Looks like our over-reliance on social media tools and technology will continue (and that’s not a good thing)
Technology is accelerating at a pace so fast, few can keep up. In our day-to-day lives, technology has completely changed how we communicate, how we capture photos and video and how we consume media.
On the marketing/comms side, it’s no different. Technology has completely changed the way to perform many day-to-day tasks at work. Measuring results. Capturing and developing content. And, sharing content. Just to name a few.
But, with that rush of technology has come problems. Sure, technology has made our professional lives easier and more productive and efficient in many ways. But, it’s also made our lives much more complicated and difficult, too.
What am I talking about?
Think about the technologies you use in your job in marketing or comms. Typically, it will look something like this:
- Google Analytics (measurement)
- Spredfast (social media management and listening)
- Canva (content creation)
- Cision (media monitoring)
- Onalytica (influencer management)
- Salesforce (lead management)
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many large companies have tech stacks much larger than this. And it’s presenting all sorts of problems–and marketers and communicators know it!
Just look at this survey data from a recent USC-Annenberg study:
Looks to me like 58% of in-house communicators think they’re not doing a great job of leveraging technology. 46% of execs think the same thing! That’s not good, people. Not for the price tag that comes along with these tools. Add up the costs of the tech stack above and you’re probably easily looking at an annual spend of $75,000-100,000–easy.
What’s more, look at all the ground we’re now trying to cover with inefficient technologies. Again, the USC report highlights a disturbing trend:
These are all big areas of work within any comms team that are now relying heavily on technology. Too heavily on technology, if you ask this consultant.
I see three big issues forcing these problems right now:
Technology is being purchased by people who don’t fully understand it.
This is probably the number-one problem. Because technology accelerated so fast, and so many tools are available, shopping for a new social media management platform, for example, can be confusing. Especially since many of these digital and social jobs didn’t even exist 10 years ago! What’s more, people under the age of 30 are typically filling many of these roles. These people are being put in spots to buy technology they don’t fully understand because they simply haven’t been in the workplace and business world long enough. It’s a tough spot and situation, and I see it play out all too often.
Technology isn’t being used to its full capabilities.
Once a new technology is purchased by a comms team, many of its capabilities aren’t being used. Here’s what I believe typically happens–a team will buy a new tool to solve one particular problem (again, let’s say, social media management). The tool solves that problem, but during the shopping process, the vendor lauds all sorts of additional features and functionality that sound fantastic! Look at all these new features we could use! Look at what we could do with all this technology! Except, that never happens. You solve the one problem you sought out to solve, but you end up missing out on the full scope of what the technology could help you accomplish–mostly because people in these roles simply don’t have the time.
Technology isn’t being used at all!
Worst case scenario right here. A team gets forced into buying a tool it doesn’t want. Believe me, it happens. You could be forced to buy by a CMO who is buddies with the CMO at Sprinklr. Or, forced to buy by an IT leader who needs your team to use a certain tool. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. And, when it happens, the comms team might make an initial effort to use the tool. But, over time, that fake enthusiasm quickly wanes. And, the tool starts to collect dust. It sits for months (even years, in some cases), barely used or not used at all. A complete waste of time and money.
So, what can we do to avoid these problems? For one, get smarter about technology. Read up. Attend conferences. Stay current because this stuff is changing FAST.
But, more importantly, resist the urge to see technology as a quick fix for every problem you have. I see it more and more each day. Many times, you simply don’t need the technology. Many times, your team can do the work a certain tool is promising to do with just a little extra effort. And with tech stacks getting bigger by the month, that might not be such a bad thing.
What does the PESO model look like in five years? 3 key takeaways from the recent USC Annenberg Center for PR Study
PESO. In case you haven’t heard, that’s Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned.
It’s the acronym that has come to define our generation of marketing and communications. But, it’s also a model in constant flux.
Ask today’s CEO what the PESO model looks like in five years, and here’s what they will say (according to the USC-Annenberg Center for Public Relations):
Now, there’s a few things I find interesting about this graphic:
- Just 12% for paid media? That doesn’t exactly jive with paid media budgets now does it? Then again, this is focused on PR and comms–I have a feeling CEOs are thinking about it from a PR perspective, not an advertising/marketing perspective. That’s a problem–we’ll come back to this.
- 38% shared media–without paid amplification, shared media these days isn’t really equating with a wide reach or big engagement numbers.
- And just 14% for earned media. This must be concerning for PR folks my age and older who grew up with earned media as a cornerstone of any comms or corporate comms team.
What do in-house communicators and agency folks think about the future of the PESO model?
Again, a few interesting takeaways:
- Agency folks, rightfully, see a decline in media relations budgets and work. But, no huge increase in owned media? That seems like territory they can and should own–big time.
- Not much fluctuation for in-house folks. In fact, they barely see earned media dipping at all (just 3%), while CEOs saw that as a minimal piece of the PESO model in the future. Big disconnect there.
- Similarly, in-house folks see owned media going DOWN in five years? Given all the stats and survey data we’ve seen lately about owned media, and the fact that social platforms like Facebook are on shaky ground lately, I find this confounding. I would have thought that number would have suggested a 10% increase AT MINIMUM.
As I thought more about this data, I see three big trends in the way CEOs, agency partners and in-house communicators think about the future of the PESO model:
CEOs seem largely out-of-touch with modern PR tactics–either that, or PRs are doing a lousy job of educating their executive partners. CEOs see shared media as one of the two clear winners in the future of the PESO model. Yet, in 2019, shared media (sharing on social channels) is largely (or almost completely) a paid media activity. Shared media is essentially a waste of valuable time at this point–yet CEOs think it’s the biggest area of opportunity for their comms teams in the future. Folks, that’s a HUGE problem.
While agency partners are smart to see the writing on the wall re: media relations and those shrinking budgets, they don’t see a big opportunity to gobble up more owned media dollars (or, paid media dollars, for that matter). PR/comms agencies are well-suited to earn this work–but, they don’t seem confident they will. Why? Maybe it’s because that work is going to any number of other agencies–digital, ad, social media. Or, maybe it’s because they don’t think they have the talent to pull it off–and talent is in short supply these days. Similarly, I’m surprised agencies don’t see a big opportunity with paid media either–just a 3% increase in the next five years? There’s a lot of money to be had in the paid media racket right now, and PR/comms shops seem to be saying “thanks, but no thanks.” Weird.
A 2% decrease in owned media? Just a 3% decrease in earned media? And paid media seeing just a 1% increase? To me, this is reflective of the attitudes and perspectives of the Baby Boomers who still run today’s in-house PR/comms teams. That attitude is (in my view): Earned media is still pretty important; I’m still unsure about “owned” media; and paid media isn’t out thing–someone else should be doing that. I don’t disagree that earned media still has a place, but the views on owned and paid media are hugely short-sighted and may lead to shrinking corp comms teams in the years ahead. After all, if you’re not adept at creating owned content and amplifying it, that’s a big chunk of work you’re leaving on the table–work that some other team will certainly gobble up.
Talk to anyone about influencer marketing for more than five minutes and inevitably the topic comes up: How do you find and research your influencers?
It’s a good question. Researching and identifying the right influencers to work with might be THE key to success in influencer marketing.
And, if you listen to many in the influencer marketing “industry” you’ll hear a common refrain: you need to use XYZ tool.
Of course, just like many facets of social media marketing, vendors have descended on marketers, pitching their tools as the silver bullet for finding the right influencers for your brand.
But, over the last few years, as IM has evolved, I’ve found one simple truth: You don’t need an influencer management tool to be successful.
In fact, I would argue you’re more likely to see success WITHOUT a tool.
My opinion: The tools are pitched as a faster, easier way to identify and manage influencers. But, I find that hard to believe.
Here’s what I do believe: I’ll trust the human brain over a tool seven days a week, 365 days a year.
I’ve test-driven a few influencer tools over the years, and I always come away disappointed. Meanwhile, when I’ve worked with clients, I’ve done all my own research, used my analytical skills, and have seen nothing but success.
What’s the secret? There is no secret. It’s just good, old-fashioned hard-core research. It’s not easy. It’s not fast. But, it’s effective.
Here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve used to research and identify the right influencers.
1: Always start with Google
Let’s say you were working with a new craft brewpub and you needed to research influencers in the craft beer sub-culture. A simple “beer influencers” search pops up this link with 24 of the best male craft beer influencers. Further down on page one of that search, you’ll find this post of the top 100 beer blogs and web sites–a quick search through that list leads you to all sorts of potential influencers to dig into more. Starting with Google is obvious, yes. But, it’s usually effective, too.
2: Research industry publications–look for who’s quoted or writing bylines
Another great way to ID people with influence in your industry: Find out who’s writing for the industry rags. Again, not sexy, but effective. Think about it. If an editor is asking someone to write an article for their publication it’s either one of two options, really: 1) They’re been pitched a SME by a PR person, or 2) They’re proactively reaching out to someone who is a thought leader or influencer in the industry to write an article on X topic. And sure, some of those people are CEOs and titans of industry. But, some of those people are also garden-variety influencers with a blog, Instagram or YouTube channel.
3: Find the top 5 influencers — research who they’re talking to/about
This is an approach I’ve used successfully many times. Find the big-time influencers and see who’s they’re talking to on Insta, Twitter and other social networks. For example, let’s say you were researching local food influencers here in Minneapolis. You’d quickly find Paul Buttenhoof or @bothrops1 on Insta. With 53K+ followers, he’s definitely a top-tier food influencer in Minneapolis. But, if you scan his account and look at who’s he’s interacting with and hanging out with in some of his posts, you might start seeing people like @eringood, who’s another local foodie with 18K+ followers and high engagement rates. Follow the thought leaders and see who they’re hanging out with and you’ll most likely get down to a level of folks (more of a mid-level influencer) who might be very eager to work with your brand, and won’t cost and arm and a leg.
4: Check out Twitter, and Twitter lists
This is a nice little trick, although Twitter isn’t the influencer research tool it used to be. Find the top influencers in your niche. Look them up on Twitter. Then, see what lists they’re a member of and research the heck out of those lists. Let’s use our Twin Cities food influencer example again. Another big-time influencer in that space is WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha. Just a quick glance at his Twitter and you can see he’s added to a bunch of lists–one by @mattjgundy labeled “MN Food Scene”. A quick glance at that list gives you a number of other foodies to research. Jason also has his own MSP Food list–that’s worth a gander, too. See how this works?
5: Research industry podcasts and find out who’s being interviewed on the shows
I just got done taking this approach for one client. I researched the top 10-15 podcasts in the industry and just scanned the last 20-25 episodes to see who they were interviewing. If the same name came up a few times, I added them to my list to dig into more. Much like industry pubs, if top industry podcasters are having these folks on their shows, they’re doing it for a reason: Either they’re very smart and perceived as a thought leader with someone insightful to say, or they have a huge social reach the podcaster is trying to exploit. Either way, that influencer is probably worth paying attention to for you.
6: Research industry events and find out who’s speaking
Same strategy as above–find out who’s speaking at the bigger industry events and research those folks a bit more. After all, they’ve conceivably already been pre-vetted for you! Conference organizers typically don’t let just anyone speak. You need to be insightful. You need to be interesting. You have to have something to say or share. These are the kinds of influencers you usually want to partner with because they already have a level of credibility that’s getting them asked to speak at bigger industry events.
Bottom line: 99% of us don’t need a tool. We only need to use our brains and our tried-and-true research skills.
Over the last year or so, it seems like the number of emails I get from people wanting to talk about making the jump to going solo has increased. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like more people are making this transition–or, at the very least, giving it a try.
I’ll talk with just about anyone about this because so many solos gave freely of their time to help me out 10 years ago when I was making the move (maybe not always in-person, but I will share my advice somehow!).
The discussion during these conversations usually revolves around the same four issues. These are all issues worth serious consideration before you make the solo leap. Here’s my advice and four questions you definitely want to ask yourself before taking the plunge:
How will you get your “people time”?
Maybe the number-one challenge no one will tell you about when you make the solo leap is this: It’s an awfully lonely existence. I usually ask people: “How many people did you see and talk to today? Typically, the answer is somewhere between 10-20 (at least). You know what the answer is for me most days? 1-2 (outside of my wife and kids). Don’t underestimate how isolating the solo world can be. Account for it. Especially if you’re an extrovert. You need to figure out how you’ll get your “people time.” For me, I try to schedule at least two coffee meetings each week. I also have two mastermind groups I run. So, I’ve learned to be purposeful about how I get my “people time.”
How will you keep your name top of mind?
Because that’s the name of the game. Awareness. So, when a client has a need, they call you. Being a solo is all about referrals. That’s really the chief way we get work. So, you have to figure out how you’re going to get your name out there, and keep it in front of the people who matter. For me, that’s meant a mix of: blogging, podcasting, enewsletter-making, coffee meet-ups and daily networking. If that sounds like a lot of work–it definitely is. This solo thing isn’t for people who are lazy and want to watch Ellen at 2:30 every day. The hustle is real. You’re either up for it, or you’re not.
How will you handle success?
Everyone worries about what they’ll do if they don’t find work. I was always much more worried about what happens if I’m successful! As in: What do you do when you have TOO MUCH work? It’s a good problem to have, for sure. But, it’s still a problem–and one I’ve faced a number of times over the last 10 years. You have to plan for success the same way you plan for failure. Along those same lines: I would also answer this question: Do you want to be a solo, or do you want to build something bigger? Those are two completely different camps that require much different thinking. I think about people like Amy Spencer, who is killing it with her Evo Communications. But, Amy isn’t a solo. She’s building a virtual agency. That’s something completely different than being a solo consultant. She has different needs. She’s facing different issues. She’s trying to overcome different hurdles. Make sure you decide what you want to do before you make the jump. Doesn’t mean you can’t change at some point down the road. But, I’ve found the most successful people know what they want and then go after it with 100 percent effort.
What’s your niche (spoiler alert: you need a niche)?
And please don’t say “strategic communications.” Just my opinion, mind you, but I believe you need to identify your niche before you jump. And no, “PR and comms” is not a niche. Change management communications for Fortune 500 brands–now, that’s a niche. For me, it’s social media marketing consulting and content development for Fortune 500 and midsized companies. That’s a niche. Resist the urge to go broad when you’re thinking about what you want to do. Really focus. The benefits are many, including truly getting to know your prospects. Early on, I wasn’t very good at this. I positioned myself as a PR and digital marketing consultant. Way too broad. As a result, I really didn’t know my customers all that well. Fast forward a few years: I started honing in on social media marketing a whole lot more. As a result, I made it my mission to know as many social media marketers at big companies in Minneapolis/St. Paul. And today, I feel like I know a lot of those people! See the difference?
Over the last week, I’ve spoke to two college classes about one hot topic: Personal branding. More specifically, how college seniors about to enter the workforce can build, nurture and sustain an effective personal brand online (photo credit below: Mark Jenson, professor, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota).
It’s an area I do have some experience in. As a solo consultant, my personal brand is everything because, in essence, my personal brand = my reputation. Clients don’t necessarily buy “ACH Communications”–they buy Arik Hanson.
So, as I thought about the personal branding advice I’d give to a 22-year-old, I started thinking about the typical advice they receive in this area. And, I began to see that my advice kinda flew in the fact of many of those tips. For example:
Typical advice: “Clean up your social media accounts to establish a more professional online presence.”
In this NerdWallet post, one career expert said this: “inappropriate pictures or other online content can definitely harm a candidate’s chances, so it is important for students to gain control of their online presence and to have it reflect their professional identities.”
My advice: Double-down on posts and content that showcases your personality
While it’s definitely a good idea to clean up inappropriate content, I wouldn’t think about your social media accounts as your “professional identity.” I’d think about them as an extension of your whole self. After all, agencies and companies want to hire INTERESTING people–not buttoned-up, slick and polished robots. Your personality–whatever it is–should come through loud and clear in your social content. For me, over the years, that’s meant a heavy dose of family selfies, golf posts, craft beer shots and photos from KU, Gopher and Wolves games.
Typical advice: Utilize your LinkedIn profile
In this Forbes piece, one expert says: “LinkedIn is a great tool for those who are looking to brand themselves professionally, yet there are still young professionals who are not taking advantage. Keeping your profile up to date and relevant allows you to use LinkedIn as your own personal resume and cover letter that can be seen by thousands of potential employers.”
My advice: A polished LinkedIn profile is table-stakes for today’s 22-year-old–use LinkedIn as a research tool to find that first job instead
“Utilizing your LinkedIn profile” as personal branding advice is akin to telling a millennial that Instagram is a great brand marketing platform! Everyone knows that by now–and you better damn well have a polished LinkedIn profile by your junior year. What many college seniors don’t know is the power of LinkedIn as a research and networking tool. As a newly minted college grad, you won’t have much of a LinkedIn profile anyway. You won’t have much to say in terms of “thought leadership.” So, the best way to use the platform is to research the companies and people you want to work for–and then figure out how to get in front of them. For example, let’s say you wanted to get a social media job at Target. You start by looking at Target’s social media channels. Get a feel for what they’re promoting and what the business has been doing lately. Next, see if you have any common connections to Target–if you do, ask for a coffee meet up. If you don’t, find someone you know who DOES have a connection to someone at Target and ask for an intro. LinkedIn should 100 percent be used as a tool to network to find that first job.
Typical advice: You need a web site!
In this College InfoGeek site, one expert said: “The internet has made personal branding so much easier than it used to be, but in order to make a big splash you need a personal website. A website is more than just a digital resume with your headshot — it’s a dynamic networking and information-sharing tool that builds your credibility.”
My advice: You need a blog (or, podcast)!
Building a web site isn’t necessarily the worst idea. But, it’s definitely not a “must” (unless you’re a designer or copywriter and you want a means to showcase our portfolio). If you’re applying for any kind of PR, comms, or social media role, a blog or podcast makes much more sense. Why? For one, creating and keeping a blog or podcast up takes hard work and commitment (I should know–I’ve been doing it for 10+ years)–employers love that. Second, what better “portfolio” or example of your work than a living, breathing blog or podcast! Lastly, a blog or podcast gives a potential employer a peek into the way you think–like almost nothing else they see about you online will. I say no contest here–start a blog or podcast. Forget the web site (that’s what LinkedIn is for, anyway!).