Public relations, communications, marketing, digital… We’re all in this together!

Violinist Roddy Chong inspired Cincinnati PR pros with lessons learned during a career that includes touring with Celine Dione, Shania Twain and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Violinist Roddy Chong inspired Cincinnati PR pros with lessons learned during a career that includes touring with Celine Dione, Shania Twain and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

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!


Informative book — Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social

Learn how leading companies are using social and mobile technologies, the cloud and data analytics to become “highly competitive growth machines.”

Learn how leading companies are using social and mobile technologies, the cloud and data analytics to become “highly competitive growth machines.”

“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.


Super interesting book — ePATIENT 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care


Want an optimistic look at the future of healthcare? Big believer in the power of technology to better lives? Then I highly suggest you check out this book.

Authors Rohit Bhargava, who advises global healthcare brands on communication strategy, and Fard Johnmar, a digital health futurist and researcher,  combine extensive research with insights from pioneers of the digital health movement in the easy-to-read, well-organized book ePATIENT 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care (2014, 219 pages).

Findings are broken into three themes:

(1) Health Hyperefficiency– How Technology and Computing are Making Health Care More Efficient, Safe and Effective;
(2) The Personalized Health Movement – How Technology is Helping Health Become More Individualized and Relevant to People’s Needs; and
(3) Digital Peer-to-Peer Health Care – How Digital Tools are Enabling Enhanced Collaboration and Peer Support.

For each of the themes, there are three to nine of the 15 trends. For each trend, the authors give a brief overview, share stories that give real-life examples of the trend, and report results of recent surveys of ePatients.

As the husband of a cancer thriver, I found two trends particularly appealing:

“Trend 13 – Virtual Counseling. People are using online tools to seek and forge one-on-one relationships and offer virtual logistical and emotional support. This can include helping others to navigate the new health-insurance landscape, “sponsoring, ”  or counseling one another and providing unique knowledge about conditions, ailments, and caregiving. – Page 165

“Trend 14 – CareHacking. As patient health data becomes more widely available and the number of caregivers managing medical care for family members increases, digitally savvy health consumers will leverage the information they gain from doctors, the Web, and other sources to better ‘hack’ the health system to educate themselves, navigate loopholes, find more efficiencies, and ultimately get better, lower-cost and faster care for themselves and those they love.” –Page 171

In the introduction, the authors offer scenarios of how patients handle common health situations now – and how they will in the near future, when technology advances.  The first involves the mother of a 3-year-old who has a fever; the second, a man who learns he has lung cancer. I won’t spoil the stories. They’re facinating.

The up-front stories are worth a read, even if you don’t want to go further… but, trust me, you will.

Disclaimer: I received a free preview copy of the book.


The future looks bright for PR, marketing, advertising, communications, social, digital….

#ThrowBackThursday photo from a decade ago. The future was so bright we needed to wear shades! For those of us in PR, marketing, communications and digital, the forecast remains sunny.

#ThrowBackThursday photo from a decade ago. The future was so bright we needed to wear shades! For those of us in PR, marketing, communications and digital, the forecast remains sunny.

Sonja Popp-Stahly of the PRSA National Board of Directors affirmed my optimism as she described the evolving role of the public relations professional and prospects for the future in an information-packed presentation at Cincinnati PRSA this week. Popp-Stahly, APR, is director of digital media communications at Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis.

As she pointed out, this is a transformative time for the public relations profession. Social media has made a tremendous impact, greatly expanding the opportunity for two-way communication and increasing challenges such as rapidly responding to complaints.

It’s also a soft-of a confusing time, as the lines between public relations, marketing and advertising continue to blur. “Who owns social media?” Popp-Stahly asked. “All own it.”

She noted that PR pros need to think like reporters and publishers, as brand journalism becomes a vital tool in the communications toolkit. That was great news for the many ex-journalists like me in the room.

Popp-Stahly cited Department of Labor stats forecasting a 21-percent increase in employment in 2010-2020. Business leaders view strategic public relations as essential, she said. Public relations budgets are increasing.

She listed these competencies: (1) understanding business strategy, (2) multi-disciplinary leadership, (3) data analytics (“We have to do math,” she said with a smile, evoking laughter.), (4) social media, (5) earned, owned, shared and paid…. It can be daunting, as we are on-call like never before with social media and e-mail, and we’re expected to demonstrate ROI. We’re not just expected to have a seat a the leadership table, but to be among the outspoken leaders there. We need to drill down beyond reporting impressions to measuring influence on key audiences. Note: Social media metrics include mentions, retweets, replies, tone analysis, and how many targeted journalists follow your brand on Twitter. Other measures include message penetration (what percentage of messages are in news coverage).

Popp-Stahly shared insights from an infographic The Re-Imagining of PR. For one, bloggers have joined reporters in importance. The days of in-person media relations have dwindled, as reporters rely heavily on e-mail to manage their rapid news cycles.

Some constants remain, as we move ahead: thought leadership, credibility, authenticity, relationships, storytelling…. and active participation in PRSA helps with all of those. Popp-Stahly encouraged us to get involved in PRSA. Take advantage of its sections, such as employee communication and healthcare. Attend a conference: Washington, D.C., in October; Atlanta in 2015; Indianapolis in 2016. Get your APR. Volunteer at the local, regional or national level.

Let’s embrace the change and pull together as we embrace the opportunities and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

Handling customer complaints: Not always fun, but usually rewarding

March 15, 2014 3 comments

This is not one of the negative experiences that I encounter in social media: Fishing on Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio! However, when you manage social media strategies, you sometimes need to respond to frustrations and complaints aired by your target audiences.

It’s truly a blessing to know so many people who manage social media channels for organizations. Collectively, we can share best practices and reaffirm what we know to be true. That happens occasionally when someone encounters frustrations, complaints or other negative sentiment on their organization’s social media channels.

Sometimes, instincts will tell us to just delete the comments. In fact, outsiders without a knowledge of how social media or public relations works may instruct us to do just that. However, best practice tells us that this is an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. By being responsive, acknowledging the concern in a reply, and taking the issue offline for resolution, we are showing viewers that we really are listing and do care. In fact, the complainer will often come back with a reply expressing surprise at the responsiveness and thanking you — in public, for all to see. It’s a powerful word-of-mouth practice.

If you just delete the comment, you are demonstrating that you don’t care… that you’ve got something to hide… that you’re running from the issue. The person will vent their frustration elsewhere: Most likely to their friends and family, both online and in-person. They may escalate the matter — by contacting the media, setting up a Facebook group, circulating a petition, etc.

All because you didn’t acknowledge the concern and take it off-line for resolution.

eMarketer recently reported that most people who manage social media sites respond within a day. In fact, many take action within an hour.

To tell the truth, it’s not always the most-fun thing to do — handling a complaint. But it can bring the biggest rewards. And there is a sense of satisfaction that you helped someone who was frustrated or not happy with the service they were getting; that you made things better for them.



Think outside of the Facebook box

FacebookA blog post by Forbes contributor Ewan Spence this week confirmed what I’ve been hearing — and experiencing — as the administrator of Facebook business pages: They are becoming a paid marketing and public relations channel. The days of “free” organic reach on this massive social network are dwindling with each passing year.

Citing research by Social@Ogilvy, Spence noted: “From 16% of followers of a brand page being shown a piece of content in 2012, the percentage of organic reach has dropped to roughly 6% in February 2014 for an average page, and just 2% for large pages with more than 500,000 likes.”

He adds: “And the unofficial advice from Facebook sources to community managers noted in the report? Expect it to approach zero in the foreseeable future.”

This confirms a belief of mine: You need an integrated approach to social media marketing. Don’t get overly dependent on Facebook, especially if you have a limited budget.

Strongly consider channels such as blogs, YouTube, Pinterest. LinkedIn. Twitter, Instagram… and, dare I say, Google+ when researching and planning your strategic public relations and marketing plans. Think outside the Facebook box.

You may have noticed that I used the terms “public relations” and “marketing” in the previous sentence. I find this excerpt from the excellent new book Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek very helpful:

“The concepts of marketing and public relations are often used interchangeably, even by those who are involved in the field. There are many definitions of both terms, but simply, ‘marketing’ is a multidisciplinary process by which a company or institution actively promotes, sells, or distributes a product, idea, or service to potential customers. ‘Public relations,’ on the other hand, is a process (an aspect of marketing, in fact), by which a company or an institution tries to encourage broad, public understanding and acceptance of an idea, product, or service among its various potential audiences.”

Any thoughts on the changing role of Facebook in your marketing and public communications strategies? Please comment.



What content works best?

What makes great content? Stories about trips to cool places like Alcatraz!

What makes great content? Stories about trips to cool places like Alcatraz!

At a recent Cincinnati PRSA breakfast, Matt Trotta, BuzzFeed’s East Coast vice president, explained how brands can increase brand affinity and purchase intent by creating quality content that users want to see and share with their friends. (BuzzFeed is a news and entertainment website —

He first gave this view of the media landscape:

  •  Mobile is the future
  •  Social is mobile (BuzzFeed had 100 million visitors last month, and 50-60 percent shared content via mobile.)
  • Animals have become the new Leisure section (Millennials have grown up with cute animals… It’s about content you know your audience wants.)

BuzzFeed has learned this about content:

  • Readers want to be inspired
  • Identify niche communities and create content for them
  • Humor is popular
  • People love to share nostalgia and talk about it
  • Cute animals deserve respect
  • Lists are popular: 31 things no one tells you about being a parent, etc.

“Good content will find its audience,”Trotta said. “When you create more content over time, you will see your lift go up… you will find what works. Be sure to create content in the voice of the brand that the audience will share. Experiment. Keep trying.”

A good practice is to be on the alert for hot topics… where it makes sense to join the conversation in brand voice. Also, have “evergreen” content ready for use.

BuzzFeed uses a real-time dashboard to measure social views… and has learned how different content behaves differently on different platforms. For example, content stays hot on Twitter for 24/48 hours and dies off. Meanwhile, DIY, food and beauty content grows in popularity on Pinterest over 30 days. By the way, funny content is more likely to be shared on Facebook.

Examples of good social campaigns, with audiences pulling content to reinforce brand identity: Pampers Love, Sleep and Play created content around a busy baby. Charmin’s 14 things only read in a bathroom.  Columbia jackets’ regional campaigns – 10 ways to survive Midwest winter, and New England winter.

Some food for thought as you develop content strategies!