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Talking Points Podcast: Do CEOs really need social media profiles?

It’s not a new discussion, but thanks to a post by Shelly Kramer this week (and a report on CEO.com), Kevin and I re-opened the conversation this week. We also discuss the recent MIMA Summit, talk to Shoutlet’s Greg Gerik and discuss Target’s new Instagram Halloween campaign.

Hope you’ll take a listen…


SHOW NOTES – October 23, 2014

Greg Gerik


“Target Takes Trick-or-Treating to Instagram”


“Welcome to Halloween Hills: Target Unveils Virtual Trick-or-Treating Experience on Instagram”


“Social Media and The Fortune 500 CEOs”


2014 Social CEO Report


“Brandshare: Is The Value Exchange Between Brands and Consumers a Myth?”


Edelman/Brandshare 2014


McDonald’s: “Our food. Your questions.”


“What’s in McDonald’s Food, Anyway? Ex-MythBuster Grant Imahara Is Hired to Find Out Transparency campaign echoes one from Canada”


“McDonald’s Chalks Up Its Very Bad Year to Widespread Misunderstandings”


“McD’s millennial problem: Is new campaign working?”


“Dear McDonald’s: No One Wants To See How The Sausage Is Made”


“McDonald’s Botches “MythBusters” Social Media Blitz”


How executives are using LinkedIn publishing to drive organizational PR goals

Two weeks ago, I talked about content strategy with a group of fine folks at the Fort Worth PRSA chapter meeting. As part of that presentation, we talked about a number of steps to set your content strategy. Conducting a content audit, identifying your content resources (I blogged about that last week). Developing content. And, distributing content.

Let’s just stop there for a moment.

Distributing content online largely revolved around a few key methods–social and email to name two.

But, there are a number of other ways brands are “distributing” content on the web today.

And, one of those strategies that’s flying under the radar is brands using executives and their LinkedIn profiles to advance PR goals and organizational priorities.

Sure, not all CEOs are active on LinkedIn. Heck, many of the Fortune 500 CEOs aren’t even on LinkedIn (at least not in any meaningful way as we learned earlier this week).

But, for a small percentage of those executives who ARE using LinkedIn actively, well, some of THOSE people are putting those profiles to good use–for themselves, and more importantly, the brands they represent.

Let’s take a look at six different scenarios, six different executives, that have used LinkedIn to advance their organization’s PR objectives:


Executive: Richard Edelman

Organization: Edelman

Goal: Employee recruiting

How they used LinkedIn: This one will probably come as no surprise, but Richard Edelman uses his profile, in some cases, to advance the firm’s recruiting and retention efforts. In this post, he talks about the firms efforts to empower women and place them in leadership positions–which should be a no-brainer for a big firm like Edelman. After all, only about 95 percent of our industry is female (OK, I’m exaggerating, but I’ve been the only guy on multiple PR teams in the past). Smart use of Richard’s profile here and his position as a LinkedIn “Influencer”.

Edelman LI


Executive: Angela Ahrendts

Organization: Apple

Goal: Shaping perceptions with employees

How they used LinkedIn: In this short post, Ahrendts shares insights around how she approaches a new job (you may have heard–she took a new job with Apple recently). Seems benign from a company perspective, right? But, the beauty of what Ahrednts is doing here is that she’s also shaping existing Apple employee perceptions. Sure, she can shape those perceptions through her actual work. But how many people does Ahrendts interact with on a daily basis? Through a post like this, she can reach so many more and share her thoughts and insights in the process (and in a different way through a public channel).


Angela LI


Executive: Meg Whitman

Organization: Hewlett Packard

Goal: Reinforcing strategic partnerships

How they used LinkedIn: For many businesses, dealers, vendors and “channel partners” are a key way organizations like HP sell their products and services. So, it behooves them to grease those wheels–regularly. For HP, that means holding a “Global Partner Conference” once a year where they hold up these partners for exactly what they are–champions to their success. So, it makes complete sense when HP’s CEO comes out on LinkedIn and shares that sentiment publicly, for all to see, on LinkedIn, right?

Whitman LI


Executive: Bruce Broussard

Organization: Humana

Goal: Raising awareness for the brand

How they used LinkedIn: In this short post, Bruce uses LinkedIn publishing to talk about a timely topic and trend that’s impacting his business–the health insurance and health care worlds. It’s a thought leadership play of sorts. And, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more health care leaders using LinkedIn publishing in this way just yet. I expect we will see more in the months ahead as leaders repurpose content from other longer-form channels to LinkedIn (don’t scoff–it’s more common than you might think already).

Bruce B LI



Executive: Gary Kelly

Organization: Southwest Airlines

Goal: Shaping consumer brand perceptions

How they used LinkedIn: If you’ve noticed, LinkedIn is running a number of “themes” of LinkedIn posts for its “Influencers.” One of those themes: “Behind the scenes.” You probably saw a number of LinkedIn Influencers post on this topic recently. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines was one of them. But, he (and the company) took the opportunity to talk about SWA’s recent brand change. Through the post, Gary talks about the process the company went through to update and transform the brand. It’s not the most ground-breaking process, but the fact that SWA chose to use Gary’s LinkedIn profile to share this news (among other platforms) actually is pretty innovative.

Gary Kelly LI



Executive: Jeff Jones

Organization: Target

Goal: Manage complex and hot organizational issues

How they used LinkedIn: In case you missed it, Target has been in a bit of a meat-grinder for the last 9-12 months. Earlier this year, an anonymous employee (classy, I know), called Target’s culture into question. Target could have responded in the traditional manner–a news release, media outreach, a blog post even. But instead, they chose Jeff Jones LinkedIn profile. Yep, you heard me right. They chose to use Jeff’s LinkedIn profile to share their take (in his words) on a response to the anonymous employee’s claims. Did it work? Only Target knows. But, I found this use of a corporate executive’s LinkedIn profiles VERY interesting–in fact, I have yet to see another large company do anything similar since.

Jeff Jones LI

Prediction: “Unplugging” will be a trend among 40+ crowd in 2015

There’s a Starbucks that’s less than a mile from my house. To say I visit it frequently is probably an understatement. The baristas know me and my drinks by name. It’s sad, really.

I’m usually visiting this Starbucks during the morning rush. During that time, the line can extend out the door (side rant: Only in Minnesota). Point is: there’s usually a long line.

And people in that line are often on their phones (another common situation you see below–had to playfully pick on my PRSA friends just a bit :). In fact, I’d say a full 90 percent of the people are looking down at their phones while in line. 9 out of 10 people! And, I’d also say, given the demographics of our neighborhood (this Bux is RIGHT next to a school) that most of these folks at 40-plus.

Put Phones Away

Strangely enough, I’m usually the one in 10 persons who’s NOT on their phone. I do it so much during the day, I’ve learned to find my breaks. Standing in line is a break for me.

I got to chatting with a gentleman the other day about this ongoing habit of people standing in line staring at their phones. His lament was the same as mine: If these people would just look up they might discover an interesting person to talk to in line. I know I certainly did that day.

And my local Starbucks certainly isn’t the only place this is happening. On the bus. On the train. In the grocery store. At the movies. It’s certainly no revelation that people are just completely hard-wired to their phones these days.

But I’m making a bold prediction: Among the 40+ crowd, I think you’re going to see a faction of people resist being tethered to their phones in 2015.

And by “resist”, I mean “unplug.”

Not all the time, but they are going to make a conscious effort to unplug when standing in line. When they’re on the train. When they’re driving for crying out loud.

Because enough is enough.

You see, I’m singling out that 40-plus crowd because, well, frankly, this is weird for us.

We didn’t grow up with cell phones. Heck, we didn’t even grow up with email (for the most part–I was 22 when I started using email).  So, we don’t have the long and storied history with technology that today’s Millennials do.

So, I believe it will be easier for us to give up technology (just a bit) than our younger cohorts–even if it is for smaller chunks at a time.

Because that’s what it will be. Smaller chunks.

Not checking your phone while in line.

Resisting the urge to post that pic of that beautiful sunset to Instagram (guilty here–as recently as last week!).

And, not checking in on Facebook as often–for no real reason.

I think people in the 40+ group are reaching a tipping point. Just a hunch really–I don’t have any scientific facts to back this prediction up.

Just call is a gut hunch of a 42-year-old who’s a bit burnt out himself…

Note: Photo courtesy of Heather Cmiel.

What’s the best way to source content: In house vs. agency vs. freelance

As more companies join the content marketing arena, one of the bigger issues these companies face is this: How do we source all this content?

Many organizations just aren’t set up to create an ongoing dribble (let alone a firehose) of online content.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but in my experience, I’ve found it to be true.


Yes, these companies have smart marketers. But the marketers are often busy planning and managing agency resources.

Yes, these companies have great PR people. But again, the PR people are busy in meetings and planning out quarterly and annual plans.

And yes, these companies do have mid- to junior-level people who are charged with creating content. But, it’s one of many, many things on their plate.

So, content often gets short-shrift.

And companies start looking for answers and resources. And, they often look at three distinct buckets:

* In-house (either training existing employees or hiring additional head count)

* Agency

* Solo consultant/Freelance

Each option has its own set of pros and cons–so I thought we’d take a look at those pros and cons today. Take a peek:




* Less ramp-up time. Training existing resources to handle content development requires significantly less ramp-up time than it would for an agency or solo. Don’t let the agencies/solos tell you otherwise (and this COMING from a solo consultant). Your existing employees already know the historical hot buttons your company wants to avoid. They already know the key points to hit. They already know where to look for data and information. This option means a much smaller bump on the way to getting started.

* Knows your brand better. Since your existing employee is already sitting in a chair WITHIN YOUR COMPANY, that employee conceivably already understands your brand promise. They understand what you’re trying to achieve at a 10,000-foot level. They know the brand guidelines. They’ve already been in the battles (or at least witnessed them) with legal and brand governance. I hate to say it, but these people know and understand your brand better than any agency or solo consultant ever will (again, this coming from a solo consultant).

* Quick access to internal subject matter experts. Not only do existing employees probably already know who to turn to for help, in terms of content. They know how and when to get in touch with them. And, that’s bigger than you might think. By the time your agency or solo consultant asks who the appropriate internal contact is for story X, reaches out to them, gets ignored after 3 emails because they’re an external consultant, your internal resource could have literally walked down the hall, knocked on this person’s door, asked for 5 minutes of their time, and had the content in hand. I would argue this is one of the bigger advantages to keeping content development in-house.


* Not always the best resource. Sometimes you’re forcing a square peg into a round hole. That is, your internal resources may not always be the most qualified to handle content development. They may not be the best writers. They may not understand how to write for an online audience. They may be more “old school” in their approach. And bottom line: it’s probably not what you really hired them to do.

* Existing political barriers may provide roadblocks. Just because your internal resources have better and faster access to internal subject matter experts, doesn’t always mean that’s the best way to “retrieve” the content. Sometimes, political barriers beyond your teams control may get in the way. And, in those cases, an outside resource may prove more useful. For example, your internal resource has a history with an internal SME we’ll call “Alex.” Your employee has rubbed “Alex” the wrong way for months, to the point where “Alex” merely tolerates your employee. That kind of history can definitely get in the way and prevent your internal resource from doing her job well.




* Access to more “human” resources. I’m specifically thinking about the big agencies here, but this really applies to all agencies, I suppose. What do I mean by this? Well, if client A hires agency X to head up content marketing, sometimes, agency X will have to either find  a resource from across it’s agency’s network (think Fleishman Hillard or Weber Shandwick here) or go ahead and hire a resource. Either way, they’re picking from some pretty darn smart people. Whereas, again, to the point above about going with the internal resource, you may be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with your existing employee.

* Get some much-needed outside perspective. Agencies don’t have the historical knowledge you and your employees have about your company. Sometimes, that’s a bad thing (when it comes to ramp-up time, for example). But, in other cases, it’s a very good things. Without that historical perspective, agencies have little feel for the internal hurdles and roadblocks–in essence, those ideas that haven’t worked in the past. As an employee, those roadblocks hinder your creative thinking–you’re always thinking about what you CAN’T do, not what you COULD do. Big difference. And agencies, predominantly, are ALWAYS thinking about what you COULD do. You want to pay for that thinking.

* All-in-one package. Content these days doesn’t mean just text. It means photos. It means videos. It means e-books. It means inforgraphics. The point is, content has many different forms in today’s online landscape. So, a writer can’t handle it all. You really need a content team, made up of writers, photographers, videographers and designers. So, if you had to hire all those positions internally, that’d probably mean adding 3-4 people to your team, which is impossible for most companies (at least, in the short-term). Instead, by hiring an agency, who usually has access to all those components under one roof, you get a nice, tidy package (albeit for a higher price point). Which leads us to…



* More expensive. Not much else to say here. Agencies are expensive. Sometimes, they are worth it. Sometimes, they are not. But, they’re always your most expensive option. No question. Go eyes wide open on that.

* Longer dating cycle. As mentioned above, by hiring an agency, you’ll have a longer ramp-up period. Why? First, you have to get them in the door. That means contracts. That means getting sign-offs. That means working with procurement if you’re a larger organization. Once you’ve done all that (which can take 3-6 weeks, in some cases), you still have to get the agency up-to-speed on your company’s goals, vision, mission and strategies. All that backgrounding takes time. No doubt about it.


Solo consultant


* Better value. When compared against an agency, you’re going to get more perceived “value” from a solo consultant. And yes, I realize this is self-serving coming from a solo consultant. But, consider the facts. Most solo consultants are going to fall in the 15+ year experience bucket. They’re going to change somewhere between $75-150 (ballpark; on an hourly rate). On the other hand, agency folks (at least the ones actually working on your content) trend younger. Heck, sometimes they may be REALLY young (seen this a couple times personally). And, as a blended rate, I’m going to go ahead and guess these people’s hourly rate would be in the $125-175 framework. So, essentially, you’re getting a younger writer/content producer for MORE money. Again, taking a few educated guesses there, but I think those numbers are pretty close.

* What you see is what you get. With the solo consultant, what you “buy” is what you see each and every day. In other words, the same person who “sold” you at the pitch meeting, is usually (barring subcontractors, which the solo usually never lets you see anyway) the same person interacting with you on a day-in-day-out basis. That’s big in terms of quality (see above), perceived value, and making the client feel good about their investment.

Big fish, small pond. Most agencies have many clients. The bigger the agency, the more clients they’re serving at any given moment. That means your agency team is serving a few different clients on any given day. And you may or may not be at the top of that priority list on that day. On the other hand, for the solo consultant, you are most likely one of 2-3 clients they work with. And, if you’re giving them ongoing work (as would be the case with content needs), you’re probably one of their bigger clients. That (usually) means that solo consultant is going to go above and beyond for you whenever they can. Because they know they want that long-term business and relationship. Does the junior-level agency person working on your content care about that? Sure, but not nearly as much.



* Just one person means just one person. The downside to the “what you see if what you get” bullet above is that there’s only person behind that solo consultancy. That means, if that consultant lands another major client, they may get “distracted” for a bit. And, when they get “distracted” (with no or little backup), that could create headaches for you.

* Lack of ongoing professional development. Agencies are usually pretty good about providing some form of training or support to their employees when it comes to professional development. For content development, that means staying on top of the latest tools and technologies to create and curate content. It means honing writing skills. It means learning new ways to unearth content. On the solo front, this is all the responsibility of the consultant. Sure, some of them are great at it, but not everyone sees it that way. And, truth be told, solo consultants have a lot on their plates between new business, the actual work, and admin work. Professional development sometimes just slips down the priority ladder.


So, that’s the way I see it. I’d love to hear from corporate folks who have hired for content development in the last few months. How did you make your decision? What were your key criteria you looked at with each potential partner?



photo credit: geoftheref via photopin cc

Your content strategy is broken–here’s how to fix it

Last week, I visited the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis (I had never been, surprisingly), to chat with the Fort Worth PRSA chapter. The topic of my half-day presentation: Content strategy.

Specifically, I talked about how today’s branded content is broken. And, of course, I offered up ideas on how to best fix it.

Again, it was a half-day presentation, so I’m not going to blog about the whole thing today, but I did want to discuss the 10,000-foot view.

My main hypothesis: Today’s branded content is broken (for the most part).

Be honest. Don’t we see a lot of THIS each week:

Bad content 2


Worse yet, we see an awful lot of THIS:

Mattress Firm ex

I mean, “National Better Breakfast Month”? Really?

Or, we see this type of content:

Bad content 1

Yep–so many brands attempting the real-time marketing thing. And failing. Badly. Believe me, if you really look, there’s many more examples of brands failing at RTM than their are succeeding. Yet, there they are giving it a try. I blame Oreo.

Or, we see this type of content–where clients are so intensely focused on their own organization they forget that customers (or in this case, patients), could really case less:

Fairview FB

How did we get here?

As usual, no one person or factor is to blame. To be honest, I blame me–or, more accurately, people LIKE me. Consultants, agencies, thought leaders, bloggers. We have been the ones telling brands to “create engaging content.” To try “real time marketing” (although, to be clear, I have never recommended going down the RTM road to a client). I mean, we’ve been preaching this stuff for the last few years. Why wouldn’t brands listen?

I also blame Oreo, as I said before. Oreo’s Super Bowl “tweet heard round the world” forever changed the social media marketing landscape. Suddenly, clients wanted to give real-time marketing a try. They wanted to do what Oreo did. And boom–client expectations were even crazier than they already were before that 2012 Super Bowl (which is saying a lot).

But, I believe we can course-correct. We can get back on track with content that works for brands.

I spent the better part of the deck going through that process, and those guidelines and best practices.

It starts with a deep breath, and a comprehensive content audit. What’s working now–and what isn’t? Look at your data–I mean, REALLY look at it (and ANALYZE it). Figure out what content you have within your organization that you’re NOT using (white papers, employee profiles on the intranet, etc.).

And then ask yourself: “What is our organization’s mission?” That’s a great centering question to come back to when creating content.

And it will help you avoid falling in to the traps of real-time marketing and promoting meaningless holidays.

From there, we talked about the following steps:

* How to resource your content (in-house vs. agency vs. solo consultant vs. robots)

* How to create your content (via internal sources, on your own, long-form content trailing to short-form content)

* How to distribute your content (in particular, don’t forget newer platforms like LinkedIn publishing)

* How to amplify your content (don’t forget, Facebook is really just an advertising platform now–but, generally, a very effective and targeted advertising platform–use it as such)

* How to measure your content (think beyond page views and social signals–think about “engaged time”, visitor loyalty and return visitors)

I’ll let you take a peek at the rest of the deck. And I’ll be blogging more about some of the other big themes within this presentation in the weeks ahead.