Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Find me over at www.arikhanson.com

Sorry folks, I switched blog platforms a while back. Want to make sure you're finding me over at www.arikhanson.com. And, if you're so inclined, drop me a note or comment and let me know what you think of the new design/theme. I'd appreciate your feedback.

In the meantime, thanks for reading. Hope to connect soon.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

A happy ending to this Tweet-a-thon story

The following is a guest post from my PR colleague and good friend, Scott Hepburn. If you'll recall, a number of folks participated in a tweet-a-thon a few weeks back in hopes of generating job leads for Scott and Sonny Gill--two eligible "free agents" at the time.

While I know Sonny is still looking (and getting closer) for a new gig, I'm happy to report that Scott has some fantastic news to share with you all--the folks that played such a crucial role in this powerful story. Before I blurt it out myself, I'll let Scott take the stage...

“Jerry Maguire, my agent. You’re my ambassador of Quan.”

Arik Hanson is MY ambassador of Quan.

Just one month ago, Arik called on you, his readers, to join him in Tweeting me into a new gig. And you responded. In overwhelming, breath-taking, faith-affirming fashion, you responded. Hundreds of retweets. Dozens of leads. Countless inquiries. And momentum.

It seems only fitting that I would circle back to Arik’s blog to announce that my free agency. This week I joined Ritz Marketing in Charlotte to lead their social media and emerging media team.

I’m excited to join one of Charlotte’s top five agencies. Ritz Marketing clients include the Detroit Area Honda Dealers Association, Penske Automotive Group’s Central Zone Division, McAlister’s Deli’s largest franchisee, and dozens of others.

My role at Ritz Marketing will be part teacher, part navigator, part point guard and part devil’s advocate. Many of the questions we’ve debated on the Media Emerging blog are questions Ritz Marketing clients are asking. My advice to them will be to adhere to the wisdom of Dicky Fox: “The key to this business is personal relationships.”

Which brings me to you.

You, the generous members of Arik’s community who had my back when I was looking for my feet.

You, the PR, marketing and social media groundbreakers who teach me something new every day.

You, the forward-thinkers who are coaxing, prodding and leading your companies toward the future of communication.

Thank you for your support, guidance, leads, offers, and generosity. Though we may yet be strangers, you treated me as a brother, and for that, my door is always open to you.

If you’re headed to BlogPotomac, find me. Let’s connect. You’ll find me with my agent, Arik Hanson.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why customer experience is still word-of-mouth's best friend

As you may know, I spent a few days this past weekend down in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of course, we spent a fair amount of time lying on the beach. But one of our favorite activities while we're on St. John (our favorite island, in case you're wondering) is Woody's "World-Famous" Happy Hour. Yes, world famous. 

On an island that's known for outrageously high prices on everything from gas to orange juice, Woody's offers $1 beers and well drinks from 3-6 every day. Every day. What's more, they offer an electric, college-like atmosphere you simply can't find anywhere on St. John OR St. Thomas.

Quite simply, it's been a staple of all our trips to St. John. And we tell anybody who will listen to go there, too.

Why do we refer so many folk to this hole-in-the-wall bar? We have yet to have a bad experience. In fact, it's often the most fun we have on our trips. We sit at the bar, chatting with the bartenders and locals. Wait staff pass us shot glasses with tastes of their frozen concoctions. And they pump in great music throughout happy hour. The place just has a vibe. For us, it's all about the unique experience Woody's offers. Heck, I even bought a t-shirt (the true sign of an exceptional experience).

Keep in mind, Woody's isn't on Twitter. They don't have a Facebook page. They haven't presented me with any marketing materials. And I haven't talked to a single salesperson or PR rep (although I do try to chat with one of the owners when I'm there).

What's the lesson for brands here? It's all about the experience. Without an exceptional experience, all the social media, PR and marketing efforts in the world won't mean a thing.

In this case, Woody's nails it. The bartenders and wait staff are incredibly efficient (I always have at least one drink in my hand at all times), friendly and funny. The drinks (i.e. "products) are always cold and delicious. Heck, they even have a "drive up" window where you can grab a drink "on the go" as you're passing by. They also have all sorts of sports and island memorabilia inside to check out. And the food ain't half bad either (conch fritters anyone?). It's a total experience--every sense is satisfied. 

Now, should Woody's be engaging me to further their brand? Probably. Wouldn't take much really. But, I'm guessing in this case, they're probably not looking to open up multiple branches across the Caribbean. Regardless, they've developed a unique product and service that promotes itself. There's something to be learned from that simple fact.

But most brands could learn a lot from Woody's. Focus on your product or service. Strive to provide an experience that's so out-of-this-world that your customers will leave raving. And work every day to hone that experience so it's always improving.  Your brand does all this and it will make marketing and PR's job all that much easier.

Enough about Woody's--what's your organization doing to create exceptional products and services for your customers?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shhh…I’m going to let you in on a secret

Come closer, a little closer, ok there. Here goes- PR isn’t rocket science. There, I said it and I’m proud of it. Over the years, this thought has come to me many times when talking with other professionals I respect deeply. It usually comes up when chuckling about some huge embarrassing PR gaffe we hear about that leaves you just scratching your head wondering “why would they do that?”

Now, I want to be clear that I’m not saying that all the wonderful PR people I know aren’t talented, brilliant, and dedicated professionals in the truest sense of the word. But when it comes down to it, our goals often rely on taking a message (from our employer, a client, our own) and finding a way to connect it to an audience that we want to reach and engage. Not rocket science.

I wish it were a magic formula that only a few people had cracked and I was a member of that exclusive club, but much of what we try to do boils down to understanding the workings of the amazing human brain. PR people need to spend time understanding what motivates people to take the action we want or need them to take. The challenge (and this is where we can actually add a lot of value and earn our keep) is to get past yourself and your organizations’ collective thoughts of “this is the greatest piece of news ever- everyone will want to know this” and move to a view of your audience who is thinking “why in the world do I need this info and how does it fit in my life?”

There’s a simple tip that I learned from a great mentor—“So what.” That’s it, from the audience perspective I want to be able to give them a good answer when they ask “so what.” I need to deliver the important part of my communications in a clear, simple manner that gives them a personal answer to that question and gives them a motivation to spend their time and remain connected with what I’m saying.

Now, in an era of more communication channels than ever before, how does this concept change? Not that much. When looking at how to engage customers or supporters via social media or Web 2.0 the concept remains the same though the method of engagement changes dramatically as we have a chance to connect more directly with our audience in real-time. Before creating a massive SM campaign that hinges on a new promotion, adding dedicated SM staff, or building a new Web site with enhanced functionality think first about how you can add value to your audience.

Think about some basics that drive behavior:

· What does your audience already know?
What is their experience which will shape how they interpret your message? Think about things like history with your brand/competitors as well as regional or cultural elements.

· What do you want them to do?
You’d better get this sorted out in a very clear way before engaging in the SM space. Failures in this area can be found everywhere....like when you see five updates a day from someone on Twitter that only includes when they got up and what they’ve eaten all day. If this is the best you can do, please don’t. You’ll only hurt your reputation if you hop online and haven’t thought this question through and figured out how you can actually provide people with a way to engage in a manner that’s good for them and drives your goals.

· How is it personal to them?
Put yourself in their shoes and answer my favorite question: So what? Run your information through this screen and see if you have a good answer to what you’re adding in their lives. This element is especially true in the social media space. The most successful individuals and organizations online get this point and focus on it consistently. The advances in social media aren’t realized by just pushing content out in one more channel but by adding value to people online in an honest way right where they’re at in their lives. It’s the potential for personal connections that make SM so valuable. However, you need to realize that it can’t just be about your info but rather what about your interests matches those of your audience.

If you’d ever like to talk more about the simple premise of communications (the devil is always in the details) just let me know. I would love to hear from you. It isn’t rocket science but it sure can be fun.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Before Participation, Build a Foundation

There are dozens of scenarios for why you may consider incorporating social applications into your latest communications plan. Maybe you're responsible for bringing dynamic brand marketing ideas to life. Or perhaps you're charged with facilitating a response to a situation with potential impact on reputation.

No matter what your objective, keep in mind that participating with social tools is an ongoing and holistic strategy in itself, effecting multiple communication channels and disciplines within an organization.

Therefore, the foundation for participation needs to be built before tactical use is proposed. It's important to step back, lay the groundwork and, for example:

1) Collaborate across internal and external disciplines to review the business goals and build a plan for a 360 approach
2) Set monitoring processes to listen to relevant conversations and discover influencers
3) Review how various stakeholders are using applications and determine which channels have potential for the greatest impact
4) Develop a plan for engaging and informative participation
5) Incorporate measures for continuous evaluation and refinement

A sound strategy for participation will ultimately enable exceptional execution. How will you build a foundation for your next communications plan?

Arik, thanks for inviting me to guest post. I had a blast "holding down the fort" and hope you had a wonderful vacation. @jillianf

Friday, May 8, 2009

Does Community lead to Commerce?

Cash MoneyImage by jtyerse via Flickr

Before Arik departed for turquoise waters, he posted “Is Social Media Really About Me?” Consensus from comments to that post in my rough observation revolved around sharing, collaboration and making connections. We can all agree that some ego is likely involved. Right?

For me, it is affirming when I get retweeted, @replies, or blog comments. It feels great to think that a post I have written compels someone to take time to respond – even in disagreement. I like feeling the connection. I am uplifted by feeling I participated in a conversation that taught me and others something new.

Unfortunately, most businesses need to believe something more valuable than an ego boost or “good collaboration” is on the other side of a journey into social media participation. The famous ROI question keeps getting raised one way or another. I usually run in to this question from business leaders who are still trying to understand online social spaces and their place, if any, within the operations of their organization. I heard it this week:

How do we monetize Twitter?”

How can we make money using social media? Nobody seems able to answer that.”

This feels like one of the most frequent questions asked with the widest range of answers. What is the ROI in social media? To me, the answer is in the verbiage. “How can we make money USING social media?” “Using” needs to be replaced with “participating.”

Businesses have used mass media. They use accountants. They use raw materials. Social media is not for use. It is for participation. Commerce, as a motivation for community, can easily lead to contrived interaction, superficial relationships and limited desire for customers and employees to engage.

I am driven to explain to these organization leaders that authentic/human participation in social media leads to real relationships, passionate employees, and engaged customers. Lack of participation, strategy, and tactics lead to issues like the recent Domino's debacle on YouTube or a loss of connection with the millions of consumers/employees who have come to expect a more personal relationship with brands.

In which camp do you fall? Should social media participation and engagement be measured against expenses and sales? Are you one that believes social media can be statistically judged?

Or are you of the belief that participation is about relationships, connections, collaboration, and sharing?

Can it be both?

Thanks you, Arik, for inviting me to guest post. It is an honor to try and fill in for you. I hope your readers enjoy the post. Cheers, All. @camgross

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What's old is new again

First off, thanks to Arik for the opportunity to write on his turf. I'm glad to chip in (five years without a vacation?!), and I hope my little essay below doesn't disappoint.

Let me begin with a ray of hope.

I hope what I'm about to say is nothing more than preaching to the choir. I hope this writing is simply helpful reinforcement of a concept you're familiar with.

If not, don't worry. We're hear to discuss and learn, not to judge or scold. I come in peace!

Here's the bottom line: This newfangled "PR 2.0" stuff we're all hearing about everywhere we turn these days is newfangled only on the surface. 

Wild, huh?

Yes, helping your colleagues or your clients understand Twitter and its 140-character limit is new. Dealing with the intricacies of blog-comment moderation policies is new. Pitching people (bloggers) who are a lot more likely to publicly shame, rightly or wrongly, PR folks who rub them the wrong way is new.

But of course:

Writing concisely -- and well -- is not new. Dealing with critics is not new. Working hard to make sure your time spent pitching stories is meaningful and fruitful is not new.

The platforms, tools and concepts we cluster under the umbrella of "social media" have not changed the core of what PR practitioners do. Not one bit.

We have a lot of new tools and lingo and a lot more access to information than we had collectively been accustomed to -- a lot of stuff that's upsetting what had become a comfortable, familiar way of working --  this era of "PR 2.0" is actually just a quick, rough return to what PR always should have been. 

Yes, bloggers are a lot more likely to publicly ridicule the sender of an off-target e-mail, but is fear of public shaming really your strongest motivation for making on-target pitches? Yes, Twitter and Facebook might seem like utterly foreign territory at times, but wasn't there a time when CD-ROMs were blowing people's minds?

It's like Arik wrote in his recent post: PR is a relationship business. Always has been, always will be. Sure, you can get a story placed working with a reporter you've never even heard of, but in the long run, relationships make the work easier. And recently we've seen a clear return to public relations -- not just media relations. Working with bloggers might closely resemble working with magazine reporters, but what about that active twitterer who's constantly talking about your company's products? Or the Facebook wall-post writer who's always keeping you on your toes? Media relations? Hardly. Public relations? Damn straight.

So while it's clear that those of us on the leading edge of Web-savvy PR are quickly becoming pseudo-IT pros almost as much as we're pseudo-journalists, the core of PR is still exactly the same: working to establish credibility and foster conversations between organizations and their interested publics. Online or off.

Photo courtesy of Krista76 on Flickr

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm off to the islands...but I'm leaving you in good hands

It's been 5 years. 5 FRIGGIN YEARS since I've been on vacation. So cut me some slack. I'm due. Yes, as of about 4 p.m. tomorrow, I'll be sitting on that beach right over there (see at right) sipping something with a large amount of rum in it without a care in the world. And for the first time in a long time, I'm unplugging. Really unplugging. But, I didn't want to leave you high and dry either.

So I've asked some folks and colleagues who I think will bring some very interesting perspectives to the table to blog in my absence.

For me--and the market within which I work--it's also a great way to highlight and showcase some of the great voices and smart PR and social media pros we have right here in Minneapolis. It really is a tremendous PR and digital community.

So, for the next six days, you're going to hear from:

* Mike Keliher, customer relationship manager at Fast Horse. Mike recently joined the creative consumer marketing team at Fast Horse in Minneapolis after nearly five years honing his PR and online communication skills with Albert Maruggi at Provident Partners. At Fast Horse, he spends much of his time helping clients with online communication strategy and chips on everything from proofreading to media planning to creative brainstorming.

* Cam Gross, Best Buy. Cam's background comes from a passion for communications, marketing and advertising. Most recently, he has worked with larger enterprises on systems and cultural integration of social communication tools that connect employees with vendors and with each other.

* Jillian Froelich, senior associate and social media co-chair at Carmichael Lynch Spong, combines a passion for public relations strategy with concentrations in digital engagement and business development to produce award-winning work on behalf of clients. She was named a finalist for PRWeek’s national “Young PR Professional of the Year” honor in both 2008 and 2009.

* David Folkens, communications director, MN AIDS Project, is a strategic communicator that has broad experience working within a variety of industries over the last decade with an emphasis on health care. He previously worked for the Minneapolis office of Fleishman-Hillard on both healthcare and technology accounts, at Medtronic where he served as manager of corporate public and media relations, and at specialty pharmaceutical company Orphan Medical, Inc. where he was responsible for public relations outreach, investor/analyst relations, Web development, and internal communications.

I hope you enjoy these new voices. I know I have enjoyed getting to know them all better these past few years. Now, off to suck down a few Coronas, relax and unplug for 120 hours...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is social media really all about me?

I've been trying to formulate this thought for the last week or so, but I think I'll just come right out and ask:

Is social media really all about me?

Isn't that why we're here? Engaging in these tools is a way for us to search for a little validation. Talk about ourselves, our projects and our content (read: blog posts). Even brag a little. Heck, the tools themselves ask for it. "What are you doing?" is the trademark Twitter phrase.

Yes, it's an ego-driven system. But lately, I've noticed it's getting a little obnoxious.

Just the little things really. People hanging on and clinging to perceived social media "rock stars" at local events. Social media groupies? Make no mistake about it, they exist. Even folks on Twitter blatantly promoting themselves, their work and their products. If I want a cold call, I have at least three salespeople interrupting my family dinner and coming to my front door every week. I don't need to here it out here, too.

Again, my question: Is social media really all about me?

Or, is it about sharing? Is it about connecting with people you would have never had the chance to connect with before? Or is it about finding new and different ways to collaborate with folks from across the world in real-time?

I know there's a little "me" involved in all of this. Heck, I promote my blog posts out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all the time. But my feeling is there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. And lately, I've just seen way too many people/brands going about it the wrong way. And that leaves me feeling a little disappointed, to be honest.

There--I finally got that off my chest. What do you think? Is social media all about me?

Or, is it really about "us?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Social Media MBA

For many, an MBA is a symbol of power. Prestige. Even wealth. You won't meet many CMOs who don't have their MBA. There's no question how much time and effort it requires. No second-guessing the commitment and smarts it takes to complete something like that. No raising concerns over its value in the marketing and PR fields. Many higher-level opportunities in marketing and communications now require a MBA.

But what happens, now, as paradigms and models continue to shift? Do you really need an advanced academic degree to pursue a senior-level marketing, PR or social media role?

You know what I think? I've got your social media MBA right here.

My instructors? Chris Brogan. Amber Naslund. Jason Falls. Todd Defren. Danny Brown. Allan Schoenberg. Beth Harte. Scott Hepburn. Connie Bensen. And a host of others.

My required reading: Shannon Paul's Very Official Blog. Mack Collier's Viral Garden. Lisa Hoffmann's New Media Lisa blog. Shonali Burke's Waxing Unlyrical blog. Dave Fleet's blog. And David Mullen's Communications Catalyst blog. And many, many more (my new favorite required reading: Mengel's Musings by Amy Mengel)

My syllabus? Whatever is piquing my interest that particular day. Recent case studies. New e-books. Slide decks from recent conferences like SXSW or BlogPotomac. The choice is mine. I drive the cirriculum.

My homework? My blog. Every tweet I send. My 1 a.m. brainstorming sessions. Guest posts on other blogs. Uploading videos via Viddler. Trying different tools out (For me, it's been Seesmic Desktop and Netvibes)

Here's the great part: It's a lifelong process. It's not relegated to four years. Heck it's not relegated to the next 10 years. It's on my own time. My own schedule. And I get to apply my learnings in real time and test my ideas. It's the greatest kind of learning because it allows me to learn, implement, fail, dust myself off and try again.

It's been a little over a year since I started my MBA, but it's been one of the best year's of my professional life. It's been full of learning new skills, understanding new tools and forms of communication and best of all, you. My community. Without you, none of this is possible.

Enough about me. What classes are you taking in your social media MBA program? Who are your instructors? I'd love to hear your faves.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tweets of the Week--May 1

Over the course of a week, we see plenty of RTs and information passed along from person to person across the Twitterverse. Great blog posts, articles and other information are passed along and we all benefit from sharing.

But, every week, due to the sheer volume of tweets, we sometimes miss out on the insightful and sometimes controversial tweets that start meaningful and interesting conversations around topics in PR, marketing and social networks.

So, each week I will attempt to capture what, in my opinion, were the "tweets of the week"--hope you'll do your part in helping me fill in what I've missed. Take a look below and let me know what you think. Who knows, maybe these tweets will restart new conversations with folks who may not have seen these pearls of wisdom earlier in the week:

* J
ust get started. Listen, be honest & transparent when responding; LEARN before moving to more complex stuff. @defren

Your users are innovators on your behalf, if you listen to them. @thomasknoll

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is PR really in the relationship business?

First, I need to give a huge hat tip to Jay Baer and Shannon Paul for the title and idea for this post. It’s based on a conversation Jay had with Shannon last week online. During that back-and-forth, Jay asked some very insightful questions (or in this case, statements). One of my favorites: “I’d argue that many PR folks haven’t been in the relationship business, they’ve been in the distribution business.” Shannon’s response (which I thought was spot on) “Yes! And herein lies the rub. In many ways, social media is a return to origins of PR. More human, less mechanized.”

As she does so often, Shannon articulated perfectly—and succinctly—the crux of the issue (and challenge) for many PR pros. You see, social media is really a throwback of sorts. Back to an era where PR was based on relationships. Honest to goodness, personal relationships. Oh sure, relationships are a big part of PR, but I’m talking about genuine get-to-know-you-type-stuff here. Not shotgun-style pitches to journalists that often don’t have the time or inclination to even read the email.

So often in PR, relationships do play a big role. But, it’s somtimes in the context of relationships with media members and outlets. In the traditional model, that’s what’s important. The belief: As a PR pro, your relationships with reporters will lead to more stories for clients. True? It’s debatable. But here’s the question: Shouldn’t the real relationships be taking place with the actual customer?

Stew on that for a minute.

The other piece at play here is the shift from the traditional command and control model of PR to one that’s more nuanced. More informal. And certainly more conversational and personal. It’s about having one-to-one relationships with your customers. It’s about talking to customers like human beings—not “targets”, “clients” or “key stakeholders.” And it’s about listening. Really listening to your customers. And learning and developing products and services to meet their needs.

Back to relationships.

Shouldn’t we, as PR pros, be focusing our time and energies on helping organizations develop more personal relationships with customers—not media members? Yes, traditional media outlets are still hugely important. No one’s arguing that point. All I’m saying is the traditional channels are just one piece to the puzzle now. New channels offer new opportunity to build direct, one-to-one relationships with customers. 

Put it this way: What if you had two choices. Option A: Sit down to dinner with your customer, spend two hours talking about why he or she loves your brand/what he or she doesn’t love about it, pay your check, go home and think about ways to improve your products and services. Option B: Talk with a third-party who then sits down with your customer, and talks about your brand for two hours over crab cakes and martinis. Doesn’t option A sound MUCH more appealing? More personal. No third party. And at the end of the day, you now have a relationship with your customer.

PR pros, I ask you: What are you doing to build stronger relationships with your customers TODAY?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Twitter "IT" list

For a moment, playback to last November. Life was a lot different. We just voted in a new president. Florida had not won it's second college football national championship in three years yet. And the economy was in the tank. OK, maybe not *everything* has changed.

Life was a lot different in the world of social media, too. For those of us who live and breathe in this space, we know it operates at a whole new speed. So, I thought we'd have a little fun with this and look at some of the trends and changes we've witnessed in the last six months:

Social Media Rock Star

November--Chris Brogan (still a rock star, by the way--always will be)

April--Amber Naslund (too many to name, but Amber's definitely a star of stars)

Ready to knock the door down

November--Shannon Paul (let's face it, she's knocked the door down, barged on through and is on to the next room already)

April--David Mullen (big things ahead for this fella--especially given his announcement yesterday)

Twitter desktop app


April--Seesmic Desktop

Overused Social media buzz-phrase

November--Web 2.0

April--Conversation (maybe I need to change the title of this blog)

Fastest growing social network


April--Twitter (1,300% growth year over year)

Social networks used for social good

November--David Armano helping a homeless mother of 3 (even though it was really in January)

Most over-hyped trend

November--Parents joining Facebook

April--Celebrities joining Twitter

Social media best practice


April--Listen, then engage

Most popular Twitter celebrity

November: Shaq

Twitter's Sweetheart (full disclosure: Scott Hepburn's phrase, not mine)

November: Rachel Kay (A soft spot in my heart for Rachel)

April: Lisa Hoffmann (I couldn't resist, Lisa!)

Social Media Darlings

November: Comcast (Frank and crew are still rocking it)

April: Southwest Airlines (Gotta give huge love to my SWA friends for flying me to BlogPotomac in June!)

Social Media Phenomenon

November: HARO (still going strong)

April: Twitter chats (Journchat, blogchat, gno, smbiz, etc)

What categories would you add? What did I miss?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tweets of the week

Over the course of a week, we see plenty of RTs and information passed along from person to person across the Twitterverse. Great blog posts, articles and other information are passed along and we all benefit from sharing.

But, every week, due to the sheer volume of tweets, we sometimes miss out on the insightful and sometimes controversial tweets that start meaningful and interesting conversations around topics in PR, marketing and social networks.

So, each week I will attempt to capture what, in my opinion, were the "tweets of the week"--hope you'll do your part in helping me fill in what I've missed. Take a look below and let me know what you think. Who knows, maybe these tweets will restart new conversations with folks who may not have seen these pearls of wisdom earlier in the week:

* People of earth, Twitter is what YOU make of it. Opt in. Create your own experience and the hell with the rest.--@ambercadabra

* I'm still very much a PR girl. I think the "what it takes" has changed in PR and some refuse to evolve.--@shannonpaul

* Are you too much of an "A-lister" or too important and "busy" to respond to someone who responds to your tweet? Then why are you tweeting?--@marc_meyer

* My primary objective in any meeting is to end the meeting.--@badbanana

* The best writers, and hence the best bloggers, develop their own voice, their own tenor, their own POV. --@dpolitis

* Sponsored content is the future of advertising because it binds the ad to the consumption of media. Higher CTRs. Better ROI. --@tedmurphy

* Look at the quality of content and interaction on the topic. Ask yourself--Would you read it? --@dfolkens

* A credible blogger is one who makes a mistake and still shows up tomorrow. --@scotthepburn

* If you don't offer option of comments, you're not listening. If ur not listening, ur not in the game.--@dannybrown

* Social Media is the new zeitgeist.--@tdefren

* Never make someone a priority if they consider you an option.--@researchgoddess

* The people are the rock stars. the rockstars work to build a rock star brand.--@mattceni

* Blogging takes love. If you don't love your blog don't start the relationship in the first place--@dannybrown

* Twitter is like any relationship. You get out of it what you put into it.--@benbrugler

* Idea for corp. blogs. Get a customer that blogs to guest post. Offer the customer a voice and improve your service thru that.--@dannybrown

* Check your ego: There's not much difference between "A-List" and just "a list--@scotthepburn

What were your favorite tweets of the week?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PR Rock Stars: A Conversation with Rick Mahn

Little known fact: The Twin Cities has a tremendously robust interactive/social media market. I know we're fly-over country and all, but we have one heck of a digital community. Over the last year, the community has grown immensely stronger due to the good work of PR Rock Star Rick Mahn. 

As the founder of Social Media Breakfast-Twin Cities, I'm guessing Rick has shook hands, collaborated or chatted with just about every pro who has dabbled in the social media space across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. So, how does he qualify as a PR Rock Star? Isn't social media a part of the marketing and communications mix now? Rick's new role as social media strategist at Land 'O Lakes gives him instant credibility--and coupled with his SMB work and his general knowledge in the social media arena, he's more than deserving. Want to hear more? Let's turn this bad-boy loose...

You started Social Media Breakfast here in the Twin Cities early in 2008. Tell me a little about that experience and how’s it’s changed your outlook and career trajectory?

Let’s see… the idea of SMB, as you may know, was created by Bryan Person out in Boston in Q4 2007 if I remember right. I was watching all these great folks out in Boston wishing we had something similar here in the Twin Cities. He was able to gather so many great folks who I was following on blogs and Twitter at the time, and it really looked like a great idea.
So I email Bryan one day in early January 2008 and asked what he did to pull it together, and if he knew of anyone working on doing something similar in Minneapolis. When he simply said “why don’t you”, it was kind of an awakening of sorts.

Since then, I’ve taken on the approach of an entrepreneur. I apply that perspective to every aspect of my career, and it’s changed how a person approaches things.

You’re currently the chief Social Media Strategist for Land ‘O Lakes right here in Minneapolis. You took a little different path to that position than others—talk about your non-traditional path and how it has helped you do your job effectively.

I suppose in non-traditional, you mean “non-marketing/pr”? Yeah, I’m an old “IT” guy who just got tired of maintaining the technology part of the equation. Though, I do know of a couple of folks in the social media sphere that have similar roots, and I think it’s a valid background for being a social computing advocate.

After doing a lot of tech consulting in the ‘90s, I wound up working at Michael Foods in Minnetonka, MN for a decade. It was a great experience with great people – I learned tons of things about many aspects of the business because of the technology analyst work I did there. This was indispensible experience that I’m grateful to have.

Sufice it to say, after having an epiphany at a tech conference in Orlando in April 2007, I walked away from one of the best jobs I’d had in my career to that date. The future beckoned, and I wanted to find out what that was.

Coming out of IT with the diverse technical, management, and analytical skills that I have has really been the edge for me. It’s allowed me to watch past and current trends, and forecast what direction things are going.

The other part was blogging. I started blogging in 2004 on MSN Spaces and learn more about what transparency and authenticity were all about in the blogosphere. These also changed the way I viewed each new opportunity as I left corporate life in 2007.

Your position at Land O’ Lakes is very similar to what most would term a “community manager” position. With more organizations considering these types of positions and more candidates vying for these roles, what three tips would you offer up to those who are pursuing these types of positions?

Before you can get to the community manager part, a company has to figure out it’s strategy. That’s where I’ve been at for some time. The strategy part – it’s because of the IT geeky part of me that I tend to take a look at the bigger picture. So what I’m doing at Land O’Lakes is social media strategy.

There sure are more companies looking to fill both these types of needs, and they need help, just in figuring out what they need to figure out. That’s something that folks need to think about as they look to take on one of these positions.

Three tips:

1 – Communication skills. These skills are very necessary for any candidate in a social position. Knowing how to interact with public and management (and the workforce) is very important to success. You need to listen, moderate, interpret and communicate back. Not easy in some cases.

2 – Writing. As a community manager, writing is a key component. While it’s something I struggle with every day (I’m a techy geek remember), its not hard to do and gets easier with practice.

3 – Business, management, or marketing experience. It could be one of these, or a combination of the three. You need to understand the business you speak for. You need to be able to manage time and resources – kind of like a lot of mini-projects. Finally, everything you do is a version of marketing, whether internal or external. It goes back to communications skills.

You’re also an active blogger at www.rickmahn.com. How do you drum up new ideas for your blog and keep content fresh?

Blogging is a tough gig. Topics come and go, and I mean that sometimes I can sit down and come up with 100 ideas, and others I can’t seem to think of one. Writing is the other hard part – you always think “well everyone knows that!” The reality is that everyone doesn’t know that, and while you can come up with some great content, it’s the readers that really add value.

To come up with new ideas, I keep up with what’s going on online as much as possible. Talking with friends and associates working in social media, or in business, or in a different industry helps me keep a broad perspective. Sometimes I’ll just jump into the current meme going through the blogosphere because I have an opinion to add.

You’re as plugged in to the national social media scene as anyone in the Twin Cities. Who are your five “must follows” on Twitter and three blogs you just have to read each week?

Hmm, for Twitter it would have to be: Scott Monty at Ford, Becky McCray (an associate from a business advisors group), Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss (founder of SOBCon), and Keith Burtis of Best Buy.

For blogs it's gotta be: Jeremiah Owyang, Jason Falls, and (again) Chris Brogan. These folks are the best minds in social media today, and I’m glad to have met most of them. The other thing is that they are just real people – no different than anyone else trying to advance in this space. They just got here a little earlier than the rest of us.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Who do we pitch to when there's no one left to pitch to?

Had an interesting, albeit short conversation with my friend and PR colleague, Ryan Mathre, on the golf course the other day. His question: "Who will we pitch to when there's no one left to pitch to?"

Of course, this question is based on the premise that the traditional media channels as we know them are slipping away. Newspapers are shuttering their doors. Others are laying off staff or offering furloughs. One way or another, the traditional newspaper model as we know it today will change. Eventually.

So, then what? Basically, that was Ryan's question.

My thought: Organizations will simply do what they've done for years--just in a different way. They'll tell their story. Only in the future, with new media channels in place and with people consuming news and information in different ways, organizations will have the opportunity to tell their stories directly to their customers. Heck, some are doing it now.

Look at the strategy Domino's employed last week in addressing its crisis. Sure, they most likely issued a news release with their official response in an effort to tell their story through traditional media channels. But, they also recorded Patrick Doyle, CEO, telling their story firsthand to customers and key stakeholders on YouTube in a more human, visceral way. Domino's didn't pitch anyone. Didn't pick up a phone. Didn't send an email. They simply produced a video, posted it to YouTube and hit "upload." And boom--their message is instantly available to millions of potential Domino's customers and influencers.

The game is changing. And right now, we're in this limbo state. Traditional media channels are very much still in play. Think the New York Times or CNN has no clout? Better think again. But, new media channels are offering organizations a very different way to tell their story. Sometimes it's direct-to-consumers (YouTube videos) other times it's more indirect (monitoring and commenting on key blogs in your niche market).

What do you think? What will happen when we don't have anyone to pitch to?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's all about the numbers, right? RIGHT?

All this talk about Ashton Kutcher the last few days trying to "buy" his way to a million followers (looks like he will get his wish today) on Twitter got me thinking: Isn't he right? Isn't it really all about the numbers?

Stay with me for a minute. 

As PR pros and marketers, it's been beaten into our brain from day one. ROI. Results. Measures. All based on numbers. Dollar figures. Counts.

Shouldn't we bake those same measures and counts into the mix when integrating social media tools into our marketing and communications plans?

Shouldn't number of followers on Twitter matter? Number of RTs? Number of friends on Facebook? Number of comments on your blog? At the end of the day, as you counsel your clients, don't you need real numbers to demonstrate results and prove that you're moving the needle?

Or, is social media different?

Is it more about relationships--not numbers? Community--not ROI? Conversations--not sales?

In reality, it's a combo platter. Numbers certainly matter. Whether it's number of comments on a blog,  number of RTs on Twitter or sales tied to engagement in social networks. It's not the end-all-be-all. But it definitely has a place. 

On the flip side, relationships, community and conversations play a big part, too. Obviously. After all, isn't that why most of us are here? We're either interacting with each other or helping the brands we represent interact with their customers. In the process, we're building strong communities. Fostering relationships. And engaging in meaningful conversations every day. All to help build stronger brands.

Tell me--what do you think? Is engagement in social networks all about the numbers?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tweet-A-Thon 2009: Make a difference for Two PR Rock Stars

You've all read the headlines. Company lays off 400. Unemployment continues to rise. No end in sight. It's depressing, right?

Over the last few months, like many, I've watched helplessly as good friends have lost their jobs unexpectedly. I always lend my sympathy and tell them I'll help in any way I can. But it rarely goes any further than that.

That all ends today.

I'm taking a stand. Enough is enough. I can make a difference. One person's voice and actions are a powerful thing. Just ask David Armano,
who helped raise more than $16,ooo for a homeless mother of three back in January. So, here's what I'm doing--with the help of an army of others including Mack Collier, Lisa Hoffmann and Amy Mengel.

I'm hosting a "Tweet-A-Thon" today for two good friends: Sonny Gill and Scott Hepburn. Two guys who are "free agents" out on the market. How this is possible, I still have no idea. Sonny and Scott are two of the most talented writers and creative idea guys around. Any company would be lucky to have them.

From 9 am to 5 pm CST today, I--along with a slew of others--will be tweeting about Scott and Sonny incessantly. Our hope? That we can drum up a few jobs leads, opportunities and even a few folks for them to chat with in hopes of landing a new gig soon. 

Will this make a difference? I don't know. But, the point is, they are friends in need and we are going to take this opportunity to make a difference for these two rock stars. 

Now, I know there are hundreds upon thousands of folks out there looking for jobs. Why help these two and not the others? Because I can make a difference for Sonny and Scott--today. As of 9 am, I'm focused on those two gentleman. After we get them squared away, we'll worry about the rest. 

Join me in helping Scott and Sonny today. Share job opportunities or leads you believe might be a good fit for Scott and Sonny by leaving a comment below. If you're uncomfortable sharing publicly, send me an email at arik.hanson@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter and I'll pass the information along to Scott and Sonny.

Thank you--this is your chance to make a difference for two incredibly talented guys today. Let's make it happen. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Twin Cities PR/communications pros on Twitter

Below you'll find an updated list of Twin Cities communicators online (Twitter and blogs). There were a number of updates this month, including more than 20 new PR pros from across the Twin Cities.

Again, standard disclaimer: This is by no means meant to be an end-all-be-all list. It's a work-in-progress and a resource for us all. So please, if you know someone I've missed, please leave a comment below and I'll add their name, Twitter handle and/or blog to the list. My plan is to update this list and re-publish every month so we have a definitive, running online catalog of all Minnesota PR/communications blogs and Twittizens.


www.beehivepr.biz (Waxings--authored by various Beehive staffers)
www.marketingpie.risdall.com (authored by various RMPR staffers)
www.dailyaxioms.com (authored by Tim Otis and other Axiom staff)
www.fasthorseinc.com (authored by various FH staffers)
www.providentpartners.net.blog (authored by Albert Marruggi)
www.toprankblog.com (authored by Lee Odden)
www.conniebensen.com (authored by Connie Bensen)
www.getfreshminds.com (authored by Katie Konrath)
www.socialstudiesblog.com (Shandwick PR/social medial blog)
www.providentpartners.net/blog/ (authored by Albert Marruggi and Mike Keliher at Provident Partners)
http://abovethebuzz.wordpress.com (Sterling Cross blog)
http://prmoxie.wordpress.com (Sterling Cross blog)
http://mediapirate.wordpress.com (Sterling Cross blog)
http://e-strategyblog.com/ (blog by David Erickson)
http://social-media-university-global.org/ (authored by Lee Aase)
http://prchickspov.blogspot.com/ (authored by Heather Schwartz)
http://kaneconsulting.wordpress.com/ (authored by Jen Kane)


Graeme Thickins (GTA Marketing)
Jennifer Kane (Kane Consulting)
Stephanie Snyder (Padilla Speer Beardsley)
Anne Hendricks (Fairview)
Patrick Strother (Strother Communications Group)
Tim Otis (Axiom Communications)
April Nelson (Weber Shandwick)
Mike Keliher (Fast Horse)
Jeff Shelman (Augsburg College)
Albert Maruggi (Provident Partners)
Katie Konrath
Kary Delaria (KD Public Relations)
Anthony Deos (Target)
Lee Odden (TopRank Online Marketing)
Connie Bensen (Techrigy)
John Reinan (FastHorse)
Brant Skogrand (Risdall McKinney Public Relations)
Bridget Jewell (Mall of America)
Jason Sprenger (Xiotech)
Sara Masters (Minneapolis Synod)
Rebecca Martin (Beehive PR)
Curtis Smith (Carmichael Lynch)
Beehive PR
Sara Ryder (Select Comfort)
Heather Schwartz (Weber Shandwick)
Eva Keiser (Risdall McKinney Public Relations)
Risdall McKinney PR 
Erika Dao (Mall of America)
LeeAnn Rasachak (Select Comfort)
Keith Negrin (Maccabee Group)
Terri Ellman (Tastefully Simple)
Kelly Groehler (Best Buy)
Minnesota PRSA
Amy Zemke (Beehive PR)
Greg Swan (Weber Shandwick)
Joel Swanson (Risdall McKinney Public Relations)
Jared Roy (Risdall)
Ryan May
Melanie Boulay Becker
Laura Kaslow
Jennifer Bagdade (Travelers)
Jon Austin
Ted Davis
Blois Olson (Tunheim Partners)
Susan Busch (Best Buy)
Amy Fisher (Padilla Speer Beardsley)
Liz Miklya
Nicole Garrison (St Paul Pioneer Press)
Allina (comm pros at Allina)
Shelle Michaels
Stacy Housman (Ameriprise)
David Hakensen
Mike Porter (University of St Thomas)
Rose McKinney (Risdall McKinney PR)
Gabby Nelson (Select Comfort)
Brooke Worden (Weber Shandwick)
Leslie Carothers (Kaleidoscope Partnership)
Michelle Wright (Padilla Speer Beardsley)
Ryan Maus (University of Minnesota)
Ryan Mathre (University of Minnesota)
Dan Wolter (University of Minnesota)
egiorgi (University of Minnesota)
MrChristopherL (Sterling Cross Communications)
PRMoxie (Sterling Cross Communications)
Scott Baird (Sterling Cross Communications)
David Erickson (Tunheim Partners)
Lee Aase (Mayo Clinic)
Maria Surma Manka
Heather West
Andrew Meyer (North Memorial)
Adam Meyer (Interval Marketing)
Chris Bevolo (Interval Marketing)
Kellie Due Weiland (Beehive PR)
Fast Horse (official account of Fast Horse)
Sandy Swanson
Colle McVoy (official account of Colle McVoy)
Liz Tunheim
Ben Saukko
Candee Wolf (Metro Dentalcare)
Lisa Grimm
Jason Douglas (Spyder Trap)
Doug Hamlin (Weber Shandwick)
Kristin Gast
Matt Kucharski (Padilla Speer Beardsley)
Gayle Thorsen (consultant)
Jillian Froelich (Carmichael Lynch Spong)
Justin Ware (University of Minnesota)
Leah Otto (Consultant)
Goff & Howard (PR agency)
Mike Zipko (Goff & Howard)
Jenna Langer (Padilla Speer Beardsley)
Michelle Theilmann (Padilla Speer Beardsley)
Ross Kirgiss (Powerhouse Media Service)
Scott Deto (Eventis.com)
Robert Moffit (American Lung Association)
Ed Heil (Storyteller Media and Communications)
Dawn Bryant (Simplicity Communications and Consulting) 
Angie Andresen (Storyteller Media and Communications)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Do we have a language problem in PR?

When you think of PR, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

Admit it, you tend to think of media relations, right?

As I talk to business folks, I still get the feeling that a lot of people think PR is really just media relations.

Gee, I thought PR meant influencing and persuading attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of key stakeholders. More accurately, according to Wikipedia, PR is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. In that respect, media relations is just one way we do that. Hasn't it always been that way?

PR is much, much more than just media relations. It includes a number of other disciplines that we all practice on  a daily basis to help our clients achieve their business objectives. Community relations. Social media. Internal communications. Executive communications. Investor relations. And marketing communications, to name a few. 

I think what we really have is a language problem.

For the bulk of the non-PR population, PR=media relations. But we know it to mean and represent so much more.

The key here is that this is affecting our reputation with executives. If management only sees us as media relations experts, it doesn't get us the credibility we need to get a seat at the big table. And it certainly doesn't allow us to demonstrate our many skills and talents for influencing and persuading the attitudes and behaviors of key audiences (and ultimately affecting purchasing decisions, for example). In the end, it usually means we're left out of key management discussions and decisions and our counsel is not sought--a "lose-lose" situation for both management and PR professionals. 

So, given that, how do we start redefining PR for management? If you had 2 minutes to state your case, what would you say?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Follow Friday - Friday, April 3

My Follow Friday suggestions for April 3, 2009:

@danamlewis (@healthsocmed--mentioned in video)

Monday, March 30, 2009

What are your PR "must reads?"

As PR pros, we all do our fair share of reading. Me? I read the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and various local publications. Esquire and Golf Digest. And, of course, I read my fair share of PR and social media blogs. Where I fall short--at least lately--has been my book reading. You know, those hard-covered repositories of information and insights? 

Sure, I read some non-fiction and an occasional Vince Flynn novel, but what are today's "must reads" for PR pros? Instead of sharing what I think you should read, I enlisted the help of my trusted PR colleagues. Here's what they had to say (interesting to note that very few of these suggestions were actually traditional "PR" books). 

What would you add to this list?

Kellye Crane--Elements of Style (William Strunk and E.B. White) and The New Rules of Marketing and PR (David Meerman Scott)

Lisa Hoffmann--Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman), World Wide Rave (David Meerman Scott)

Jen Wilbur--Groundswell (Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff) and The Influentials (Jon Berry and Ed Keller)

Lauren Vargas--Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz) and Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath)

Dave Fleet--Now is Gone (Brian Solis/Geoff Livingston) and Tactical Transparency (Shel Holtz, John Haynes and Lynne Johnson)

Kelly Groehler--The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman), Execution (Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan and Charles Burck), and The Snowball (Alice Schroeder)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

PR Rock Stars: A Conversation with Allan Schoenberg

One of the great things about social networks is their ability to connect you with like-minded individuals you might not otherwise have the chance to meet. Such was the case when I met Allan Schoenberg on Twitter a few months back. Completely chance meeting--but since then we've connected on a number of fronts--everything from family obligations to B2B communications to Bells beer.

Here's the great thing about Allan is--in my opinion: Here's a guy who runs PR/communications for the combined largest financial exchange in the country and he somehow finds time to teach and educate the next generation of PR leaders, give back to his alma mater and network with other PR pros across Chicago and the country. 

Rock star, right? Let's hear more...

You head up corporate communications for CME Group, which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade and New York Mercantile Exchange (combined the largest financial exchange in the U.S.). I know social media plays a large role in your communications and PR mix. How are you currently using social media tools to shape and influence attitudes and perceptions of your customers and stakeholders and how do you see that evolving over the next few years?

Social media certainly plays a role in what we do at the exchanges and has for at least the past 18 months. Let me just go over how we use before I talk about what we use. Our strategies and tactics for social media encompass three things: listening, engaging and servicing. First, social media allows us to follow the trends and issues that our customers are most concerned with and talk about. By using social media we can better understand what is on their mind in both the short and long term. Second, we can actively engage customers with the products and services that matter most to the engage. By listing and talking about these we can monitor feedback and have a dialogue with customers. Third, we use social media to actively provide another way to help answer questions that are important to our customers.

Now, how are we using these tools to better communicate?

One thing that was very simple for us to do was to just make our media room social media enabled. Not only have we provided an RSS feed for our news releases for the past two years, but in late 2007 we took the initiative to make every news release shareable by using some of the most popular social media tools -- Facebook, Reddit, Word Press, Blogger, Twitter, Digg, etc. We know that customers want to talk about and share things we're doing so this was an easy decision for us.

Another way we use social media to our advantage is to monitor what is going on in the blogosphere. There are a number of media, economists and academics who blog regularly about things that matter to us -- risk management, treasury bonds, agriculture, energy, market regulation -- so following these people and engaging them is part of our strategy. I personally use tools such as Bloglines, Google News and Technorati to help me aggregate blogs and key topics.

We also are actively using some of the tools out there to help us better communicate with customers. Facebook has been helpful in allowing us to build online communities and forums for customers to know what is happening at the exchange. We have a customer group that was formed by traders following the merger of CME with CBOT in the fall of 2007. I proactively reached out to the admin of the group and asked if I could help manage the content. After adding me I've been active at posting content from our web site and the Internet with items that we believe should be of interest to the group. There are more than 350 members of this group today. Our Market Education team this past fall also created a CME Group Fan Page on Facebook that we use to showcase our education topics and forums. Both groups help us to communicate in different ways -- one in more of a conversation where we can interact with customers about topics inside and outside of the exchange, and another in a way that lets us talk to customers about the many education opportunities we have to learn more about our products and services.

Another social media tool that has been really useful for the exchange is Twitter. I personally started using Twitter in early 2008 (@allanschoenberg) and after seeing the benefits of talking with others I created an account for the exchange in September 2008 (@cmegroup). Today, we have more than 30,000 followers of the exchange. I'm very mindful of how we use this tool since, unlike Facebook that is more of a static post and comment forum, Twitter is a real time conversation. I don't use Twitter to push CME Group content out to people but I'd rather find the "diamond in the rough" blog posting about treasury bills and someone's opinion on how that may effect the market. I know that one way our customers are using Twitter is to gain a trading advantage, so if we can help them with useful trading information than we are doing our job. Twitter is an interesting tool for us because I have a number of things to balance with every posting. Since we are a publicly traded company (Nasdaq: CME) I know that there are people on Twitter who just own our stock and don't trade our products. So I have to converse with these types of customers in addition to traders. We also have to use Twitter like any other communication tool when we talk publicly knowing that we have to meet disclosure and regulatory guidelines. I think the advantages of Twitter for the exchange is two-fold: we can watch/observe/listen to what traders are talking about, and we can actively engage in real-time conversations with customers who need a question answered or want to talk with us.

In terms of what's next, I can tell we are actively looking at a number of other tools but I don't want to reveal just what is next quite yet.

You're also an adjuct professor in PR/communications at DePaul University and Loyola University-Chicago. Do you think today's cirriculum and programs at our universities and colleges are effectively preparing students for a career in PR or corporate communications? Where do universities fall short and what might you recommend as potential solutions?

I've been fortunate enough to be involved with two outstanding universities for the past four years with rich histories in the city of Chicago. In my short time at both schools I have seen a lot of great changes. The College of Communication at DePaul was established in 2007 and works to meet the needs of students in a variety of communication fields, including public relations. In January 2009, the Loyola University School of Communication offices moved into the brand new School of Communication building in downtown Chicago.

A few points of observation from my brief time at both universities. First, they both recognize the growing and exanding field of public relations. It is great to be involved with both schools knowing that they see the importance of the profession -- and that they tap into professionals to help teach. Second, it's also evident that we have a lot of work to do as a profession as most of my students know either very little about the profession. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for me as a teacher.

Like any degree program, I would guess that both schools wish they could require more credit hours and classes to fully immerse students into these programs. I think one way they are both trying to accomplish this is with the help of Chicago's vast public relations community. Both university's have PRSSA programs that tap the help of professionals, use professionals as adjunct professors and offer other opportunities for students to connect with professionals. Hopefully as these programs expand the growing alumni base will give back to their respective schools.

From our conversations, I also know you set up a scholarship in your name at your alma mater at Central Michigan University (a wonderful idea, by the way). What gave you that idea, how did you execute it (initially) and why do you continue to give back to the students at our alma mater?

Yes, back in 2002 I worked with Dr. Diane Krider to establish a public relations leadership award given annually to one student. I pay for the costs of the scholarship out of my own pocket and the university and student recipients have all been lucky enough to receive a partial matching gift from the exchange. I can't take all of the credit for starting this. The idea really came from Dr. Krider whom I met simply because I called her one day and asked how I could get more involved. There were two reasons for me to reach out to CMU. First, I would have to say that my involvement really goes back to my parents, who always pushed me to give back. That has always stayed with me. Second, I really wanted to help build a connection with tomorrow's future leaders in the profession. There are some extremely bright students coming into this field and they continue to make me push myself to be a better professional. The rest, as they say, is history.

I really would encourage everyone to somehow get back involved with their undergraduate university. My degree from CMU is in Economics so for me now to be involved with the school though its public relations program gives me a new pride. Not only has this been a nice source of accomplishment for me personally, but I do believe in the idea of mentoring up. Each recipient of the award brings something unique to our relationship and I have learned something from each of them. It's also important that they realize that while the scholarship is a one time deal, I hope to be able to maintain a long-term personal and professional friendship with each of them. To this date I still regularly communicate with each of them. I also work to try to connect them with each other. In addition, I try to make it every year to the university's annual PRSSA event on campus to speak and every spring I arrange a career day in the city of Chicago for six to 10 seniors in the program.

You can find several past recipients of my scholarship on Twitter (@rachelesterline @LacyQ @tasevedo @Kcovert @MeganSoule) and encourage people to talk with (and consider hiring) them.

We've been talking about the lack of conversations and case studies around B2B and social media for quite a while. This week, we finally began our venture to help better facilitate that conversation--the B2B Voices blog (along with Kate Brodock, Anna Barcelos and Beth Harte). How do you think this blog--and the conversations it will hopefully spur--will help communicators and marketers better understand this complex and relatively unexplored space?

I think there are a couple of misconceptions about B2B communications. One is this idea that it is not as glamorous or challenging as B2C communications. I would hope to show that even though some of the things we sell to our customers in the B2B space may not seem exciting, if you look at the value chain of what our companies do there are some very interesting things where consumers benefit from our work. I also hope we can show that many of the strategies and techniques we do really are very similar to the B2C enviornment. Hopefully this can show that making the transition from B2C to B2B and vice versa can be relatively seamless. Finally, I hope we can showcase some of the great professionals in the B2B space who do some excellent work.

Among other things, we share a common love of microbrews. We've had many conversations about how these brands interact online. If you were consulting these brands today, what would you suggest microbrews like Bells, Surly and Goose Island do differently to engage and interact with customers online?

Well, actually, I can appreciate any profession that requires a highly intensive skill or craft to achieve. It just so happens that microbrews are something that can be enjoyed with some of my great friends and a grille. I hope that the brands I enjoy really do embrace social media as a way to talk and listen to customers. Most of these brands grew up with their roots around friendships and a small group of people sharing a passion, and social media helps keep that passion alive with fans like myself and others. What I hope they don't do is use social media to alienate other core followers. I know plenty of friends who enjoy Bell's and Goose Island, but they're not active in social media. What any company/brand needs to realize is that social media is just another tool in the toolbox, but we can't forget the other ways to reach customers. The other part about using social media is that the brands have to realize that just "doing it" isn't enough. If you're going to set something up you have to use it otherwise you can turn customers off. Finally, they should understand that not every tool needs to be utilized; picking and choose what tools to use can be more important than using them.

Another topic we've talked about recently--the fledgling newspaper business. With more newspapers shuttering their doors every day, what can these institutions do to transform their model so they're not only serving their watchdog function for the public-at-large but also creating a sustainable business model?

I don't want to pretend I know how to run the news business. From what I can see the print side of the business is suffering from two converging dynamics. First, readers continue to migrate online for news, information and stories. I think the industry has known this for years and they have actually done some very interesting things with online content. So while that is effect the bottom line I don't think that is the key driver of what we're seeing. The second and more pressing issue of what we are seeing is more an impact of the economy than people not wanting to read the newspaper or magazine. If you look closely at what's happened with the papers and magazines that have either shut down completely or transitioned to more -- or only -- online content is that they are struggling through the credit crisis. They're losing advertisers, not readers, and advertising pays the bills. What will be more interesting is what the industry looks like after we come out of this recession. Will Seattle rebuild demand for the P-I? Will the Detroit papers reinstate weekday delivery? There are certainly some interesting models to follow, such as WSJ.com, Huffington Post, Slate and even what the Chicago Tribune is doing with social media. The way I look at it for myself is that I'm willing to pay for really good content -- WSJ, NY Times, FT, Esquire to name a few of my favorites -- so if the publishing industry can stay focused on getting exceptional content that its readers want they can charge a premium. And while I really am enjoying my Kindle and reading everything in one location, I do hope (and believe) the print business will be with us for a long time.