A PR girl's morning rant about Subway

Haven't we discussed the importance of customer service to a brand? Have we not said that it can be the unique selling point in the sea of marketing and PR "propoganda"?



I could not cook lunch last night and the rains usually come down in a gush just around lunchtime everyday, so I knew that getting lunch would be an ordeal. This being said, I went to the nearest Subway to get a salad. Let me just say right now, I hate Subway. Their service is atrocious. The sub is clearly for substandard and if anywhere else was open at 6.30, without me having to get back into my car and lose my parking spot. I would have been there.Their winning points are that they open early and they sell lunch items during the breakfast session, so I could get my salad, put it in the fridge and save myself from starvation at noon, when it is sure to be pouring and flooding. But oh, Subway...how you annoy me. It's my own fault but I can still rant about it.

1. It never ceases to amaze me that the Subway lines are not only long, but slow moving. Busy people buy breakfast and I have never seen an empty Subway. So one would think that between 6.30 - 9.00, which is a heavy traffic time, one would load up on the staff behind the counter. One would think!

2. If your sandwich artist only started today, is it wise to put her on the assembly line during rush hour? I don't want her learning the ropes when I am trying to get back to my desk before 8am. Put her on the cash register or on the toaster. Girlfriend was clueless and painfully slow.

3. And this is where it directly affects me. If you're selling salads, shouldn't you have salad dressings? And worse yet, if you know you DON'T have salad dressing, shouldn't you tell the customers ordering the salads that you don't have any BEFORE they order, so they can then decide whether they will take the salad anyway?

I...do not eat salad without some kinda salad dressing!!! I am not a huge fan of salads but give me a little bit of dressing and I will eat it willingly. So imagine my vexation, after 20 mins of standing waiting for the salad, having her put the wrong stuff on it, and then when I ask for my dressing, she rolls her eyes at me and tells me there is none. I don't think I needed to be asking for my dressing. You should have been asking me or advising me that there was none. She looked at me. I looked at her.


I was not a pleased customer. But it was too early in the morning for me to do the "disgruntled customer thing", so I then asked the cashier whether they were getting any dressings later in the day. She tells me "Hopefully". So, trying to help them out now, because I am annoyed beyond, but really trying to hold it in, and I tell her, if the weather holds, I would just take the short walk back to get my dressing. I thought I was being generous!

This was the answer:

"Well...hmmm....ummmm...yeah.... you could try that, but that is if anyone remembers you"


The response should have been

"Miss, I am so so so sorry for the inconvenience and if you wish to collect a pack of dressing later, I will put it aside for you. Let me put a note on your receipt so even if I am not at the counter, someone would be able to assist you. Again, so sorry for the inconvenience. Is there any dressing you prefer?"

Oh no...I have to HOPE someone remembers me. Thanks Subway. Thanks. And you want me to come back right? The sad thing is, I honestly don't think they care if I come back or not. They don't look at it as a lost customer, a bad reputation. It's just another miserable customer they got rid of. Super job, Subway!

I will be back tomorrow with regular posting.

A Mascot Affair

It has now become almost customary in global events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, to launch event-related mascots aimed (supposedly) at children. With the recent launch of the London 2012 Olympics mascots, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some mascots, for better and for worse.

Willie was apparently the first mascot (waaaaaaaay before my time) and can be considered the Father of the Mascots, heralding the start of the 1966 World Cup in England.

Mexico did not bother to go with the animal theme in 1986 when they hosted the World Cup. Instead, they chose Pique, a friendly jalapeno pepper - easy on the eyes, friendly looking, approachable (as approachable as a spicy vegetable can be, that is).

The US had Sam the bald eagle for the 1984 Summer Olympics and let me tell you, I had a Sam lunchkit, thermos and lunchbowl, because Sam was hot. Apparently he was too hot cause some thieving child stole my Sam lunchbox just 2 weeks after I got it!

Then we have Footix. Yes, Footix. Odd name, but he was the feathered (anti-KFC) mascot during the 1998 World Cup in France.

I am a bit biased when it comes to the Fuwa of the 2008 Olympics, and I have everything Fuwa - mousepad, pencils, temporary tattoos. Beijing opted for 5 mascots as opposed to just one - a panda, a fish, a Tibetan antelope, a swallow and the Olympic Flame.

And the most recent football hottie is Zakumi, the footballing lion representing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I think Zakumi is hot and exudes strength and a great deal of self confidence and attitude. I so want a stuffed Zakumi. (Really!)

And then we have, the 2012 mascots from London - Wenlock and Mandeville. They actually don't look too bad in this version.

Do these guys not look less like plucky, friendly mascots, and more like aliens bent on enslaving all of humanity? - Runners' World

Now, I do applaud the fact that the designers sat with kids and vetted these characters with these intuitive thought leaders.
Olympic Organizing Committee chairman Sebastian Coe apparently said that children don't like cuddly animal mascots and instead prefer "something they can interact with and something with a good story behind it." - The Gazette
And what is the story?
In author Morpurgo's vision, the pair begin life as two drops of steel from a factory in Bolton, taken home by a retiring worker who fashions characters out of the metal for his grandchildren.They appear to have a single central eye, explained as a camera lens, through which they'll see the world, and respond to it. - BBC Sport

(Children don't like cuddly mascots? Really?)

But with the negative comments coming from the adults, it begs the question, are mascots only limited to children? Usually, especially if one has journeyed to the event city to take in this once-in-a-lifetime experience firsthand, one wants souvenirs to remember the occasion by. And usually the key chains, and mugs and tshirts and postcards etc are all branded with the official event mascot. Wenlock and Mandeville sadly don't seem to have found favour with the people with the cash and credit cards just yet. Maybe as time passes and as excitement builds, they will come across less hideous and more palatable to consumers.

Adults seem to love their team mascots enough that they often buy silly hats and replica costumes to celebrate their mascot. Athletes love their mascots.

I love my mascots. So are Wenlock and his one-eyed buddy just too out there for the rational minds of the adult mascot-loving public? Though the commercial partners were apparently consulted during the creative process, should there have been a focus group of over-13's to help put this concept together? Are designers over-estimating how kids will embrace a mascot and ultimately the event, and underestimating the influence of the adult consumer and sports fan, and his/her purchasing and marketing power? Not only that, but many feel the mascot should represent their nation, in a good way, and reflect its heritage and its history and its people. Sadly, our boys don't seem to be too loved by the British.

Time will tell how well these one-eyed creatures fare among adult fans, but in the interim, the global passion around them is amusing.
- I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1st, but I'm sorry, I just can't believe this isn't one MASSIVE, EXPENSIVE, JOKE!!!.....thanks to the creators of these hideous phallic symbols for making us the laughing stock for the rest of the world!!!

- Children (my son being one of them) have been aspiring to be Olympians for years without the lure of an Olympic mascot!! How mindless does the 2012 Olympic committee think our children are?
- For the sake of what remains of the dignity of our great nation, please remove these jokes and get back to the drawing board please, and this time...BEFORE you go to the pub!!!
- Totally ridiculous! Nearly as bad as the Olympic logo.There are so many things that could have been used to symbolise this country, things that people actually associate with the UK. But one eyed monsters? No way! What planet are they on?
- Nooooooo this is the OLYMPICS not a children's show...don't they understand!?!? Word-classs athletes, the best in the world or competing...this isn't a school's July sports day. Children aren't going to care about the history of the mascots...they don't watch the teletubbies and ask their mothers...'mummy, whose shape are the teletubbies based on...and what's their history?'. The just watch and absorb.

- Horrid! What on earth were they thinking? Britain has one thousand years of greatness and grandeur from which to choose the symbols with which it will represent itself to the world, and yet somehow the powers-that-be chose THESE? Nauseating, ugly, cyclops creatures so awful, so immediately stomach-turning, that their most likely effect will be to convince viewers to turn off the Olympic broadcast rather than risk inviting the nightmares that repeated exposure to these vile things is likely to provoke.    Readers comments from the Telegraph.
And luckily for London, they are not the first with a wacky mascot creation. Athens, are you out there?

Election 2010: Cyber Police

I have been observing what's been happening on the cybersphere for the past few hours. I posed this question to a colleague last week and I still do not have the answer, but the question relates to the excerpt below:
I am advising the public that they are to seek information on what they can and cannot do on election day and ensure that the law is adhered to,” (Ag. CoP) Philbert said, adding that absolutely no campaigning will be allowed next Monday and his officers will be out in full force to ensure breaches will be detected and met with the full brunt of the law. - Newsday

I consciously chose my shirt today based on what I have always known as a very serious legal issue - campaigning on election day. Be it on the streets, or via the media, it has been a no-no for as long as I can remember. Though I was not totally certain whether it is indeed a transgression, I did not want to somehow be barred from voting because I wore a party colour. However, is anyone policing social media, because from where I sit, I have seen some questionable things. And if the parties have used social media to campaign all throughout the campaign, then in my view, doing it today is just as illegal as doing it via traditional means. I saw one newspaper place a disclaimer saying it would delete any comment which went down this road, and that is indeed commendable. But while the TTPS are out in the 41 constituences to prevent this from happening today (in addition to cracking down on election bootleg alcoholic drinks) who is policing the web today? It may be new - this whole social media thing and how it impacts our elections and our laws - but it's worth clarifying.

Friday Fun: Must-Tweet TV

Like all social activities, television-watching demands compromise. People may have strong ideas about what they want to watch, but what they really want to do is watch together. - The Economist

I am a huge Grey's fan. So are my friends. We don't get to watch it together. But we watch it together. Chirping Blackberry phones, FB status updates and comments, tweets. The experience of watching tv with friends all across the country and around the world has the ability to create an almost cult-like experience, in real time and in post-time. You can collectively cheer, gnash teeth and cry because you're connected and it no longer is a solitary experience with you and your ice cream. It's that whole communal element that made tv so popular in the first place.

NBC recently revealed its new social initiative on its MyNBC platform. ABC, which is the network which created Grey's Anatomy needs to get us on board!!! Ah. No need to get off the couch and go anywhere. And though we don't get Hulu videos here, the idea of social tv is one which works for this generation of social networkers who love tv and who live for exciting season finales. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my fave shows with friends who feel the exact same way about the show, because it's not the same when your husband or boyfriend is forced to watch it with you because of blackmail. It's just not the same.

Does the lean-forward expe­ri­ence, inter­ac­tiv­ity and backchan­nel chat­ter of social net­works have a place in the tightly con­trolled, lean-back world of tele­vi­sion? - JD Lasica

The answer is a resounding yes!

Real Case: Perils of Small Business BEING Online

Now we all understand the importance of customer service and the importance of customer service training for staff. Customer service is usually one of the tenets of a strong brand and it has the power to set the brand apart from its competitors. I have had my fair share of excellent customer service and horrendous customer service here in Trinidad and Tobago. One bad example was when a waitress used the F-bomb to vent her frustration when SHE messed up my friend's order and she felt she needed to tell me I was F-ing confused. I did not bother to order anything after that. I did go to the manager and tell him about the encounter and his response, or lack thereof was alarming to say the least. In fact I think he was drunk.

Now yesterday I shared my opinion on why small businesses should be online. But while we do create a website or a Page or a Twitter channel, we cannot forget that how we interact with our online communities also constitues as customer service. Social media channels such as company Twitter pages and Facebook Pages allow brands to not only promote their brand, but they also use it as a conduit to deliver assistance to their customers.

In larger organisations, the communications and promotion either lies with a marketing or communications team or individual as the case may be, who usually have the skills to properly manage feedback and concerns. In the small business scenario, this is not always the case and it may be the owner or an employee. Here is an example of a social media admin gone wrong.

While service browsing recently, I came upon a Facebook Page for one fitness provider, where the customers were miffed about an unexpected and immediate price increase for membership. This was the first response from "management". I am posting it as I found it.
well we didnt even no until the day it was raised, but come on its only by $50.00 come on. its still a good rate and plus all d classes r for free, where else u gettin dat?...please, ok. where u gettin dat? yes we shld of let eveyone know in advance...but it has been done already
Shock does not begin to explain it. Of course subsequent customer responses were not conciliatory. The second response, from the second admin was:
I understand your dismay with the sudden change of membership rates. I apologise for this.  We take note of your suggestion for more notification and will bear this in mind for future operational/organizational changes that will affect our members. The rates for the first quarter were an introductory rate as is customary for all new goods and services in a developed and competitive market. However, you will notice that with the increase in rates, we have also increased the number and availabilty of classes, the increase in the floor space as well as the continuing increase of equipment and machinery. So while you may not benefit from class participation, there is and will be more and a wider variety of equiment available for your use. Again I do apologise for any issues that may have arose due the change of rates, but we do hope you continue to support (company name)
1. Customer service goes beyond frontline staff. It applies to everyone, in every department, across all functions and via all media, be it in a physical setting or virtually. Clearly the second response was a more measured and professional response, balancing the apology for the price increase with the benefits which the increase brought with it. I can appreciate that response more than the combative, not to mention, linguistically challenged reply up top. The danger they faced was that customers could have taken this poor customer service to the masses with the click of a mouse.

2. I am becoming more and more convinced that some organisations still view social media as "something else we can do" and not as a real, and powerful marketing tool. I swear, between this and some of the other local social media sites I have observed, it's almost as if they just asked the office boy if he had a Facebook acocunt and told him run with it. Social media just cannot be taken for granted and if you're going to be using it for your small business, then don't short change yourself.
  • Learn about the tools.
  • Invest in training your staff to use them effetcively and in a way that builds, not destroys your brand
  • Value the tools and what they can do for your business.
It is vital to hire, train, and monitor customer service employees. Each must understand what the brand is about, why their interactions with consumers are important, and what is expected of them - Augie Ray

And if your brand is now on the social media path, the same applies and is more important than ever!

The Perils of Keeping your Small Business Offline

Yesterday I tweeted this question:

So, is it?

I was actually trying to find a caterer for an event I am planning, preferably one closer to the event, and it has been an ordeal. Clearly a lot of small businesses are not online and this is worrying. I had to eventually resort to emailing friends for recommendations or suggestions and ended up calling a few of the options. Quite frankly, I find this tedious. I am online most of the time, so it is easier, not to mention more convenient to do a quick Google search, locate a website and then email the person. Or at least the website would have enough preliminary information that when and if I do call, I am not in a state of utter ignorance and I am a bit more informed and persuaded to make a positive consumer decision.
There are a lot of small businesses out there and I applaud this. I think it is great when people follow their passions and make their dreams of having their own business a reality. But really...gone are the days when you printed flyers on coloured paper and left them on office coffee tables and on lightposts. Why don't you have an email address for your business? This is not at all a winning move!
When I called the caterer that sounded the most promising, she asked me for my email "number"...wow. Then when I finally got the email, it was from her friend's email address because she did not have an email address, and the friend's address was sketchy at best (something along the lines of sweetreds@domain.com). A total fail.

Funding agencies for entrepreneurs should be equipped to assist small business owners with the information on these basics and why they are so important. While a start-up may not be able to afford a snazzy website off the bat, Facebook Pages have now made it easier to get yourself an online presence. Too easy. Way too easy. So, why aren't you online, and why should you be?

The internet is like the Yellow Pages - I only use the physical yellow pages when I am on the road and cannot get through to the operator. For everything else, I turn to Google. Millions of people feel the same way, so if you're not online, you're almost non-existent.
Visibility, credibility and promotion - It's all well and good to have people know you via a friend, but you can really establish your new brand with an online presence, which can take you from the lightpost to the masses with a couple easy steps and great content. For my caterer friend, if your menus are online, I don't have to wait for your friend to email them to me, or worse...fax them and hope it's a good copy.

Online orders/online business - There are those who have not seen a physical cash register in years because they live by online shopping/ordering. Don't limit yourself and lose the opportunity to bring in some extra business.

Analytics/Feedback/customer suggestions - How many people are visiting your site? Who are they? Where are they? This kind of information can help you market your business and develop new ideas to meet the needs of the people who have shown an interest in what you're selling. Additionally, you can get a lot of great feedback from customers which can assist you in fine tuning your products/services.
Not because you're operating out of your kitchen, should it mean that your marketing efforts should fall by the wayside. It's more important in the start up phase to establish yourself and get your business name, your services, your contact info etc out there to prospective customers. Your online presence is part of your calling card - it gives you greater legitimacy and greater visibility. And please...

  • Have an email address that identifies your company - sweetreds@domain.com is not it. Use your company name to identify yourself electronically.
  • Ensure your site, your Page and your website, are professional and cover the areas that a prospective customer may be interested in.
I am left holding a copy of a menu that leaves me a bit cold, and will have to now call her back and make suggestions. That is, if she answers the phone, because on my first attempt she had forgotten her phone at her aunt's house and the aunt had to take a message and have her call me back a couple hours later. If there was an option, where the business was already online, with a more convenient communication channel, then she would surely miss out on my event and my business. Don't make the same mistake.

Photo credit: www.freewebsitetemplates.com

Zeroing in, or out...on your brand

When Twitter zero'ed out last week, lots of faces crumpled in anguish, in sheer terror because the legions of followers they had built up over the past few weeks, past several months were suddenly gone, leaving them in an empty room, with no voices, no chatter, no hero worship. Among these were the brands who had painstakingly set up fancy Twitter pages, all nicely branded and boiler-plated. Luckily for all of them...us...it was a temporary glitch and in no time at all, the world had righted itself and following and followers had been restored.

But what if it hadn't? What if Twitter had screwed up your online "popularity" forever? What if you had lost all your followers - all those people who reached out to you during the day asking questions, retweeting your links, #FF-ing you? Would you have survived?

And more importantly for brands, do you have any idea who these people are? Now chances of knowing them all, may be slim to none. But is the rapport with them strong enough to withstand a crash such as this, and make them come back on their own, without you having to sit at your desk, trying to remember their Twitter handles?

It's something to think about isn't it? One lesson brands can learn from this is to not put all their social media energies into one social media basket. Some folks love Twitter and that's the extent of the relationship, but as we saw last week, it can be doom for the one-way brand. It's not an excuse to now go out and populate the SM universe. Be practical and relevant and go where your audience is sure to be. Be practical if you're a one-man show and it's just you managing social media.

But the other question coming out of the Great Zero is...

Would you have been able to keep on going without them?

There are some who have relied so heavily on social media that perhaps the traditional forms of engagement and communication have taken a bit of a hit. So on a day when the technology hits the skids, are you prepared to keep it going without missing a beat? Have you managed to create a synergy with your online tools and your traditional strategies to build a loyal offline community?

I often wonder where I would be if one day I lost my old phone (not a smartphone, so I guess it's a dumbphone), chock full of email addresses, phone numbers and texts with important info - all of which, sadly, is saved nowhere else. I think about a life before advanced mobile technology and how my telephone book was just that - an actual book, and I could rattle off numbers without blinking because I did not have mobile phone books to depend on. Now, with maybe the exception of my mother's mobile number and those of a couple close friends, I am just terrible with remembering data like that now. At the same time however, I am not limited by emails and tweets when it comes to my real life relationships. It makes it more fun, more convenient, yes...but it does not beat going out in the real world.

So really the question is How else are you building your brand?

  • Is your website a hot mess because you have sold your soul to Facebook and Twitter?
  • Do your followers know how else to find you, i.e. via your website or other platform, or do they think your Twitter URL is your...well...your URL?
  • Is your non-virtual frontline customer service below par because you are a Twitter customer service superstar?
  • Have you done away with in-depth articles or blogs because you've got 140 characters?

It seems ludicrous but it's a serious question - one which we all should be asking ourselves because at the end of the day, these are merely tools and not the whole enchilada. If the basket of eggs should fall, would that be the end for your strategy?

Law and Order: End of an Era

When the news broke that NBC was going to actually cancel Law & Order, there was a gasp heard around the world. Yes, when the show lost Jerry Orbach, and to a lesser extent Benjamin Bratt and Jesse L Martin, it was disappointing, but it rallied. The great thing about the show is that its appeal was in large part to the compelling storylines and cases. The fabulous actors who brought the varied and complex characters to life were icing on the cake. I admit that I often missed episodes because of fatigue or life, but that's why we love online re-runs.

The show has not been given the opportunity to hit a 21st season, to beat Gunsmoke, with which it is currently tied for longest running drama series. Oh gosh, NBC...are you that grudgeful? The show is one of the best, and most intelligent shows on tv, but thanks to the power of the advertising dollar, it has fallen victim to the cancellation knife.

But loyal fans have turned to social media to make a last ditch attempt to save the long running police/legal drama. I don't know if they can rally enough support to convince NBC to give the cast and crew one more year at least, but it's worth a shot. It's one time where I really am rooting more than ever for the power of social networks and the booming voices of online communities.

Join the L&O movement.

Yes. I  was one of those who gasped. It's just one of my fave shows ever!

Unmasking the Faceless Consumer: The Importance of Relationship Marketing

I take my car to be serviced at the same place every 10,000km, not because they're cheap, because they are not. I go there because of the relationship and the after sales service. Last year, when my radiator did embarassing things on the highway, not only could I call my service company after hours, but they saved me the expense of double towing and sent a guy to my house after work the next day to replace my radiator. To say this was excellent and convenient would be an understatement. And as a woman, who is on the road a lot, the safety and reliability of my vehicle are doubly important, so this type of personal service is a bonus to me.

Sadly, not a lot of organisations understand that there is a person behind the dollar bills which come with a sale. They take your money, and send you on your way with a sense of longing and undone-ness. It's little things like follow up calls, after sales service, seasonal greeting cards which can make or break the relationship your customer chooses to have with your brand. I was pleasantly surprised to go to my bank one year on my birthday and have the teller wish me a happy birthday and give me a cute, albeit generic branded card. But it was the thought and the consideration that set her apart from her sour-faced counterpart in another bank and kept me loyal.

Now you also have  social media, which in its essence is about getting to know people, how brands use it to manage relationships is an issue which can also set one brand apart from the next.

A lot of brands are using social media to drive sales and let's face it, this is the world we live in. We are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to raise our brand's profile and increase consumer behaviour, and social media has been a catalyst in many instances for doing so.

Yesterday I discussed the social media contest and how it has been used by one brand to build its following. The following which it has now been able to create is now a great pool from which to draw out the eager consumer and this is great for the brand. How they now manage these thousands and thousands of people and engage them will be the second part of their social media story.  I don't want to just be one of the thousands, and yes, it may be a challenge to engage everyone, but this is why you embarked on a social media strategy isn't it? And you should now have the resources to properly manage these relationships, if in fact you are eager to form them.

Yes, we constantly hear ROI ROI ROI,  and we translate this in numerical terms - sales, number of customers, etc, but what about MY investment of my trust and my purchasing power in your brand? Where does my Return on Investment manifest itself? Just in your product? I am more likely to stay true to one brand because of the interactions I have had, or the service which they provide. It's the reason I choose one airline over another, or one telecoms provider, or one restaurant. We all want to feel appreciated and special in some small way and not just as a walking wallet. And be it via a follow up call to see if I am pleased with your product, or a DM or email to help me manage my customer issue, how we treat with the faces behind the cash register is important in building the brand and customer loyalty.

It seems almost trite typing it here but in my experience, especially here, it is like rocket science to some people.

How are you building relationships online and offline?

Social Media Contests: And the Winner Is...

Now I follow a few organisations on Facebook and Twitter. Why?

- I have an interest in them
-I have an interest in what they are selling
- I have an interest in the industry in which they operate
- I am looking for exclusive updates and offers

Now I have had the opportunity to win a prize via social media and that was great, but it's not my main motivation. I hardly have the time either. I joked with my cousin, who coincidentally won a prize from the community discussed in this post, that one had to almost live on the internet, stalking updates and tweets in order to get a chance to win, and then you're competing with hundreds of people who have the same idea at the same time. It's a bit much for me. But that's just me. Lots of people go looking for goodies and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I think it can be a great way to engage your community and get them talking or participating.

But I have seen where communities are formed and built with no real brand focus.  There is a recent example of where a community (same one where my cousin won his prize) has exploded with daily trivia and the like, giving away product-related prizes. The product related prizes are great. Simple, not too flashy. Gets people wanting to come get them. The trivia I was not too enthused about though. It's some of the most random things, not even closely related to the brand, not to the company, not even to the industry. Just stuff you could probably go on any arbitrary "Party Games" site and pull down. I must say, this was a tad bit disappointing. Yes, it's a pretty strong brand we're talking about, so some may say they don't need to do much, but give away stuff. But where is the value in that? Whats the point then?

The prize I won was related to the brand, and got me to come in and see the place (though I have seen it many times), but HOW I got it was also creative and forced entrants to think, discuss and share about the brand itself.  They focused the contest around an event they were having, and the trivia was about the event, the origins of the event in its native format and cool facts one never knew about the event. So one had to go searching out the info and in effect, one learnt about the event with the end result being the opportunity to win something related to it. So I was more informed, more interested and ultimately better positioned to make a purchasing decision based on the whole contest experience.

This current contest experience does a lot to build the following, but not much to build value. The other content being shared as well is soooo random. No product updates, specials, company updates. There are a few photos from brand events which are great but when I saw the random YouTube videos, quite like the ones you may share with your friends on your profile page, I was a bit astonished.  I am hoping that maybe the first objective was to build the following and then engage them once they had them. But seeing that they are now in the tens of thousands with the following, can we start the value-add?

I know we love numbers and big numbers at that, and that's fine, but social media should not just be about numbers but a meaningful community. I love getting feedback from my community on things related to what we're peddling and on the general financial matters, which I think help them and help us as well. And while we may not have flashy stuff to give away, I think there is a greater value in hearing what customers like, don't like, want, don't want and empowering them to voice their opinions. Not saying we don't give stuff away. We do, though not as much as others. But what we do give everyday is something which focuses on the brand and the helping the customer. I think that's worth a whole lot, but again...that's just me.

What do you think? Great strategy or could be better? Who's the winner here?

5 Tips for Creating a Successful Social Media Contest

Friday Fun: Log Out, Shut Down, Roll Out

As you know on Friday, it's typical to keep it humorous here. This is a viral campaign from last year from Sony VAIO - a real tongue in cheek ad campaign for a laptop, with a reverse psychology spin. Listen closely and ask yourself, Should I be in this meeting? Am I one of these people?

Social media has changed the face of communications.The basic tenets of what we do in PR are still there - things like face-to-face interactions, building relationships, interesting credible content, for example. What social media has done is enhance how we do these and create more opportunities where and how we do them.

Personally, it has changed how I communicate with friends and how we share with each other, but I still like a good girls' night out, and dinners and vacations. It has just made experiences more colourful, in more ways than one. Yet, I don't think I am eligible to be part of this group.

Are you able to log out, shut down and roll out?

Keyboard Conversationalist: Let Your Fingers Do The Talking

When I go to a social media site of an organisation I am following, I am not hoping to get their 30-page newsletter dumped on the page. If that was my intention, I would just read the newsletter, or attempt to read it as the case may be, depending on where it falls on the snoozemeter.

Writing for social media is diferent than writing for more traditional channels. Where a magazine or newsletter or press release typically used to be one way, the tools we use today have given readers a greater voice and have empowered them to speak up positively or negatively about a brand. Where writing used to be very business-like, a bit stuffy and in some cases, downright boring, writing for social media, as the name itself suggests is more social, more personable, more conversational - bringing the reader into the conversation and rather than persuading, it engages. Be familiar, but this does not mean "dumbing down" your content either. I don't advocate your English going to the dogs just because it's social media. The same rules apply, but it's your tone and your level of engagement that sets it apart from your Annual Report summary or your quarterly digest. It's pretty much like meeting your readers for drinks and having a conversation. Use bridges to connect your point with their experiences. I used Ellen's iPhone commercial here, not only cause I thought it was hilarious, but also it was a nice segue to the rest of the post. Don't be afraid to talk about yourself, an experience, something you observed at the supermarket etc, once it has relevance to your business point. You're writing for real people, who go to the supermarket and who may have gone through something quite similar and then they can better relate to it. But your witing should be infused with some life...real life.

Twitter is the ultimate space killer and focus enabler, with brands only having 140 characters to get to the point. So you message has to be really concise. I think this is generally indicative of communicating online. I would sit with that 30-page newsletter on my time, maybe on the weekend, if at all and give it the 2 hours of my life that it may require - 2 hours of my life I can never get back. The average person spends around 20-35 minutes a day online (note  said average, and not addicts!), so your content cannot rival the Nile in length. It means you need to be concise, to the point since you now have to write to adapt to people's time, their attention spans online and the space allotted in some cases. The "back" button is a serious thing and you should recognise that where a customer may be trapped for long stretches of time in your waiting room, with just a dozen copies of your newsletter on the rack, and no choice, the internet allows them to "put down" your article and find something else. So, while blogs are fab for expounding, noone wants to read your 5000 word entry, especially when they're networking on the down-low at work or taking a break from screaming babies at home. God knows when I am stealing time before I get ready for work to catch up on my reading, I don't have time to sit and read sermons - not when my toast is burning!

And for heaven's sakes, yes we are using social media to sell and that's how we convince our bosses to let us use it. However, your tweets and updates and blogs don't have to be a 24/7, non-stop commercial about your products. The continuous hard sell gets real old and can seriously come across as spam if you're not careful. Let your readers see the other side of your brand as well - staff, company activities, employee stories, customer events. And ask them questions. It's about engagement, it's about conversation. What do THEY have to say? Do you ever ask? What they say can be great content. It's not really about you as much as it is about you and them. Get excited about everything that makes your brand unique, and get your readers excited as well.

Photo credits: www.evisibility.com; www.mikeurbonas.com

Communication Nazis: A Term of "un-Endearment"

A guy I know met me in the mall a couple weekends ago and as he kept me back from perfume shopping, he told me about his plans to visit the UK soon.

Him: Going to help my cousin with his business for a little while. He does exonerations.
Me: (utter bafflement)
Him: You don't know what exonerating is?
Me: (utter bafflement, followed by reflection, then by more bafflement, then more reflection and mind searching: Exonerate means, ummm...to free from blame or guilt, right?)

I was baffled because I knew what I thought exonerating was, but the dude clearly was not in the legal profession, nor was he a P.I. but I could have been wrong!

Him: He digs up dead bodies so they can do autopsies.

It took everything in my physical and mental being to not laugh, and I feigned edification, with an "Ohhhhh". Poor guy was so confident in what he was peddling, and so pleased that he taught me something, that I did not have the heart to tell him the word was exhumation, from the word, exhume. Maybe next time.

As confused as I was during that brief conversation, so too are some of the people we write for. Show of hands if you have started reading something that just went right over your head because it was either chock full of jargon, or just written with the simple objective of baffling you. A gentleman I do not even know this week, accused people like me, communicators working in finance, of being Nazis when it came to communications. Now the dude does not know me or what I do or even how I do it, and calling me a Nazi was not going to get you listed in my good books, but sadly, dude has a general point. Some of these financial documents you pick up in a bank can just turn your grey matter green, and while there is an audience for that hardcore communication, not all clients are the same.

Now to be honest, when I write for work, I am also learning because I hardly know what these people are talking about when they start to get all technical with the financial terms and jargon. The extent of my money vocab is "pay me" (kidding kidding). But again, it comes down to knowing the audience I am trying to write for - people who are probably just like me or worse, and don't quite get the really hardcore moneyspeak. I am a purist writer at times - anal about spelling, grammar and abbreviations, but over the years I have come to grips with my reality and the reality of the different audiences I have had to communicate with in various roles. So...

1. Think of the audience and not yourself when writing. You may enjoy writing with lots of colloquial terms or use a lot of big words, and that may work for you. It may not work for your audience. And ask yourself, what is it that THEY want to know about this topic, not what I want to write. Don't be so self absorbed that you miss the point of who you're trying to reach. Think of them sitting in front of you, because you are indeed writing directly for them. If you don't approach it this way, you can very easily lose them before they even hit the second sentence.

2. Use simple language. Don't be a Nazi. That is not even a cute term (take note, don't ever use it), so don't force the technical terms down the consciousness of your readers. Sometimes even if the audience is very savvy, simple is still always better. Simple works. Less is more. The writing is clearer and to the point. It was @Trini_Mitz who pointed out an example in a local media article where the journalist used a huge word and then put the meaning in parentheses (brackets). I mean, if you know the word may not be understood, why use it?

3. Be correct. Get both your facts and your language straight. Good articles are well researched and structured, and reflect on you.The dictionary and thesauraus are your friends. Use them. Please.


3. Don't be daft. If you write for your pleasure, chances are you're writing about something you're passionate and knowledgeable about. However, if you're part of a comms team somewhere in some place where you don't know what the heck they're talking about half the time, wouldn't it be super if you actually started reading and learning about the industry you're now in? Don't let your writing come off as ignorant or fluffy. I still grapple with some of this dry financial stuff, but I read a lot (a lot!) and ask questions if I am not too sure and of course, you can let a subject matter expert review it and contribute. I mean, what's the worse that can happen? You learn something new? The horror!

4. Edit. If your subject matter expert is doing the writing and we know sometimes they can do the whole jargon thing, because they are not thinking like a communicator, then do the needful and apply the first two tips when editing the article cause most times it will need that human touch. Lend YOUR expertise to theirs.

So next time you're writing for Jill or Jack Brown, don't take it for granted that someone out there REALLY wants to read your stuff just because you're writing it. It's a bit more involved than that. Aim for more head nodding as opposed to blank stares of confusion.

Photo credit: http://fysop.wordpress.com

How young is too young for social media?

There has been a lot of talk in the news and over drinks about kids and their use of technology, and whether the younger ones are emotionally ready to handle the wider world which these tools let into their lives. Facebook, for example, requires that you must be over 13 in order to be a member. Of course, in this world and with the wily youth, this is not so hard to get past. There is the concern that the typical kid drama that once used to be limited to school playgrounds and hallways, with innocent childhood pranks, would now escalate to full blown trauma with online bullying and cyber malice.

Imagine your child being the subject of a sinister Facebook group, where schoolmates weigh in on how much he/she sucks. This can be really traumatic on a child, and these are real concerns being raised by real parents and school administrators. But is the real enemy the technology? I mean, shouldn't the onus be on the adults to monitor what their children are doing online, especaially since there are bigger sharks out there than the neighbourhood kid with a grudge, namely the adult predators, seeking out unsupervised and vulnerable children.

Is restricting kids' use of computers the answer?. Of course not. This is the technology generation, where changes are afoot every minute. It is simply not practical for the caution tape to be placed around the computer desk in this day and age. So the questions parents should be asking then, is

  • Do you know where your kids are?
  • Do you know how long they stay online every day?
  • Do you know what your kids are sharing online?
  • Do you know what content they are posting?
  • Do you know if they are being talked about or if they are doing the talking?
  • Do you know if they are being malicious to other children online?
  • Have you talked to them about social media?
  • Does their school have a social media policy for its students?
  • Are their teachers monitoring their online activity at school?

And if they are using these sites,
Some parents don't see anything wrong with their kids being on Facebook, for example.

I have allowed my kids to have one. I set up their accounts....to make sure that they can't be found by just anyone. Actually, after I went to look for them, before I was their friend, I couldn't find them. Their friends haven't been able to find them either, so unless I provide a direct link, they can't be found, unless they are on someone else's list. They have gotten requests from people they don't know, and I have told them, not to accept anyone they don't know. I go and check their accounts and their friends list on a regular basis and if they can't tell me where they know the person from, then I delete them. This has only happened once in the last 6 months. As anything in life, if the parent is involved in their kids' life, and give them good instruction, most of the time, it's ok. It's also been a great way for my family that lives far away to talk to the kids. We don't live close to family...it's a great way to keep them connected. - Felis (www.squidoo.com/kids-on-facebook)

Some don't agree.
I think that allowing them into some sort of social networking site is good in order to teach them internet responsibility - however - it seems pretty impossible to navigate facebook without seeing things inappropriate for children. An kids orientated alternative I might agree to, but facebook? No. - kab (www.squidoo.com/kids-on-facebook)

There are more kid-friendly social networking sites like FBFKids and Club Penguin, but the other sites will always be there for anyone who wants to sign up, child or adult. And so will mobile phones, television, video games and all the other bells and whistles which come with our technological evolution and that come with their own "dangers".

The question is, where will you be?

Great article on the use of social media in the classroom.

Keeping up with the Joneses: Future-proofing your career

Ellen posted a link to her iPhone commercial, which was funny in a way that only Ellen can make funny.

So she admits that she is not the most tech-savvy person out there, but she does make the effort in keeping up with trends and changes.

Sad to say, many people in their professional lives do not. They are content to just keep on doing whatever it is they do and not work on areas which may need an upgrade. Now you may not be the best writer in the world, but you can work on improving it by writing more each day or each week. You may not be the most techonlogically inclined person, but you can understand a little bit what new trends are impacting your organisation and how it will impact the way YOU work. You may not understand social media for example, but try exploring how others are using it and don't just surrender to ignorance.

Most people get bored with their job at one time or another. Even the media-glamourised communications field gets pretty darn stale sometimes. Some days, I just don't get it - why am I here? I was glad it was not just me. But I have found that exploring the career you have chosen for yourself and finding new and innovative practices, networking with peers and sharing experiences with them, and keeping up with the Joneses basically helps to stem mental/emotional inertia, as well as adds value to your YOU brand.

And it does not mean going back to school necessarily and getting an expensive degree. You can work on yourself from your couch, with weekend reading, be it via your professional blogroll, industry publications or papers, or through membership in associations and participation in think tanks, or using some initiative and trying new ideas in your professional activities. My weekend projects add some variety to my day job, and provides opportunities for trying new things as well and learning something new from the fab women I interact with.

I have interacted with a lot of people who are just willing to settle with what they do and get paid for what they do, without trying to build on their personal product. Just...could not be bothered. Noone is good at everything. You may suck at some things, may literally loathe some areas of your job, but do you have to be a complete and total failure? No. You can work on that area of weakness so it does not become a liability, but instead an opportunity. And if you try to love what you do, then trying to keep up with what you do becomes less a chore and more a desire. My God...don't aim to become a relic in your profession. Some old cars have antique value. But you're not an old car, so don't bet on resting on your laurels and being sought after.

So while Ellen's ad is funny and whimsical, in real life, being that clueless is not that endearing. So how are you keeping up with your professional Joneses.
Related Posts with Thumbnails