Friday, February 26, 2010

Advertising Isn't Very Social

by Jim May, PR Manager

It’s amazing how many companies are caught up in the social media craze, while completely ignoring the plain meaning of the name of the medium. These folks are easy to spot. Look at a business’s Facebook page. Are 90% of the wall postings by a representative of the company? Even worse, are they all links to press releases, print ads and commercials? If so, that company doesn’t get it.

Now hop over to Twitter and look at some company feeds. How do the Tweets break down? Are they just a bunch of links to the aforementioned traditional messaging vehicles? Is the tone conversational or formal? Are any customers responding to the company’s Tweets? How many of the company’s Tweets are responding to customers? See where I’m going with this?

Yes, social media is exciting. Yes, it holds the potential to transform the way companies interact with their customers. It seems that just about everyone knows that much. Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of companies out there that have no idea why the phenomenon’s exciting or how it can transform customer relationships. They just know it’s something that everyone who’s anyone is doing and they’ll be damned if they’re going to be left behind. If you’re wondering if you’re one of those people, there’s a good chance you are. It’s ok. Relax. Let’s talk a bit about social media.

This Technology is About Community
Advertising is a one-way communication with the goal of getting customers to identify with a brand or product. Social media isn’t. At all. Some say it has more in common with customer service than with advertising. That’s definitely the case, but it’s still missing the mark. It’s a substantial evolutionary step beyond interacting with customers on a one-on-one basis.

Social media is all about community. Companies that want to have success in the medium need to really think about the ramifications of that statement. You might set up an online forum or Facebook profile, but once they’re out there, they belong to your customers and you’re just a participant. If you can’t accept this from the get-go, you’re not ready to participate in the technology.

Here’s a quick litmus test. Say a customer visits your Facebook wall and posts a lengthy rant about how they had a product fail and then received horrible customer service. Within a day, a couple more customers post that they’ve had similar experiences. Would you:

1. delete the post and pray that very few people saw it?
2. leave the post, but provide a strongly worded response indicating libelous statements may be met with legal action?
3. post an apology and tell the affected customers that if they provide their contact information, someone will be in touch to remedy the situation?

If you went with #3, congratulations, it sounds like you have a good grasp on the medium. If you picked either of the other two options, you’re not ready to play this game.

Companies have to realize that once you establish an online location for your customers to form a community, you’re no longer in control of what’s said about your brand. If you stamp out any whiff of dissent, customers will be quick to abandon the presence you’re trying to establish and your efforts will have amounted to a waste of time, at best. Even scarier, if customers have already started identifying with each other and building relationships and they see you ‘breaking the rules’ to preserve your image, there’s a good chance that they won’t just leave. They’ll form a new virtual meeting place that you don’t know about and can’t participate in.

The above scares the hell out of many executives. There’s an upside, though, and it’s a pretty big one. Say the hypothetical situation above actually occurred. If you’ve truly fostered an online community for your customers, guess what… they’ll come to your defense. They’ll respond with their own positive stories about your products and services and it’ll be far more credible than anything you possibly could have said. Yes, you may still want to post a quick ‘Sorry, give us a call,’ to the disgruntled party, but if your satisfied customers start talking, let them defend the brand. They’ll do a better job than you could ever hope to.

By now, I’m hoping anyone reading this understands that social media is about giving customers a place to connect and discuss your products. That said, I’m guessing at least some people would still think, ‘Bah, I don’t need to build a community. People are there and I just want to use these sites to expand my brand presence and drive sales.’ That’s all social media is to a fair number of executives. They’ll adapt or they’ll pull out of the medium. Establishing a profile on a social media site for any kind of push communication is going to be about as effective (and beloved) as cold-call telemarketing.

That’s all for this entry. Next week, I’ll be talking about different avenues of social media and how to select the right ones for your business. If you have any questions in the meantime, leave a comment or send me an email at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Navigating My First Year As An Account Manager

by Sarah Showalter, Account Manager

While studying advertising and public relations at Purdue University, I always wondered where my advertising aspirations would take me, as the industry is so expansive; the opportunities are endless. After getting my feet wet in various advertising experiences, four years later I am at dgs Marketing Engineers. I started at dgs as an account coordinator and just completed my first year as an account manager. The first year was a great learning experience for me, and I would like to share some tips that I believe will be helpful to those aspiring to be in account management or going through their rookie years with me.

1. Be Organized
Organization is crucial in account management. As an A/M, you are literally managing all the details of every single project and it is imperative you know them all (i.e. deadlines, objectives, budget). These details will come to you via phone, email, snail mail, and maybe even on sticky notes and, of course, not all at the same time. During the project lifeline you will be asked about these details from your copywriters, art directors, clients, vendors, media contacts, and maybe even your hairstylist and neighbor, having all those details in one place will save you a lot of time and headaches. It is also an advantage when are able to answer their questions right away ☺. BUT it is acceptable and appreciated when you say, “Let me check on that and I will get back to you.” Managing client expectations is great for relationship building. Everyone has his or her own way of “organizing,” find what works best for you.

2. Never Assume
Never assume that the person you’re talking to understands exactly what you are trying to communicate – never assume you are on the same page. For example, a client may ask you to produce an ad and to place it in a magazine, but do not assume that they are aware of the publication deadline or that the publication is focusing on “shoes” that month. It is your job as an account manager to communicate these details and to inform your client. The ad may be your biggest project at the time, which puts it at the top of your list, but it might be #10 on your client’s list. Always check and double check on the details.

3. Be Assertive
As an A/M you will find yourself in meetings…many meetings, maybe even meetings about meetings. During these meetings you will assume various roles - you may be the supporter during one meeting and the lead the next. During this time you may be asked questions or your opinion or just have a chance to speak about what is on your agenda this week. Speaking loudly, clearly, and assertively is very important. This communicates that you are a well-informed account manager. As the A/M, you are the person on the front lines – demonstrating confidence in yourself will help cement the confidence of your clients. This is a quality that can be of high value throughout your entire career, no matter what industry you choose. I believe practice and developing your own style over time will allow you to be more confident and assertive - this is something I am still learning.

4. Ask Questions
During meetings- ask questions. On phone calls- ask questions. Through email- ask questions. During Charades- ask questions. No matter how you do it- ask questions. Going back to that details rant, it is crucial you ask questions and the right questions. I recall teachers saying through my school years, ”No question is adumb question,” and they were right. If you do not fully understand something or it is not clear…ask. It will save time and effort if you ask questions the first time rather than waiting until you have started the project in the wrong direction. You may have to go back and ask questions 10x before you get all the details you need, but over time and with experience you will ask all the right questions the first time and be that more efficient. As the account manager you come into contact with co-workers, clients, vendors, and media reps, each person having a different objective in mind when they communicate with you- it is your job to ask questions and ensure you have what you need and they have what they need to complete the job at hand.
Remember: Email is faster than snail mail and a phone call is faster than an email - sometimes you just have to pick up the phone and call.

I hope these tips are helpful to fellow account managers or those wishing to enter the field and don’t know what to expect. To sum it up, practice, experience and making mistakes will allow you to excel in the future. After completing my first year as an account manager, I am now more aware of my strengths and where I have room to grow, but I am excited to learn and be challenged to become stronger in this position. Year two…bring it on.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wor(l)d of Mouth

By Justin Brown, Senior Art Director

Have you noticed what’s trending on Twitter? Did you tell Facebook what’s on your mind? Are people watching your videos on YouTube, Vimeo or uStream? How many Flickr albums do you have? Where does Foursquare say you are? Oh my…

Welcome to a new way of life called social media. Shake hands, sit down and learn it, live it, deal with it.

Social media has become a fundamental shift in the way we as individuals, businesses and business leaders communicate globally. We no longer have to find news but rather the news finds us. Let’s face it – social media is not a fad but rather a new way of life. You don’t even have to like the idea of social media but you should learn and understand it in order to build a level of credibility with your customers and be marketable to your business. Even though your mother told you all the kids are doing it and you shouldn’t, do it anyways – at least this time. But tell her you’re sorry. You may need money from her later on.

I’m a self-proclaimed early adapter of social media. Whatever it is, I probably have an account for it. Do I use them all? No. Do I remember my login information for some? Nope. But do/did I use them to learn something new? Yes. I would say I’m more social in media. I tweet and post to Facebook. I have followers and I have friends. I’m a designer – a creative genius if you will ☺. (That’s self-proclaimed too I guess.) The majority of people I follow are other design professionals who have made their career in sharing what they know with the world. They write and share and I learn and do. Do I know them? No. Do I feel like I do? Yes. Why? Because they have the same interests as me and on some level we can relate to each other. I may never meet these people but I feel by reaching out to other designers has allowed me to learn new things. Since Twitter is searchable, I can search for all sorts of Photoshop tips and tricks, creative portfolios, latest technology – whatever I want (as I sit here with an evil grin and tapping my finger tips together… muwahaha).

Unfortunately, *sigh, there are some who have not embraced the idea behind social media and the impact it can have on a brand. Shame. Frankly, they are stuck in their old ways and refuse to accept, at times, personal opinion as a way of thinking. But in fact, this refusal is what keeps them from utilizing the invaluable ways of communication. The majority of social medium is comprised of free tools for goodness sake. Why not use them? Sure it costs to pay someone to do it, but perhaps consider interns or new graduates.

Can social media be disappointing? Sure. Take the newest device created by Apple – the iPad. The iPad has been a trending topic for months and months before it was announced last January. All sorts of feature rumors were talked about and when it was revealed and those features were not part of it, the world felt let down. People, in a way, did it to themselves. They should have known Apple wouldn’t have put all those features in its first attempt – that would have been so un-Apple of them. Apple didn’t have to do a teaser campaign. Instead, the Apple folks sat back and let social media do the work, and allowed people to discuss their product, and allowed them to build product recognition before it was even revealed.

From blogs to texting; podcasts to viral videos; Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn and still MySpace. We’re just scratching the surface of social media network. If a survey were given today, it would be no surprise that it likely would show an overwhelming majority of people use some form of social media. After all, we all have email, right? Don’t you think this is a form of social media?

Look at it this way. Social media is basically the world’s largest focus group.. It has become less about a company’s website, and more about its overall web strategy. It’s about how companies can use this new communication technology to push brands further into our lives. It’s about how they interact where their customers are spending their time. It’s cheaper and faster. Pepsi is practically putting its entire advertising budget into social media these days.

Companies all over are begging for fans. If it’s free, I’m a fan. I recently became an Einstein Bagel fan on Facebook because they were giving out a free bagel for each fan they received. Dunkin Donuts was giving out free donuts. Chad Ochocinco invites his friends and followers to a restaurant where he is at and the bill is on him. As sad as it sounds, parents are using it to be more involved in their children’s lives. Executives are doing online videoconferences to communicate with employees and politicians are even blogging about current bills, etc. It’s much easier to use social media than traditional methods to stay in touch with family and friends.

It’s a wor(l)d of mouth. If you haven’t already, you should learn to use social media. Love it, take it on a date, and buy it some flowers. You need to experiment with tweeting about your business’s latest project and try posting pictures of it on Flickr. Discover your old and new friends on Facebook. Whatever it is you do, subscribe to blogs of interest and leave some comments. Learn it. Take off the blinders and jump in the Social media ocean, and see the change it can make in personal and professional communications and relationships.

(P.S. In real life, I don’t talk this much. Just ask anyone who knows me. Like I said, I’m more social in media.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Unblock The Block

by Janae Cummings, PR Associate

I’m a junkie for the written word. I live and breathe it, so when writer’s block sets in and I am suddenly unable to produce it, I panic. Not on the outside, mind you. To the untrained eye, I am cold steel. But on the inside, I’m like the frantic lunatic who’s drowning in the shallow end of the pool. The nice thing is that these days, I’m better at recognizing when I’m in the shallow end, and within a few minutes, I can put my feet down, follow a few proven steps and get started.

1. Shelve the creativity
All copy requires mundane, technical information, so take care of that first. You don’t need to be creative or think up clever turns of phrase. Just introduce the product and write the specs. 85% of the project will be done before you know it.

2. Surf the Internet
I was once told that reading additional product or competitor information would cure a block. I would have been better off going home for the day. If you need to read to make progress, I suggest the Internet. Really. Whether you’re into sports, celebrity gossip or political news, opening yourself up to different writing styles and topics can help jumpstart napping creative brain cells.

3. Listen to Music
Open iTunes, kick back in your chair and absorb. But rather than falling in with the beat, listen to the lyrics and write down your favorite lines. You’d be surprised how creative musicians can be even in the age of the Black Eyed Peas. Play with the words, rearrange them, edit them, improve upon them. Soon enough, you’ll have your own creative groove back.

4. Walk away
The more you press, the harder this will be, so if you’re still striking out, get up and leave. Not for good, of course. This is a temporary step. Take a walk, go to Starbucks, get some ice cream. Whatever you do, stop thinking about writing because at this point, it’s a part of the problem, not the solution.

5. Freewrite
Pull out a notepad and start writing. It doesn’t matter what you write, just that you’re doing it. My most recent attempts have included songs from Schoolhouse Rock, descriptions of co-workers and a list of words that I think should exist but don’t.

If these five steps don’t cure your writer’s block, you may want to contact your supervisor and ask for a mental health day. You probably need it.