‘Green’ needs transparency

April 2, 2008 at 7:40 pm (public relations, social media, strategy) (, , , )

Global EnvironmentAs companies put sustainability and environmental efforts at the forefront of corporate responsibility efforts, conversations stir about what it actually does to the image of the company. A recent article, posted on AdAge.com, reports that the Nielson Report shows that bloggers have a high impact and voice in discussing sustainability, including green initiatives in corporations. It talks about how bloggers are “a highly skeptical consumer group.” Bloggers are calling out companies that are forcing green efforts in key messages. The companies are over-exaggerating initiatives and often practice inconsistency and contradiction against what they are telling their audience.

I think public relations professionals of these companies need to provide consultancy about transparency and integrity. When talks of green efforts look fake and don’t coincide with actual practice, it negatively impacts the company. In a world where the digital community’s voice is so prominent, there is no way to get out of fake and unconvincing green initiatives. Corporate social responsibility is becoming so saturated with ‘green’ strategies that it no longer looks innovative, but is looked at more critically and sometimes scrutinized.

Another thing to point out is how poorly it impacts the public relations profession. People will often translate an incorrect and false image to public relations campaigns that went wrong. PR professionals need to be careful and make sure the company actually cares about its initiatives and stays transparent at all times.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Al-Fassam [Online! :D]. It was taken under the Creative Commons License.

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E-mail management for the PRos

March 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm (development, public relations, strategy) (, , )

E-mail @ imageLet me just share some great news with everyone. I recently was offered a spring internship with Waggener Edstrom, which I ecstatically excepted (yay!). But this is not the point of my post.

During the interviewing process, every person I talked to emphasized the importance being skillful at e-mail in every angle. People probably usually think: E-mail, really? Isn’t it just sending a message? Isn’t it just another communication tool?

Yes, no and no. Yes, it is sending a message and it is another communication tool, but it definitely is not something that gets a “just.” For my generation, e-mail began as a fun way to connect with friends, which it still is. But now, it also is a tool for effectively communicating in a business, an industry and with clients and building relationships, especially for PR.

Brian Zafron’s post on Freelance Switch gives great tips for successfully learning the “art of e-mail.” Some of my favorites include: “brand with a meaningful subject line,” “don’t be a pompous jerk” and “brevity is key.” I’d like to add one to the list – manage your responses.

Here are my tips to managing your responses:

  • Organize your e-mail inbox into folders. You can stick e-mails you’ve responded to and ones you don’t need to respond to in the folders, so you can focus on the e-mails that need action. The uncategorized ones stay within the general inbox as a constant reminder for responding.
  • Flag e-mails by category. Microsoft Outlook and Entourage (not too familiar with Mozilla’s Thunderbird) allow you to color code flag e-mails. Flagging signifies that the e-mail is important, and the color signifies the category or importance (you can choose the one that fits you best – everyone works a little differently) of the e-mail. Plus, you can pull up all the flagged e-mails at once.
  • Respond to important e-mails immediately. The business world (and society) is extremely fast-paced, and for anything important, you must respond immediately. Even if you need to do a little more research, a simple – I will research and get back to you within 24 hours – will go a long way. Just don’t forget to actually get back to the person. It keeps the person informed and helps him or her know what is going on. It’s active communication.
  • Respond to not-as-important e-mails eventually. I would say the rule of thumb for responding to an e-mail is within 24 hours (probably 48-72 hours, if you get at least 200 e-mails a day). But this is only for e-mails that can be given some time before you respond.
  • Learn your e-mailers preferences. If he or she says – get back to me in the next day or two – you better get back within a day or two. Once you begin building relationships with the people you constantly e-mail, you’ll get to know how they work.
  • ALWAYS set up an automated response when you are out-of-town or out-of-commission and give another contact for immediate needs. It helps the person on the other side to know that they need to contact someone else, in the case of emergency.

These tips and Zafron’s tips are great starting points to writing and managing e-mails. Everyone works a little differently when it comes to organizing and writing. Start here and begin finding your ways to being a successful e-mailer.

Do you have any other tips for the PRos?

* Image courtesy of Flickr: labanderadeadiosayer.

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Science using social media as a resource

February 27, 2008 at 12:05 am (social media, strategy) (, )

Encyclopedia of LifeCheck this out! Scientists are turning to social media as a resource for sharing consistent information. The Encyclopedia of Life focuses on creating an online database of all the species in the world. I think this an incredible step that scientists are taking to utilize business technology to their advantage. (I say “business technology” because science uses a lot of technology in other ways.) The Web site even has a blog.

I think this shows that social media can work for anyone, if used the right way. It’s incredible. The Web site designers created the software to text mine information from several natural history libraries in the world, after they electronically scan the literature into computers.

According to the project’s brochure, the Web site “will be a moderated, wiki-style environment.” This is something that requires careful analysis and attention. As a student, I’m constantly reminded on how Wikipedia is a great place to start understanding a topic, but it is not a reliable source. You never know who edits the information and whether or not it is accurate.

Luckily, Encyclopedia of Life is in its early stages of production. The Web site just launched this week. The developers need to strategically think about how they want to build the community and moderate the incoming information.

In the mean time, I’m going to keep looking through the Web site and brainstorm ways something like this can maintain credibility. Do you have suggestions?

Here‘s the article that introduces the site.

* Image courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life.

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Danger: framing a social media strategy as a “campaign”

February 14, 2008 at 6:30 pm (social media) (, , , , )

Computer deskPaul Dunay‘s post about the terminology of “campaign” in the realm of social media really caught my eye.

Recently, I’ve been working on a small social media strategy for a client at AHPR. I realize that there is so much more to it than just sticking it into a PR campaign, which is what my team and I ended up doing. It needs to have its own strategy along side the PR campaign because there are so many components for a client to understand.

First of all, it is true – the word “campaign” is dangerous to frame a social media strategy. Social media take a lot of time to build and sustain. It is much longer than the standard PR campaign. From my understanding, for example, it can often take up to a year for a blog to obtain a steady readership (courtesy of my professor, Kelli Matthews). Framing the social media strategy as a standard campaign can increase client expectations for both timelines and strategies.

Here are two things that I think are important to convey to a client when proposing a social media strategy:

  • Emphasize that it takes time. Getting noticed in the information age takes a while, especially on the Internet. It will take a while for readers to trust you and consistently keep track of your social media efforts, as well as results of increasing search engine optimization.
  • Reiterate the importance of the client’s role and participation. The client needs to know that being part of the Web 2.0 means continuous surveillance and activity. In order for the audience to trust the client, the blog posts and comments, and any other social media tactic, need to come from the client. It means he, she or they need to take the time to research and write. The social media realm is too personal to have a PR professional write personal notes as the client to the public.

I’ve talked to the AHPR client about these two things, and the social media strategy is still moving forward. However, in the future, I know I will emphasize the size of it and make it a separate or supplemental plan.

*Image courtesy of Flickr: Paladin27. It was taken under the Creative Commons license.

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