Month: April 2013

True Integration?

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This post was absolutely inspired by the article I just read: The Church and State of Advertising by @mitchjoell.

6 years ago – when I had begun my original blog, I was at the cutting edge of social media and what could be done with it as a communications person. Understood what it meant for brands and voice, how we could speak directly with our audience and source alternate distribution channels. More importantly, it was about being able to provide actual metrics to the things that were previously difficult to account for.

As the use of digital has matured with people like myself, the evolution of how to use it lead to what many people saw as the pinnacle of “true integration”. The ability for a brand, advertiser or movement to truly become one with other forms of media that they had not be able to truly do in the past.  Working in the media I have watched the struggle that inherently exits between the idea of church and state and how complex it can be navigating how to use social media and digital spaces (website and mobile apps) while ensuring audiences can clearly delineate between editorial and advertorial.

Advertisers are really pushing more and more for what they want as true integration.  There is push back on the clearly stated “Sponsored by…” or “Brought to you by…”, and a real desire to have their product immersed into content.  For information to be organic and seem natural.  Agencies are spending more time being extremely clear about their expectations of “integration”, and becoming more strategic in aligning their brands and products that carry similar emotive qualities as media brands.

But I guess that begs the question – is that true integration?  Are we assuming that consumers are not informed enough at this stage of the digital age to recognize that inserted products or mentions of them could potentially be tied to advertising initiatives?  Does true integration really mean that on morning shows and American Idol that the hosts are holding cups drinking all the same beverage followed by a commercial for that same product?  I’m not so sure.

As digital becomes a greater source of media focus – and it is.  As we watch the era of print slowly phase out to move over to digital, communications and marketing professionals will watch a new struggle.  How to monetize digital assets and ensure there is a clear line between church and state will be the focus for most media organizations.  As advertising fatigue and higher levels of consumer awareness grow on ways they are being advertised too – maybe the idea of “true integration”, might just be a fleeting moment of immersion before people catch on to the fact that is advertising.

5 steps to Social Media Readiness

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Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Ready… set… go…..

Buzz words are great – and in all aspects of business we hear them.  However, when working in the digital and communications space what does the term: “social media readiness” actually mean?  While it can vary by organization to organization, in a nutshell it means: how ready are you or your organization for engagement into the social media space.

In one of my former roles as a Marketing and Communications Manager,  I would hear almost every day directly from the CEO how we needed to use social media to promote their product.  Due to the company culture it was very much,  a “do it first and ask questions later” atmosphere.  The idea of marketing and the focus on being executional/tactical in nature first,  superseded the notion of ensuring that the company was ready to do it or that they actually understood what they were doing while doing it.  The largest mistake that any company can make in marketing and communications is to put the cart before the horse.  Once you put something out there, especially online – it is there.  Reflecting your company, your brand and your products.

This organization was not ready for social media.  They understood it in theory, and they definitely understood the execution – “Put a video on Youtube”, “Start a Facebook page”…. but had no long term strategy, or any idea what they should be doing with their social assets past that. So, how can you do a temperature check?  Here are 5 steps to take in finding out how ready your organization is for social media:

      1. Executive level buy in:  You definitely need to ensure that your leadership is in support of the idea.  Some might be, and some might not be – some may not understand it at all.  To erase some uneasiness it might require some education around social media products.  These can include business case studies with organizations that are similar in nature to yours – or if you are willing – using your own personal accounts to demonstrate how things can work positively.
      2. Educational tools:  Even if an organization understands the practice of using certain social media networks, you can create or provide tools that make things easy for them to digest and stay current. Hubspot provides a lot of great white papers and e-books that can be easily disseminated or referenced.  In my former roll as a Communications Coordinator for the Government, I actually created a social media dictionary to assist our senior management team in learning the lingo.
      3. Social Media Policies: OK – so naturally your leadership is going to have concerns around all the possible things that could go sideways if they enter into this space, from employees exposing secret info publicly to the public bashing them.  Work with them to create social media policies that they feel comfortable with; if possible check with your legal and HR teams to make sure everything is covered.  If all else fails – there are a ton of templates online.  Hey, we are in the age of sharing!
      4. Don’t scare your staff: Your biggest fans are right under your nose.  The people who live and breath your organization everyday.  Once you have buy in – don’t leave them out of the education process!  They can be your organizations biggest advocates and evangelists online.  Keep them in the loop and ensure that they understand your social media policies and procedures.  Give them some ownership and a voice and you will see how quickly things can become viral!
      5. Put pen to paper:  Plan!  Like any other communications or marketing initiative you must have a plan in place.  If you work for an organization that doesn’t see the importance of this run!  As the saying goes – fail to plan, plan to fail.  Except that you would be letting the organization fail publicly in a space that spreads information at rapid fire speed.  A social media plan should outline the networks most relevant to your organizations needs, how you intend on using them, content plans and schedules and how that integrates with your overall marketing plan.

The Pinterest…..

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I would love to be able to tell you that Pinterest is the hot “new” thing.  But in the world of digital things move so rapidly that it I can’t say that this is the case.

As with all other social media platforms, this is just another medium that can be used to an organizations or an individuals advantage.  The interesting thing with Pinterest is of course that there tends to be a lot more repinning than the addition of new content, but I think what it best does is really institute the shift of perception in sharing things.

That beings said, as with all hyped social media platforms business are wondering how they can use Pinterest to their advantage.  Here are some things to consider before embarking into a new social medium:

  1. What is the core function of your organization?  Does it require a visual component?
  2. What is the mandate or objective of your communications and marketing departments?  Just because a new social media platform arises, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it or that it can serve your organization and communication objectives.
  3. Determine if you have sub-brands or products that could works for this particular medium.
  4. Go ahead and register the company and/or product name with Pinterest.  Even if you decide not to use it, you’ve at least acquired ownership of your name.

My two cents?  I think Pinterest should partner with Instagram.  Who knows, by the time this post hits that may have already happened 😉