Saturday, May 15, 2010

Google Analytics: Measuring ROI

To know whether or not PR activities are making an impact, and to know if people are at least reading your hard work, it's a good idea to monitor activities using Google Analytics. Just as bloggers monitor their statistics, it's important to do this with client and organizational websites as well.

For instance, one client I was working with decided to change their company name because they realized that visitors were spending an average of 8 seconds on their blog after the majority migrated from search engines. They didn't find what they were looking for so readers left. This got the organization thinking that they should rebrand in order to boost interest in the company and attract people to their website for the right reasons. They did that and within five months after the rebrand, their readership improved significantly with 47% of unique visitors spending 5 minutes or more on their site- evidence that they were clearly reading content. Not a bad improvement!

It's also a great way to make a case with senior decision-makers on what's working and what's not and where to focus web dollars if there are multiple sites to manage. You can also access valuable data on how well the site is doing with referring sites, and build on ways to secure cross-promotional references if you feel you need to improve in that area.

According to Wikipedia, Google Analytics is the most widely used website statistics service with 57% of the 10,000 most popular websites using it.

Another great tool is Technorati Authority Rating which ranks blog popularity based on its influence in the blogosphere by evaluating linking behaviour.

Food for Thought: What is the most effective online measurement tool you've come across?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Developing Kid-Appropriate Company Responses

Humanizing company responses is an area where PR communicators can come in handy.

Eight year-old Harry Winsor loves planes. His vivid imagination takes him to exotic destinations, and his plane sketches inspire him so much that he decided to send one to Boeing with a note suggesting that they build it. You can see little Harry's photo on the left.

Unfortunately Boeing wasn't amused.

They issued a letter from their legal department documenting the risks his unsolicited ideas posed to intellectualy property infringement, and highlighted that their engineers had already thought of everything.

After Harry's father received the letter from Boeing, he was not sure what to do with it: show it to his son and crush his creativity, or keep it from him and feign ignorance. So he did what any savvy father would do: put the matter up for discussion on his blog where he received a lot of feedback.

Having started to use Twitter only a couple of weeks earlier, Boeing's spokesperson Todd Blecher who manages the Boeing account, responded to little Harry's supporters by issuing this post:

"@arun4 we're expert at airplanes but novices in social media. We're learning as we go."

He later went on to say:

"We don’t have a more children-appropriate response for things like that... We get a lot of these, and anything from an adult — especially if it looks like an official proposal — has to get a form letter to protect us. Then, it’s frankly a matter of whether someone has the time to go the extra mile, even for a child."

This is a key corporate learning, especially for large bureacratic organizations, and one which we know to be true. The notion of discretion in providing responses is important. As PR professionals we often build relationships one person at a time. It requires forethought, empathy and consideration in light of company policies and procedures, rather than a mere application of the rules.

In the end, Blecher ended up calling little Harry to praise him for his submission, and the company is now working on developing a better way of handling submissions from children.

This is a great example of how social media can be used to keep companies more responsive in engaging the human side of relationship building... one kid at a time.

Food for Thought: What's an example of a good customer service move on the part of a big company that you've experienced?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Do You Create When You Practice PR?

The question of measurement is a foremost consideration in the evolution of Public Relations. For PR to become an integral part of an organization's business, practitioners need to put success in tangible terms for senior decision makers to show how it drives business performance, whatever that business may be.

If you're a CEO of a publicly traded company, you'll want to know how investor relations drives investment or share valuation of the company. One quantitative way to show this is to track investor behavior on news story days.

If you're an Executive Director at a non-profit organization, you'll want to know how PR drives donations and membership, or see how top-tier media are responding to priority program offerings.

For business-to-consumer companies, VPs will ask how sustained PR campaigns help build and maintain sales and thus gross profit. A practitioner could look at whether purchase levels are impacted by exposure to PR messaging, or demonstrate whether reputation management efforts have paid off when new products enter the marketplace.

Senior government decision makers will think about whether public awareness campaigns support their mandates, such as getting more people to take the flu shot that year, or lowering fatalities on the road.

Whatever the business, PR works collaboratively with key stakeholders to enhance business efficiency. It differs from Advertising in that Public Relations is not just focused on delivering messages, but also on strengthening relationships for the long-term based on audience and end user feedback. Through targeted outreach to build and maintain trust with people, effective PR reinforces the communication of organizational values, mitigates crises, builds a reservoir of goodwill and saves millions in prospective litigation fees. Therefore, practicing PR means building value that is recognized by those who matter most to the organization. And this most definitely impacts every kind of bottom line.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on internet-based communications' measurement :)

Food for Thought: What other ways have you seen PR generate value for organizations?

For More Info: Check out this awesome presentation from the PRSA's working group on PR measurement.

Friday, April 16, 2010

O'Brien Is As PR Savvy As He Is Funny

One of the most humiliating things that can happen to a public figure in their career is to be dumped unceremoniously on TV. This is exactly what happened to Conan O'Brien in January of this year, but instead of disappearing into the woodwork, he's leveraged social media to become even more of a household name.

Successfully leveraging Twitter as a platform to connect with fans, he's demonstrated that he's one of the funniest people we've ever heard. More to the point- he's funnier than his rival Leno. The tagline of his page is "I had a show. Then I had a different show. Now I have a Twitter account." With more than 850,000 followers flocking to him within about a month and 1 million fans on his Facebook fan page "I'm With Coco," fans are kept updated with video clips, photos and - of course - the humour we've come to appreciate him for.

Even though his lucrative severance package came with the caveat that he couldn't talk to the media, this hasn't stopped O'Brien from getting his message across.

The situation he was dealt could have easily heralded the abrupt end of his career. Instead, O'Brien leveraged his comedic genius on new platforms to stay connected with fans. It's helped him stay top-of-mind, build support, reinforce his brand and generate awareness for his current tour- the "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour." More importantly, social media has served as an outlet for a sense of humour which is best served when shared with others.

This is a great example of when the medium and the message are very well suited to each other.

Food for Thought: Do you think his social media presence will drive viewers to TBS when he launches his new show in November?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

You, Me and Everyone We Tweet

Twitter CEO Evan Williams is one of the 179 people I follow on Twitter as I explore the social media landscape that is more and more starting to feel like home.

He noted recently that: 1) Twitter is evolving. 2) The goal is to serve users. 3) There is much left to invent.

For a blogger like me who is seeking to understand where and how to add value in this space, it's exciting to know that it's so dynamic.

What I like most about using Twitter is that there is so much learn. Between frequent and regular Google Alerts, RSS feeds, Twitter searches and e-mails, there is so much - too much - information and interesting content out there not to share. Curiosity is allowed free reign to explore uninhibited. Twitter is the outlet for some of these finds and my blog is the vehicle to expand on those select ideas and links.

So far it's been a fascinating experience not only from a PR perspective to see what's out there and to think about strategies but also to learn how to filter the content using tools like TweetDeck.

One way I've come to enjoy using Twitter is to observe how some of my followers leverage the tool as a way of promoting their passions and interests by trying to create trending topics. Other times I notice how influential tweeters can be in starting the retweeting domino trend simply by sharing solid content that people want to engage with.

Twitter provides a level playing field for anyone who has good content to share. If people find what you say of value, you can gain influence as a thought leader in any field. This democratic notion means that you can find interesting content from some pretty unlikely sources, which if you ask me, makes it all the more fun to interact with.

Food for Thought: Is there a way you've used Twitter that you want to share?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brands Intertwined: Building Character Through Crisis

Since the news of Tiger Woods' several infamous marital affairs broke out in December 2009, the public watched as most of his major sponsors cut ties with him one by one. All but Nike.

With Woods making his return to golf at the Masters earlier today, Nike debuted its new TV ad on ESPN and the Golf Channel. Within one day, the advertisement has earned more than 1.7 million views on the NikeGolf YouTube channel and extensive analysis on several blogs across industries, wide-spread discussion on Twitter and Facebook, as well as conversation in discussion forums. It's even spurred a life of its own as an internet meme overnight with several examples of video spoofs. The original ad features a black and white shot of Woods with a voice-over of his deceased father asking him what he's learned from his mistakes.

There is particular relevance about this ad from a public relations standpoint. It demonstrates a level of transparency between two brands that have remained interlocked throughout a crisis. In a statement, Nike said:

"We support Tiger and his family. As he returns to competitive golf, the ad addresses his time away from the game using the powerful words of his father."

Rather than pulling out when times got tough, Nike is hanging in there and hasn't shirked from incorporating the personal aspect of Woods' troubles into its communications strategy. It makes brand sense for Nike because without doing so, it would be hard for Woods to be a credible figure for the sale of golf apparel.

The ad also demonstrates consistency. It's coherent strategy for Nike to support an athlete who's been dehumanized in the public eye for his mistakes- after all, that's what happened to them in the 90s after revelations came to light about their negligent labour practices in southeast Asia. Despite that, the company has grown from $6.4 billion in annual revenue in 1996 to $18.6 billion according to its last fiscal year. In time, a similar rebound will likely occur for Woods too. This highlights an important point: that people and organizations are not the sum total of their mistakes. But they do need to be held accountable. This ad does just that and serves to manage the discussion around this very public issue in a proactive way. I think it's a sharp play.

What's your take?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Managing Online Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting

In the social media space, everything people do or say has an effect on the brand to varying degrees. As a reputation manager, PR practitioners are working to ensure that all print and digital activities are consistent, transparent and building dialogue to strengthen the brand.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) balances public interest with business interests to grow. It's an approach to sustainability that businesses take to create long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing various environmental, social and economic risks. This approach stems from an owness to self-regulate activities due in part to the growing importance that the public, media and special interest groups place on holding business accountable for their actions. This is an important opportunity for an organization to communicate their business reason for being, over and above generating shareholder value.

The production of a dedicated sustainability report adds tangible business value through the presentation of a company's key financial and nonfinancial information. Many companies have them. In Canada, the large Canadian banks come to mind as having some of the best.

The internet affords integrated reporting opportunities that cannot be done on paper. Here are some things to keep in mind when building the conversation about CSR on social media channels.
  • Earn the respect of the community through meaningful content. Add something to the conversation rather than simply disseminate "good news" company key messages.
  • Be authentic and as transparent and honest as possible. Consult your company's training policy on social media disclosure before diving in.
  • Remember the human element in your communications- always be warm, friendly and engaging.
  • Talk about the transformation process. Businesses do not become "green" overnight and customers get annoyed when they are presented as such.
  • See how people respond to information and include relevant insights in your analysis reports for your senior management team to inform their strategic decision-making.
  • Do your best and leave the rest! You can't change everyone's mind but you can share with them what you know.

Food for Thought: Which businesses do you think do a good job of leveraging the social media space in their CSR reporting?