Steve Lee and the Thoughtful Practice of SoMe

Steve Lee, APR and Chief Pathfinder for Quicksilver Interactive Group, spoke to the strategic communications course at the Mayborn this week. As a digital communications expert in the Dallas area, Lee had a gold mind of knowledge and examples of successful social media campaigns. Especially fascinating was the work he’s done for the AA Center and the local Ronald McDonald House.

Buddha on Facebook? (Source)
Having a small, very centralized graduate seminar type class (seven students + one professor = educational nirvana) allowed me to ask Lee specific questions and receive valuable feedback.  I went with a simple, loaded question:

How do I get better at SoMe? In my current job, I manage social platforms and direct messaging, along with run events, and engage in donor relations, and photograph, and etc. All of this is tied together but I find myself asking how can I improve my writing, improve my engagement, and improve my knowledge of the platforms? 

I, of course, did not say this as eloquently as spending a few minutes at the keyboard allows. I was met with the response: “It seems like you might not have time to think.” Lee’s advice was to focus on one platform at a time, and separate strategy from technical skill.

Lee’s advice, along with all of the information on social media strategy offered in class, gave me a lot to think about. I set out to meditate on the topic.  I kept in mind that social media planning isn’t much different that communication planning. As I wrote last week, when planning for social media communications, business goals have to be kept in mind. I kept in mind that I was probably overthinking the matter, and needed to breathe a little.

Then, I had social media sense of enlightenment. 

How do I SoMe better?  I have to SoMe thoughtfully!

I jotted down a few notes on how to do that and set out to plan my activities for the next week while observing the lesson I learned.  

Thoughtful Practice of SoMe
Be Aware. 

Jumping on the latest platform is not a good use of time if you do not fully understand it or it will not help your business and communications objectives. If you have nothing to share on Pinterest, don’t just pin for pinning’s sake.   

Keep up with the industry by reading. Mashable, Gigaom, and Social Media Today are some of my tech favorites. It also helps to read for fun, so go ahead and escape with the new issue of The Atlantic.

Be compassionate. 

An app doesn’t entitle you to forget you’re speaking to people. Identify your audience and give them a personality.  Write online as you are speaking to people. 

Be beautiful. 

Every tweet or post is an opportunity to engage in the practice of concise writing. Say what you mean. Say it nicely. 

Be authentic. 

Keep your brand identity in check.  Keep your listeners in mind and respond with your attention and consistency. 

Have Fun. 

                It is, after all, social media.

If I Tweet It, They Will Come

In today’s market, many businesses are ready to jump on the social media wagon without asking questions. “Social media” has become this century’s “guerrilla marketing”: the words occupy a line on a communications plan without many people being informed on what exactly that entails. The buzz around the words have created a sense of comfort in strategy. “If we have social media, they will come,” seems to be the new age motto.
Essential Ingredients of  A Social Media Plan on
But what is it that they are coming to? Before a company sets out to play the social media game, the need must be there. A simple scan of “how to write a social media plan” articles online will uncover the number one need: is it in your mission?  As a company, must you communicate with your customers online using social media platforms? Will there be someone there to listen? To communicate back?

Not all companies need to be on social media platforms, especially if the customers are not there. For many, new platforms such as Facebook simply add on to the already strong presence on the web. For some, it is the only footprint they have on the web. Both sets of companies can successfully profit from customer relationships if they are fulfilling their missions as set up in their business planning. Social media should be thought of as a delivery tool for the true business plan.

I am not talking myself out of a social media writing career, but simply reassuring those that do not see a fit between their organization and social platforms.  I am reminded of some organizations I have worked with in the past, who were insistent on having an online presence. One was an organization was a domestic violence support group that particularly wanted its members to be kept anonymous, and were prevented from discussing in detail their meeting times or advice. At the time, Facebook only had groups, which meant that any member of the group was mentioned in the followers were linked to the organization. Most of the members also had trouble accessing the internet, which made organizers weary of them when they went incommunicado.  Clearly, it was not within their line of mission to create an open Facebook group listing events and meetings. The solution proposed was to keep news posts and events calendars on the group’s website, for the purpose of community outreach and donors. Communications with members was to be kept private. 

For others, being kept out of the social media loop is marketing suicide. With any communication plan, businesses must keep in mind some primary objectives. When trying to determine your role in the social media game, the questions that need to be asked first include:
  •  What is our objective in communicating with our constituents?
  •  How can we reach them?
  •  Do we have the staff resources to maintain profiles and current content?
  •  After evaluation, did we reach the people we wanted to reach?

Maintaining this questioning and adjusting accordingly, whether you use social media or not, will create a successful communications plan. 

What the Movie "Clueless" Taught Me About Planning

It might be farfetched to think you can learn a thing or two from a high school drama, but when I think of strategic public relations tactics such as event planning, Clueless’ Cher Horowitz immediately jumps into my mind.

In the movie, Cher delivers an incredible speech paralleling the need to plan to include refuges in the nation and planning a birthday dinner. The speech earns her a passing grade in a debate course. Let’s evaluate her plan to deal with crisis:

“Some people came that, like, did not R.S.V.P. I was like, totally buggin’. I had to haul to kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. At the end of the day, it was like, the more the merrier.”

What this scene has taught me in my career as an event planner, and ultimately resource manager, is how to think quickly on your feet. Cher’s event was a success because of contingency planning. In public relations, the idea of contingency is necessary to plan for crisis, mismanagement, and any sort of business problem. We would all like to live in Cher’s world, where things are perfect and everyone R.S.V.P.’s but in actuality, things happen and you have to roll with the punches.

As a PR professional, you can chose to accept this reality and plan ahead for all strategic initiatives. As wonderful and organized as your plans may be, it is always best to plan for emergency. Having a contingency plan allows the quick assembly of a business solution which leads to quick recovery from previous oversight.  Large events are sometimes more difficult to plan for with a variety of things to go wrong, but most PR professionals have the type of personality to allow them to think quickly. However, quick recovery still comes from planning.

In keeping with the celebrity theme, one of the greatest saves in event programming that I have witnessed came from a cloud computing conference I attended a few years ago. The program called for former President Bill Clinton to address conference goers in the evening during a San Franciscan winter.  The alternate guest booked for the event was a pop star who had been attending the entire conference, and had planned to speak the next day. Promotional video had been showing all week to promote the singer’s presentation on how his production company uses cloud services. As guaranteed, weather in San Francisco prevented Mr. Clinton from appearing on time. The coordinators quickly shot to a video presentation of the pop star, waiting in the wings, and introduced him. He delivered a well prepared speech about cloud computing and impacting your business process efficiently. 

To conference goers, the impromptu speech was a bonus, and ended in a well-received concert. Whether a previously defined contingency plan or an effective reaction, the event went on without hiccup and kept the constituents of the conference happy.