my first KC job doing internal communications at Applebee’s, I vowed to help others avoid the same mistakes I made. That’s why I was so attracted to HAPPO (Help A PR Pro Out) when my friends Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon started it earlier this year. They took something they were passionate about, something we all have to go through, and created community around it. By putting themselves out there, they made it easier for PR pros looking for a first job, or new job, to put themselves out there as well and come together with folks who had raised their hands and offered to help.

    The #happo tweets started on an event basis. As KC regional champion for HAPPO, I was honored to be a part of what I thought was a campaign with a stop and an end. But instead, what I was lucky enough to become part of was something we  counsel our clients at FH to strive for in their consumer outreach – a passionate community advocating on behalf of a brand and advocating to help others.

    I had plenty of outlets to ask for help when I was in grad school. Plenty of outlets I ignored. But I never had a group of people like the HAPPO community willing to partner with me in my search to find a job. If you are a PR pro out there who’s looking for a new opportunity, don’t make the same mistake I did. And if you already have a a job you love, join the HAPPO community and help someone else who’s in that position we have all been in at some point.

    The next online HAPPO event is Dec. 8 on Twitter. And we are working to set up offline community events to follow. Follow the #happo hastag on Twitter to get the details on Dec. 8 and to start networking now. What you’ll find is a group of people who are willing to help those PR pros out there who are feeling frustrated, embarrassed and lonely in their search for a job they like that can help put food on the table, provide health care benefits and take care of all those things we’ve all worried about when we were unemployed.

    Above all else, since I’ve started networking through social media, I’ve been amazed by how willing people are to help others out — people they’ve never even met F2F. Whether you need that help or you can provide it, HAPPO is the community for you. See you there :) .

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    Communicating for faith or financial gain, it’s all about community

    By Justin Goldsborough | November 22, 2010

    prayers blog

    Photo courtesy of reverendfun.com

    Last week at our Kansas City IABC lunch, we covered a topic we haven’t ever covered before — communicating and marketing faith. I had no idea what to expect from this panel. To tell you the truth, conversations about religion usually turn me off because like conversations about politics these days, they tend to be so polarizing you never have an actual discussion.

    That said, after making the obligatory “a priest and a rabbi walk into an IABC lunch” joke, I decided to check it out. And what I found was a conversation centered a lot less on religion and a lot more around building community, something for which I have a strong passion.

    The panel had representatives of the Catholic, Methodist, Jewish and Muslim faiths and all three made similar points on what brings people together throughout the conversation. Whether these folks are trying to get people to come to church, temple or the community center, the best way to get them there is to get their friends there. Providing an opportunity for social interaction and as a result, an opportunity to learn about religion with some of the people you are closest to.

    If you think about it, this is a case study every communicator can learn from. Our Fleishman-Hillard moms practice group recently partnered with Harrison Research to conduct a 3-wave study of moms and their online behaviors. One of the most interesting learnings from the study is that moms are seeking a social interaction while in a social network like Facebook. They do not want to be marketed to. But what they do respond to is a brand that facilitates a social experience with an opportunity to discuss or learn about topics of interest to them. Sounds an awful lot like the strategy the religion panel said they were using.

    The panel gave a couple of specific examples of how they are using social media — online and offline — to build their communities. The Muslim representative, Mustafa Hussein, spoke about how the local community center serves as an opportunity to bring kids together to play basketball, video games, etc. And then while they are there hanging out with friends, the opportunity to discuss religion presents itself as well and the kids are often more open to the conversation.

    By the same token, the Jewish representative, Ruth Baum Bigus, said she isn’t yet convinced that a religious organizations using Facebook or another social network to post key messages is that valuable. But she does believe in the value of a person sharing the opportunity to worship or come together for a community event with his/her friends through social media. And Peter Metz from United Methodist Church of the Resurrection agreed: “We know an ask from a friend gets people to church. Our role is to facilitate that behavior.”

    Attention corporate America: If God can’t successfully broadcast market to people through social media, then who can? Certainly not a consumer brand trying to sell me on key messages I don’t pay homage to daily, weekly, etc. in a community setting with my friends and family. There’s no guilt if I don’t buy your car, deodorant or pizza. I don’t have to go to your restaurant on Sundays :) .

    I’m not sure what I expected from this panel, but what I got was validation that no matter what brand you work for and what audience you are communicating to, people want community. The research shows it. And if you run the self test, I bet you’ll see it as well. What “messaging” do you respond to most. Probably doesn’t come as a shocker, but I bet it’s from your friends and family, whether it’s Chinese food, cars or going to church.

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    How much time and money should companies devote to social media?

    By Justin Goldsborough | November 16, 2010

    Time is money

    Photo courtesy of Dmitry Stankevich

    Have you ever been asked this question before by a client? For me, it’s got to be in the top 5 questions I hear when counseling clients on digital and social media strategy. And there’s a reason for that – it’s a good question. After all, when you’re asking someone to change how they do their job, or a company to change their culture, shouldn’t we as consultants be able to provide a roadmap to help our clients make that change as efficiently as possible?

    The truth is, it’s not an exact science. Not even close. Listening begets more listening, engagement more engagement. The more time and effort you put into interacting with your target audiences via social media, the more you’re likely to get out of it.

    I believe in this POV and it sounds great on the surface, but just leaving it at this high of a level isn’t really applicable. Walk into any meeting with a client, present them a PR plan and leave out the LOE (level of effort) and one thing is for sure – you’re not leaving with a signed contract. Leadership anywhere is accountable for budgets and personnel. Decisions in these two arenas aren’t taken lightly. When it comes down to it, they have to be backed up with numbers and not just high-level rhetoric.

    So back to the original question. How should you respond? Well, I don’t have a silver bullet answer. But I can share the approach I’ve taken before:

    1. Start by identifying your client’s goals. Is social media going to help you reach them?
    2. If the answer to number one is yes, employ listening, engagement, etc. through social media as one of your strategies and be ready to back up why it makes sense.
    3. Calculate the number of hours you and the client need to spend using social media per week to achieve your measurable objectives. If you don’t know, make an educated guess. Create a starting point you can benchmark from.
      • Note: This is likely the point your client may have been at when they asked you the question originally.
    4. Explain to your client that this isn’t a one-and-done process. Ask permission to revisit your social media LOE quarterly.
    5. Sit down with your client contact and the community manager (person participating in social media on the brand’s behalf) – if they are a different person – to discuss the preset amount of time and effort allotted to this channel.
    6. Ask smart questions and go in knowing you may not get it right the first, second or third time. The answer to the question may change as the brand evolves in the space. Here are some questions to consider:
      • Let’s say you started with 10 hours a week. Is that enough?
      • Can one person do this job alone?
      • Do you have enough time to devote the 10 hours to social media? Or do you need something taken off your plate?
      • Are we missing out on opportunities for our brand by not listening, engaging more?
      • Is our social media approach more valuable to the brand than something else you are currently devoting time to? Is this a better way to do your job?
    7. Lastly, make sure you are using some type of monitoring tool (e.g. Radian6). One person, or even a few people, alone can’t catch all the opportunities for your brand. A listening tool will help you assess what else is out there and your overall share of voice and opportunity in the online space.

    So, it’s not a perfect answer, but it’s a starting point. Trying to answer this question is a natural step along the culture change journey. Don’t get discouraged. It’s a good question. Just make sure you have a good answer when your clients ask it. Because they will ask it.

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    My Veterans Day thank you: A story from dad

    By Justin Goldsborough | November 11, 2010

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    Happy Veterans Day! Thank you so much to everyone who posted a thank you note to military families on the VFW Foundation wall today. Remember, #returnthefavor and #whywecelebrate are continuing to partner throughout November to thank troops and veterans. Please help us reach 1,100 thank you notes this month!

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    Listen to your clients

    By Justin Goldsborough | November 8, 2010

    Listen

    (Photo from Flickr courtesy of Karith)

    The title of this post sounds like a topic for a Communications 101 freshman seminar. But please give it a second thought before dismissing it. And while you’re thinking, let me ask you one question to consider — Do you always bring your clients what they ask you for? (I know, dangling participle. My bad).

    I’d love to sit here and say my answer to that question is yes. But I’d be lying. I know there have been times where the client asked for a specific type of plan or tactic and I/our team has come back with an answer to the specific question as well as a few additional ideas we think might benefit the company with which we’re working.

    There’s no deceit there. Intentions are good. We’re always trying to help the client. Plus, we’re a business and we’re looking to sell in new ideas. If you do the same thing, no one should begrudge that. It’s smart business. And like our clients, we all need to make money.

    So I’ve said doing more than the client asks is bad and then I’ve said it’s good business. Confused yet? Which is it? Well, it’s both. And the key to knowing which side your on is listening to your clients. Let me share a story to help you understand what I mean.

    Recently, one of our clients asked us for a traditional media plan. We met as a team, brainstormed like we always do and put together a full-integrated, strategic communication plan for the year. It was a smart plan. It laddered up to the client’s overall goals and objectives. But it wasn’t specifically what they asked for.

    See, the client works with a few other agencies and they had a certain specialization in mind for us. Furthermore, they wanted us to work together with their other agencies to do what’s best for the client brand. Really, that’s not too much to ask, is it? Sure, we’d love to partner with clients on an IMC approach every time and manage all pieces of that plan, online and offline. An integrated and strategic approach is our philosophy and managing all parts of a campaign makes it easier to execute. But again, that’s not what the client asked us to do.

    So how would you handle this type of a situation? As worried as I was about the potential of presenting a plan much bigger and broader than what was requested, I was equally in agreement with the approach our leadership decided to embrace — we initially shared the plan the client asked for, but brought the larger plan with us. Once we’d discussed and received buy in on the initial ideas, we offered to share the bigger concepts. The client was interested, so we set up a follow-up meeting to review the rest. And in the end, we’ re fortunate enough to be working with the client again next year, mostly in the areas they had initially requested. But I do wonder if things would have turned out the same way had we initially rolled out all the bells and whistles above and beyond their ask.

    As a PR pro, no matter what size of agency you’re with, you’re a business person and you want to bring in clients and drive sales. I understand that. Furthermore, a lot of us out there are overachievers. That’s not a bad thing. We go above and beyond trying to provide our clients the best possible strategy and solutions. All good things.

    Just make sure that when you go above and beyond, it isn’t at the expense of your client relationships. Read and communicate with your clients like you would your friends and family. And don’t bring a Mercedes to somebody who asked to borrow your bicycle, unless bring the bicycle too.  Remember, clients may request specific solutions for a lot of different reasons. They may ask you to work with different agencies because of some inside baseball about which you have no knowledge. It’s called client service for a reason — because we’re supposed to provide services to our clients and give them whatever pieces they need to complete the overall puzzle that leads to success for their business.

    It’s not about you, me or us. It’s about them. Sounds simple, right. Well, it can be…if we just listen.

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