Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spreading the Social Media Wealth

In the past week, I've attended two great events that centered on social media and how its changing the public relations profession. I learned some great tips about social media in general and how to utilize it to advance my career and benefit my clients. So, I'm taking this opportunity to spread the wealth and share my newly-acquired knowledge. Chris Brogan preaches the importance of sharing what you learn...because why keep it all inside when you can teach it to someone else? I concur :)

The first event I attended was hosted by the Detroit chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators at Automation Alley in Troy and was titled "Social Media: Can You Digg It?" Love the creative title! The panel consisted of Lisa Platt, director of interactive media at Skidmore Studio, Tonja Deegan, social media specialist at Airfoil Public Relations and Chasen Cunitz, a recent communications grad of Hillsdale College and current employee at Toyota.

The three panelists were very knowledgeable on the topic of social media and how to integrate it into any communications outreach. I felt like I knew and understood the majority of what they were discussing and was hoping to get a bit more out of the session, but unfortunately many people in the audience didn't even know what Twitter was. Therefore, a lot of time was spent explaining the different sites that are creating such a social media firestorm nowadays. I did of course find the discussion to be valuable, so here's what I feel is most important to share:
  • People are always watching what you're saying online and online content lives forever, so be careful!
  • Three-fourths of U.S. consumes are online.
  • A company can't just make a Facebook page and expect results. It's imperative to pay attention to your audience, participate and encourage conversations and watch the behavior of your target audience.
  • Don't immediately pitch a product via social media sites like Twitter. Start with general conversation, build trust and open the line of dialogue with journalists or your intended audience.
  • I asked the panelists if the recent article on Wired's Web site by a Silicon Valley correspondent was true and if blogs truly are "so 2004." Answer: Absolutely not. Blogs are more niche and concise now, but they definitely aren't dead. Valuable content is core, so blogging for the sake of blogging may be dead, but blogs themselves still drive search engine optimization.
  • Responding to comments (both positive and negative) about your company or brand on social media networks is the best word of mouth and something you can't buy in advertisements.
  • Social media can be overwhelming (ya, you think?!?), so invest as much time as you can, but target what you're doing and be strategic about what social media networks you dabble in. Don't just join 30 forums for bragging rights.
Social media session numero dos was part of the PRSA International Conference that Detroit so proudly hosted for the past few days at the Ren Cen Marriott. This session was titled "The Changed PR Landscape - What Works and What Doesn't." Panelists included Rob Key, founder and CEO of Converseon, David Bradfield, senior vice president and partner at FH Digital and Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing. The moderator was Peter Himler (ironically, he writes a blog called The Flack), president of Flatiron Communications, LLC. This session rocked and I was furiously trying to write down everything these social media gurus were discussing, so here's what I managed to capture:
  • Brands don't communicate, people do.
  • 91 percent of journalists use search engines to find experts for stories and to research people they are including in stories.
  • PR people need to become publishers in order for content to be found by journalists.
  • PR people also need to optimize content and make it visible to their clients' audiences.
  • The dynamic of pitching journalists is changing because more are finding story ideas and experts via social media networks.
  • Become a native in social media communities and figure out what these communities are all about (what's the language, cultural need, etc).
  • Listening is a marketing discipline - communications centers on the ability to listen.
  • If you find positive sentiment about your client, energize it. Also engage with people who talk negatively about your client or client's brand.
  • The once hailed social media release isn't as broadly used as when it was first introduced.
  • Turn your releases into something more engaging and speak the language of your customers.
  • Communication tools will constantly change, so don't lose sight of the bare bones of communicating.
  • You can engage bloggers first to reach mainstream media versus going the opposite route and trying to reach bloggers via mainstream media coverage.
  • We're still in the early days of social media ROI -- no one has it all figured out yet.
  • The heart of communicating and making your voice heard is simple: Say something interesting and people will listen, care and respond.
WHEW! So I know people have itty-bitty attention spans and this post is uber long, but I learned so much this past week and truly felt compelled to share it all. These social media sessions were fantastic and I thank those who participated because they planted quite a few creative seeds in my head!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Got Tagged By the Six Random Things Post!

Thanks to my darling dearest friend Lauren (aka @metrogal84 for those in the Twitterverse) for tagging me in her recent post on six unspectacular things about herself. So I guess now it's my turn to reveal six random and unspectacular things about myself! This is stumping me a bit because some random things about me are quite the opposite of unspectacular (or so I like to think!), but I'll give it a whirl.

1. I am most likely one of the most empathetic people you will ever encounter in your life. There are positives and negatives to this because it means I care deeply for people, but it also means I cry EVERY TIME I watch Grey's Anatomy or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition...or if I see a stray dog on the street because I worry it will get hurt or not be able to find its owner. Yes I know, a bit over the top.

2. I'm creative with my thoughts and words, but have zero artistic talent. I am cringing because every year we do a pumpkin decorating contest at work and the deadline is right around the corner!

3. I don't live on the wild side. I am scared of things that move fast or could cause potential injury, such as sledding. Related to this, I've only ever broken one bone in my body (the radius in my left wrist after falling off the monkey bars in kindergarten). I have however, sprained both ankles multiple times due to volleyball and tennis in high school and college.

4. I love anything banana flavored....yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, pie, pudding, cake...the list goes on.

5. I like to sing and can actually carry a tune, but I'm too shy to sing in front of most people. I attribute this to the fact that I'm scarred for life from another kindergarten incident. My music teacher chose me and another girl from the whole class to sing the lead in our Christmas play. I wound up with a 103.0 fever and could not perform. If only I didn't get sick, maybe I would have started performing at a young age. Now I'm too chicken!

6. I get anxiety on numerous occasions from numerous sources. No further explanation is required.

OK, so maybe I elaborated a bit on my 6 unspectacular items, but some needed additional explanations! :) Now, I'm tagging some bloggers who may have to sway a bit from their typical topics to make this work, but hey it's fun and random...nuff said!

A Step Ahead, Beckels and Life is a Journey -- tag you're it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

True Love in the Form of Toast

**Photo credit to skipsphotos from flickr

Writing a blog that is 1/3 about things I love is great because the ideas for posts are endless...I love so many things! On that note, I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about a restaurant in metro Detroit that I absolutely LOVE going to on the weekends for breakfast. If you have yet to experience Toast in Ferndale, then I suggest you find a dining buddy pronto and pick an upcoming Saturday or Sunday morning to make a visit.

WARNING -- you must come hungry and be prepared to wait. Actually, come on the verge of starvation and try your best to be patient during the wait because it is SOOO worth it!

Toast is located just north of Cambridge on Woodward. It's a quaint little joint with bright, Detroit-inspired art on one side of the restaurant and breakfast-related decor on the other side. During the summer months, an outside patio is available for soaking in the sun while you indulge in a hearty meal. Why do I love Toast so much? The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the staff is cheery and always provides excellent service and the food is downright amazing. I have yet to find a complaint about this restaurant...aside from the fact that if you go there any time between 10 and noon on Saturday or Sunday, you can count on twiddling your thumbs for a few. BUT...coffee is available in the back of the restaurant while you wait!

Here's a peek at the breakfast and lunch menus. However, these don't include the daily specials, which never cease to dissatisfy. I suggest the pumpkin pancakes, only in season for a short time. From the daily menu, my fav orders include granola banana pancakes, low fat granola served with fruit and vanilla soy milk and challah french toast served with granola, vanilla yogurt and a touch of honey. Yes, there is granola theme! Also, be sure to order a side of homefries, and if you can take the heat, douse them with some Frank's Red Hot. Scrumptious!!! Now I must admit, I've only ordered lunch one time at Toast, but the turkey avocado sandwich was a winner.

Because the Ferndale location is wickedly popular, Toast is opening a second location in Birmingham that will serve dinner and...wait for it...alcohol!! It's scheduled to open this month on Pierce St. in downtown B-ham. Check out this Oakland Business Review article for more about the new digs and how the owners conjured up the concept for this "cozy little eatery."

I really should be a walking advertisement for Toast because I seriously sing its praises to just about anyone who will listen! It's just another reason why I look forward to weekends spent at home in metro Detroit. And now that my hectic summer/fall consumed by traveling and weddings has come to a close, you can bet I'll be supporting the local economy at Toast with my partner-in-crime MAL as often as physically possible. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fast Company Gives Grand Rapids Some Eco Love

Fast Company, a magazine that chronicles the evolution of business through a focus on creative individuals and companies that make an impact in the marketplace, recently gave some MAD green lovin' to Grand Rapids! In the article "America's Greenest City," Fast Company gives props to Grand Rapids for leading the nation in the number of LEED-certified buildings per capita. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell pledged that more than 20 percent of the city's power would derive from renewable sources by 2008. Lo and behold, the city hit that target a year early and is aiming for 100 percent by 2020. Move over Ann Arbor, you've got some competition in the "most eco-conscious city in Michigan" category!

According to an article from The Oakland Business Review, 239 businesses in the state of Michigan are registered for LEED certification and 76 have been certified.

Gotta love it when the national media writes something POSITIVE about the mitten state :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bloggers Have a *Real* Voice With BlogTalkRadio

I was checking out Twitter the other night to catch up on all that I had missed in the Twitterverse after a busy day at work, and I came across an interesting link from Chris Brogan (follow him on Twitter - @chrisbrogan). For those of you who don't read Chris' blog or follow him on Twitter, he is a 10 year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations and individuals. Check out more about him here.

The link Chris posted on Twitter was for a show called Immediate Influence hosted by Ron Hudson on BlogTalkRadio. In a nutshell, BlogTalkRadio is the leading social radio network that lets you create your own live talk show that can be heard worldwide without the need for snazzy equipment or downloads. It gives bloggers the opportunity to interact with their audiences in a live, real-time manner. Chris chatted on the show about social media in general and various topics that he addresses on his blog. With BlogTalkRadio, there is a real-time chat component (just like Instant Messenger), so I was able to message back and forth with Chris, Ron and other people listening to the show as it was happening. This was great because it gave participants the opportunity to ask Chris questions directly and create conversations surrounding the topics Chris was discussing. My first question to Chris was, "How the heck do you juggle your job, speaking engagements, blogging, posting on Twitter, having a normal social/family life, etc.?" Answer: He doesn't sleep!

Now I will admit, I am blown away by social media and engage in it every day. BUT, I am nowhere near calling myself an expert and have a laundry list of about 3847572 questions and things that I still want/need to learn about social media. But participating in shows such as this one on BlogTalkRadio helps advance my knowledge and understanding of this changing-on-a-daily-basis medium!

It was hard to juggle listening to the show, contributing to the convos going on in the chatroom, tweeting about the show and jotting down soundbites from Chris, but here are a few extractions from what Chris discussed that I found interesting:

  • Use social media to build relationships (whether business-related or friendships), but always remember to be strategic and human at the same time.

  • Once you establish those relationships, listen to what people have to say, offer advice/tips, be helpful, connect to as many people as you can and share opportunities that may not be useful to you but definitely would be for someone else.

  • Chris feels it's important to educate more "seasoned" executives so they begin to understand just what social media is all about.

  • As CEOs and other top-tiered executives begin to grasp the concept of social media, PR/marketing folks need to be aware that these execs may think that PR/marketing can be done in-house versus outsourced.

There's a ton more I learned during the 30-minute show than those above snippets. Most importantly, I established new relationships and participated in creative conversation with interesting people. As a young PR pro, I believe it's my job to act as a sponge and soak in all that can be learned to advance my profession and industry in the future. If only there were 24 more hours in each day...:)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

PRSA International Conference Makes its Mark in Detroit

I love talking about Detroit and all the things that make this a great city to work and play in. Despite all the recent controversy surrounding Detroit, I am still proud to say I work there and always jump at the opportunity to show my pride for this city.

Recently, I had the chance to get on my soapbox (literally on a soapbox, watch the video) and tell everyone who will be attending the Public Relations Society of America 2008 International Conference in Detroit why I am passionate about the city. I can't even begin to explain what a coo it is for Detroit that this conference is coming here. Through stories from my agency's previous and current interns from the PR department at Wayne State University, I know how much effort was put into the bid that successfully landed the conference in Detroit. Their hard work paid off, and the conference will take place at the Ren Cen October 25-28.

I've previously attended two International Conferences -- one in New York and one in Miami. The knowledge a PR pro/student can take away from sessions is invaluable...not to mention the bazillion networking opportunities that are available at these types of conferences. This will be a great way to meet and connect with tons of other creative, energetic and vibrant practitioners or soon-to-be graduated students from all across the country. I am so psyched that this conference is taking place in the same building that I work! I'm still determining which sessions I will attend, but you can bet at least one or two of them will revolve around social media :)

Detroit's own Mitch Albom (sports writer for the Detroit Free Press and best-selling author of make-you-bawl books like Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven) is hosting one of the keynote sessions at the conference. I am quite fond of Mitch's writing, but I more excited about Monday's keynote session with Penelope Trunk. Trunk touts the importance of finding a healthy balance between the workplace and your personal life, which is something that many people in the PR profession (and probably a variety of other professions as well!) struggle with on a daily basis.

I'm definitely looking forward to what this year's conference holds in store. I hope conference attendees take the time to get out and see Detroit a bit so they can understand firsthand why those who live/work/play here truly do have bragging rights.