Own Your Media…

The more groups I work with…the more I realize organizations struggle with one concept, taking ownership of their media. Take control of their message and the media created to communicate their message. What do I define as media? I consider media as any digital media assets used to communicate an organization’s message.

More and more organizations continue to spend lots of time and resources finding ways to attract mainstream media outlets to communicate their message. Why…why must we completely depend on mainstream media to distribute our message?

Now…this is not a post to discount the engagement and strategy of mainstream media in PR/communication initiatives. But, given the access to digital communication tools, we can build community around our message using digital/social tools.

So what do I think organizations should consider when managing their media?

1) Bring your communications and new media strategies in-house and use them to communication rapidly and efficiently.

2) Build a new media/social media team from across the organization to capture, create, and distribute the message(s).

3) Build a mothership or home base to direct all web traffic for each communication initiatives.

4) Identify communication channels that engage the target audience.

5) Utilize high-impact, SEO rich social outlets to gain digital traction. These include YouTube, Twitter, blogs, and email newsletters.

6) Track your results.

This is a simplistic look at a big initiative, implementing takes a more detailed approach…but this is a high-level overview that prompts discussion.

As a former journalist who has worked for both small and large traditional media outlets in both general news and investigative news teams…times are changing. As mainstream media outlets are downsizing…the competition is higher for space in traditional media spaces. Less staff to not only cover current assignments but also distribute this content on traditional platforms but new media platforms as well. This marginalizes coverage of your organizations “news” items which now could be deemed as “non-news.”

With the convergence of how traditional media outlets are integrating new media/social media strategies into their content distribution, web traffic is key to their success. So, when organizations depend on their “exposure” with news media outlets posting content online on their online news channels, that is less traffic we can leverage for our own organization’s benefit.

I hear over and over, why can’t we get the media to come to our event? Why can’t we get the media to write a story about our announcement.

Why do we continue to think that the media not only cares about our stories, but has the resources and space in their broadcast properties for our stories?

So…why not just take control of our message. Why not create and manage our own messages and leverage online tools to build our own communities. Why…because many of us are still treating new/social media like traditional marketing/pr initiatives. We hire outside agencies and outside groups to manage our content. We not only need to bring the messaging strategy in-house but the media strategy in-house as well.

This takes commitment from top down in your organization. It takes resources and it takes a shift in thinking. It also takes time to implement and successfully show a trend in success. What you will find is that you now not only own the process of creating and distribution, your content; but now the traditional media outlets use your online tools as ways to learn about your organization.

Why not build a community around your organizations digital properties as opposed to depending on the news media outlet’s fragmented audiences. Yes…there is tremendous value engaging traditional news media in your strategy, but they should work in parallel with your efforts.

Let’s just call it what it is…having a traditional new media outlet write or produce content about our organization is credibility. But let’s leave just at that…adding credibility to the message. But, let’s not depend on these same outlets become the main source of audience traffic to our message.

I will leave you with a prime example of this strategy, South Carolina Hospital Association. This organization had numerous web properties that fragmented their branded message. They were also working extremely hard to gain news media coverage for the numerous advocacy initiatives they represent. They built an online media strategy that included one large web portal which included social initiatives like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and regular email blasts. The communication section of their web property provides a one stop shop to read, watch, and listed to the life of the organization. They now own their media content and funnel the information through their communication section of their website, driving traffic via distribution channels back to this area of the website. This is ultimately tracking success during campaign cycles.

“Own” your media…

* Image is from SomeEcards.com

Is crowdfunding a social game changer for entrepreneurs & small businesses?

If you are a small entrepreneurial business or organization, you know you have had to keep a tight lip when raising equity. Specifically, you have had to remove any conversation of raising money in your social/digital spaces, especially when comes to soliciting funds. This makes it extremely hard for organizations that are trying to grow their business, restricting them from talking about a major focus of the organization.

For the last year, I have been working with Serrus Capital Partners with their digital/social efforts. Serrus is real estate investment firm not only raising capital for specific funds but using those funds to purchase distressed properties as investment properties. These properties are then refurbished, revitalized, and given a tremendous facelift and structure upgrade. They have to raise capital to fullfil their business model, yet cannot “talk” or solicit online via social outlets. This would be securities violation and ultimately breaking the law.

Our blogging and social efforts have been focused solely on raising awareness. The blog has been focused on topics like leadership and entrepreneurship. Video content has been created for YouTube to share the mission of the organization and communicating goodwill. Twitter and Facebook are used as channels to share this content. We have been telling stories of people that have been helped with affordable housing, contractors who have been put back to work, and communities/sub-divisions that now have properties that meet or exceed the surrounding property values.

We cannot talk about money. We cannot mention investing in the fund. We cannot share financial information unless numerous attorneys scrub through the content. Sometimes this content that was time specific misses window(s) of opportunity.

So, what is crowdfunding. The Portland Business Journal just released an article about this topic:

“With ‘crowd funding,’ startups would be able to more easily seek equity investors in places like Facebook. And most of the people, believes the real advantage comes in the freedom to use social media to attract investment. The beauty of crowd funding is it can provide you with a very diverse and passionate group of funders who are putting money into your company because they truly believe in what you’re doing and support you even though they’re not accredited investors. “

Kent Hoover, Washington Bureau Chief of The Business Journal, writes this past March:

“The legislation will enable small businesses to use the Internet to raise up to $1 million in small investments from lots of people, a technique known as crowdfunding. It also will encourage more companies to go public by exempting them from some Securities and Exchange Commission regulations in the first five years after an initial public offering.”

The article also stated, “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the legislation ‘will increase capital formation and pave the way for more small-scale businesses to go public and create jobs.'”

Basically, “The new law would largely lift those barriers, allowing companies to raise up to $1 million in equity capital from an unlimited number of investors, while allowing the offering to be marketed widely, including on social networks or crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter.”

Many individuals in small business or entrepreneurial communities leverage their online communities to build their contact lists, communicate, market products or services, or connect with new business opportunities. Many of these individuals have built large online communities yet cannot leverage the technology to share their passion, especially when it comes to raising funds.

On April 5, 2012…President Obama signed the Jobs Act which included “Crowdfunding” in the bill. Mashable.com reports “The bill classifies startups as ’emerging growth companies’ that can turn to online investors to raise much-sought-after startup capital — similar to how websites such as Kickstarter let users raise money for films, books or other projects.”

It was also reported in this Mashable.com article, “In the amended bill, the Senate gave the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 270 days to interpret and issue the rules for the public. That means potential investors may have to wait until 2013 before it’s legal to make an investment. In the meantime, there are a few things they should consider.

In about 90 days the Access to Capital for Jobs Creators Act should go into effect, allowing companies to tell the public that they are raising capital. In the past, this type of solicitation was illegal and could exempt the company from raising money privately. Now, startups should be able to solicit their deal, which could mean that more investors will be able to hear about it.”

This is a game changer for many organizations in how they can communicate when raising capital. “The caveat is that only accredited investors can participate in those deals where the company is soliciting. In other words, this will only apply to investors who fall into the following categories.

1) Your net worth is more than $1 million, excluding your home
2) You have $200,000 in new income for the last two years and a reasonable expectation to make $200,000 in the current year
3) You have $300,000 in household income for the last two years and a reasonable expectation to make $300,000 in the current year.”

Now, how will this effect groups like Serrus? Not sure yet, we are in the middle of that period when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has 270 days to interpret. At the same time, many organizations are engaging their legal counsel to see how it will impact their current solicitation models. From a social/digital perspective…the needle is moving.

So how do you plan over the next 270 days in anticipation of the new rules and regulations, it is the time to continue to build your online communities?

Articles used in this blog post:

Portland Business Journal: “With crowd funding, social media becomes a powerful tool
The Business Journals: “House sends JOBS Act to president
Mashable.com: “Crowdfunding: What it Means for Investors
Mashable.com: “Obama Signs ‘Game-Changing,’ Crowd-Funding JOBS Act

***Image from Mashable.com’s “Obama Signs ‘Game-Changing,’ Crowd-Funding JOBS Act

finding your voice…just blast the music

Finding your voice is one the hardest things to do in the world of the creative. Finding the point where we place language with passion. Giving words to your passion is sometimes just plain hard to do.

I have found myself in the middle of a creative conundrum so many times…a great idea comes to mind, but when it is time to articulate…BLAH. So many times we find that thin place where we are completely connected to our ideas yet we have no words, no way to articulate.

Sometimes we use visuals, pictures, video, and even sound to articulate our passions…but sometimes we must find the connection to our internal discourse. So how do we find the voice?

I have always stepped back and taken part in answering three questions:

1) Who is our audience? Who are we trying to communicate and reach?

2) What is our purpose? Why are we trying to communicate this message? Why do we want to spend the time and energy to achieve this goal?

3) How are we going to deliver this message? Are we going to use words, visuals, sounds to reach our audience?

This helps me frame my  thoughts. This helps me bring context to my mission.

Then…I free write. Yes…I do a brain dump by writing until I cannot write anymore.  We should not deny our creative impulses and allow our ourselves to freely share our deepest passions.

When I am deep in a creative desert, one that feels like it is hard to find my way to water…I use music to inspire. I grab my keys, jump in the car, roll down the windows, and blast my favorite songs. I sing as loud as possible and use this time to purge all my predispositions. Sometimes that is all I need, to purge what is clouding my judgement.

Finding your voice can be hard sometimes…but sometimes we have to be willing to get away from what makes us comfortable and allow the creative juices to flow.

Connecting People is Fun!

Connecting People is Fun!, originally uploaded by bobbyrettew.

GHS and Clemson students collaborating on project! Robin Stelling and Kayce LeNeave of Greenville Hospital System and Brooke Carson, Jennifer Eckart, and Hannah Swank of Clemson University worked together to create a social media marketing plan for GoHuntScan, a Greenville Hospital System project. The three students won a competition for best social media marketing plan and as a part of the reward, they enjoyed a lunch at the Lazy Goat networking.

Ethics Discussion: Is it News, Journalism, or Traffic Drivers … The Social Trap

The debate is heated and has been heated for years…how does the social space play inside the journalistic space. This morning the above status updated came across my newsfeed inside Facebook. So here is the story or “news” that was reported via WYFF.com:

“Deputies say a security officer inside the store noticed Ariail trying to leave the store without paying for items. Some of the items included a youth cup, Pokémon cards, a box of hair color and two bottles of wart remover.”

I immediately began to question why is this “news” and why this story warrants this report on Facebook? Gigaom.com posted an article surrounding this issue “So can we stop talking about bloggers vs. journalists now?” In this article they look about HuffingtonPost.com, who just received a Pulitzer Prize, they look at how this “social outlet” created it’s broad reach.

“Did the Huffington Post leverage its web speed and broad reach, including traffic-driving features such as slideshows of swimsuit models and aggregated posts based on stories written by other media outlets, to build the foundation that allowed it to add those traditional journalistic elements? Of course it did, just as many newspapers have. In fact, the history of newspapering — and particularly pioneers like William Randolph Hearst — reads a lot like the rise of the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and other entities, except with paper instead of bits.”

So is the Facebook status update from WYFF.com “news” or even “journalism”? Or is just content provided to merely drive traffic? And does this have a place in the journalistic space?

So back to my original thought…when I first noticed the status update, I was honestly sad for the woman. I immediately assumed she was a mother who was probably trying to find a toy for her child and another few items, and did not have the funds to pay for the items. I had many questions, areas where I would want to research to find more answers.

1) Is she a mother?
2) Does she have a job?
3) What was her prior arrest?
4) What makes stealing Pokemon cards so compelling?
5) Is she a product of the social/economic time where it is hard to find a job w/o good skills?
6) What are the petty theft rates in South Carolina in the past few years given the recent unemployment rates?
7) What is the larger story?

These questions led me to wonder why WYFF.com feels compelled to update Facebook with something that I feel makes a marginal case as “news” or even “journalism”?

So Let’s define our terms:

1) News:
– Newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events.
– A broadcast or published report of news.

2) Journalism
-The activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.
-The product of such activity.

Ok, based on these definitions from Definitions.com, maybe it can be considered news…but journalism? Let’s see what the University of Missouri’s Journalism School defines as journalism. I found Walter William’s Journalistic Creed:

“I believe that the journalism which succeeds best—and best deserves success—fears God and honors Man; is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power,constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance and, as far as law and honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.”

This definition led me to a a conversation between Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow Mike Fancher and students at the Missouri School of Journalism who tackle this question…they are trying to define the meaning of journalism:

“The concept of “conversation” may be perceived as part of accessibility. You’re no longer “looking down” upon your reader, or your audience, or citizens. You’re collaborating with them in the news process.”

Let’s go back to the Facebook status update, as of 6:30pm on 4/19/12, there were 44 comments. This status update created a conversation between WYFF.com and the “audience.”

MediaBistro.com shares this information:

“According to recent data, newspapers have just a single percentage point lead on social media as a source of reportage, with Facebook (59.5 percent), Twitter (19.9 percent) and YouTube (12.7 percent) leading the charge. Since 2009, traffic to news sites from social media channels has increased dramatically, and some 57 percent of adults who consume news via a digital device predominately use Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, journalism isn’t actually going away – it’s simply the medium that is changing. While social media empowers all of us to be the source, and to break the story, there will always be a high demand for quality reporting. But the way in which we digest that information is rapidly changing – and in this writer’s opinion, very much for the better.”

So are the lines between “old” and “new” media beginning to blur and converge more and more everyday? Social outlets like blogs are playing a huge role in how news outlets are engaging audiences, with more editorialized content.

“And while the Huffington Post has been getting more and more newspaper-like, entities such as the New York Times have been getting more blog-like: the relaunch of the medical section of the paper’s website, called Well, is just the latest in a series of similar relaunches that have turned sections of the NYT into blog-style portals.”

So is this status update news? Based on the definition above…Yes. Is this status update journalism? Some say yes and some say no. I say, where are the journalists at WYFF.com? Why are they not taking this simple status update, one that is being used as traffic drivers for content exploration, and take part in a little “investigative journalism.” Why not dig deeper into this story and use this content driver to a bigger story, the real heart of this story?

Or…should we just accept it at face value. It is not news, not journalism, and media outlets will always integrate content like this to generate clicks, driving traffic to the news they are covering. This type of sensationalized content is at the heart of the social metric of major news outlets. Because clicks leads to ad revenues.

So…let’s just accept in the journalistic space, there is a business side to the purest approach of reporting the news.
Links and referenced articles used in this post:

Wikipedia for Journalism: Definition of Journalism

Walter William’s Journalistic Creed: Reynolds Journalism Institute

Reynolds Journalism Institute: “So you call yourself a journalist.” What does that mean?

MediaBistro.com: “How Social Media Is Replacing Traditional Journalism As A News Source”

Gigaom.com: “So can we stop talking about bloggers vs. journalists now?”

WYFF.com: “Report: Woman tries to steal Pokemon cards, wart remover”

Pinterest – The Art Deco of the Social Space

We are trying so hard…so hard to find a way to cram all of our short lived pre-conceived notions into this perplexing visual space. Pinterest intrigues us, fascinates us, and allows us to touch the visual cues that we once allowed technology to overshadow.

Have you walked through an art gallery, finding yourself lost in a see of visual stories positioned vertically and horizontally for you to ponder. Have you found yourself in this art gallery stopping to gaze and then find yourself conversing with another on-looker.

What makes us vertically scroll the horizontally decked board of visual cues that we call Pinterest. What makes us stop and look a little longer at someone’s daily art? What makes us want to engage a new set of friends that allow us to connect in a different language.

Pictures have a special place is our visual hearts…to explore, share, and gaze. They allow us to dream, cry, laugh, wonder, and explore just a little bit.

Wikipedia defines art deco:

“At its best, art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity…Although many design movements have political or philosophical beginnings or intentions, art deco was purely decorative.”

Yes…I would have to agree. Now, this is a romantic view of this new social technology…one that has spread across the social space like a fire storm. It has made us wonder why it is now the third largest social network. It has also made us wonder how it creates such rich SEO and digital connection for blogs and online retail outlets. It also makes us wonder if the marketers are going to take the art deco out of the visual exploration.

I don’t know about you, but I have chosen carefully this time. I have chosen which boards to follow, which person to follow, and eagerly un-follow people that do not bring something interesting, innovative, and new to my stream of images.  Pintest has become for me the art deco of the social space. My Pinterest stream is one of “elegance, glamour, functionality, and modernity.”

As I sit in marketing meetings, discussion strategy after strategy how to leverage this explosion of paint and color dominated by female artists…I wonder if Pinterest can be quantified.

Well…this is what I know if we marketers are going to try to figure out this social canvas.

1) Users communicate strictly through visual cues. Yes…we find an image to save or share and we pin it to a board that fits the respective category. From birthday wishes, favorite Porsche’s, most intriguing tattoos, cake decorations, and even decorations for that new room…we have visual categories to segment these images. Each image that inspires us might inspire others to think, ponder, share, re-pin, or even comment. What we might interpret and categorize a 356 Bathtub Porsche as “Vintage Cars”…that image might also be re-pinned and categorized as the “Childhood Memories.” We communicate through visual cues…cues that spark emotion and memories.

2) You cannot use the same social strategy used with other social outlets. Pinterest has another human emotion built upon those visual connections of emotions. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, well each image encompasses those words and releases us from the burden to explain it other than just pinning it.

3) Think visually and imagine how people would share art. If you are really trying to figure out to leverage Pinterest in your social strategy…you have to think beyond the digital connections. You have to think past the how to get people to click and find your contest or campaign. You have to think…what images are going to inspire people to stop and look for just a bit. What will make someone stop scrolling and look at the visual image you posted. What does that image communicate and how will it inspire them to take the next step.

4) Are you marketing or are you inspiring people to think visually. Think of your favorite photos, images, drawings, fonts, colors…what makes you stop and take notice. How can you design visual content so it can be pinned to connect with individuals in a different way. If you are a realtor, why just post pictures of a house…that is why you have MLS and your home website. Why not post pictures of those homes that inspires those buyers to see a residence as his/her residence (well mainly her residence). What visual details about that house will inspire someone to take notice and click. Think…it is more that a shot of the master bedroom or bath, how about shots of fixtures and moldings that represent the construction detail.

Think visually…think about social through the visual lens of an artist sharing his/her favorite artwork. If you are interested in the Psychology of Pinterest, here is an interesting post: http://luckierethinktank.com/2011/12/the-psychology-behind-pinterest/

Fans or Lemmings…and ethics debate on status updates

Do we want fans or lemmings? Do we want to build a community where people follow and do what we tell them or empower them to have a voice of authenticity? Are we encouraging our fans and fan bases to not only drink the kool-aid but to share it as well…and do it in a manner that is not disclosed?

I have been watching numerous social feeds and noticed status updates and posts from individuals that seem to be canned, pre-scripted social updates created by organizations that they follow. What do I mean?

Have you watched your news feed and someone talks about a brand or organization that they are passionate about. You can tell they wrote it because they use their own, personalized vernacular when sharing. Sometimes they provide a link and with this update they might tell a personal story.

Recently I have noticed many individuals posting updates that seemed detached and use a marketing language that leads me to believe organizations are providing pre-scripted status updates for their fans to share as their own updates.

First of all, here are some reasons I have issue and debate this practice:

1) Transparency – Who is this status update coming from…the person or the organization? And if this update is coming from the organization, does the person that copied and pasted the “suggested” status update deem it authentic. Are they disclosing where this update originated?

2) Authenticity –  How do I know that the person truly shares the same opinions as the organization? Copy and pasting suggested status updates in our personal spaces suggests we are acting on behalf of the organization, thus actin in proxy. So who am I talking to if I respond?

3) Disclosure – If  a person is copying and pasting suggested status updates from a branded organization, they should disclose this relationship. It should be stated that this update is “quoted” and that person is acting on behalf of the organization. You can read Part 255.5 of the FTC’s Disclosure of Material Connections by CLICKING HERE.

4) Legitimacy – Is this person who they say they are….or representing an organization in their online social spaces. How do we know if this is a legitimate update from the person or the organization? How do we know if an organization has been using someones’ personal social outlet to share their branded messages? And if an organization is willing to speak via proxy through someone’s personal space, what else are they willing to do to share their message?

For this very reason I am discussing this topic, the people at Facebook and Twitter have made this easy. The organization should update their accounts, then their fans can “ReTweet”, “Share”, or “Like” these updates. This allows the organization to share then the fan re-share with their friends. To me…this is pretty simple. This also allows the fan base to add a personal message with this “ReTweet” or “Share”.

So how do I feel about organizations creating “Like” and “Share” campaigns…I think that is perfectly fine. Organizations are merely trying to solicit their fan base to “Like”, “Share”, and “ReTweet”. Organizations might even ask their fan base to solicit their friends to do the same, but I think the fan base should disclose their relationship to the organization.

I do not think individuals should grant organizations access to their personal, social outlets like Facebook and Twitter to solicit and update their statuses. Facebook and Twitter have both laid out strict rules and regulations on how to use these outlets:

Facebook Rules and Regulations – https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

Twitter Terms of Service – https://twitter.com/tos

Look, I know it is tempting to have a big ole meeting, lunch, dinner, event with your fan base and pass out pre-scripted status updates for an upcoming event. In the world of marketing, sometimes we get to far into the trenches and our ethical scales slip and slide from one side to the next. But sometimes we have to remember we are dealing with real people.

There are some great resources to read and consider when creating social campaigns and how the FTC and leading trade organizations deem this practice:

Here are the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising – CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD PDF.

Here is WOMMA.org’s Ethics Code (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) – CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD PDF.

If you would like to read what predicated this blog post, you can read a discussion that happened on Facebook where me and my friends debated this every issue: CLICK HERE.

***Image is from Bama Escapes…thanks so much!