Real Relationships

Photo cred: Olga
Photo cred: Olga

We all have an agenda.  We’re all here, connecting online, to get something out of it.

In #socialmedia chat this week hosted by Chris Brogan, this topic came up and drove a pretty solid conversation.

Can we claim to develop truthful, real relationships when we’re ultimately looking to get something out of those relationships?

I love to connect with people.  I value the relationships I have built online and consider many to be close friends.  At the same time, I am online with an agenda to build my career, to create valuable professional connections and to create opportunities.

Take this one step further.  You’re supposed to engage before you pitch.  Build a relationship with a blogger before pitching them.  But if the relationship is a means to an end, where you’re ultimately looking to get coverage, how real can that relationship be?

I think you can do both.  Be realistic but be real at the same time.  You’re there to get something out of it the same way those around you are there to get something out of it.  But the existence of an agenda doesn’t mean that you can’t develop real relationships along the way.

Here’s 3 ways to know if a relationship is real…

  1. The relationships doesn’t end after the lead. Engagement will follow through.  As I said in the chat, relationships should be timeless even after the sale, or they’re not relationships, they’re leads.
  2. The engagement is mutual and meaningful. Both parties engage consistently with each other in more than passing bits of conversation.  They must have sincere interest in one another.
  3. It’s not all agenda. Is one party only engaging when they need something?  That’s not a relationship.

In the end, only you know whether or not the relationships you’re building are real, or just part of your agenda.

Are you creating real, meaningful relationships?  Or are you pretending to create relationships in order to generate leads?  Where’s the “line”?

3 Reasons Why Resumes SHOULD be Irrelevant

Photo cred: "kafka4prez"
Photo cred: "kafka4prez"

Why are resumes still necessary?

We call for a change in how business is done and then we still use this remnant of a professional mindset that is no longer acceptable or effective.

I’ve thought a lot about this topic of resumes…probably too much.  Stuart Foster and I have discussed it a few times but today when he brought it up, it sparked a good conversation with Amy Mengel, Dana Lewis and others.  Amy Mengel just posted her thoughts on the issue which completely made me rethink my argument.

She makes some great points.  Today, to disregard your resume, regardless of your industry, is foolish.  It is integrated into pretty much every company’s hiring process and if you don’t have one, chances are you won’t get a job.

My point isn’t that you shouldn’t have one…my point is that you shouldn’t have to have one.

Resumes are still very relevant, when they SHOULD be irrelevant.

and here’s why…

  1. Resumes usually aren’t a truthful representation of someone’s value. A double standard exists here.  We focus on being honest, human, transparent, selfless, etc…and yet resumes violate every one of these virtues.  Every time I would visit career services, or have my resume reviewed somewhere, it would be analyzed and reformatted to hell!  Every adjective and verb would have to be ideally selected from a list of “strong descriptive and action words”.  I know a lot of people that put things on their resume, that they barely participated in.  Resumes show how the candidate wants to be viewed, not how they’re actually viewed.  How is this human?  How is this honest?  This is painting a perfect picture and there’s no such thing as a perfect picture. And if you don’t do it, you’ll lose to someone who does.
  2. There are more effective methods. Amy made the point that HR has to keep everything on record and have every resume on file.  But resumes are usually outdated within months of their last update.  If you really want to keep an accurate, up to date file on each candidate, why don’t we start using tools like LinkedIn over resumes? LinkedIn also provides short recommendations, which in my opinion, are A LOT more valuable than you saying how great you were at your last job.  It’s greener, it’s smarter, it’s up to date, and it creates a much better view of a candidate than a one page resume.
  3. It’s time to become savvy. Perhaps this is more industry sensitive, so try not to take this as a blanket statement.  I think that companies that aren’t web savvy no longer have an excuse.  Saying I need your resume, because I don’t understand social media isn’t going to fly anymore.  If you’re hiring someone that has a blog, and you haven’t read a good deal of their blog, you’re crazy.  I bleed my thoughts and experiences onto this blog, and my beliefs could completely contradict the culture of your company, but you’d hire me without reading what I’ve openly shared?  A highly overprepared interview with a HR person who doesn’t know diddly about the industry will never give you the same kind of insight into my knowledge and ideas that my blog provides.

I’m not saying that the HR person needs to read every blog, twitter, linkedin, and whatever else for every candidate..

Use linked in as a filter, the same way you would a resume.  Then once you narrow down the selection to a few candidates, YES, you should read their blogs, their twitter and anywhere else they interact online…and wouldn’t you know it, all of those places are linked right there on their LinkedIn page!

To say that something is necessary and acceptable because the current system allows and requires it, is how a lot of horrible things have happened in this world.  This is no different in concept.

brb…I have to go take my blog link off of my resume so that no HR departments read this.

EDIT: Here are some alternatives to the traditional paper resume.  LinkedIn isn’t the only option.

Mentor Monday: Dave Fleet

Mentor Monday is a series where I feature people that have helped me when I needed it, whether or not I asked for it, and whether or not they even realize it.  I am extremely thankful for these people, and would not be where I am today, or where I will be tomorrow, without them.  If you know what’s good for you, you’ll connect with these individuals as well.  Feel free to join in and thank your mentors for everything they’ve done every #mentormonday.

The Brit-nadian
The Brit-nadian

Dave Fleet

His blog.

His Twitter.

I’ve looked up to Dave for a very long time now.  Like many of my other mentors, Dave was one of the first people in the PR/social media space that i started following right when I first joined twitter.  He was, and continues to be, a well respected professional for his knowledge and expertise in everything that he does.  Being one of the first people I connected with on twitter, he had a very big hand in driving my passion in social media.

Dave won’t bullshit you.  He has a strong grasp of social media and PR concepts as he draws from a great deal of experience.  I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever disagreed with something that Dave has said, and that’s not something I can say for a lot of people.  He chooses his topics wisely and won’t bore you with filler posts on his blog.  He makes sure that his content is valuable.

So someone who has a good deal of power in a community, with such great expertise and who is known for his savvy is probably too big and busy to pay attention to new, young professionals right?  Wrong.  Dead wrong.  Dave is one of the most humble and kind people you’ll interact with online.  He has been very supportive of me and continues to teach me new things every day both directly or indirectly.

Thanks Dave.

A Social Response to Corporate Indecency

Photo cred: Mike "ortizmj12"
Photo cred: Mike "ortizmj12"

Did social media cause us to demand honesty and personality in business?  Or was the development of social media an inevitable result of the inauthenticity and lack of trust that shadowed corporate America?

A concept that I’ve long thought about since first learning about business, was that I didn’t want to be that “stuck-up, fake” business person.  I wanted the business world to “loosen up”.  I wanted to help change the mentality.

I watched Mark Hughes, author of Buzz Marketing (I highly recommend this book) speak the other day and he said something that really resonated with me.  It’s also in his book:

“Corporation mistrust is just a few headlines away: Enron, Adelphia, MCI, Tyco etc…Corporations have demonstrated that they can easily lie, mislead, or obfuscate…the solution is to abandon any appearance of a corporate look. Corporate looks slick.  Corporate looks like there’s something being hidden amid seeming perfection.”

It got me thinking a lot.  It explained my perspective of the business world very well.  It also got me thinking about social media (surprised?).

Then Jennifer Wilbur posted this rant on Arik Hanson’s blog.  It got me thinking even more.  Jen rages:

“Is it just me, or do people talking about someone acting “professionally” often seem to make judgments based on one’s dress, language and polish, rather than on the quality of one’s ethical behavior and technical savvy?”

She speaks about this problem of the professional image being viewed as more important than having strong professional qualities. She also brings up the breach of trust by corporate America.

…but this has always been the case.  At least, as long as I’ve known it, it’s always been about clean resumes, cleaner suits and cleanest images.  So why the sudden shift?  Why is it that NOW we’re calling for honesty, trust, transparency, personality, and all these concepts that have become the center of conversation?

Did social media cause us to believe in these values?  I don’t think so.  I believe the shift to these values is a social response to a negative and dangerous “professional mentality” that could no longer be allowed to exist, and social media is just one method we’re using to change it.

Regardless of “embracing social media”…Are you still thinking with the old “professional business mentality”?

Return on Interaction: Understanding Your Audience

Photo cred: David Sim
Photo cred: David Sim

There’s a lot of focus on the return on Social Media Engagement.  If we invest into social media, what will we get in return?  Usually the answer utilizes metrics, metrics, benchmarking, goal alignment, and metrics.  That’s great and mostly true.

Some business practices, however, are completely immeasurable.  There aren’t always metrics to track the amount of return.  Many aspects of the return on interaction are not measurable, but still essential.

Ultimately business is about people.  It is identifying a need, or want, that people have and solving that need in a manner that is more efficient than the previous method, or lack thereof.

Social media helps you understand people.  By interacting, conversing and engaging with your customers, you are able to understand their needs.  It’s not fast, it’s not easy, and it’s not something that you can necessarily track, but it’s vital to any business that intends to be successful beyond the current status quo.

Things change, trends come and go, and along with it changes the needs of your customers.  No traditional market research method will help you truly understand the changing needs of your customers as well as legitimate, sincere interaction.

Don’t lose sight of your customers’ needs…

  1. Look for any feedback customers have about your product or service. Encourage it.
  2. If you can’t get any feedback, look at what your customers like about your competitors…are they fulfilling their need better than you are?
  3. Ask questions, answer questions, start conversations and partake in ones that already exist…but be real.  Lose the agenda. Just learn.
  4. Stay involved in the community in any way possible, and that means contributing, not just seeking information.
  5. The best way to understand a community is to be a part of it.  It’s not always about being the community leader.  Sometimes, it’s better to just blend in…you’re just another member.

If you’re not interacting with your customers, in their community, you’ll slowly lose your understanding of their needs and become irrelevant when someone else applies their service to the current needs of your customer

People may not always tell you want they want or what they need.  Sometimes, they don’t know what they need, they just know they need something.

If you’re consistently active in your customers’ communication channels, they won’t have to tell you, you’ll already know.

Perhaps this is why companies that once seemed to rule the world (Microsoft) end up losing momentum to companies that seemed like niche, small players early on (Apple).  Apple is currently doing a lot of things right, but if they don’t continue to recognize the changes in their customers needs, and adapt, the same will happen to them, as it did to Microsoft, as it’s happening to MySpace, as it did to every company who lost sight of their customers’ needs.

A company that’s doing a great job of learning their customer’s needs and applying them to their service is Seesmic.  They pump out updates before you even realize you needed them.

Benchmarking is Critical…No Matter the Program

ChuckThis is a guest post by Chuck Hemann, the research manager for Dix & Eaton, a communications consulting firm, where he helps lead measurement, monitoring (social and traditional) and competitive intelligence efforts for the agency’s clients. You can connect with Chuck on Twitter and at his blog on PR measurement. The views in this post belong to Chuck Hemann and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of his employer...
Photo cred: "HeyThereSpaceman"
Photo cred: "HeyThereSpaceman"

The measurement geeks among us (I’d count myself in that category) are often fond of talking about the importance of setting measurable goals and objectives, and benchmarking. I’m of the opinion that these two steps are 1a and 1b (or reversed if you’d like) of ANY communications program, not just public relations.

The importance of setting measurable goals and objectives will be left for another day. If you want to learn more about that you can visit the blogs of Katie Paine and Don Bartholomew.

Rather, David thought it would be helpful if I spent a little time on benchmarking. Benchmarking can help you leverage your communications program by providing insights and ensuing recommendations that ensure your messages respond to actual differences in perception between you and your peer group. We recommend to clients all the time that they benchmark to start social media, advertising, marketing, even internal communications programs. As critical as it is to set measurable goals and objectives, it might be even more critical that those measurable goals and objectives be grounded in some basis of fact. Benchmarking can help you do that.

So what are the two most common ways that we benchmark?

1. Content analysis – this method really applies to social and traditional media relations. What are the media saying about you? Is it positive? Is it negative? Where are they talking about you? What messages are they picking up? Are they reacting to an experience they had with your company or product (particularly applicable to social media)? Why are they talking about you? Is the coverage surrounding a major corporate event? These are just some of the questions you would try to answer by benchmarking before the start of a communications program. The good news for you is that there are a plethora of tools available to you that can help gather the relevant data and then analyze it. However, if you prefer a low-tech approach, many of these questions/thoughts can be answered by even the most math averse among us.

2. Surveys – content analysis tends to be limited to social and traditional media campaigns, while surveys can help you answer many more questions, and aren’t just limited to those two types of efforts. You can utilize surveys at the start of internal communications, marketing, advertising, even traditional and social media programs. We often survey journalists at the start of media relations programs in order to gauge awareness (there’s that dirty word again) of the company or its products.

There are obviously others, these are just two of the more popular methods.

TWO WORDS OF CAUTION

1. Do not skip this step. Far too often, we are in a hurry to begin the program without any basis for where we are now/what we’ve already done. You don’t want to be in the position where someone asks you about the performance of a campaign and you have nothing to compare it against.

2. Be sure to allocate enough budget for this process. Why is research often neglected in communications? Because it has the perception (however misguided) that it’s expensive to conduct. Here’s what some won’t tell you…it is sometimes. Depending upon the scope of the project, a survey or content analysis can be pricey. However, in most instances you can decipher enough actionable insight by using approximately 8-10% of your overall budget. I know it seems high, but I think you’d prefer to be achieving what you said you’d achieve, right?

Anyway, are there things that I haven’t mentioned here that you are doing? If so, what have you experienced? Are clients resistant? Are we as professionals resistant? I’m looking forward to learning from you!

Mentor Monday: Lauren Fernandez

Mentor Monday is a series where I feature people that have helped me when I needed it, whether or not I asked for it, and whether or not they even realize it.  I am extremely thankful for these people, and would not be where I am today, or where I will be tomorrow, without them.  If you know what’s good for you, you’ll connect with these individuals as well.  Feel free to join in and thank your mentors for everything they’ve done every #mentormonday.

"The Flirty Nerd" -RockstarJen
LAF

Lauren Fernandez

Her blog.

Her Twitter.

Her Reputation.

There are so many things that Lauren has done for me both directly and indirectly that has made her such an amazing mentor.

She is as humble as she is friendly as she is smart, and she’s not afraid to share any of her talents with anyone deserving of them.  Lauren was one of the first people I connected with on Twitter and right from the get go, she was supportive, kind, and really helpful.  She makes me a more confident professional.

From the day I connected with Lauren I feel like I could ask her for anything, short of rooting for the Vikings, and she would help to the absolute best of her ability.  She’s given me advice, walked me through tough situations that I’ve faces, supported me (way too kind), helped me with my blog during its really early stages, and continues to inspire me every day.

Indirectly, I’ve observed Lauren and her interactions for some time on twitter.  She’s able to approach the professional world with a sense of fun and informality that I try to practice in my own endeavors.  She’s able to create a really comfortable atmosphere, without ever being inapproprite from a professional standpoint.  (Good post by Lauren on this topic recently).

By example, she has shown me that it is possible to be yourself, while still being a hardworking and successful professional.

Anyone, especially students looking to get into PR, needs to connect with Lauren.  If not for career value, then just for the fun of it, as the “flirty nerd” (see RockstarJen’s review) never fails to entertain.