Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

If your company or client isn’t participating in social media you’re missing a chance to create a community and build advocates. Unless you’re connected to a mediocre product, or non-profit organization, interacting with your supporters can turn them into brand ambassadors. But who is the best group of people to manage the community you’re trying to cultivate?

From an agency perspective, the best group to do this is a public relations agency. I’ve felt this for a while but Tom Martin’s  Advertising Age article (Why Ad Agencies Should Own Social Media) prompted me to write down my thoughts and add the PR perspective in the article’s comment section.  As someone that has been interested in advertising since high school, I can agree with many of Tom’s points. The ad industry has phenomenal talent, the most experience driving consumers to purchase a product and experience integrating the same message through multiple channels… but this isn’t enough.

One Voice

The social media voice of a client should be limited to a small team of 1-2 people and the overall voice of a company is more than just advertising, it’s a variety of agencies and campaigns. However, PR plays a critical role in shaping the key messages used in proactive media campaigns, company announcements and crisis situations.

I’ve had an opportunity to work on about a dozen crisis situations, varying in scope, and one of the first places clients go to for messaging counsel is their PR agency. Nothing is more critical during a crisis than messaging that accurately responds the conversation occurring on the news and in social media. During the H1N1 outbreak of 20009, colleague monitoring the conversation on Twitter caught wind of an inaccurate Reuters’ article that would have been extremely damaging to the pork industry. By understanding and leading our client’s social media, he was able to have Reuters stop the article before it was published and respond accurately to consumers that had questions about other misleading articles.

One of the agency’s digital leaders was visiting Chicago a few months ago and he best described by PR should play an active role in a client’s social media:

Every client agency wants to manage the brand’s social media… until a crisis happens. Then they’re more than willing to give it up.

Creating a Community and Building Advocates
Most companies rarely have a crisis, which means they have an opportunity to engage consumers in a positive setting and create a community. Creating a community is the most important asset that can be gained from social media and unlike advertising, it is a two way conversation. The public relations industry excels in this area because our success is partially based on the conversations we have with reporters and the relationships that develop.

PR professionals understand that social media strategy needs to be about more than just pushing a product, it should be about creating a place where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions and contributing to a conversation that is larger than the brand itself.  Maybe it’s just me but I’m always disappointed to see a brand that never interacts with its followers on Tweeter or never shares content that doesn’t directly mention them or their product. Why wouldn’t a brand share information and articles that would interest their supporters?

Playing Nice in the Sandbox

Tom hits the nail on the head when he comments that social media cannot be in a silo and that it should be integrated into the brands communication programs. I’ve noticed from inter-agency planning that some ideas work as a cool advertising campaign but doesn’t have ability to garner a consumer’s attention beyond controlled media and the marketing section of a newspaper.

In PR we understand the importance of collaboration and sharing different media channels. One of the nicknames that floats around our office when people are in the middle of pitching a client story is  “bulldog.”  And as weird as it sounds, when someone calls a colleague a bulldog it’s compliment because like a bulldog you have to be aggressive, confident and the willing to fight for our client’s story. Sometimes this means “sharing” the spot light with a competitor or several other clients in a trend piece or “round up” article. My colleagues and I know this will always happen and we understand that providing information that adds to an article will make the reporter’s job easier and it will elevate the brands status. Our ability to play with other brands shows that we have the ability to look at the big picture and recognize that content will always be based on input from multiple sources. And similar to the bulldog itself, we know how to tackle a project and achieve success, no matter how much punishment we’re forced to absorb.

So Where Does Advertising Fit In?
Ad agencies should play a role in a client’s social media channels, especially in regards to content creation. We’ve seen amazing and moving pieces come from their creative departments and that talent should not be forgotten. However, PR agencies have the best track record for two-way communication (a.k.a. Talking to other people).

As everyone prepares for 2011 budgets and campaigns, we need to remember that we as agencies aren’t silos and that we all contribute to the success of our clients. A social media should strategy reflect these contributions and understand that the best content won’t always come from one source. Hopeful the new year will bring more inter-agency collaboration because at the end of the day, everyone’s budget grows when our clients grow.



Sandbox Photo: Source

Microphone Photo: Source


I am a huge flirt. Flirting is fun and exciting but sometimes it can get you in hot water.  I’ve known the love of my life for as long as I can remember but in February the dynamic of our relationship changed and I struggled to find the best way to move forward.

The first time I saw her, the only word I could muster was a slightly muted “Wow.” She’s stylish with a sleek body, she carries a freedom that can’t be replicated and when she goes out no man can resist staring. If you’ve meet me in real life chances are pretty good that you know that I’m not talking about a girl, I’m talking about a motorcycle.

I fully support anyone that rides and most motorcycles are awesome but I have a special place in my heart for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. My “aspiration bike” is 2011 Fat Bob with a denim black scheme, blacked out engine and as little chrome as possible.  The 96 cubic inch Twin Cam can tear up the road and the seat is just big enough for an attractive female to hop on back and wrap her arms around me.


Modeling for the Fall MotorClothes catalog during the early 90s.


My love for Harleys started at a very young age because Papa Piehl works for Harley-Davidson and my immersion into the culture started before I was born. Growing up a fair number of my vacations were in the same city as a Harley event and when I was about six months old I posed for my first Fall MotorClothes catalog. My excitement for the brand strengthened with time and one of my proudest accomplishments is earning my motorcycle license before my driver’s license. If that weren’t enough, in college I spent a couple summers as a service advisor for Milwaukee Harley-Davidson.

It’s easy to see why I’m an advocate for the brand and why I’m excited to work on the Weber Shandwick account team for Harley-Davidson.* But at the same time it posed a problem for me in regards to transparency on Twitter: What is the best way to balance my love for the brand with the work I am doing for them?

Transparency is an important issue to me, the agency and the Federal Trade Commission because fake online reviews are everywhere. This made part of my answer was easy: If I’m doing something for work, tell people it’s a work project. There are a variety ways to be transparent and it’s not tough to add a disclaimer in a blog post or tag a tweet “client” or “employer.”  This is something our digital team has always told us and is a large part of our digital guidelines.


My normal going out clothes.


The challenge arrived when I wanted to share online articles regarding H-D announcements or an event Papa Piehl was attending (a.k.a. The Maxim Hot 100 Party, the annual rally in Sturgis in South Dakota, etc.). Since the company has a knack for stellar events and radical bikes, I decided the best way to navigate this gray zone is to ask the question: Would I re-tweet or talk about this if Harley-Davidson wasn’t a client?

Nine out of ten times the answer is yes because I’ll be talking about Harley-Davidson motorcycles regardless of where I work and what happens in my life. Now if only I can justify the Harley tattoo I’ve been thinking about…



p.s. As I mentioned above, there are many ways to be transparent. My dilemma was specifically related to Twitter but a tactic you can use to be transparent in multiple social media channels is to say where you work in your bio. If you say you’re the CEO of XYZ or the Marketing Assistant for ABC you will eliminate some questions when you mention your employer or one of their products.

*Sorry folks, no nepotism here. Papa Piehl does not work in the Motor Company’s Communication Department and I spent more than 16 months as a full time employee in our Corporate Affairs practice before I was offered a position to join the H-D account team.

A highlight of my week is reading the Harvard Business Review’s email newsletter (subscribe) and scanning the articles for insight that will take me to the next level and hopefully prepare me to someday write an article for the newsletter. Not all of the articles apply to PR or young professionals but I always feel a little smarter for reading them.

One of the blog posts that caught my attention last week was “10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life” by Alexandra Samuel. Alexandra wrote about the separation people create between their “online lives” and their “offline lives” and how they consciously make the decision to “to engage in online interaction as if it were fundamentally different from offline conversation.”

As the first college generation to experience to Facebook, my friends and I loved the separation of our online lives and offline personalities. Online we could share the photos we wouldn’t show our parents, make comments on a friend’s wall that we would never say in public and it was worry free because Facebook was an exclusive group. But shortly after college, Weber Shandwick (my employer) changed my opinion by introducing me to the INLINE philosophy: Communication isn’t online or offline, it’s INLINE.

The key behind this philosophy is that a company or brand’s interaction with consumers needs to be seamless with no real distinction between the communication channels. James Warren, Weber Shandwick’s Chief Digital Strategist, had an opportunity to explain the company’s INLINE communications research and the evolution of consumer interaction with PRWeek and the result is a quick video packed with info.

Alexandra’s post offers 10 ways our Internet experience will transform by acknowledging our online lives as real. To help make this transition simple, here are a few ideas for a seamless life:

  • Share your Facebook photos with your friends. Not too many people block all of their photos but if you know someone that does, encourage them to unblock their photos. Photos show us who you are, your passions and who’s important to you. So instead of blocking out that part of your life, save a copy of the photos you think are funny but inappropiate and then detag them.
  • Limit your use of the phrase “In Real Life” (IRL). This phrase needs to go away for two reasons: 1) It implies that their is a difference between your online personality and your offline personality. 2) When I hear this phrase I think of people that play the online game World of Warcraft and their desire to create a separate online life. This seems kind of weird to me.
  • Call your Facebook friends on their birthday. Sending a Facebook note is great but who doesn’t love a phone call on their birthday. Use Facebook birthday reminders as a chance to be that awesome friend who calls instead of sending a generic happy birthday note. Its easier said than done, but try to make one b-day phone call a month.
  • Meet face to face with the people you know online.* It can be one on one over coffee or in a large group setting like a tweet up or a house party hosted by a mutual friend. By connecting face to face, you’ll feel more comfortable talking to the person online and you’ll open the possibility of expanding your network to include their friends. (Below is a photo from the Redeye Tweet up in July. L-R: @jasonmuelver, @ernestwilkins, @felska, and myself – @joepiehl.)

Source: Chris Vaughn (Follow him – he’s awesome)

  • Try Foursquare. As a Foursquare addict it’s easy for me to recommend the location-based game but its one of the simplest ways of telling your friends what you’re doing without having to send a mass text message. The ultimate idea behind Foursquare is that it allows you to connect with your friends if you’re both in the same area.

*It was really tough to not use the phrase “In Real Life.”

[I’m still trying to fix the font size… hopefully by next Monday I’ll have it figured out.]