Gen Wise Perspective

Gen Y's perspective (pun intended) on our journey through work, life, and everything in between.

Archive for the category “Relationship building”

Is the client always right?

Anyone who works in a services industry has probably heard the saying “the client [customer] is always right.” I understand why that saying exists—at the end of the day, they’re the ones paying you to do what they ask.

But aren’t they also paying for your service because you’re the “expert” on the subject matter? Sure, some would argue that they pay because they don’t have the time/resources to handle the job on their own. But then they could’ve hired their buddy Joe Schmoe to take the job off their hands instead of hiring a trained professional who specializes in the particular area of need.

That being said, when you think your client is flat-out wrong…how do you go about pushing back?

There are times when I receive instructions from a client that I absolutely disagree with. Sometimes they question something we’ve done and aren’t so nice about the way they word it, which immediately fires me up. That’s obviously not a good thing.

I of course start to take it personally, which my mom says is something I will learn to curb with age. I know I need to practice that now. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I’m being bluntly honest about myself in the hope that others might learn from my flaws. Another lesson I learned from my mom is that (hopefully) as I get older I will learn to let things go and develop a tougher skin. I would love to expedite that.

But I haven’t mastered it yet. And I hate being wrong. All of this is a bad combination for pushing back on a client, yet I have enough common sense to know that there’s a delicate way about addressing the situation.

So before doing anything I wanted to get a third-party opinion. I tweeted to my followers, asking what their stance is on pushing back on clients.

I received some great advice, but what resonated most was this comment by Paul Kluding: “Ok to do it, but go in w/motto: think 1st to understand, then be understood. They don’t just want “yes” men/women”

I swear it was one of those “lightbulb” moments. I get hung up on the small things such as the slightly unprofessional tone in emails when a client is questioning me, or the finer points of what they’re asking me to do that don’t make sense to me.

But why didn’t I ever just stop and think about why? What is driving the client to write this email? What is at stake for them?

In reality, their reasoning could be about an issue larger than the one at hand.

So instead of firing back an email that completely defended and justified my position (even if I could do this with ample facts and support), I sought to find the real pain point. Taking Paul’s advice, I wanted to first understand then clarify my point to be understood.

I simply asked why the client felt the way they did. Then I offered my advice on how I would like to handle the situation, while also pointing out that I realize there might be a side of the coin I just wasn’t seeing at this time.

I wanted to address the root of the problem. I wanted us to truly get on the same page. And you know what? We did. And I bet this issue won’t come up again, but it might have if I approached this differently.

I also believe this approach helped to further earn the client’s respect and builds trust in my judgment moving forward.

What do you think? What are your experiences with pushing back on clients? I’d love the perspective of others who have been at this a lot longer than me.

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When will we realize social media marketing is about being social?

Many of us in the PR industry already read this advertising clown’s article about how we’re ruining social media. This might have even been credible if he backed it with some stats and examples, or if he didn’t throw in a shameless self-promotion in at the end.

Way to plug yourself….that’s really going to make me believe you understand how social media marketing works.

The whole time he discussed the problem with pushing content at people, and then at the end he shoves a bunch of examples of his agency’s work at us? Yes, clearly this guy is the mastermind of all things social media marketing.

(Note: my sarcasm does not reflect my views on his agency’s work. I respect it and think it’s very creative. This is just my opinion about this particular article)

Although the article overall was full of generalizations and assumptions, there are some points we agree on:

1)      “No one wants to listen to an endless, aimless stream of dialog about a brand or a company, which is what you get from a strategy that focuses on news, offers and the occasional contest”

2)      “Effective social media marketing is about putting something directly into the hands of your audience”

3)      “People are engaged by great content”

4)      “People gravitate to brands they like and respect. You aren’t going to win friends by boring them to death with conversation about yourself.”

The problem I have is that he’s assuming two things that aren’t always true: That PR agencies always develop and implement a brand’s social media strategy, and that a PR agency’s strategy in terms of social media for a brand is always focused on distributing content.

False and false.

PR agencies do NOT always handle social media for brands. Sometimes they have a separate social media agency, other times ad agencies are in charge of a brand’s social media presence, or it’s handled in-house.

And, just because we’re in PR does NOT mean that we’re applying old-school, traditional PR distribution practices to social media.

Really, this article didn’t need to call out the PR industry. It could’ve just discussed poor social media marketing strategies in general. Some people are great at it, others are terrible. What this article says isn’t always wrong, but it’s definitely pointing the finger in one direction when in reality it applies to many people (that aren’t always PR pros).

It does raise the bigger issue: When are we going to realize that social media marketing is about the SOCIAL aspect?

There are all these “best practices” or things you should(n’t) do (like the four points I mentioned above), but when you stop and think about it…they’re all about being human.

People naturally connect with other people, so the questions for marketers become: How can I humanize my brand? How do I give it a personality that consumers can connect to?

After all, we gravitate towards different people based on our own personalities. The same goes for our behavior towards a brand.

Social media provides the perfect opportunity for brands to not only have a means for connecting with their audience and building a community of like-minded individuals (AKA being social), but also to understand who those people are and what they care about.

It starts off on a broader level: what type of person do I want to target? Who purchases my product and/or service?

Ok, so once that’s nailed down….

Where do they spend their time online?

Then: What are they saying? What do they talk about/respond to the most? What sparks a negative reaction in them? Positive? What do they share the most?

Those are the types of questions that make the most sense to ask first. Yes, there are more, but the point is that it’s about getting a well-rounded view of who these people are. That way you can figure out how to be human and best relate to them.

I mean, isn’t that how we act in a social setting if we want to actually build a relationship?

You wouldn’t just spout a bunch of crap about yourself without asking anything about other people. You would talk to them, listen to what they have to say, ask questions, share interesting information, laugh together, bounce ideas off one another, and so on.

Well, doesn’t that apply to social media marketing as well?

And, to the first part of the post, do you really need to be in advertising, PR, or marketing to understand that?

Nope.

What are 10 things I learned from my first SxSW Interactive experience?

Throwing up the hashtag sign. Yeah, we're nerds.

This was my first year at SxSW Interactive, and I have to say that it was absolutely a blast. I am definitely going back next year, and now I have these 10 lessons to take with me:

1. Pack your hipster gear

Never in my life have I seen so many hipsters in one place. This one is merely a joke—please don’t take me literally and go buy skinny jeans, a plaid shirt and funky sunglasses just for SxSW. But be ready to do some great people watching. And if you’re a hipster, then you absolutely belong here.

2. You look like an outcast without a Mac

I was definitely one of the only people without a Mac or an iPad. Boo me. This point is just another fun one. You can rock your Dell with pride too.

3. Carry your chargers with you at all times

Everyone here was hoarding the outlets. Good thing they were so accommodating and had power strips everywhere. I mean, we have to be connected at ALL times, right? Trust me: you do not want to have your phone or laptop die on you. It’s your way to stay in touch with everyone. Keep your charger on you, even when you go out at night.

4. Use a location-based check-in service (even if just for this occasion)

So, I actually didn’t do this. I don’t use Foursquare or Gowalla and I made it through SxSW just fine. Part of the reason is because everyone also shared their location via Twitter and/or Facebook. But really check-in apps are ideal for a conference like this.

You’re trying to meet up with people you either just met or only know from social media and planned to meet in person. We’re all floating around one concentrated area, so it only makes sense to check in and see what’s happening around you.

5. Talk to people you don’t know

This might be the most important point. Talk to everyone because that is the most interesting part of SxSW. I learned more from the people I met than any panel I attended.

6. Attend sessions you know nothing about

I realized that the panels and speakers aren’t very beneficial if you already know about the topic. Don’t get me wrong—these are some very smart people with great insight, but if I blog about social media and talk about how it can be used from a marketing perspective, why would I attend a panel on it? I made that mistake. Then I found myself thinking: I’ve heard most of this before.

But, there are so many panels and speakers that covered subjects I don’t really know anything about. I should’ve gone to those, even if it wasn’t directly related to the industry I work in. I’d rather learn something new than hear the same ole shit I read/write about all the time.

7. Prepare to cope with a hangover for a few days in a row

Bring your aspirin, eye drops and whatever else you need to deal with your hangover and lack of sleep. It’s inevitable. You want to go to the events and parties at night, but you want to make it to those early sessions too. SxSW is one place you need to be a trooper.

8. The SxSW Go app is extremely useful for figuring out which sessions to go to

The official SxSW Go app was great for finding out about everything going on around you and planning ahead. You’re able to set up a schedule of events you want to attend and receive alerts beforehand, which is very helpful because time really gets away from you when you’re down there.

9. Wear comfortable shoes

You will end up walking all over the place all day and night long. Be prepared for it. You’ll regret it if you wear shoes that aren’t made for walking. I always wear flats and I’m still bandaging up my baby toe on both feet. Ha!

10. Unofficial parties and unplanned outings with new friends are WAY better than the official stuff

You’ve probably heard this before and it’s so true. The official stuff ends up being packed. You’ll probably wait in line and be super crowded in. Not very fun.

On that same note, skip a panel or session and go to lunch with new friends instead. I promise you it’ll be much more interesting and beneficial to you. If you stick to all the planned, official events you will be missing out on the best part of what SxSW has to offer: the people around you.

Above all, take a step back, think about why you’re there, and enjoy what’s happening around you. Take your nose out of your smartphone for a few minutes and take it all in. There is a lot of creativity and innovation happening all around you. You don’t want to miss it.

For those who have been to SxSW, are there any other vital lessons I should add to this list? Let me know about them in the comments.

Why is BlogDash awesome?

Well, obviously because BlogDash was co-founded by David Spinks …or “Sprinks” as I’ve dubbed him ever since I accidentally called him that on Twitter. It’s catchy, right?

Although I’m teasing about Sprinks, his involvement has a lot to do with it. His vision for this is spot on in finding a solution for the PR-blogger debacle…

The reason BlogDash is awesome is because of what it does: it validates blogger outreach as a PR “tactic.” By creating an equivalent to Vocus or Cision, but purely for bloggers, it makes the statement that blogger outreach is synonymous with media outreach. And it is.

I was lucky enough to be a beta tester so I’ve played around with BlogDash a bit, and there’s another aspect that makes it awesome: blogger relations.

This is probably more crucial than traditional media relations. Why? Well, you’re communicating with the person who publishes, manages, writes and edits the content….I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to build a relationship with them.

I know it’s hard to read everyone’s blog and keep up with the content, and so does Sprinks. That’s why BlogDash gives you the information you need. Not that outdated crap you get from traditional PR software (it’s just what happens with huge databases like that—nothing you can do), but actual information on who they are, what they write about, how they’d like to be pitched and what type of information they find useful/relevant.

How does that happen? The bloggers are in on it too. It’s a joint effort. No more feeling like a stalker, PR pros. We can actually work together with media outlets (yes, bloggers are media) and make things more efficient. I know. Take a breath. It’s a lot to digest.

Basically, as a PR person, you get the information you actually need to send a relevant, personalized pitch. And guess what happens after that? You’ll probably get a response from someone who’s interested in working with you.

There are many other features that make BlogDash awesome: better search tools (you get very relevant results)—good filtering and simple browsing to find what you really need.

And my favorite: Engagement features.

Sprinks points these out in the BlogDash blog: “…Now when you look at a list in your “Manage Lists” page, you can see all the blog posts and tweets coming out of your list.  You will be able to reply and interact right from the blogdash dashboard.”

To me, this is the future of PR outreach: collaboration between the PR pro and the blogger/reporter. Integrating social media aspects right into the tool itself. A true relationship.

Nice job by Sprinks and the BlogDash team. This is truly something that makes people say, “What a good idea. I wish something like this existed sooner.”

Now it does.

If you aren’t already, I highly recommend following BlogDash on Twitter to receive updates. You can also check out the site and get a free trial.

Anyone else tried BlogDash yet? Let’s hear your reasons why it’s awesome.

Are individualized PR pitches worth it?

Absolutely. I bet the folks over at Bad Pitch Blog would agree with this one too. I understand it might not always realistic or feasible to send out individual pitches, but more times than not it’s worth the extra time to individualize your pitch.

In my opinion, it’s probably more necessary in BtoB PR and when conducting blogger outreach. The reason I say this is because BtoB companies tend to fit within a certain niche, so you’re working with a smaller group of media outlets (mostly trade publications—online and/or print) that are very specific about the areas of whichever industry they cover. Similarly, bloggers each have a specific focus that you should respect and take into account when pitching. If you’re targeting a blogger, you might as well treat it as if you’re communicating with the publisher, editor AND reporter/writer all at once.

In both cases, individual pitches where you researched the outlet and specific reporter/blogger will prove to be more beneficial because, by the time you send the pitch, you already know the news fit with topics they typically cover. Whether or not they choose to cover your news often has to do with timing, resources, and other aspects that are out of your control…but at least you did your homework.

So, overall, why do I think individual pitches are worth it?

They’re Relevant.

Tailoring a pitch to the person you want to cover your news requires you to make sure the pitch pertains to that person (try saying those five words over and over—tongue twister): You know who you’re pitching, what they tend to cover, and what their audience is interested in hearing.

They’re Personal.

Nobody likes being treated like another number. If you took the time to find out the information I mentioned above, you’re not only relevant but you’re also putting in the effort on a personal level. It sounds like common sense, but a huge part of relationship-building is just acting like a human being. Even if the person you’re pitching doesn’t write about your news, you’ll probably stand out to them the next time around. And, they’re likely to consider you with the same respect that you showed them.

They Help You Avoid Sounding like Willy Loman.

Am I the only one that thinks pitching can seem like old school door-to-door sales from the Death of a Salesman days? Sometimes they’re a step away from cold calling or mass email blasts from a spammy email marketing campaign. But think about it: Who enjoys this? Is there anyone out there going, “Oh random telemarketer I’m SO glad you called me today because I really care about what you have to say!”?

Of course not. So why would a PR pro ever send out a pitch that remotely resembled that type of behavior?

Probably because we don’t even realize it. But that’s where an individual pitch comes in handy—it helps avoid coming across like a cheesy sales rep who goes through the checklist from “Selling for Dummies” when they pitch you.

Instead, you’re speaking to someone one-on-one like you would with a friend.

I’m not saying you should be informal and bust out the U, URs, LMAOs, etc. in your pitch, but it can just be straightforward and casual: “Hey, I saw you’ve covered this before, so I thought you might be interested in ___ news. Is this something you’d want to cover? Here are some reasons you might find it interesting.” (Or something along those lines)

That type of interaction (AKA human interaction) is more likely to be well-received. It’s also more genuine and gives you a chance to honestly explain why you think your news and/or story angle is something interesting and worthwhile for the reporter/blogger to cover.

Although some might think PR pitching is all about who you know, it’s not. Sure, relationships are great to get your foot in the door—your email is more likely to be read by someone who already knows you, and they’re more likely to hear you out—but the bottom line is that the content in your pitch.

The reporter can be your best friend, but I bet they won’t cover the story if it isn’t interesting and doesn’t relate to their audience. So take the extra time to do the legwork for that individual pitch. And then cross your fingers that the timing is right.

What do you think? Anyone had some great success from individual pitching? I’d love to hear about it because, like many others, I’m still learning about what works and what results in an epic pitch #FAIL.

(Image from ebooksx.com, thanks to Google Images)

Is Twitter useful for PR outreach?

There might be some PR folks out there thinking “hell no” when they see that question because it’s not necessarily the traditional way to conduct PR outreach, but Twitter can definitely be a useful tool for pitching the media.

Why?

Journalists are there

Most journalists are on Twitter, so it makes sense to communicate with them wherever they’re present. Journalists are people just like the rest of us, meaning that they probably respond faster to @ replies and Twitter DMs than their overloaded inboxes with PR pitches galore.

If you know who you want to target, you can search for their Twitter handle specifically. If you’re not sure, you can use tools like http://mediaontwitter.com to see a list of thousands of journalists’ Twitter handles.

It’s individualized

Communicating with a journalist via Twitter is an obvious way to show that you’re not sending out an email blast. It’s personalized and relevant to the individual journalist, which makes things much more efficient for both parties.

You have to keep it short and sweet

The beauty of 140 characters is that you have to get to the point. Let’s face it: no one has time (or wants to) read through paragraph after paragraph in an email. With Twitter, you have to be concise and get the crux of the message out there. It’s a great way to gauge interest too. If a journalist wants to hear more, then you can follow up via email.

You get to learn about the journalist

Twitter enables you to see what a journalist is interested in/cares about, which means you can 1) provide a more relevant, individualized pitch, and 2) cultivate a relationship. Not everything has to be about the PR pitch—maybe you’ll find that you have something in common with them. Learning about a journalist will go a long way in building that relationship which ultimately makes your PR outreach more effective.

Another way to see what journalists are talking about on Twitter is to check out http://journalisttweets.com/.

It shows your effort to engage

Going along with the point I made above, using Twitter for media outreach also shows your effort to engage. You had to take the time to do your homework on the journalist and then cultivate the relationship. Your extra effort will not go unnoticed and will most likely be reciprocated in some capacity.

Wouldn’t you be much more willing to work with someone who took the time to seek you out and pitch you on things that are truly relevant to you?

The reason that Twitter is a useful tool for PR outreach boils down to this: At the end of the day, we’re all people and that’s how we want to be treated. Twitter enables the PR-journalist dynamic to become more like an actual relationship.

That’s my two cents on why Twitter is useful for PR outreach, but if you’re looking for some tips on pitching the media via Twitter I highly suggest you read this blog post written yesterday by Maya Wasserman.

What do you think? PR pros, have you pitched journalists on Twitter?

(Image borrowed from http://www.kevintylersmith.com)

Why is Scott Stratten so funny?

Because he’s right. And he calls us out.

Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing, came to Rockit in Chicago last night for a stop on his book tour. Jackie and I were lucky enough to get a ticket in to hear what he had to say.

Stratten left us with some great marketing tips and a few good laughs…

“To be awesome at customer service, you just have to be average. Cause everyone else sucks.”

Sad but true, customer service is not the best these days. Being average in a world where most don’t take the time to think about their customers the way they should makes you stand out from the crowd. Why is that? Going back to finding what your customer really needs is a task marketers need to get back to. At the end of the day, they are the ones who make or break your brand.

“Twitter sucks for marketing. It’s awesome for building relationships.”

It’s safe to say I have met some of the best and the brightest people in the industry on Twitter. Why? Because they engage with others that have the same interests as them, answer each other’s questions, and communicate. It sounds simple, but so many people don’t realize the relationships you can build by just saying hello.

“Why people spread things hasn’t changed. The way they spread things has.”

Whether you believe in social media or not, at the end of the day it is a fast, efficient way to spread the things you are passionate about with others. But before social media existed, the same thing occurred.

People were still sharing information, just not at as fast a pace.

“If your niche is people they are there [on social media].”

For people that still don’t believe in social media (or as I like to call them, “haters”), they must be trying to reach out to things other than humans–aliens, animals, etc.–to promote their product or service. Face the music: the world is on social media. And they are all listening. If you are not on there yet you are at least a good two years behind. Get. On. That.

Overall, the event rocked. Shout out to Billy Dec of Rockit Ranch Productions for making that happen. Scott was so friendly and personable, and the crowd loved him. If you haven’t checked out UnMarketing yet, you’re missing out!

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