Monday, January 25, 2010


One of our members posted an interesting question to our LinkedIn group recently. His company was asked to provide spec work on an RFP for some web design work. He wanted feedback from others in the industry as to whether this was "standard operating procedure" or not.

My resounding answer: NO!

Truth is, I'm wary anytime someone asks for spec work. You want to know what I can do? I'm happy to share examples of media coverage or past PR campaigns I've run. If I was a web designer, I'd be happy to provide examples of sites we've designed or re-designed. But I'm not going to give away my ideas for free. If I do, you can take them and pay someone else to execute. My value isn't just in my execution, but also in the ideas I generate. Why would I give away that sort of intellectual property for free?

Am I wrong in finding this to be a ludicrous request? And do many solo practitioners find themselves being asked for this?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lunch Recap: Deploying with 'New' Gear: How the Department of Defense is Using Social Media

Yesterday was the FABULOUS CCG lunch with Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs for the Department of Defense. I can't say enough good things about this lunch and our speaker. Mr. Floyd captivated our audience for the entire presentation and Q&A session, during which he spoke about how the DoD is using social media tools to get its message to both internal and external audiences. He showed us examples of what they're doing, talked about guidelines he follows, and shared lessons learned.

  • Ask yourself four questions with any communications / outreach effort: What is the message? Who is the audience? How are you going to reach that audience? Who is the speaker?
  • "Non-approved messaging" -- i.e., letting people onto your website to publicly post comments, respond to questions, etc. -- gives credibility to the rest of your site and the content on it.
  • Make sure you TRAIN and EDUCATE your employees as to "responsible and effective" use of social media tools. One way the DoD does so is via fun (and short) videos, including a popular "what not to do" video.
  • Realize the importance of having personal voices (which can be more engaging) as well as institutional voices (which are more official). One example: On Twitter, he does this via multiple accounts -- @pricefloyd, which is his personal account and is a mix of work and personal updates, and @DefenseGov, which is the official DoD account.
  • Realize your goal... One of DoD's goals with social media was to reach a new audience. The department knew that the website audience skewed "older" (i.e., 50+), so the focus with the social media presence was to reach a new audience (i.e., 18-25).
  • Know that social media is only one component of a larger campaign. The audience on social media channels is growing, but it's still small. (For example, the viewers of the least watched Sunday talk show are more than the numbers you'll reach via social media. But they're different audiences, so you need to be reaching both.)
  • Having problems convincing the boss your company needs a social media presence? Go tell him to himself or the company. She'll see firsthand that the company likely is already there, being talked about. Then ask: "Do you want any say in what is being said about you and the company?"
  • Your social media policies and your general communications policies shouldn't be that different. What that means in the case of DoD, for example, is this: What a soldier can't include in a letter home, can't be online. In the case of companies... what you can't talk about to a reporter, shouldn't be talked about online.
  • There's nothing more credible than the voices of the people doing the work (in the case of the DoD, the people in the field). So make sure your social media voice isn't just the CEO, Senior VPs, etc.
And perhaps my favorite piece of advice from the day, which is advice he gives to DoD employees engaging in social media: "Don't post something online if it's not something you'd say to or show your boss or your grandmother."

Thanks, Mr. Floyd, for such great advice. And thank you to District Chophouse for the great location with the top-notch technology.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is it really social media if …

A recent move by an online site/service that has received many accolades for being a great “social media tool” for PR professionals and journalists recently underwent an upgrade. (Caveat: There are some who say the tool, while enormously helpful, never embodied the true meaning of social media because it did not include a way for community members to communicate with each other as a group. Please feel free to debate that point, as well, in the comments section of this post, though it's not the direct topic.) Now, let me just say that I’m all about making products, services, social media tools, etc., better; however, the recent upgrade to this service left me a little bit baffled.

The particular service in question helps reporters find sources. In the “1.0 version,” the site sent out emails that included what story a reporter was working on and the reporter’s contact information. The new version – and those of you familiar with the service can debate amongst yourself whether or not it’s truly improved – now masks reporters’ email addresses and instead provides end users with temporary email addresses that stop working after a query deadline is reached.

Which left me wondering…

Is it really social media if the site/service not only keeps its users from knowing who one another are and how to reach each other but stymies future contact between its members? Isn’t the whole point of social media to facilitate conversation? And does this “cloaked email” feature prevent the spirit of social media from being realized?

Weigh in below with your thoughts.

UPDATE: For those of you who know the service I'm talking about, if you have any issues with the new service, make sure you express them at the service's GetSatisfaction site.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are the Days of Privacy Really Over?

I recently read an article on ReadWriteWeb titled "Facebook's Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over." Speaking before a live audience earlier this month, apparently Zuckerberg said that if he were to create Facebook again today, user information would by default be public. He also said, "People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time."

If that's Zuckerberg's stance on the privacy issue, there's no surprise that the alarms have sounded multiple times over the past 6-12 months about changes in Facebook's privacy policies.

But I have to say, his views and my views on this issue are pretty far apart. And I wonder if I'm alone. (Informal conversations tell me I'm not.)

My social networking presence related to privacy:
  1. My presence on Facebook is about connecting with people I already know and staying in touch with them. I purposely keep my profile more "private" and I don't friend people I don't know. If I wanted the whole world to know what I was doing, I'd have an open website. If Facebook decided to lift all privacy settings and make everything public, I'd be out of there so fast you'd be eating my dust. And I have to believe I wouldn't be alone. And that Facebook would quickly die...
  2. My presence on Twitter is more public, but it's also less personal. I don't post (much) personal information there.
  3. My presence on LinkedIn is more public than Facebook, less public than Twitter. But my presence on LinkedIn is almost purely professional.
  4. There's a reason I am not applying to be on reality TV. I don't want the whole world to know my business... and I think there are A TON of people who agree with me on this. (So there goes his reality TV theory.)
My point? Yes, we're definitely becoming a "less private" society, but we're not ready to tear down all the walls. And we SHOULDN'T. For one, there are too many safety issues out there, so until you can get rid of all the creeps and predators in the world, doing away with privacy is unrealistic. Second, let's be honest here: We all have heard plenty of stories about friends, colleagues, etc., who can't get jobs because of inappropriate pictures or comments posted online somewhere. (Heck, think of all the politicians / politicos-in-the-making whose careers have been torpedoed because of pics.)

My point? All of these social networking sites should let us choose for ourselves how public or private we want to be. And if they don't, I don't think they're long for this world... (And by the way, I still hate that my list of Friends on Facebook is automatically public and I can't change that setting. Or, at least, I can't figure out how to change it. If I'm wrong and it can be changed, can someone let me know?)

But maybe I'm just hopelessly "old school" in not wanting everything I do to be public. Am I? Weigh in on the public vs. private debate below.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Using the "Competition" to Your Advantage

So the Washington Business Journal recently started sending out a "Morning Call" email each morning. What's so clever about it that I feel the need to write about it?

Unlike their afternoon email, the WBJ Morning Call doesn't just include WBJ stories. They'll link to big stories from the Washington Post, The Gazette, and other local media. And I find that incredibly smart.

Sure, they're sending some of their readers to these other outlets. But they're also becoming a RESOURCE to their readers. It's what reporters always want us PR folks to be -- a resource that isn't just about touting our own products. So it's nice to see this particular media outlet play by the same rules.

Kudos to the WBJ on some smart marketing!

(Geez, I must be in a good mood at this start to a new year. Two posts this week praising what others are doing.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kudos to Clever Tchotchkes... this year, from Fixation Marketing

Let's face it. Any of us who serve clients -- or attend trade shows -- find ourselves facing a huge dilemma on a regular basis: What do I use as as an end-of-year gift, a customer appreciation present, or a trade show giveaway? There are the obvious answers, ones I admit I've used in the past -- the branded pen, the branded memory stick... I remember when branded stress balls were all the rage.

One company I worked for gave away canvas bags at trade shows -- and people loved them! You saw people walking around the rest of the trade show floor stuffing other companies' giveaways inside, which meant great advertising for us, the "little guys" compared to many other vendors. And people would search out our booth every year, asking if we had the bags because they liked them and used them so much.

All that said, this year at the holidays, I received what I think is one of the best end-of-year (beginning of the year?) gifts yet: greeting cards.

Fixation Marketing in Bethesda, Maryland, created a box of greeting cards for unusual holidays -- Groundhog Day, Arbor Day, Daylight Savings, Flag Day... They're cleverly designed. They have cute sayings inside. And I'll definitely use them... and remember Fixation for sending them. (I've included the front of the card for Tax Day -- yes, Tax Day -- to the left. Inside it says, "Set Your Money Free.")

So kudos to Fixation for getting creative and providing me with a giveaway that is: unique, useful, and will earn them attention not just with me, but also with those to whom I send the cards.

So now I want to hear from you. What is the best (or worst) tchotchke that you've received or given away, and why did you like it (or not like it) so much?

Monday, January 4, 2010

NON-CCG EVENT: Twitch! Public Relations in the Age of Social Media

Twitch! Public Relations in the Age of Social Media

WHEN: Thursday, January 14, 2010 from 6:30-8:30pm
WHERE: Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Streets, Washington, DC

WHAT: A group of D.C. Journalists will discuss how they use social media to source their stories, conduct research and reach audiences.

MODERATOR: veteran newsman Jim Long (@newmediajim) of NBC Universal

COST: $20

YOU MUST REGISTER TO ATTEND. Space is limited. No on-site registration.