Your organization’s social media reputation: Better put a ring on it

As BeyoncĂ© says, “If you like it, then you better put a ring on it.” I want to make the case that most large organizations still don't get the concept of social platforms and will need to make necessary adjustments to assimilate this into their strategic communication planning. What’s involved? Here we go:

1. Plan the launch into social media, and put the ring of authenticity into it. Sunday, Nov. 22, news that Target had joined Twitterville spread within a matter of minutes. The @Target account went from 156 followers to more than 400 within 30 minutes. Think about this. The speed of social media can be near instant. What was @Target’s response? Look at their initial Tweets:

Notice that their first Tweet said they were looking forward to hearing from followers. But an hour passed before the second Tweet, which hawked a sweepstakes. Zero engagement with consumers and literally no hint of a social media persona. Additionally, the account was activated Nov. 11, so, the organization had ample time – 11 days – to align its first Tweets with business objectives and to ensure that their social media tactic was carefully and thoughtfully deployed. They needlessly raised the expectation that they would engage with consumers - and then didn't.

2. Ring out in a *real* social media voice. Organizational communications is about consistency of message and integrating that message across multiple platforms. The transparency of social media practically screams for this integration and for a spokesperson who’s not afraid to listen and respond. Need examples? Look at @TOMs Shoes. TOMS sports a following of more than 200,000 on Twitter and has garnered the attention of the New York Times and Business Week.
Or take Ford’s presence. They opted to humanize their brand – via @Scott Monty – and amassed a following of more than 34,000, giving that company major visibility while selling cars. The sooner companies understand that social media reputation is built on authentic two-way communication, the sooner they’re likely to hit the social media golden mean. Why hit that golden mean? Glad you asked!

3. Ring in profits through engagement. No doubt about it. TOMs is selling shoes – roughly $13 million of footwear in 2009. Companies are using social media platforms because that is where the consumer can be found. But these companies seem to be forgetting that in integration, the four Ps of marketing move to the four Cs. Most consumers don’t want more ad and marketing messages. Daily bombardment is up to what? More than 5,000 messages. Consumers today want their needs met and the more cost effectively and conveniently, so much the better.

So, what’s Target doing two days later? Out of eight more Tweets, they actually responded to four of their more than 1,200 followers, but the content of the messages is still all about Target and upcoming sales. Since the account is unverified, I doubted at first that this was the “real” Target. I would have thought the brand that brought designer touches to mainstream America, through Michael Graves, Issac Mizrahi, and Mossimo, would have been more insightful in their social media communications. Even their bio is corporate speak and thus, blasĂ©: Expect more. Pay less. They're right about one thing. I did expect more, a whole lot more, from this brand.

What are your thoughts on how Fortune 500s can “put a ring on it”?


Teaching PR: What do employers really want?

Since teaching public relations at The University of North Texas, I’m often asked by prospective employers about the skill level of senior PR students. It’s an interesting question on many levels but particularly when you stop to consider the foundation of that question. Certainly the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that I believe a PR student needs to have on entering the profession can differ radically from what a prospective employer envisions.

Overall, I think it’s important for PR students to learn strategic communications. I would rather students be able to critically think through their communications goals and objectives, and be prepared to practice public relations ethically. I believe that skill set will be invaluable to them, as they enter the field.

That said, a recent report undertaken by Korn Ferry and the Public Relations Society of America, 2009 Digital Readiness Report,“Essential Online Public Relations and Marketing Skills,” indicates that employers are looking for almost a 50/50 blend of traditional and social media skill sets for new hires.

I do teach social media technologies and the power behind viral PR, along with traditional media tactics, such as press releases, media kits and backgrounders; yet, it’s often a balancing act to ensure students are properly prepared to enter the field.

What KSAs do you see as being vitally important for PR newbies?