A sign of the times -- empty newspaper racks. As print media shifts to electronic, more news is distributed on social media. This is why your PR strategy must be integrated with Social Media content strategy and your community building must include reporters, editors, analysts and influencers.

PR is dead — long live social PR

A sign of the times -- empty newspaper racks. As print media shifts to electronic, more news is distributed on social media. This is why your PR strategy must be integrated with Social Media content strategy and your community building must include reporters, editors, analysts and influencers.

A sign of the times — empty newspaper racks. As print media shifts to electronic, more news is distributed on social media. This is why your PR strategy must be integrated with Social Media content strategy and your community building must include reporters and influencers. Photo: Giselle Bisson, http://www.visibilityshift.com

I think that PR and social media are not separate and are in fact, today, the same thing.

I’ve been doing public relations for a long time.  Before that I was a print journalist. And I’ve been using “social media” since the days when we called it a BBS or Usenet groups.

I’ve seen the mass media evolve from narrowcast to broadcast — and then from Compuserve to the WeLL to AOL to Craigslist to Ryze, then Friendster, Myspace, Tribe, blogging and today, Facebook and Twitter.

None of this is new. It’s all just a chat room. It’s all just community.

But what has changed, dramatically, is how we influence other influencers.

I call this “Social PR.” And it is why I believe that any marketing plan that separates PR from social media is destined to fail.

You cannot separate “PR” and “Social Media.” They must be on the same page. The strategy must be interwoven.

Your teams need to talk to each other. Your marketing strategy must be a social marketing strategy. Your PR strategy must be a Social Media strategy. You must evolve from the 1990s idea that the “press release” or “talking to the media” is any different than “talking to your customer”.

You must take social media seriously as the front line of your brand, pay attention to it, and stop posting lame, idiotic, poorly written, typo-riddled, boring dreck.

Do you hear me?

If you think you can outsource social media to India or hire interns, your entire business is at risk.

Social media is the front like of your brand!

Today, a single Facebook post can easily reach 1 million people. That’s more than the circulation of most daily newspapers.

Why is Facebook worth billions — and newspapers are dying?

Because a Facebook ad can reach more customers for $5 than any other form of marketing ever devised in the history of mankind.

But you’re blowing thousands of dollars on print ads?

Social media is marketing + branding + advertising + PR + analyst relations + investor relations + customer service rolled into one.

And you’re outsourcing that to the cheapest possible, lowest level employee you can find?

Good luck with that.

Today you talk to all of your audiences at the same time.  This is a new era of transparency.

You used to need to own a TV network to have influence. Today, a kid in their bedroom could have more viewers on YouTube than Oprah.

A musician or DJ who happens to have 100,000 fans or friends could be much more influential than a columnist or a journalist. (Many magazines don’t even reach 100,000 subscribers.)

Get rid of that 1990s idea that a newspaper article is more influential than a Tweet.

Have you ridden the bus lately?

Do you see anyone reading a print publication?

Morning commute in San Francisco on the MUNI train, 2014. Do you see anyone reading a newspaper? Most of these people are probably reading Twitter and Facebook.

Morning commute in San Francisco on the MUNI train, 2014. Do you see anyone reading a newspaper? Most of these people are probably reading Twitter and Facebook.

So why on earth do you think spending $20,000 a month on a public relations agency and zero on your social media strategy is a good idea?

You need to start taking Social Media seriously as the front line of your communications strategy. It’s not an afterthought to be delegated to Interns, your receptionist, or “maybe I’ll get to it later”. Social media is the front line of your brand.

Social media is where you get to tell your own story. Where you generate your own news. Where you build relationships with the media. And where you let your customers know about your press coverage.

Social PR blends traditional mainstream print/TV/radio news media Press Relations with “content marketing”. (That’s a fancy word for: “photos with words on them.”

To do viral content marketing effectively, your messages must be created specifically to reach influencers who spread the word further.

This also means, simply, that your “friends” on your social network also happen to be reporters, freelance writers, columnists and editors and they “discover” the story ideas you share on their news feed. (This is kind of like sending out a press release only much faster.)

These days, instead of relying mainly on email pitching and press releases to announce news, I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to build relationships with press and influencers.

Try following and befriending every member of the media or influencer crucial for your product. You’ll be surprised how many follow you back.

They spread the word for you to their networks, which include their Fan pages, Twitter and the blogs and publications they write for.

Some of them are traditional print or TV press.

Others are simply well connected on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — but have influence equivalent to or greater than that of traditional media.

Try discovering who among your followers and friends spreads the word most frequently. Reward them. Thank them. Give them free tickets and favors.  Remember: Social media is the new PR.

Over time, you create authentic, engaged communities who will be advocates of your brand. Who tell your story. Who spread the word for you.

I believe in telling a story so compelling that reporters think they discovered it on their own and the press call you.  The best press coverage always happens this way — pull not push.

How will your message communicate on a teeny tiny screen?

It’s time to Zen your brand: The new Apple iWatch shrinks your social media content strategy.

How will your message communicate on a teeny tiny screen?

How will your message, logo, photo and brand communicate on an ever-shrinking, teeny tiny screen?

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

E.F. Schumacher, “Small is Beautiful.”
A responsive website template can shrink and expand, yet the fonts remain legible.

A responsive website template can shrink and expand, yet the fonts remain legible. Don’t force the user to carry a magnifying glass to see your message!

When I was in art school, my teacher, Mr. Nick used to constantly say: “Simple says more.”  That stuck with me my whole life, and it’s my marketing mantra.

I’m constantly reminding my clients to simplify their message and branding and think small.

Now with the new Apple Watch and other smartwatches, social media marketers will need to shrink their messages ever simpler, bolder and smaller. We’re entering the world of the Dick Tracy two-way communicator and our messages will become both tinier — but they will also more aural, sensory and ubiquitous.

The time is now to prepare for wrist-top always-on marketing and Zen your brand so it’s wearable and portable.

1. Your website needs to adjust for multiple screen sizes. (Get rid of that old template and move over right away to a scalable, responsive template that can shrink and expand while keeping the fonts legible and readable.)

2. Scroll vs click. One long scroll is much easier to navigate on a small screen than a site that demands lots of clicks.

3. Can you touch me, can you read me? When the icons shrink down, your customer still needs to be able to touch them. Can they even see the words?

4. From poster to postage stamp. Your event poster needs to be readable on a smartphone–and you need both print and online versions. Get rid of all the small type and create bold, simple graphics.

5. Can your logo shrinky dink? Your logo must pop and stand out when it’s shrunk down to a tiny icon. Redesign and simplify right away.

6. Are you an icon? Your portrait photo should still be recognizable when it’s a 1 x 1 centimeter icon. (Think iconic — a consistent photo, consistent hair color and style and a consistent and memorable personal brand.)

7. Abolish serif fonts! Your content should have large, sans serif, bold type that’s easy to read when you shrink it to a cellphone screen.

8. Write in soundbites. Your Facebook posts should be Twitter sized — or even smaller.

9. Don’t annoy people with beeps and music. With notification messaging instantly available on a user’s wrist, they will see them far more often. Marketers need to be cautious about annoying the user with beeps and blips or especially websites with annoying music.

But what do we do when it all shrinks down to the postage stamp-sized screen of a smart watch in 2015? Now is the time to prepare for the ever shrinking, ever mobile world that your message will be seen in. No longer on a desk in a business setting — but possibly anytime, anywhere.

Jumping into video editing with Animoto

Getting my toes wet in video editing with Animoto and YouTube

Getting my toes wet in video editing with Animoto and YouTube — it was time consuming, but the results were worth it.  Photo above: Tony Bisson, http://www.bissonphotography.com

I took the plunge into video shooting and editing with Animoto and a Canon DSLR camera. Here’s my experience and how you can get professional caliber video for your business on a shoestring.

Video is de rigeur for social media these days. You need video to convert those customers you send to your website with Facebook. You also need it to tell a story that can’t be told in still photos.

For my longtime client RiverGuidess Adventures, a pioneer in the “transformational river rafting” retreat, we’d been struggling for years to convey the magic of these events and falling short.  These retreats combine dance, yoga, healthy food and rafting in a very upscale and comfortable fantasy estate that is more golf course than wilderness.

Video is the best way to convey the magic of this property, the lavish catered meals and the very special vibe of the heart-opening transformation that happens on these retreats. They appeal to the lucrative and mostly untapped older Baby Boomer market and families with kids — an age group often ignored by events of this nature that tend to market only to younger Millennials.

The trips fit into a new category called: "Summer camp for grownups," or "Transformational micro festivals." It's an ever-competitive market with so many competing dance, yoga and festival retreats vying for people who can afford a $500 weekend.

The trips fit into a new category called: “Summer camp for grownups,” or “Transformational micro festivals.” It’s an ever-competitive market with so many competing dance, yoga and festival retreats vying for people who can afford a $500 weekend.

The retreats are pricey – $580 for a long weekend. To convey this value, and help transform the image from “hippie” to upscale, we have been sending pro photographers to each trip.

But every time, something was missing. Each photographer had a different artistic and personal vision of the experience that was not always compatible with our marketing goal — to attract the affluent “transformational” consumer and shift our appeal to a slightly younger demographic.

After struggling to direct outsiders to give me the results I wanted — I finally caved in and learned how to shoot and edit video myself.

I used a Canon DSLR  camera ($299 on sale at BestBuy) and a high speed 64 GB card ($200) to shoot  the video. Then I blended it with photos shot by four different professional wedding and event photographers plus a few images I shot on Instagram with an iPad.

I edited the photos in iPhoto and then imported the video clips and photos into a video editing app called Animoto.

This process took me more than 48 continuous hours — and resulted in 4 minutes and 30 seconds of video. This is about the average for how long it takes to edit video — generally one day per minute of finished video — so keep this in mind if you’re getting your feet wet. It’s time consuming!

The Canon DSLR is known as the camera of choice for Indie film photographers in Hollywood, but I found it clunky and hard to use. It also did not shoot well in low light (unless you add an optional lens.)

The quality of the resulting footage was sometimes very good, though (if I can just learn to hold it still and remove the lens cap!) I still found a DLSR awkward and heavy to hold and will be looking into smaller, lighter cameras in the future.

Animoto is an app that lets you host your images in “the cloud” — this solves one of the critical difficulties with video editing, storing all those huge clips. It also makes it very easy to share the process with the client or a team as the project evolves, and it includes some fantastic ready-made templates. It’s really not more difficult than making a Powerpoint and in some ways easier.  The other beauty of Animoto is that it can time your clips to the beat of the music– generating very professional and engaging results.

We added the royalty free songs from Animoto’s library of 10,000 songs. I did a keyword search for “summer” to find the uplifting song that conveys our “summercamp for grownups” theme.

Taking the plunge on the rope swing. (The woman in this photo is over 50 years old. The client wants to create an experience for older Boomers who want more comfort. We call it “glamping.”)

Taking the plunge into video

Animoto for Business costs $39 per month. (www.animoto.com)

Here’s how the video looks when hosted by Animoto – sharper than You Tube:

Is Facebook fan page advertising useless?

This week, a controversial Gallup poll declared that social media was all but useless, and that nobody was influenced by social media ads and it was all a bunch of hooey.

I was immediately suspicious that results from the Gallup survey were skewed by the print and TV media. Mainstream media are late to the social game and totally threatened by the amazing reach of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and You Tube — now reaching millions and even hundreds of millions–numbers that vastly exceed print media.

They’re also probably very threatened by Facebook advertising, which is much cheaper than print/broadcast, and reaches that oh so desirable Millennial demographic that doesn’t read or watch TV anymore.

Since I live in Facebook stats all day long, I know the truth — one post can reach more people than an article in the New York Times. Sure, Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner are no doubt losing sleep over that.

Facebook ads, and Yelp, also, can be targeted with laser-like focus on extremely niche local demographics — something print media can’t do quite as well because print is either niche and national or broad and local . Print media and TV are rarely niche and local.

Internet radio still does a lousy job of targeting its ads to any meaningful niche. Local radio still thrives because it’s both targeted and local.

I’ve been doing PR (press relations) since the days when we used fax machines and FedEx — before the Internet existed. Back then, print media was king. Getting an article that reached 100,000 readers in a national print magazine was a big deal. I think some people are still attached to the “prestige” of Print but do not realize that they can actually reach bigger numbers with social media, with far more control over their message.

Print is still very valuable — but now more because it drives traffic to your website and gives you SEO rank in Google.

In the good old days, it was an even bigger deal to end up in a big newspaper like the New York Times and reach 1 million readers. If you got on TV you might (woo hoo) reach an aggregate of 2 million people through multiple TV news stories and a video news release after spending $250,000 on a press conference and a product launch.

Times have changed. Now you can reach just as many people in a few minutes with a single Facebook post or self syndicated blog post — or half a billion with a You Tube video.

PR IS DEAD — LONG LIVE SOCIAL MEDIA?

I’ve been saying “PR is dead,  long live Social PR” for a few years now. I was a little ahead of the curve. I was also sitting around listening to the phone not ring from PR clients, and watching stories not appear in publications that were disappearing, so I was ahead of the curve and got into social media.

Now it’s clear that shift has happened.

Social media is not optional anymore. If you’re not leveraging social media to amplify your message, it’s as if you don’t exist.

Social media is now the front line of most successful marketing programs. Social media is where you distribute your message first — and later it’s picked up by the news media.

(The exception is if you are a publicly-traded company. If so, then SEC regulations require that you announce news on the newswire first, and your key media are pre-briefed under a non disclosure agreement.)

Traditional PR is still very important, but it serves a different role now–in tandem with social media. After your story appears in the news media, they use their larger networks to “syndicate” your message to their networks. You then in turn amplify the message further by syndicating their content on your networks.

Articles and reviews in mainstream media also provide credibility and great content for your website and social media to leverage, and they will boost your search rank (SEO) in Google forever.

WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, YOU MAKE YOUR OWN NEWS

Social media is the “information hub” of your marketing wheel — and your personal social networks at the “hub” that links to other social networks and communities worldwide. The press and publications are some of those networks–but no longer the primary one.

In the old days, you sent press releases to actual members of the press for distribution. Newswires were only available to the press.

Nowadays, you are the press and you syndicate your news over social media, in addition to the press. A press release on the wire now reaches everyone on the planet at once.

Here’s an example of the reach a press release typically gets now on the Internet. As days go by, this number increases, infinitely, and many of these impressions remain on the web forever.  A press release mentioning a company traded on NYSE or NASDAQ would get much more impressions — this was what I got for a small business — 32,000 in two days. This doesn’t include the amplification from self syndicating this story on the client’s social networks. It would be difficult for a small business to get out the word that fast with traditional media.

Example of the traffic generate in two days from a well written, key word tagged press release.

Example of the traffic generate in two days from a well written, key word tagged press release for a small business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTS COMMUNITIES GLOBALLY

Here’s another example of that from the Unify.org campaign that illustrates how the Unify Facebook fan page links to other Fan pages and organizations, creating huge amplification for each post. (A single Unify post is often shared more than 5,000 times, reaching literally millions of people worldwide with no advertising.) Even with Facebook’s new restrictions, by utilizing this kind of networking, you can spread your message very rapidly and globally.

Illustration of overlapping social media communities. This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the strategic plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts behind Unify.

Illustration of overlapping social media communities. This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the strategic plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts behind Unify.

This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the initial strategic social media plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts that helped ramp the page up. This is now one of the most viral social media communities on the planet.

As you can see in the screen shot above, it’s very possible to reach 1 million people with a single post if it’s shared, tagged and amplified with well targeted paid Facebook “boosting.” 


 

Is your Facebook fan page a cocktail party, a barbecue, a conference or a drum circle?

Social media is a virtual party.  Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference or a drum circle?

Social media is a virtual party. Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference, a yoga class or a drum circle?

The funny thing about social networking is…we often forget that it’s just a virtual party. It’s not about amassing tons of “fans” so you can have the biggest party — it’s about inviting the right people and serving tasty snacks and drinks.

It’s about playful banter, music and laughter.

You know what happens when you talk sex or politics at a party — dead silence.

A cocktail party is NOT the place to pull out a gigantic billboard and say HEY BUY MY PRODUCT! (Unless you are a paid sponsor with a table or booth.)  And imagine if you pulled up your shirt and showed off your appendix scar?

But people do this all the time on Facebook! They forget it’s a party.

A great Fan page is an authentically engaged community where you have a conversation — even better if your tribe cares about what you have to say and shares it with their communities. At a party this is called gossip and word of mouth. On Facebook it’s called sharing and viral marketing.

Remember — a great party is not about QUANTITY it’s about QUALITY. Be selective. Invite the right people. Dress to impress — or stand out in the crowd. Serve good spirits and keep the music upbeat and the conversation as bubbly as champagne.

We are not collecting fans or contacts for Ego — we are collecting real human beings and we should care about them as much as we hope they will care about us.

Think about the real world equivalent of your Fan page. How would you interact in these different real world parties or events?

50 friends or less = backyard barbecue, workshop,  a drum circle.
150 friends or less = a tribe, a retreat, a big party, wedding, etc.
1000 friends or more = a conference
2000 friends or more = industry trade show, music festival
10000 fans or more = sporting event or concert
100,000 fans or more = gigantic stadium event
1 million fans or more = broadcast on television

And here’s a great metaphor for Fan pages from #socialmediamixology:

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15 free tips to boost your “organic” SEO and get more traffic for your website.

 

Can anyone find your old static website?

Use the right words so people can find your blog in Google.Advertising, as the saying goes, is the awareness you pay for.

Advertising is the awareness you pay for. And PR is the awareness you pray for.

Today, “PR” includes social media and “content marketing” — and that means “the visual stuff with words on it.”  But to make people aware of your content, they need to be able to find it in Google. And this is why “organic” reach or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is so important.

Great traffic means a lower Alexa rank. The lower your Alexa score, the more people are visiting your site, and the more “relevance” it has in the search engines like Google. (Alexa.com is the site that ranks other websites according to their popularity.) My Alexa rank continues to soar, and has surged from the top 12 million sites in the world, to the top 4 million.  (I started the blog about two years ago.)

This is pretty amazing considering the fact that I am not specifically trying to drive traffic to this site, which is primarily a personal blog to promote my consulting practice.

My traffic is 100% “organic” reach — that means I get these visitors without paying for for advertising, Google Ad Words, Facebook ads, banners or link exchanges.

Here’s what I do to boost my SEO — and how you can use these techniques to boost traffic on your own site.

1. Content, content, content.

That is, just write interesting stuff. Write well. Be opinionated. Be a little controversial. Controversial, emotional, engaging content will get read and spread.

2. Teach and inform. Don’t just talk about yourself.

Create “how to” articles that teach others how to do what you do. Share information and don’t just promote yourself all the time. In fact, don’t promote yourself, ever, except in your bio and “about” section. Tell, don’t sell.

3. Use WordPress.

Build your website on WordPress — not a static website. If you already invested in a static website, add a WordPress blog tab to your site.  Why? Because WordPress is very well optimized for search engines.  WordPress also automatically syndicates your stories to other WordPress sites, and it also makes it very easy to tag your stories, videos and photos with juicy keywords.

4. Use lots of words on WordPress.

I know the current fad is towards “visual” websites and not a lot of words — but the fact is, Google and other search engines search for words, so use lots of them, and use the right ones.

Also make sure to write captions and search-worthy tags for every photo you use, so these photos can be found in search engines.

5. Think like a search engine.

What phrases do people search for? What questions do they ask that apply to your field or product? Answer those questions with your content.

7. Syndicate to all of your social media pages.

You can set this up in WordPress to syndicate your posts automatically when they are published so your posts go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Services like Networked Blogs also help amplify your reach. A new service, Thunderclap can dramatically amp up posts for cause-related content and non profits.

8. Feed your social media pages into your site.

Syndicate the content into your page — and out of it. The more it flows, the more traffic you might get.  There are free widgets that make this simple to add a fan page, Instagram or Pinterest

feed to your blog.

9. Add easy to find “share this” buttons to make it simple for others to share your content.

Sounds obvious, but you would not believe how many businesses bury these icons on the bottom of their website. Bring them to the top and make them big, easy to see and find if people are reading on a small screen mobile device.

10. Comment on other people’s blogs, especially major news sites.

Once a week or so, while reading the news, make relevant comments as an authority in your field on other blogs and news sites — particularly if they are comments on topical news of the day. This brings curious people to your page and builds links to your site.  Share these stories with #hashtags that refer to the Trending Topics and news of the day.

11. Discipline yourself to post at least once a week.

The more you write, the more you post, the more you share — the higher your Google rank and relevance and the more traffic you get.

12. Send out press releases

Press releases are the most amazing traffic generator, period. Ever. You can use free press release sites if you can’t afford a professional news wire, but I recommend paying for PR Web which is highly SEO optimized.

13. Get mentioned in “real” media. (That is, do PR.)

One fantastic article in a major newspaper like the New York Times can permanently shift your business to a new level, boost page rank — and generate traffic to your website forever.  Yes you will need to hire a professional PR agency (like me) to get this kind of coverage. Be patient as it can take many months, and be prepared to pay through the nose. It’s worth it.

Or try this yourself — some people naturally have a gift for PR and can do it themselves.

14. Use Pinterest to generate permanent links back to your site.

Publish your WordPress photos from your WordPress articles as Pinterest posts — and then go back in and “tag” the posts with keyword-rich phrases and URLs so the pins show up in Google. Tremendous traffic builder.

15. Make your website worth coming back to.

I know this sounds obvious, but why are you wasting your time driving traffic to a website unless it’s going to close the deal and make the sale once people arrive? Make sure you have a way to sign up subscribers to your newsletter, capture visitors’ emails and lead them to follow your Social Media pages so you can bring them back again and again.