Microsoft is in the process of acquiring the business social network LinkedIn, and it’s a really good thing. Let me tell you why.
Microsoft Outlook defines essential business software and, even for power users, dozens of helpful features remain underutilized or unused. It is not so much that the functions are overly complicated; it’s that they require active user input.
Let’s talk first about contacts.
Contacts can be very insightful and handy. A well-maintained and updated contact list forms a strong backbone for business development.
My best contacts include information beyond names, emails and companies, such as:
- Assistant’s name and email.
- Twitter handle.
- Notes ranging from personal (is watching HBO’s Deadwood) to professional (does not want alumni magazine contacted with news).
Each time I interact with a contact and gain new information, I try to incorporate this data into their entry. However, the reality is that a lot of unnecessary steps take place and – even with my best efforts – information becomes out-of-date. It’s also a lot of work and time-consuming.
Here is where LinkedIn comes in to play. With LinkedIn and Outlook connected, I should be able to seamlessly flow contacts from the social media site into my address book and vice versa. In addition, when a contact on LinkedIn changes positions, the shift is reflected in both places the next time I log in – leading to a reduction in the number of bounced emails and eliminating the need for me to do a deep-dive on Google to find out where someone went.
Microsoft, assuming the purchase is approved, can potentially offer users features that were previously only available to contacts via a costly customer relationship management system (CRM). One of my mantras as an in-house LinkedIn evangelist has long been that the network is a free, relatively sophisticated CRM program. And now, it will be that much easier to use it as such.
Don’t forget the calendar.
I love the calendar in Outlook. In addition to having a robust agency calendar, my personal calendar has all sorts of reminders – “Check In,” “Look For,” and “Due,” are peppered throughout. Again, thinking about the data that we see every day, calendars can be used to track things such as birthdays and when contacts will be on vacation.
With LinkedIn integration, users could add scores of birthdays (often featured on LinkedIn profiles) and create new touch-points based on published updates (e.g. “Offered a Presentation on Effective Negotiation to the State Bar,” “Published an Article on Tax Fraud for Nonprofits,” “Attended the National Bio-Science Industries Conference”).
But wait, there’s more!
After the news of the Microsoft-LinkedIn marriage was announced, NPR ran a story unpacking what it might mean for users. It mentions Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana and quotes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:
Just imagine a world where [Cortana] wakes up just before I enter a new meeting with people I’ve never met before.
And thanks to integration with LinkedIn, it can arm you with powerful insights into the individuals with whom you are meeting, Nadella details:
Oh, wow, you went to school with this person, or you worked at the same company. One of your colleagues at my – in your company, in fact, knows this person.
The Microsoft-LinkedIn connection is a good one for users, and it – hopefully – will reduce the number of times I hear, “I don’t see the value of LinkedIn.” With Outlook and Cortana integration, LinkedIn’s depth of knowledge really gets a chance to shine.
Now stepping up to the plate for our “Getting to Know You Series” is Account Supervisor Chuck Brown, Mets fan, beer lover and agency lumber specialist.
1. Something your clients may not know about you is that you are a big New York Mets fan. How did a native Californian end up rooting for such a quintessential East Coast team?
When I was a kid, trading baseball cards was a big hobby. When I went to my first baseball card show, my dad bought me the Met’s team set. He was originally from New York and thought I would like the Mets. I’ve been a fan ever since. My fandom was further cemented when the Mets won the World Series in 1986. I worked as a paperboy that year, and every morning before folding the newspapers, I would check the box scores to see if the Mets won.
2. Part of the oral history of the agency is that you were prized for your expertise in lumber PR? Can you tell us a bit about this time in BC? Do you ever pine for those days?
My first job out of college was with a wholesale lumber company, doing their marketing and public relations. It was interesting in that you are marketing lumber and flooring to general contractors, a much different audience than consumers. Not only did this allow me to hone my B2B marketing skills, but it also helped me land an interview at Blattel Communications. The firm had a lumber client at the time, and Ellen wanted to pick my brain on ideas around how to best promote the client. Can’t say I pine for my old job, it involved a lot of graphic design. I much prefer writing and really enjoy the variety of clients that our agency represents.
3. If a client was to ask for one piece on unvarnished advice to better their campaign, what would it be?
My advice would be that too much varnish is a bad thing. Clients sometimes overthink an opportunity or want to control their messaging, the reporter’s messaging, the reader’s comprehension of the messaging, etc. Given reporters’ deadlines and the speed of breaking news, it’s sometimes best for clients to be positioned as the leader in the respective industry, and that’s why the journalist is looking for their insight. Just like varnish, commentary to the media should include a broad, even stroke that further highlights the article subject (aka, the wood).
4. Can you talk a little about your involvement with Delta Sigma Pi? Has being a mentor enriched your career?
I joined the co-ed business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, when I was in college. I’ve since stayed involved, serving in a number of national positions and on committees. It allows me the opportunity to stay connected with friends and colleagues, while helping current college students develop their professional skills. It also helps me professionally by giving me insight into the next generation of business leaders, and the communication tools they are using.
5. As a beer lover, and one who seeks out a brewery when traveling, what is the best exotic beer you have ever had and what is one beer that you wish the Bay Area offered?
I’ve visited a number of breweries, and there some odd pairings – grapefruit, jalapenos, cherries, donuts and even bacon. The Bay Area has lots of offerings, but it would be great if 3 Floyds from Indiana could be distributed out west. It’s very much a cult classic in the Midwest.
Next up in our series “Getting to Know You,” we profile Account Executive Joey Telucci, aspiring home chef, celebrity watcher and Bay Area sports fanatic.
1. Have you found it beneficial professionally/enjoyable to have a personal interest in entertainment news, “Keeping Up with The Kardashians,” as it were, given that you work with some of the firm’s entertainment clients?
While I try to avoid anything related to the Kardashian clan (except for Kanye West – can’t get enough of his music), I do find it both beneficial professionally and enjoyable to keep up on the latest entertainment news. I am always looking for new shows to watch. My favorite this year was, hands down, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Although I already knew the outcome, all of the details inside and out of the courtroom made it a great watch. One of the standout performances came from Courtney Vance, who played Johnny Cochran. About half-way through the season, while reviewing an award submission, I found out that one of our clients actually negotiated the deal for Courtney to star in the show. I thought that was a really cool instance where my love for entertainment and my professional life collided.
2. As a former bat boy for the San Francisco Giants, do you ever feel that your work in arming clients with the tools to connect with the media is similar?
Growing up in a professional sports locker room is a very unique experience to say the least. However, I learned how to deal with a variety of personalities and demands at a young age which helped prepare me when I entered the workforce as an adult. In that regard, it’s very similar. Whether you are corresponding with media or a client, everyone has their different needs and quirks, and you have to navigate through these to be successful.
3. Word is that you do a fair amount of cooking? Is this a passion that you hope to develop more fully? What is your best dish?
I do cook a lot – more out of necessity than anything. I like to mix it up and make sure I’m eating semi-healthy while not burning a hole in my pocket dining out all the time. I make a pretty delicious jambalaya (at least I think so).
4. What is the biggest lesson you have learned since entering the world of PR?
Stay organized. With the amount of things that can happen on a given day in our industry, it is best to set reminders for yourself whether you need to follow up on something internally/externally immediately or 5 weeks from now. It always helps to stay on top of things so nothing falls through the cracks.
5. Any advice for those just starting out in the industry?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something does not make sense to you. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and while you may think asking a ton of questions is annoying or may make you look dumb, it shows that you want to learn and get things done right. This is probably advice for all jobs – not just PR specifically – however, it’s an important one.
This is the first of our series, “Getting to Know You,” profiling the professionals of Blattel Communications and exploring what makes them tick. Today, we check in with Account Supervisor and native Clevelander Penny Desatnik.
1. You are a “long-suffering” Cleveland sports fan. (Is there really any other kind?) Yet, you are living in San Francisco, where championships – Giants and Warriors – abound. How do you keep the faith?
It’s easy to be a fan of a team that wins, but when you grow up supporting a team that never does, it builds character. It has given me an appreciation for sports and for long-suffering fans. Jumping on the bandwagon could be tempting to some, but I’d rather keep the faith in the team I grew up with, which forever holds a place in my heart. It’s my hometown, my family, my past, and I’m proud of all of it.
2. What is your favorite part of working with professional services professionals?
I like working with professional services professionals because it gives me the opportunity to be a creative storyteller. When you’re selling a service, as opposed to a product, it is even harder to develop differentiators and distinctions. This job allows me to look beyond stats and tell a fuller story.
3. If you had one tip for someone starting out in public relations, what would it be?
Follow the news.
4. What is your favorite social media tool?
Professionally, nothing tops Twitter, where I can find up-to-the-minute information. Personally, it’s Instagram because you get to experience some creative voyeurism, without monotonous text-only posts or check-ins letting me know when people I’ve met once in my life are at the gym/park/grocery.
5. What is the best piece of professional advice you have received?
Don’t take it personally.
Another Super Bowl is in the books, which means another set of incredibly expensive commercials have aired. This year, CBS charged $5 million for 30 seconds. As a marketer, the last thing you want is to air an ad that falls flat or is panned. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the real winners from last night, besides the Denver Broncos, and also consider how this game and these ads hold lessons for professional services companies.
The “Big Game” is fast-becoming one of, if not the only, “must-see” TV event. The Super Bowl, like sports on TV in general, is best consumed live. I actually DVR’d the game, mainly to skip some of the opening introductions and create an escape valve from the Coldplay-headlined halftime show. (Little did I realize that Beyoncé had us all covered.) In the end, I skipped maybe a handful of “Blue Bloods” promos and local car ads, finishing right about on time with the rest of the country. Not only is the Super Bowl essential viewing, but the league and its broadcasters uncharacteristically tear down content walls to make sure that you can watch it on any device, anywhere.
The Super Bowl defies audience fragmentation. The most-watched TV finale ever is M*A*S*H, which drew 105.9 million viewers in 1983. 80.4 million tuned-in for one last Cheers in 1993. Last night’s game drew an estimated 114.4 million viewers. As a point of comparison, the widely celebrated and talked about Breaking Bad drew 10.3 million for its finale in 2013. Game 7 of the 2014 MLB World Series between the Giants and the Royals topped out at 52 million viewers. This enormous audience is why the game is so important to advertisers and such an anomaly compared to the 364 other days of the year when marketers – both consumer and professional services – compete for audience attention in an environment of limitless distractions.
“Embedded” marketing is a new trend. Minutes after the game ended, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning embraced “Papa” John Schnatter of Papa John’s pizza chain, of which Peyton is both a pitchman and a franchise owner. Then, speaking with a sideline reporter, Manning noted that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.” Sports economics reporter Darren Rovell tweeted that the two mentions were worth the equivalent of $3.2M in bought ad time:
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 8, 2016
And, the real kicker? While Manning owns 32 Papa John’s, he has no deal in place with Budweiser. Of course, the brewer was more than tickled:
— Budweiser (@Budweiser) February 8, 2016
The idea of embedded advertising isn’t new, it is just gaining in popularity as users DVR and stream content commercial free. Just ask the Burger “King.”
Here are my winners:
Papa John’s – Without buying an ad they were part of the game.
Budweiser – Not only did they get some free buzz marketing, they had a very on-point spot with Helen Mirren eviscerating, via British-laced condemnation, drunk driving.
T-Mobile – Two excellent spots. The first with Steve Harvey mocking his own error at the Miss Universe contest as the cell company rebuts rival Verizon’s network claims.
The best spot of the night was “Restricted Bling,” with a cheesy Drake gladly inserting a variety of terms and limitations into his phone-themed hit “Hotline Bling.”
Amazon/Jason Schwartzman – Off-beat humor from a company that has been running a series of “Prime”-themed ads that are hit-or-miss (e.g. ordering a baby carrier to walk around with a dog). The “Baldwin Bowl” was a great set-up. Dan Marino complaining about breading wings and actor Jason Schwartzman hurling food at him was an easy touchdown.
Coca-Cola – The Hulk/Ant-Man ad was well-done (featuring Paul Rudd for the second time in the evening). The company is focused on pushing sales of smaller portions and the small (Ant-Man), medium (Coke can) and large (Hulk) subjects provided excellent contrast.
- Push your content on all devices and platforms. If it’s good enough for the NFL, it’s good enough for you.
- When you have a large, high-value, captive audience (think well-attended client seminars/webinars), capitalize on the marketing opportunity.
- Create vehicles and content that attract large, high-value and engaged audiences. (Then, see #2.)
- Consider non-conventional advertising strategies. In addition to the Peyton Manning in-game marketing, companies such as GoDaddy highlighted their brand via a 30-second commercial during the live stream of the game on CBS’ website.
- Content is and always will be king. Aim to produce and market content that is best-in-class and for which there is no substitute.
Leafing through your Sunday newspaper, steaming cup of coffee in hand, you have no doubt seen commentary articles – opinion pieces written by local citizens and business leaders focusing on specific issues. Maybe the thought has even gone through your head, “You know, I would love to write about X topic and be printed on these pages.”
The reality is that commentary writing is a challenging pursuit. Really interesting, engaging and knowledgeable people are stumped when it comes to this unique blend of persuasive and fact-driven writing. However, bearing a few key tenets in mind, you can greatly strengthen your submission and enhance your odds of being published.
Before we start, I feel I should come clean. I’ve published six personal commentary submissions in major newspapers. So, my suggestions come from personal experience and from consuming an unhealthy amount of newsprint over the years
Let’s start with the key ingredients:
Topical Contents – Your submission either needs to have as its main point a topic active in the news cycle or be supported by recent developments.
Clear Viewpoint – Are you advocating that a piece of legislation be passed? Are you making a direct counterpoint to a current line of thinking? Are you responding to an article or commentary submission/op-ed that you felt was inaccurate or unfair? The editor first – and later the reader – needs to be able to walk away with a clear idea of why you spent the time to write a submission. If you waffle too much and qualify statements constantly, the end product will either look like a news article (not the goal) or lack any muscularity (a surefire way to end up in the recycling bin).
Proper Length and Format – It may take some time to dig up the word count and other parameters, but it is always worthwhile to know what a publication is looking for before pen goes to paper or fingers tap on keys. Cutting a beautiful submission in half is a painful process as there is only so much tightening that can happen and fat that can be cut away before edits strike at the meat and then the bone.
Great! We have the basic elements down. Now, let’s consider some often overlooked aspects of the process.
Have you been reading the targeted publication? – Publications have their own styles, and editors and reporters reveal what topics are of interest on a daily basis. If you are looking to be published in your city’s major newspaper or business journal, you need to be a regular reader. This aspect is directly tied to the “Topical Elements” ingredient above.
Do you actually have time to craft a submission? – You may be really energized by a topic and feel ready to hammer out 500-1,000 words, but freeze up when the cursor is staring back at you. If the subject matter at hand is prominent in the news cycle, will it still be in heavy rotation when your submission is reviewed by the editor? Knowing thyself as a writer is key.
Are you repurposing an alert or byline article? – Finding ways to leverage existing content is wonderful. However, the style of commentary submissions generally demands original text. Partially, this is due to the audiences in question. A commentary article needs to appeal to the widest cross-section of readers possible and often assumes little-to-no knowledge on a topic beforehand.
Do you have a fact set or report to back up your viewpoint? – The difference between a common Facebook rant and a commentary article lies in buttressing opinion with fact. Look for white papers, data sets and research that support your argument.
Here’s one more consideration.
Many commentary submissions are collaborations. – Setting aside co-signed pieces (maximum of two authors, please), the high-level articles that grace the back pages of The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are rarely written entirely, and sometimes at all, by the stated author. The best writing is the product of a process, meaning that marketing and public relations professionals provide a crucial assist in producing a submission.
There is real value in expressing an opinion eloquently and in a vehicle that reaches a mass audience. The process for putting together a commentary submission is fairly straightforward. However, short-circuiting it and drafting a long manifesto in the middle of the night is a recipe for failure and, generally, an exercise in futility.
Setting New Year’s resolutions is a great exercise, and one that can yield tangible change as the calendar moves along. Now is the time to identify a few marketing and PR goals and outline next steps.
In identifying goals, professional services providers should consider these filters:
- Will you have the time needed to achieve your goal? – When setting a goal, are you being realistic? Picking an arbitrary number – e.g., 10 byline articles, six blog posts a quarter – can prove extremely difficult to achieve, leading to frustration and abandonment of goals. It’s often better to start by saying, “I’m going to write a byline article this year.” Or even, “By March, I am going to finally finish this piece I started last year.” Achieving a goal leads to a sense of accomplishment, which fuels further ambition.
- What is the payoff for your goal? – It’s always important to begin with the end in mind. Is your end goal new business, increased dialogue with current clients, cross-marketing, to sharpen your writing skills or all of the above? You may decide that you find writing satisfying and a pathway to being a better practitioner. This is a perfectly worthwhile payoff. However, stick to that pathway. Don’t move the goalposts on yourself. And, at times, you may decide that the payoff doesn’t merit the time and effort required. There is no shame in this conclusion. Just look for a new goal.
- Do your goals complement each other? Have you spent the time to develop a comprehensive strategy document? – The old chestnut, “If something sounds too good to be true, it is,” also applies in marketing and business development. Many times, self-help articles and coaches will champion strongly a single initiative. This can create unrealistic expectations and short-circuit or prevent holistic conversations with marketing and communications professionals that examine effort-to-potential payoff and explore leverage opportunities.
- Are you stuck on last year’s goals? – Are you setting the exact same goals as last year? If so, consider the progress you made toward your stated objectives. What hindered you? As you jot down your new resolutions, allow yourself to pivot away from objectively worthwhile goals that just didn’t prove realistic.
- Do your goals make you miserable? – There is a wide-spectrum of marketing and communications activities available, and as mentioned previously, there is no single pathway to guaranteed success. If the goals you have made in the past made you miserable and quickly became buried on your desk, you may need to take a new approach. You may really enjoy charitable work, but you have been pushing yourself to write byline articles. Is there a way to expand your professional and referral network through your connections in the community? Or, you may dread networking and find little value to suffering through multiple meetings every month. Instead, you may find happiness and traction by speaking to trade groups or blogging on timely issues.
Channel the excitement of the New Year and hit the ground running, but be strategic!