Indiana Small Business

The Marriage of PR and Marketing

I skimmed through an article today about the importance of making sure your social media team is also well versed in public relations.  My first thought was, “Well, crap. Someone else got to it before I did.”  It’s alright though.  It just lit the fire under my butt to write it myself.  Every person’s experience is different, right?  Right.

Names and company names will be changed (or eliminated) here to protect the…. less than innocent.

I offer my social media services in different ways.  I can be the person who hovers over your different social media platforms and pats you on the back when you do something great.  I will also tell you when you’re wrong.  But in this role – I’m pretty much hands off.  Merely a consultant.

Then there are the clients that I do everything for.  All of their marketing.  I look for trade shows that would be good for them.  I’m the voice at the end of their client’s line.  I do all of their social media, including engagement, etc…

Well – I do all of it until they decide they want to muck things up a bit. And here’s where the fun begins.  Social media is…. well… it’s social.  And so, it involves many things – one of which is emotion.  There’s something to be said for being transparent (some of the time.)  However, when being attacked by what seems to have been coined as “haters” – you HAVE to let that slide (to a certain extent.)  There’s a lot of ambiguity in the last two sentences so let me clarify by using an example.

One of my clients was recently targeted by a group of people.  They claimed his business practices were less than ethical.  Let me start by saying I wouldn’t work for such a client.  While he may not always be the brightest crayon in the box (hey, I keep it real) – he’s not morally or ethically inept.

So let’s call my client “Bob” – because that seems to be what I like to call my clients  (ADD moment:  All clients, male or female, from this point forward – will be called Bob. I like Office Space.  What can I say?)  Bob used to do business with another entity – a not-for-profit.  This group and he parted ways in one of the least amicable ways possible.  I knew things would blow up – and they did.  An anti-Bob Facebook page was started.  The anti-Bobs started harassing the Bob fans on his Facebook page.  Bob was called a thief, a liar, all sorts of nonsense.  It was a PR disaster.  It got so bad that it warranted being addressed, in a non-emotional, only the facts, ma’am sort of way, on his Facebook page.  And so, I did.  I gathered the facts and I wrote the letter.  I knew Bob was far too emotional to do so himself.  The letter was working exactly as it was supposed to.  It had a reach of over 15,000 people by the time it was all said and done. His following, at the time, was only around 4,500. About 95% of the comments that came as a result to that letter were positive, uplifting messages about how Bob helped them or someone they knew. Woo-hoo! Success!!

And then Bob’s family and marriage started coming under (written) attack from the anti-Bobs.  Keep in mind, this whole time, Bob was replying back to their hateful posts, then I’d call him and tell him to take them down.  Down they came.  Next day – same thing.  It was like babysitting a toddler for a week and a half of my life.  “Bob, ignore them.  They’re trying to get a response out of you and you keep feeding them exactly what they want.”  “Ok, Amber.  You’re right.”  Next day – any guesses?  Yes.  Same game.  I was one worn out shit storm stopper by the end of that week.

After a long conversation with Bob about what PR is and how his fans were viewing him because of his emotional outbursts toward the anti-Bobs – he chilled.  He got it.  Finally!

If I had been someone else, say just a Facebook poster… this story would have a much different ending. He’s called and thanked me more times than I can count – telling me that if it weren’t for me, he’d be out of business. Thirteen plus years in Marketing AND PR prepared me for what I handled.  If you’ve hired someone that can post on Facebook and Twitter and make it look nice, but doesn’t have any sort of background in marketing or PR, please… PLEASE…. for the love of….. well, Bob….. think about switching it up.  It’s not all about the posts.  It’s about being knowledgeable, implementation, engagement, staying one step ahead of the game – and if worst comes to worst – putting out fires.

Signed,

Fire Marshal Amber…. “Let me show ya something.”

Effective Social Media Marketing Part III (Final)

Using Social Media for Research

Your audience is  your best shot at cost effective research.  Cost effective and small business go hand in hand.  We have to keep up on what works as well as what fits our budget.  That being said, all of us like to be heard.  We all want to know that our opinion is of some value.  Even many larger companies are discovering that valuing your audience’s opinion is a better solution than spending millions of dollars on marketing campaigns.

Maybe it’s been a while since your store has started selling a new brand or a new item plus you’ve also seen that traffic through  your store has started to slack a bit.  Maybe you’re a business that realizes that staying one step ahead of the game is in your best interest – which I hope is the case.  Either way, let your customers know it’s not all about you.  You’re interested in what their wants and needs are.  This is the key to any relationship, be it professional or personal… not just the knowledge of, but the willingness to take action on needs and wants.

According to [Social Media Examiner][Air Tran Airways] “posed the query via a clever website which asked one productive and meaningful question of the audience members: ‘What do you think should be on every AirTran flight?’”  “The response and feedback from fans was gangbusters and quite creative! After several weeks, the message was clear from all of the ballots submitted online. The audience wanted Wi-Fi on every flight. AirTran asked the right question, collected the data and delivered upon that request. Wi-Fi is now an option on every AirTran flight!”

Another example is how [Vitamin Water] crowdsourced a new drink flavor.  You can find the whole story [here].

It could be a simple question about how you can improve a current product.  It may be the aforementioned question run as a contest.  Winner wins  $20 in free merch from your company every month for a year.  Be creative.  Make it something that your fan base wants to share with their friends.  The more creative minds put together, the better!

Effective SMM Strategy Part II

Watch For Trends

 

So now that branding is out of the way (see here), another integral part of an effective social media strategy is to make sure you’re monitoring trends that happen with your end users.  Why is that important?  Well, as previously mentioned, my specialty is in working with small businesses.  In the ocean of the business world – small businesses are the dinghies.  The Fortune 500 companies have seemingly limitless resources (people included) at their fingertips.  They’re more like the freight liners and can keep trucking through those seas through even the biggest storms. Often they won’t even realize they’ve hit a wave, let alone been in a storm.  To a small business, that same storm may mean your poor little dinghy is toast and there you are, left floating in the ocean with (maybe) a lifesaver, praying for someone to come rescue you.

That illustration is exactly why you need to prepare.  Your goal as a small business is to stay one step ahead of the storm.  If you see that times are tough(financially) for your clients, it may be time to consider other inventory options that are still quality, but more cost effective for you – and your client.  If you ignore the trend, chances are – you’re going to end up with expensive inventory just sitting on your shelves that you’re going to have to discount anyway.  Win for your consumer – lose for you.

Other things you’ll want to pay close attention to:  Cultural happenings.  Maybe your business supports the Indiana HJR-6 amendment or maybe it opposes it.  You have the choice of making your opinion known or staying neutral on the matter.  If you’re vocal either way, it’s likely to have an impact on your business.  It also may produce or take away service or merchandise opportunities – both of which are very important to your business.

In this case, the above mentioned goes hand in hand with what’s next – and that is government changes or potential changes.  It seems there’s nothing we like to complain about more than our government.  Everyone has an opinion – regardless of whether they voice it or not.  Truth is though – a good majority have no qualms about telling it how it is when it comes to government related issues.  Keep an eye out for that.  It could be tax changes, a lawsuit that will have an impact on how your company does business, increase in minimum wage (is any of this sounding familiar?)

So how do you keep track of what’s trending?  I’m happy you asked.  I’m even happier that someone else has done the work of tracking down all these tools for me!  Shout out to Social Media Today for making my work today a little easier.

[Click Here] to find your list of tools.  Use them.  That’s what they’re for. :-)

Your Achilles Heel Needs To Be Broken!

Once upon a time, a business acquired a client.  This business acquired this client because potential was seen, but many fixable flaws were also seen.

Ok, the business is mine and the client – well… I’ll keep that anonymous.

What I will tell you, though, is that what this client had to offer me was really priceless.  He did a fantastic job, saved me a ton of stress – and also was more than affordable.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing!  He was great… when he actually showed up.

You might not think your lack of organization has an impact on your business.  You might want to think again.  When I met this client, he was writing his appointments down on scrap pieces of paper that he’d leave in different bins in his office.  Then, when he got phone calls (like mine) asking why he didn’t show up, he’d apologize all over himself, explain his lack of organization and do the appointment for free.

What he didn’t understand is that as a customer, I felt like he didn’t value my time.  It wasn’t until we sat down and talked it through that I understood – he just has no strength when it comes to this at all.  This is where I jumped in. I got him organized with an online calendar that synced with his phone and to my knowledge, he hasn’t missed an appointment since.

We live in a world where people talk.  They don’t just talk face to face anymore.  When people talk now, they talk to their audience of 1500 or so through Twitter, Facebook or whatever their SM outlet preference is.  If I had been any other customer of his, he would have lost his money for the day, I would have lost my time for the appointment he didn’t show up for and he would have lost a lot of business due to me running my digital mouth.

Yes, I’m well aware that this is Social Media 101 – but sometimes we all need a reminder.  Myself included.  So here’s your swift kick in the pants.  Find your Achilles Heel and fix it.  Pronto.  If you can’t – find someone who can.