The Social Media Pitch

Yesterday my little sister called me and said, “Stephanie, I’ve decided what I want to go to school for. I want to be a computer genius.” This made me laugh.

My sister graduated from high school a year ago. She has taken a year off to decide what to do before dumping thousands on an education. The reason I laughed at this sudden exclamation is because she doesn’t really know anything about computers. However, she has decided that is what she wants to be good at.

I thought back to this conversation when I was reading over a blog post on Communication Overtones by Kami Huyse, “Start Small to Make Big Waves in Social Media.” I realized that I want to be a social media genius. As I’ve said before, the dive into social media is great. . . when it is still in its theoretical stages. However, as I hope to soon apply the knowledge I’ve learned about social media, the application of these theories is daunting because of the logistical factors that I will have to face.

It is easy to say that you should “build relationships and join the community,” but HOW exactly does someone make that happen. I really plan on reading blogs and commenting to become part of that “blogosphere,” but what else? How do you pitch a social media release to that blogger. E-mail? And when is that appropriate? After four blog comments?

I guess what I’m really looking for is a template for the pitching process within social media campaigns.

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Credible

For this blog post, I’ve been asked to write about chapter four of “Made to Stick” by Dan and Chip Heath. This chapter talks about credibility of a story or campaign. Even if a campaign really does have significant information behind its message, if it isn’t presented in a way to show credibility, the message will not be effective. Statistics, for example, only aid in the zoning-out process of a reader or listener. However, if stats can be applied to life-like contexts, the example is more human and everyday, making it easier for a person to remember and be affected by the information. Another typical problem with credibility is the process of matching this humanizing technique with the information so it actually makes sense.

One example of a campaign ABSOLUTELY FAILING at this is the the “Above the Influence” campaign. One of the most laughable ads is the one of the three boys walking up to a horse and pulling its tail so it will kick them. Two of the boys say, “Watch this, it is so cool,” while the other boy walks away.

The problem with this ad campaign is that being kicked with a horse has nothing to do with smoking marijuana. You won’t get kicked by a horse if you smoke. You won’t have the same effects that the boys have to their knees if you smoke. Getting kicked by a horse has NOTHING to do with smoking marijuana.

Most of the other “Above the Influence” ads are similar in this way. To avoid this and make it more credible, the foundation could think about creating an ad campaign mocking the Mac ads. Have two college students talking in front of a blank background about what they did that weekend. The non-smoker discusses hiking, running, getting homework done, visiting friends, traveling or going to a concert. Meanwhile the college student that smokes will talk simply of smoking, eating and sleeping. They could even brag about never leaving the house.

This kind of an ad is credible because those who have smoked and know that the effects don’t include a horse-kick to the knees, will take this ad seriously. The ad with the horse may make people laugh, but it is in no way going to make someone live “above the influence.”

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Concrete

For Tiffany Derville’s Advanced PR Writing Class, my peers and I have been asked for this post to write a response to chapter three of Chip and Dan Heath‘s book, “Made to Stick.” Fortunately, we have been assigned to read this book for our class (I say fortunately because it is VERY helpful. If you haven’t read it yet, get it here.)

Chapter three of the book talks about whether or not a message is “concrete.” As a summary, this chapter explains how abstract language is similar to abstract learning in the way that it makes it more difficult to visualize what is being talked about. One example they use is of a key message of Nordstrom. To say Nordstrom has “world-class customer service” is abstract. To tell the story of a Nordstrom employee ironing a customer’s shirt is concrete. By giving the reader, or the viewer, a “concrete,” imaginable example of what someone means by “world-class customer service” is much more valuable than the initial phrase itself.

Examples of abstract language may be found everywhere, especially including public relations work. The mistake is commonly made in shareholder letters. The following is an excerpt from a letter by Bob Ulrich, the CEO of Target, to his shareholders: “We will also remain committed to providing a workplace that is preferred by our team members and investing in the communities where we do business to improve the quality of life.”

This sentence is too vague and far too abstract to be a “sticky” message. This sentence doesn’t mean anything. However, if he had had given specific examples of how they provide a preferable workplace or how they invest in their communities, the message would be memorable. However, I guarantee that by the time you’ve reached the end of this blog post, you’ve already forgotten what that quote was.

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Where Do We Start?

I recently blogged about my upcoming internship at Ant Hill Marketing and how I’d like to utilize the the social media skills I’ve learned this term in Tiffany Derville’s Advanced Public Relations Writing class.

I just read a blog post on Todd Defren’s PR Squared about what kind of a social media campaign he would launch if he was given one million dollars. It really alerted me to HUGE variety of social media outlets available if given sufficient means to do so.

*Blogging
*Flickr
*YouTube
*Twitter (with Tweetscan and Tweetbeep)
*Podcasts
*Vlogs
*SEO and Search Engine Marketing (like Google’s NewsAds)
*Ning
*RSS Microsites
*Facebook
*Myspace

My question is, with all of these outlets, where do you start? Which outlets are most valuable and how does anybody have the time to sift through the millions of pages of information on the Web these days to figure out which outlets would be most valuable to their clients?

I think I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on the best way to create a social media release and use search engine optimization to make sure the release is actually picked up and realized in search engines like Google and Yahoo. Now, what I’m most interested in learning is, what is the most effective way of pitching to these outlets?

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Summer Internship

For those of you who have stalked me on Facebook or Twitter recently (no shame in it, I swear), you know that I recently received a great opportunity to work for an awesome marketing firm in Portland, Oregon this summer. It’s called Ant Hill Marketing, and I am stoked to say the least. I’ll be getting an unique opportunity to learn about a variety of the different departments of the company, including public relations and client services. Luckily for me, it is a small company, giving me the opportunity to really have an impact and really get the chance to learn. I can’t wait!

However, now comes the hard part: Proving that I deserve the opportunity.

I understand the basics of public relations writing and how to work with clients. I feel like I will be fine learning what Ant Hill has to teach me, but I’d really like to be able to make a significant contribution while I’m there. Specifically, I would like to use the information I’ve learned recently about social media and its use for public relations. I can’t wait to see how blogging, twitter, vlogs, Facebook, Myspace or even podcasting may impact clients in more than a theoretical setting.

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Layoffs at HP Corvallis?

A recent report by KATU revieled Monday night that Hewlett-Packard employees in Corvallis may be expecting up to 400 layoffs in the near future. According to HP, no decisions have been made, but economic development officials are preparing for possible layoffs.

Unfortunately, HP is not making a comment yet about the rumor. My question is, why not? It seems to me that the worst thing a company can do for its image is to not respond to a story like this when reporters are already writing about it.

HP did issue a release. However, it is only a vague statement saying basically that Hewlett-Packard is . . . “constantly looking at improving its business to better serve its customers.” What about its employees?

The only conclusion that I can make from this PR nightmare is that HP must have already layed off their public relations department.

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The 2008 PRSSA Regional Activity

On Tuesday I attended the PRSSA’s Regional Activity, “Northwest Networking: Hiking Towards PR Success.” With the expectation of meeting a few people and maybe passing out a few resumes, I put on my “business casual,” prepared my portfolio and hoped for the best. What I got was much more than I had expected.

The event started out with company tours. My group went to Edelman and Maxwell PR. Unfortunately, we missed our initial bus, making us late for the Edelman tour, but when we did arrive, we were welcomed with warm smiles, coffee and tons of information. It was wonderful to hear and see the inner workings of an agency that I might like to work for when I graduate. Special thank yous to Jackie Augusta, Brooke Dale and the rest of Edelman’s people who took time out of their day to tell us about the different departments and how they work. Similar useful information was offered at Maxwell PR, a boutique firm that specializes in sustainable businesses. Thank you to Erica Erland and the rest of the Maxwell PR staff.

After our company tours, we bussed it back to the Holiday Inn where we had lunch and a special keynote speaker, Kyle R. Warnick. The speech was about networking and was very effective. Thank you Kyle! (Remember that you are now only 4 quick steps away from knowing Monica Lewinski.)

Probably the most helpful part of the day was what came next: The Portland Paddle. I had interviews with Weber Shandwick and Conkling Fiskum & McCormick. Josh Rhodes from Weber Shandwick gave me some great tips about my portfolio and how to interview effectively. From CFM I spoke with Pat McCormick, one of the companies partners. I was really impressed to see a partner so involved in the recruiting process and was honored to be able to learn more about the agency from him.

Thank you to everyone involved in the PRSSA Regional Activity. I really did learn a lot.

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