Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 527 – Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements

Key Concepts – Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements

For all three readings, the main thrust of what we learned this week is that you have to be specific when defining what you want, and where you want your organization to go.

Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements
English: Vladimir Kush looking through a crystal ball. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead of having a vague, crystal ball-style idea that things will somehow improve, the jello has to be nailed to the wall.

Smith says it rather concisely: (Page 95) “… goals are general and global while objectives are specific.”

Goals are a kind of global idea of how a problem should be solved. E. g. if the problem is world hunger, then the goal is to either feed more people or have fewer people to feed. There aren’t a lot of other ways you can go with that. But an objective is far more specific, so an objective is more like educating 20% of all women of childbearing age in ten countries about birth control and marrying later, and doing so by the end of calendar year 2019.

For the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration (ILSC), the organization’s mission and goals are twofold, to spread the Small World Initiative (SWI is a learning program whereby students gather soil samples in order to help discover new sources for antibiotics) to more schools, and to test, track, and treat cases of pediatric HIV in Ghana. These are more like task or relationship management goals (Smith, page 96), as opposed to relationship management, with the task goal being to treat pediatric HIV and the relationship goal being to spread the reach of the SWI.

With reference to the Small World Initiative, an awareness objective could be to foster and maintain contacts with fifty decision makers in key high schools by the end of 2016. Whereas an action objective could be to spread the Small World Initiative to high schools in ten states by the end of 2016. Both types of objectives are explicit, time-definite, and challenging yet attainable (Smith, Pages 101 – 103).

For Ghana, the awareness objective could be to foster and maintain contacts with fifty decision makers in key hospitals or towns by the end of 2016. An action objective could be to gain access to test newborns in ten towns by the end of calendar year 2016. As with the SWI objectives, these are goal-rooted and measurable activities.

The ILSC either meets these objectives, or it doesn’t. There is no in-between. This is why objectives must be meaningful, reasonable and quantifiable – this way, you know when you’ve succeeded. Or if you still have a ways to go.

Positioning statements are different. Per Smith (Page 95), “A positioning statement is a general expression of how an organization wants its publics to distinguish it vis a vis its competition.” For the SWI, the positioning statement can be loftier, and look a lot more like, “With the Small World Initiative, your students can be the change you wish to see in the world of discovering new antibiotics.” For the project in Ghana, it could be, “Stopping the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa begins at birth. The ILSC aims to test, track, and treat every child at risk, until all children are well.”

Social Media-based recommendations

The Barbaric reading, in contrast, was strictly about social media goals and objectives. As Barbaric says, “Here are some examples of marketing objectives to get you started:

  • Increase Reach
  • Increase Conversions
  • Increase Retention
  • Increase Credibility
  • Maintain Visibility
  • Develop Stronger Relationships With Stakeholders”

The strength of this article is that it looks at social media for what it is. Organizations usually need to sell a product or service. Social media can be directly tied to that, but Barbaric is right to focus more on what social media specifically does. Likes, shares, comments, and followers do not necessarily directly lead to sales, but they do lead to increased reach and credibility, all of the earlier parts of the top of a sales funnel. Social media may also help with conversions. One of social media’s biggest strengths is that it is mainly objective and measurable. If a goal is increased awareness, then an objective can be to increase reach by 15% by the end of the next calendar quarter. This is a yes or no question when the time is up – did the organization make it, or not?

Putting it all together

Anderson, Hadley, Rockland & Weiner (Page 5) all offer six reasons for setting clear, concise and measurable objectives in public relations.

  1. “Objectives create a structure for prioritization.”
  2. “Objectives reduce the potential for disputes before, during, and after the program.”
  3. “Objectives focus resources to drive performance and efficiency.”
  4. “Objectives help create successful programs by identifying areas for prescriptive change and continual improvement.”
  5. “Objectives set the stage for evaluation by making it easier for sponsors and team-members to determine if the PR program met or exceeded expectations.”
  6. “Objectives link the PR objective to the business objective.”

Anderson, et al seem to be more focused on specifics than Barbaric. Even with social media’s objectivity, there are still some nebulous concepts being put forth by Barbaric. After all what does it mean to “develop stronger relationships with stakeholders”? That is not a measurable statement at all. Stronger relationships are a matter of some interpretation. Does it mean that funding comes more quickly, or there’s more of it? Are jobs secure?

At the same time, the Anderson, et al reading was about any sort of objectives, not just those tied to social media. The readings all work well together – Anderson, et al and Smith give the reasons for setting clear objectives, and then Barbaric defines them in the context of social media and public relations.

Goals are where the organization wants to go; objectives are the roadmap.

Social Media Continues its Relentless Pace to Try to Make You Stay Put

Social Media Continues its Relentless Pace to Try to Make You Stay Put

Much like the holidays accelerate the end of the year, and we suddenly look up on January 7th or so and wonder just what the hell just happened, social media is continuing to not so much reap the whirlwind as to be the whirlwind. But at the same time, there’s an effort afoot to slow down and control the whirlwind.


Social Media Continues its Relentless Pace to Try to Make You Stay Put
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Case in point: Twitter‘s recent changes are designed to keep people on as long as possible, by embedding media more directly and making it so that you don’t have to leave Twitter’s embrace in order to enjoy a clip or a photograph. So far, so good. But there are also more malware exploits happening with shortened URLs. It’s like one step forward, a step back and another one to the side.


Facebook, yet again, looks to change its layout. The profile is going to become richer and provide more information — which may or may not be useful to users but will certainly keep them on longer — at least in the beginning, when it’s a novel concept.


LinkedIn is adding Signal in order to make it easier to track even more of the social media avalanche — and, of course, to try to keep people on LinkedIn as long as possible.

What these changes have in common, other than, perhaps, novelty for the sake of novelty, is of course the desire to keep people from jumping off a site for as long as possible. Put some tar down, and have us all stick, at least for a while.

So while the Internet spins ever faster, and social media sites attempt to keep up, their overall strategies seem to try to slow us all down. Will it work? Is it a foolish dream to think you can keep people around with such tricks, such slick bells and whistles?

What disturbs me is that there’s not a lot of content happening which would, could, should make me want to hang around. Instead of hiring writers to improve things, or rewarding good current content providers, each of the big three sites is instead pursuing a software solution. But what’s the sense in hanging around a site if the content isn’t compelling? Or are we, instead, merely getting the sites that we, perhaps, deserve?

If my Facebook friends list is dominated by people I went to High School with thirty years ago, and the status updates and my wall are dominated by news of their birthdays, their children and their careers, well, isn’t that what’s to be expected? If I instead tip my list in a different direction, and it’s suddenly dominated by the people I work with or diet with or do artwork with, the news is going to be different.

One thing about Reality TV is that it’s anything but real if it’s at all successful. People just, generally, don’t lead terribly interesting lives (yes, you too, gentle reader). We pick up the dry cleaning. We bicker over the remote. We forget to buy sausages and make do with hot dogs. And around and around and around we go. And all three of the big social media sites, when we are not following celebrities and businesses, are really just a big agglomeration of Post-It Notes whereby we tell each other to grab milk on the way home. For “Reality” to be compelling at all, it’s got to be unreal, and scripted, and turned into this fight or that rose ceremony or this other weird pancake-making challenge.

The big three social media sites, when you strip away the celebrities and the companies, can be a boatload of errands or a standard-form holiday letter (you know the kind, where you’re told little Suzie has taken up the clarinet), over and over ad infinitum.

No wonder we need software solutions to keep us there.

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Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 527 – Defining Publics

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 527 – Defining Publics

Super Bass-o-Matic ’76 – you’ll never have to scale, cut or gut again!” – Dan Aykroyd

Defining Publics
Dan Aykroyd being interviewed at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I confess that’s the first thing I thought of when I finished this week’s readings, because it’s all about the slicing and dicing.

Key Concepts

For the typical strategic planner, the universe of possible listeners, publics, customers, etc. does have its limits. Unless you’re talking about oxygen or water, most products and services don’t apply to everyone. And even if they do, there are geographic limits. Selling snow tires to Eskimos, or discussing John Stuart Mill with folks in Venezuela, is hardly practical if you’re in Kansas City. Hence there must be divisions. This is how publics are defined.

According to Smith, (Page 57) “A public is a group of people that shares a common interest vis a vis an organization, recognizes its significance and sets out to do something about it.”

He further adds, “A public is like your family. You don’t pick them; they just are.”

While a public might simply exist, defining its parameters is well within the strategic planner’s purview.

Tuten & Solomon mention that there are several ways to segment markets and publics, and they are often based on psychology or characteristics (e. g. demographics or benefits). Geography, demographics, psychographics, benefits, behaviors, and technographics are all ways to divvying up people.

A public isn’t meant to be a random sampling of individuals. Rather it is a consciously measured slice of the populace. To go back to the bass mentioned in the Aykroyd quotation, a public isn’t the puréed fish, an undifferentiated mass whose sole characteristic is that it was fish at one time. Instead, a public is the intact tail or the fins. It’s a defined piece of the whole.

Applicable current events or timely organizational challenges; theorizing “publics”

One well-segmented website is Wattpad. Wattpad is a large self-publishing platform whereby anyone can post an original book. Rather than simply dumping all submissions into one big pile, Wattpad instead divides them by genre and by some sub-genres. For example, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal are more generalized genres, but Wattpad also offers sections on vampires and werewolves. Works can and do cross genres, but the site will only allow one genre to a work. The author must choose or, if he is she makes an error, the moderating team will correct matters. Furthermore, there is another slicing of the submissions with respect to a ratings system. The author selects an age range for the piece. Again, if the age range is incorrect (e. g. a book with explicit sex scenes is in the bucket for all ages), then the moderating staff will correct the oversight.

Because individuals can be members of several different publics, Wattpad doesn’t make anyone choose where they go on the site. Within the confines of the Canadian (the site is based in Toronto), American, Filipino, and other legal systems, members who are over eighteen years of age are free to investigate whatever they choose. However, within each genre, there are specific moderators who handle those works and make some choices to promote certain works over others, based on quality and not just read counts and other quantitative measurements.

A twenty-one-year-old French woman searching for books that she likes can potentially be a member of the Chick Lit-reading public, the French public, the female public, and the eighteen-to-thirty-year-old public, all at the same time. If Wattpad is looking to get her to join the site, e. g. she’s at the stakeholder stage as is defined by Kim, Ni, and Sha (Page 753), then their mission is decide which problem she needs help in solving. Is it a lack of good French novels? Is it a desire to read books written by people like her? Is it an appetite for Young Adult or Chick Lit publications? As Kim, Ni, and Sha add (Page 753), “In most cases, publics approach organizations hoping to gain organizational acknowledgement of their concerns and proactive corrections to the problem.” If other sources of literature are ignoring our hypothetical user’s problems, then Wattpad can be well-positioned to provide a solution. And if this woman’s public turns out to be large, e. g. there are thousands of similar young French women searching for new reads, then Wattpad can do well by positioning itself as the solution for these problems.

How do the different approaches compare and contrast?

In comparing Smith to Kim, Ni, and Sha, and Tuten & Solomon, the approaches are pretty similar. The idea is, at essence, to whittle the population down to manageable, homogeneous chunks. Kim, Ni, and Sha (Page 758) talk about segmenting across problems and issues. For our young French woman, if her problem of finding her favorite kinds of books is shared by other people then, under this approach, those people could be Japanese, or male, or middle-aged. All they have to share is their desire to read a particular type of novel.

For Tuten and Solomon, the problem is more of classic and semi-classic demographics. They look at the social technographics research as shown by Forrester Research as one way of understanding a particular kind of public. Our young French woman might be defined as a Joiner (a person who maintains a profile on social sites) or a Spectator (a reader of the content on social sites).

Smith, instead, looks at (Pages 61 – 63) Categories of publics, dividing them as follows:

  • Customer
    • Secondary customers (e. g. customers of customers)
    • Shadow constituencies (no direct link to the organization but can still affect perception of it)
  • Producer – providing input to the organization
  • Enabler – groups serving as regulators by setting norms or standards for an organization (e. g. professional organizations of governmental agencies)
  • Limiter – competitors, opponents and hostile forces.

In Smith’s view, the French reader is a customer and perhaps not much else. Smith further subdivides publics into their relationship with issues (Pages 74 – 76). A nonpublic public is “a group that does not share any issues with the organization and no real consequences exist to or from the organization.” A latent public (also called an inactive public) “shares an issue with the organization but does not yet recognize this situation or its potential.” An apathetic public “faces an issue, knows it and simply doesn’t care.” An aware public “recognizes that it shares an issue and perceives the consequences as being relevant, but is it not organized to discuss and act on the issue.” And finally an active public “is discussing and acting on the shared issue.”

Our French reader is probably somewhere between aware and active, depending on how diligently she tries to solve her problem of not having books to read.

The key takeaways from this week’s readings

Possibly the most applicable takeaway is that a public has got to be clearly defined. As Smith says (Page 60), publics are –

  • Distinguishable
  • Homogeneous
  • Important
  • Large enough
  • Accessible

This is not jello that we are trying to nail to the wall. Instead, publics are well-defined, no matter how the strategic planner slices them. They are readily recognizable, which makes them far easier to reach, whether the public is composed of French bibliophiles or high school science students or donors looking to make a difference in the instances of pediatric HIV in Ghana.

Publics are the fin, the scales, the tail, or maybe just the top half of the fish, and not the purée.

The Five Elements of Hip-Hop Content Strategy

The Five Elements of Hip-Hop Content Strategy

On June 2nd, 2010, I got to attend The Five Elements of Hip-Hop Content Strategy. The speaker was Ian Alexander. Ian is down to earth, informative and fun. The meeting was hosted by Content Strategy New England. A special shout-out must go to the tireless Rick Allen.

Ian led us through a history of both hip-hop and content strategy as a discipline. Neither one sprang up overnight; the roots are in the 1970s or so, perhaps earlier.

Then it was down to business — an outline of the Five Elements.

#1. DJ’ing – on the Content Strategy side of things, this is the technical expertise. It’s being able to understand and apply semantic categories. It is being able to interpret analytics. A Content Strategist cannot be a Luddite. She cannot fear spreadsheets.

#2. MC’ing – on the CS end, this is the editorial expertise. Often, this is what people think of when they think of Content Strategy. It is acting as a copywriter, a librarian, a research analyst and something of an artist. The Content Strategist finds and tells the story. He selects the format and helps to promote the brand.

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is where Ian introduced the concept of the Content Triangle.

(a) The first type of content is Trustbuilding. This is where a company establishes its expertise and provides value to its clients and potential customers. Here is where the company is informative about internal and industry trends. For a product-based company, this area should encompass approximately 30% of all of the content. For a service-oriented company, this area should be about 70% of all of the content.

(b) The second type of content is Informational. This is basic internal site information, such as the Contact Us page and the FAQ. This is for users to understand how to, for example, return a defective product. For a product-oriented company, this area needs to be around 30+% of all content. For a service company, that figure should be around 20+%. In either instance, start here.

(c) The third and final type of content is Sales/Call to Action. Somewhat self-explanatory, here’s where you close the deal. The deal need not be a commercial one; your call to action may very well be for your reader to sign up for a newsletter. For the product-based company, this area will have to be around about 40+% of all of the content. In the case of the service company, it’s less than 10%. Either way, this should be A/B tested.

In all instances, analytics must drive the percentages and the content.

#3. Graffiti – for the Content Strategist, this equates to design expertise. Infographics are, according to Ian, only going to continue to become more and more popular.

#4. Breaking – to the Content Strategist, this element represents Information Architecture expertise. The two are related but not identical — cousins, not twins. The gist of it is the concept of movement through a site. What are the funnels? What kind of an experience do you want your users to have? What’s your preferred destination for them?

#5. Knowledge – this final piece of the puzzle speaks to the Content Strategist’s Project Managerment/Change Management expertise. Change concepts are disposable, iterative and proposed. It is the idea of moving from a concept to a solution. The best solution is not the best solution, per se — it’s the best solution that you can implement for, without a consensus (and a budget and a signed contract!), the so-called best solution is no solution at all.

Content Strategy is different from Content Marketing. The first must drive the second. One of the best ways to help the discipline to get more respect is to branch out the network. Get to know people in vastly different disciplines (say, Robotics, for instance).

And helping the client? Think differently. Generate a 404 error and see what happens. Sign up for something: what kind of message does the user get? Is the message consistent with the remainder of the site’s look and feel and philosophy? Is the footer out of date?

Check sites like Compete and Tweetvolume for more information about how a company is really doing. Consider CMS Watch as well. Know the company’s baseline strengths and weaknesses and understand related practices and disciplines.

The Content Strategist often wears a millinery’s worth of hats, not just during a particular project but in any given day. For the CS to excel, he or she needs to have an understanding of fundamentals in a lot of areas, and be able to speak knowledgeably.

Fortunately, acquiring and applying that kind of knowledge makes and keeps this discipline fresh and exciting. Ian clearly has fun every day. And who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

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Quinnipiac Assignment 03 – ICM 527 – SWOT and PEST Analyses

SWOT and PEST Analyses

SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats/PEST Analysis – Politics, Economics, Socio-Culture, and Technology

In both Smith and Williams, we learned about SWOT analysis. In our other readings, we also looked at PEST Analysis.

Key Concepts

SWOT and PEST Analyses
Swot analysis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Smith, on Pages 47 – 49, refers to the following players who are external to an organization:

  • Supporters
  • Competitors
  • Opponents
    • Advocates – you stand in the way of their goal
    • Dissident – opposition to positions you hold or actions you have taken
    • Anti – a dissident on a global scale
    • Activist – similar to anti (is also seeking change) but tactics go beyond discussion
    • Missionary – self-righteous activist
    • Zealot – single-issue activist with a missionary fervor
    • Fanatic – a zealot without any social stabilizers.

Williams, however, was more concerned with how SWOT can be applied internally, particularly with reference to communications. For Williams, it’s more about looking at company goals and objectives, or at specific internal and external issues. Then the question is about the second step of SWOT analysis, which is to apply it to how that would be communicated. E. g. if a company is applying an analysis to its overhead, its strength might be in owning a building, its weakness might be that the building is in an area that is in transition and losing its cachet, that could potentially also be an opportunity, but the threat could be that customers would not visit the building in person if they felt the neighborhood was unsafe. Communicating those findings presents the strength of being able to quickly pinpoint the issue, the weakness of perhaps not being able to act decisively until external factors play out some more, the opportunity could present itself in the form of investing in an area where rents are suddenly taking a nosedive, whereas the threat could be that too much investment in a possibly dying area might hurt the company’s reputation.

Applicability to Current Events

The more I read about SWOT and PEST analyses, the more I realized they can apply to pretty much anything. I decided to take a look at Quinnipiac in the context of the White House’s College Scorecard, which was released on September 12th, and is thereby current although not really an ‘event’, per se.

The scorecard puts together basic data on various collegiate characteristics, including size, location, and the programs offered. Then the program pulls out colleges and compares them. I looked up Connecticut four-year-programs and found Quinnipiac is third-best listed for salary after graduation. The program could potentially be the subject of a SWOT analysis, that Quinnipiac shows strength in how its graduates earn after they leave, but a weakness in terms of price, as QU is listed as third-most expensive. Opportunities include showcasing the school as coming up better than U Conn for salary after graduation. Threats are from schools like Yale, which comes out as less expensive but with a far better graduation rate and a better salary after graduation. The point of the exercise is that the data are mixed, as they are for a lot of organizations. If you dig deeply enough, most organizations will have something that can be placed into each of the four buckets. No organization is perfect and without threats or weaknesses.

As for a PEST analysis (politics, economics, social-cultural, and technology), the scorecard remains applicable. Politics applies because of not only how the scorecard itself was put together (deciding what to emphasize could very well have been at least partially a political decision), but also because of how public institutions are funded. Quinnipiac is a private institution, but it can still be affected if public universities are funded (or not) due to political dealings. This can determine whether public institutions can compete effectively with Quinnipiac. Economics certainly applies in terms of budgeting but also due to financial decisions such as how much to charge for tuition and what to pay professors – and whether to offer more expensive full professorships or instead pay adjuncts. The social-cultural part applies as Quinnipiac is a part of Hamden itself. How the school conducts itself makes a difference in the fuller community. Is the campus safe? Does it recycle? Are the students loud? Finally, the technological aspect applies as the school cannot adequately function without working, up to date technology. Even for students who go to the campus and attend classes in person, there is a dependence on technology for everything from interlibrary loans to how tuition is calculated and collected.

Internal versus External Environments

I see the two as being equally important to analyze and research as an organization can be affected in either manner. For the ILSC, for example, because part of their work is done in Ghana, external threats include the possibility that the government of Ghana might not be as stable as believed. Internal weaknesses include the fact that the organization’s website doesn’t seem to have been set up for regular updating. Both can affect the very existence of the organization. A strategic planner should be researching both kinds of problems (and positives as well) as they can decide the fate of an organization.

Organizations looking to thrive – or at least to stay in business – need to look at both. No one can afford to ignore external in favor of internal, or vice versa. And no organization can afford to ignore PEST and SWOT analyses.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition, a Book Review

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger is one of those books where you are being given a message.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition, a Book Review
Cover via Amazon

A pounding, relentless message.

Here’s a message.

Oh yeah, a message.

Look, a message!

You get the idea.

And what is this grand and glorious message? It is this: Markets are Conversations.

Um, okay. That’s it?

Yeah, that’s it. Oh and by the way, markets are conversations.

You just told me that.

Yeah, well, they are. Did I mention that markets are conversations? Oh and by the way, marketers and PR people are mean and nasty and awful and they and other typical business people are a vaguely (and not so vaguely) sinister stereotype whereas all of the people (who these typical business people and PR personnel are is somehow not included therein) are righteous, pure, just and true. They are individuals and deserve to be communicated with, and listened to, like all individuals.


Like, uh, I’m unique, just like everyone else?

No, no, no! You’re a unique and wonderful and special personal with marvelous gifts and enormous accuracy in understanding good and positive and possible markets, all the while making fun of typical business people who obviously not only do not have a clue but are also, let’s face it, heartless, cold, inaccurate, not listening, not worthy of the time of day or a significant study and otherwise should be ignored and forgotten, left to die on the vine.

But me, I’m a marketing type. The kind you said was evil.

So you are. Well, you’re evil, then.


You don’t even realize that I get it, this thing you are talking about, this point you keep dancing around as you keep beating the same old tired drum. Markets are conversations! Okay, great. I get that. And I have read it before although, in fairness, it was likely copying you. But after that — and after repeating this mantra at least a good 16 or so times in your book — what else have you got to say, other than that the creature known as Business as Usual needs to die? Fine, I get that, too. I’ve worked in traditional corporations, and I know that the work there can feel soul-killing. But at the same time, there are people who thrive in such environments, people who are pleasant, intelligent, respected and even, at times, hip.

But, but, but, those people are supposed to be like Richard Nixon in wingtips on the beach, so cluelessly out of tune with everything that they cannot possibly be reeled in.

Reeled in, to the Cluetrain way of thinking?

At some point, and of course I am exaggerating, but the bottom line is, the book decries business as usual and stereotypical thinking, yet it turns right around and stereotypes the very people who it claims need to change the most. That is, of course, a lovely and time-honored way to get people to listen to you and change their methodologies to your way of thinking: make fun of them and make them feel small.


Somewhere along the line, Cluetrain feels like it lost its way, like it cannot figure out how to be brief. Like it cannot comprehend that talking down to people — while it criticizes business as usual for talking down to people — is more than a little ironic, and that they are not on the happy end of that irony. Like it has almost become the very thing it says not to be: a business method and rule and playbook.

There are interesting observations in here, to be sure. But they are bogged down by overlong tales of this, that and the other diverting digression. The Internet is full of people who are spouting and selling hokum! Yes, well The Refreshments said that before, and better: the world is full of stupid people. This is not, sadly, news. Oh and big business is not nimble and providing individual attention is lovely and wonderful, but hard to do if you’re very large and/or if the number of individuals you’re addressing is huge. This isn’t front-page material, either. There is one nugget of interest: when you’re dealing with said enormous number of individuals, you generally don’t need to address them all as individuals — you just need to work with a few and the others will see that you care about individuals. And you’re pretty much set there. This makes sense in a Groundswell (a far better book, in my opinion) sort of a way, in that there are more people online who are reading and lurking versus writing or critiquing, so a message to one can be like a message to a thousand.

All of that panning for gold, and only one nugget? Perhaps I am cynical, and I’ve clearly read far too many Internet marketing books lately for my own good, but The Cluetrain Manifesto just left me cold. Although it did, happily, remind me of this video:


Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 527 – Strategic Planning, Formative Research, and Issues Management

Strategic Planning, Formative Research, and Issues Management

Key Concepts in Strategic Planning

During the course of this week’s readings, a lot of concepts were thrown out, with several definitions. These were words that we use in common, everyday parlance, but they have special meanings in the world of public relations/strategic planning.

Smith covers increasingly difficult positions for a strategic planner to be in. First there is the fairly neutral situation, which is basically just a set of circumstances facing an organization. It neatly divides into opportunities and obstacles. After all, when the lights went out during the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo could have sat tight like everyone else. Instead, ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ was born. Oreo didn’t just tread water – they scored a major victory. And it all happened during a situation that could have gone either way.

A step more difficult than a situation is an issue. Now, concern to the organization is baked right into the definition. There is more potential for problems when it’s an issue. And finally the definitions move to risks and then to crises.

The job of the strategic planner is to minimize and address the risks while, at times, dealing with out of control crises.

In the Reitz reading, a ‘dialogic model’ is mentioned (Page 43), where there is “a ‘communicative give and take’, where the process is open and negotiated between an organization and its publics.” This, in a way, is the essence of social media. It’s less of organizations dictating terms and paradigms to various publics. Instead, the publics are talking back, and it’s up to the strategic planner to carefully listen.

Formative Research’s Role

On Page 15, Smith mentions formative research, denoting three pieces of it, to analyze the situation, the organization, and the publics.

Strategic Planning, Formative Research, and Issues Management
The first U.S. patent, issued to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790, for an innovative way of making “pot ash and pearl ash” (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (image is presented for educational purposes about issues management and formative research)

In order to evaluate matters intelligently, the strategic planner must take a look at what’s happening. For a financial services company, it could be anything from a worldwide sell-off to crop failures in Argentina to an employee engaging in what might be insider trading. For a car manufacturer, it could be recalls or new safety regulations or the applicable news from the United States Patent Office.

The organization must be assessed. Is there an opportunity? Is the organization vulnerable? Could this even be fatal to the organization? When Tylenol was laced with cyanide in 1982, there was a very real possibility that the fatal dose could be to Johnson & Johnson as well as the victims of the poisonings.

As for the publics, it behooves the strategic planner to consider how receptive they will be to any actions taken (sometimes the action to take is inaction, e. g. do nothing).  For Johnson & Johnson, they were dealing with publics who were used to trusting drug manufacturers, and who felt that trust had been betrayed. If the organization had opted to do nothing, the publics might not necessarily have blamed the organization for the poisonings, but they might have saddled the organization with a reputation for not caring. Seeing the connections between caring, purity, and trustworthiness, the organization built its response around addressing safety concerns immediately. Probably a lot more product was removed from shelves than was necessary. It’s possible that some of the safety precautions added were redundant and/or unnecessary. But the organization spent the time and the money and the brainpower and it paid off with dividends. Johnson & Johnson is still roundly praised for its response to the crisis. It’s hard to see how they could have handled it better.

Issues Management

On Pages 49 and 50, Reitz talks about issues management. On Page 49, Reitz defines issues management as quoting, “Cutlip, Center, and Broom define issues management as ‘the proactive process of anticipating, identifying, evaluating, and responding to public policy issues that affect organizations’ relationships with their publics’ (2000: 17).”

A crisis is, by definition, unpredictable, but certain crises can be anticipated. If an organization prepares for inevitable crises, over half of the battle is already won. Here are some instances wherein an organization should prepare, as it is not a question of if, but rather one of when any of these will occur:

  • Automobile manufacturers and recalls
  • Product manufacturers and product liability claims
  • Maintenance companies and snow removal or trip and fall claims
  • Transportation carriers and lateness and accidents

If any of these organizations is unaware that such crises could happen, and that they could escalate, then those organizations might want to rethink their business plans.

Life does not come without risk. It’s a foolish organization that doesn’t at least make an effort to plan for it.

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, a Book Review

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith seems to be one of those books that everyone tells you to read when you want to go into social media marketing. And it’s that sort of a wholesale recommendation that sometimes, frankly, makes me nervous. After all, how many people have read it? Are they happy with what they’ve learned? Or is the work somehow coasting on its reputation?

Cover of "Trust Agents: Using the Web to ...
Cover via Amazon

But it doesn’t seem to be. Instead, I think there’s useful information in there — and it’s information that doesn’t seem to be found in the other social media books I’ve been reading lately, in particularly Cluetrain Manifesto and Groundswell. There’s more practical nuggets in here, more like in The Zen of Social Media Marketing. No great shock there — Chris Brogan is the coauthor there as well.

How so?


One of the issues with books (you know, pulp and paper books, not electronic ones) is that they take so long to be produced, and then they can become obsolete or at least out of date rather quickly. It can almost seem like buying a new car — once you get it out of the dealership, it’s depreciated a good thousand dollars. And, once many books are published, they’re suddenly obsolete.

But Trust Agents doesn’t care. Instead, it forges ahead with practical, specific tips. If they go out of fashion or become obsolete, head to the website for an update. Or, if you prefer pulp and paper, there’s always a later edition.


The gist of the book consists of six basic principles:

  1. Make Your Own Game – that is, break the mold and experiment with new methods. This means you’re going to occasionally — gasp! — fail. So you do. Get over it. Pick yourself up and try something else. Safety and sameness aren’t really going to get you anywhere. At least, nowhere good.
  2. One of Us – be one of the people. Be humble and be acccessible. This means blogging. It means letting your hair down every now and then when you tweet. Of course it doesn’t mean foolish oversharing or putting out things that are going to really harm you (“Had fun at the Crack House last night!” — uh, no)
  3. The Archimedes Effect – use leverage. That is, got something that’s working? Then use it to push and promote the next thing. Think of it like the spinoff to a sitcom. Laverne and Shirley was originally a spinoff of Happy Days. The first succcess was, absolutely, used to generate the second.
  4. Agent Zero – be the person in the center of the connections. This does not necessarily mean that you have to be the center of every conversation. It’s just — everyone seems to know someone (or know of someone) who is like this. Oh, talk to Gwen. She knows everyone.
  5. Human Artist – be polite and gracious to people. This may seem to be like a no-brainer to most, but, sadly, it’s not. Thank people. Tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. Follow up. If this means creating a tickler file to remind you to contact people, then do that. True story — the first time I heard the term “tickler file” was in 1984 when I was working on Joe Biden‘s Senate Campaign. And it made sense — you followed up with voters (in those days, it was via phone call or postcard or letter, and sometimes via an in-person visit) because you knew that, even if their support was unwavering, that they had busy lives pulling them in a million different directions. This continues to be true if not far truer these days.
  6. Build an Army – that is, as you become the person in the middle of all of the connections, and the one who does the followups, your time is going to start to be filled up. You’re going to need help, so link up with other people who can be social hubs and follow-uppers. This does not relieve you from thanking people, but it does help you to continue to keep in touch.

There are, of course, a thousand little details that go along with these. The specifics are things like using Google Alerts to check on how often your name is mentioned online, and looking at AllTop and Technorati for blogs to follow. Grab an RSS feed so that you can get through more blogs with more speed.

But be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were trust agents. You cannot take a shortcut and metaphorically substitute canned vegetables for fresh ones here. Cultivate this and pay attention to it. Much like a garden, your hard groundwork will pay off beyond your wildest expectations.

You can even leave your extra lettuce on my front porch.




Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 507

Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 507

Key takeaways and the role of social media

Plan the work, and work the plan – somebody, probably in sports (the Internet says Vince Lombardi but that seems incorrect).

“Effective and creative planning is at the heart of all public relations and related activity.”  (Page 1, Smith)

Social media has a reputation for being a ton of ‘just in time’ communicating. But the reality of public relations is that it is all about the planning. Which days do you post? What times? What does your ideal audience look like? What are the demographics for your buyer personae? What kinds of things do you post?

One thing I have learned in my internship work already is that there is an abundance of riches when it comes to ‘wow’ images from wedding, engagement, and wedding modeling photo shoots. After all, these are professional stylists working with superior equipment and artistic talent. It is a far cry from the cosplayers I see for the podcast I work for, with their homemade costumes, where most of the images are taken by amateurs with cell phone cameras.

Hence for the wedding blog, it’s not about finding ‘good’ images like it is for the podcast’s blog and Pinterest boards. Instead, it’s a matter of jettisoning anything at all ‘off’ or that does not stand out. For example, the owner of the wedding blog made it clear that she doesn’t want to see images of dresses on plastic hangers. Wooden hangers or padded ones? Sure, if the image is otherwise good. But plastic? Nope. It’s a small detail, but it means something to her and to the blog’s clientele (wedding merchants and service providers) and its future clientele and to the brides and grooms looking to the blog for inspiration and ideas.

English: blueprint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are details, and this is planning.

MacNamara and Zerfass, on the other hand, have found that there is a decided lack of planning in the public relations sphere when it comes to the social media arena.

“Examination of the types and forms of policies and guidelines informing social media use in organizations revealed that only 31% of European organizations and slightly more than a third (35%) of Australasian organizations have specific social media policies and/or guidelines—and even fewer appear to have social media strategies. This means that around two-thirds of organizations do not have specific policies or guidelines in relation to social media.” (Page 298)

For organizations that pay attention to every last detail, e. g. fast food franchises that require similarity between Boston and Berlin and all parts in between; or automobile manufacturers that sweat out the angle of the roof of next year’s model; and fashion designers who agonize over perfect shades and the correct hem length down to the millimeter, why is social media so often such a domain of whatevz? 

Strategy and Perspectives

For Smith (Page 5), transforming obstacles into opportunities is at the heart of strategic communication, which is – 

“… planned communication campaigns. … [I]t is the intentional communication undertaken by a business or nonprofit organization, sometimes by a less-structured group. It has a purpose and a plan, in which alternatives are considered and decisions are justified.”

This perspective, to me, makes a great deal of sense. For company (and nonprofit) communications, it can’t just be ‘letting it all hang out’. Instead, there are any numbers of limitations, whether it’s FINRA for financial services organizations; or the FCC for media companies; or Sarbanes-Oxley, where companies have to justify their actions to shareholders. Or maybe it’s just all too rare common sense, or good taste, or ethical considerations, or the legal department’s requirements or, at the barest minimum, a pledge to not offend others?

Gone are the days off handing over passwords and telling a high school junior to go and have fun with things. Organizations without strategic planning and communications are like hikers without maps. They are essentially just asking to get lost. Who will bring in sniffer dogs to find an organization that has lost its way?

Time-saving Tips from the Angels at HootSuite

Time-saving Tips from the Angels at HootSuite

Everybody’s busy.

HootSuite Owl Van
HootSuite Owl Van (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Here are some time-saving tips from the angels at HootSuite. Everybody’s got a lot on their plate. Not to worry. HootSuite to the rescue, to help you manage all of those little social media bits and bobs that we all deal with, every day.

Make an Influencer List

Or just a list of important folks.  Or people who can help you succeed. Whatever you want to call it, use Twitter (or HootSuite itself), to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’ve only got five minutes to look at your social media streams, populate this list with the people you absolutely, positively must read.

Filter People by Klout Score

Love or hate it, Klout does make an effort to measure true influence, as opposed to wannabes with a lot of flash in the pan followers.

Curate Content and Auto-Schedule Using the Hootlet

It’s a little Chrome extension, and all you have to do is, click the owl, pull down on the drop-down to select the stream(s) you want to add the content to (just like in the full-blown version of HootSuite), modify the content if you wish, and either schedule manually or click schedule or Auto-Schedule.

Frankly, I’m having trouble envisioning how HootSuite could make it any easier.

Add Content at the Right Time for the Right Network

HootSuite says this so well that I’ll just quote it in its entirety –

Consider planning your posting to meet these times. For Google+ the highest engagement comes from 9-11 a.m., so maybe you can connect with a follower during breakfast. For Twitter it’s 1-3 p.m. and for Facebook it’s 1-4 p.m., perfect times to engage one or two users during your lunch break. For Pinterest it’s 8-11 p.m., and Instagram 5-6 p.m. —after work hours when you can likely spare a few minutes to interact with your following. When you don’t have time to use social media while you work, it helps to fit it in during quick breaks.”

I would add, make sure to keep these times in mind when auto-scheduling.

Share and Repurpose Great Content

This is what I’m doing right now!  In his great book, Optimize, Lee Odden advises, in Chapter 9, to adopt an “Oreo Cookie Tactic”.  That is, take content and add your own introduction and conclusion, with the content placed in between and properly attributed, of course (see page 118).

I love this tactic, not only because it is an easier way to add content (particularly when inspiration is harder to come by), but also because it promotes the Rule of Thirds, e. g. one-third of social media content should be about the content creator’s wisdom being imparted, one-third should be the content creator’s personality, and the final third should be the promotion of others’ content.

Evan Page has written an excellent article and I highly recommend that you read the original source material as well.

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My leap into a Social Media career

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