360DigitalInfluence

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

B2B companies have been utilizing social media in a variety of ways for several years now. I’m no longer hearing B2B marketing and communications people say “should we be using social?”. Today what I’m hearing is “how can we apply a strategy to what we’ve put in place? How can we show that our social media efforts are helping sales and the bottom line?” It is with that bottom line orientation that we started work on an evolved approach to leveraging social media for B2B companies at Ogilvy and within our technology PR practice specially.

Today we launched a new offering called Digital Influence for B2B. Check out our launch announcement. We aren’t new to using social media in B2B environments. What we are saying is that there is ample data and experience now to evolve our thinking and tighten our approach. Specifically:

The B2B buyer journey is starting earlier with prospects utilizing organic search, content and comments of others to influence their consideration lists. (often without the knowledge or help of sales teams). IDG has great customer engagement research that shows just how many pieces of content a prospect wants to consume before they’re ready to talk to sales.

Digital influence for B2B companies ought to be aimed at driving awareness, sales consideration and conversion
and therefore requires an integrated team of specialists in B2B communications, social media and sales enablement.

B2B organizations should be encouraging their employees and ecosystems to engage in social media. B2B decision makers say colleagues are a top source for information influencing purchase decision-making (Forrester) yet many B2B organizations are slow to develop advocacy programs in social media to share the opinions of employees, customers and partners

There’s tremendous opportunity for B2B marketers and communicators (including Tech PR professionals) to consider the ways they can help optimize social media in the B2B environment. Our POV is simply to keep things anchored in the buyer journey and think cross discipline. The collaboration across marketing, sales, and PR has never been more important or valuable.

The Technology Practice at Ogilvy PR today announced the launch of ACE (Analyst Community Engagement), a new global service designed to give technology companies an informed, strategic and measurable approach to industry analyst relations.

Why launch an AR service in 2012?

Two main reasons:

  • Analyst Relations is truly global. Take Gartner’s analyst coverage, for example. It’s more by industry than by market. Yet, most of the firms supporting AR are still working in silos, market by market.
  • I also believe that AR and PR practitioners are still not speaking the same language, which causes an “I am being misunderstood” feeling.

We are launching ACE because Analyst Relations is the most global of all marketing functions, and we believe we have the global coverage and expertise needed to support any kind of company on their AR needs. With a global team based in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and Sydney.

Ogilvy PR has a unique PoV that can really help AR and PR work better together and speak the same language, making AR a strong asset for marketing, sales and, why not, corporate communications as well. We believe that the analyst world consists of “Deal Makers” and “Perception Makers”, and that the true value of AR is in knowing how to distinguish between the two, and tap the right ones to influence sales cycles as well as shift market attitudes and perception. In other words, in the first instance, AR support sales, while in second one, AR supports reputation, and therefore PR.

If you want more information you can read our press release and check out this video.

I’d love your comments on this and what you see at your firm, regardless of whether you are in-house or on agency side.

Pivot logoAt the Pivot Conference #pivotcon these past two days in New York, there has been a great spirit of sharing and learning among social media stakeholders at major brands like Unilever, Gap, American Express, IBM, Bloomberg to name a few, their agencies and the ecosystem of technologies that serve as the backbone and analytics of this discipline. Knowing Pivot is very focused on consumer-facing brands, I was delighted to hear a few good examples from b to b technology companies and technology PR professionals too.

A few themes at the conference have stood out, such as:

  1. It’s about relationships, not megaphones
  2. Authenticity is required, and
  3. Transparency.

Conference speaker Charlene Li of Altimeter Group acknowledged what most in the audience were thinking, that these themes are words that are increasingly thrown about, but she was focused on drilling into what do they really mean in the realm of social media.

Her message: That being online representing your brand, say on Twitter, and responding to consumer concerns is simply not enough anymore. Charlene contends that individuals want brands to know and understand them. That It’s not about technology, its about relationships.

So here is how Charlene suggests brands can prepare to do more than simply respond in social media:

  1. Create a culture of sharing. (Which is difficult when we are conditioned to be secretive in many corporate cultures)
  2. Have the discipline needed to succeed. (For example, create different flow charts for positive and negative comments, thinking through ahead of time various scenarios. Response should not be an ad-hoc process that can walk out the door with an employee)
  3. Prioritize disruptions that matter. (Focus on user experience; your business model; your ecosystem value. What can you do in social to change the flow of value?)
  4. Prepare for failure. (Fail fast, fail smart. Define ahead of time what kind of failures are acceptable, and what the consequences will be)

There has been a great spirit of learning and humility here, acknowledging that nobody has all the answers and that to be successful in social, you need to be prepared to develop sound social strategy, but also amass the drive to champion its adoption and best practices throughout your organization. And I guess that is the point. Your company culture needs to embrace the inherent openness of social in order to be successful in social. How else can a brand be authentic? (Yes, that word again).

Mike Vizard, former editor-in-chief of Infoworld and CRN, former editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise and now entrepreneurial blogger with the IT Business Edge Network, attended CSC’s Technology and Business Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida, recently, as did I. One evening, CSC hosted a social event by the Hilton Orlando pool and Mike generously gave a couple of hours of his time to talk about the technology industry and the evolving media landscape.

Mike’s blog is called “IT Unmasked” and he definitely unmasked for me some of the mysteries of blogging today. A few of the topics Mike opined on can help all PR professionals:

  • On Exclusives. While important to him in his Infoworld days, they are no longer a high priority. He would like to be pre-briefed on news so he has time to develop his story, but the advantage goes now, not to the first mover, but to those that wait a little. If he waits 48-to-72 hours, he can link to other stories on the same news and improve his search engine optimization.
  • On Video. In the future, all text stories will have a video lead-in, according to Mike. He believes consumers of information will want to watch a short preview video and, based on that experience, decide whether to delve deeper and read the text of a story. PR professionals will need to think about creating and supporting video used in this way.
  • On Infographics. Mike accepts and likes to use infographics and screenshots but for business as much as for journalistic reasons. He likes to deploy three text paragraphs followed by an infographic because it brings the readers’ eyes further down the page, where the ads are. PR professionals will need to think about how to support the success of entrepreneurial bloggers in both the realm of news-gathering and in the realm of business.
  • On Content Distribution. “No one wakes up in the morning looking for IT news and information,” pointed out Mike. Therefore, he gets about half of his traffic from Google searches and a quarter from social networks, primarily LinkedIn and Twitter. He doesn’t see a future in which many readers will download apps of IT media. Search engine optimization is important to his success and he works hard at it. If PR professionals can provide content that helps him with SEO, then it’s a winner. Mike wants to work with PR professionals that link back to his stories through social networks and vendor web sites to help improve the search engine optimization of his blog. He calls this “the new social PR contract.”

If you’re doing business in Germany, chances are you’ve heard of XING and are probably wondering how to use it for marketing and online reputation management. In Germany alone there are approximately 3.5 million high-level personnel are using the business network XING - the European pendant to LinkedIn - to manage and expand their professional contacts.

This network has proven to be an effective social media channel for B2B communications and reputation management. Why? XING has more than 30,000 topic-related groups where members exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences concerning nearly every branch or every professional field of activity, like “Risk Management”, “Underwriting”, “Corporate Publishing”, “Construction Engineering” etc.

We include XING more and more into our clients’ communication plans. As far as planning and implementation are concerned we recommend following these best practices:

1) Basic identification of relevant groups:

  • Keyword search within the network
  • Analysis of which groups our target persons have subscribed

2) Rate the relevance of a group:

  • To what extent does a group talk about my client’s topics?  
  • How active and “alive/vital” is a group?
  • How many members does the group have?
  • What is the quota of target persons?
  • Who’s the initiator?

3) Develop a content strategy

  • How does the group work?
  • Which approach/topics/formats should be used to
    be noticed and included into conversations?
  • Which topics create the greatest response?

4) Identify and train client employees to represent the company on XING.

5) Work with these employees to develop different and relevant content to be posted within the groups’ discussion forums. Depending on the group that could contain:

  • Short expert articles by
  • Leading and initiating discussions
  • Content syndication to special topics, e.g. linking back on corporate homepage
  • Answering questions of other group members

6) As a last step we recommend founding a branded group on XING. This offers new opportunities like organizing real life group meetings or issuing newsletters. As this requires greater involvement of client employees, we recommend commencing in only after conducting 6 months of XING-relations.

Summing up, one can say that XING has been proven to be a good tool for social media B2B communications. For foreign enterprises coming to Germany it is furthermore a good way to demonstrate market knowledge and integration into German business communities.

The NY Times got me again.  To say that this is a great read for any marketer is an understatement and it may be worth reading more than once. 

At the risk of violating one of the premises of the article, the section that really struck me from a communications standpoint was a concept the article attributes to Cass Sunstein called “cyberbalkanization.”  Essentially this is the ability for anyone to easily use online and social tools (as well as traditional ones) to surround themselves with news, opinions and ideas that are in-line with their own existing ideas, perceptions and beliefs.  This eliminates the need to listen or learn from anyone that has an opinion outside of your own - this part is towards the end of the story.

While I believe much of this has been around for years via traditional media catering to specific consumer, business and political interests, the future is certainly accelerating the opportunity and dropping the barriers to entry while increasing the gap between opposing views.  Instead of paying for subscriptions or content, I can now get almost whatever I want, free and delivered to virtually any screen I want while mashing it up with any other content I wish.  I’m able to create my own happy little news world - surrounding myself with my preferred bloggers and authors (thanks to my RSS feeds, readers) and my own social networks (that , naturally, consist of likeminded ”friends”). It is easy to see how small my world can become and how easy it is to block out the culture, ideas, thoughts and perspectives of those outside of it.

From a technology standpoint, some research groups are working on ways to try and intesect this trend.  Take a look at the Dispute Finder project developed by Intel (Disclosure: Intel is a client) and UC Berkeley - here is a good video of the project as well.  Through a Firefox extension, I’m able to read all the news and views I want, as normal.  But when the Dispute Finder picks up a keyword phrase, I’m presented with the option to hear two perspectives of the story one supporting it and one opposing.

Until this type of technology is available for broad use, we’re faced with the challenge of determining how we speak with people and communicate with them if they’re not even listening or tuning in.  Certainly we need to understand the habits of our target audiences (both online and offline) as well as the technology they use to gather their information - but we also need to be willing to listen to opposing views, learn from them and find ways to apply that knowledge to reaching our audience.  Some of this may be engaging with them in discussion (online or offline) and that it is the beauty and fear of social media.  I also think this is part of the reason we all jump to read the cyclical “PR is Dead” story or the debate about the death of embargoes (search Twitter for #newscartel) or how the media industry is dead (or dying - @themediaisdying).

We should be paying attention, and more importantly, we should be listening and learning.

Jan 27

Stats Sell!

In today’s changing media landscape, many of us are looking for ways to make waves. Surveys can be a great way to accomplish that. I have done a few surveys in the past, but recently it seems that colleagues of mine are doing more of these and looking for guidance, so I thought I would share some best practices for developing and promoting surveys.

1. Select a topic that is not self-serving. For example, if you’re a b2b company with little brand recognition, pick a topic that a broader audience would be interested in, rather than one that answers questions about how well-known your product or solution is within your industry.

2. Write the headlines. I have found that one of the easiest ways to begin developing survey questions is to start backwards. Write a few sensational headlines that you would like to see and then work backwards to develop questions that will get you there.

3. Determine cost and 3rd party research firm. Depending on available time and resources, you may want to think through the type of survey you want to do. An Omnibus survey is an efficient, easy way to get quick results. On the other hand, if you have a bigger budget, you may want to consider an in-depth survey that polls a larger sample and takes a little bit longer. Regardless of the type of survey, you should use an independent 3rd party research firm.

4. Shop the final results around with a few select reporters early. While it seems like reporters are no longer doing exclusives these days, many reporters still like to see the information early before it’s released, particularly if they want to sift through raw data (which many of them will).

5. Ensure raw data and spokespersons are available. These are two key elements that reporters will ask for. They will want to see a full copy of the survey results (beyond what is in the press release), access to the 3rd party survey firm to validate the survey, and an expert from the company who can interpret the results.

Finally, when you and your team are ready to begin pitching the survey results, pitch, pitch, pitch! Think outside of your traditional reporters and expand your list to wires, bloggers, news services, etc. to ensure maximum reach and coverage.

There’s no doubt that 2009 was a year that (further) changed our job as PR professionals. As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, it’s an all new, ever changing world and we need to learn, move and adapt quickly. But, in concrete terms, what does that mean?

From my point of view (mostly from the agency side) I thought I’d list out the priorities for a tech PR practitioner in 2010. I think they stand for both experienced professionals and people just getting into PR.

One thing is for sure: our job is indeed getting more and more complex, challenging, and fascinating. All three qualities that have kept me in the same business for so many years.

1. Becoming a Content Creator. Technologies and the media environment are making it possible for companies to reach out to their stakeholders directly. PR must lead content creation. Cisco has done that very well for quite some time now, with News@Cisco. IBM is now following with the recent hire of Steve Hamm. I am sure many others will follow. A content strategy is pivotal in any good public relations plan.

2. Telling Stories Visually. As PR professionals we need to become better visual storytellers. Read The Back of the Napkin for  inspiration – you can get the new companion workbook to put Roam’s principles into practice on Amazon.  Perfect way to start the new year!

3. Learn how to use multimedia tools. Now that you’ve put Content and Visual Storytelling at the center, learn how to make news using all the multimedia tools available and how to develop and manage an editorial calendar (or hire people who do it well.) We will see more journalists getting in-house to do precisely this. Steve Hamm at IBM won’t be the only one.

4. Get a Room! I mean a media room. Nowadays it is so much easier to have a studio close to your executives or your clients so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. This can be very handy in times of crisis where you want a quick response. In this post you can find specific suggestions on my favorite equipment.

5. Become a social media expert (if you are not one already.) Social Media is integrated in everything we do. PR professionals that are not at least proficient in Social Media, are going to be obsolete before the end of the year. So, don’t rely only on “experts”. Become an expert.

6. Think 360. Talking about integration, don’t stop at social media. Think about all the communication disciplines. Clients and companies face communication or reputation (or both) challenges. Rarely can something be solved by one communication discipline. PR, AR Marketing, IR, HR (Internal Communication), and in some instances Sales and Customer Service needs to work together in a more integrated way than ever before.

7. Develop new services and become more efficient. More for less is here to stay. Now that companies have learned (by necessity) to do and demand from their agency partners to get more for less, why would they go back to getting less for more? For agencies that means providing higher-value services and be more efficient in providing traditional support.

8. Identify the right measurement criteria for your needs. If #7 is true (and believe me, it is), ROI is going to be even more important than before. Flexible measurement solutions, that cost less than 10% of the total investment, will become critical for the success of a Corporate Communication department and for the agency.

9. Integrate your customers in your PR planning. As consumers are co-brand managers, really playing a major role in shaping global brands like Google, Apple and Ford, B2B companies need to work closely with their customers so they can become co-brand managers too. What they say, think or write about will affect your reputation and brand building. A hint? It’s not just about developing and pitching case studies.

10. Understand where influence begins and how it works. Too often I hear that PR is going to die (yawn) because social media is changing the media landscape so there is less and less traditional media. The reality is that PR is not only media relations. The big opportunity for PR professionals is to understand the new “influencer” landscape to a greater detail than before. Understand the ecosystem where your company or client belongs to, and how to engage those influencers and the people who influence them.

My best wishes to a wonderful 2010.

twitter-birdAt the Australian launch of Windows7 today, Microsoft has invited Twitter followers to take part, with the event being streamed live through Ustream.tv . These followers have the chance to engage directly with senior Microsoft executives, and during the Q&A session, every fourth question will come directly from the Twitter feed.

However, a number of journalists are not keen. First they would prefer questions only come from journalists at the event itself. Second, they’re worried the Twitter questions will be filtered and that only the easy ones will be answered. Third, they’re concerned it will take up too much time and give real journalists less opportunity to table their questions. But with only 140 characters and no follow up, it’s not likely to be a time consuming exercise.

One alternative suggestion put forward by a journalist is to run a Q&A by the likes of Slashdot and Digg, where questions are crowd sourced, than a top ten are posed to the interviewee and would better represent what the audience wants to know.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how it goes and the reaction. Twitter is now common place on TV with live studio audience shows using it to get questions in real time from viewers.

How many other PRs, particularly from the tech sector, are incorporating Twitter feeds like this into big events? What has the feedback been? Keen to hear what people think.

The media and communications worlds may be in great turmoil and evolution respectively, but a few things remain the same. Media and PR pros both love lists. Lists bring order to things, allow analysts to analyze, and give a platform for brands to say, “see why you should love me”.

This year’s World’s Best Companies list from BusinessWeek ventures to teach our technology PR discipline a little bit more.

Here are a few lessons, some old some new, that jumped out at me.

  1. Packaging matters, and the name “Best” is a poor choice in this environment. While BusinessWeek and A.T. Kearney have partnered on this project for multiple years, and I respect their desire to build name equity, the community comments are telling. Just nine comments on the BW site to-date, most of which are self-serving or confused. Compare that to three pages of comments on Huffingtonpost debating the definition of “best” and propose instead that “best” be reserved for those companies focused on treatment of workforce, sustainability and societal attributes. Is there anything wrong with a shareholder value-driven ranking in my mind? No. But consider the communications environment before saying globalization + shareholder return = best companies. Or call it Best Investments.
  2. Rethink your client’s corporate presentation. At least in this list’s view, there are clear traits for the World’s Best Companies. A commitment to innovation, diversified portfolio, aggressive expansion, strong leadership, and a clear vision for the future. Corporate presentation outline for 2010? Check.
  3. Question how global your globalness really is. If you describe your company (or your client) as being global, what percentage of your sales come outside your home region? A.T. Kearney examined the 2,500 largest publicly listed companies in the world, honing in on those with a minimum of $10 billion in 2008 sales with at least 25% coming from outside the company’s home region.
  4. B-to-B Technology may be all guts, but B-to-C Technology gets the glory. Technology and Telecom get the nod from BusinessWeek for their strong showing. But a closer look shows b-to-c technology performing much stronger than b-to-b with rankings from Nintendo (7974.T), Google (GOOG) Apple (AAPL) and Amazon.com (AMZN). And while it’s a bit of a shocker to see the telecom sector getting a shout-out, it all depends where you’re selling services. Telecom companies MTN (No. 7) (South Africa) and América Móvil (AMX) (No. 18) (Mexico) are growing quite well, thank you very much.

A.T. Kearney says looking forward they see two important factors that are most likely to drive global economic performance - “leveraging technology and innovation to enhance productivity, and demographic shifts such as graying populations. “

The former bodes well for technology PR pros. Until then, long live the list!

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