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 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 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.

Blogs (Waxings--authored by various Beehive staffers) (authored by various RMPR staffers) (authored by Tim Otis and other Axiom staff) (authored by various FH staffers) (authored by Albert Marruggi) (authored by Lee Odden) (authored by Connie Bensen) (authored by Katie Konrath) (Shandwick PR/social medial blog) (authored by Albert Marruggi and Mike Keliher at Provident Partners) (Sterling Cross blog) (Sterling Cross blog) (Sterling Cross blog) (blog by David Erickson) (authored by Lee Aase) (authored by Heather Schwartz) (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 (
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)