Archive for the ‘communications’ Category

5 Take-Aways on Social Media and Politics

Discussion around my recent post on some alleged unethical social media use during Toronto’s mayoral election got me thinking around some broader topics that have emerged recently.

Without further ado, here are five thoughts on themes I’ve seen recently.

1. People who try to tie social media success or failure alone to campaign results are nuts

I’ve said it many times, communications is evolving away from silos and towards integrated campaigns. As this continues, we’ll see fewer and fewer stand-alone “social media” successes and more and more multi-channel successes – for example, owned properties supported by earned media, paid ads and social channels.

People who continue to produce analyses of whether social media drove the success of a candidate, or whether better social media would have improved the odds of a candidate, are missing the bigger picture. We should be looking at the overall communications approaches of campaigns, and how they communicate the selling points of candidates and parties.

Take-away: Consider the bigger picture rather than analyzing artificial silos.

2. Buzz is very different to mobilization

The volume of online chatter about a candidate may say something about candidates, but is very, very different to activating those people to take action. The fact that people are discussing something doesn’t mean they are going to do anything about it. That’s especially the case when the online discussion is passive – that is, that it’s happening about offline activities but isn’t backed-up with online engagement or a call to action.

Take-away: Share of voice is only one metric. Look at other metrics alongside it, and analyse those metrics to provide useful insights and recommendations.

3. Social media doesn’t reach everyone

…and neither does the Globe and Mail. Neither does cable news. That’s why organizations – political and non-political – need to adopt communications approaches that integrate multiple media to reach people, multiple times, with consistent, simple and compelling content.

Take-away: Bring marketing, media and PR together to create integrated plans for optimum results.

4. Crises CAN emerge online

Crisis communications is a fascinating topic nowadays. There are plenty of scenarios where a situation can emerge online and translate into a critical election issue. For that reason it’s critical that organizations monitor online channels – and not just about themselves, but about their key issues – on an ongoing basis to identify issues early and provide additional time to mitigate them.

Take-away: Monitor before issues emerge, rather than after they hit, to create additional opportunities for issues management.

5. Communications can only solve so much

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Communications can’t solve everything. If your policies are poor, good communications won’t help. If your product or service is poor, or your customer service is awful, good communications is likely to draw more peoples’ attention to that.

Yes, poor communications can ruin even the best policies – the best policy in the world is no use in a campaign if no-one understands it or knows about it – but communications can only do so much.

Take-away: Make sure the underlying fundamentals are good before pointing the finger at communications.

The Biggest Challenge Digital Communicators Face

Let’s chat about the biggest challenge I think digital communicators on the agency side face nowadays.

  • It’s not measurement
  • It’s not integrating channels in their programs
  • It’s not thinking strategically while selecting tactics

Don’t get me wrong – all of these are significant and important challenges. However, there’s a bigger one that over-arches all of them:

When we go into organizations and explain the way communications is shifting, we’re often telling people that the way they’ve communicated their whole career, and the way they see things working, is changing.

We’re telling people that their comfort zone is no longer in the right place.

Take the video interview I posted the other day, for example. When Sylvain Perron asked me what trends I see growing over the next while, I replied with two broad trends:

  1. Increased integration and decreased silos
  2. A shift from campaigns to long-term engagement

Each of these runs counter to the way that many people think.

Silo-busting

Senior marketing decision makers have often spent their whole careers thinking in terms of public relations (sometimes corporate and marcom), advertising, internal communications and, more recently, digital communications. They’re seen as discrete channels, often with their own AORs.

Nowadays, we’re moving to a place where the various channels overlap significantly, as shown in the graphic above (hat tip to David Armano).

This means both additional work to coordinate multiple agency partners, but also a need for much tighter integration between tactics, and as that happens the roles of different media are shifting (Forrester’s Sean Corcoran wrote about this late last year).

Shifting from campaigns to engagement

Many marketers have spent many years operating using a campaign model. These are characterized by large spikes in activity which drive spikes in attention from target audiences.

This model is a recipe for wasted resources in today’s communications environment.

In a system where we’re able to foster, curate and engage communities of interest around common goals, the approach of making a big splash then disappearing is highly inefficient. Not only do you drop back from that initial level of engagement, you also risk creating social media scorched earth as you do so.

Take campaign-based Facebook pages, for example.

Creating a one-shot Facebook page then deleting it is like spending thousands of dollars on a campaign that builds your email list, only to then take that email list and burn it when the campaign is done.

Instead, ongoing community engagement paired with regular spikes in activity can provide ongoing awareness and a platform from which to build with more major initiatives, while fostering brand advocates within that community.

Again, a shift.

This can be a hard shift to accept for people who are used to operating differently.

Tips to face the challenge

So how can we deal with this sensitively? Here are four tips:

  1. Be clear that this is an evolution. People aren’t doing things wrong; they just need to adjust to operate within this evolving media environment
  2. Educate your clients. Provide basic training, but also regular ongoing insights into trends, tools and useful pointers that can help busy clients to stay on-top of rapidly evolving trends.
  3. Recognize that things won’t change overnight. Many clients will continue to operate with discrete channels for campaigns. That means you may need to work closely with other agencies to develop plans.
  4. Help clients to coordinate. Agencies are all competing for a slice of the digital pie. That’s fine from a broader sense, but once you’re working on a campaign it’s important that that all ends and that agencies collaborate to ensure campaigns integrate. Work with your clients to help to structure roles and responsibilities within their agency team.
  5. Remember – while we may understand and be on-board with these changes, not everyone is as excited. Change can be scary until you have a handle on what’s going on. As consultants, it’s our job to give the best advice we can and to help our clients work through this transition.

So, what do you think? What other tips would you offer? Share them in the comments.

Video: Dave Fleet On Communications Trends And Joining Edelman

Many of you know that about six weeks ago I joined Edelman‘s Digital team. Soon after, I sat down with my new boss, Sylvain Perron – to chat about my career path so far, my thoughts on some key communications trends and the reason I made the move to Edelman.

What do you think – are the communications trends I’m seeing on-the-mark?

(Note: This video is also posted on the Edelman Digital site)

Digital Communications Conversations Continue To Evolve

The maturation of the conversation about social media-driven PR continues.

As the “digital communications” industry (read: somewhere in the intersection of owned, earned and paid media) grows beyond the niche and towards the mainstream, the conversation at the leading end of the industry is shifting more and more from the “why” to the “how”.

Brian Solis published a great post yesterday, touching on a couple of important topics at the heart of the evolution of social media-focused communications from shiny objects to a serious business tool:

  • The continued focus of the metrics conversation on conversion as an endpoint
  • The definition of “influencers” from a client perspective

Conversion

More and more people are honing in on the importance of driving towards tangible, credible metrics. Conversions are key within that bracket. What you define as a conversion may vary depending on context, but in general the term will focus you in on sales, memberships, opt-in contacts (leads) and the like.

Why do conversions matter? Because they’re metrics that can lead to financial results (or could actually measure that themselves in the case of sales).

Folks like KD Paine, Olivier Blanchard and Rob Clark, who are neck-deep in the topic, figured this stuff out a while back but we’re slowly seeing more people hone in on it. Meanwhile, they’re focusing on how to prove value over “what you should do” and “why you should do it.”

As Chris Brogan put in a well-timed post on social media metrics today, “The social media metric that I think does matter and that is difficult to fully qualify is sentiment: the positive or negative mentions of a brand, product, service, whatever.” While unlike him I choose not to “poo-poo” measuring things like retweets, page views etc, I completely agree that in general they’re at best a proxy towards measuring more useful results, and at worst a cop-out from people unsure how to measure final results or afraid what it would show.

Influencers

Research continues to highlight the importance of context over quantity when it comes to influence. As Solis puts it:

“Brands seeking reach, presence, and connectivity must look beyond popularity and focus on aligning with the influential beacons who serve as the hubs for contextual networks or nicheworks.”

This is becoming more and more important as the early adopters who have built large followings become the focus of more and more attention from marketers – not only will the returns be greater from focusing on niche influencers in terms of success ratio; those people have more credibility within those communities.

Simply put, while I’m likely to check out a new business contact management tool if Brogan recommends it, if he suddenly recommended a lawnmower (for example), I’m much less likely to listen than if he were a credible and regular voice on that topic. That’s not a slight on him, but a reflection of the credibility that people can build up in a community that cares about their niche – that’s why sites like Pulse of the Tweeters help to drive things forward a notch.

So, the conversations on social graphs and content topics continue to converge.

Follow these trends; they’re important ones for anyone working in the digital communications space.

Interview: Aaron Goldman – Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google

Aaron Goldman is the author of Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google (affiliate link). Before declaring free agency earlier this week, Aaron was the founder and principal at Connectual, where he put lessons learned from Google to good use in digital marketing consulting and matchmaking.

As part of a blog tour celebrating the book launch, I took the opportunity to put a few questions to Aaron about his views on Google’s approach to marketing, and how its own social media activities have contributed to its success. You can find more information about the book at GoogleyLessons.com. I’m working my way through a review copy of the book right now; look for a review on here in the next couple of weeks.

With all of the companies taking innovative approaches to marketing nowadays, why did you choose to write about Google?

5 main reasons:

1. It’s a company I know intimately. I worked closely with Google during my 5-ish years at Resolution Media, helping brands manage paid and organic search as well as serving on Google’s agency advisory council.

2. Google’s ubiquitous. Everyone knows Google. Everyone uses Google. So it’s a company that people are familiar with.

3. Google is incredibly successful. Innovation and success don’t always go hand in hand. In Google’s case, they do. That makes it a company that many businesses look up to and aspire to be.

4. Google has a mystique and intrigue about it. People want to peek under the hood and see what makes the Googleplex tick.

5. People don’t usually think about Google as a company that does much marketing. Most folks think Google just had a great product and benefited from word of mouth. But, just because you don’t see Google ads all over your TV, doesn’t mean it’s not marketing. A lot of Google’s marketing doesn’t have media dollars attached to it.

All that said, many of the “Googley Lessons” in my book aren’t necessarily about Google’s marketing. They’re basic tenants that Google does well in other facets of its business that marketers can learn from — things like, “Relevancy Rules.”

If there’s one key insight marketers should take from your book, what would it be?

Marketing is more than just advertising.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here as this is a battle you PR pros often have to fight all the time when brands dump time and money into paid media when they could be getting better results with a little more focus on earned media.

Your book mentions the importance of data. PR has long suffered as a discipline that struggles with data and measurement. What can we as PR practitioners learn from Google’s approach to using data?

The lessons in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of my book are Test Everything, Track Everything, and Let the Data Decide.

Google is always testing. At one point, it tested 41 different shades of blue for its toolbar.

Of course, without tracking, testing is useless. Google has a bunch of great tools that marketers can use to track their efforts.

And Google doesn’t rely on intuition or gut feels. It lets the data decide the winner in each of these tests.

PR pros would be wise to take Google’s approach to continual tweaking and optimization. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.

And, while tracking is certainly not as easy in PR as in advertising and media, there are plenty of ways to measure impact. The key of course, is to measure actual impact — not impressions.

Now, every brand will define “impact” differently based on corporate goals but I can guarantee you no company has a goal to get 1 million Facebook likes or 1,000 retweets.

What impact did these social media indicators have on brand awareness, preference, and sales?

You feature insights from numerous marketing luminaries in your book, among them Avinash Kaushik, Google’s analytics evangelist. How do you see web analytics fitting into the modern marketing system?

Web analytics is one of the ways to do the tracking and measurement I just preached about.

And Avinash will be the first to tell you how important it is to focus on the right metrics.

When I interviewed him, Avinash told me that marketers put far too much emphasis on “input” or “acquisition” metrics like page rank or clicks. As he put it, “true glory” comes from “output” or “behavioral” metrics like bounce rate and average order value.

Going forward, the role of analytics will only increase as marketers create data-driven cultures.

How do you think Google’s social media communications activities – its numerous blogs and its Twitter presence, for example – have fed into its success?

I think Google’s social media strategy has made the company more approachable.

3 of Google’s core values are openness, transparency, and authenticity.

By having a blog and Twitter account for just about every business unit and product, Google is able to engage people in a “non-corporate” way.

Google doesn’t just use these channels to beat its chest and blast out promotional messages. It shares works-in-progress, product bugs and fixes, behind-the-scenes stories, etc.

This gives people a warm and fuzzy about Google that they just don’t get from, say, Apple. Can you imagine Apple blogging about products still in development or tweeting about product bugs?

Of course, this speaks to the difference in cultures between Google and Apple. Google is all about launch, test, fail, improve. Apple would never launch without full testing and QA.

Social media as a channel is ripe for the Google approach. If you wait to polish every single message and interaction, you’ll have missed the window of opportunity to engage a customer or potential customer — not to mention come off as unauthentic and insincere.

The Challenge – And Risk – Of Ad Agencies’ Growing Interest In Social Media

Too much has already been written about the recent Old Spice foray into social media. However, one aspect of the campaign has escaped most commentary – the firm – Wieden + Kennedy – is an ad agency. Not a PR agency, or a social media agency. An ad agency.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story on the growing interest of ad agencies in the social media space. As they put it,

“As more and more advertising dollars flow into social media, some Madison Avenue firms are seeking to grab a piece of the action.”

The story cites several examples of ad agencies who are making a move to grow this side of their business. As they do so, they are moving into direct competition with the PR firms and social media agencies who, until recently, they have partnered with on client projects.

Many public relations folks have harped on the idea that PR agencies are best placed to serve clients’ social media needs because of their focus on relationships and conversations as part of their core business. If nothing else, Isaiah Mustafah’s wonderful social media tour de force last week proved that ad agencies can get it right online, with a combination of creativity, comedy and captivating two-way interaction. Meanwhile, however, the pragmatists among us have been observing the blurring of the lines for quite some time. I’ve argued, for example, that PR agencies can learn a lot from ad agencies including:

  1. How to better scale programs;
  2. How to plan and execute more creatively;
  3. That measurement is critical;
  4. How to effectively target their key audiences;
  5. How to better target messages.

Four challenges to PR firms from ad agencies

Public relations agencies – even those who have been working in the space for several years now – can’t ignore this evolution. The increasing attention of ad agencies raises several critical challenges from a PR and broader communications standpoint:

  1. Advertising agencies typically command bigger budgets for programs. That’s nothing new and PR people have long gnashed their teeth about that fact. However, when social media is brought into the mix, the larger budgets mean that ad agencies have more visibility, more flexibility and the potential for more creativity than PR agencies may enjoy thanks, not to their credentials or ability (though I’m not slighting them), but due to the source of their funding.
  2. Ad agencies have access to the marketing function, which often controls communications in general within organizations. That means that they will often have a shorter route to the top and, linked to the above point, may have greater influence with clients.
  3. Ad agencies are built around strong creative teams. They have the creative chops that can rival those of any PR agency.
  4. Control of the marketing side of communications means that advertising agencies have access to other assets that PR agencies may not have – graphics, logos, actors (once again, see Old Spice)

Risks if PR and ad agencies don’t work together

So, the stage is set for quite the tug of war. Trouble is, I suspect that no-one will win if a tug of war is what happens. In fact, a battle like this may hurt both sides as agencies wrestle over the grey area in client relationships. The risks of not learning from each other, and from not learning to place nicely together, are several:

  1. Fragmented social media efforts: A lack of cooperation between advertising and PR agencies, or between marketing and corporate communications functions, can lead to each doing their own thing in social media. That leads to fragmented, siloed failures as organizations roll out poorly coordinated, ineffective campaigns. As Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran outlined in December 2009, the different forms of media each have their own pros and cons. I suggested earlier this year that organizations need to effectively coordinate the various media channels and their complementary characteristics to  make them work together and to obtain optimal results.
  2. Sub-optimal results reduce future budgets: Siloed campaigns lead to sub-optimal results, as the weaknesses of each channel remain present without being offset by other channels. That leads to a reluctance from companies to invest in unproven technologies and techniques, leading to lower budgets for these programs in the future. Traditional approaches, which are losing efficacy over time, will continue to deliver similarly sub-optimal results in the long-term. Companies run a risk of a downward spiral with no end winner.
  3. Short-term spikes less effective: Ad agencies excel at generating attention around ideas, but can sometimes struggle more with long-term efforts – this is where the PR agencies’ focus on long-term relationships comes in, as they can plug the gaps in the timelines with sustaining tactics. Old Spice’s re-branding effort, which even has my girlfriend suggesting I try the product, will fail if it simply stops now. If that happens no-one beyond award judges will remember it in a few months. To really entrench their efforts, the agencies involved need to support the initial spike in attention with tactics that will maintain that velocity over the long term.

Conclusion

Agencies need to agree to work together to integrate their communications approaches. It can be tough – the bottom line is that their business objectives often conflict with each other. However, neither is usually “the bad guy” and it can work. If that doesn’t happen, clients need to establish a framework that ensures agencies work with each other, rather than against each other, with cooperation established as a key criteria when evaluating agency performance. For that to happen, companies need to resolve their own internal conflicts between marketing and public relations. Good agencies can help clients make that happen.

What do you think? Have you experienced this blurring of the traditional lines between agencies? How well do you think agencies can hope to work together, given their conflicting objectives?

Courtyard Restaurant In Ottawa – Doing It Right

Warning – I’m about to talk about my dinner. Bear with me – there’s a point…

Ever had one of those experiences when you just thought that someone really nailed “it,” whatever “it” is? I had one of those yesterday.

I flew to Ottawa yesterday ahead of a presentation I’m giving at a Canadian Medical Association event this morning. After several hours of hermit-like work in my hotel room, I got to thinking about dinner. Rather than going to the Milestones I can see from my room, I threw out a tweet to see if people had any suggestions.

I got about a dozen or so responses with recommendations of nearby places. Among them were several from foodiePrints – an Ottawa-based food blog. One in particular caught my eye – the chef at a local restaurant – the Courtyard Restaurant – had responded to the question:

Impressed by the response (although a little worried about a “chronic” duck (turns out it’s a good thing), I decided to head over to the restaurant.

This was a win for the restaurant already – for the outlay of a couple of seconds of typing, they’d brought in a new customer. But it continued:

Simple but effective. I laughed when I saw that tweet (to the consternation of several couples nearby, who clearly thought I was a little crazy) and again when, a few minutes later, the most over-the-top dessert I’ve ever had emerged from the kitchen… and was delicious.

What’s my point here?

Communications is changing

Communications is changing. The way you can reach your customers and your potential customers is changing. Five years ago I would have gone to a chain restaurant; instead a local establishment was able to respond to my tweeted question and, with the investment of a few seconds (and a delicious dessert), won my business and my loyalty.

An ad or a newspaper story might work with some people, but there are an increasing number of people using these online tools to find recommendations through word-of-mouth. Not the traditional word-of-mouth, but a new, scaleable word-of-mouth that can reach people instantly and effectively.

Have you thought about how you can turn this to your advantage?

(Oh, and the duck at the Courtyard Restaurant was delicious; “chronic,” if you will. Thank you to Michael Hay and his staff for a great experience)

Evolving the Social Media Marketing Ecosystem

In January this year I put forward my thoughts on the social media marketing ecosystem in which we operate in 2010. It looked like this:

While this relatively complex model is great to help shape the thinking of organizations wrestling with a plethora of products, it’s also a little complex for organizations without those massive resources. These organizations, which comprise the majority of the market, just don’t have the staff, resources or time to deal with such a complex set of properties.

So, I went back to the drawing board – not to re-think the model, but to boil it down to one simple enough for the majority of people to digest. The result: a simplified model of the social media marketing ecosystem:

All of the complex dynamics within the original system are still accounted for within this simplified diagram, but the framework as a whole is much easier to digest.

In addition to earned, paid and owned media (summarized as “company website” and properties on other sites), this model has an additional sphere on top of Sean Corcoran’s framework, on top of which the original ecosystem model was developed – social networks. This raises the question – should Corcoran’s model have an additional row? What might it look like? (thanks to Joe Thornley for prompting this line of thinking)

It’s a tough call. For one thing, the “social media” row might look a lot like the other rows in many ways; borrowing aspects from owned and earned media in particular. For another, any definition of the role of social media is surely going to be controversial.

I’m a glutton for punishment though, so I put together a starting point – Corcoran’s model, revised with a new row for social media.:

Does social media deserve its own row here, or does its rapid evolution over the past few years simply mean it is intertwined among the other media types in today’s communications environment?

What do you think?

The 2010 Social Media Marketing Ecosystem

Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran recently posted an insightful breakdown of some of the differences between owned media, paid media and earned media. Given the ongoing convergence I’m seeing between different communications disciplines which I’m seeing on a daily basis, this got me thinking.

Owned, paid and earned media breakdown

The thought process ultimately led me to sketch out my take on the social media marketing ecosystem in which corporations operate – shown below.

This is my take on the ecosystem within which the new wave of hybrid marketing agencies like ours need to operate as we enter 2010.

Social Media Marketing Ecosystem

Social Media Marketing Ecosystem Legend

(Update: yes, I know there are no ads on Flickr. It’s illustrative.)

This is pretty complex, so I’ve broken it down into different system elements below. Note though, that the different elements work best when we succeed in breaking out of communications silos and integrating our communications strategies.

A few notes up-front

  • As complex as this image is, it’s still a drastic over-simplification. There are many more linkages than are displayed; I’ve simplified to the graphic is still readable.
  • The importance of each social network will vary depending on the organizational context – target markets; objectives, etc.
  • The ecosystem is constantly changing. A few months down the line, the big four social networks may have changed.
  • There are many, many other social networks, forums and other sites not directly shown here. They’re grouped into “Other” but may in fact play a significant role in your activities, depending on your company.
  • This ecosystem is externally-focused. A similar system doubtless exists for corporations’ internal communications.
  • MSM stands for “mainstream media.”
  • Each of the different elements can both act as a focal point and/or support other tactics, depending on how they are used within an integrated strategy.
  • The following sections each filter certain elements from the overall ecosystem above, to provide a simpler view of the owned, paid and earned elements of the system.

Corporate Social Media Ecosystem (Owned Media)

Corporate Social Media Ecosystem

Key elements of the ideal corporate social media ecosystem:

  • Hub and spoke: Adopts a ‘hub and spoke’ system centred around a corporate social media hub, whose form will depend on the organization.
  • Tiered hub and spoke: Each social network may have its own hub and spoke system, if necessary. For example, you may have a primary corporate page on Facebook supported by several applications and product-specific pages.
  • Integrated: The hub is as integrated into the corporate website as possible.
  • Fewer Microsites: Todd Defren and Maggie Fox both make compelling cases for companies to stop and think before investing in microsites. I agree. They may have their place in this ecosystem, but shifting to a social network or building on top of your flexible social media hub may make more sense.
  • Mobile is ubiquitous: I considered including mobile as a separate component in the ecosystem, but decided against it. The web is becoming device-agnostic. Companies need to consider mobile content and applications as part of every aspect of their corporate web presence.
  • Inter-linking: The social media hub links to all external corporate social media properties and profiles.
  • SEO-powered: Search engine optimization (driven, in part, by social media activities) helps to drive traffic to the corporate website, social media hub and external social media properties and profiles. This goes for both the corporate site and separate properties. SEO could fall into any of these buckets, but for the sake of simplicity I’ve included it in this part of the breakdown.
  • Two-way flow: The information flow around social media elements is (depending on the organizational context, of course) two way.

Corporate Mainstream Media Ecosystem (Earned Media)

Mainstream Media Ecosystem

Key elements of the mainstream media portion of the ecosystem:

  • On and offline: Mainstream media exist both online and offline (many are both). Either way, they can drive significant traffic within the social media marketing ecosystem.
  • Two-way: Ideally, the information flow with mainstream media is two-way in two ways:
    • Earned media drives quality traffic to your properties; your properties can generate stories within the mainstream media (both positive and negative)
    • One of your goals should be a constructive dialogue with mainstream media which enables you to achieve your goals while making the journalists’ lives easier.
  • Multi-destination: Earned media coverage will primarily drive traffic to your corporate site in the short term. However, earned media coverage can raise broader awareness, thus driving traffic to your external properties and social media profiles (especially over time within a sustained media relations program).

Corporate Advertising Ecosystem (Paid Media)

Corporate Advertising System

Features of the corporate advertising ecosystem:

  • Social and non-social: Advertising takes place both within social media sites, but also within other online properties (search engines are a prominent example, as is CPM/CPC advertising on mainstream sites).
  • Interwoven: While paid online media stands alone within the social media marketing ecosystem (represented here by “SEM,” it is also interwoven throughout many other elements.
  • Multi-destination: Much of your advertising may drive traffic to your corporate website. However, advertising can also support your social media efforts by raising awareness and driving people to your social media profiles and properties.
  • Multi-faceted: “Ads” within many social networks can mean many things. Facebook, for example, your advertising activities might extend beyond regular Facebook ads and into “appvertisements.”

Make sense?

Together these different elements combine to form the more complex (yet still simplified) ecosystem displayed at the top of this post.

This is clearly far from complete. I’m curious as to your thoughts – let me know what you think in the comments and let’s refine this together.

Six Ways To Silo-Bust Your Communications

We’re into “2010 prediction season, and there are plenty of social media buzzwords being thrown around.” “Real-time,” “location-based,” “convergence” and “augmented reality” are a few that stand out for me.

No silos

I’m going to throw a new one into the mix; one that has been my mantra for a while, and which (I think) should frame your communications strategies for 2010 – if it doesn’t already:

Integration.

Silos suck

If I’ve learned anything from the social media work we’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this year, it’s that siloed communications strategies rarely work. What good is a Twitter account if no-one knows it’s there? What good are user-generated videos if no-one can share them? If a news release falls in the forest, does anyone hear?

As communicators, we know that message repetition is key to message retention. When it comes to social media – a long-term, relationship-based channel – you have a great opportunity to reach people repeatedly with whatever messages you’re sharing. That goes whether you’re trying to offer a new customer service channel, develop long-term loyalty, gain product feedback, promote new services or whatever your goal is.

Your life as a communicator becomes a lot easier when the public-facing elements of your organization – the public relations, marketing, advertising, IT (where IT handles the website), customer service and (perhaps) social media functions – are pointing in the same direction.

Reality kicks in

It makes intuitive sense, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Almost daily, you can see important campaigns launched without support from other functions and all sorts of similar fragmentation of strategies and tactics which undermine the success of the sizable investment made in them.

It’s not always as easy as it sounds to break out of communications silos. Regardless of the size of your organization (or the nature of the agency relationship) there are likely politics and turf involved. Organizational silos layer on top of the communication silos. In an agency, it can be particularly hard to coordinate with other agencies who, frankly, may wish they were executing some of the work you’re doing. Still, you can be the player that takes the high road and makes the first move to reach out. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Here are six simple things you can do to begin to integrate your communications and bust out of your silos:

  • Where possible, invite people from other communications functions to be in the room when planning your year’s activities. At a minimum, ensure the different functions’ plans are shared.
  • Plan to coordinate your activities with those of other functions. If there’s a big ad push in Q1, for example, consider whether other functions should push hard then, too. If not, consider how you’ll try to compensate for the lower advertising activity at other times in the year.
  • Ensure you integrate your messaging with other functions. If there’s an ad campaign focused on a new product feature, it makes sense to use other channels too, rather than focusing on something else, right? Remember – repetition begets retention, and retention leads to results.
  • Schedule regular update meetings with your colleagues in other departments. If you’re on the agency side, try to meet or talk regularly with other agencies working with your clients. You’ll probably need client buy-in (or even pressure) to make this happen, but it’s worth it.
  • Next time you launch a contest, product feature or web property, consider well ahead of time whether it could be featured in email blasts, direct mail pieces, advertising creative, news release, speeches etc. Lobby the appropriate people to update your company’s website with links to all of your web properties, and ensure your websites and social media properties link back.
  • Do what you can to integrate measurement with other functions. If you’re driving traffic to your website, don’t measure click-throughs; measure conversions. If you’re trying to drive foot traffic to stores, see if you can measure that. Don’t limit your measurement to the first level of proxies on the way to your goal.

These are just six simple ways to begin to break out of silos in your communications. There are plenty more out there – what would you add to the list?