August 2009

According to an article in the New York Times, many people hit the Internet before they even have a cup of coffee. Checking Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites has become second nature, as has reading the news on your computer rather than waiting for it to be delivered to your door.

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I recently wrote a communications plan for a client that occupies a space filled with academics, intellectuals and thought leaders. Just prior to that, I had developed a plan for a client that provides services within a blue-collar industry. On the surface, these clients have little in common and the plans themselves were very different. However, our approach to the use of straightforward language in each plan was similar.

In both plans, we got rid of the corporate speak, we dumped the gobbledygook and we wrote in plain English. Straightforward, no words like synergy, leading edge, next-generation, dynamic interface, etc. This was a big departure from the style of other plans that were done for each client previously. Plans that had cost them a great deal of money were sitting on a shelf and weren’t being implemented. One of the questions I asked before starting the projects was why the previous plans weren’t being used. The plans were solid and they provided a good strategic foundation, but sat languishing on a shelf. It turns out that both clients found the plans overwhelming and had not been able to connect the theory to reality. There was no momentum to move the ideas in the plan into action.

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Twitter is still the hot social media tool, despite not being “for everyone.” At AHA, we participated in a social media teleseminar yesterday with Peter Shankman and Chris Brogan (you can check out the tweets at #broman). It was very interesting and engaging and, as always with Peter and/or Chris, we learned something.

After the call we discussed the value of different social media tools and when we got around to Twitter, it was very interesting. We have clients that wouldn’t benefit from being active on Twitter, but we think it’s important for them to be aware of it and to monitor it to make sure they know what is being said about their organization.

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There is a very good article on Imediaconnection.com about the social media sins to avoid. The highlights of the piece include the points that:

Good social media strategies result in viral, but viral is not a strategy.
Money isn’t the best social currency; relationships and knowledge are.
Social media is a strategic amplifier for your campaign, not the entire campaign.
This is piece is worth reading. The writer, Chris Aarons, makes some important points that could influence how you approach social media. One of the points he makes started a bit of a discussion here in the AHA office. In point number five (Social is PR), he says that social media is too big for one department. By defining social media in a public relations or communications capacity, it limits the scope of your campaign. I agree with Chris on this; there is a bigger range for social media that can extend far beyond communications. However, in our experience, at the core of it, social media is a PR tool that can support other areas. At it’s most basic, PR is about creating authentic relationships with your public(s) and whether that information is used by the research & development team, sales, quality control or other areas…in my opinion, it needs to be developed with the strategic input of the communicators or PR people in your organization.

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