When I was leading international corporate communications at LinkedIn in 2009-2010, we knew interaction between members was critical to driving growth in the overall member base. Critical to that was a singular act on the platform: Completing and updating your profile. The problem was most people only updated their profiles when they were about to look for a job. I was more than a little obsessed with driving that objective (See number 8 on this post), particularly in international markets where our member base was fast-growing, but relatively small compared to the U.S.
In India we had garnered national press coverage simply by announcing our presence in Mumbai — which helped further accelerate membership growth in that country. That gave us fodder for making more and more milestone announcement: “LinkedIn India surpasses 3 million members” then 4 million members, then 5 million. Like any news cycle, it gets salty quick and you have to be more inventive and sometimes what George Constanza did — the opposite.
Given our top priority was to get people to update their profile, I figured why not just ask them to do that directly? After all, we messaged members directly all the time. (Sometimes, the greatest clarity comes from being awake for 30 straight hours and staring at a hotel room ceiling 10,000 miles away from home.)
Until then we’d been using press coverage and the buzz it created to drive member growth. To announce our 6 millionth member in India, we decided to announce the news directly to the membership base and let them carry it to the mainstream media — along with a tip to complete your profile.
Day 1 – 15,000 updated profiles
Day 2 – 30,000 updated profiles
Press coverage hit more than 5 million impressions
Cost of distribution: Zero Rupees
Prep and writing time: 2 hours (one hour was spent just explaining it and 15 minutes spent on discussing the button)
Authenticity to the company mission and product purpose: Like a glove
In the weeks after this tactic, my PR colleagues started looking at LinkedIn the platform for what is today — the world’s most powerful business medium for professionals.
Does talent matter? Of course it does. But how that talent is deployed within an organizational design matters more.
Every day and nine times on Sunday you pick Michael Jordan first (sorry Hakeem and Sam) for kickball, basketball or whatever because talent is talent and like every coach or manager in the world would say you can’t coach talent. People have it or they don’t.
Most of us lead highly matrixed (particularly in PR and marketing) teams so I would never argue with the virtue to hire the smartest, most talented people you can find. But it won’t matter if you can’t put those people into a system that makes the most of that talent at scale and over time.
It took Michael Jordan seven seasons (and a banged up Lakers team) to win his first NBA Championship. It took getting him into the vaunted triangle offense and building a supporting cast of characters around him for him to became the greatest basketball player ever. Without that triangle offense (what we office workers would call organizational design) Michael Jordan, dare I say, may have become the Dr. J of his time: great talent, amazing jumping ability and bring-the-house-down dunks but not the greatest ever.
In public relations and marketing, how you organize talent matters immensely because of the need for scale, repetition and consistency every day. No one thinks of it, but PR is closer to operating like finance than you think. Just like finance with its need to consistently report the same figures across multiple channels, PR and marketing programs and messages must be repeated consistently plus the added degree of difficulty in localizing those programs at a consumer level all around the world. It would be like the CFO having to report earnings or a Form 10-K simultaneously in multiple languages, media and channels in Asia, Europe and North America everyday.
That’s today’s marketing.
The only way to ensure that is an organizational design that allows your people to focus on executing programs instead of wasting time with administration or office politics that are typical of lower functioning companies. Michael Jordan wouldn’t be the legend he is now if he spent his career worrying about where his teammates should be standing when the ball was in play or if Scottie Pippen was upset about the email exchange from earlier in the day. The triangle offense and great personnel management took care of that and allowed Jordan to be much more than his God-given talent.
Unless you are Bruce Almighty’s boss, you can’t control for how many uber talented people were born in 1975 and are now in the job market. But you can control for where you put those people once you find them.
When I got to LinkedIn to run international corporate communications, there were essentially two PR teams: the one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. (which served as the hub for PR agency teams in 6 European countries). The two were loosely tied but served different agendas. After opening and launching offices in India and Australia I set to organize the international PR functions into a single group that worked in concert with the U.S.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t about staffing at all.
PR in Europe was being led by two incredibly hard working and sharp people – who spent a big chunk of their time managing and administering 6 different PR firms in 6 different countries. The rest of their time was spent managing internal teams in London and reporting into Mountain View. Not enough time was being spent on executing actual strategies and programs in each of these countries that drove member growth and engagement with the product.
We reorganized the internal and agency structure to allow them all to execute on market and customer facing programs and less time reporting to each other. Instead of my internal team serving as the administrative hub in London to each of 6 agencies operating in each of the 6 countries, we moved to a single agency (5 less invoices, contracts, weekly calls and monthly reports) with the hub relocated to Spain. And, in this new model the agency served as hub (not my internal staff) and was comprised of a multicultural and multilingual team that could execute media relations and content campaigns from central Europe into each of the 6 countries. It allowed my remaining internal PR staffer to have a single point of contact on the agency team, which freed up his time to coordinate strategic direction with LinkedIn leadership in London and Mountain View.
I can’t tell you how much money we saved, but that happened, too.
I remember not too long ago that the “PR guy” was the guy who wrote press releases and called down a list of reporters to ask if they got the release or not.
I swear. Like acid wash jeans — this happened!
While I think it’s been fascinating to watch the art of story telling make its way into PR and communications work, I think it’s even more important to see how the convergence of traditional PR with areas that might have been called marketing in the past is changing the way we think of PR and how we organize the function — whether it is in-house or on the agency side. I’ve been interviewing and prospecting for clients over the last 5 months and I can usually tell by the line of questioning whether or not the opportunity is going to be a good fit or not.
When a prospective employer or client asks me about my media contacts the giant reg flag goes up and I start looking for the exit signs. But when the questions are about engaging the right audiences using a mix of tactics and levers I think: “Winner, winner chicken dinner!”
So many companies go to PR people to help fix the business or make management happy that they lose sight of why you would initiate a communications campaign and they go into the market shopping for tactics instead of results. Here are some questions I’d ask if my boss told me to go get some PR help:
What are we solving for?
What exactly do you expect to get with more ‘coverage’?
How should we integrate it with social, marketing, employee communications and the brand?
The answers to 1 and 2 are often intertwined in some sloppy hot mess about driving sales or the stock price or the b-word that drives strategic communications people the battiest: buzz. Whoever sold and popularized that BS term “buzz marketing and PR” needs to be dunked in a vat of ice and forced to watch re-runs of the first season of Seinfeld. If you can nail down the business objectives and explain that coverage is no panacea then and only then do you move on to 3.
This is organizational design and the only way you get to keep your job a year from now when someone asks why what’s on Facebook isn’t aligned with what’s on the blog and in the press coverage.
The best PR functions I’ve seen of late are built like this:
At the heart is the brand — including the stories and messages that work to connect with people over the long term — supported by an integrated effort of all the areas a person could come into contact with it and your product. Amazon and Apple have raised the bar very high here . . . and have wired people to expect a similarly consistent and high-level experience with every other brand and story they come into contact with — including yours.
So, who is the PR person today?
A story teller who can organize campaigns at the brand level and across all these domains. Let me know if you are in the market for one, because I may know a really handsome, witty guy who will ask you incessantly: “So, what are we solving for?”
Looking at this Forrester post almost a year later feels a lot like going back to high school after your first year in college. You thought it was a good idea to visit but then you realize by the end of it — not so much.
The blog post’s conclusion is to draw your own conclusion about social media’s impact on holiday purchasing. The post meanders from having an opinion that the ForeSee research was limited to having no point of view whatsoever. How am I going to join a conversation or rebut your point of view if you don’t have one?
While there are no official rules to blogging – the universal and unspoken rule is to have an opinion.
Here’s mine: The idea of social commerce (buying stuff on Facebook) is still a pipe dream. Rather, social media can drive brand, product and deal awareness and therefore serve as a complement to a retailer’s larger search and email marketing programs.
Since this post in late 2010, LinkedIn and Groupon have gone public. Facebook’s IPO has been delayed – but will be the biggest one in the history of ever. The point being, these companies are all well capitalized, have hundreds of millions of subscribers and are not going anywhere. So industry pundits and luddites alike need to bite down on the reality that marketers will continue to throw marketing dollars at them to hock their wares regardless of whether we have any proof of a causal relationship between the social media consumption and clicking the “buy” button on a shopping site.
While this question of “Was social media a big factor in holiday purchases?” will come up again and again over the next few weeks and months, I encourage marketers and PR people to do one thing: challenge the question.
As Augie Ray correctly points out social media is a mere infant and it will take time to prove its correlation with purchasing behavior. In the meantime it serves a lot of other organizational needs that are no less important than shopping cart clicks. Don’t get suckered into the conversation about social media and its impact on transactions because you’ve got more to attend to with your 2012 social and media dollars such as:
Product and corporate branding
Issues management and crisis communications
Recruitment and workforce engagement
While the analyst community continues to look under the hood for purchase conversion evidence, what they’re missing is that the owners of these social media programs may not at all be focused on driving holiday (or non-holiday for that matter) transactions.
Bite down. Chew. Gulp.
And therefore, there might be some reason why the transactional or purchase conversion evidence is not to be found.
In fact, most brands and retailers I know are still investing more in tried and true search and email marketing initiatives to drive transactions and conversion online and in stores –- while using Facebook and Twitter as complements to those initiatives and for all of the other communications objectives listed above. That explains why search and promotional email remain the primary drivers for purchasing behavior for the holidays.
There. I said it.
Don’t go back to high school. But do take my poll on LinkedIn
Hi, my name is Jose. I make a living on social media and doing PR in the e-commerce segment. And, I just quit Facebook.
Someone light my cigarette.
Back when I was working at LinkedIn and really driving my social network activity into a professional realm, I was itching to bail on Facebook. I joined to re-connect with high school friends just before our 20th year reunion but since then had been wavering on my activity there. It just felt too icky too often. The first ick moment came when a former boss asked me about something I posted on my Facebook profile. She was lurking me.
Ick. Double ick.Two years later, 98% of my personal social networking activity is on LinkedIn, Twitter and this blog. And professionally, I manage the GSI Commerce blog as part of my job.
Reconnect with high school pals? Done.
Ongoing Facebook purpose? Unclear.
But what really tipped me over was this quote from this 2-year old Newsweek article: “When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me.” It’s basic macroeconomic theory applied to social networking. The opportunity cost of clicking through pictures of people in wonderful “look at me you’re not here” places is less time from things that matter.
I’m off Facebook. And off to spend more time on iFoster.org as a board member, other business ventures . . . and throwing baseballs to my nephew who wants to be the next Jose Reyes. If I throw enough fly balls to him maybe he’ll be the next Torii Hunter instead. Either way, last I checked I can’t throw batting practice on Facebook.
About 6 months ago I posted something on my Facebook account that had nothing to do with work. It was a rant about a sales guy trying to sell me something completely unnecessary for my motorcycle. Two days later, a friend on Facebook and superior at work asked me about it at work – the implication being that I was ranting about the workplace – where we ironically extolled that the social graph (or identity/profile) was and should be separate from the professional graph.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been emphatic about a singular online identity – which obviously paves the way for Facebook Connect to be the way people log in anywhere online. He’s quoted three times in The Facebook Effect saying: “You have one identity.”
And that…“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” Further challenging the current separation of the social and professional graphs by saying: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
Well, we know how he feels about it.
In turn, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has maintained that the separation between social and professional graphs is vital to professionals and to LinkedIn. At last fall’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco — in his “keg stand” interview — he told John Batelle:
“While many of us in college probably were at parties having a good time, doing things like keg stands, or being exposed to keg stands, I don’t know that many of us would look forward to having a prospective employer have access to picture of those events.”
Who’s right? I’m less confident in the separation between the two than I was just 24 hours ago.
At a recent Ragan social media conference I attended, Shel Holtz echoed Facebook’s stance in his own inimitable and convincing way. Of course, I Tweeted at him about this while he was presenting.
If I’m answering Shel literally, I’d say “see the first paragraph of this post.”
But I had to test this just a liiiiittle bit more. The attendees of this conference were a better cross section of U.S. professionals than the early-adopting, Banana Republic-wearing, all technology-loving dot.com crowds that populated the early social media conferences. Insurance. Federal and municipal governments. Universities. Healthcare organizations. And, even the country’s largest cemetary.
They were all in the house — represented by professionals from every generation in the workforce today.
These are people working for really big, very regulated, widely and deeply impactful organizations from never-go-away industries — all there trying to figure out where to place their social media bets and budgets. Shel’s point may be the most thought provoking point made out of all the sessions. Because none of us are over-staffed or walking around with extra dollars pouring out of our back pockets, picking one may be a choice we’re forced to make.
So I put the question to the attendee group to see what they thought about the separation or blurring of social and professional graphs. That group was on Facebook. I’ll post the comments as they come in.
I’m not a Dead Head, but as I sit here during business hours while at the dealer getting my car repaired working on a post that has benefits to both my professional and personal brand, it’s hard not to think that maybe Shel has spoken for many of us.
Brian Womack at Bloomberg just pointed out what everyone in the Valley and technology have known for some time: Social networks are more valuable than many of the Web 1.0 companies that have come to be household names over the past decade.
Facebook valuation hits $41 billion. Say it a couple of times and let that sink in. Combined with secondary market valuations of Twitter and LinkedIn, the Big 3 social networks are worth more than $46 billion — that’s some serious coin considering all of these companies are about 10 years newer than the watch I’m wearing right now. (Note to self: buy new watch.)
Greenspan made his infamous irrational exuberance speech just after I launched a start up .com. Thanks for that.
To my post from the other day: “so what, who cares?” remains the refrain from many people around the world who stand on the sidelines and scoff at such lofty valuations and the utility of being social. Rational or irrational. Call Alan Greenspan because the exuberance is there. And when that kind of exuberance exists from the capital markets, things change. Big things. Think the Bull Market of the late 90s. The U.S. housing market from the same period. Justin Bieber right now.
Nevermind what Facebook has done in terms of surpassing eBay or Yahoo! valuation. Look at it compared to iconic brands that have been around for generations. Its worth three times more than Xerox. Forty times more than Kodak. And, if you look at Facebook purely as a medium through which to reach consumers (like a newspaper) it absolutely humbles what is the greatest institution in journalism: the Wall Street Journal — which Rupert Murdoch bought for a skim-milk price of $5.6 billion in 2007.
I hear that sentiment a lot since leaving Silicon Valley.
It’s a refrain that reminds me of the woman on the bus in New York who scolded me with her eyes for answering my Motorola StarTAC — a decade ago. She’s probably tuning her TV with bunny ears now. I get it — not everyone will get on the bandwagon. Cable TV in the US still doesn’t have 100% penetration. But —
Note the price: $1,000 in 1996.
— at some point quantity does become quality. Breadth and depth of use changes the nature or quality of something — and in this case it’s social networking and everything it touches.
Facebook has north of 600 million members and is easily the most important force on the Internet for marketers of every kind.
A lot of people will never network online, let alone write a blog about it. Having worked at eBay and LinkedIn and now sitting in an e-commerce company whose clients are pushing hard into social media, it’s easy to say that this is not going anywhere. It’s becoming the way people and companies communicate with each other. If anything the term “social networking” may be passe. The breadth of adoption and use cases for it may have blown by the term two or three months ago.
It’s not just about discovering where old friends and colleagues are anymore. It’s about exchanging ideas, knowledge, working collaboratively and even transacting commerce.
That my technology loathing friends is a marketplace. Marketplaces are the basis of communities, cities and dare I say empires. Google: “Roman Empire” or “Dutch trading” to prove me right. Remember it was New Amsterdam before the English said otherwise.
The big 3 networks (sound familiar?) are quickly replacing the phone, TV and soon the mall. If you don’t think that possibility is compelling. . . go home and tear the telephone out of the wall, dump the HD-TV in the pool and move to the plains.
Last week, we did a StrengthsFinder exercise at work. Most of the strengths I found out I had were consistent and completely expected.Context and Command are top two strengths.I guess that means I can bark out orders with some conviction because I’ve read a lot about how Atila the Hun did it centuries ago.
But, Positivity was the lone wolf strength that threw me a bit.All you have to do is read this blog to know that I find folly in what many might call negative situations.I don’t care what anyone says, an adult falling down is always funny and an adult sprinting down the street (think of Tom Cruise’s character in The Firm) in a suit is even funnier (both because it’s a sight unto itself and also promises a high probably of said adult sprinter tripping and eating pavement).
Next time you see that 42 year old metro sexual tearing up 3rd avenue, just stop and ask yourself where the fuck is he going that he has to pull a Renaldo Nehemiah in a $1,000 outfit?You know it’s because of something trivial like he was walking his dog earlier that morning and stepped in a pile of poo causing him to have to go home and change shoes.Only when he changed shoes he realize that the tasseled mahogany loafers he has on now didn’t go with the dark navy suit he had on.So he had to change suits or pick up an English accent on the way to his first meeting.It’s always something as mundane and vain as that that causes people to be late.Otherwise, wake the fuck up on time and you’ll never have to sprint unless you’re being chased.
This flight to India is easily the longest trip I’ve taken in at least 20 years.I’m in coach.Middle seat.Every seat on the first leg of the flight has a bum in it.Yet, I must say that there was more to be glad about than to bitch about.Positivity:
Flight attendants were seemingly from every culture in the world and had some pretty hip yet traditional Arab uniforms – extra credit points for having historical context and a command for the now to be current.Plus all of them were far more polite than the most polite US Airways attendant – I think those folks aren’t so much working as they are seeking prey.
The audio visual ensemble on the seat back staring at my mug is better than any coach class entertainment system I’ve seen.A quantum leap better than JetBlue.A notch above Virgin America.United Airlines just plain sucks by comparison.
Every meal had rice in it.
As the lone Filipino on a flight of about 400 people – I enjoyed being unique even if it was for a mere 15 leg cramped hours.Having lived in the Bay Area for the past few years being a Filipino male is about as differentiated as that 3 millionth penny in a park fountain.
I get off the plane for a layover in Dubai and am thinking about all this positivity – hashing out a blog post in my head.It only took about 15 minutes for some of the shine to wear off.As I’m trying to orient myself and figure out where to go I hear a language that immediately nixes that last bullet.It’s not English.It’s not even Spanish.It’s Tagalog.Apparently my Filipino brethren haven’t just taken every US airport job, we’ve expanded the franchise to the beautiful airport in the UAE.I give the guy at duty free the universal Pinoy “you know that I know that you know that I’m a Pinoy” look.Next time I see you, I’ll show you what that look is and also teach you how to point with your lips.
Then I break into a light run for my gate and he’s probably thinking “I hope he falls.”