Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Archive for the ‘Social Media (or the Digital Divide)’ Category

Social Tuesday: old school/new school marketing mix

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 22, 2011

If you see a lot of kids wearing pink today it’s because of “Pink in School.” Pink in School is an anti-bullying initiative run through Facebook. On the initiative’s Facebook page, Pink in School encourages its fans to wear pink on Tuesday, March 22, and to upload a profile picture of them wearing pink or, better yet, the official Pink in School T-shirt to take a stand against bullying and to increase awareness of the issue.

The Pink in School T-shirts are free and provided by Shirts in School, a marketing services company that pays high school and college students to wear T-shirts imprinted with other companies’ messages. Shirts in School started and organizes the initiative as a non-profit version of its services. The concept of Shirts in School is simple and effective. Students sign up on Facebook to receive their free T-shirts; to get paid, they must wear them in school for at least one day. In addition to wearing the shirt, the students must post their photo wearing the shirt on Facebook and other social media outlets, as well as a link to or a post about the advertiser. This way, companies not only get publicity value, but can easily monitor reactions to a campaign based on the posts of the participants and the comments by their friends. The students get paid $ 10 a day and can keep the shirt. Their schools receive an additional $2 as an incentive to support the concept.

Shirts in School’s marketing method successfully combines traditional word of mouth marketing with social media efforts. After the first participants had signed up, the concept “went viral,” says president of Shirts in School Richard Whitney. Now, an average of about 200 students signs up every day. It’s a win-win situation: students get free clothing and Shirts in School gives advertisers access to a highly desirable but hard to reach target group of 14-to-21 year-olds.

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Social Tuesday: With a little help from my friends

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 16, 2011

Social media is becoming the number one crisis communication device. Not only is it used for fixing a damaged image or restarting a career, it also serves as a much-needed platform for gathering information and mobilizing volunteers, as in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake and the Brisbane floods.

Currently, Facebook, Twitter etc. promote and support relief efforts in Japan and help the population reconnect. Many organizations and companies like the Red Cross or Groupon use social media to make support for Japan as easy as possible – some as easy as a mouse click. Spark Energy is adding an additional dollar to its donation to Japan for every person that “likes” one of the company’s Facebook pages by the end of the month. So instead of putting your hands in your pockets, all you have to do is give a thumbs up online.

But social networkers may use all ten fingers to help. Facebook’s online games FarmVille and Café World currently include purchases benefiting Japan. FarmVille players can buy Japanese radish crop and the chefs at Café World can buy Japanese décor. All proceeds go to Save the Children.

As for other information and reconnecting people, social media is in high demand in both Japan and the U.S. Despite blackouts, Japan’s Internet availability fortunately is relatively stable and, without a working phone system, an unmatched device to stay in touch with loved ones. Shortly after the quake, 1,200 tweets per minute were sent from Tokyo alone. Google published a Japanese version of its People Finder (see also last week’s blog entry). Within the U.S., the tsunami’s estimated times of arrival on U.S. shores were available on Twitter before the official government warning. And one of Japan’s top social media companies, Mixi, raised more than $1.5 million dollars for relief efforts in only two days.

Stay social.

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Social Tuesday: Social media boosts fame, helps in crisis

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 10, 2011

Social media and fashion are apparently a match made in heaven. Social media devices like live streaming, Facebook pages, blogs and videos fuel online discussions on brands and designers and result in thousands of new fans and followers. Curve ID jeans, for instance, “cheekily” uses YouTube to demonstrate their product’s effectiveness. Result: Nearly seven million views. Bebe’s new blog earned the fashion brand 66,428 new fans and a sixth-place ranking on fans and followers-surveying famecount.com. Victoria’s Secret invites brides to view – and purchase – the new collection of whites at an online shop, resulting in 69,000 new fans. And Burberry’s fashion show live stream attracted more than 100,000 fans. First place on Famecount goes to Converse, with more than 175,000 new fans. Converse.com not only lets visitors watch videos or shop online, they can also create their own sneakers. Together with its All Star sneaker line, Converse to date has 23 million + fans.

Finding lost persons is the idea behind Google’s Person Finder. Originally created with the U.S. Department of State to find lost persons in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, the website is presently used to help victims of the Christchurch Earthquake. The Person Finder can be found on a website launched by New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission. The site further features reports, videos and information on accommodation, alerts and volunteers. Its users can easily submit important information via Twitter.

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Social Tuesday: Tag the dog – Facebook, Twitter, social media campaign

Posted by thecastlegroup on February 16, 2011

Social media connects friends, coworkers…and pets. To find a home for the cats and dogs that needed it the most, the Oregon Humane Society featured them on Facebook and Twitter. Employing social media yet again turned out to be the right strategy. The pets found a new home, and the OHS Facebook page has presently nearly 13,000 fans.

More than puppy love was shared this Valentine’s Day by the world’s most famous dolls Barbie and Ken. After their divorce in 2004, the couple was “voted back together” in a genius social media campaign by Mattel including Barbie on Twitter (presently 34,227 followers), a Barbie and Ken website and (back then) individual Facebook pages (since their reunion, Barbie and Ken are “on the same page” again, and share 1,738,557 fans!) Least surprised by the revived romance is Mattel. With the Valentine’s Day reunion, the Barbie and Ken Gift Set went on sale, and Barbie’s (and Ken’s) Facebook page turned into an online store. Can’t buy me love?

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Social Tuesday: Twitter, meme, social enterprise

Posted by thecastlegroup on January 18, 2011

Today we discuss “social” social media.

Social media sometimes has a life of its own – and from time to time, it even has the power to begin a new one: Twitter followers of this year’s Golden Globe Awards witnessed the birth of both a mini-meme and a social media star when CNN’s Piers Morgan started a hashtag around the Globes’ shrinking screen time for host Ricky Gervais. It didn’t hurt that Morgan made magic just ahead of the launch of his new Piers Morgan Tonight.

Social media is not only beneficial when it comes to creating a fan base; it enables you to mobilize support for your good cause. After the flooding in Brisbane, Australia, Facebook and Twitter networks successfully rallied volunteers to help the community recover. According to a local social media expert, social media was “invaluable” to inform and connect the residents during and after the disaster.

A great example of target group specific social media use for educational purposes: The British health information provider NHS Choice uses the accessibility of social media to by using an interactive YouTube video to encourage teenagers to use condoms.

Social media is a great tool for reaching out to hard-to-reach groups or communities. Read more on how to use social media for social enterprises.

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Social media, Project Runway and the right accessories

Posted by thecastlegroup on December 2, 2010

Sandy Lish, Castle co-founder, recently attended a meeting with our international PR partners. Read more below.

 

 

Last month, I met with the principals in our international PR alliance, the Public Relations Global Network, four days with our counterparts from around the country and around the world—from as far away as Australia, South Africa and India. As you might imagine, there was a lot of discussion about social media. While nearly every client of every firm has some level of social media engagement or interest, the dozens of member firms unilaterally see social media as a means to an end…not the end.

It’s difficult sometimes to convey that when folks are all abuzz about the latest Facebook app, but let’s travel back to the days when websites were new. (This is about the 10th time in two weeks I have used a cultural reference and massively dated myself, but what the heck….) Companies were building websites and some new websites were, for a while, actually news.  You could announce that “XYZ Company Today Launched its First Website.”  Then everyone realized…if you build it, they may come, but only for a little while. Some websites were cool but not driving business. Others were just the opposite. You had to commit to an overall marketing communications strategy, and then consider a splashy new website (for a fun look at companies’ older-model websites, check out the Way Back Machine) as a tool to apply to that strategy.

It’s the same thing with social media. Building a fan page or setting up a Twitter account is not enough. You can’t just sit back and wait for the customers to find you. The traditional marketing rules apply—you have to reach your audience in a number of ways, creatively, consistently and memorably. Social media is a great way to do that, but it is a strategic element, not the strategy itself. Like “professional media” (my colleague in Sweden tells me this is the term preferred over “traditional media,” which I quite like!), speaking and conference strategies, relationship marketing, events and the many other communications avenues, social media must always map back to the business goals.

On “Project Runway,” Tim Gunn tells the fashion designers to “Use the Bluefly accessory wall wisely” to perfectly showcase their garments. It’s not a mad dash to combine any pair of shoes or purse with any outfit…it’s about being thoughtful and strategic, and keeping an eye on the big picture. I like “Project Runway” (and my 8-year-old daughter does a fabulous Michael Kors impression), so I’ll attempt to apply the fashion analogy to social media. If you’re trying to sell a dress, make sure your tools—color choice, model’s makeup and hair, accessories—complement that dress. If you’re trying to market your product or service, make sure that your chosen social media tools, like your other communications tools, support your message and your strategy.

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BlogWorld observations

Posted by thecastlegroup on November 1, 2010

Castle VP Hilary Allard was a panelist at last month’s BlogWorld. Below are her observations from the event.

I was honored to be asked to present on a PR panel at last month’s BlogWorld event, a blogging and social media conference that attracts more than 3,500 people. There were many inspiring, thought-provoking and surprising insights shared about how the intersection of technology and communication has changed our world.

Here are a few observations from the event:

The impact that technology and social media has made on the lives of military members and their families is profound. In a video introduction, General Petraeus spoke of how the ability to communicate with their families via Facebook, email and Skype has helped military members through the challenges of their separation. A website, ArmyStrongStories.com, provides troops with a place to share their look at Army life. Here’s a post on the site about the Army experience at BlogWorld.

While thought leaders have high-level discussions about social media and the future of communications, the fact is that many individuals – and organizations – don’t know what to do or where to start. The prospect of adding to already full to-do lists is daunting. (More on that in this space at another time.)

Everyone is willing to share. Just as I experienced during the TechMunch summer event in New York, media, brands and bloggers are all willing to share their experience, insights and challenges, putting the “social” in social media. It’s no longer “us against them,” it’s “we’re all in this together.”

Social media has given everyone a voice – and they’re not afraid to use it. Audience members politely yet aggressively (“Pardon me for saying so…”) challenged well-known speakers during one keynote session on politics. My favorite was an elderly woman who stood up and talked about her blogging and participation on Twitter. She clearly was energized by this aspect of her life and the new doors it had opened for her.

Are you involved in social media? If so, has it changed your life, personally or professionally? If not, what obstacles are in your way that are preventing you from engaging online?

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Stay relevant, my friend – how PR agencies need to sell digital services

Posted by thecastlegroup on September 30, 2010

In the recent series of blog posts by the quartet of Todd Defren, Steve Farnsworth, Lou Hoffman and Paul Roberts, in what they have termed the 4/4/4/ series, discussion focused primarily on the changing scope of responsibilities for PR agencies. From digital tools to ethics considerations to social media, the posts made clear that public relations has a more prominent seat at the marketing table, and more opportunity to drive strategy for client brand messaging well beyond media relations.

While the theme of relevance pervades many of these posts, the “relevance” is focused mostly on awareness and usage of the tools and managing the issues that come with deeper immersion into client business. But, like my newest TV hero, the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World (who is the coolest TV guy since Thomas Magnum re-upped), staying relevant also means staying thirsty.

Consuming all the emerging tools, participating in social media, introducing new measurement concepts to clients and creating content that has a long shelf life online are musts for any PR practitioner today. But is the thirst there to sell these services correctly? Learning all of the above is just step one — staying relevant and really thirsty needs to manifest itself in the way we sell our services.

The thirsty agency embraces these selling concepts:

  • The retainer is dead. Maybe not for all clients, but PR firms must look to new ways to bill for services. Smaller firms especially have opportunity to reconfigure pricing to account for content creation, brand monitoring, social media strategy and more. Client needs, and the systems and tools to help meet them, are changing too fast for fixed price relationships.
  • There is a lot more money to be made. Client needs are growing more complex. Their content needs are growing, and the PR firm is one of many creative agencies vying for business. The firms best positioned to tackle the most complex client issues will earn the highest rewards.
  • Specialists are needed. Building an offering that includes everything discussed in the 4/4/4 series is daunting. The full-service agency era is taking a backseat (for now) to a more specialized approach. Clients are using separate firms for search, creative, communications, advertising, media buying. There’s an argument to be made that the next great agency model embraces all these disciplines in an integrated way (some firms certainly offer all of these now but typically in a “silo” format), but for now specialists are need. What’s your sweet spot?
  • Communicate your expertise. That’s what PR firms do on behalf of clients, right? The “cobbler’s children” metaphor stopped working once the cobbler got an iPad. It’s not about how slick your website is (but look for a really slick new Castle site shortly) or how much animation your PowerPoint has. For PR firms, it’s never been about us, which is why clients trust us with communicating their brands. We need to tell prospects and existing clients about the digital landscape and how they need to immerse themselves. Companies are looking for direction. The winners will be the ones that provide it.

Marketers, what are you looking for? What impacts your buying decisions? How thirsty are you?

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2nd BWP Odd Pairing Experiment

Posted by thecastlegroup on September 22, 2010

Sick of the same old events? Boston World Partnerships, an economic driver that I am proudly part of, is hosting its 2nd Odd Pairing Experiment. The first was a great mix of very different speakers, tons of meaningful attendees and an awesome venue. 

This next one promises the same. Here are details. 

Join Boston World Partnerships’ Connectors for our 2nd Odd Pairing Experiment.  Panelists will lead an interactive discussion on the topic of how organizations tell their stories. 

Damon Jones, Global Communications Director, Procter & Gamble, and former Director of Press Relations for the 2008 Democratic National Committee
 
 

Howard Anderson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan, Founder of The Yankee Group, and Co-Founder of Battery Ventures
 
 

Chris Colbert, Founder of the marketing agency Holland Mark, and sherpa of FutureM
 
 

Susan Rodgerson, Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Artists For Humanity
 
 

Peter Brown, Chief of Staff to the President & CEO of Partners Healthcare, Former News Director at WBZ-TV 

Moderator: 

Dave McLaughlin, Executive Director of Boston World Partnerships and award-winning filmmaker 

When: Wednesday – October 6, 2010 

Where: Artists for Humanity EpiCenter
100 W 2nd St.
Boston, MA 02127 

Time: Registration: 6:00pm -6:30pm
Speaking Program: 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Networking Reception: 7:30pm – 9:00pm 

Fee: $55 early bird & BWP Connectors
$75 General Admission 

To buy tickets, please visit:
www.oddpairings.com

Posted in Castle News, Events & Incentives, fun stuff and more, Marketing, PR, Social Media (or the Digital Divide) | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bloggers and privacy

Posted by thecastlegroup on August 17, 2010

Castle VP Hilary Allard writes this week about a recent privacy issue in the blogosphere.

I was intrigued last week by a tweet from a blogger who objected to a journalist’s use of a database to find her number and call her for an interview.

While she said she was happy to talk with journalists, she only wants to be contacted by email.  Her position met with some pro/con feedback from both sides of the fence.

In her case, she had important, valid and personal reasons for her privacy concerns, but the journalist in question could not have known in advance about the blogger’s privacy issues. The reporter was  just doing her job.

This raises a number of important points for consideration about journalism, blogging and media relations:

  1. Journalists, like everyone, are busy, now more so than ever. Due to abundant layoffs in the media, journalists often have expanded job duties with participation in social media, blogging and live updates to their stories online, in addition to their regular assignments. It’s their job to talk to people and get information. If journalists think that they are going to send an email into a black hole of a “contact us” form, they will feel that they won’t get the information they need on time (or at all). See this PRNewser article on the frustrations of a writer who tried to contact Clinique through its corporate website. During a June blogger event in New York where I spoke on a PR panel, an established journalist who writes for both top-tier print and online made it clear that he wants contact phone numbers to be readily available on blogs so that he can reach people within his deadlines.
  2. When you put yourself out there as someone with something to say on your blog, people (hopefully) are going to want to talk to you.  If someone is trying to find, and use, your phone number for unscrupulous reasons, that’s one thing.  But an interview?  Be happy they wanted to talk with you. In the end, you know the article is only going to boost your traffic.
  3. Calling out a journalist online isn’t a great way to make friends in the media. Despite our age of transparency, some things (both personal and professional), can/must/should stay off-line. Again, the writer could not have known in advance about the blogger’s privacy concerns.
  4. There is an endless debate over whether bloggers are journalists.  Maybe some day we’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, my take on it – if you are going make a living as a writer (in a public way) and attend press events, etc. then you need to live with the phone calls. 

(P.S. – For the sake of being completely transparent, in addition to contributing to Castle’s blog, I also write my own personal food blog. I do not monetize my blog, nor do I attend press events, accept samples or the like. It is a hobby and place for me to share recipes and thoughts about all things food.)

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