March 23, 2010

Quick tips from leaders in social media

The third annual Social Media for Communicators conference, put on by Ragan Communications and PRSA (#ragancoke on Twitter), packed two days full of presentations for PR pros who handle everything from media relations to employee communications. Summarizing it is tough, but, by the end, the back of my notebook (Mead, not Dell) had a hand-drawn tag cloud of the most used phrases. Here are a few of the ideas that made the list:

“The consumer owns the brand” – What people think about your brand is the brand, whether you acknowledge it or not. Companies can participate in the discussion, but they can’t dictate what people think. Classic example? Coca-Cola’s introduction of “New Coke,” which was promptly overruled by consumers.

Flip camera – Web video is hot for internal and external communication and the tool of choice is this pocket device. Companies with spectacular intranets are equipping employees with Flip cameras “to tell the organization’s story.” Example: Employees used video to highlight snow removal at one company’s headquarters. The posting on their intranet recognized the grounds crew and the comments quickly filled up with shout-outs from co-workers. It should be noted that “shout-out” was also among the most used phrases, marking its complete transition from hip-hop phraseology to MBA-speak.

“The good enough era” – Concerned about the quality of Flip video in the hands of amateurs? Don’t be. Viewers used to YouTube won’t mind if videos aren’t commercial quality. If the content is compelling, that’s all that matters.

Communitainment – Whether you’re talking to consumers or employees, you’ll have a better shot of engaging people if you can communicate your message while entertaining them. A short, wacky viral video can build a brand and internal communicators can consider live talk shows or game shows in lieu of formal meetings.

Experiment – The rules for social media are still being formed and communicators are mapping the territory as we go. Don’t be afraid to try different things and keep what works for you. The demise of the broadcast model is doing away with an “us and them” relationship with the “audience,” but it’s also opened up new ways to engage everyone we do business with. Just participating and being willing to evolve is a big part of keeping PR relevant.

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