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PR + Social ---> Boom

Why you build a brand: to add value to your company.
How you build a brand: advertising, marketing, PR, events, social media, publications, web, mobile, apps, sales, email, conferences customer service, internal name it.
A top-priority, critical intersection you're likely overlooking: the connection between PR and social media.
The connections between your disparate activities generally.
Why you should focus on PR and social media specifically: because the one has an exponential force multiplier effect on the other. Almost nuclear.
Just to review for a second.
1) Why you do PR:
  • Short-term proactive: Get the word out among influencers, who then tell the rest of the world
  • Long-term insurance: Build your reputation for current and prospective investors, and in case of a future crisis
  • Reactive: Minimize damage in case of a crisis
2) Social media's rationale:
  • Community-building, channel - agnostic - i.e. a content portal or a unique social media brand across distinct tools
  • Community-building narrow-targeted by channel - i.e. reach the audience that consumes a particular type of tool, i.e. Twitter
Now consider how coordinating PR and social media multiples your opportunities for positive exposure and awareness:
  • PR folks get "influencer" media coverage - social media professionals drive that coverage online. They drive traffic from that precious interview elsewhere, multiplying your audience, attracting new customers for your business.
  • Social media professionals know how to talk to particular online communities - translating influencer impact across digital cultures. That article in a technical publication may impress other technical professionals, but imagine the possibilities if you establish a presence on platforms that reach either a broader or a completely different audience. 
  • Cross-pollination of print and digital; audio, video, visual, experiential and living projects. So much time, effort and money goes into the focus on one particular event, publication, medium or channel strategy. The PR expert can zero in on the most important print and online channels for a particular audience, and the social media professional has both the technical skill and pop-culture sensibility to work across stovepipes, appeal to the commercial mindset and turn on a dime while doing so.
If you're going to focus on any two areas to promote your brand right now, I would urge you to integrate PR and social media.
Photo credit: U.S. Marines via Flickr. All opinions my own. Check out my author page on Amazon.

I Am Strong When You Are With Me

"He wants to hold my hand. But I'm short."
"So walk side by side."
"He wants to hold my hand. So I said to him, 'I'm short. I can hold your arm though.'"
"What did he say to that?"
"Once I put it that way, then he calmed down."
* * *
  • We seek to grow and evolve as individuals.
  • We live to walk arm in arm with our significant other.
* * * 
"OK, you're in voice change mode."
"Good morning."
"So is it really true that 1 in 3 women keep their ex's phone number in their phone, and are even still secretly in love? Because I think about my wife, and frankly that scares me."
DC's Hot 99.5 was holding its daily morning discussion of relationships. Around the microphone: Kane, Danni and Intern John.
"Absolutely, Kane. I'm getting married on Sunday. But if Brandon were to call, I'd leave my fiancee in a heartbeat." 
"You're kidding."
"Absolutely. And he cheated on me."
"He cheated on you? And you still love him? We don't judge, we just observe. But that's crazy."
"I love him though."
"Can I tell you something please? Please don't get married. Why are you marrying him?"
I can't remember the response.
* * * 
I work in a startup. We have our own office space. Yet much of the time, we operate by posse.
Meet, hash it out, read the draft, knock it out, rehearse the presentation and comment before things go out the door.
  • Yes, it's quality control.
  • Yes, it's time-efficient.
  • Yes, it's engagement, culture, and morale.

But there's something else at work too. We are flying out there on the high wire.
We need each other there for moral support.
Because we will screw up, but we still have to go on.
We need to know we can fall and get back up without losing face.
* * * 
The other day I had to give a branding presentation, and I didn't know the crowd at all. And I was scared. Throat locked up. Legs shaking. Sweaty.
I looked out at the audience. Tight-lipped. Expressionless. No read.
So I imagined them sitting there in their underwear.
But the visual was fairly distasteful. I couldn't see it through.
"They're a tough crowd, aren't they? You'll be alright though."
There, a member of my team. I must have looked really bad.
"Yeah," I cranked the corners of my mouth up, even though I couldn't smile. "I'll survive." 
* * *

They called me up. It started out badly.
"I'm the one standing between you and lunch, hahaha. Not a great place to be."
You could have heard a feather flying in the air, the air was so dead. Not a sound.
I am dead. I'm sure of it.
And then, out of nowhere. An invisible hand pushed me out of the podium area and toward the u-shaped table in the middle of the room. 
Now, out of nowhere I was Liza Minnelli.
"Who here likes McDonald's coffee?" 
Some startled expressions. Hands went up.
Hey, this is fun!
"Who here likes Starbucks?" 
A wave of energy blew through the room.
"NEITHER!" somebody hooted.
"BUDWEISER!" a third.
And then the room went wild. 
The monologue became a dialogue, a tri-alogue, a multi-athlon.
My guardian angel had given me a tip:
"My child, you're not alone. Bring them into the circle with you."
For that half an hour, we had a posse of our own. Unbreakable.
What I learned that day:
  • On your own, you are undoubtedly an ass.
  • But in a group that accepts you, you're an ass with class.
There is no presentation without a frame. That frame comes from the context, from the culture. But you don't know the natives till the natives let you in. 
So change the way you approach your business - your brand.
Don't think of it as you on your own, the isolated one who has all the ideas.
Instead ask your stakeholders how.
How can we move together in unison?
How can we become a small, tightly knit team?
* * * 
We are each of us aspects of the Divine.
What I lack, you have. What you need, I can supply you.
We work better in small teams. Humans are a series of concentric circles - overlapping circles - together.
A great relationship is one where you stand on your own two feet, but can finish your partner's sentences.
In the end, the strong brand is co-produced. It is branches, roots and wings. 
All opinions my own. Check out my author page on Amazon. Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr. 

What The Kabbalist Told My Dad

I asked my dad to consult a Kabbalist because I kept seeing "6:13" on my iPhone and other clocks.

This happened at least 8 times by the time I called my dad. It wasn't my imagination - noticed it enough to take screenshots.

Also note: Normally I don't even notice the time. Only recently bought a watch!

Still, I wasn't going to call or consult anyone.

My family worried. They thought it might be a warning, as I am less religiously observant than them. (Significance: There are 613 commandments in the Torah.)

Initially I brushed them off. Then one night I picked up the phone. Because many years ago my life was in grave danger and I survived after some very intense prayer on my behalf.

So. A few weeks later, last night, my dad visited with the Kabbalist. I am going to share some of what I was told - the part that is relevant to a wider audience. It is a spiritual message, and spiritual messages need to be shared.

As I do this I understand some of you will be cynical. But I think I am supposed to write it down. You can do what you want with the information.

1. "Your ancestors are pleading with you to return to the fold." My ancestry goes back to Rabbi Yosef Caro, a Kabbalist and the author of the Shulchan Aruch. This confirms to me that our souls are immortal and connected.

2. "Do not let the prayers said over you be in vain." I almost died back then. Something was said that kept me alive. The merit was invoked for me somehow.

3. "You don't have to do everything at once." Specifically I should keep kosher, Sabbath and go to a mostly observant synagogue with the family Sabbath morning.

I didn't feel I was being attacked with these comments. Rather I understood that although some things I am doing may be positive, others are not. Specifically the commandments between humans and G-d. Been arrogant, spiteful and rebellious.

There is no scientific way to prove that the Kabbalist's words are accurate advice for me. But they feel accurate. I am going to listen.

Give the honor to the Creator.


By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions my own. All rights reserved. Photo via Free-Photos at Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Brand Is Only The Social Network

Remember the good old days of building a brand? The days of "Mad Men."
You took the client out for steak and wine. You wrote up a creative brief. 
You gave it to the client, who signed it. And then you delivered Choices A, B, and C.
They chose one, and you did advertising.
A brand was born.
* * * 
Times have changed a lot since those magical days, if ever they really existed.
Now, people "get in the way" of the "perfectly architected" brand. Routinely.
We live in the age of chaos. A different logic determines the social order. And brands are not determined in advance. 
Social media has made the pecking order. Even if you don't see your stakeholders doing it, they are there and "interfering" with your plans.
* * * 
You don't understand how their efforts are helpful. You want to direct the energy and flow of the brand - you imagine perfect consistency.
But they are doing the work for you, you see. They're not just telling you what they want to see. They're jumping in and creating great energy for you.
The grace of the modern brand master has very little to do with logos, with graphic art.
No, this person is much closer to the anonymous puppet master. 
They draw the group together, then release it in fits and starts, weaving the loom and kneading the dough until it has a loose consistency.
And then releasing it, like opening one's hands and letting the air out.
A brand resides in the collective mind.
It beats in the hearts of people.
All opinions my own. Photo via Wikimedia.

Allergic To Selling

"I'm telling you, it's good publicity," I was arguing. In my excitement I almost knocked over the plant.
"I suspected that you would say that," was the reply. "As long as they spell your name right, it's good PR."
"You said it, not me."
I went back to my desk and turned the lights off. The glow of the screen beckoned. Headphones on head, white noise on, I soon became lost in the task.
And then, a note.
"Are you going to make it to the meeting? I'll be here till 1:00." 
Late again, but it was a good walk. I should leave my office more; I work in an interesting place, full of labs where you can walk in and see the work of science in progress. Animated conversation, amazing exhibits, portraits of Nobel Prize winners line the walls.
Antti Korhonen, the entrepreneur in residence at NIST, waved me in. He looked like you would imagine a CEO looks. Impatient, intelligent, eager to get things done. There was nothing on the desk save for a couple of pieces of paper. I could imagine paying $250 an hour for a consult.
"What can I do for you?"
Many questions later, this computer scientist turned CEO turned adviser to scientists and prospective entrepreneurs left me with these key takeaways:
1) Professional credibility requires publication, but to make commercial impact, you have to sell. No matter how smart or decorated you are, the customer won't find you.
2) Focus on the motive of helping people. Scientists are motivated by the prospect of making the world a better place. That's a stepping stone in the right direction. To have an impact, you have to get out there and discover how your work can make a difference in the world.
3) Take a guess at your value proposition. Commercialization starts with a value proposition, but most scientists don't think that way. It feels overwhelming. So start small. Hypothesize, refine, and iterate till you hit the mark. 
4) Forge relationships first and foremost. Business is a human endeavor. Think of it as meeting people and expanding your mutual base of knowledge. 
5) You don't have to give up your secrets to have a conversation. The main idea is to get out there and make a connection. Keep confidential things confidential, but more knowledge ultimately benefits everyone. We live in a sharing economy.
Copyright 2014 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions my own. "Snooty Cat" photo via Stuart Pearce / Flickr. Visit my author page on Amazon.

All PR Is Good PR Except This

It happened one day while I was Googling myself.

"She is a sociopath," or something like that. "Good luck if you have to deal with her."

A comment, online, that referred to me.

You are thinking I brushed that comment off, right? Like I'm so cool, and practiced, and nothing bothers me.

Hell no!

It was a personal attack, and I complained because of the very specific nature of the phrasing - hatred, and it could harm me on the job.

Later I surmised that the writer did not intend to make those comments public. Unfortunately, Google (and I) found them anyway.

On another note it seems the hackers have been busy lately...among other things setting up spam impersonations of other people's Twitter accounts, including me.

It made me so upset the first time, I thought someone who knew me did it. Until further research showed this is relatively common and seemingly almost random.

And who can forget the spoofing debacle, ten years ago? A global essay contest I created, that generated thousands of entries from everyplace.

The problem was, hackers spoofed the contact address - my email address - which was open rather than embedded in code.

I didn't know much about cyber security. I was not a programmer.

So I got these weird replies to things I hadn't sent. And realized that someone had made it seem I was sending emails elsewhere.

When you wake up at 4 a.m. to get your work done - and these creepy replies are the first thing to confront you - that is pretty scary right there.

You worry, of course, what the recipients of those emails must think of you.

All of that stuff is bad - but only minor league.

What is worse: You don't want to be Bill Cosby right now. At the center of questions a lawyer might advise you not to answer.

At the center of a slow, spinning tornado.

Also bad: if you know you've done something bad, something unforgivable, something which has really hurt or ticked off somebody else. And you don't control those others.

Here is what is not bad, but it's the stuff people unnecessarily worry about. It's bad PR that is actually good, and most of the time people squander the opportunity:

1. A mainstream news outlet covers you in depth and doesn't squash you. Ask for a dialogue! Share that!

2. A high-profile person or outlet has noticed you enough to call you an idiot. That's great - any response is clickbait!

3. Some important metric on your part has declined. You are the worst at something. It's a turnaround opportunity!

4. An executive on your team has a major meltdown. Can you spell "makeover machine?"

5. Someone on your staff screws up in a major way, with a customer. Apologize, publicly, please on social media!

It's hard to get attention nowadays. Turn your bad PR - within reason - to good advantage.


Copyright 2014 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions my own. Microphone photo via Wikipedia. Visit my author page on Amazon.

Inconvenient People

I pick up the phone and dial.
"Hey Ma." 
This is literally how we start every single conversation.
"I keep having this dream that I am a baby, I am crying and nobody's coming for me."
"That's not a dream."
"When you were a baby we followed Dr. Spock. When it was bedtime, we put you in the crib and that was it."
* * *
"Can you believe that? What kid of childrearing is that?"
It is later that night and I am ranting and raving in the kitchen.
"No wonder you're so screwed up," my husband says.
"Very funny."
I cannot believe they abandoned me in the crib to scream my head off all night because of some stupid self-proclaimed expert.
"Well, you always argued they should cry it out," my husband says to me, referring to our kids. "Now you're on your high horse about your mother?"
* * * 
Having a kid is one tough job, just like running a business is. No matter what the experts say, there's no one way to do it right.
But there's one mistake both parents and managers commonly make, with the best of intentions.
They ignore what they see as "people problems" and focus entirely instead on operational matters - facilities, IT, finance and so on - anything that sounds like "paying the bills."
What stewards of people ought to be doing is focusing on those under their care. 
They should be nurturing them from seeds of excellence into trees of greatness.
But they do not take that role seriously. They do not see that role as important. They do not trust their children or employees to grow, or maybe they're intimidated at the thought of it.
Great brands are only a collection of people, serving customers, together and in the same way every day.
Everything else is decoration and it can be copied or replaced.
Lousy parents and lousy managers only want to see their people when it's convenient, such as when something has to be done. 
And the more accolades they get, the better they like it.
The great ones are emotionally there, centered and centering, gently nurturing their children and their staffs toward productivity. They aren't in it for the awkward family photos at all.
Why is this so hard for people to understand?
You build brands the same way that you grow children, nurturing people until they flower. And you focus on creating that same relationship with your customers, until they passionately want you and nobody else.  
Love isn't just for cult brands. It's for every great brand. And it is only passion that makes them come alive. 
** Sponsored Message **
As a professional courtesy, I'm sharing a link to the following event, which I will not be able to attend and so the promotional code they gave me to share is somewhat useless. I also don't know exactly what makes any of these brands "cult" offerings exactly, but the Cult Collective tells me they've been through a rigorous test. Plus the venue is gorgeous, and I like their online magazine too, possibly enough to write for it.
Here's the link: 
Copyright 2014 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions my own. Visit my author page on Amazon. Photo by Tom Blackwell via Flickr.