Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Low-Tech Marketing At Its Best

OK, so the great new buzzwords in marketing and PR and communications are "social media" and "twitter" and "blogs" and "wikis" and all that jazz... and there's no denying that these new tech tools are definite ways to create community and keep people interacting. (I use them all in different ways.) But sometimes, I think we get so tied up in the new bling, that we overlook low-tech marketing tools.

What prompts me to write this? The realization that one of my strongest marketing tools on campus are the clear literature holders I've had my facilities team attach to the back of every bathroom stall and by the sinks and paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms.

Sure, it sounds silly, but these literature holders are wildly successful. The bathrooms are the one location that pretty much everyone visits while they're here -- be they staff, faculty, students, employees of our tenant companies, or employees of the companies who are renting space on our campus. And, even better, for those few minutes they're there, I've got a captive audience. They're all mine!

And so I know it's the best way to let people know what's going on around campus. Score one for old-school marketing techniques...

-- Robin

Friday, September 26, 2008

CCG Success Stories

Lest you think CCG is nothing more than a lunchtime social, three recent and/or potential CCG success stories:
  1. Through CCG, one member met a "social media" guru who is now coming into her office to train other employees on social media so that her office can start using these tools to reach its goals.
  2. Through CCG, another member got her new job. About her experience: "I got this job via networking with someone I met at a CCG event. Maybe not directly, but I had a chance to talk with the hiring person to find out more details, etc., about the job."
  3. Through a CCG lunch, communications professionals from two government agencies met and are talking about how they can work together on future projects.
I'm sure there are more stories like this out there. We'd love to hear them.

Sept Lunch: A Question

I want to know if the USPS and FONZ folks are better friends and perhaps going to work together after sitting across from each other at the lunch. It would be great to see if CCG can help more than just share insights and perspectives, but foster the start of some interagency deals to advance mutual communications goals.

-- Joe

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sept Lunch Recap: The National Zoo is about more than just cute animals!

OK, so this has nothing to do with the lunch, per se, but I just have to start by saying that before the lunch began I was joking with the Zoo and FONZ staff about how I'd never seen the orangutans using the zip line. And low and behold, halfway through the lunch, we hear children squealing. I turn around and there are 3 ORANGUTANS using the zip line! It was very cool.

Of course, my blogging about the warm and fuzzy orangutan appearance totally undermines one of the major points made by the staff yesterday. So everyone listen up...

The National Zoo is about a lot more than just cute animals!

Did you know that the Zoo has more than 100 scientists working beyond the zoo walls? These are people in other countries working on research about conservation and species preservation. How cool is that? I never knew that. I assumed Zoo employees were at the zoo. It's no wonder this is one of the Zoo's biggest challenges. After all, how many newspapers really cover science these days? I think the Washington Post dedicates maybe two pages a week to science. So spreading the word about the SCIENCE being done at the Zoo is a huge challenge for the staff there. The staff works really hard to try and use the "cute animal" stories as a foray into larger stories about wildlife appreciation and conservation. One way they do this is by making sure they have the right experts available to talk with reporters. (Any other suggestions for them on how to do so? I'm sure they'd be happy to hear them.)

Other lessons learned:

-- Stats are important. Even more important is having the right stats. When an animal passes, often the numbers that are given are the maximum life span of a certain species versus the average life span. And there just isn't reliable data for many species about life span. (To combat this issue, officials at the National Zoo are working with officials at the Lincoln Park Zoo to standardize language and data.)

-- It's very difficult to do strategic communications planning with a "living" institution. Between births, deaths, and the other dynamic aspects of having animals as your main topic, you can't really plan for what stories you're going to pitch when.

And totally unrelated to communications, but still a funny part of the presentation:

-- People are panda crazy! (OK, not that surprising.) On the panda cub's third birthday, the Zoo received 900 unsolicited birthday well wishes. (Seriously, people are crazy about pandas. The Zoo now offers panda alerts and have more than 2,000 people who are signed up. And 1,000 people paid to buy panda wallpaper for their computers. Not to mention the emails they received asking if the pandas in China were okay after the earthquake...)

And now on to my totally unsolicited sales pitch for the Zoo...

The Zoo communications team doesn't have a lot of money to accomplish what they do. Seriously, folks, they need help. The National Zoo hosts 10 major events during the year. There are family-friendly events -- like the Halloween trick-or-treat, "Boo at the Zoo," and the popular winter lights festival, "ZooLights" -- as well as events such as Valentine's Day's "Woo at the Zoo." Benefits are the usual sponsorship items -- logos on programs, banners, direct mail, web, etc.

You need to have your organization sponsor them. Anyone who's interested, contact Jackie Vinick, Corporate Partnerships & Promotions Manager, Friends of the National Zoo, at 202-633-3046 or vinickj (at) si (dot) edu. (And if you contact Jackie, let her know I sent you.)

-- Robin

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TCM: It's Not A Glass Ceiling... It's a Sticky Floor

Attended a great seminar this morning from the Tech Council of Maryland. (Wish I could have twittered about it, but with an attendance of only 30 -- the event was purposely kept to a small number -- I felt my typing away while the speaker was presenting might be distracting. Which is an interesting question for later discussion...) Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

The speaker, Rebecca Shambaugh, is President and CEO of Shambaugh Leadership and author of a book by the same title as the seminar.

Lots of interesting things to write about, but I think I'll focus on what she calls the 7 "sticky floors" for women:

Managing Work/Life Balance, or what Becky would prefer to call "Work/Life Integration."
-- Know what is good enough. (You can't be at 180% in everything you do all the time. More on this point later.)
-- Set your top 2-3 priorities. How do the items on your to-do list feed into those priorities. (I admit. I'm not good at this last point. I feel the need to do everything on my to-do list whether they feed into my larger priorities or not. I need to work on that.)

Driving for Perfectionism
-- You don't have to get an "A" at everything you do.
-- Your employer is paying you for your strengths, not to be perfect.
-- Seek feedback from your boss, customers, clients, etc., as to how they define success and calibrate your performance standards to match.

Building Your Strategic Network
-- Create your own personal "Board of Directors" made up of people you know, people you trust, people who will challenge and test you, people who you can learn from... (I love this suggestion. I've already started thinking about who would be mine.)
-- People get business done through people, not organizations. (Another critical point.)
-- Be a value to others. Your network needs to be what you can provide to people as well as what they can provide to you.
-- Remember 6 Degrees of Separation. The person sitting next to you on the plane or on the treadmill next to yours at the gym may become an important business contact down the road.

Making Your Words Count
-- As communicators, we love this point. And these bullets may be preaching to the choir...
-- More than 80% of day-to-day life is spent communicating, and 60% of that communication is misunderstood and requires repair work. (If only more of our non-PR/Comms colleagues would come to us for guidance...)
-- Sometimes less is more. Give the bottom line up front, then support with details. (An important lesson in pitching story ideas to the media.)
-- Know your audience. Choose the right (relevant) data to make them believers.
-- Be aware of non-verbals.

Staying In One Place Too Long -- The Loyalty Factor
-- Know when it's the right time to stay somewhere and when it's the right time to leave.
-- Ask yourself: "What is the worst that could happen?"
-- Be willing to take a job for which you feel underqualified and then work like crazy to figure it out.

Asking For What You Want

-- Know what you want and what you're entitled to and ask for it.
(Apparently this is a common challenge for women. I'm one of the few that can say it isn't. I guess I was unusually bold in the early stages of my career, thanks in part to my unofficial "career counselor," my father. At my first job out of college, after a year I wrote a memo about why I deserved a raise and started the conversation. And got the raise. And at my second job, I found out that someone they fired was making significantly more than me prior to being fired. All her work had been given to me and I was told that the client was thrilled with the work product. I used the opportunity to write a memo about why I deserved a raise. The boss, a woman, apparently was angry I had the guts to do so after only being there a few months. Regardless, I got the raise.)

Capitalizing on Your Political Savvy
-- Understand organization dynamics and how decisions get made.

You can read more about Becky's Sticky Floors and other advice at her blog.

-- Robin

Monday, September 15, 2008

We've been scooped!

Our communications colleagues at WWPR will be doing a Professional Development lunch this week about what it’s like to work in different venues: "PR professionals wear many different hats, and often times their tasks are different depending on whether they work at an agency, a non-profit, a trade association, in academia or in a for profit. Come hear what it is like in the day of the life of a PR professional at these different places!"

Great minds think alike: CCG planned a similar "Is the Grass Greener?" sort of subject for early ’09 which begs these questions:

1. Are you attending the WWPR event and, if so...

2. Will this event make you less likely to enjoy our CCG lunch if we stick to our similar topic?

Comment away!

-- Joe

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Job Opening: Director of Communications, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce

This individual will report directly to the President and CEO. Individual must be a self-starter with proven experience in mission-oriented message development and strategic communications. Must be member service minded and detail oriented. Public policy experience and knowledge of Montgomery County, Maryland issues preferred. Individual must possess superior verbal and written communications skills and be able to synthesize information quickly and produce summaries of that information for general consumption. Ability to meet deadlines is critical. Individual must be energetic, outgoing, and enjoy managing many projects at one time.

Job responsibilities include:
-- Build and manage relationships with local media including print, television and radio. Secure strategic placement of quotes from members of the Chamber’s leadership team in various media outlets.
-- Manage internal communications with the MCCC Membership through bi-weekly newsletter, MCCC website, and other communications alerts as necessary.
-- Write speeches for Chamber President and CEO and Chairman of the Board for various events including press conferences, award ceremonies, ribbon cuttings and media interviews.
-- Produce scripts for the Chamber’s three signature events: Public Safety Awards, Annual Dinner, and Business Awards Dinner.
-- Coordinate production of the COMCAST Red Carpet and event photographs.
-- Write and secure placement of letters to the editor in local papers in order to influence decision makers on issues of importance to the Chamber.
-- Provide public relations outreach for the newly formed Montgomery County Chamber Foundation and GovConNet programs.
-- Assist Vice-President, Public Affairs with other communications tasks as needed including media efforts in Annapolis, press releases on committee meetings, etc.

Applicants must submit at least three writing samples.

If interested, please contact Vice-President of Public Affairs Lisa Fadden at lfadden (at) montgomerycountychamber (dot) com or (240) 403-3505.

September Lunch: PR & Comms at the National Zoo

Details as promised...

WHEN: Wednesday, September 24 from noon - 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: National Zoo
COST: $15

DETAILS: Join us as the communications team from the National Zoo and FONZ host a roundtable discussion about Zoo communications -- from media relations and marketing to publications and the web site.

You must RSVP to CapitalCommunicator (at) gmail (dot) com. (Space is limited to the first 40 who respond. After that, names will be placed on a waiting list.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Panel #5: Social Networking Superstar Case Studies

I won't be able to blog during Panel #5 because it's my panel -- though Sarah Morgan and I are talking about continuing to Twitter (@rferrier for me and @sarahmorgan for my co-panelist) while we're up there. But I'll try to post a recap later today.

Other speakers:
-- Chris Frew, Scientific Recruiting Manager, Tech USA
-- Chuck Kramer, Sr VP & CTO, Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.
-- Sarah Morgan, Director of Client Services, MCS Public Relations

-- Robin

TCM: Panel #4

Panel #4: How to Add New Media to Your Existing Media and Communications Department

-- Shashi Bellamkonda, Social Media Swami, Network Solutions
-- Marc Hausman, President & CEO, Strategic Communications Group
-- Alice Marshall, Founder & President, Presto Vivace

First up: Marc Hausman
-- Most companies have really good content sitting on shelves. Repurpose content. (Gee, we've heard this message before when Joe Balintfy spoke about his podcasts and vodcasts for NIH.)
-- Social media all about creating searchable web content.
-- Aligning sales and marketing. When someone tells a salesperson why they buy, that's excellent content for social media.
-- Don't join social media groups and use it to spam marketing messages. Participate in conversation, but not with marketing messages. If you make good contributions, people will naturally visit your site to see what your company has to offer.

Second: Alice Marshall
-- Popularity of Google News Alerts means you don't have to get in newspapers to get your news out there.
-- Empower your employees to blog. Remember you hired people with brains.
-- Big nightmares going on aren't going on because someone was idiot on Facebook. Think rationally about what's going to really affect the business.
-- Communication department shouldn't be blogging. The employees (doing interesting things) should be blogging.

Third: Shashi Bellamkonda
-- First off, this guy has the coolest title. I mean, come on? How many of us wouldn't want the title of "Social Media Swami"?
-- More important to listen to what others say about you than what you say about you.
-- Listen first. Find out who is talking about you. Where talking about you. What saying.
-- When people realize you're listening, goes from frustration for customer to willingness to provide feedback.

TCM Panel #3

Panel #3: Using Social Media to Generate Press Coverage

-- I.J. Hudson, Director of Communications, Garson Claxton (used to be with local TV news)
-- Adam Van Bavel, Special Events Coordinator, Komen Maryland
-- Jiyan Wei, Product Manager, PRWeb, Vocus

First up: I.J. Hudson
-- Everyone is a reporter. Treat everyone as such.
-- Can only control original distribution ... not where it winds up or how presented. (Followed up by "Merry Christmas.")
-- Must first have compelling story to tell. Put not-so-good story out and gets picked up and criticized for it. (Think BadPitchBlog. If you're a communicator, you need to know about it and be reading it.)

Second up: Adam Van Bavel (talking about awareness and branding)
-- Awareness creates brand coverage. Brand drives brand coverage.
-- Speaker wears a lot of pink. He's the "pink wardrobe guy." Says he gets a lot of questions about it b/c of how much he wears. Interesting...
-- First social media focus: He chose YouTube page for Komen b/c Komen is an emotional topic and you can connect on emotional topic by showing emotion. (Can't show emotion as well on MySpace, Facebook, etc.) Says the video has led to more interaction with audience. And they use YouTube for fundraising as well. (Didn't know YouTube made fundraising so easy.)

Third: Jiyan Wei
-- 80 million Americans get their news online daily (40% use news portals and search engines)
-- 23 million Americans read blogs daily
-- 27 million Americans visit social networks daily
-- 20 million Americans produce content
-- Static release isn't enough. Must be interactive and easily shareable.

(Side note: TCM posted a YouTube video to promote this conference. They got 25 registrations. Out of a little over 100. Not a bad endorsement for YouTube.)

TCM Panel 2: Using Social Media for Lead Generation and to Find New Customers

Second presentation: Using Social Media for Lead Generation and to Find New Customers

First speaker: Tie Wong, CEO, Lore Systems and Opus8
-- Social media is a communications "channel"
-- Not a replacement for interpersonal connections.

People miss that second point a lot. Even I do sometimes.

Also claiming people are more responsive and open online. True? Not sure. What do you think?

TCM: Jeremy Epstein, Take... not sure what number

By the way, also tweeting on this (@referrier)

Go check out PollEverywhere. Very cool device Jeremy is using right now. It allows you to poll your audience using text messaging.

-- Robin

TCM: Epstein, take 3

Jeremy Epstein is now talking about embracing your brand fans even if they're product is:

-- branded a little differently than what you would do
-- "homemade"

Because 1 endorsement from a "raving fan" = 50 traditional impressions.

Another tip: Be the connector. Even if doesn't benefit you right away. (Personal addition to this point: Do this with the media as well. Tell your media contacts when you hear a good story idea that has nothing to do with you, your company, your client, etc.)

TCM: Jeremy Epstein (cont.)

Jeremy says we should go find people who love product already. Create more customer evangelists. They'll find new customers. More cost effective than finding new customers on your own.

I agree. In my day job at JHU, I am the biggest promoter of using our alumni (and current students) to find new students. That's how I found JHU's graduate program that I took (and loved). It's always nice to have reinforcement of your ideas by experts.

TCM Social Media Conference: Blogging as I Listen

So I'm taking this opportunity to practice social media. At the Tech Council of Maryland Social Media conference. Thought I'd blog about it. Hope there are readers.

First speaker: Jeremy Epstein. Title: Marketing Navigator. (Much cooler than my "Communications Manager" title.)

Background: 6 years at Microsoft. ("Laptop intensive culture." Not surprising...)

Interesting take on meetings and blackberries. Said if he can't keep our attention, we should keep doing what we want to do. Read emails, blackberries, etc. Said if I'm paying attention to email, he needs to do a better job. Interesting point... I've always hated people reading blackberries. May look at it different now.

September Lunch: PR and Communications at the National Zoo

Details being finalized. Here's what we do know.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 24 from noon - 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: National Zoo
COST: $15

We'll let you know when you can start RSVP'ing. (It will be later this week.)