Author Archives: Polina Opelbaum

Using LinkedIn for Business & Personal Gain

A recent Social Media Club NYC held a meeting about the best ways for businesses and individuals to successfully utilize LinkedIn. The meeting was moderated by SMCNYC board member Danielle Simon, and speakers included:

Here are the questions presented to the speakers and their responses:

Q: What are the keys to being successful on LinkedIn and using it as a business building tool?

Dodaro: Have a great profile that is professional, credible, and well-optimized for search in LinkedIn. Mostly, the profile should speak to your ideal client. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they use LinkedIn for business is they use it as a resume site or they just post their professional bio. One of the things I say to business owners and entrepreneurs is nobody cares about you, but they only care about what you can do for them. Your profile needs to really speak to the target market you want to attract.

Egan: When we speak to a corporation, in our pitch we tell them that their employees are websites. To be successful on LinkedIn and build a social business, you need to wrap around this and embrace it. You really need to empower your employees to be using these tools for relationship management and communication purposes. For a corporation, they have to start to look at these tools as a strategic part of how they communicate, recruit, market, sell, and do research. It provides a competitive edge over other companies.

Simon: It seems like there are companies are afraid to let their employees do too much on LinkedIn, because they think are looking for a new job. However, I have been hearing more and more that there is a real shift where companies are trusting their employees and working with them to help them on LinkedIn, which in turn helps the company.

Quinones: It is a mindshift for companies to understand that employees are like mini-campaigns. I am working with a company where you see the referring traffic coming from all these employees LinkedIn profiles just because they put the company link on there or shared a piece of content.

Q: Since there is that fear of employees using LinkedIn to look for another job, would you suggest that companies show how they are embracing LinkedIn from a company standpoint and as well as from a personal standpoint (helping the employee set up their personal profile)?

Egan: The way I would explain it to somebody is that this is a new shared responsibility. It is called cobranding. This means, how does a company put your personal brand as well as the work you do for the organization together in a cohesive way that works for you and the company. It should be positioned as an employee benefit, because it is a real way to say that the company is investing in you and not monitoring you. The company would be telling their employees, we trust you and hired you because you have great relationships and experience, so enroll in this program and we will make you look better online and help you communicate more effectively.

Q: What are some things people can do better on LinkedIn to promote ourselves and the company’s they work for?

Dodaro: Start at the top of your profile — your headline. Make sure your headline is clickworthy, so it should be interesting and appealing. You want to add one or two keywords in your headline, because your headline is very powerful for LinkedIn’s algorithm, which basically determines where you are going to show up in the search result. Your headline can contain 120 characters, and you want to be able to use as many as you can. Also, what you are putting in skills and the amount of endorsements you are getting is affecting the algorithm. The five most important things to affect LinkedIn’s algorithm: 1) your headline; 2) your current experience, you want to have it in your title and in your description; 3) one past experience; 4) your summary section; 5) you want to use keywords in your skills, and hopefully you get endorsed for them. Of course, there are other places in the profile, but these five are the most heavily weighed.

Egan: Start with your settings. Do research about privacy settings and talk to people. Then you can work on your profile, network, and activity. I would be very careful to over-optimize for certain search words, because you have two audiences. You have the Web, which is what you have keywords for, but you also have people who are looking at your profile. Curate as if you were designing your corporate website.

Q: Can you talk about network building?

Egan: The idea of curating those in your network will not only be valuable for you, but it will also be valuable for your network. If I do a search to find a specific person, but you keep popping up as the person in-between because you have a ton of first-degree connections, then I will just think you don’t really know this person. I would even suggest that you not connect with your colleagues unless you really know and trust them. Even in my own company where we have 30 employees, I have a process before I let them into my network. I shut down the ability for people to send me invites without knowing my email address and that sort of stops one layer of it. However, if someone knows my email and sends me a connection request, I won’t accept it but will instead respond. If there is no message, I won’t even respond. If there is a message, I will try to build a relationship and then connect. I will also go through and drop connections about once a quarter, and I will then upload my Gmail contacts and add connections this way.

Quinones: I am also judicious about whether the person I am connecting to has a good audience. I join groups that are beneficial for me and are in quantity. I have really benefited from LinkedIn. I went to Greece earlier this year because someone looked me up on LinkedIn.

Q: How important is geography in your profile?

Dodaro: Geography is only important if you service a specific geographic region. If you work and serve only a certain area then it is great to put your city name in there. However, if you have clients internationally then don’t put in a specific region.

In the next part of the meeting, a few attendees offered to show their LinkedIn profiles. The speakers then provided the following tips to help improve their profiles:

  • In your summary include your specialties and strategic key terms that will valuable to your audience.  –Quinones
  • Have one recommendation per title, so if you have someone who knew you from two companies, get it for the one you don’t yet have a recommendation for. -Quinones
  • You get up to fifty skills, so when people are endorsing you for skills you haven’t added to your profile — be careful, because it might not be what you actually do. -Quinones
  • I would join some of the larger groups, because being part of those groups makes me more visible. You get up to fifty groups, so take advantage of it. You should be part of your alma mater group; it can be common shared history. –Quinones
  • Having a vanity URL for your profile is very important. It helps for coming up in Google when someones searchs for your name. -Quinones
  • Change the words “company website” in the contact info section to the name of your actual company or whatever else is being clicking on. This will help with SEO on the bigger Web and people will be more likely to click on the Web assets that you are promoting. -Egan
  • You should put your high school in your profile, because it adds a human element to your profile. People are more likely to do business with people they know. -Egan
  • Less is more in your profile. Be selective with what you put out there. If you have fifteen PDFs and a lot of rich media for people to select from, then put the one that you want them to actually click on. –Egan
  • Change up your profile. If you change your profile picture once every six months it will drive up your click-throughs. People want to see that. –Egan
  • Don’t status update too much. If you status update a lot, then people are probably hiding you. –Egan
  • In your summary section, I wouldn’t recommend talking about yourself in the third-party. It might turn some people off. Also, if the action you want the reader to take is to contact you, then give them a little blurb and phone number/email address. –Egan
  • If you have LIONS in your network, I would tell them they shouldn’t be a LION. People question whether they are real and not just spam. -Egan
  • In your summary section, you almost have to think of it as an article. Since most people scan instead of reading the entire section, you need to make sure there are certain things that jump out for the reader. -Dodaro
  • Listen to the language your ideal customers/clients use for figuring out the best keywords to include in your profile. You don’t want to put your marketing spin on it, but you want to use their language. –Dodaro
  • Put your board and volunteer positions in the volunteer section. Anything you are being paid for should be listed in experience, and anything you are not being paid for should be listed under the volunteer section. –Dodaro

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The “Slow PR” Trend: Building Traction Over Time

Dear Q&A Team,

I was reading an article that mentioned a movement called “slow PR.” I had not heard of this movement before, so it would be great to get a better understanding of it. What does it mean? How is “slow PR” different or similar to traditional PR? What should companies do to move into the “slow PR” movement?

Need for Speed?

_____________________

Dear Need for Speed,

Most people have heard of the “slow movement,” so it is interesting to learn how this relates and affects PR. Here are six ProfNet experts who explain this movement:

Definition of “Slow PR”

Steve Capoccia, account director at Warner Communications, says, “If you want to move your objective forward in a meaningful way, you want a firm that demonstrates empathy, compassion and knows how to tell a story that builds relationships – this is ‘slow PR.’”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology at Shift Communications, adds, “Instead of aggressive outbound pitching and mass emails, ‘slow PR’ (inbound PR) is about cultivating relationships with journalists first and foremost, putting the relationship first; asking detailed inquiries of journalists to make sure the pitches that do get sent are 100 percent on target; and creating a ‘house’ audience that you can selectively direct to newsworthy pieces.”

“’Slow PR’ is about building relationships, mutual respect, trust and credibility with reporters and through the product of that, the larger audience,” reiterates Edward Hershey, principal of Edward Hershey & Associates. “This was never about releases, press conferences or staged events.”

There is also a greater use of social media in “slow PR” — particularly Twitter, explains David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision. “‘Slow PR’ highlights getting to know a journalist, their interests, and how they write by following them and then pitching them via social media rather than through massive emails and media lists that are often ignored.”

Capoccia warns that “slow PR” must not be confused with “forever and a day PR.” Speed is important. You can have “slow PR” and achieve results quickly if you are using a firm that knows how to deliver meaningful content in an integrated way that is appreciated by the intended audience.

“Slow PR” vs. Traditional PR

Johnson explains, “‘Slow PR’ takes a step back and is less hectic and isn’t about being fast-paced and the number of pitches sent to a reporter.  The more traditional PR is about the number of pitches you sent, how many reporters contacted, how many hits and is more fast-paced.”

Anne Isenhower, principal of Anne Isenhower Communications, agrees with Johnson. She says, “Traditional PR too often employs a scattershot approach to outreach that can reach too wide and thus miss the mark. “Slow PR” ensures that outreach is very carefully planned to generate the best coverage results and the best long-term relationships with influencers.”

Penn provides this explanation: “In traditional PR — which is a lot like outbound sales — you have a product and you shop it around until someone buys. In inbound marketing and ‘slow PR’ (inbound PR), you create and manage the audience, and then fit the product where it belongs.”

However, “slow PR” strategies still strive to preserve traditional PR while also educating, planning, and evaluating without time constraints, says Aliah Davis-McHenry, president and CEO of Aliah Public Relations. “As we see now with social media, PR practitioners have to act and react in the now so those that engage in ‘slow PR’ cannot afford to not take advantage of these timely opportunities. There is a need for churning out our client’s information in a fast pace but there is also a need to build those meaningful relationships and use technology in a slow way as well.”

Penn agrees that you need both traditional PR and “slow PR.” “Slow PR” won’t replace outbound PR, it’ll supplement it.

Transitioning into “Slow PR”

Johnson thinks: “A business should begin by evaluating if their efforts at traditional PR with massive pitching is working or not.  From that evaluation they should then begin adopting practices that fall into the ‘slow PR’ movement and explain to clients if they are an agency how this ultimately benefits them with better quality stories and stronger relationships with reporters. “

In addition, “you must see the relationships with your influencers and media as being a higher priority than that of the stories and pitches, and be willing to invest in the time and people it takes to make those relationships happen,” says Penn. “It also means possibly no longer working with some clients who are pushing you to make short-term pitching choices that can harm the long-term relationships — you have to be willing to walk away from a story or even a client.”

Capoccia’s suggests avoiding “robo-contact” at all costs. This can be accomplished by setting it up as a best practice with an individual or several key employees who are in charge of analyzing how the team/s are approaching journalists to make sure they are offering information that will impact and support the client’s and journalists objectives.

Most importantly, Davis-McHenry believes, “A company can move more into the ‘slow PR’ movement by putting care and consideration into their public relations efforts by not engaging in ‘spray and pray’ via email and social media and developing meaningful relationships with journalists, bloggers, and influencers; companies will see that their PR initiatives will grow and build business.”

Successful Examples of “Slow PR”

Isenhower felt the effectiveness of “slow PR” after spending about four hours preparing a single pitch to a very senior editor at The New York Times. She says that five minutes after she hit send, the editor called her and said, “I get at least a hundred pitches a day about this column alone. Yours was the only one I opened today, and I appreciate the time and thought you’ve obviously put into it.  I’d like to interview your CEO.”

“A good chunk of what we do at SHIFT is ‘slow PR’ (inbound PR), focusing on the relationships first,” says Penn. “For example, we’ll have a lunch and learn with a reporter from a beat and ask them straight out what they need, what stories they’re looking to cover, what especially they do not want, and then we use that guidance to decide which clients and stories are the best fit.”

Penn adds, “You know you’re succeeding when journalists are calling your account staff asking if they have any stories on X topic, because they did such a fantastic job the last time they worked together, and that happens on a fairly regular basis to our staff.”

Capoccia’s company works with an industry analyst firm as a client. Even though they are often in “breaking news” situations, they are also very careful to deliver what they say to the reporter contact and “drip-feed” information to the reporter by way of background to further establish credibility and relationships.

The use of “slow PR” resulted in a blockbuster exposé that made a difference for Hershey’s client. His story: “When a lead emerged about a potentially significant story earlier this year that would accrue to my client’s benefit I contacted the managing editor of a local weekly and sold him on assigning his top reporter (a Pulitzer Prize winner) to pursue the story. The reporter, too, was someone I had worked with before. Over the next two weeks I connected him with sources (who needed buttressing and reassurance as well) and otherwise maintained close contact without crowding him.”

But keep in mind that “slow PR” is in its infancy, warns Johnson. Yet, “one thing is true; reporters appreciate it and are more willing to work with those who take a slow and nuanced approach.”

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The Q&A Team: A Google Helpout Primer

Dear Q&A Team,

My marketing team wants to learn more about Google Helpouts. We want to get a better understanding of this service as well as how we can use it to promote any of our products and/or services. We also want to know whether we should charge for Helpouts, and if there are any legal issues we should take into consideration.

Help Me Out

_____________________

Dear Help Me Out,

It is always exciting to see whether you can integrate a new service into your marketing efforts. Here are four ProfNet experts who answer all your questions about Helpouts:

Explanation of Helpouts

Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, says, “When someone needs help or assistance with a specific question or situation, they can now turn to Google Helpouts, a free or pay-as-you-go video help line where experts are available, or can be reserved, to assist with questions or needs by providing real-time advisory services face-to-face.”

The experts can provide advice on the following subjects: art/music, computers/electronics, cooking, educations/careers, fashion/beauty, fitness/nutrition, health, home/garden, adds Melanie Trudeau, digital strategist at Jaffe PR.

Sarah Hill, digital storyteller at Veterans United Home Loans, also explains that Helpouts are really Google+ Hangouts plus services plus financial transactions.

Hill says, “Helpouts are a new layer of e-commerce, ‘See-Commerce’ if you will. The difference between Helpouts and traditional Hangouts is there is a Google Wallet integration and customers have the ability now to pay for a service from within that Helpout.”

Marketing Using Helpouts

“Whether a marketing department should use Helpouts depends on the nature of the company’s core business. Marketing departments should ask themselves: What service about my product or business could I offer to the rest of the nation,” suggests Hill.

Trudeau thinks that marketing professionals need to look at Helpouts as another “channel” to reach their target audience. They first need to determine whether Helpouts will reach their intended audience, and then decide how they will “package” and price their offering.

In addition, “Helpouts are searchable, meaning, when you type in a search query in Google, you could see results pointing to Helpout sessions. My guess is that Google’s review ratings will play a strong role in ranking Helpout sessions in search results, i.e., the sessions with better reviews will raise to the top of search results. This is important for marketers,” says Trudeau.

Abramson believes that marketers can use Helpouts for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs that can be conducted with groups where apps and services are shown off. It can bring the actual product owners closer to the potential users to gain real-time feedback and interaction.

He adds, “Helpouts are ideal for new product introductions as they allow prospects to discover more about the product or service in more complete ways. Prospects can ask questions, and the Helpouts can be recorded so others can view it later.”

“In admissions at Colgate, we are planning on using Helpouts to help parents and students understand the application process. Last year we did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the admission’s process. This year, we plan to use Helpouts to help people in the same way,” says Matt Hames, manager of media communications at Colgate University.

To Charge or Not to Charge

Trudeau explains that a marketing department has three basic models to consider, they can: offer their expertise and charge for their services; offer free or paid support for their products; offer free information and advice that highlight their product(s).

If marketing decides to go with the first option, then they need to keep in mind that Google keeps 20 percent of their fees. Trudeau thinks that participants will be willing to pay for one-on-one attention to address their specific questions. But with free content readily available online, time will tell if personalized attention will command fee-based advice online.

If marketing goes with the second option, then people may be more inclined to purchase products knowing that they can get individualized support via Helpouts. Communicating this support option at purchase decision time will be crucial, warns Trudeau.

Last but not least, if marketing goes with the third option, it may give them the opportunity to connect with an audience that may seek out their product(s) and make a purchase after the Helpout.

Hill has another thing for marketers to consider. She says, “Offering your service for free can bombard your inbox with individuals wanting your service, so as a matter of supply and demand, you should seriously consider the consequences of offering a free Helpout as those sessions are indeed demands on your time. However, if your marketing department’s intent is simply to get individuals in the funnel and not as a money making endeavor, then a free Helpout is a great option.”

Abramson thinks, “Marketers should not charge for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs. The idea is to service and support customers or prospective customers by being informational and demonstrative. Of course once it takes off, there can be a value added service offering based upon the same premise for more advanced discussions.”

Hames says, “We will never charge for Helpouts. Reddit, Hangouts and live chats are free, always will be.”

Legal Concerns

“Marketing should always be aware of legal and regulatory concerns as they always should avoid making false claims or misleading statements. The rule of thumb should be to never say or present anything that could come back to hurt you,” says Abramson.

Trudeau adds: “Certain professional services representatives may be excluded from using Helpouts due to state and federal laws. For instance, if lawyers want to charge for online advice, they must first contractually establish an attorney-client relationship, which would be impossible in Helpouts. If attorneys were to offer free advice online, they would need a fairly hefty disclaimer as dictated by the rules of their state bar. From a marketing standpoint, this may create a barrier to entry.”

“You must own the rights to the photos and videos used in the Helpout or the video trailer promoting your Helpout,” cautions Hill. “You have an option to decide whether to let your client record the Helpout. Both you and the client must agree to that recording and both of you get a copy of the video.”

Here are additional Terms of Service for Helpouts: bit.ly/18l0GoV

Have fun exploring Helpouts! Good luck!

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

image via Flickr user emiliarossijewellery

Q&A: How to Incorporate Tumblr Into Your Marketing Campaigns

Dear Q&A Team,

My manager has assigned me the job of looking into new social media platforms that we can add to our marketing campaigns. I have been trying to learn about Tumblr and its capabilities. What type of content should we post onto Tumblr? What are some examples of successful Tumblr accounts run by businesses? Are there any legal issues we should be aware of when using Tumblr?

Stumbled Upon Tumblr

_____________________

Dear Stumbled Upon Tumblr,

It’s great that you are exploring other social media platforms. Here are three ProfNet experts who provide their expertise about Tumblr:

Reasons to Use Tumblr

Web marketing expert Lorrie Thomas Ross explains, “If an organization is looking to maximize awareness, information distribution, connections and service to support sales, then social media marketing needs to be part of the marketing mix. Tumblr is a blog platform that can help organizations harness the power of social media marketing.”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for Shift Communications, agrees: “Tumbler is a rich content outpost, another blogging service that offers you an additional place to put content on the Web. Tumblr’s strength is its tremendous and active community that often re-blogs items that are worthy of attention and interest.”

Penn adds, “Tumblr’s secondary strength, especially for technologically less ambitious PR practitioners, is that it’s incredibly easy to use and quick to set up. You can begin on Tumblr in a matter of minutes, and its mobile apps make content creation simple and friendly.”

In addition, “platforms like Tumblr can be a great way to boost SEO,” says Ross. “Tumblr was architected to be search-friendly and help search visibility, so, if used effectively, it can help with a business’ SEO.”

However, you may want to disqualify Tumblr as a marketing medium if your company’s tolerance for risk is exceptionally low. It has an active adult content community, and many of its members enjoy blogging and re-blogging content they find, explains Penn. “For most brands, it shouldn’t be a significant problem — obscurity is a far greater risk than being discovered and re-blogged by someone whose content you might not agree with.”

Content to Include in Your Account

“People flock to Tumblr to be entertained and inspired, not to be pitched to,” says Francis Skipper, executive vice president of 451 Marketing. “Therefore, it is key to be very visual and to use humor on Tumblr. Pieces should be easy for your audience to digest and promote sharing. And try to provide evergreen content that will have a longer shelf life, so your content can be shared often.”

“Tumblr is also a great way to create a very human side of a brand by giving insights into the people and ideas behind your company,“ he adds.

Even though content needs to be engaging, it is important to remember that every organization has a different target audience. This is why it all starts with strategy – strategy first and execution second.

Ross suggests that marketing managers think about the content they have, their target audience, and what their target audience needs. Then they can decide what to post on Tumblr.

Once marketing managers are ready for the execution stage, it is important to know that the best content on Tumblr is graphical content — static images, graphics, animations, and video, says Penn.

Successful Examples

  • Comedy Central: This page is authentic, integrated and engaging. It supports the overall brand’s purpose. The purpose is very clear — to create viral clips, awareness and an audience.  –Ross
  • Capital One’s Bucket List and Art Institute of Technology:  Tumblr is a highly visual medium, and both these blogs maximize their use of imagery to make them eye-catching and appealing. –Penn
  • CNET:  They have been really smart about Tumblr posts, releasing “cliff notes” or abbreviated versions of their articles. They create a visual, multimedia headline that prompts the reader to click through to the full content on their site. -Skipper
  • General Mills: Their Tumblr focuses on whimsical content that taps into people’s inner child and even showcases some amazing DIY arts and crafts projects that were created from cereal boxes with tutorials. They create a fun lifestyle around their brands using Tumblr. –Skipper

Legal Issues & Tips

“As with any form of online content production, you will be held liable for intellectual property (IP) rights. Re-blogging something that falls afoul of IP rights can land you in serious, very hot water,” warns Penn. “For example, re-using an image from a licensed imaging service like Getty Images can cost you up to $60,000 per violation, even if the original content is not yours. By re-blogging it, you open yourself to the same liability as the creator.”

Also, remember to respect the FTC guidelines, says Ross. You can read more about them here: tinyurl.com/nxvvszl

Another thing to keep in mind is that companies need to commit to using Tumblr.

“Tools like Tumblr don’t make marketing magic,” cautions Ross. “It is how and why these tools are used that make marketing magic.”

Skipper reiterates Ross’ last statement: “First, have specific goals in mind before you start. Don’t just join Tumblr because ‘everyone else’ is doing it.” Some of these goals include: building brand awareness and identity, educating customers, and creating a brand persona.”

Last but not least, Penn cautions that “‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work any better on Tumblr than it does on the Web. You still have to invest resources in outreach, awareness, advertising, and support of your initiatives there in order to make it successful.”

After deciding your Tumblr strategy with your company, I hope you have fun posting to this social media platform! Enjoy!

-The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Social Media NYC Recap: Real-Time Social Media Response

Stephanie Grayson, Pictured/Photo Courtesy of Kevin Lui

 Last Thursday, Social Media Club NYC had a meeting about real-time response on social media. The discussion was moderated by board member Danielle Simon, and the guest of the evening was Stephanie Grayson, social media editor at Yahoo Finance.

The Social Media Club NYC meeting began with everyone sharing any interesting social media updates:

  • WordPress users can download a plugin to export a list of all the commentator’s details as a CSV file that can be used in Excel.
  • MIT research shows that angry tweets are the most influential, which means users are recognizing and retweeting more of these type of tweets than any other type of emotion.
  • Pinterest rolled out promoted pins.
  • For social listening, check out Adobe Social and Topsy Pro. Topsy Pro allows you to start with a two-week trial.

Grayson then had the group put together a list of the risks and rewards of real-time response. Here is the list:

Risks

Rewards

  • insensitive/incorrect information
  • damaging brand
  • backlash
  • public safety
  • losing customers/vendors
  • legal issues
  • innovative/industry leader
  • gain credibility
  • gain customers
  • gain advocates
  • gain loyalty from customers
  • gain PR/marketing

Grayson explains that there are certain dates on an events calendar for a brand where expectations can be set for something occurring. However, there are also events that occur that are not on the calendar and that start trending without any sort of expectation, and people have come to expect a quick response. There are opportunities for real-time response for the events that are not on the calendar, and if there is trust in an organization then you can gain some of the rewards in the above list even if not everyone in the organization is together.

The next part of the meeting was a group exercise, which you too can try:

Instructions: Break into two groups. Each group will become a brand. (One brand will be B2C and the other brand will be B2B.)

Decide: 1) What is the name of your brand? 2) What product/service does your brand provide? 3) Who is your biggest competitor?

*Have someone outside the two group’s make-up a situation that starts trending real-time.*

4) Your brand will react in real-time on social, but how will you do it (i.e., Vine, meme, etc.)? Keep it realistic, so take 25 minutes to come up with a solution.

*Come up with potential real-time backlash that can occur to the opposing group.*

5) How does your group deal with the backlash?

Have fun!

_________________________________________________________________

Here are the two groups that were created during the meeting:

               

(B2B Group) Green Mohawk –Full-Service   Entertainment Agency (B2C Group) Vine & Go – wine that is in a   Tetra Pak-style Juicy-Juice container
What is the best-selling service? PR Moscato/sweet whites
Biggest competitor? Edelman Other single-serving drinks (Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Lime-A-Rita)
Scenario: A celebrity did something bizarre on Talk Like a Pirate Day and the hashtag is trending like crazy. How is your group going to handle it? What will be your method of real-time response? They have a big pirate party, because as an agency they are aware of the event and have been tweeting about it all day. They hashjack with the tweet: You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk? #actlikeapirateday. They also have a Vine with   people walking like pirates. They are at a bar and they get seven people to each say, “Yo ho ho and a box of wine,” and they make a Vine  of it. They tweet it out saying, “Party like a pirate with Vine&Go,” with the hashtag #vine&go.
Potential real-time backlash that can occur to the other group. Send a tweet saying: @Vine&Go Real pirates drink rum not wine. #realpirates The “walk the walk” killed somebody, because they walked off the Brooklyn Bridge.
How does your group deal with the backlash? No response, because there is no connection to the individual going off the bridge with any of the agency’s messaging. Also there are policies in place on the website saying that everything is for entertainment use. They would tweet back saying: It is 2013 and 9 out of 10 pirates prefer arrrhh wine. #vine&go

Check out this Realtime Marketing Lab event: bit.ly/15bRnmm 

*Register with code SMCNY to save 20% and score a pass for only $276.*

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Storytelling: Persuasion That Moves & Engages

Last week, PR Newswire and CommPRO.biz hosted the second part of the Google+ Hangout On Air Storytelling Series. The discussion was led by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff), global director of emerging media at PR Newswire. Ginny Pulos (@ginnypulos), founder and president of Ginny Pulos Communications, joined him to explain the results of successful storytelling for a business.

Pranikoff presented the following questions to Pulos:

Q: Why is storytelling so important on a personal and business basis?

Pulos: It is important for when you want to land/keep/move ahead with a job or client as well as when you want to be a persuader or leader. Storytelling is the most persuasive tool you can use, especially when you are in the same room as another party breathing the same air. Also, if you are a leader of an organization, you need to tell stories to motivate, inspire, and engage people. It is true stories that move people to act. It’s a sell.

Also, storytelling is really an untapped resource. We are all telling stories every day, but we just don’t know how to tell them as effectively as we could.

Q: What is the difference between position power vs. personal power?

Pulos: Position power is your title and all the privileges that are accorded to you because of your title. But how many people outside of the narrow definition of their job are able to tap into their personal power to move and persuade people? People have this unwritten taboo in corporations that you should not talk about anything personal, and that your personal life is personal and your professional life is public. But that is absolutely not true. It is the personal stories that we have inside us that are the things that drive business forward. We need to know how and when to tell stories, as well as how to tell them effectively.

Q: What is the difference between power and persuasion vs. influence?

Pulos: It is not your title, degree or expertise by which people listen to you, but it is because of who you are. Power is by right or by might — that is your title. Persuasion is twisting your arm gently or perhaps not so gently. Influence in the worst sense is manipulation, and in the best sense it is like all the heavenly choirs are singing your praises and the pearly gates open, and you walk in with a halo on your head. But we really need to use all three.

Q: Why is it important for people to tell their story in personal and business situations?

Pulos: We have established grooves in our brain that go back to our earliest times when our parents would read us stories, and those stories would begin with “once upon a time” and end with “happily ever after.” Those grooves are deeply entrenched. Sending communication down grooves in our brain that are already established makes it so much easier for people to take in. Also, stories have the capability of creating pictures for people, and those things stay with us and can easily be recalled. That is why, for me, stories are so powerful.

Q: What are some of the elements of a great story?

Pulos: A great story must include the following: 1) be brief, which means five minutes or less; 2) true; 3) about a person; 4) engage an emotion, and this can be done by slipping into present tense while telling the story; 5) end on a high note; 5) a little bit acted out.

Q: Can you tell us about someone who is a really great storyteller?

Pulos: The person I followed for many years was Steve Jobs, the CEO of the decade who transformed all kinds of businesses. The best story he ever told in business was when he introduced the iPhone and he said it was “having your life in your pocket.” It is only five words but it tells so much. His stories that I liked the best weren’t direct selling of a product, but were still driving business goals. My favorite was his commencement speech at Stanford. During his speech, he told just three stories. He was not very good at delivering, because he looked down, read from something, and spoke in past vs. present tense. However, he had a great moral in his stores, which was he trusted that everything would work out in the end. Many great stories lack a moral — the “what did I learn from it” or “how did that change my life ever after.”

Here is a little exercise you can use to start mining your own stories. Make four columns. In the first column put rites of passage (birth, death, graduation, divorces, achievements, defeats, etc.) and in the second column you briefly write out what happened. In the third column you will write how old you were when it happened, and in the last column you write what you learned from it. The last column is where the power lies in storytelling.

Q: Do you have examples of people who aren’t famous or CEOs who have developed great stories to help their business within their company, or just to help their business grow as a whole?

Pulos: One senior VP in human resources told a story about being a really tall gal and playing basketball in college. Everyone thought that because of her height she would be a great forward, but she hated using her elbows, etc., but one thing she was naturally flawless at was making free throws. She made the moral of her story that people are who they are and they should play to their strengths.

Another example I have is of a global marketer that I spoke to who is from China. She talked about the hardship she grew up in during the Cultural Revolution. Her father had been a teacher and they fled to the countryside. At four years of age she was left alone to take care of her infant brother. She had to find firewood and cook a meal every day. After the Cultural Revolution ended, they moved to a city and her father opened a school. Every morning she got up at four in the morning and bought food for all the children before she went to school. She made the moral of her story that life is like a delicious meal, and you have to use everything and every bit of your time.

Q: What are some of the bigger things people need to remember when they are preparing and telling their stories?

Pulos: You need to write out your story. You also need to know your opening and closing cold, so it comes out completely conversational. You then to memorize transitional phrases that get you from one part of your story to another part of your story. Remember that stories that have twists and turns, so you may heighten and mute things in your story for different audiences. One, two, or three good stories can get you a long way. Saying your stories out loud so you can hear your voice is important too.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you tell stories a lot you can reduce it to a “vignette.” If you are at a networking conference talking to someone who is unemployed and going through difficult times, you can tell them your short story, and if they want to know more they they will ask. Stories don’t have to be long, but they can be very short and humorous.

Q: How would you apply storytelling to drive business forward? How would you this to change mindsets or status quo?

Pulos: You have to look inside yourself and find that story of how you want to shake things up, and how something changed your mind about something big. It doesn’t matter when it happened, but it is the moral of the story that drives business goals. The best presentations I have seen are the ones that start with a great story and then circle back to that story in the end, because now you know why they told it in the beginning. This is really powerful in a business situation.

Q: What are some of your key takeaways?

Pulos: You need to tell a story when you are in the spotlight; when you can help, encourage, engage, teach or move someone; need to show what you stand for; overcome a sense of defeat. You are the hero of your own story. If you have no emotional contact, you will have no impact. Storytelling is an untapped resource. If you are proud of your work, life or team then talk about it!

Q: How do you assess your personal brand to use it in your storytelling?

Pulos: Here are the key things you can ask to figure out your brand: 1) What do you know me for? 2) What do you like me for? 3) What do you value me for? You ask these three questions of a boss, colleague on your same level, people who report to you, spouse/significant other, family member, or a good friend. They can respond to these questions with phrases. You can then lay out all these responses on a table and circle the words used more than once. Those circled words are key traits about you. If you don’t know the story behind the word then go back to those people and ask why they used that particular word, and they will tell you that story. It is up to you to perfect that story.

Q: How do you know if your story is good, strong enough to support your case?

Pulos: When I am formulating a story, what I do is tell it to a couple of close friends. You also really have to practice telling the story, because this isn’t something that will be achieved overnight. And keep the ideas that come to you on a notepad, so you don’t lose them. People that can communicate and connect are the people that get ahead.

Q: What if people don’t response to your story? How do you reel them in at the last chance?

Pulos: If people aren’t responding to your story then you have probably chosen the wrong time to tell it or don’t have the right story. If you have a moral to your story, then you can grab people at the last minute. There is something wrong with the way you structured the story if they aren’t hanging with you till the end.

Q: How can storytelling be utilized in the written word?

Pulos: I try to use a story in every blog post. The facts and statistics supported through a story can really come alive. I feel that writing is becoming a lot more conversational, especially because of social media. Nothing is more engaging then positive, genuine emotion. It is the most powerful and constructive force for persuasion.

We’ve been emphasizing storytelling tactics on the blog over the last few months.  If you missed the other storytelling posts, here’s a link to the full collection: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/storytelling/ 

If you’d like to explore new ways to tell your brand’s visual story, we’d be happy to chat with you about creating a video or a designing multimedia distribution strategy that will increase discovery of your brand’s messages. We’d love to hear your ideas, and help turn them into reality. Contact us for more information.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Using Storytelling to Drive Business Goals

PR Newswire and CommPRO.biz hosted a Google hangout on using storytelling to drive business goals. Lead by Blair Caplinger (@bcaplinger), co-founder of Telling Media Inc.,  the hangout also featured Ben Zenick (@bzenick), COO of Zencos, a full-service business intelligence consultancy, a client of Telling Media Inc.

Definition of a Business Story

A business story is essentially a narrative that explains how a business or an aspect of a business satisfies the needs and aspirations of a target audience.

It is important to remember that people make decisions based on stories, Caplinger noted, and every story is intended to convince or sell people something. This something can be a product or service, or even an idea or business plan. Whether businesses know it or not, they are constantly telling a story to consumers through their communications, which can be as small as a tweet to something as large as a campaign. The biggest problem is that companies start telling their story before they even know it, and this doesn’t produce very good results.

When Caplinger first sits down with clients, he initially focuses on the different issues the client is encountering, whether they’re in marketing, PR, sales or another department.  The commonality across all these different functions is the simple story they are telling.  Zenick noted that prior to working with Caplinger, Zencos realized that the message they were providing wasn’t differentiating the company from the other business intelligence vendors that were out there.  They knew how they wanted to convey themselves, but ended up promoting themselves the same way as the other organizations.

Your Business Has a Story Problem If…

  • Prospects/clients have a difficult time committing and signing on the bottom line.
  • Employees don’t understand your company vision.
  • Qualified leads visiting your website don’t see how you can help them solves their problems in a short amount of time.
  • There are varying descriptions of what your company does, e.g., three different salespeople provide three different descriptions of what your company does.
  • Difficulty obtaining funding — and this may be a problem for startups that have a flawed story that doesn’t communicate the value of their startup organization.

The Stories Your Business Must Tell

  • Strategic vision stories that can help people gain buy-in for strategy and direction for different levels of management and audiences, both internal and external.
  • Brand stories where companies talk about their brands in a way where people can form an emotional connection with it.
  • Product stories that explain why the particular products will make your life better.
  • Recruiting stories, and if there are brand stories around an organization then this should be translated into what it means for your recruiting department and for hiring the best talent.
  • Success stories, these end up being case studies and white papers, which provide the proof of your product or service.

Your business must never tell stories that are excuses. If things go wrong, your business needs to be prepared to address things honestly and openly, and then move forward.

Reasons Why Your Business Story Failed

  • Leading a story with facts doesn’t engage people and is really boring. Facts end up being “what” and “how” stories, which don’t sell. People buy on feelings and then they use facts to justify purchase decisions.
  • A story that serves up too much information. Caplinger refers to this as story stew, and this story contains too much detail and industry jargon. This type of story overwhelms an audience and deters them from making a decision.
  • The brain disregards 99 percent of all it perceives and is constantly filtering for what is unique. People need contrast to make decisions, so companies need to make sure their stories don’t fail to be remarkable.

Process of Storytelling

If you want it to be successful, storytelling needs to start at the top of the organization. Every business leader and C-level executive should embrace the concept of being a chief storytelling officer of their company, because you can’t drive a story up through an organization, but you can only drive it down from the top.

Tips for Creating Stories That Sell

  • A business needs to lead with emotion. People make purchase decisions based on some type of emotional and personal driver. It’s all about “what will it do for me, how will it help me,” etc. Apple’s signature campaign does this very well by showing how Apple’s products have changed the way people listen, live, learn, play, etc., and it talks about the company’s reason to exist.
  •  A business needs to be in touch with its “why.” It is why you do you what you do, it’s your purpose for being, and it’s your passion. Zencos has worked on their “why” and why they want to differentiate themselves amongst over business intelligence vendors. They wanted to be a company that was able deliver to customers what they were promising on time and on budget. They also wanted to be a company that focused on building relationships with their customers.
  • It is important that a business understand its buyer’s mindset, which is composed of beliefs, values, biases, and personal experiences. People like to work with people who see and believe things similar to themselves. Target did this very well by creating a great campaign that allows millenials to buy a product that will end up helping their community by feeding people. This campaign helps understand the mindset of millenials who care about their community and want to look and feel good.
  • A business needs to find common ground. As a business researches their customer’s beliefs, biases, etc., they then have to map that against their own. Once they do that, that’s the realm from which all story flows.
  • Stories need to be visual to drive understanding. A businesses needs to include visualization and visualization exercises in the process of conceiving the stories. Telling Media creates these visuals when they are working with executives on their narratives, and then sometimes these end up as precursors to infographics.

Example of a Zencos Infographic

Final thought: When a business talks clearly about why they do what they do and what they do, they will naturally attract the right customers.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.