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Archive for June, 2009

Segmenting audiences

MPj04393430000[1]Please excuse me if this post is too elementary for you PR veterans, but — based on the comments of a media-turned-PR person the other day — I thought I’d briefly touch on one of the basics: Audience segmentation.

Here’s an example of how we segmented the internal audience at the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services a few years back:

1. Executive Team

2. Middle managers

3. Supervisors

4. Frontline staff

Then, we developed research, planning, implementation and evaluation methods for each audience.For example, research with the Executive Team consisted of one-on-one interviews about communication, asking for their views on what worked and what didn’t. We surveyed middle managers. And we did separate focus groups with supervisors and frontline staff.

As time went on, we developed strategies for communicating within each segment. In one of three major programs areas, for instance, we identified “opinion leaders” and worked directly with them. In another, we pulled together a list of unit meetings and supplied talking points for supervisors to use in those meetings.

We continued to evaluate through surveys, focus groups and informal observation. We reported our findings and made adjustments  over time.

The same practice can be used to make your social media strategy more effective. The more you break down your audience into subgroups, the more effective you’ll be in achieving your goals and objectives. You’ll create strategies that deliver results as you implement them. And you’ll make adjustments based on what you learn as you evaluate. It’s a continuous improvement loop.

Hope this was helpful to you newbies. It was a good refresher for me as I continue to write a social media strategy for my employer.

Building a social media strategy

42-15358637Woke this morning to a brainstorm about my social media strategy. (Knocked me so much out of my routine that I had to make a couple of extra trips downstairs while getting ready.) Here are some key elements:

(1) To expand and nurture my professional and personal networks

(2) To build a community of supporters for my employer by providing valuable information and engaging in constructive dialogue

(3) To share helpful information with PR pros and social media enthusiasts in return for the great info they share with me

(4) To gain hands-on experience with “new” communication tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, BlogTalkRadio, WordPress…

(5) To regularly connect face-to-face with social media contacts — both informally at lunch and/or coffee and formally at meetings of Social Media Cincinnati, New Media Cincinnati, the Public Relations Society of America and others that may present opportunities.

(6) To support the launch of my wife’s upcoming book about “miracle” cancer survivors like her by employing lessons learned in my social media experimentation strategy.

(7) To continually solicit feedback and make adjustments.

As to that last point, I’m trying to be more targeted with my Facebook and Twitter posts. Yesterday, I stopped having all of my Twitter tweets go automatically to my Facebook stream. I’m using Selective Twitter, a Facebook application that allows me to only post the tweets I choose to Facebook.  I’ll report later how this works out.

Also coming: A report on great initial success we’re having with a Facebook ad promoting the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services fan page.

Stay tuned. And, as always, any comments are welcome!

Is it really new?

A rebirth?Some of the great information that I’ve been reading about PR and social media these days sounds strangely familiar.

For example, I read something recently about the importance of communicating your message through more than just the written word. It reminded me of editors in my newspaper days (long before the Internet came along) stressing that we should have a photo, graph, chart or pull quote with each story. They cited studies showing that readership increases greatly when text is accompanied by a graphic element.

And I remember my early PR mentors telling me about how they would get great coverage in trade journals by including a photo, chart or illustration in their story pitches. Others spoke about getting on TV by pitching compelling visuals.

My first project at the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services back in 1994 was doing a chart that helped the media quickly comprehend how an abuse case flows through the child protection system — from initial report to family reunification or adoption. My boss wanted this right off the bat, before I began writing anything.

I’ve heard other new media PR consultants talking about the importance of providing relevant content to targeted audiences at consistent intervals. I recall hearing that from an Ohio University professor in the 1970’s.

So, really, to me a lot of this stuff circulating on blogs, Twitter and YouTube really isn’t new. But it’s definitely good. It’s about generating great results by putting time-tested fundamentals into practice.

Live chats: One-year report

Social media is all about two-way communication and relationship building. The live online chat can contribute toward that objective.

At the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, we’ve been offering live chats with program experts for a year. Our main goal is to relieve pressure on our overburdened phone lines and crowded waiting rooms. We’re seeing increased numbers of customers at a time of staff layoffs, so any relief is much appreciated by our customers and staff.

Every week or two, people with questions, concerns or ideas can chat with a JFS expert about a topic such as child support, Medicaid, food stamps, cash assistance, services for job seekers and employers, adoption and foster care, child care or child abuse.

We average about 12 individuals per chat and 20 questions in each hour-long chat. Some draw as many as 28 participants; some none. It depends mostly on the topic.

All of the chats end up getting more than 100 views within a week or so. And that number contines to climb because we offer an archive of previous chats, which ends up becoming a Frequently Asked Questions section.

Clients who participate in the chats really like the direct access and quick response. We have had great success helping people better understand how to access our services. Many are in need of public assistance for the first time due to the economic downturn. They’re not familiar with the basics.

We publicize the chats with traditional media releases, online newsletter articles, mentions during community presentions and social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook. Our director mentions them on her blog.

Overall, we’ve been pleased with the chats. They’re a worthwhile component in our external communication strategy.