Social Media as The Perfect B2B Public Relations Tool

The panelists for the Marketing Profs B2B Forum session, It’s Not Your Mother’s PR, covered both theory (traditional public relations vs. PR 2.0) and practice (case studies from three diverse industries about social media integration with B2B public relations), highlighting what is the perfect marriage of social media and B2B PR.

Theory
Beth Harte, Serengeti Communications

Many people believe media relations is all there is to PR. While it is still an important element, it is just one of seven areas of PR, which also include advertising, publicity, public affairs (government and community), issues management/crisis communications, lobbying and investor relations. Social media affects the way PR is practiced in each of these areas. For example, a crisis can happen overnight on the internet, so companies need to monitor constantly what people are saying about them online. Additionally, while the Securities and Exchange Commission does prohibit companies from talking about certain subjects, companies are not outright banned from participating in online conversations with their investors. This is especially important now, because employees, customers and investors are often the same people.

Public relations is about building two-way mutual relationships between publics and your company. It touches nearly every part of a business: marketing, sales, customer service, etc. Spin no longer works. Shouting no longer works. You must listen to what your publics have to say, because they want and expect to be heard. The louder you yell, the more defensive and the less genuine you sound.

Case Sudy
Deirdre Breakenridge, PFS Marketwyse

Deirdre’s client, International Recovery Group, is a repossession company that deals with ultra-high-end collateral: yachts, jets, helicopters, etc. The company needed to overcome the rough, negative image of the repo man. Its challenge was to raise its brand image while engaging with its prospects.

Deirdre advocates for a hybrid view of social media integration with PR: take the best of traditional PR tools and blend them with social tools. IRG’s strategy:

  • Listen first: Search communities for keywords and conversations related to your brand to discover where to engage.
  • Share and repurpose everything: Take radio/TV interviews to YouTube, interactive newsrooms and video blogs. Share articles on blogs and Twitter.
  • Track: Deirdre used free tools such as Collecta, Technorati, BackType, Social Mention, Techrigy and TweetBeep.
  • Measure: Track the number of times keywords are used, spikes in conversations, topics influencers are talking about. Deirdre recommended Addictomatic.

Other tools Deirdre recommended:

  • TweetDeck, which allows updating to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as filtering influencers’ conversations into columns for easy tracking.
  • Listorious, Twinfluence and Technorati for finding and following influencers.
  • PitchEngine for creating social media releases. Social media releases are highly interactive news releases hosted on a blog platform with sharing tools included. (The social media releases offered by the wire services are not the same, although they do have nice sharing capabilities.)
  • Wordle to analyze influencers’ feeds to make sure they are still the right people to follow.

Case Sudy
Terri D. Andrews, RSM McGladrey

RSM McGladrey is the fifth largest accounting firm in the U.S. (right after Big Four). One of the firm’s biggest challenges is brand awareness. Its social media activities include maintaining separate blogs for each of its four lines of business and engaging with prospects using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Integration will be the firm’s next challenge; for example, as more employees want to get involved in social media, the firm needs to set policies and guidelines so people know what kind of commitment they are making. RSM will develop a network of registered social media users so information can be shared very quickly with different networks associated with their business lines. Another challenge will be to enhance engagement by getting more thought leaders involved and fostering two-way dialogues. Finally, RSM is still figuring out the best ways to measure results and implement appropriate enhancements.

RSM has been using the following metrics for ROI:

  • Blogs: total visits to date, number of unique visitors, proportion of new vs. returning visitors
  • Twitter: number of tweets, number of followers, overall ranking on Twitter Grader, percentage of website visits resulting from tweets

As a final point, Terri emphasized that ROI is about more than hard numbers and shared this idea she learned from another social media conference (source unknown – please speak up if you are the original author!):

ROI = Relationships + Opportunity + Involvement

Case Study
Donna Tocci, Ingersoll Rand

My key takeaway from this session came from Donna’s presentation.

Public relations is all about relationships – that has not changed. You may not be able to get away with as much spin as you used to, but the fundamentals are still the same: do your research, find appropriate contacts, cultivate relationships and always be relevant. What you currently know will work in the new PR.

This was exciting for me to hear as a marketing communications professional, because these fundamentals apply equally to social media as a business tool as they do to public relations. Donna’s words express for me how perfect the marriage of public relations and social media is.

Ingersoll Rand’s challenge was how to create a community out of a $13 billion diversified industrial company with more than 60,000 employees. Donna focused on two areas: internal sharing and external sharing.

Internal sharing

  • If you don’t have a social media policy, create one now. It will help keep employees and the company out of trouble.
  • Ingersoll Rand converted its internal employee news alerts to a blog format so employees could comment, ask questions and answer one another’s questions. Employees built natural communities around shared interests.
  • The company created a portal for employees to converse and collaborate. Employees share photos of Ingersoll Rand products in the marketplace, interact on discussion boards and contribute to wikis and blogs.
  • For employees who want to get involved in social media, there is a resource site with the company’s social media policy, blogs, links to content to share and more. It helps employees to help the company.

External Sharing

  • Ingersoll Rand’s recruiting site includes sharing tools such as a job widget that people can add to their blogs or Facebook.
  • A challenge with the company’s corporate social media is keeping branding the same across platforms. It is critical to use the same logo/avatar and name whether on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. so people can find your brand easily.
  • Donna suggested showing one video per day on YouTube about what’s happening at your company.
  • If your company is already a trusted source of information, you can direct the media or other publics to your Twitter stream or YouTube channel instead of offering interviews (especially during a crisis or other high profile event). This can also help avoid misquotes.
  • Use social media to increase the number of positive customer service experiences people have with your brand, especially to correct negative experiences. Have trained customer service professionals respond to questions on your Facebook fan site, for example.

Questions

How did you determine what metrics were appropriate?
Terri: RSM worked with an agency that helped them determine whether they are using the right measurements. They will re-evaluate at the one-year mark.

How are you tying impressions to business metrics?
Terri: RSM’s public relations department receives media calls that originated from Twitter and Facebook, so she knows there is ROI; however, the company is still trying to figure out whether increases in traffic are resulting in conversions.
Beth: Write measurable objectives. Think ahead about how to measure each tactic and what tools to use.
Deirdre: IRG ties each social object (video, white paper, etc.) back to a bid sheet on the company website. They measure how many bids are tied to remarketed collateral.

What is Ingersoll Rand doing differently in different countries?
Donna: Most of the world uses mostly the same tools. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are all blocked in China, and the company is still figuring out how to handle that. The most important videos are embedded in the company intranet so employees can see them. YoQoo, China’s YouTube clone, is updated by Ingersoll Rand’s Chinese communications team. In Europe, the company uses Bebo. In India, an audio form of Twitter is just launching, although it remains to be seen whether it will take off.
Beth: You can’t confine social media to the U.S. It’s important to educate yourself about other cultures to avoid potentially damaging miscommunications.

How do you handle the blurred lines between personal and professional use of Facebook?
Donna: There are thousands of Ingersoll Rand employees on Facebook. For the most part, she leaves personal streams alone (unless there is a serious problem). Every person involved in social media on behalf of the business is trained. For many businesses, following the code of conduct and social media policy is enough.
Beth: Always remember that nothing is secure, professionally or personally, and be very careful about the type of information you reveal about yourself (and especially your whereabouts) on social media platforms (e.g, Foursquare).

How does your PR team use social media to tell your company’s story? Share your experience in the comments.

Cheri Gaudet is a marketing communications professional. Follow her on Twitter @CheriGaudet.

Why your B2B CEO should be using YouTube

Google “CEOs and YouTube” and almost every result will center around some type of crisis. From Domino’s and KFC to Mattel and Motrin, most companies take a reactive approach to incorporating their CEOs onto their YouTube channels. Accordingly, most receive flak for the unnatural, delayed and – in some cases – unapologetic approaches to each situation.

While every organization must be ready to successfully react to crisis situations, any B2B PR pro worth his or her well-worn AP Style Book will agree on the importance of proactive messaging opportunities for the C-level suite. Traditionally, this has been achieved by drafting talking points, pitching CEO bios to trade reporters and securing keynote speaking opportunities in hopes of spreading the word about the B2B company, its products and its key messages.

Increasingly, social media has opened up new outlets for management to monitor and participate in consumer and media relations. CEOs using Twitter have received the most attention when it comes to social media for the C-level set, but what about YouTube?

If your B2B company is utilizing YouTube (and it should be), here are some reasons your CEO should be a regular contributor:

1. Addtional Media Training

While a B2B CEO’s main job isn’t media relations, he or she will come into contact with journalists (and bloggers) as a primary company spokesperson. The key to interacting under pressure with media is practice. However, mock interviews at a biannual media relations refresher held by the PR staff aren’t enough.

By becoming a regular part of the company YouTube channel, B2B CEOs will gain additional exposure to what works and what doesn’t work on camera, and how things like eye contact, nervous ticks and natural speech patterns can distract viewers from key messages. While a company YouTube video will probably be scripted and provide room for retakes and edits, additional face time in front of a camera will help prepare top management for “real” interviews with reporters and ease the canned and stilted feeling that often comes across in executive interviews.

2. Thought Leader

By joining the small ranks of B2B CEOs proactively using YouTube, your CEO will automatically become a thought leader in the social space. Beyond that, a regular YouTube feature can also help to showcase the expertise that carried your CEO to his or her top spot in the first place. Film shorts spots that allow him or her to talk about why your company is using social media; hit on two or three industry news items and have your CEO offer his or her opinions; or touch on new products or services and the value they will bring to customers.

3. Thinking Outside the Suit

For customers, potential customers, media and even internal employees, top management of B2B organizations can often seem elusive, elite and out of touch. A regular video post can go a long way to develop these relationships, especially when you consider that many of these people may never actually lay eyes on these busy men and women.

Consider a monthly Q&A with questions submitted from company stakeholders; a location-specific feature that discusses the different cities and events he or she has traveled to on business; or, depending on the manager’s comfort level, a simple “Catching up with…” spot that lets him or her give a quick update on the company, his or her job and even personal interests.

4. Crisis Credibility

Last week, Jeff wrote a post on the importance of a B2B social media crisis plan, and included a point about executive video responses to the situation. When a crisis does hit, a B2B CEO who has been participating on his or her company’s YouTube channel all along with have more credibility with online stakeholders, as well as more experience in talking with – instead of to – his or her company’s online followers.

How is your B2B company utilizing your top management on your organization’s YouTube channel?

Thinking about a B2B Social Media Crisis Communication Plan

Once a B2B company reaches a certain size, you begin considering hiring a public relations firm to help get your message out using an earned media approach. One of the first recommendations of many PR plans includes developing crisis communication documents. There are two primary reasons for this. Your new agency wants to encourage you to make good decisions and craft well-thought-out responses when your company is not under the pressure and scrutiny of a crisis. This will make your ultimate response better. They also want to be aware of any skeletons in your closet as a means of assessing the need for a crisis plan. This is a big part of PR and people who specialize in this field can give you many more justifications and examples for why this is a good idea, but I just want to use its essence of being prepared with regard to social media.

You may have heard of the recent coordinated attack on the Nestle Facebook page. If not, here’s a search result page. Even though much has been written about it, and it’s not the point of this post, here are my thoughts on what Nestle should do in this specific situation:

  • Create a statement that addresses community concern and clear change of policy.
  • Post this statement on their home page.
  • Resume tweeting and continue to post this statement.
  • Create a landing page on Facebook with this statement. This way the first view of their Facebook page is the statement, not the wall filled with negative comments.
  • While there is no way to stop the comments on the wall, they should create discussion topics and encourage commenters to leave their comments in the discussion threads. This gives Nestle a bit more control and starts to move the comments off the wall.

As you begin thinking about a social media crisis communication plan, look at your pr crisis communication plan. Based on that approach and those documents, here are some steps to begin developing a similar plan for social media outlets.

  • Review all potential issues that are included in your pr plan and prepare social media content around each one.
  • Create tweets that respond to issues with a link to a statement.
  • Determine if you will respond directly to other Twitter users, and if so, in what tone. Social media responses differ from pr responses, as you are communicating with individual people directly, but in a public forum.
  • Know when to take conversations off-line. The answer may be for anything beyond the initial public statement.
  • Establish a Facebook response approach. Because wall posts become permanently associated with your brand, unless you take them down, you must understand how to respond, if you are responding at all.
  • Think about a response on LinkedIn, where there may be no mention of the crisis issue at all. Publish your statement in any groups in which your company or employees are active. This pro-active approach will earn you some respect on the most professional of social networks.
  • Consider a video response for YouTube. While many CEO or executive videos seem canned or stilted, remember that you are communicating with people, and a video may be another way to speak directly to people. The preparation for this would involve determining the appropriate person for different situations and determining the shooting location. It might not be the corporate video studio.
  • Review your social media presence and craft a unique response strategy for each online community where you have a following. This includes forums, social bookmarking sites and industry specific communities.
  • Don’t forget about your employees. They are all now public representatives of your company and they will want to share information with their networks. And they will want positive and honest information that they are comfortable sharing. The last thing they want to do is promote corporate double talk around an issue. Their mom might even be their friend on Facebook.

Have you started thinking about a social media crisis communication strategy? What other things have you included?

4 Things to Know When Pitching B2B Bloggers

While hundreds of blog posts have been written on the topic of pitching bloggers by both bloggers and communication professionals such as Chris Brogan, Jason Falls and Arik Hanson, not much has been written about the unique requirements when approaching B2B bloggers.

Pitching a blogger is very similar to pitching a mainstream media journalist. Relevance and timeliness remain the two most importance factors in a pitch; in fact, these factors are even more important in the blogging world. Do it wrong and you could be made an example of and outed on the Bad Pitch Blog.

Bloggers tend to be much more specialized than their mainstream counterparts, who, as newsrooms around the world shrink, may cover crime, food and finance beats all in the same day. Bloggers, on the other hand, craft their content more carefully around their passions. This makes relevance even more key, as a blogger can’t e-mail your pitch to his or her co-worker who covers that beat. Similarly, the issue of timeliness in the 24/7, around-the-clock, insta-publish social space brings a new meaning to the news release term “For Immediate Release.”

Some points to consider:

  • Actually read the blog. Whether you subscribe to it in a news reader or do a quick scan once a month, get a handle for the blogger’s tone, writing and opinions.
  • Search for the term “pitch” and “pitching” among the blog posts. This may yield a post that details exactly how that blogger would like to be approached with ideas for content. Check the about page or other pages on the blog.
  • Establish a baseline relationship by following the blogger on Twitter and commenting on his or her blog.
  • Make sure the blogger has access to images, screenshots, link, etc. that will help him or her directly drop those into a post.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize. Put yourself in the blogger’s shoes – if you received this e-mail, would you immediately drag, drop and delete?
  • Don’t attach a news release. If you can’t relate how your information is important to a blog’s readers in a paragraph or two, reconsider your angle.

What are some things that are different when you pitch a B2B blogger? When you have a story, product, person or example you think could provide great content for a B2B blog, here are some things to think about:

1. Ideas > Products

In the Mom Blogger space, many companies have garnered mentions on influential blogs by sending out products such as toys, food and clothing for review. It’s much harder to send a blogger the latest copy machine or tractor.

Instead, pitch guest posts about your experience in the B2B space. Many bloggers would be hesitant to publish a guest post from a company on one of its products. However, a guest post from a company on its experience with a specific marketing campaign, its social media strategy or its approach to direct mail will be valuable across the board.

“Products” B2B bloggers are interested in: books, upcoming events, software and mobile applications that will make life easier for B2B industry professionals.

2. Logistics

Like B2C bloggers, B2B bloggers probably aren’t blogging full-time. They have a day job, multiple part-time jobs, consultancies and a fast-paced travel schedule. In the B2B space, this is multiplied even further when you consider B2B relationships revolve around much longer sales cycles and much more expensive buying considerations.

Also, make sure you know if the blogger you’re targeting can actually write about your pitch. Is he or she writing for a company blog legally bound not to accept products for review? Does the blogger write a personal B2B blog, but works at a competing company? Investigate this by adhering to the bullets laid out above, or by e-mailing the blogger asking about his or her parameters and preferences.

3. It’s a small word, after all

There aren’t as many B2B bloggers as there are B2C bloggers, especially when you begin breaking things down by industry. While that limits the sheer number of bloggers out there who can create content, use this to your advantage.

Curate a manageable list of B2B bloggers that speak to you and your industry and develop relationships with them on a level beyond comments and retweets. Know the players, and know what topics spark their interests. By putting your name out there and delivering valuable information, you can get on the short(er) list of B2B bloggers’ short list of go-to individuals when they need content.

4. You’re probably talking to a marketer. Remember that.

Jason Falls wrote this post on things bloggers should know about PR and advertising, after noticing some bloggers confusing pitches with paid content. B2B bloggers don’t fall under that category.

While they may not have a strict PR, advertising or even journalism background, the simple fact that they’re talking about B2B on a blog shows that they’re in-the-know on the communication mix. Vista Consulting says the B2B buyer “is sophisticated, understands your product or service better than you do, and wants or needs to buy products or services to help their company stay profitable, competitive, and successful,” and the B2B blogger is no different.

Use this to your advantage: Skip the formalities and don’t be afraid to delve into details. He or she will appreciate that you recognize their expertise and experience, and you’ll get to the heart of your message faster.

If you’re a PR pro – do you have any success stories for what worked when pitching B2B bloggers?

Blackberry Apps for B2B Public Relations Pros

Building off last week’s BlackBerry apps for B2B marketers, we’re back with more BlackBerry apps for B2B public relations professionals.

As our society becomes more and more mobile, it’s even more important for a PR pro to effectively execute his or her main job responsibilities – press releases, speeches, media relations, social media, press conferences and event planning, to name just a few – on the go.

Many of the apps I wrote about for B2B marketers translate well into the PR industry: A host of Twitter clients help PR pros navigate between client accounts, keep an eye out for journalists looking for article sources and stay on top of industry news; mobile versions of WordPress and TypePad streamline live-blogging; and location-based apps such as Foursquare facilitate peer-to-peer networking and media relations.

Here are a few more BlackBerry apps that help PR pros reach the ultimate goal of connecting organizations and businesses with interested journalists and customers:

1. Evernote

Evernote – billed as an extension of your own mind – allows you to organize tasks and To Do lists, record voice memos and instantly synchronize everything from your phone to the Web to your desktop.

For PR pros, this translates into an easy way to keep up with press clips for clip books, manage inspiration for future blog, newsletter and Web content and organize notes from client meetings.

2. AP Mobile

Media monitoring is a key job function in PR, and AP Mobile makes searching content published by the Associated Press (as well as more than 1,000 outlets of its members) simple.

The app also has a local news option customizable by one or more zip codes, and integrates delicious bookmarks, Facebook and e-mail sharing features that let users send articles to clients and co-workers.

Beyond the Associated Press, BlackBerry users can also keep up with Time, Bloomberg, CBS News and Business Week through their mobile apps.

3. Dictionary.com

Just like a mechanic’s set of wrenches, a key part of a PR pro’s toolkit is a dictionary/thesaurus.

The Dictionary.com app, the only free dictionary app available for the BlackBerry, puts more than 500,000 words at your fingertips, and phonetic and audio pronunciations help to ensure a tricky word in that speech you just crafted for your CEO isn’t mangled beyond comprehension.

4. miTimesheet

For PR pros on the agency side, there is nothing more dreaded (beyond a 4 a.m. wake-up call alerting you to a breaking crisis) than keeping track of billable hours for a variety of clients. Enter the miTimesheet app ($3.99), which allows users to track clients by project, as well as export that info via email.

5. Qik Live Video Streaming

Social media tools have given PR pros more opportunities to disseminate content directly to the end-user. With the Qik app, you can live stream video content directly from your BlackBerry, automatically archive footage and instantly share on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This app would be especially handy for press conferences, tweetups, award shows and tradeshows.

What BlackBerry apps have helped you in your role as a public relations professional?

B2B Social Media News Release Example: Cisco

Cisco Breaks Down Barriers to Business-to-Business Collaboration -> Cisco News

In the world of B2B social media one of the items our readers are constantly asking for are examples of what others in the B2B space are doing. Yesterday, Cisco, a huge player in the B2B technology marketplace, used a social media release to talk about new product offerings that included social tools for the enterprise.

The social media release is a tactic that is still not widely used by most B2B companies. It combines the text content of a traditional news release that is reformatted into short snippets to make it more web friendly. Additionally, relevant video, audio and images are embed with the text to help tell a more complete story.

The Public Relations Implications Of B2B Social Media Releases

From an earned media standpoint, social media news releases provide the quick information and sound bites needed to get an article up quickly on a trade publication Web site, while providing the high quality images and depth to allow for a more detailed print story. Having executive interviews on video with the text allows for quotes to be pulled and can help reduce the time key executives send interviewing.

Social media releases aren’t right for all situations. You have to have someone internally who can set up the page on your own Web site or use an external service such as PR Newswire or Pitch Engine to create and distribute your social media news release. Both of these options have a cost associated with them, so it is important to think about the applications of your news to this new format. Know your journalists and influencers. If they are online (yes most are now, even in B2B), then you may want to consider shifting your release format to a social media release or hybrid format.

Cisco used a wire service to distribute their release, but a quick search can help demonstrate its pick up.

Search Engine Optimization: The Real Value Of Social Media News Releases

While the media coverage generated by the social media release will be what gets the attention of senior management, the savvy B2B online marketers knows that the long tail or organic search is the more important long-term value of social media news releases. Remember that keys for organic search rankings are relevant content and building inbound links. Social media releases can help this especially when it comes to link building.

Cisco2

In the Cisco release that was the example of this post, there are 18 links that use good anchor text (keywords in the linking text) to link to Cisco pages on the web. Cisco used a distribution service to send out the release and as a result created inbound links to all of these 18 pages from more than 30 news Web sites which have strong Page Ranks. That is a large number a links created from just one release. Think about the implications of sending 20 releases out in a year that were strategic, not only from a earned media perspective but also from an SEO perspective. The long term search ranking improvements and organic search traffic would be worth thousands and could support your existing sales funnel.

The social media release like other B2B Social Media Marketing tactics can work in the right situations. However, they can be more effective when planned strategically and aligned with organizational earned media, as well as organic search goals.

B2B Social Media Newsroom Example: Scania

Note: I don’t like using the term “social media newsroom.”  All newsrooms should be social, but because it has become an industry term, I will use it in this post.

One of the big complaints I hear when discussing the topic of B2B companies and social media is “All of the examples people use are technology companies, of course they use social media.” Because of this common concern I like to use examples that are as industrial and non Internet technology focused as possible.  I will not be the 1,000th person to write on Cisco’s newsroom, instead I am going to examine the Scania Group’s social media newsroom.

scania-social-media-newsroom

Scania is a leading manufacturer of heavy trucks, buses and industrial engines. They are about as B2B as a company can get. In doing research I have found that they have one of the best B2B newsrooms I have seen.

It Starts With Content:
For B2B companies exploring the idea of a social media newsroom the first thing they have to determine if they have or can produce enough relevant content for the media and customers to justify the development of a newsroom. Content is clearly something that Scania has made a priority. You can tell that instantly, because they have relevant video headlining their newsroom page and 245 “real” product images accessible via a link or a Flickr widget. They have also created a categories and tagging system that help to organize their content. The only true content area that Scania falls short in is that of written content. The only written content on the site is traditional product releases. They have not included any white papers, case studies, or other written documents that could add additional value for a site visitor.

It Has To Look Good:
Whether a company wants to admit it or not, design matters.  Branding, design and user experience matter when you are creating a site that has the goal to provide information quickly to all relevant audiences.  How did Scania do this?

1. Scania aggregated their social content:

scania-social-links

2. Scania categorized and tagged its content:

scania-categories

3. Scania makes their information easy to find through search. For example they have a descriptive page title for the newsroom.

scania-seo

4. Scania set a priority by promoting a heavy truck as a main design element of the newsroom.

scania-p-series

What is the value of social media newsrooms?
Sure this looks cool, but should your organization do it? Think of a social media newsroom as an intermediate step in content marketing. The value lies in being able to aggregate information in one place that helps build search traffic while serving as a clearing house for information relevant to the media, customers, and employees. For social media newsrooms to have value you have to have more than news releases to post, you need other information such as images, video, and social links that provide an added layer of information and perspective about the organization.