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I had the week off this week, but luckily Kevin Hunt had the opportunity to interview Andy Sernovitz of SocialMedia.Org and Natanya Anderson of Whole Foods around the topics of native advertising, digital storytelling and key rules every social media leader should keep in mind (great post by Kevin over on Linked about this)
SHOW NOTES – November 6, 2014
Damn I Wish I’d Thought of That
“Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking”
Whole Foods Market
The lines are blurring in the marketing, communications, creative and PR worlds.
More so now than ever before.
PR people are playing in the advertising sandbox. Advertising people are adding PR to their resumes. Interactive folks get involved with content. I mean, let’s be honest, the lines aren’t even there anymore. Screw blurring–they’ve completely disappeared!
So, when it comes to choosing a professional organization to be a part of–PRSA, AdFed, AMA, MIMA, IABC–how do you even begin to decide which is the best suited for you?
That specific question was posed to me by a friend this week. And, it’s a good one for the reason laid out above.
It’s a question I’ve struggled with, too. I was active in PRSA circles for YEARS. I was on committees, chaired committees, sat the board, and was even on the executive committee here locally in MSP before I decided to take a step back to start my business.
These days, I’m involved with MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association), again sitting on the board.
But, it wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, I’m still thinking about joining PRSA and becoming a two-organization member.
But let’s get back to the question at hand: What’s the best professional org for YOU? How do you make the decision?
I thought I’d share with you the factors that went into my decision-making process. They certainly won’t be the same for everyone–but I thought they might help as you make your decision.
Where do you want to go in 5 years? 10 years? Which organization will help you get there? Which offers you the chance to meet the people that will best shape your future?
Earlier in my career, I worked more in the marketing communications side. I wrote brochures. Worked on web copy. That kind of thing. But, after a little soul-searching, I discovered I wanted to learn more about and get into the world of PR. Enter PRSA. PRSA offered me a chance to learn something I wasn’t getting in my day job. Think about what you want to learn that you can’t get at work–and find an organization that offers that opportunity. Remember, your day job isn’t everything. You can certainly create learning opportunities for yourself outside your 9-5.
When I was considering joining MIMA a few years ago, I got to thinking: Who do I know in town? Predominantly, the answer to that question was “PR folks” thanks to my time with PRSA. I know a lot of PR people in town. Not all, but a decent amount. But, you know who I didn’t (and, to a large extent, still don’t) know? Interactive types. Developers. Project managers. Interactive VPs. Content strategists even. All those people–didn’t know too many of them. But, I knew where they hung out: MIMA. That organization was the one spot where all these people gathered–at monthly meetings, at Summit, at the holiday party. I wanted to get to know these people (mostly for business purposes, I’ll admit), and MIMA seemed like the most likely way to do just that. So, think about who you want to meet. The people who will, somehow, shape your career and professional life. Then, find out what professional org they’re a part of and find out if and how often they show up.
This is a mistake I’ve made in the past. I put too much stock in the price tag associated with membership. Whether it was $375 (PRSA’s price tag) or the $230 I pay to MIMA each year, I was putting too much stock in the annual cost of membership. Why would I say that? Dollars and cents matter, Arik! Sure, I would agree. But, compared with the benefit you’ll get on the skills and networking sides of the equation, what is $300? Plus, add in the fact that your employer is probably covering all or some of the cost. For those that ARE picking up the entire cost, think about it this way. What’s that next job worth to you? What about that promotion? A new client? All over the above EASILY exceed that $300 threshold. So, cost just shouldn’t be a consideration. At least not if you’re looking at the big picture.
So, I hope some of this discussion helps. I know this is a decision many are grappling with these days.
What do you think? How are you making decisions about which professional organization you join?
First, I want to say I typically use this blog as a way to write what I think will be interesting for you, the reader. To educate. To inspire. Usually, that’s the lens with which I write. But today, I just have to rant. I don’t do it that often. Please bear with me.
A little set-up.
A few weeks back, the folks at Cision asked me to lead a webinar this fall (thanks to a nice introduction from Geoff Livingston). After settling on a topic (content strategy/creation), we agreed on a date and Cision recently began promoting it through all their different channels.
Last week, I see the following email pop up in my inbox from a gentleman who I’m guessing may not be my biggest fan–this email was in response to a promo that he saw in one of the daily HARO emails.
“I’m sure that, at the most, Mr. Hanson is a genius. At the very least, I’m sure that I’ll see something I already know a bit differently. Only a fool would pass up an opportunity to listen.
However–and you knew this was coming because the other shoe always drops–it would behoove both Vocus and Mr. Hanson to prioritize demonstrable best practices in the walk, in order to justify the credibility of the talk.
With all due respect and no invoice attached, Mr. Hanson, branding a communications company somewhere between an unfinished sneeze and a Heimlich maneuver hardly instills confidence, especially with all of the branding and domain name tutorials freely available and the fact that documented best practices for positioning and naming a company/brand/service/product have been around since the late 1960s.
Go ahead and dismiss this as crackpot invective and I will send these solutions to the Recycle Bin and take advantage of the 13 November opportunity to listen.”
At first, I was upset, I’ll admit. But that didn’t last too long. Over the years, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin to these types of barbs. Especially as a blogger and speaker–it kinda comes with the territory when you put yourself out there like this.
So, I’m not upset. No big lingering feelings. But, I did want to take this opportunity to defend myself and talk about the branding issue this gentleman mentions above. Because, I’ll be honest, it’s not the first time it’s come up (and it’s one many solos like me face).
It was a purposeful decision I made five years ago when I started my consultancy. The decision was simply this: To promote “Arik Hanson” and not “ACH Communications.”
Why? Because I’m really just selling myself. Anyone that’s going to hire me for marketing/PR services, is going to hire Arik Hanson, not “ACH Communications.”
So, “ACH Communications” is merely a legal entity in a way.
My philosophy: When clients “buy” from a solo consultant like me (and, Mr. Crabby Pants above, that’s what I am, a SOLO consultant–not a “communications agency”), they’re buying ME–not an agency. If they wanted an agency, they’d hire an agency. Typically, they’re looking for a solo consultant. And if they ARE looking for an agency, I’ve learned (the hard way) to vet those and let ‘em go.
So, please tell me why I would use my “agency name” and not fully promote myself, Arik Hanson, at all times?
Especially when everything I do online is under my own name?
Keep in mind, this approach also makes it easier for me to forge and cultivate relationships online via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and my blog. Relationships which have led directly to business over the years. Multiple times.
Think about “forging a relationship” with “ACH Communications.” Don’t you want to get to know “ACH Communications?” Wouldn’t you want to work with “ACH Communications?” Heck, if I were to do that, I’d probably expect people to describe that agency as a hiemlich maneuver, too!
So, I decided to brand and promote myself. Just me. No agency name. No organizational structure behind me. Just me. And, I don’t see that changing anytime soon (I have no aspirations of starting my own agency).
And you know what? That purposeful strategy has worked pretty darn well for me over the last five years. I’ve had a chance to work for and with some wonderful people. Speak to amazing groups and clients. And I’ve been lucky enough to do it all on my terms. I do feel pretty lucky.
But, apparently, according to this “fan”, I’m doing it all wrong. I should think about re-branding my “communications agency.”
And, I should re-evaluate my credibility in the industry.
So, let’s recap that credibility for a moment, shall we?
If you do just a little digging on me online, you’ll find:
* I’ve been in the marketing/communications world now for 20-plus years. I’ve worked on the corporate side, the agency side, the non-profit side, the media side, and now, the solo side. I’ve seen it all. Literally.
* I’m a PR/marketing solo consultant. That’s it. Not an author. Not a circuit speaker (I speak infrequently). Not a “social media guru” (see bullet #1). Not a wannabe anything, really. I’m a husband. A dad. And a consultant. In that order. Period.
* I’ve worked with some of the biggest clients in the U.S. Walgreens, General Mills, Sleep Number, Walmart, Mall Of America. I’d put my client list up against almost any small to mid-sized agency in Minneapolis. And believe me, those big clients are the first thing other agencies mention, so don’t tell me that doesn’t matter when it comes to credibility.
* I’ve won a few industry awards in my day (MN Classics, IABC Bronze Quill Awards). It’s been a while, I’ll admit, but I don’t have the need to submit for awards these days as a solo, so my opportunities are fewer and farther between.
* I’ve sat on numerous boards, including stints on the PRSA (Minnesota) board, the Winona St. Alumni Board (currently) and the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association Board (currently).
* I’ve spoken at numerous industry events including those organized by multiple PRSA chapters (Minnesota, Seattle, Fort Worth), MIMA, BlogWorld, Social Media Breakfast, and a number of other organizations.
* I’ve been an industry blogger for six-plus years, posting 2-3 times a week EVERY week drawing 15,000-plus visitors per month (on average). I know what you’re going to say: “I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in this one.” Fair enough. But it does show my commitment and writing ability. And, I mean, if we’re talking about my credibility as it relates to CONTENT, what better source than a blog the guy’s been writing for six-plus years two to three times a week, right?
So, I don’t know, would you find this person credible?
Yeah, me neither.
Sounds like more of an #unfinishedsneeze to me…
PS: I’m totally over this. Now.
When you think of holiday posts from brands on networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, isn’t this what we’ve come to expect?
I mean, really? Stock photography AND a product sell job?
On the other hand, when I looked at my Facebook and Instagram feeds last Friday, they were FULL of creative, interesting and downright funny Halloween get-ups and wishes.
Why can’t brands pull off that same level of human-ness and creativity during the holidays?
Short answer: They can.
And, I’m going to give you/them a free idea.
It’s based on my costume idea this year: The Instagram frame!
Now, keep in mind, my wife and I aren’t the craftiest people. In fact, we’re not crafty at all. But, when it comes to Halloween, we like to have a little fun. And this year, since our kids had store-bought costumes, we decided to do the homemade thing ourselves.
So, naturally, I came up with this Instagram idea (full disclosure: this definitely wasn’t an original thought :).
It would have been REALLY fun to take to a party, but we spent a low-key night in our neighborhood with our kids and a couple friends (a few people asked me why I was dressed up as an iPhone :).
But, I got to thinking–wouldn’t this be a great idea for some aspiring brand?
Couldn’t they create their own Instagram frame, complete with their own details (note the “Hale-Page” location at the top of my frame)?
Couldn’t one of the marketing folks take this frame around the company on Halloween and grab “selfies” with employees and post those to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter wishing customers a happy Halloween?
Wouldn’t that “meta” moment be MUCH better than the stuff brands are posting now?
Free idea for 2015! Of course, by then, Instagram and the selfie may very well be passe.
But still, give it some thought brands. And, you can send me that check whenever you’d like