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Have you given any thought to the prospect of losing your job next year?
How about next week, or even tomorrow?
What is your plan of attack should this be your fate?

I don’t mean to bring you down or create an unnecessary panic. But think about it for a minute.
You’re reading this blog so you do spend some time reading blogs and it’s highly likely that you also spend time interacting on social media sites.

You likely have a twitter account, a blog of your own, a Facebook account and may very well have a FriendFeed account. You’re probably on LinkedIn as well.

That’s all good. It really is.
Now answer this: Do you think it will help you find a job?
Do you use any of the platforms in a way that will help you find a job?
Do you follow successful entrepreneurs who can influence you to bring your “A” game and provide tips on starting your own business or collaborating with like-minded people?

If you answered no to any of those questions, make a few changes over the next week or so that will allow you to answer yes to them all.

2009 is going to be tough.
Let’s get ahead of the problem and be prepared.

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As the editor of an online community with more than 10,000 members, I see at least 5-10 really good opportunities for marketers and advertisers on a daily basis. They unfold before my very eyes and sometimes seem too good to be true. The conversations take place in blogs, on individual profiles and even on the comments sections of news stories.

What I can’t really figure out though, is why these opportunities are being missed. The only thing I can think of is time. Maybe they don’t want to invest the time it takes to get involved in an online community even if it is filled with thousands of local folks who could bring lots of business to those who do it right.

Just today, someone mentioned that they were seriously contemplating Lasik eye surgery and asked for advice. It came in droves. Two businesses were mentioned by name and several individual doctors were recommended. There was mention of bad experiences and some chimed in saying they too had been considering the surgery and wanted to find someone with a good reputation and satisfied patients.

Can you imagine what would have happened had anyone from those offices gotten involved in this conversation, perhaps offering a special, a consultation, expertise or even tips on how to select a doctor?

I saw a potential gold mine and an opportunity to recruit customers who would spread the word and bring in even more referrals. The cost: Zero. Well the real cost is time. I guess that price is just too high for some.

A sad state of affairs indeed.
But I’m going to help change it. I don’t know exactly how, but it’s coming.
Stay tuned…..

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My recent blog post about Peter Shankman’s press release prediction caused quite a conversation. In case you missed it, Shankman predicted that the press release would be dead in 36 months at a TIMA presentation in Raleigh last week.
So, I contacted Peter and asked him to respond to some of the comments left on the post. And he did.

Danny Brown wrote:

“With respect to Peter, I’d have to disagree. I would be more inclined to say that the press release will evolve and take advantage of the newer ways to communicate, but dead? I can’t see it, personally.”

Shankman’s response:

A press release on Twitter or on a Blog is as pointless as a press release itself. What good will it do? Give me information NOW, to the point, and how I want it. A three page press release, with each company blowing smoke up the other’s a__ about how great it is to merge is BS. “We merged with company ABC today to create company ABCD. This will give our customers more options, more sales, and more products. It’s good.” That’s what I need. If I want more, I’ll find it.

Johnnypr wrote:

“It’s certainly on life support but agree that it still has a chance to evolve, I just wish companies would avoid releases that start with the company name and how great they are.”

I asked Peter: “Does the press release have time to evolve?”

Shankman’s response:
Yes – The press release can evolve into NOT BEING A PRESS RELEASE. It can evolve into relevant information, when I need it, how I need it, and what I want it to be. End of story. Again, 3 pages of fluff doesn’t do it for me, or for the next generation.

Danny Brown also wrote:

“The press release is still one of the most useful mediums for recognized news sources. The newer social media release format will only encourage this, and used with a search engine optimized press release will be an incredibly powerful tool to reach as many outlets (media and otherwise) as possible.

I asked Peter: “Does this comment make you change your stance at all?”

Shankman’s response:

Useful and recognizable for who? I had a PR flack show me all the press he “got” for his client once. You know what he showed me? 35 pages of his PRESS RELEASE, REPRINTED on search engines. I literally drop-kicked him out the door.

And finally, Heleana Quartey wrote on her blog:

“One thing this argument does forget is there are still many niche trade publications that aren’t even online, and clients that don’t even read e-newsletters, never mind Twitter, so they don’t value ‘online coverage’.

I asked Peter: “What will happen to these people if they continue to stay offline?”

Shankman’s response:
Back in 1993, a Wall Street Journal reporter said to a mentor of mine, “Yeah, if this Internet thing ever goes mainstream, call me.”Enough said.
Alrighty then! Thanks Peter for sending me your responses.
Any more thoughts?

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shankman111208Those aren’t my words, but the words of PR and marketing guru, entrepreneur extraordinaire, author and all around crazy man, Peter Shankman who you may know as @Skydiver on twitter.

I attended an TIMA event in downtown Raleigh today where Shankman was the speaker. Having served on a panel with him at the same venue just one short year ago I knew that we were in for some innovative trains of thought.

So, Shankman declared in a room full of mostly interactive sales and marketing folks that the beloved press release will be dead in 36 months. He asked if anyone in the room had even read one recently, and the number of hands that flew up were slim. He drove home four points:

Transparency, relevancy, brevity and “top of mind presence.”

He says if your clients can’t send their message in 140 characters of less, it needs to change. He also said PowerPoint is for the weak, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Interested in some of Shankman’s other colorful quips and trains of thought? Here are all of my tweets from the event in chronological order: BTW, I’m @communitygirl on twitter.

  • communitygirl: @skydiver tells me he has no idea what he will say to this audience of 100 plus.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver has taken the podium. He is a wild man. Says powerpoint is for the weak!
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says social media doesn’t exist. Gives the power to screw up many times over.
  • communitygirl: You can’t make something viral. You can make it good and it becomes viral. @skydiver
  • communitygirl: Social media is more like human nature per @skydiver. He helped launch the AOL newsroom without a clue.
  • communitygirl: Too many self proclaimed social media experts says @skydiver.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says google will be the winner of the profile war. People in this audience say LinkedIn is more professional than facebook.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver predicts the press release will be dead in 36 months! Anyone agree?
  • communitygirl: Teach clients that if they can’t send the message in 140 characters it needs to change. Per @skydiver
  • communitygirl: You have to like social media. If you don’t it will be obvious. If the PR guy blogs for the CEO people know it. @skydiver
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says the personal vs professional profile will go away in 12 months. You will have one profile on whatever network wins!
  • communitygirl: Ever heard of unjust tagging? How about facebook purgatory? I will blog about it later. @skydiver is a fun speaker. Hilarious!
  • communitygirl: Kids growing up with technology will be smart about it. No need to pity them at all says @skydiver.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver is now talking about top of mind presence. Use social media to the point of “remembering.”

I couldn’t tweet everything, as i also needed to eat lunch, but those are a few highlights. Tomorrow I will blog about two concepts Shankman shared: Facebook Purgatory, and Unjust tagging. Pretty funny stuff. Yeah, he’s definitely a wild man.

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Those are the words I heard from one furniture industry professional after a presentation I gave last week in High Point, North Carolina to members of WITHIT, an organization for women in the home furnishings industry.

Everyone in the audience seemed pretty pleased with what they’d learned and were quite eager to start blogging, showcasing their products and services in a new way and considering all of the other options presented during the session.

The questions came rapidly, which is always a good sign but I also heard lots of questions steeped in reality. Their reality, as told to me after the session by a very major player in the industry includes seeking buy-in from the patriarchs of family-owned businesses, who are on many fronts quite averse to change. . This is no easy task, as some of these patriarchs do not even use e-mail. And for those who do have an e-maill account, getting them to actually open an e-mail can be akin to climbing to the top of Mt. Everest.

So, what professionals in this industry need to do, as did those before them is illustrate the benefits of social media and how it can connect them to existing customers, lead them to new ones and help them create and grow an online brand that is equal to or better than their offline brand.

Just as I learned of the struggles of the non-profit sector last month, I am now very concerned about the plight of furniture industry professionals faced with the curmudgeon factor, that could prove to be a major barrier to entry.

What they may have to do is start making those connections on their own, get out in the social media world and see what happens. Prove that it works on your own, because sometimes you have to forget about permission and ask for forgiveness instead.

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I’ve been an assignment manager at numerous TV stations throughout my career, and that involved making hard decisions about news coverage. There was always more than we needed and the day file was typically flooded with news releases.

Unfortunately, most of them found a home in the bottom of the recycling bin. I know that’s not what you want to hear if you are the one who poured over the document with the goal of creating a masterpiece, but it’s true. The good news is you have the power to change that.

Here is what you can do to keep your press release out of the recycling bin and the deleted items folder of Outlook.

  • Make them shorter! A press release is not a novel. Remember that.
  • Stop burying the lead. If the reader has to read through three paragraphs to find the most pertinent information, he never will.
  • Write a snappy headline. Try headlines that are five words or less, and make it descriptive. Avoid long company names. I don’t need to read the company’s name in the headline unless its a major news maker.
  • Experiment with different layouts. Are the words”for immediate release” a necessity? Think about it.
  • Stop using the phrase “for immediate release.” I know it’s customary but isn’t that assumed in most cases?
  • Ditch the history lesson and provide links. Is it necessary to provide such lengthy paragraphs about the history of each company mentioned? Try using “for more information” and providing links to additional information.

I suggest playing around with your press releases with the goal of making them mean and lean. And now for something fun. I will transform a press releases (into a mean, lean informational machine, (free of charge, of course) for the first two people who send me an e-mail with “Make me mean and lean” as the subject.

I will contact you later requesting the press release of your choice and we will go from there. All you have to do is give me permission to display the original and the new version in a future blog post.

Send it to angeladconnor-at-yahoo.com.

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One of the messages I tried hard to drive home during a session I held at the NC Center for Non-profits Statewide Conference two weeks ago, was this: Stop depending on the news media to tell your story!

It’s amazing that in this day and age of social media, many organizations and industries are still so heavily reliant on traditional media. I got the feeling during an informational lunch which was hosted by the Marketing Director of a local TV station and attended by several leaders of non-profit organizations, that everyone around the table would give their left arm just to know the magic secret behind getting news coverage.

“How do we get you to come to our events,” one woman asked.
As a former assignment manager at numerous TV stations, I know that there is no magic secret and I told them as much. I even went further to tell them that I was one of many managers in newsrooms across the country, who routinely tossed their well-crafted press releases in the recycling bin.

I saw shock on the faces of many. I went on to discuss the 22 minute news hole and the plight of producers charged with presenting the best and most important news of the day during that time frame. Couple that with a small number of news crews, and throw in a 2-alarm fire, and the chances of your festival or major fund raising event getting coverage are really slim. Actually the chances are pretty much non-existent.

“Have you ever thought about shooting your own video and providing it to the station?” I asked.
“We can do that?”

Yes, but you can also post your own video on YouTube and other video sharing sites. You can post it on your own website, or provide a link. You can submit it to communities that accept user-generated video. And that’s just a start. There’s so much that can be done beforehand to generate buzz that doesn’t involve traditional media.

It’s a brave new world, where you control a lot more than you once did, so learn the ropes and get involved. With social media comes freedom and it’s time for non-profits to break free.

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Online Community Strategist

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If you have a product or service that you think most people or a large percentage of the people in an online community would find interesting, I think you should delve right in and give it a shot. After all, isn’t one of the goals behind marketing in online communities to essentially capitalize on the sheer numbers and niche topics?

If done right, it can be quite effective. If done wrong, as it most often is in my opinion, it can backfire in a way that can turn ugly fast. I’ve seen it time and time again. A well-intentioned individual joins the community and casually starts mentioning their travel site or automotive services complete with links in every post and the promise of a discount.

What often happens next is they receive a slew of comments from the natives about the community not being a place to sell their services and it’s all downhill from there.
I once saw a user upload 750 images of wristwatches. Seriously. It was his entire catalog. Need I say what happened to him?

I call it the scarlet letter, “S.” it stands for SPAM. It’s a word you don’t want to be associated with in an online community. Trust me. So, before you jump right in to the next community, here are five things you shouldn’t do. Remember, this isn’t the do list, it’s the don’t list.

Don’t:

  1. Add links to your website in every single blog and comment you post.
  2. Write blogs with titles like: “Great deals on travel” and only mention your organization. It’s the quickest way to illustrate a lack of genuine interest in the community.
  3. Start blogging about your product or service the minute you create a profile. It will be noticed.
  4. Misrepresent yourself as a satisfied customer, just to convince others to get on board.
  5. Disrespect the culture of the community. Take time to see how things work before you jump in and shake things up.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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