Social Media: The New PR World Order

Whether it’s challenging constituents through Twitter to ask Presidential candidates trivial questions at town-hall debates or making critical comments concerning President Obama’s late Grandmother, the strong political climate heightened by tonight’s Presidential debate is a stark reminder that in this race social media has become king.

But not all social media makes a negative splash. I recently had the privilege of attending the launch of Eastwick’s sister company, SocialxDesign, a firm dedicated to improving the social engagement of businesses, government agencies and NGO’s. It was at this event that I learned through an experienced panel of speakers – including founders Giovanni Rodriguez, Toby Chaudhuri and Barbara Bates – how social media can be used to empower everyone to become directly involved in the processes that affect them on a daily basis.

Think about it: social media is giving a voice to historically underrepresented groups, such as Asian and Hispanic Americans. In fact, the panel described how social media practices and applications are constantly being adjusted to suit the needs of both citizens and clients. This fluid technology gives renewed meaning to the adage, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Through groundbreaking new social media tools, like Peace on Facebook, even Average Joe’s across the world can make monumental and enduring statements.

Outside of the political spectrum, the global connectedness achieved through social media is alive and well in the PR realm. Using these channels to engage your target audience may seem like foreign territory, but the impact can be monumental with the right strategy in place.  

To learn more about SocialxDesign go to: http://socialxdesign.com/.

Amplify Exposure: Landing Media Coverage

Landing a mention about your company or product in an industry publication is good for business. But considering the competition for shrinking space and the attention of overworked editors, receiving the right kind of exposure is easier with a good PR agency on your side.

c3PR recently attended PRSA Silicon Valley’s “Inside the Newsroom” event at Facebook’s headquarters. The panel of experienced editors from the online technology publication, All Things D, explained that maintaining good long-term relationships with editors and reporters is critical. In fact, wasting a journalist’s time with inappropriate pitches is a sure-fire way to damage a business relationship and discount your brand’s potential.

The panel offered a few suggestions – all of which we put into practice daily at c3PR. Here is a sneak peek at the checklist we use to make sure our clients make a media splash:

  • Can you sum up your story in a tweet? 
    • If so, the editor may be looking for something with a little more meat.
  • Do you really know your editor? 
    • We research the person we’re pitching to discover what they’re interested in and connect your story to that interest.
  • Find the human angle. 
    • All good stories feature people, so we include something that makes your story resonate with the reader. For example, did your software developer come up with the idea for his new app while cleaning the catbox?
  • Why should the readers care? 
    • Remember, we must convince the editor why they should spend their time writing about your company. It’s their job to provide readers with relevant content. It’s our job to help editors do just that.

For more information about how to add good media relations to your PR plan, contact mar@c3pr.com

Jumpstarting Board Diversity in Corporate America

by ION Secretary Jilaine Hummel Bauer

I recently represented ION at the Third Annual Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Conference on Women in the BoardroomParticipants from around the world presented updates on progress being made to increase the number of women on boards across geographies, shared what is and isn’t working, and identified possible strategies to jumpstart progress in the U.S. – which, quite candidly, has been underwhelming.

While I learned something from everyone, the most insight came from the United Kingdom and Australia, given the similarities in our corporate cultures and laws. Notably, both countries have made significant progress within the past couple years and it has not been through the use of quota mandates.

The first day was a closed roundtable discussion attended by CEOs, business organization executives, institutional investors, academics, governmental agencies and organizations like ION. The roundtable was followed by a dinner hosted by Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde from Finland, the first country to mention board gender in its corporate governance code. The second day was open to the public and began with remarks by SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter, followed by a series of panel discussions. (View video.)  Here are three key takeaways:

  1. Possibilities. Despite the lack of significant progress, a critical mass of women in U.S. corporate boardrooms is both possible and feasible. According to The Conference Board, using an average attrition rate of approximately 10% within S&P 500 Companies from 2003 – 2010, if 50% of board vacancies created solely by attrition were filled with women beginning this year, without doing anything to board size, tenure or age – U.S. companies could have 30% women on their boards by 2016.
  2. Business Imperative. Two new studies by the Committee for Economic Development and the American Chamber of Commerce found that gender balance on corporate boards is imperative if the U.S. wants to remain competitive. We cannot continue to ignore half of our labor pool. Other countries in both emerging and developed markets have already figured this out. These studies by two important business organizations should help Corporate America think more seriously about making gender diversity part of the solution to business problems and challenges.
  3. Strategies and Tactics. The narrative that continued to build throughout the conference was that there is no single solution. Success is most often tied to a systemic event or energy source, together with a flexible and multi-prong approach.  Ideas worth further examination include:
  • Identifying and working with CEOs and board chairs who are agents for change, such as those represented by the 30% Club (UK), Male Champions of Change (AU) and the Global Alliance of Corporate Leaders (Europe)
  • Using corporate governance codes such as the Davies Report (UK) as vehicles of change
  • Revising listing standards to require publicly traded companies to be  more explicit about their board diversity policies
  • Working to inform and educate the SEC and other federal agencies about gender diversity standards and practices as they implement Section 342 of Dodd Frank, which authorizes examining diversity practices of the business organizations they regulate

Use Opinion Research to Guide Marketing, Create News

The upcoming presidential election is a good reminder of the impact of public opinion. Both parties frequently use poll results to demonstrate the popularity of their candidates. Customer surveys can be just as useful for a company’s marketing and PR efforts. At a recent PRSA Silicon Valley Professional Development Workshop on “Surveys, Research and Measurement,” David Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates explained how opinion research can be used to test and determine a company’s:

  • Market Position (Where are we currently?)
  • Strategy or Message (How do we go further?)
  • Campaign Performance (Did we get there?)

 To generate new ideas, make real-time adjustments to an ongoing campaign, or gain deeper insight into your audience, Metz suggests using a combination of survey methods, i.e. focus groups, ad testing and field polls. To determine which method will produce the most relevant data, first decide on whether the survey needs to be formal or informal and the data qualitative or quantitative.

 Let’s assume you’re going with an informal, qualitative approach. To reduce survey costs, we can help you leverage existing resources such as incorporating publically available data, including published social media polls, integrating customer feedback from your CRM system or website, and more.

 Metz reminded us that opinion research is only as useful as your ability to act on the results. So once you’ve gathered and analyzed your data, it’s time to generate the news. Reporters love polls, and many publications cover newsworthy research. Survey results that can be tied to a trend are even more interesting to editors.

For more info about different ways to enhance your brand through opinion research, email Mar Junge.

Make ‘Em Laugh, Get More Reads: Humorous Hashtags

After a long day at the office, no one wants to read a tweet saying “Our company X just released widget Y for problem Z.” Not only are you probably saying the same thing as 100 other business Twitter accounts out there, but more than likely that post will receive a few more ZZZZ’s than you’d hoped for. So stop taking yourself so seriously, and make your followers laugh!

A great way to spice up your tweets is with humorous hashtags. As you may recall, hashtags are like keywords searches in SEO. Trending topic hashtags can usually be found at the left side of your homepage. Want to know what’s going on with the #Olympics? Does your tweet include a #Video? Just add the little ‘#’ before the word you want to be noticed and you’ll show up in any search with that word. Hashtags are also used at events such as #SEMICON2012.

But there’s another way to use hashtags that is on the rise: humorous, individual hashtags. Trendsetters have started to use hashtags to bookmark their own funny thoughts about their tweets, and it’s just starting to catch on in business as a great way to spice up a tweet. Take a look at the examples below:

Do Your News Releases Work As Hard As An Olympian?

It’s hard to believe that after four years of grueling training some Olympians will compete for mere seconds at the London Olympics. That’s a lifetime of dedication building up to a single event – talk about pressure! In the business world, news releases are our client’s time to shine, but if you don’t know how to write a news release for the digital age, it can feel like your hard work is being wasted.     

For more than half a century, news releases were written to get the attention of editors and journalists, hence the name “press releases.”  But modern news releases are written primarily for search engines, with only about a fifth read by an editor. According to Ann Wylie, President of Wylie Communications, many news releases are “unreadable” because they’re not written for online audiences. The best news releases are written for humans, not search engines. While that may sound simple, many companies find this difficult to achieve without breaking portal regulations. For example, overloading a news release with links and keywords can be interpreted as spam and will limit the audience that receives your release. Below are a few straightforward tips to increasing your client’s name recognition and website traffic, through your news releases. With these in mind you’ll be sure to whip your news release into Olympic shape in no time!

  • Use strong verbs
  • Keep it short
  • Don’t drop the deck
  • Never repeat links
  • Match your media to the message
  • Skip fluff phrases

For more info and tips on writing news releases for your organization, contact Mar Junge.

Moving the Needle at NYSE

When our client ION announced their involvement in the Moving the Needle event aimed at increasing diversity in public corporate boardrooms, we knew it would be a success. After all, the kickoff event took place at the New York Stock Exchange and a group of attendees had the honor of ringing the closing bell. Check it out:

The Moving the Needle initiative seeks to connect diverse board candidates with public corporations across the U.S. So why should you care? As successful entrepreneurs and business execs, it’s critical that the companies you lead are functioning at full capacity. For most corporations, electing diverse board directors opens doors for well-rounded boardroom discussions, strategies and business performance. In fact, numerous studies have shown that diverse boards directly impact the success of a company. In “Gender Quality as an Investment Concept,” Pax World President/CEO and ION Advisory Council Member Joe Keefe cites a 2007 Catalyst study that found companies with the highest proportion of women board members “outperformed those with the lowest percentage of women by 66% on the basis of return on invested capital.”

The word “diversity” can be tricky. While ION focuses on increasing gender diversity on public corporate boards of directors and in the C-suite, it knows that diversity of thought, experience and ethnicity is also critical to a company’s performance. Sadly, seated around many boardroom tables is a group of senior-ranking white men with virtually the same background – even at some of the most well-known companies.  Bottom line: there’s no excuse for lack of board diversity. While many people argue that the pool of qualified women directors is too shallow, there is an abundance of qualified women who are ready, willing and able to sit at the table. A good board is balanced with directors with expertise in marketing, human resources, capital markets, corporate governance, and community affairs, along with industry and financial experts. And guess what? Women seem to be the dominant players in these fields.

So what can you do? We’ve touched just the tip of the gender diversity iceberg. But you can start by visiting www.ionwomen.org and taking a look at the Diversity Toolkit, Best Practices and Articles pages. Also be sure to sign up for the quarterly ION newsletter to get the latest updates. Share these things with your colleagues, investors, friends, and even with people you meet on the street. You never know. You could help move the needle.

Hag Sameach

This week was challenging for PR professionals. With the Fourth of July holiday on Wednesday, some audiences were gone at the beginning of the week, others at the end. Many PR agencies and companies, c3PR included, delayed releasing news and sending out newsletters until next week. While it was great to have a day off in the middle of the week, it was also a bit of an inconvenience. This story by Louis Fried, a fellow writer and friend spending some time in Jerusalem, brought it all back into perspective:

“Happy Fourth of July! The following really happened. Wednesday, July fourth, in Jerusalem was a usual day … business, traffic, tourists, shopping in the farmers’ market nearby … everything as usual. That night we watched a movie on television. Our living room windows were open to catch the cooling night breeze. They also let in the traffic sounds from the street on that side of the building. About eleven-thirty we turned off the TV and prepared for bed. The bedrooms of our flat overlook a paved courtyard about a hundred feet wide between our building and the hotel across from us. There was a noisy late-night party going on the in the courtyard. Shouts, laughs, hoots, whistles, talk, screams, the yells of a few young men kicking a soccer ball to each other made me close our double-paned window and pull the heavy drape. We lay down, but the noise, which echoed off the stone buildings, still penetrated our barriers. Then, as if at a signal, the noise stopped. I glanced at the bedside clock. It was just before midnight. I was curious. I rose from the bed and went to the window, pulling aside the drape I looked at the courtyard seven floors below us. There must have been over a hundred young men and women standing quietly. A few had automatic rifles slung over their shoulders … Israeli settlers or soldiers. The only sound beside street traffic was the hissing of three fireworks fountains that someone had lit in the square. The silence continued for a few seconds and then a woman’s clear voice began singing. God bless America, Other voices joined hers and soon it seemed they were all singing. From the rolled “Rs” and the slightly guttural pronunciation of the “c” it sounded like many were Israeli voices. Land that I love. In my mind I automatically started singing the familiar words. Stand beside her and guide her Through the night with a light from above. I swallowed the piece of nostalgia stuck in my throat. From the mountains to the prairies To the oceans, white with foam, Someone absent-mindedly bounced a soccer ball. The man next to him grabbed it and held it still in his hands. At the edge of the crowd a man and a girl set off two more sparkling fountains. God bless America, Our home sweet home! God bless America, Our home sweet home. For a few moments the silence held again, then someone who had obviously been to too many ball games screamed a rebel yell, “Yaaaaahoo!!!” “Hag sameach!” an Israeli shouted back. “Happy Holiday.”

Thanks, Professor Bentel

Portrait of Dwight Bentel, a former distinguished journalism professor at San Jose State University, at his home in San Jose on April 4, 2007. (Joanne Ho-Young Lee/Mercury News) ( Joanne Ho-Young Lee )

Today is the convocation for 130 San Jose State University School of Journalism and Mass Communications students. Every one of them, and the thousands of alumni before them, are in debt to the school’s legendary founder, Dwight Bentel. Professor Bentel died one week ago today at the age of 103. He left quite a legacy:

  • 77: Number of years the Spartan Daily has been publishing. Now also online at http://spartandaily.com.
  • 10,500: Number of Spartan Daily issues produced over those years. Staff motto: Never missed a scheduled day of publication.
  • 6: Number of Pulitzer Prizes won or shared by graduates of the Journalism and Mass Communications Department.
  • 240: Number of internship hours that students must serve to earn an undergraduate degree.
  • 9: Number of awards the Spartan Daily staff won this semester from the California College Media Association.
  • 29: Number of faculty and professional staff in today’s department.

In a San Jose Mercury News article, former student and retired Merc columnist Leigh Weimers said, “Just look in any newsroom in the Bay Area (and beyond). The professional standards he instilled live on.”

I spent many hours in Bentel Hall, the SJSU journalism building named after him. It smelled of old newspapers and damp wood. There was certain reverence; we knew we were learning from the best. At today’s convocation ceremony, I’ll thank Professor Bentel for giving us all such a great start. If you agree, consider leaving a message in his memorial guest book.

Women are like teabags . . .

. . .  you don’t realize how strong we are until you put us in hot water.” That quote from Eleanor Roosevelt was my “best advice” speech at the 2012 Silicon Valley Women on Influence gala dinner. (Photo is of fellow honoree and Sidemark President Sandi Jacobs (left) and me.) I’ve sat in the audience at these WOI events for years, wondering if someday it would be me up on the stage. But after reading the profiles of each year’s amazing women, I always doubted I could measure up. Then last summer when the call for nominees came out, my daughter Melissa, a fellow Silicon Valley marketing professional, asked “If not now, when?”

That’s when I realized the time couldn’t be better. My PR agency, c3PR, had been doing a lot of pro bono work, which answered the “community aspect” of the competition. I was on the board of PRSA Silicon Valley, so I was giving back to my profession. And c3PR was doing well after having launched a cool new website.

But no matter how influential you think you are, it’s the equally influential people who take the time to nominate you that makes the difference. To each and every one of them I send out a big thank you. And a special thanks to Bridgelux for sponsoring two tables at the event, enabling me to surround myself with friends, family and clients. (Buy Bridgelux LEDs!)

If you’re a Silicon Valley-based businesswoman and haven’t won this honor, start now to strengthen your chances. If I had another “ten” best words of advice, it would be that in today’s networked world, “It’s not who you know – it’s who knows you!”