Monday, March 30, 2009

You’ve Got to Get Your Feet Wet!

Part I of an Interview with Symantec’s Cory Edwards

I recently participated in a conference call at which Makovsky and Symantec discussed various ways B2B companies are using the social media to their advantage. (In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 25 years or so, Symantec—a member of the Fortune 500 and one of the world’s largest software companies—is a leading provider of security, storage and systems solutions.)

Anyway, I found the session so rewarding, I felt my readers too would benefit from some of the perspectives and sage advice of Cory Edwards, Senior Manager Corporate Communications. This will be a two-part interview, completed in my next blog post. In Part I, Cory tells us what triggered Symantec’s use of social media, how it has benefited Symantec and the steps the company took to generate a social media policy.

Q: What spurred Symantec’s adoption of social media as a proactive tool for PR?

A: There were a few things, and to be honest, it was really one of those over-time processes that started several years back. Nearly five years ago, in 2004, we had started monitoring mentions of Symantec in the blogosphere. We had become intrigued that year by the number of mentions that Symantec had received by random blogs that we had no interaction with. Like most people, we were impressed by the self-publishing abilities that blogs provided and the fact that it could be read by anyone globally. I remember doing a Technorati search for the term “Symantec” and getting 159 results and thinking, “Wow, look how many people have been talking about us without our knowledge?” Four years later that same search resulted in 45,000 blog mentions and there are hundreds of references to Symantec or its products each day on the Facebooks and Twitters of the world.

Q: Among the Fortune 500, Symantec is an early adopter of social media tools on its company website. What convinced you that embedding interactive media like YouTube videos and podcasts alongside traditional news assets would provide a return for the company?

A: Watching others certainly intrigued us, but what convinced us was getting our feet wet. Not everything turns out the way you’d like of course. There are definitely videos that I wish we’d been able to better promote, but all in all, it has been a very successful venture that has led to thousands of articles or links from business and trade media that we would have never had otherwise. We’re continuing to learn as we go and are finding out what type of news lends itself best to using multimedia or social media.

Q: What process did Symantec follow for creating a social media policy? Has that policy paid off?

A: It began some time ago as simply guidelines and policies for blogging, but we quickly recognized that it needed to be expanded beyond simply blogging to encompass online interactions in general. One of the challenges was trying to create a social media policy that wasn’t a “thou shalt not” document and instead a kind of enabling policy that would provide recommendations and best practices. We wanted to encourage our employees to feel comfortable interacting online about Symantec and our products when customers were having problems or when questions were being asked, etc.

I spent a good deal of time talking with other companies about their policies and approaches with social media, from tech companies like HP and Intel, to companies in completely different industries like Southwest and Caterpillar. We then created a policy and leveraged a cross-functional social media advisory group to help with its creation.

In Part II, we take a look at risks and best practices associated with a lively involvement in the social media.

Technorati Tags: Makovsky + Company, Symantec, B2B companies, social media, Fortune 500 , software company, Cory Edwards, Corporate Communications, blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, business, communications, public relations

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stop Wasting Your PR Dollars: 5 Tips

Makovsky + Company sponsored the 2009 PR News Media Relations Conference on March 10, 2009, attended by about 200 organizations. I had the good fortune to address the group and offered the following tips.

When times get tough, people look for ways to save money and do more with less. Here are five tips on how to maximize your public relations dollars during turbulent times. Mostly my tips focus on the social media. Why? Because, worldwide, the Internet continues to be so influential, and, as an example, research indicates that it has become the most important source of business information for C-Level executives.

Further, you can reach the traditional media through the social media, as 84% of journalists say they visit blogs to source their stories. My blog about succession planning: “Remember the CEO Just Rents the Office” became the catalyst for a feature story in a recent issue of Chief Executive Magazine, which also cited a study by our client, Russell Reynolds Associates, on succession planning.

And in 2008 — as part of an integrated online strategy that also includes our website and search engine optimization — they’ve helped generate more than 14% of our new business leads! So Tip #1 is: If you don’t have a blog, get one!

Tip #2: Protect your turf. No other marketing discipline can do the job as well on web 2.0 as public relations can. One of our clients had been using an ad agency to write online content. It was great advertising copy, but it was not maximizing social media opportunities. We told the client, “… You should be talking to your constituencies … not at them. It’s about cultivating a dialogue … and that’s our province. Public relations fosters dialogue.” The result? We are now managing the client’s online communications program.

Tip #3: In public relations, we get what we want by giving other people what they want. What journalists want is content that has been reengineered — social media style. Today the vast majority of journalists want to be able to search a virtual newsroom that’s packed with the resources they need most, e.g. blog-style news summaries, .jpgs, deep-link charts, podcasts, RSS feeds and links to executives’ LinkedIn profiles, headshots and email addresses

Tip #4: Post relevant content. Late last year — when the economy had sucked nearly 30% out of the value of investors’ savings — B2B, the magazine for marketing strategists, spent a day looking at 20 of the most prominent corporate blogs in America to see how they were addressing the economic meltdown. Only two companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Benetton, attempted to offer any analysis of the situation.

My fifth and final tip: Be audit-proof. Don’t just monitor your company or client’s reputation with a simple Google search of the corporate name. Google your CEO and the names of other senior managers. Check out the blogs of employees and analysts. Scan bulletin boards, newsgroups and wikis. View the photos posted on Flickr and the videos on YouTube. Find out what’s being tweeted on Twitter. The more you know, the better able you are to correct misinformation and initiate a productive dialogue with your stakeholders and develop the best overall PR program.

Technorati Tags: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Google, Benetton, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr

Monday, March 23, 2009


The uproar over AIG’s payment of $165 million plus in bonuses probably could have been avoided if the stewards of our country’s financial resources — Presidents Bush and Obama, Congress and assorted officials at the Treasury Department — had been paying attention before the bailouts were ever made.

The U.S. could have said: The price of the bailout? No bonuses. Alternative conditions? The American taxpayer must be reimbursed or the company must return to profitability before bonuses are paid. Certainly some contingencies should have been negotiated into the bailout of AIG. The aforementioned strategies would have eliminated the current contretemps.

As a result of the no-strings-attached policy, not only AIG but the government has suffered an image hit. To clean up its name as it undertakes to build its credibility, the government needs to answer questions about its fiscal management skills, particularly since it took over 80 percent of AIG. It needs to address what leadership knew and when it knew it.

AIG needs to confirm that only the financials products division was involved, and if so, let’s not take the whole company down with it, because the continual flogging of AIG only erodes its value and threatens our $170 billion investment. As Joe Nocera recently wrote in The New York Times, “Treating all of AIG like Public Enemy No. 1 is a pretty dumb way for a majority shareholder to act when he hopes to sell the company for top dollar.”

When you’ve got Congress expressing its shock and outrage over AIG’s distribution of bonuses that Congress itself previously chose not to prohibit … well, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who’s minding the store?”

Technorati Tags: AIG, The New York Times, financial, President Bush, President Obama, Congress, Treasury Department, Joe Nocera , taxpayer, investing, government, investors, business, communications, public relations

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Charging for Online Content

Last Wednesday, I was reading "As Cities Go from Two Newspapers to One, Some Talk of Zero," a fascinating piece in The New York Times, when I was suddenly struck with a thought (probably not a new one): Why isn't the solution to the rash of newspaper closings painfully obvious to everyone? Consumers must pay for content on the internet to solve the newspaper revenue squeeze. At a minimum, this is a solution that needs to be tried.

For example, if you could get food free-of-charge by physically going to a supermarket vs. purchasing it online, where would you get it? There is no reason why the general public should be able to access any newspaper for free online. We now buy content by physically purchasing newspapers; why not buy content online as well? Although some major newspapers have tried to charge for online content at one time or another, I don’t think they ever committed to making this solution work for the long term. “The internet is for free” is a mindset that continues to gain traction.

The decline of newspapers may lead to the decline of the fourth estate, a pillar of American society which has challenged or brought down presidents, corporations, public officials and other leadership when they have not met ethical or legal standards. Can the same investigative reporting led by newspapers be transferred with the same dedication to the internet? The costs may be too great to bear for in-depth investigative journalism if content is free.

Producing content is labor intensive; newspapers grew and prospered here because consumers wanted to buy what newspapers offered. Subscription and newsstand revenues combined with advertising built the publishing business.

While newsstand revenues are irrelevant to online offerings, the online reach will make up for this revenue leg, if online content is charged for.
Finally, to date, no medium has put another out of business: print survived radio, radio survived TV and TV has thus far survived the internet.

Let the competition go forward, but let it be fair. And may the best man win!

Technorati Tags: The New York Times, newspapers, online content, internet, business, communications, public relations

Monday, March 09, 2009

Newman’s Own Brand

Why would a blogger dedicated to writing about communications and public relations wish to devote a post to Paul Newman, Oscar-winning actor, non-profit entrepreneur and community contributor and activist, who several months ago died at age 83.

Why? Because Paul Newman was a walking example of a professional who devoted critical time to developing his community leadership, unselfishly giving to those who needed help and were less fortunate than he. His Newman’s Own brand goods have contributed more than $200 million to charity. His Hole-In-The-Wall Gang camps provide free summer recreation for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. His leadership in his own community of Westport, Connecticut has also been exemplary.

Nevertheless, with all he achieved professionally, a New York Times article(9/28/08) noted that he said his charitable work was his greatest legacy. And I love this quote which will always stand out for me as representative of who this man was: ‘We are such spendthrifts with our lives,’ (he) once told a reporter. ‘The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.’”

I believe this quote will forever stand as a definition of Newman’s Own brand.

Technorati Tags: Paul Newman, non-profit, entrepreneur, Newman’s Own, brand, Hole-In-The-Wall, Westport, Connecticut, New York Times, business, communications, public relations

Monday, March 02, 2009

MedPage: Bookmark It Today!

In a speech at the Health 2.0 conference in San Diego last year, Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project spoke about the impact of the internet on health and healthcare. She began her speech by referencing the notorious press release distributed by the American Medical Association in 2001 that advised Americans to “trust your physician, not a chat room.”

“Of course most people ignored that advice and flocked online for health information, just as they ignored the advice of the recording industry and flocked to music downloading sites,” said Fox. “When 80% of internet users are doing something, the horse is out of the barn.”

Today, the medical establishment is as passionate about the internet as a source of high-quality medical information as the wired healthcare consumer. Now the most important issue is determining which online resource offers the highest quality and most accurate medical information.

One such resource is MedPage Today, a leading provider of accurate, timely, unbiased and useful information including breaking health news, journal and medical meetings coverage and enterprise stories for medical professionals. (In the interest of complete disclosure, you should know that MedPage is a client. You should also know that I’ve personally searched the website for information about my own health … and I plan to do so whenever I have a question about a medical condition or a treatment. It’s easy to use, with great summaries and lots of actionable information. Nevertheless, it doesn’t replace checking with your physician.)

MedPage’s healthcare journalists file stories from 70 national and international medical meetings a year. The health policy beat is covered by a full-time Washington correspondent. Articles undergo review by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine before publication. Doctors and other healthcare professionals can also receive Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits — at no cost — by taking a test.

Check it out and see why, for the second year in a row, MedPage Today has won praise from eHealthcare, the world's largest program evaluating Web quality and content for health information.

Technorati Tags: Health 2.0 conference, Susannah Fox, Pew Internet & American Life Project, internet, health, healthcare, American Medical Association, healthcare consumer, MedPage Today, health news, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine , eHealthcare, business, communications, public relations