Every now and then, you get some clarity. You find something that sums up precisely what you have been trying to convey. That happened for me this week when I read this entry by Ann Wylie in Public Relations Tactics (April 2014):
“Content marketing — aka brand journalism — is relevant, valuable and interesting information that you publish, post or present in owned, not rented, media. Instead of pitching your products and services, content marketing messages position your organization as an expert in your field. Not just blog posts and status updates, content marketing includes conference speeches (and your coverage of them), bylined articles, marketing magazines and e-zines, and more.”
That’s it! That’s what I do, and plan to do for years to come: Brand Journalism!
In recent years, I’ve defined myself as a “public relations professional with social media experience” or a “digital strategist.” I’ve tried to weave in my experience with content strategy for websites and intranets. I’ve spoken about my passion for social media and love of internal communications. I’ve talked about how I get great satisfaction out of researching, planning, implementing and evaluating strategic communications plans that support business goals.
Yes, I am a public relations professional. I do have social media experience. I have worked on digital strategy, although I like to pull in experts to assist with technical aspects such as web design, SEO and online advertising.
So there you go: I’m a Brand Journalist! That’s my passion. It’s my sweet spot… my groove.
It makes sense, really. I worked as a newspaper and editor for a dozen years before entering corporate and then government and then, again, corporate PR/communications/marketing. Heck, I started covering basketball games for my hometown newspaper as a 15-year-old. My dad drove me to my first assignment.
I feel in the flow while developing a strategic communication plan — and then pulling together content that helps educate, inform and entertain key audiences, those that could make or break my employer. It gets my juices flowing writing a human interest article or Q/A with a thought leader; collaborating with a creative designer, photographer or videographer; tracking viewership and getting feedback for improvement…
I think that’s why I did internal communication for so long. It was so cool to segment audiences, foster two-way communication with them, integrate an intranet, town hall meetings, e-mails, broadcast voice mails…
Then, social media came along — and I got the great fortune of tapping its power to build mutually beneficial relationships via blogs, web chats, YouTube, streaming video and social networks. I experienced how the online supports the offline, how setting up a strategic speakers bureau integrates with a continuing series of web chats. Meantime, I saw my wife help many, many people thrive while living with cancer and other chronic illnesses through her blog and Facebook page. She had gained a bunch of experience in healthcare marketing communications before cancer entered her life.
I hope this blog entry helps you more precisely define what you do. I suspect that there are a bunch of us former journalists now working in PR, marketing and communications who sometimes fumble with describing their focus. It’s a continually evolving area, with the blurring of lines between PR, marketing, advertising and digital — and, dare to say, journalism. Technology has given us the power to “go direct” with key audiences and influencers as never before. Networking is on steroids.
Footnote: Just realized that this post has a bunch of I’s, when this as actually been a We endeavor. Brand Journalism is a team effort that involves supportive leadership, collaborative teammates, outside resources. It definitely is not a go-alone proposition. We’re all in this together.
It’s an exciting time for those of us in public relations, communications, marketing, digital strategy and related disciplines. It also can seem confusing, overwhelming, contradictory, counter-intuitive… as we embrace the challenges and opportunities of this time of rapid change.
Thank goodness, we don’t have to navigate these exhilarating — and sometimes turbulent — times alone. This era of social media allows us to build extensive networks and nurture mutually beneficial relationships as never before. We’re all in this together as we move to make this world a better place and enjoy the journey (at least that’s my goal during this short time on the planet).
This week, for example, I had the great fortune of attending Northern Kentucky University’s 2nd Annual Social Media Summit. The theme was “Maximizing the Client/Agency Relationship in the Social Media World.” An expert panel reinforced a lot of what we know, I thought. Stuff like social media allowing consumers to connect more directly with brands, the need for organizations to collaborate with outside partners to develop and implement social strategies, the need to integrate social with digital and offline, the imperative of breaking through the noise, etc. But, even more important to me, was the opportunity to speak with people I respect and like before the panel discussion — and to meet new folks interested in this subject area.
Two days later, I found myself in the middle of a totally unexpected experience at the monthly Cincinnati PRSA luncheon. Roddy Chong, a renowned violinist who has toured with Celine Dione, Shania Twain, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and others, gave a motivational talk interspersed with amazing violin playing. He simply blew away the 50-75 or so in attendance in the green room at the Aronoff Center.
Please take a look at the MikeBoehmer57 Twitter stream for my tweets from the summit and PRSA meeting. You’ll read some nuggets that hopefully will help as you work through fears en route to amazing, fulfilling work.
Here are several of Roddy’s points that particularly resonated with me:
- When you don’t face your fears, your dignity grows smaller.
- Find influences that point you above average.
- Be clear and specific.
These are exciting times, for sure. Scary too.
I’m glad we get to experience them together!
“A social business, properly led, creates an environment where people learn from others’ ideas, mistakes, and successes. It’s a learning venue for teachers and students where observation, participation, and sharing become the norm.” – Page 76
“For an organization to be competitive in today’s social age, every knowledge worker will need to play an active, intelligent, and independent part in the decision-making process.” –Page 21
Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social
(2013, 269 pages)
Mark Fidelman works companies ranging from IBM and Microsoft to A.T Kearney and Autodesk. He is a thought leader on social business, mobile business and mobile social networks.
Fidelman describes how leading companies are using social and mobile technologies, the cloud and data analytics to become “highly competitive growth machines.” He provides a “game plan” and “plays from the playbooks” highly adaptive organizations are using. He speaks about a “new kind of business that’s agile enough to capture new opportunities, can change shape when confronted with threats, and can call on vibrant communities to support its initiatives.”
“One of the primary benefits of social business is real-time, dynamic feedback from employees, customers, and partners,” he writes.
He notes that people are more loyal to socially engaged businesses… and mobile engagement increases customer loyalty.
Fidelman gives a step-by-step process showing how organizations become “social businesses” by building:
- Internal Digital Villages — mostly via robust intranets, and
- External Digital Networks — mainly through digital strategies that integrate social media, customer portals and other Internet tools.
Early in the book, in a chapter titled “Adapt or Die” he shows how business has evolved to a “fifth age” where leaders “welcome feedback, leverage the wisdom of crowds, create pull and foster workplace environments that promote innovation.”
It’s an era where people are “overwhelmed with content and turn to their social networks to prioritize and make sense of relevant information.”
“Businesses learned that in order to get their message across they needed to integrate and work within these social networks to remain competitive,” he writes. “Few understood that these same social network concepts could be applied within their organizations to increase employee productivity, spur innovation, improve customer service and company morale, streamline project management, and offer hundreds of other benefits.”
Important stats – 56 percent of employees prefer companies that use social platforms effectively. 60 percent of employees believe social platforms enhance innovation and 61 percent believe they improve collaboration. 56 percent of college students who encounter a company that bans access to social media will either not accept a job offer there or will find a way to circumvent the restriction.
Process for building a case – Fidelman walks readers through a six-step process for building the case for a social business – ( 1) The seven people you need to help build a social business: champion, executive sponsor, devil’s advocate, executor, social butterfly and community manager. (2) define the vision, (3) diagnose and assess the gaps, (4) set clear and reasonable social business goals, (5) create a purpose for your organization to rally around, (6) build the business case plan and present it.
Culture – The author talks about why culture is important to building a social business. He includes a series of questions to help assess a company’s culture.
The New Social Business Playbook – A significant portion of the book is devoted to a strategic guide to starting, launching and executing on plays that will help make organizations more effective. This includes team composition, metrics, and more.
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