Thoughts on Social Media Policy: Which Strategy Do You Choose?

Business leaders recognize that customers and potential customers expect real-time interaction with and quick reaction time from their businesses. Many also recognize that social media tools can enhance interactions with this external audience and are useful for monitoring the business brand online.

Most good leaders also recognize that employees interact and influence customers in many ways, and recognize the value of an engaged workforce to positive customer interactions.

Yet many businesses still ban or try to centralize control of social media use in the workplace, stifling the potential of an engaged workforce.

Three social media strategies

Social media policy seems to fall into one of three categories:

1. Shut it all down, block it!: Sometimes this policy stems from external requirements, as can happen in government workplaces.

But often this approach stems from a fear that employees will be wasting time on social media sites or will use such sites to share proprietary information or to make disparaging comments about the company. Or it may stem from an inability or unwillingness to provide education and to promote effective use of these powerful tools.

Whatever the reason, this approach can signal a complete lack of trust in the workforce, or naivety about the access employees already have. Neither of these is conducive to an engaged workforce!

2. Limit access with lots of rules: This approach attempts to capture every possible appropriate and inappropriate use of social media tools into a mind-numbing rule book, in an apparent effort to leave little to chance.

Or, as a modification on the previous approach, the use of social media tools is restricted to one or a few people, possibly in public relations or marketing or human resources, whose job is deemed to include interacting with the public.

Such an approach fails to recognize that all employees influence customer and public opinion about the business, regardless of job title. It also fails to recognize the value of an engaged workforce to positive customer interactions. To the workforce, it can feel as though they are being treated like toddlers who must be protected from themselves. Or worse, such an approach, like the first one, can indicate a lack of trust in employee judgment or an inability or unwillingness to engage in discussion and training.

3. Free access with the understanding that use is monitored: Unlike the others, this approach offers guidelines and places trust in employees to use social media responsibly and to accept consequences for failing to do so.

It recognizes the influence that every employee brings to bear with customers and the public, and chooses to expect the best but certainly can come with the proviso “as a leadership team if we feel that a one-on-one conversation is required to clarify our standards we will follow-up with you directly“.

This approach does require the most effort to communicate with and educate managers and employees about the brand, the company, and the audience, and help them frame choices about the use of social media in that context. But the potential benefits to the business are great as well.

Rulebook versus guidelines — which social media policy would you prefer?

Think about it. Treat people like toddlers and they’ll act like toddlers. Treat them like responsible adults and that’s who you’ll be interacting with. Which would you rather have representing your company?

Instead of running from the problem and limiting employee reach on the internet, consider opening up access to all social sites and tools, so that employees can take an active role in managing the business’s online presence.

Getting there

1. Know what your culture and brand are all about.

2. Be able to clearly articulate to your employees how they can help or hinder both culture and brand using social media.

3. Provide the time, the training, the support, and the guidance to coach managers and employees on their options and their responsibilities.

4. Have the resources to monitor and “course correct” when needed.

5. Realize that whether you have five employees or 500, they are all representing your brand and company almost every minute of every day on and off social media.

Leverage the potential of social media and an engaged workforce!

Copyright 2011 Christine McLeod

Media Exposure/PR/Publicity Tips: What Is Your Unicorn Factor?

When it comes to landing media interest and exposure from writers, reporters, producers and bloggers nationally, don’t be like everyone else… literally.

I always tell my clients and folks I consult with:

“My media contacts aren’t looking for horses or even zebras, they are looking for UNICORNS – so, what is your Unicorn Factor?”

What makes your biz, product or expertise a unicorn in this horse and zebra world?

What makes it unique and therefore interesting and newsworthy to the media and customers?

Many top public relations agencies, media exposure specialists and publicists nationally have followed this philosophy successfully for years to generate widespread media exposure for our clients all over North America.

The key is to first identify those differentiators that are most compelling and then share those newspegs with media contacts at newspapers, magazines, broadcast media and online media nationally to help them put together great content for their outlets — and create valuable exposure for you, your business or product.

Each entrepreneur, company, product or expert is different and unique is SOME way – a unicorn. But you need to make that fact known and shared with the media market to reap the benefits.

Your task (or your PR team’s task) is coming up with YOUR genuine differentiator and then sharing that fact with applicable media contacts everywhere – media contacts who are always looking to feature such topics for their readers, viewers, followers and subscribers.

So, I challenge you – find your Unicorn Factor… and then spread the news.

Best of luck!

Small Business Public Relations: Outstanding Media Pitch Notes – Right Here! Right Now!

I’d like to throw out a question to my small business public relations friends. Imagine Friend A sends you a short and straightforward email about getting together for dinner. At the same time, Friend B sends you a long, three paragraph lengthy email also requesting dinner plans. Which friend are you more likely to answer first? More than likely, you’ll respond back to Friend A first. You should think about pitch notes in the exact same way. It can be very challenging to write a short and simple pitch note when you have a lot to say, but I am truly finding that the shorter the pitch note, the higher response rate.

While you’re anxious to share the news about your new product/service, keep your pitch notes tight, concise and, most importantly, relevant. Journalists receive tons (I mean TONS) of email pitches a day. So when you’re onto your next DIY PR adventure, follow these four simple steps to get your media pitching started on the right foot.

1. Relevancy: I’ll assume your research is done and you’ve confirmed your pitch is relevant to the publication, column and journalist. Back to our friend A&B example above for a minute. If you email a friend in California to go to the movies with you in NY, you’re probably not going to have much success, right? In fact, your friend might be wondering if there’s something seriously wrong with you. Sending a pitch note about a new food product to someone who covers technology is equally as ridiculous.

2. Length: The less is more rule applies here. Email pitches should be less than eight to ten sentences if possible. It’s challenging especially if your product might take a little explaining. Even seasoned PR folks can find writing pitch notes to be a time investment.

3. Noteworthy news? A pitch note gives you an opportunity to include a media angle as to why a journalist would want to write about your product/service. It also gives you a chance to tie your business to a recent trend. Is your product a new game-changing technology? Do you offer really clever gift ideas that are perfect for a Mother’s Day gift guide?

4. Structure. Here’s how I suggestion pulling it all together:

– Introduction

– Product Info

– Media Angle/Hook (why is your product/service newsworthy? does it fit into a trend?)

– Offer additional information

– press release, photography, samples, etc.

– Contact Info (phone, email, social media, etc.)

For any more questions related pitching the media or general PR inquiries, please feel free to contact me.