Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Small Business Social Media

The current issue of MiBiz, in the Main Street Strategies section, has an interesting article by Michael Rogers, VP of Communications for the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM).

The article is based on results of a survey that shows small businesses are just starting to dip their toes in the waters of social media. As for SBAM, they seem to have dived right in: a Facebook page, regular 'tweets' on Twitter, a blog and podcasts, and upcoming on its web site will be more social opportunities for SBAM members to comment on stories.

It will be really social if SBAM allows members to post their own content and converse with other members, and not merely comment on SBAM directed content. But it's a good start.

All of this makes me wonder--how many West Michigan PR pros, at businesses large and small, at nonprofits, and at government institutions--are using social media? I know I have observed and even blogged about social media at organizations in all three sectors. But I'd love to here more. Comment to this post. Email me what you're doing and I'll share it with GRPR readers. Or take the poll at right.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blog Updates

I've made a few updates to this blog.

1. I hope you like the fall color scheme.

In the sidebar area at right...

2. You can now check out news about West Michigan and public relations, courtesy of those geniuses at Google.

3. You can "follow" my blog. This means that if you have a Google/blogger account you can aggregate in one place--your Blogger dashboard page-- the blogs you follow. (I have two followers as I write this. Already two when I just started this, but a long way to go to catch up to Jesus:) )

4. You can also subscribe to my blog and have new posts appear in your aggregator--Google, myYahoo, etc.

Look for polls about West Michigan PR issues soon.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Helping Young PR Pros

As a professor, part of my job is to advise students, which covers class schedules to questions about graduate school and careers. Our Grand Valley State University Career Services office and our chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) also has events in which they invite professors and area professionals to advise them about entering the work force.

One thing I've noticed in the past few years is the rapid increase in the number of students looking for work outside of West Michigan and outside the state--and in some cases out of the country. This is partly due to the current student body being more willing to "leave the farm" and see the world as "their oyster." (Odd that these two metaphors remind me of a time I was at an oyster farm in the Philippines--I've got pictures!) It's also a reflection of the fact that the state economy is tanking.

In any event, it gets hard to advise students based on specific experience in places far and wide. In the past week alone I have talked to students contemplating starting careers or graduate school in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Boston, LA, and France.

So I was interested to read an online release about a popular new blog offering advice, 24/7, from professionals far and wide. The blog is called culpwrit and was started by Chicago PR Pro Ron Culp. Students reading my blog might want to check it out. Professionals who know budding professionals might want to as well, and even contribute.

Who knows, there might be some pampered child in New York or DC who wants to experience the world and start their PR career in Grand Rapids. You could help them.

Meanwhile, I just met with a student today to talk about planning our annual agency/PR dept. tours in Chicago next spring. Maybe we'll see if Mr. Culp will entertain us for an hour.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting Social With the Media

A local PR pro asked me to blog my thoughts about engaging with reporters and editors using social media, such as Facebook or Linked In, sometimes called the Facebook for grown-ups. I just had coffee with another local PR pro recently specifically to discuss social media. And the subject is of constant interest among my faculty colleagues here and across the country.

Specifically to the question about connecting with reporters via social media, I think it's a great idea. In fact, it might soon rise to the level of basic expectation. A recent study reported in Brandweek indicates that social media is being embraced by baby boomers. Blogworks recently referred to a study that says there will be over 100 million people using social media on their mobile devices by 2013.

Soon, social media may be a de facto way of doing business and personal communication. If you don't get that you'll sound like some old fogey who expresses awe at a new thingie called a 'fax machine.'

There are already groups on Linked In like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) designed for this very purpose. It's kind of a migration of ProfNet type technology from a listserv to a social media platform.

I would caution PR pros about "friending" reporters in the social media environment. You have to think in terms of having a genuine relationship with reporters and editors, and not spam them. If PR pros build networks or lists of friends and use them to blast email releases and pitches, you are not being a friend, you're being an annoyance. Don't use social media like an online database. If you do you'll violate unwritten (and increasingly written) rules about social media and likely shoot your own foot.

Instead use social media to gain a better understanding of what reporters are working on, care about, prefer in terms of information sources and formats and so forth. In turn, they can learn more about you and the organizations you represent. Used wisely, social media can enhance relationships and make your job easier.

Some local media are employing social media to create online communities of their own. TV 13 offers a place to be a "member" and share comments (something they call blogging, inappropriately). Meanwhile, the news section of TV 8's Web site has their Twitter feed front and center. You can get 'tweets' every time TV 8 posts a new story on your computer or mobile device. Other news outlets will try to engage their audiences in these and other ways in the near future. Right now they are doing it as marketing. But there's no reason social media won't become an extension of news gathering.

But the important thing for PR people, as always, is that we demonstrate a level of professionalism in an environment where anyone on the street can contact a reporter with an idea. We need to have long-term relationships, based on trust, helpfulness, and an understanding of what news is.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Seyferth Simplifies Name to Reflect Complex Practice

Local PR Firm Seyferth, Spaulding and Tennyson released today a formal return to the firm's original name, Seyferth and Associates.

The name change--which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the firm founded by Ginny Seyferth--was done to keep a simple moniker on a firm that now will have four shareholders, akin to named partners at the firm.

Senior Vice President Brooke Vining, APR, and Vice President Eileen McNeil join Seyferth and Dan Spaulding. Spaulding is quoted in a release from the firm saying the change also reflects a growing diversity of PR practice specialties, including alternative energy, emerging technology and life science industries.

The release also touts a "new look" for S&A, which is shown on an overhauled Web site.

Left unanswered is what happened to Tennyson in the agency's former name (perhaps he went the way of the light brigade; no, that was Alfred Tennyson). The release makes no mention of, and the new Web site has no contact info for, a Detroit office.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Local ProfNet Launched

Craig Clark, one of our fine West Michigan PR entrepreneurs, has started a new service called GR Media Match.

The service allows West Michigan reporters to request sources for stories they are working on from West Michigan PR pros. It's sort of like a ProfNet (acquired a few years ago by PR Newswire) for our region.

According to an email I received from Clark recently, there are 50 PR pros signed up and 18 media outlets, with 20 more media outlets thinking about joining the local network (some outlets are counted more than once because there are several segments or programs at the same outlet signed on).

Kudos to Clark for a great idea, and for executing it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Political Connections

Earlier today I was going through the daily deluge of emails in my GVSU in box. One in particular caught my eye:

An invitation from Congressman Pete Hoekstra to join his LinkedIn network.

This gives new meaning to the notion of political connections.

Used to be you only saw your elected official on your porch in an election season or in a parade on a holiday. Now new media is enabling new politics, new ways of being connected.

Some people roll their eyes when we academics talk about concepts like the "public sphere" and its importance to "deliberative democracy." But it is as pragmatic as it is idealistic--enabling fluid conversations among citizens and between people and politicians is healthy for democracy. The public sphere, or forum for civic dialogue, was originally pubs and coffee houses. The news media eventually, theoretically, filled that role. But many scholars have despaired that the public sphere is not a true and open forum. But new media gives us new hope.

I accepted the invitation.

Economist Tastes West Michigan

If the Economist magazine has an article with a dateline of Benton Harbor, I would expect it to be about Whirlpool or racial strife.

But no--the high-brow British mag held forth on wine in a recent article.

This is nice PR for the West Michigan region and its wineries, especially given the readers of this publication are likely to be wine consumers. The comments in the article are also a lesson--some readers resent the elitism in the wine industry. So prestige pricing strategy doesn't always work.

The article also shows the disdain for the Midwest when it states matter-of-factly (editorializes) that wineries in places like Michigan are "unexpected." Unexpected only by ignorant elite British magazine editors, perhaps. I've been aware of Michigan wines since I was first of drinking age, way back in the '80s. I also know from working as a magazine journalist in the Traverse City region that the 45th parallel--the same line of latitude that runs through the famous wine region of Bordeaux, France--crosses Michigan near Charlevoix. We also have sandy hills adjacent to a large body of water. So we have the geography and topography where one might 'expect' wine to flourish. We even have a city with a name that ends in 'x.' You might say we've got latitude, while the Economist should lose the attitude.