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Archive for May, 2010

It’s time to “think crazy”

Yesterday, I had the honor of giving a quick update about my employer’s social media strategy to several hundred attendees at the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors Association’s annual conference in Columbus.

My employer, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services in Cincinnati, has embraced social media as a way to improve accessibility and transparency. The department sees social media as an avenue for taking pressure off of crowded waiting rooms and busy phone lines. It’s a powerful way to build mutually beneficial relationships with key audiences.

We need to innovate and break the mold because we’re seeing record caseloads at the same time that we’ve encountered severe budget cuts. Half of our employees have been laid off or retired in the past two years.

Douglas Lumpkin, the state JFS director, gave an inspirational talk to start the morning. He urged directors of the state’s 88 county JFS departments to “think crazy” — to innovate, to try new things. He talked about some big changes counties have implemented to speed health coverage and food assistance to those in need… at a time when they’ve got reduced resources to deliver those services.

And, with the state facing an $8-billion gap in the two-year budget that begins in July 2011, the need for creative solutions grows even more imperative.

As he left the stage, Director Lumpkin whispered in my ear about helping the audience understand how to use social media to serve its clients. In his remarks, he spoke about the growing power of social networks such as Facebook.

It’s a scary, yet exciting, time. Budget restraints and the slow-but-gradual economic recovery bring on lots of fear. But the rapid growth of new technologies — and open-mindedness toward using them — add a rush of excitement.

It’s time to “think crazy.”

Side note: With innovation comes a need for guidelines. In that vein, here is a link to our recently developed social media policy. Also, here’s the PowerPoint presentation that I shared with the directors.

Also: Just a reminder that the views shared on this blog are mine and not necessarily those of my employer. I do this blog in my spare time as a way to share what I’ve learned and gain more hands-on experience with social media.

Learning marketing from some slugs

May 22, 2010 2 comments

Doug Greenfield of the Banana Slug String Band in one of many costumes that delight children and parents alike.

Every spring, I get to see a good example of targeted marketing and public relations up close and personal.

My brother-in-law, Doug Greenfield, and his Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Banana Slug String Band perform here in Ohio for hundreds of school children, teachers, outdoor educators and parents. They’ve made the Ohio stop for 14 consecutive years, thanks to a “brand evangelist” named Cinda who lines up a week’s worth of shows at schools. The week culminates with an outdoor festival featuring the Slugs.

This year, the band also performed in a small Michigan town near Toledo. The community heard about the Slugs through a national library association.

And they did shows in Cincinnati for a private school — arranged by my wife and a friend who teaches there — and to a group of disadvantaged youth at an event at a local nature center.

Doug, an Ohio University graduate who moved to Santa Cruz after graduating from college, has made his living through the Slugs for more than two decades. (By the way, Banana Slugs are slimy creatures found in the Redwood forest.) He serves as co-business manager.

The band teaches kids about the environment and earth science. It plays rocking music that delights kids and parents alike. Band members dress in costumes. They use puppets, squirt bottles…. They get kids involved in songs. Lyrics teach the youngsters about earth science in a fun way.

The Slugs have CDs, DVDs, a book, a curriculum for teachers… They rely heavily on word-of-mouth marketing from satisfied customers. They get the word out through conferences for outdoor educators.  They’ve got a website.

Even with the economic slowdown, they’re as busy as ever. They’ve got a CD in the works with a possible appearance by a nationally known musician who believes in their cause.

As I write this, they’re boarding a flight for a trip back to California. But they’ll be back in the Midwest next month, performing at a YMCA camp’s 100th anniversary.

The Banana Slugs marketing machine keeps on rollin’, or — I guess — slithering along.

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Social media class, June 5!

May 16, 2010 2 comments

Want to learn more about social media? Come join me noon-3 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at New Thought Unity Center in East Walnut Hills, near downtown Cincinnati.  Cost: A “love offering” to the center.

I plan give an overview of the basics of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networking sites. Then, I’ll help newbies get started and offer ways for experienced social media enthusiasts to enhance their online experience.

I plan to share what I’ve learned first-hand in my job, profession and personal life, as will my wife, Tami, who does the www.miraclesurvivors.com blog.

Social media has made a huge difference in our lives. We look forward to sharing what we’ve learned. Should be fun!

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How do you get media coverage?

May 15, 2010 8 comments

Questions about PR present opportunities to educate about our profession

Within the past several months, I’ve gotten questions from people in related fields such as marketing, training and Web development about getting media coverage.

They want to draw attendees to an event, get people to buy their book, or generate more clients for their business.

I haven’t had to ask them questions about the newsworthiness of their event, book or business. When they describe them, I can tell there is a news hook — a unique angle that could get them some coverage. Something a media outlet’s readers or viewers would appreciate.

In some cases, I’ve given them suggestions about newspaper, Internet, TV or radio reporters who cover their area. I’ve suggested that they e-mail a brief pitch with a link to further information. Or maybe I’ve told them to look up e-mail addresses on websites of media outlets in their city — and follow-up with an e-mail.

They can’t believe it’s that simple!

Well, it isn’t.

The hard part comes in building positive working relationships the people at the end of those e-mail addresses.  They’re busy people who are bombarded with dozens of e-mails and calls (and snail mail) each day.

Each has particular needs and preferences. They have a specific time that’s best to reach them. Some want loads of pertinent stats; others compelling visual. Some would love to tour your place, or meet up at a trade show. Others like Webinars.

You need to read their articles and watch their broadcasts. You cultivate good relationships by providing good customer service. You build a track record over time.

But doesn’t have to take forever, especially if you’ve got a PR person or team to give you some tips.

In my first PR job after 12 years in journalism,we got lots of positive coverage for our software company in the computer trade press by getting editorial calendars from them — and striving to meet their needs.

Some wanted to talk to a techie. Most wanted customers who had used the product to solve a problem. We worked hard — sometimes pulling executives out of important meetings so a writer could meet a deadline — and sweet talking customers to take time to do phone interviews. We kept track of every media pitch (call, e-mail, mail, meeting at trade show) in a database to show how hard we were working — and give us leverage when an executive wouldn’t want to leave a meeting to talk with a reporter. We also used this to show how the executive’s time was well-spent, resulting in a front-page cover or placement in a national publication that reached a new target audience.

I made a point of connecting face-to-face at trade shows in San Francisco, Boston and Dallas. Some went to lunch with a marketing manager and me. They saw me as a person, a former journalist, instead of one of the pack of PR folks filling their e-mail boxes.

That’s how you get media coverage.

Hope this was helpful! I’d be interested in your thoughts, experiences…

Do you have a Social Media Policy?

Lots of examples of social media policies available via Google, Slideshare…

Here’s a question we’ve been hearing a lot lately at the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, where I work: “Do you have a social media policy?”

Our response has been that social media is covered by our Communication, Information Systems and Ethics policies.

The Communication Policy states that the agency’s Public Relations Office is responsible for all mass communications channels — and only PR staff and Executive Team members may distribute information using them. It also has guidelines relating to design standards, crisis communication protocols and the like.

Meanwhile, the Information Systems policy states that employees may only use agency equipment for work purposes, other than incidental usage. And the Ethics Policy speaks about not misrepresenting yourself, showing favoritism, etc.

However, as we researched best practices, we decided to write a stand-alone Social Media Policy. This will spell out some nitty-gritty details, such as requiring use of a work e-mail address while setting up a presence on a social networking site. It will offer guidelines for what can be posted, and who can share…

I found a wide variety of social media policies using Google and Slideshare. County and city government, colleges, hospitals, corporations and others have posted actual policies on the Social Media Governance site.  I plan to incorporate bits and pieces that seem to fit in our organization.

Please check back. I’ll share our policy once it has been completed. I’d love to see yours, too, if you’ve written one. We can learn from each other.

So you say you want a revolution

David Pescovitz fired the imaginations of the 400 in attendance at Bold Fusion

 

As I sit here writing this blog post on a rainy Saturday morning in Cincinnati, I’m participating in a revolution! 

I’m proud to contribute to the “maker revolution,” a term I learned from writer and futurist David Pescovitz during the excellent Bold Fusion event sponsored by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Hype Initiative. About 400 young professionals attended the annual conference. I had the honor of joining a half-dozen “twitterati” live-tweeting the event. (See my tweets from April 29 on @MikeBoehmer57). 

Pescovitz talked about how people have embraced social network platforms  to solve real-world problems. He described a shift from R&D labs to R&D communities. He spoke of networked artisans — an environment where garage inventors gather at maker meet-ups and often connect online.

I found his talk and comments from Cincinnati innovators such as Valerie Jacobs, Chris Ostoich, Erika Brown, Chris Graves, Amy Storer-Scalia, Meredith Holthaus, Pete Healy, Elizabeth Edwards and Steve Burns VERY INSPIRING. 

Comments such as these really resonated with me: 

  • “Don’t think about or try to see the future–make it, create it.” — David Pescovitz
  • “Celebrate hackers… someone who pushes a technology to its breaking point,” — Pescovitz
  • “If you’re talking about innovation, you have to get over the fear of failure.” — Chris Ostoich of Blackbook and Secret Cincinnati
  •  “Are you ready to let me fail?… Let’s just give it a try.” — Chris Graves of Cincinnati.com
  • “One way to drive innovation inside large organization is to work with a smaller entity from the outside.” — Steve Burns of AMP Electrical Vehicles
  • “P&G reeaaly believes in innovation… We’ve got a lot of upper management support.” –Erika Brown, P&G

After reviewing the past 15 years, Valerie Jacobs of LPK forecast some hope for 2010 and beyond with trends such as “Hactivism” and Garage Innovation.

“They will lead us into cool, awesome future,” Jacobs said. 

I really looking forward to being a part of it!

(Sidebar: While I was writing this, my wife was putting the finishing touches on a book called From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds that we are self-publishing. She also does a blog called www.miraclesurvivors.com to inform and inspire those affected by cancer. My daughter was writing a short story and recording a song she wrote on a digital recorder. We love the “maker revolution.”)

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