PR LESSONS FROM THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

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Despite typically sticking to non-controversial topics on my corporate blog, I decided to do something different today: discuss something sensitive and controversial.

The front page stories about the Confederate flag offer a great lesson for publicists.

Before I list what lessons we PR folks can learn, I will back up a bit and talk about my opinion on the flag situation.

I was moved by the photo of the South Carolina shooter in the Sunday The New York Times. The Times did a smart thing by publishing it.

The Confederate flag is now closely associated with a killer and his hate crime. The idea is simple. If you fly the flag, you support what he did.

Additionally, the San Jose Mercury News just today published a story that says the Confederate flag symbolizes slavery. I don’t see these words too often. Usually reporters tip toe around the topic saying, “Old South” and Southern pride and so on.

I have not been to the South in a few years but I do have relatives and roots there. The South is beautiful. The hospitality there is awesome. I don’t hate the South.

I live in the Silicon Valley but was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I also have detailed lineage records showing that I’m related to Robert E. Lee who was head of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Despite this fact, I still don’t support the Confederate flag.

There are a few reasons why the Confederate flag will likely be removed from all government offices and school campuses in coming months: being associated with a highly publicized hate crime (bad PR); economic boycotts; more diversity in government offices; and lastly people who previously remained quiet are now speaking out.

What can we PR people learn from the flag stories? Two things.

IS IT TIMELY RIGHT NOW?

When you think about what stories to pitch reporters – and by the way, some reporters don’t like or need story ideas – think about two elements: timeliness and surprise.

Is your story pitch surprising in any way?

Is it linked to a topic that is trending, one that people actually care about right now? And by right now, I mean today and this minute? Does your news have people saying, “So what?” or do they raise their eyebrows and say, “Interesting. Tell me more.”

A Bloomberg News TV journalist recently said that the best topics to pitch him should be chosen that day. He said check what is hot in the morning and offer him an expert on that topic. By the way if you are pitching broadcast media, pitch something visual.

THE SURPRISE FACTOR

Regarding the surprise factor, a friend in Ohio commented on Facebook that he was surprised anyone was flying the Confederate flag in the South. How can government folks be glorifying its symbolism in this day and age? The other surprise was how a “clean-cut” young man can walk into a Bible study and just kill nine people.

Wow, and they were awesome people. They were Society’s heroes.

Additionally, killing a pastor after Bible study is surprise. So journalists are all over it.

So the lesson is this. When you think about launching your start-up company or issuing a press release on your new software, what part of your story is timely and a surprise? If you think of your publicity in this way, you will get a lot more attention with a lot less work and expense.

Sometimes the surprise is not that the new software can do x or y but rather an interesting tidbit about the founder that would make an enticing story headline.

As the saying goes, work smarter not harder.

[The cotton plant photo was purchased from Canva.]

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, a Communications and Citizenship in the Community merit badge counselor for Boy Scouts of America, IBM vet, former parliamentarian and vice president communications of the local district PTA, SV-IABC director of marketing communications and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA. She has served 14 mostly software start-ups since launching her business two years ago. Her views are her own and not those of her clients or the non-profits she serves. @FromMichelle on Twitter

MASTER SOCIAL BUSINESS WITH THESE 5 TIPS

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By Michelle McIntyre

Here are five facts from the new book “How to Succeed in Social Business,” a collection of case studies and tips from social experts from 20 companies compiled by Shawn Santos.

1. “The exponential growth of social media channels and the popularity of graphics and visuals on those channels have spawned a new visual format on steroids with a new name: infographics.” Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. Visuals are the rocks stars of social media.

Holly Nielsen, IBM, @HollyNielsen

LESSON LEARNED: Never post a blog without an image and make more infographics.

2. “Social media has enabled a momentous shift in the balance of power, and this type of democratization will continue.” A girl in the U.K. started a blog about school lunches that caught on with millions of school children globally. As you can expect, some of the food reviews were less than favorable. For example some posts said the food seemed unhealthy. This angered school district management. Her teacher told passed along the message that she was not allowed to take photos of her lunches anymore. She stopped. This backfired. Because of the groundswell of support for the girl from communities globally, the school district reversed its decision to let her take photos.

Shawn Santos, ServiceSource, @ShawnSantos

LESSON LEARNED: Use negative feedback from social media to improve.

3. A weblog is a great way to deal with the flood of requests from journalists for timely commentary on popular and constantly changing topics. For example, security threats infiltrate the digital landscape daily. Symantec ‘s Security Response Blog allows them to post commentary that reporters can efficiently access.

Charlie Treadwell, Symantec, @CTreadwell

LESSON LEARNED: It emphasizes what I already know, that a blog is a seriously effective and efficient business communications tool. Post to the blog when news is not big enough for a press release.

4. “Relevant conversations happen everywhere. Cast a wide net.” Cisco found that customer sentiment was found in non-obvious places, like competitor pages and blogs.

Sara Del Grande, Cisco, @SaraDelGrande

LESSON LEARNED: Use a social media measurement tool to get a big and deep glimpse of what your customers are saying.

5. “Effectively enable willing managers to experience the direct benefits of social media” because this is the fastest path to influencing the entire team.

David Shimberg, BMC Software, @DavidShimberg

LESSON LEARNED: Management needs to blaze the brand’s trail on social media. In the past I often recommended that start-ups hire an intern for this but now my attitude has changed.

“How to Succeed in Social Business” is available from Amazon.com in both a Kindle and print edition

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Two Simple Tricks to Increase your Retweets

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By Michelle McIntyre

Twitter’s usage facts are impressive. According to the company, there are 255 million active users monthly and 500 million Tweets are sent a day.

Twitter is an important tool used by companies in conducting social business. According to Gartner, businesses leverage social media to drive growth, improve business processes and drive innovation. Marketers use it to gain valuable insight from customers and prospects.
Let’s face it. Twitter is important so community managers want more followers and tweet shares.

Retweets are definitely sweeter than being ‘favorited,’ especially if the retweeter has more followers than you, or at least a list of followers strategic to your business. Sometimes 50 strategic followers are better than 5k random ones.

I’m proud to say that when I Tweet about entrepreneurship or tech trends, I have been retweeted more than once by @SVForum, the top Silicon Valley organization for tech startups and their investors. My client prospects follow SVForum on Twitter. This is a good thing.
I noticed I am more likely to be retweeted if I do these two simple things.

1. AIM FOR 100 CHARACTERS OR LESS. People are more likely to retweet a shorter Tweet. Twitter rules say your tweet needs to be 140 characters or less, but Twitter users actually like 100 characters or less.
Use these free and easy services to shorten your URL links: TinyURL.com and Bitly.com. To use the services, copy paste your long link and make a short one. You should not have to register, sign in or pay for either service.

2. USE TWO HASHTAGS INSTEAD OF ONE. When I am managing the Twitter handle for @SVIABC, I like #communications and #pr since the organization promotes quality in the communications field. Sometimes I add #social, #socialmedia or what the social studs use, #SoMe. What a hashtag does is it includes your tweet in the ongoing group conversation on that topic. Many more people can then see your tweet even if they are not follow you. Pretty cool, huh?

What other tips do you have to increase retweets?
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC high tech PR. @FromMichelle on Twitter

 

What Prospective Employers Find Out about You on Social Media

According to a story, “Should Companies Monitor Their Employees’ Social Media?” in the May 12, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal, job candidates need to beware that prospective employers are tracking their social media networks to get a glimpse of what they are like.

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The story covered results of a survey sponsored by Careerbuilder.com.

Although the article doesn’t refer to consultant candidates, there is no doubt they use similar research methods to check them out as well.

Here are the sites that employers are using to research candidates:
Facebook: 65%
LinkedIn: 63%
Twitter: 16%

Here’s what employers look for when they research a candidate using social media:
To see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally: 65%
To see if the prospect is a good fit for company culture: 51%
To learn more about the candidate’s qualifications: 45%
To see if he or she is well-rounded: 35%
To look for reasons not to hire the candidate: 12%

Not surprisingly, here is what survey responders said hurt candidates:
Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photos or info: 50%
Got a good feel for candidates personality: 50%
Candidates showed a wide array of interests: 50%
Background supported professional qualifications: 49%
Evidence of creativity: 46%
Excellent communication skills: 43%
Great references: 38%

Prospective employers need to be careful as well. The story says that these searches put the employers at liability. The story says that “An employer who learns than an applicant is gay, Moslem, disabled, or over 40 years old, and then hires someone else may face discrimination charges.”

To read the entire article, visit wsj.com.  The most interesting stats are on page R2 of the print edition.

If you haven’t bought a hard copy of The Wall Street Journal lately, pick up a copy at Starbucks or at a neighborhood store. It’s nice to read an actual “print edition” newspaper every once in a while.Of course you could also subscribe and get it at home or at the office.

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Michelle McIntyre is president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA, and director of communications for SVIABC. She’s @FromMichelle on Twitter.

15 Tips to Become a more Effective Entrepreneur

by Michelle McIntyre

 

Late last year, my Silicon Valley entrepreneur meet-up group gathered for a breakfast networking session. During the event, participants shared answers to two questions posed by Host Sean Murphy.

 

 

 

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He asked, “What have you learned in 2013 that will make you more effective as an entrepreneur in 2014?” He added, “What will you stop doing to make time for it?”

 

There was a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in the room and I found the 15 tips quite valuable. Here they are.

 

1. Be more patient.
2. Fail faster.
3. Focus early on value proposition, less on technical implementation.
4. Drop less important details.
5. Hire more carefully. Fire faster.
6. Stop coding so much. Spend more time on sales. (Several attendees were software developers.)
7. Delegate more and more effectively.
8. Always build a simpler product than you first dreamed of.
9. Network more. Listen more.
10. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
11. Plan more. It’s really hard to recover wasted hours.
12. Take more time to listen.
13. More focus on time management and effective action.
14. Concentrate on one line of business. Focus for effect.
15. Build on strengths.

 

Thank you, Sean Murphy, for sharing your meeting notes with me for this article.

 

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Michelle McIntyre, a high tech press relations consultant in Saratoga, Calif., is on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA and the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators. 

 

 

10 Tips on Podcasting from the Host of Amateur Traveler

Chris Christensen, San Francisco Bay Area resident and co-founder of a new website called Blogger Bridge which connects bloggers to people who want to hire them just spoke to my entrepreneurs Meetup group in Sunnyvale about how to build your reputation through podcasting.

He also owns and runs AmateurTraveler.com which is a popular online travel show (more than a million downloads a year) that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. Here’s a sample episode. This particular one is called “Travel to Morocco: Episode 397.”

http://africa.amateurtraveler.com/travel-morocco-travel-podcast/

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A podcast is a show on any topic in audio or video format that is an attachment to a blog through an RSS feed.

Christensen says podcasting is a great way to build your brand. Here are 10 tips on podcasting from his talk:

1. Podcasting is in style again mostly due to the growth of mobile. After a relatively quiet period of a few short years, podcasting is hot again. People listen to or watch broadcasts on the go while walking the dog, driving or exercising through smartphones or other mobile devices.

2. Podcast consumption is stronger in audio. Audio files sizes are smaller and they are more easily consumed on the go, for example, while driving. It’s hard and of course illegal to watch a video while driving.

3. Microphones popular with podcasters range in price from around $100 to $350.  Styles include larger ones that stand by themselves, smaller ones that you hold in your hand and teeny tiny ones that are designed to hook up to a smartphone. Christensen likes the Blue Yeti brand the best.

4. Podcasting is a very personal medium. People may act they you are old friends when you first meet them.

5. Podcasting is not great for immediate response marketing, for example, if you need someone to click on something or take a fast action. Christensen likes evergreen content the best but also says that news shows can be popular too.

6. Podcasting is great for building a reputation or brand. This is because if done right, podcasting can establish you as an expert.

7. Roundtable discussions through Google Hangouts are becoming all the rage now. Link your Hangout account to your YouTube account and the session can be recorded for re-play.

8. Not all podcasts need to be edited. If you do need to edit, Christensen recommends Garage Band available on the Mac and Audacity.

9. You can just post your podcast on your own blog or syndicate.  Christensen recommends sites like Libsyn.com or Rawvoice.com for syndication.

10. Allow up to eight hours to plan, finish and promote one podcast.  Christensen’s “feature-length” travel podcast takes eight hours. A non-edited show takes two to three times the length of the show. A scripted show takes more time. An edited show takes Christensen about an hour per 10 minutes of audio to edit.

In case you are wondering, Christensen is highly envied by the other entrepreneurs in our meet-up group because he actually gets all expenses paid trips around the globe due to the large following of his travel website. Way to go, Chris!

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Michelle McIntyre is a high tech public relations consultant in Saratoga, Calif., who also blogs for several West Silicon Valley Patch news sites.  Her website is http://www.michellemcintyrecommunications.com

Her Twitter handle is @FromMichelle

Photo credit (camel): iStockPhoto.com

SV-IABC Power Panel on Motivating Workers to be Excellent

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SV-IABC Power Panel on Motivating Workers to be Excellent

Thank you to these SV-IABC panelists who tonight at our event in Santa Clara, Calif., spoke about creating a motivated workforce that fosters innovation and excellence. From left to right: Moderator Meta Mehling, Principal, Meta Mehling and Associates; Sarah Peterson, Sr. Manager of Technology Communications at Intuit; Francesca Karpel, Director, Internal Communications, NetApp; and Jennifer Johnston, Sr. Director, Marketing and Communications at Salesforce. The next event on killer presentations and “slideology” is mid-day on Nov. 14. For details, visit http://sv.iabc.com/