I still remember my first blog post. It was Dec. 5, 2008. More than 11 years now. The title: Five ways to start fixing the health care industry. That post represented the start of my social media journey. A journey that would not only transform my professional trajectory–it would completely change my life.
I started with a blog because at the time I was in a job that just wasn’t challenging me. Wait, that might not be fair. I’ll say it was a job I wasn’t as interested in as I probably should have. Probably a bit of both, really. In the meantime, I wanted to write. Not about directives and priorities for a health care organization. But, about what interested ME. The blog was a spot for me to rant. A place for me to share opinions. It was a creative outlet. That’s how it started. Just that. Nothing more.
From there, I quickly noticed this thing called Twitter blowing up. I don’t recall why or when I started on Twitter (Frank Strong reminded me in 2016 that I started with the tweet below in 2007), but I do recall the transformative effect it had on me. It was the ultimate networking tool. And, to a person who loves to network, it was a God-send. I had the opportunity to talk with anyone, at anytime, on Twitter. It was–and in many ways, remains–the ultimate door opener. Early on, I remember connecting and following other PR bloggers–David Mullen, Shonali Burke, Kellye Crane, Danny Brown and Peter Shankman, just to name a few. I still remember the moment that Twitter light-bulb went on for me. I had written a post about how I thought Peter Shankman was a genius for giving away a series of gifts to people who were (unfortunately) working over the holidays. I remember sharing the post on Twitter, and Shankman retweeting it with some kind of comment. That was my social media “ground zero” moment. Everything changed for me after that.
I wrote list posts about all the people on Twitter in the PR/comms world here in the Twin Cities. I started my PR Rock Star series by featuring LeeAnn Rasachak and Sarah Ryder (now Reckard) at Sleep Number. I accelerated all my efforts. I blogged more often. I was on Twitter almost constantly. I participated in #journchat regularly (the other olds will remember Sarah Evans’ Journchat!). I was a social media addict. But, it was really all relegated to two channels–my blog and Twitter. I met new people from all over the US. I organized a job search completely on Twitter for two friends–Scott Hepburn and Sonny Gill–that resulted in a meet-up at a then-famous social media conference called BlogPotomac. The combination of my blog + Twitter gave me the confidence to consider going out on my own as an independent consultant who could sell social media consulting to mid-sized and large companies.
This blog + Twitter momentum carried me from late 2008 through probably about 2011. Earlier than that, I knew all about Facebook, obviously. But, I had yet to spend much time on it. That changed in 2011. I was a bit late to the game, but I started participating more on the world’s largest social network. I shared my blog posts there. I posted pics of my (then small) kids there. I didn’t overdo it, but I showed up on Facebook more regularly.
Then, in 2012, I started posting pics on Instagram. It was a new social network devoted entirely to pics. I saw it as a way to practice my amateur (very amateur) photography (and experimenting with the filters!). More so, I enjoyed seeing my friends’ pics. It was fun and light for me. I didn’t see it as a business tool, but more as a way to stay connected with friends and share pics of my family and our vacations (which, to this day, is still how I use Instagram).
The combo of my blog, Twitter, Facebook and Insta was perking along until 2014, when I started kicking around the idea of producing a podcast. I knew of this guy named Kevin Hunt who was over at General Mills. I had heard of him earlier as he essentially started social media at Thomson Reuters (at least here in MSP). I thought he seemed like a smart guy and someone I’d like to know better, so I approached him about producing a show together. At one point, we even talked about roping Lisa Grimm into the mix, but ultimately settled on just the two of us. It was merely an experiment at first, but Kevin and I quickly realized we were having too much fun to give it up. We also quickly became friends once we realized we had more in common than we originally thought (i.e., we’re both huge basketball fans). Five years later, we’re now producing our 130th show and we have three annual sponsors of the show. An the Talking Points Podcast is the longest-running PR/corp comms podcast in Minnesota.
About that same time (2014/2015), I noticed the tenor on Twitter starting to shift. Not as many people were hanging out there. There was more talking “at” people and fewer conversations–which was what drew me to Twitter in the first place. I began spending less and less time there. And, I began spending more time on LinkedIn. Remember, this was when LinkedIn started positioning itself as more of a content platform and less of a jobs-only platform. I noticed–and so did many others. Spending more time there just made sense. My clients were there (PR/social folks working for larger orgs). I could share my blog content there, as well as other content I read on a weekly basis. And, just like Twitter early on, more “conversations” were happening there in the comment threads in posts. Starting in 2015, and with each subsequent year, I’ve spent more time on LinkedIn and less time on Twitter. In fact, in 2019, I spent very little time on Twitter. I check it once or twice a day, but I’d say I spend roughly 5-10 minutes a day there vs. 20-30 minutes (at least) on LinkedIn. Heading into 2020, LinkedIn is, without question, my primary social media platform.
To recap, my social media usage (in rank form) from 2008-2013:
And, my social media usage from 2014-2019:
How has your social media usage changed over the last 5-10 years? I’d be curious what your rank order looks like!
2019 was an interesting year for me professionally. It definitely had its ups and downs. At one point in the year I was working with just two clients–the fewest I’ve worked with in almost 10 years!
On the other hand, I started teaching at the University of St. Thomas–somewhat of a life-long dream of mine.
I worked with four new clients.
And, I celebrated 10 years working with my Sleep Number client–even I will admit that’s an astounding accomplishment and I am forever grateful to all my friends at Sleep Number (including a few of which are no longer there).
Overall, 2019 was another great year. I met so many fantastic people. Continued my Talking Points blog (now the longest-running PR blog in Minnesota). Continued the Talking Points Podcast with Kevin Hunt (the longest-running PR and corp comms podcast in Minnesota). And the Mastermind Group I lead now has 30+ members!
Much like we recap our year as a family by creating holiday calendars for our extended families, I thought it best to recap 2019 professionally by listing out some of my biggest milestones:
Life-long dream unlocked: In July, I learned I would be teaching my first class at a major university. And, not just any university, but one I have been wanting to teach at for some time: The University of St. Thomas. A huge thank you to Aaron Zaslofsky for introducing me to Professor Bruce Moorehouse, who made my dream possible in 2019. It didn’t suck to hear my first round of students say “it was the best class I’ve had at UST so far” either!
Anniversaries galore! I hit a number of milestones in 2019 including celebrating 10 years as an independent consultant! I also celebrated five years of podcasting at the Talking Points Podcast and 10 years with my Sleep Number client!
New work! My goal heading into the New Year was to secure two new clients. I doubled it and secured four! It was fun to work with long-time friend Joel Swanson at Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. And, to work (again) with Jennifer Hannon at Hearth & Home. And, to work (again) with Leigh Huther at Trane. And Katy Epler at the Richfield Tourism Board.
Longest-running PR blog in Minnesota. 2019 saw the shuttering of the longest-running PR blog in Minnesota (and maybe, the country): The MN PR Blog. Which now means the Talking Points Blog is the longest-running PR blog in Minnesota–a distinction I do not take lightly as anyone who’s managed a blog knows how much work and time it takes! A few of my most popular posts in 2019 include: 15 up-and-coming PR and social media marketers to watch; 17 additional winners of the 32 Under 32 List and What grade would you give the MIAC on its handling of the St Thomas fiasco?
Longest-running PR/comms blog in Minnesota. With more than 130 episodes now in the can, our five-year run means we’re the longest-tenured PR podcast in Minnesota!
Mastermind Milestone. I’ve now run a Mastermind group made up of brand-side folks at Minnesota’s largest companies for three years now. And, in 2019, we hit a big milestone: We now have 30 Masterminds in the group!
The Coffee 50 (well, really, 63, but who’s counting?). Every year, I aim to have coffee with at least one person every week. I even write a post about the people I hope to have coffee with in the New Year. This year, I had coffee with 63 different people (I know I probably missed a few folks–if so, I’m sorry!). I’m already making my list for 2020 (I’ll be sharing next week!)–and I’m looking forward to who I “stumble on” in the New Year, too.
Amanda Theisen, Blue Cross Blue Shield
Bao Vang, University of St. Thomas
Emily Pritchard, The Social Lights
Ali Harries, Ameriprise
Jody Ambroz McArdle, Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Association
Brett Boyum, Marvin Windows & Doors
Laurie Bauer, The Vomela Companies
Lisa Grimm, free agent
Joshua Carter, Tunheim
Dennis Cass, solo writer/strategist
Rebecca Lechner, Room & Board
Candee Wolf, independent consultant
Sarah Manley, free agent
Jolina Pettice, HealthPartners
Matty O’Reilly, Restauranteur (Bar Brigade, Republic, Foxtrot Burger, Sandy’s Tavern)
Kathy M, Meet Minneapolis
David McCoy, US Bank
Eri O’Diah, Collective.ly Digital
Lindsay Stewart, Patterson Companies
Tony Saucier, Mindsailing
Greg Swan, Fallon
Glenn Karwoski, Karwoski & Courage
Rob LeMay, United Health Group
Jackie Krings, Andersen Windows & Doors
David Witt, W2O Group
Jesse Stremcha, Lutheran Brotherhood
Ryan Pena, Be The Match
Susan Garcia Hagen, Public Library of Science
Stacia Vogel, Gray Plant Mooty
Justine Perez, US Bank
David Jungers, Optum
Jen Hannon, Hearth & Home Technologies
Alyssa Greve, Cambria
Megan Ayotte, independent consultant
Vince Giorgi, free agent
Betsy Andersen, University of Minnesota
Aaron Keller, Capsule
Alex Mensing, Be The Match
Katie Seifert, Post Brands
Greg Bury, Medica
Noelle Hawton, Minnesota State Colleges & Universities
Susan Eich, independent consultant
Aimee Jordan, Fairview
Mark Jenson, University of Minnesota
Bruce Moorehouse, University of St. Thomas
Anna Liewicki-Long, SnowGlobe PR
Erin Keifenheim, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics
Sarah Reckard, Resideo
Matt Kucharski, Padilla
Monica Wiant, US Bank
Tim Bursch, Spredfast
Kendra Klemme, Cargill
Katie Dohman, freelance content strategist
Sue Serna, Cargill
Brett Weinberg, Allianz
Elise Bartlett, Life Time
Drew Pearson, Goodbye Vanilla
Lida Poletz, Genoa Healthcare
Aaron Pearson, Stratasys
Bridget Jewell, Periscope
Marie Yarroll, Cargill
Anna Lovely, Cargill
There’s a common phrase you hear uttered by all when they leave a job: “let’s stay in touch.”
You’ve said it before. I’ve said it before. We’ve all said it.
The big question is: Who really means it. More to the point: Who actually DOES it.
Because the people who actually DO stay in touch–those are the people to stay connected with as long as you possibly can.
Let me give you a few examples to illustrate this point.
I met Susan Beatty years ago. I don’t even remember how at this point. What’s important to this discussion is how Susan has stayed in touch over the years. With little “pings.” A text message here about an upcoming Gopher football game (we’re both big fans). An email there about a PRSA event. Another text about kids. Every once in a while, I’ll hear from Susan. And, over the years, it’s been more than enough to keep us connected even though we’ve never worked together! She’s a consummate networker, and her “pinging” approach is the perfect strategy for “staying in touch” without a ton of work.
Another example: I first met Maggie Blehert 15+ years ago on the PRSA programming committee. She was a wonderful committee member, but once our time was up together we vowed to stay in touch. Maggie has done this in recent years by sending me a little email every now and again, after receiving my Talking Points enewsletter each Friday. Just a “thanks” or “I enjoyed that article–it resonated with me!” is all she sends. But, it’s been more than enough to keep us connected through the years.
On the flip side, I worked for an agency earlier in my career. I met a lot of great people at this agency. Namely, the person I worked for and a number of colleagues. When I left, I vowed to stay in touch. Now, to be clear, I didn’t leave on the best of terms. I know they weren’t happy with me leaving, but it was in my best interests at the time. However, I was serious about staying in touch. It seems they were not. I remember getting together with a few different people once or twice since I left. But, that was about it–in 10 years! No notes from former colleagues when I celebrated 10 years as a solo. No emails from them about the Talking Points Podcast Kevin Hunt and I have been engineering now for five-plus years. No comments on a recent LinkedIn post celebrating my first semester teaching. I get more notes from random folks who subscribe to my Talking Points e-newsletter than I do from this crew! Now, to be fair, I haven’t exactly reached out to them a lot lately either. But, the lack of interaction over the years tells me a lot.
So, think about the ramifications of “staying in touch.” People who stay in touch refer friends to potential employers. People who stay in touch also refer friends to potential clients. People who stay in touch get together every once in a while to share stories and best practices. And, maybe most importantly, people who stay in touch often become good friends.
The next time you say “let’s stay in touch” after you leave a job, work like hell to mean it and do it. I think the results of such hard work will surprise you over the years.
In the span of just the last four weeks, we’ve seen the Internet Flash Mob take down two big advertising campaigns.
First, there was South Dakota’s new “On Meth” campaign. The outrage-o-meter was at about a 8.5 on this campaign, as exhibited by tweets like these:
People believed the campaign was stupid. That it painted South Dakota in a bad light. Some even called for the ad agency that helped develop the campaign to be fired! That’s the Internet Flash Mob at its finest.
Next up: Peleton and its “controversial” commercial. By now, you’ve undoubtedly seen it. If not, take a peek:
It inspired a slew of tweets like the following:
People thought the ad was patronizing. That it demeaned women. Essentially, that it was beyond offensive. The Internet Flash Mob was in full force last week!
This seems to be happening more often now, doesn’t it? Again, it happened twice in a span of four weeks!
And, while it’s fun to debated and discuss such case studies on the internet (I talked about the South Dakota campaign here). The bigger question, to me, is this: Do we now need a full-blown crisis plan to accompany our ad campaigns in the event the Internet Flash Mob decides to congregate around our brand?
It’s a legit question. And, apparently, one the South Dakota folks may have thought about in advance, as evidence of this tweet from South Dakota governor.
Now, I’m fully aware part of the intent of some of these campaigns is to elicit the exact response the Internet Flash Mob is providing: Outrage. After all, outrage is the perfect catalyst to conversation in 2019, isn’t it?
But, I’m not sure that was Peleton’s intent. Not judging by their comments (essentially, ‘we’re surprised the internet acted this way!’). Nope, they weren’t prepared at all to deal with the angst that came their way last week.
But going forward, maybe they should be.
Maybe we should ALL be.
OK, so maybe it’s not a full-blown crisis plan. That’s over-the-top. But, I do think there’s a lot of value in preparing, in some shape or form, for the Internet Flash Mob, should it show up on your front doorstep after you release that new ad campaign.
- Have messaging ready to go to address anticipated negative responses to your campaign. Crisis 101. By having already-approved and consistent messaging ready to go, you’ll be that much faster to respond when the Internet Flash Mob comes calling.
- Prep at least one spokesperson. See South Dakota example. Now, that’s the governor. She’s already media trained. She was ready anyway. But, who is your spokesperson? It’s most likely not a governor! So, be sure that person is ready for when the s**t hits the fan and you need/want to put her/him in front of the Internet Flash Mob.
- Don’t release your campaign right before the holidays (or a long weekend). Probably goes without saying, but it’s probably not the best idea to release your campaign right as half your team is about to take PTO. Consider timing–it matters.
If you’ve worked in the PR industry in the Twin Cities for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about or visited, the MN PR Blog. Because, it’s been around FOREVER! Since, 2003, to be exact. In fact, to my knowledge, the MN PR Blog was one of the first PR blogs in the entire country!
The blog was founded and managed by Ryan May. As some of you may know, Ryan is battling MS. And, most likely as a direct result of that, the MN PR Blog is no more (it appears as though the domain has expired, if you visit the site).
This is a pretty big moment. So, I thought it was worth commemorating since the MN PR Blog has been an instrumental part of the local PR community for 15+ years.
Like I said, Ryan started the blog in 2003. Back when no one even knew what blogging was! I mean, I started this blog in 2008 and I got sideways looks. Ryan was truly a pioneer in the blogging arena.
And, he was prolific. Over those 15+ years, he published 5,638 blog posts! For context, I’m at 1,300+ right after blogging for 10+ years.
The MN PR Blog was the de facto gathering space for PR folks across the state. Ryan posted interviews with key PR leaders. He posted an agency list that up until just recently, I was still referencing. He posted agency and corporate PR news. And, maybe most importantly, he posted a slew of jobs in the PR industry here in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
I’m not sure what the stats say, but everyone knew about Ryan’s blog. And, I can almost guarantee everyone in this industry has visited his blog at least once in their career. In many cases, I’m sure it was a direct source of a new job or a change in career trajectory.
That’s quite a legacy.
I wanted to get some additional flavor for what the MN PR Blog meant to people in our industry, so I asked some colleagues and leaders in local Minneapolis/St. Paul PR what the MN PR Blog meant to them, and our profession, here in Minnesota.
Paul Maccabee, president, Maccabee PR
“I don’t remember ever NOT reading and following Ryan’s PR blog. Part of that was simple desperation – apart from occasional Star Tribune marketing stories by Nicole Norfleet and even more occasional brief mentions of our industry in Twin Cities Business, there has been precious little local coverage of either our agency world or the lively internal worlds of corporate communications and marketing inside our fave Fortune 500 Companies in the Twin Cities. (Who would have thought we’d all miss legendary marketing reporter Bob Geiger, with his prickly coverage of the agency scene!) The national press – O’Dwyer’s, PR Week, etc – remain intriguing, but seldom covered Mpls/St. Paul.
What did the MN PR Blog mean to us and our profession? For one thing, it was the #1 first place our agency posted job openings and the first place I referred job hunters to, after LinkedIn. Although I cherish my friends at IABC and PRSA, neither fine organization has tackled the burden (joy?) of establishing a compelling communications hub for the Twin Cities PR world, the way the dearly-departed Format magazine used to be for our ad agencies. The departure of Ryan’s MN PR Blog leaves a conspicuous, Super Bowl-sized hole and I don’t see anyone online who appears ready to pick up Ryan’s mantle.”
Rose McKinney, founder, Pineapple RM
“I’ve been reading the blog since Day One. Ryan was active in PRSA at the time and took the initiative to create a blog – no one really knew what one was – that would inform, engage and connect our PR community. It didn’t take long for him to get a following.
For many years, MN PR Blog was one of the first things I read each morning. It was a great way to keep up on who was hiring, who had gotten a promotion, who had taken a new job, which agencies had won new accounts, and more. It was truly a news source, and it inspired a lot of other bloggers in our space to find a niche.”
Joel Swanson, vice president-marketing & communications, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union
“I remember Ryan as a young agency account person joining PRSA about the same time I was going through accreditation. He was a natural networker and community builder – full of more energy than anyone should be allowed. Years later he came to work with us at Risdall to help build the social media and content function. During that time his blog became a prominent fixture on my bookmark bar. At first it was a novelty, a way to keep track of what agencies and prominent PR departments were doing. Over time, it became a critical leadership resource.
As an agency and corporate leader, I have leaned on Ryan’s blog not only to post jobs, but to benchmark and help draft new job descriptions – especially as the industry evolved into digital and experiential strategies. Long before Indeed, LinkedIn Jobs and other digital resources existed, I remember having to draft my first agency job description – and scouring his blog for examples. His blog was the first place I’d ask our HR lead to place them because it garnered the quickest responses (sorry PRSA and IABC). When clients paid me to help evaluate/reorg their communications and marketing functions, MN PR Blog was one of the first places I’d seek out to benchmark what others were doing.
Ryan’s blog made me smart on the organizational structure side of the PR business. He was a true digital innovator and pioneer.”
Candee Wolf, founder, Wolf Olson Communications
“When Ryan started his blog in 2003, I was an avid reader because he was a friend and former colleague. It was a great way to stay in touch with him as well as learn about a new communication platform. I remember being impressed by Ryan’s enthusiasm for the then new media format. His enthusiasm made me want to learn more about blogging and I started a private blog shortly after. My blogging experience lasted just a few years; however, it was excellent experience and a great transition to social media. I suspect I’m not the only one here in Minnesota who tried their hand at blogging in some small or big way because of the MN PR Blog. I also recall some PR professionals in our market belittle blogging early on and said that it wouldn’t last. Ryan deserves a great deal of credit for being a visionary disrupter. It takes courage to champion something new as Ryan did.”