from pickett&associates … exploring PR, social media and entrepreneurship

Sharing a Little Pat October 21, 2010

Filed under: Random Thoughts,Social Media — pickettwrites @ 7:51 am

Sometimes I feel like Donald Sutherland in Animal House.

You know the scene:  Sutherland’s professor character is lecturing, the bell rings, and everyone just gets up and leaves.

“I’m serious … this is my JOB!” he says, trying to sum up a bit of authority.

 I felt a little like Donald Sutherland after Tuesday’s Pickettwrites post that received a wonderful response (thanks!) but had little to do with any level of expertise I have been trying to build through my blog and everything to do with a style of writing that people have come to expect. After years of penning columns that often included a glimpse into my life, these little personal accounts continue to rank high.

My challenge, I suppose, is giving you readers who are friends a little bit of “me” while giving business colleagues (to whom my posts are sent via LinkedIn groups, etc) something to talk about … which is the first goal of using social media. Provide your audience with content that starts a conversation; engage, engage, engage and create a little relationship. Your social media objectives drive how that relationship is continued, pursued and deepened.

For some great insight into what every small business should know about social media, follow the link from Debra Murphy to read her column, “5 Things You Need to Know Before Embarking in Social Media.”  

Back to my Donald Sutherland conundrum … what I don’t want to do is ignore my friends … because honestly, you have contributed to any success I’ve been able to attain with Pickett &Associates. From introductions to key decision makers to recommendations of my work, you guys have “had my back” and it’s been amazing.  So, keep reading. I promise to continue dropping in those topics you love … “life with mom,” “crazy, voracious dog,” and “lifestyles of the not so rich” – and hopefully you’ll learn a little public relations, social media and marketing strategy along the way.

Thursday … really? Not sure where the week has gone, but I know I’ve been busy! Today’s no different and includes yoga with the lovely Miss Holly, lunch with WhiteHot Marketing, a visit to Premier Advertising’s Halloween open house (ready for spooky tschotchkes?) and dinner at MudBugs Cajun Café in Carmel … for Jambalaya, alligator and watching Swamp People. Now THAT’s an eclectic day!  Stay tuned to @pickettwrites for updates!


Are You Pushing Your Blog? September 29, 2010

Filed under: Social Media — pickettwrites @ 8:10 am

I distinctly remember my initial disdain for blogging. It was about five  years ago, and I think I said something like, “Why don’t you just go in the restroom and talk to yourself … at least the acoustics will be better.”

Yep. That’s the way to make friends in a staff meeting.

At that point, the only experience our PR firm had with blogging was the  lone employee who had entered the blogosphere on his own and … oops … ranted a bit about a client. He SHOULD have just gone into the restroom and talked to himself. Ironically, today he works in a very controlled corporate setting … blogging.

Over time, I learned more about blogging. I learned it could be a tremendous tool for marketing one’s expertise that would ultimately drive business. The “blogosphere” grew. I had friends who quit their full-time jobs to create a business around their blog … and they have been remarkably successful. I learned that dropping in a few keywords and linking back to one’s website can drive interest and even generate leads; I’ve also learned that a blog is NO place for hawking one’s product or brewing up “keyword soup.”

Despite my initial misgivings, blogging has become one of the social media tasks I enjoy most. I blog for myself (obviously) and assist clients in their blogging efforts as well. Yet many entrepreneurs STILL don’t understand HOW to market their blogs. Thanks to the Junta42 blog, Joe Pulizzi this morning lists “35 Ways to Market Your Blog.” 35! Who knew? Click the link and take a look … REALLY some great ideas. Another great bit of insight from Michiel Gaasterland that I  enjoyed earlier in the week, “Shameless Blog Promotion.”

As always, one needs a social media strategy before jumping into blogging. What do you hope to accomplish? How will you know it’s effective? Set up this strategic framework, make a commitment to “blog early, blog often,” and then PUSH your blog out. I know there are lots of you out there who are actively following this strategy … Any other tips you’d like to share?

It’s Wednesday … client meetings, errands, and finishing up September’s “to-do” tasks for clients. And enjoying another lovely autumn day here in the Midwest … I think it’s a  good day for a pot of chili!


Which Comes First: The Content or the Social Media? September 21, 2010

Filed under: Social Media,Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 12:35 pm

I haven’t met with a client yet who hasn’t broached the subject of integrating social media into their communications plan. They ALL think they need to do it, but they’re unsure of WHAT to do, HOW to do it and for heaven’s sake, WHO is going to write all of that?

That’s where a merry band of content strategists and providers assist in navigating the sometimes murky, definitely over-flowing waters of social media. (Okay, sure, I’ll be a little self serving …  Pickett & Associates has found a “sweet spot” in this sort of strategic approach to content for numerous clients.)

Take a few minutes to click on the link and view this video (thanks to Michael Selzner at the Social Media Examiner for sharing an interview with  Joe Pulizzi, author of Get Content, Get Customers) that gives a WONDERFUL primer into WHY you must have a content strategy before you have a social media strategy.

So, how are you integrating content into your social media strategy? What is well received among YOUR audience? and is it in-line with Joe’s assessment?

It’s almost lunchtime here in the Bayou Teche region of Cajun Country … where I’m enjoying a delightful breeze on the patio of The Fairfax House. Looks like an early afternoon rain may be moving in … and maybe a post-lunch NAP. Which, if you haven’t heard, is a GREAT way to boost your afternoon (seriously, even the Harvard Business Review says so!). As that old commercial used to say, “Try it … You’ll Like IT!”


The Challenge of “the Cobbler’s Barefoot Children” September 17, 2010

Filed under: Social Media,Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 8:02 am

After several years working with public relations/marketing agencies, I was certain of one thing: When I started my own firm, things would be different!

I’d commit to joining and being an active participant in a chamber of commerce. (Well I’m halfway there … I did join the Carmel (Indiana) Chamber. I’m ready and willing for committee work!)

I’d DONATE a portion of my services to non-profits. (I’ve actually helped out both the Noblesville Education Foundation as well a the Walk Out of Darkness benefiting the Association Foundation for Suicide Prevention.)

I’d promote a flexible work schedule. Well, I’ve worked twice this week until 7:30 p.m. BUT I am playing golf this afternoon and will be working from Louisiana next week.

And, I positively knew that one of the MOST important things I could do was participate heavily in social media, including blogging, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I was certain that this would quickly help establish my efforts and present a clear picture of my passions and capabilities.

So, my day starts between 5:30 and 6 a.m. with a cup of coffee and perusal of new posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s the place from which I gather my ideas and inspiration for the day. I “retweet” and comment in the appropriate forums from those folks I follow in Twitter as well as in my LinkedIn groups. And then I grab about my third cup of coffee and head into my home office.

It’s literally 7:18 a.m. as I’m writing this; I’ve got my Frosted Mini-Wheats in a bowl (dry) on one side and the glass of OJ on the other. And a dog hoping I miss my mouth. When I finish all this, I’m out the door for the mile walk , and then come back to attack client work  which takes up the bulk of the day.

However, as I gain more clients — which is happening with amazing, rewarding regularity — I am beginning to face the challenge of keeping up with my own social media/marketing efforts while managing those efforts for my clients. And thus the challenge of “the cobbler’s barefoot children.” This is only the second blog I have written this week. To compensate, I’ve learned to drive folks to the blog via my other social media outlets, so the actual visits to “Pickettwrites” haven’t dropped substantially, but I believe it’s important to provide daily, informative content to you followers. I’ve got a few “guest bloggers” lined up (which reminds me of the old days of herding writers for a magazine!) as well as some “video blogs” I’ll be posting soon re: local entrepreneurs.

This very challenge I am facing is, of course, why people retain Pickett&Associates. They have come to a point at which they have neither the time, desire or expertise to keep up with all the lines of communication and conversation that make for a successful business in 2010.

So, my solutions — maximizing other social media outlets that aren’t quite as time-consuming as an original, daily blog — and engaging “guest bloggers” are two ways to tackle this challenge. But I’d love to hear how you are and/or your organization is putting “shoes on the kids!”

For the record, it’s 7:50 a.m. I’m making good time. Need another cup of coffee (don’t judge) and get the tennies on for an early walk. Before teeing it up this afternoon, I have a prospective new client meeting, errands to bank, post office and rendezvous-ing with MY FAVORITE PHOTOG to grab a disc of beautiful product shots. Happy Friday … and don’t forget, it’s Follow Friday on Twitter … read more about it! http://www.abnormalmarketing.com/2010/09/twitter-follow-friday/


Machiavelli Lives … in Customer Service and Social Media September 10, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service,Social Media — pickettwrites @ 1:27 pm

Back in the delightful days of undergrad studies at Butler University, I was among the throngs of Liberal Arts majors partaking of a Philosophy class taught by John Beversluis. According to Google, he retired about six years ago and has written a couple of books, but I recall his class fondly as he guided us through Plato, Socrates and Machiavelli, and particularly the “Good Prince/Bad Prince” discussions.

For the very, very revised version (and for those who were in those math and science classes and skipped this sort of mental gymnastics), a prince is merely “perceived” as good or bad by his subjects and is a matter of strategic calculation. For instance, according to our friends at Wikipedia: If a prince is overly generous to his subjects, Machiavelli asserts he will lose appreciation and will only cause greed for more. Additionally, being overly generous is not economical, because eventually all resources will be exhausted. This results in higher taxes and will bring grief upon the prince. Then, if he decides to discontinue or limit his generosity, he will be labeled as a miser. Thus, Machiavelli summarizes that guarding against the people’s hatred is more important than building up a reputation for generosity. A wise prince should be willing to be more reputed a miser than be hated for trying to be too generous. 

So, I was thinking about Machiavelli today as I reflected on two customer services experiences I had in the last 24 hours.

The first occurred yesterday at my local library when I stopped by to pick up my library card that I had ordered on-line. Particularly excited to download some audiobooks onto my iPod, I approached the front desk and was directed around the corner (without much of a smile, which surprised me.) When I got to the “library card” desk, the t-shirted young man said in a monotone, “I need a picture ID and a piece of mail received within a month with your name and address.” Shoot. Forgot that part; I went out to the car, grabbed my recently received car registration, and took it back in to validate that indeed, I wasn’t trying to scam the library. When he finally found the correct date, and asked whether I wanted a wallet or key card, he said, “It looks like you already have a card.” Well, probably, but not on the new system that allows for downloading, etc. And then, here’s the kicker. Again, no smile, no small talk, “It looks like you have a fine.” How much? “63 cents.” REALLY? From when? “2003.” I supposed I’m lucky it’s not one of those $4,000 fines after seven years of compounding. Still no smile. The kid just took my dollar, gave me change, my new card and away I went. This definitely wasn’t the warm and fuzzy feeling I used to get back in the days of visiting the old library on Main Street … okay, when I was 11. And why hadn’t I heard a peep from the library in seven years? And why was this kid so … NOT friendly? That was my perception.

And then this morning, I received an email from one of my favorite online newsletters, EcoStiletto. Okay, on name alone, I love it. They describe themselves this way: EcoStiletto dishes out daily eco-friendly fashion, beauty, lifestyle and celebrity advice that can help shrink your carbon footprint from a ginormous boot into an oh-so-slender stiletto. This morning’s email touted their new ShopEco store, so I clicked through and found a couple of items that “fit the bill” (total: under $30) encouraged by a discount for a first time shopper as well as free shipping. They use “Open Sky” for their shopping cart which was very efficient, except that I didn’t get my shipping discount. When I received their confirmation, I clicked the “help” email address and inquired. And here is the reply I received WITHIN 10 MINUTES:  Hi Pat, The “THISWEEKFREE” you referenced is a coupon you’d have to enter before you checked out on OpenSky. However, I applied the shipping discount for you, so all should be well. If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to ask! Best regards, Jason

And my perception? AWESOME customer service, with a smile. And I’m sharing my experience because I PERCEIVE this is so.

Back to Machiavelli. My perception of the Library dude: bad prince. My perception of Jason, my knight in shining armor at EcoStiletto: Good prince. For all I know, Jason is providing customer service from home because he’s wearing a device that prevents him from leaving the house  as a result of some awful thing he’s done. And perhaps the “bad prince” of the library was zapped from donating more than his share of blood to a child or searching all night for a missing kitten.

And these sorts of perceptions make up the bulk of social media, particularly in terms of customer service chat. Sure, the social media gurus encourage transparency and authenticity, because the public will eventually ferret out the truth, but at what stage of the game? When do we figure out that the good prince is really a fraud … and the much chastised bad prince is really misunderstood?

I know. It’s a lot to read, but thought it was worth some words today. Perhaps the next time we tend to “knee-jerk react” to something and blurt it out there in cyberspace, we’ll think about our friend Machiavelli and weigh the consequences a bit.

A lot to leave you with on a Friday … maybe you’ll go dig that old philosophy book out of the attic and do a little “refresher course” with a more mature perspective. Nonetheless, good weekend, everyone!


Are You a “Dumbass?” September 7, 2010

Filed under: Social Media — pickettwrites @ 6:38 am

At the risk of being crude, this is the question of the day that I found entirely acceptable on this “back to work” Tuesday.

Not like ‘I-locked-my-keys-in-the-car-while-it-was-running-and-the baby-is inside’ dumbass, nor the, ‘I-accidently-sent-an-email-to-a client-that-was-meant-for-a-co-worker’ variety. This particular category is the “social media dumbass” as defined by Susan Young’s “Get In Front Blogging” post this morning that takes aim the ever-growing group of folks who, frankly, just don’t get it.

She ticks off five items in her post, “Hello My Name is Dumbass” that are dead-giveaways of social media ineptitude. Which is a nice way of saying, “dumbass.”

Susan is consistently ‘spot-on’ with a brash clarity that is refreshing and insightful. Her commitment to real relationship building reflects the fundamentals of business here at Pickett&Associates.  And, I’m more than willing to say, “Yeah. What SHE said!” So, check it out … and subscribe to her blog. She covers it all.

Meanwhile, jumping back into the grind with both feet this morning with meetings that will go well into the evening … but first, yoga to get my head into the game. Good Tuesday, everyone!

 BTW, photo from GotPetsOnline.com … evidently there’s quite the market for miniature donkeys. Make up your own punchline … I’m already in hot water with the title.


Are You Targeting Your Social Media Message? August 30, 2010

Filed under: Social Media — pickettwrites @ 8:32 am

If you think the great thing about social media is the ability to blast your message to millions of unsuspecting customers, think again.

When you utilize social media in your marketing strategy – which you definitely should be doing – it needs to be with near micro-targeting precision. Social Media blogger Maggie Fox illustrates this well with her analogy to a message in a bottle. This paragraph definitely bears repeating: “Too many businesses blast out noise.  They think they have to push email blasts, coupons and clutter to our in boxes, Facebook fan pages, Twitter Tweets every day for sake of losing your mind share.”

I think this is a great way to think of it … but perhaps the “message in a bottle” analogy doesn’t resonate with you. Another way to think of it is this: You are at a cocktail party. Do you climb up on the couch and begin randomly shouting things that YOU think are interesting about you? “HEY, MY SON IS THE TOP SCORER FOR HIS UNDER-12 TRAVEL SOCCER TEAM! I’M REALLY SUCCESSFUL, AND I DRIVE A REALLY BIG CAR! I JUST HAD LIPOSUCTION AND WOULD BE HAPPY TO REFER YOU! … “

Obviously, this sort of behavior would result in (at best) being ignored or (at worst) permanently banned from future gatherings. And this is exactly what happens when you try to blast out a message to a mass audience with whom you have NO relationship and who has absolutely NO interest in you … or your client. You do not gain “followers and friends,” you lose them; you receive “unsubscribe” notices from email blasts, and you note that the “open rate” is nil. The phone is NOT ringing.

Back to the cocktail party analogy, a better approach … you might find someone you’ve chatted with before and engage them in a conversation. Maybe they’ll introduce you to someone with whom they are speaking; you make conversational small talk, finding some common ground. And they may introduce you to someone else, or not. You may move on to someone else in the room and begin the process again.  

So, go to LinkedIn. Join groups that are pertinent to your areas of interest. Follow and observe conversations and comment on them. Start discussions. Go to Twitter. Follow those “tweeters” pertinent to you. Follow them. Listen. Observe. Re-tweet. Reply.

The point I’m making here is this: Building a meaningful following through social media takes time. “Mass blasts” are not the way to go. “HEY LOOK AT ME!” is NOT a social media strategy. Hone your message for your audience, don’t forget to listen and be prepared for a substantial commitment of time and energy.  

So, are you targeting your social media message? I’d LOVE to hear your success stories!

Happy Monday for this last week of August … I’m heading to downtown Indy for lunch (that will hopefully make for an exciting announcement in the near future). In addition to good company, I’m looking forward to that fabulous chopped salad at Palomino.