June 2010

There is an interesting blog post on Mediapost.com that highlights how many organizations are using social media without a strategy. The number is high and while it shouldn’t, considering what I see every day, it surprises me.

I have to admit that there are days (like today) when it feels like I am repeating myself over and over again on this blog. Let me say it again – it all comes back to strategy. To be effective using social media, or when using any communications or PR tool, you need to have a strategy.

When it comes to developing a strategy, one of the challenges goes beyond the fact that social media is cool, fun and “new.” I also think that there is some confusion in a lot of organizations about what a strategy is. I have been in quite a few meetings where the meaning of the words “strategic” and “tactical” were confused. Our friends at Beaupre PR have an excellent blog post on the difference between strategy and tactics. It is definitely worth a read, even if you are clear on the difference.

Without defining your strategy, it’s hard to identify your objective. For example, tomorrow (Friday) – we at AHA are launching AHA Flip Cam Fridays on this blog. Our strategy is to further position our Vancouver PR agency as a leader in providing strategic PR in the age of social media. We focused on transforming our small Vancouver PR agency into one of Vancouver’s hottest PR companies. In order to do that, we identified several tactics that would support our objective of building our client base by establishing our knowledge and skill set in the areas of PR and social media. That includes moving AHA up in the Google rankings under the searches of Vancouver PR, Vancouver PR agency, AHA and AHA Creative Strategies.

If we had just decided that we wanted to video blog, that would have been a little like putting the cart before the horse. Why should we video blog and what is the purpose of going to that extra effort? For us, we defined what we wanted to achieve and then we identified the tools that would help us get there.

The social media component of our plan to grow AHA is just that, a component. There are other areas that we are focused on as well. I also speak regularly to groups, associations and organizations about the importance of blending social media and traditional PR.

There isn’t just one prong to our approach and that’s because we defined our strategy first and then developed the overall approach and identified which tools would work in this situation.

That’s my two cents worth for today. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the launch of AHA Flip Cam Friday.

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David Clarke has a great blog post on the Facebook haters who “like” your brand. He outlines some types of people that will “like” (or become a Fan) your brand on Facebook – but not all of them are fans. It is definitely worth a read if you are trying to understand the dynamic of who might “like” your Facebook page.

Recently we’ve seen a few organizations have their Facebook pages overrun by critics. There are some challenges when you choose to develop a Facebook page for your organization. One of the risks you face come from the people that will click that “like” button, but who are really critics or, even worse, haters of your brand. Of course, there are also people who are supporters out there too and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to connect with them because of a fear of the negative.

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Here at AHA (you know, in this Vancouver PR agency of ours!), we’re big fans of Brian Solis. Recently, we came across a post on his site that we’d like to share with you – the 21 Rules of Engagement in Social Media. (He also has a book – Engage – that he has just published that is worth purchasing. There is a link on his blog.)

Engagement is, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges for an organization that wants to use social media as a part of their communications outreach. It’s relatively simple to set up a Twitter or Facebook page, but not as easy to populate these areas with good content that engages your community.

The first step that Brian outlines is this: Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network.

That seems simple enough, but there are a lot of organizations that – in their haste and excitement to participate – jump past it. Don’t.

Believe me, it is an important step. I have had several interesting discussions with CEOs and other senior executives that challenge me on why they should invest (one said waste) time and money on this step. Understanding the culture and the different style of communication online is crucial. There have been several big organizations in the news recently that faced a PR crisis because they didn’t appreciate that online is a different environment and each online community may have their own protocol and style. One point that I make when walking a senior team through this point is – you wouldn’t take your organization into a new market without first understanding its culture, political landscape and the way life works on a day-to-day basis in the “real” world. It’s no different online. Not only is it valuable to identify all the relevant communities of interest – it is crucial to spend some time understanding the culture and paying attention to how they want you to join the conversation.

The time you invest in listening and learning will pay off in the long run.

We’ll be touching on a few more of Brian’s points over the next few weeks. We’d love to hear what you think.

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Richmond, B.C. – Three new stores: fashion icon Forever 21, the premier beauty destination Sephora and specialty tea retailer Teaopia, will open in Richmond Centre as a part of the mall’s Rebirth of Retail Renovation, Leslie Matheson, Director of Marketing at Richmond Centre announced today. The stores will open between late fall and early winter. Regular updates can be found at www.richmondcentre.com.

“We are very excited that Forever 21 and Sephora are coming to Richmond Centre,” said Matheson. “Richmond is a major urban centre and these brands are very popular with consumers. We know that our customers will be excited to hear that they will be in our mall. These stores, and the updating of other stores within the mall, are all part of a catalyst in the rejuvenation of retail in Richmond. These international brands are keen to have a presence in Richmond and in particular Richmond Centre.”

Stores that are being renovated with contemporary store designs and opening in the renovated area of the mall include: Gladstone Jewellers, Iris Optical, Consumers Nutrition, Beauty Plus, Stitch It, Payless Shoe Source, The Source, Bell, Roots, Ann-Louise Jewellers, C&K World and Black’s Cameras. In addition, stores that are changing locations within the centre are Danier Leather and Hallmark. In total, 20 stores will be opening in the newly renovated area within the mall.

During the Rebirth of Retail Renovation, Richmond Centre is open during its regularly scheduled hours. Matheson says that all efforts possible are being taken to lessen any inconvenience to shoppers and retailers at Richmond Centre during the renovation.

Richmond Centre is one of the Lower Mainland’s largest shopping complexes with 240 stores and services. Located in the centre of Richmond, on the corner of Westminster Hwy and Minoru Boulevard, and at the Southern Terminus of the Canada Line, Richmond Centre is owned and managed by two of the largest developers in Canada, Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd. and Ivanhoe Cambridge II Inc.

-END-

Media Contact: Paul Holman, AHA Creative Strategies
paul@ahacreative.com or 604.303.1052

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I find it interesting that social media is still such a big, overwhelming topic for many people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good for business. I think that as much as it has revolutionized how we communicate – and for those of us who are professional communicators, it has changed how we do our work – it is still just a tool. A very interesting, challenging and addictive tool, but a tool nonetheless.

I think that the perception of how complex, complicated and vast social media is – is a challenge. When I present to groups or lead brainstorming and planning sessions with clients, I hear how overwhelming it feels to them. Now, we’re a PR firm that provides social media services, so I think we have a different perspective on it than a social media marketer or an online community developer might, but at the core of it, social media is only a component of your communications plan or your overall marketing plan. When you take a step back and see that you need to develop a strategy first, it takes a bit of the stress off. Once you understand your strategy, then you can research which tools – whether traditional or social media focused – are the right ones.

We are often asked to come and speak to fairly large organizations to lead them through PR and social media planning. I think sometimes they are surprised to learn that we are just a small Vancouver PR agency with a specific approach to the use of social media.

Personally, I think social media is the best thing to happen to PR in a long time. It moves forward into a business (and personal) world of transparency, showcasing doing the right thing and owning up to mistakes if/when they are made.

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