Posts Tagged ‘Gail Nelson’

PR Takes the Lead: A Cautionary Tale

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Gail Nelson
Last week’s Ad Age article, “How PR Chiefs Have Shifted Toward Center of Marketing Departments was the talk of the public relations Twitterati. But in one instance where PR was given responsibility for overall marketing of a Fortune 500 firm, it’s not turning out so well.

This Sunday, as my friend and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Ana Beall’s in Westfield, NJ (yum!) we dissected the sad case of leading with the creative idea.

In this large company, marketing reports to the chief communications officer (CCO), A strong PR campaign featuring researched-based creative can attract new customers during the recession.  whose background is in public affairs. Wanting to attract new customers during this recession, the CCO agreed that new advertising was in order.  Here’s the FAIL, though: Being fond of a popular song, it appears he asked the advertising agency to design an ad using that song without conducting any research. As a result, neither the song nor the visuals have much to do with the brand or the firm’s customers. Here’s an unfortunate postscript: Ad placement for a very strong campaign featuring research-based creative was de-funded a year earlier.

Neither my friend nor I are privy to the inner workings of this company. But given the circumstances, it was wasn’t a shock to learn  that this executive will not be in charge of marketing and advertising much longer: The hunt is on for a strong CMO.

Now, I am not saying that a creative PR idea can’t launch a company’s fortunes. This weekend, I read the story of Twitter’s founding as told by author @shelisreal in his new book, Twitterville. Twitter invested its meager resources in a smart campaign at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference; Its clever tradeshow strategy knocked a competing micro-blogging service out of the market, tripled the roster of  users, and secured Twitter’s future.   

But back to our Fortune 500 company: Will this company ever again trust a public relations practitioner with strategic oversight of marketing? Does this gaffe make the case for a broader strategic curriculum in PR education and/or wider professional certification? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

The Market Speaks

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Gail Nelson
It’s Tuesday, and in my role as a consumer, I am feeling very empowered. And it feels … good.iStock_Communication_Small

Amid privacy concerns, Facebook is turning off its controversial Beacon service, which tells one’s friends about your purchases. You may recall the brouhaha that ensued when Beacon was launched. (A synopsis: By default, data about the online purchasing habits of Facebook users were automatically shared with other members of their network, and it was near impossible to opt-out if you didn’t catch a single fleeting pop-up window. Responding to consumer protest, Facebook made Beacon an opt-in program within weeks of launch. But in the end, many pundits supported the inevitably of this direction – a way for social networks to make money and marketers to capitalize on an automated form of word-of-mouth marketing.)

Now, due to privacy lawsuits, the entire program has been dismantled, and Facebook will pay $ 9.5 million in settlement charges, some of which will fund a new privacy foundation. (Read  “Facebook To Wind Down Beacon to Resolve Privacy Lawsuit” on MediaPost.)

T-Mobile joins Facebook in learning the hard way that it doesn’t pay to force customers to do what they don’t want to do, even if it’s the “right thing.” With consumer adoption of paperless invoices stalling, T-Mobile decided to charge for the privilege of receiving a hard-copy bill beginning in August. The new policy applied to new and existing clients.  At first, the program seemed to be a smashing success. After months of sluggish conversion rates spurred by voluntary “go green” marketing programs, requests for electronic invoicing exploded. (See The New York Times article, “What if People Don’t Take the Bait to Go Paperless?”)  But after a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by disgruntled clients asserted that the mandatory charge was a “material modification” to T-Mobile’s contract, T-Mobile rescinded the program.

I can understand T-Mobile’s interest in curbing paper invoicing. The paper, ink, and fossil fuels used in producing and sending paper invoices degrade the environment. Saving on the cost of mailings, especially in these tough economic times, allow businesses to hold the line on pricing, reduce the need for layoffs, and fund new products and services. But today’s consumer will use every tool at their disposal to avoid being strong-armed. These days, you need to talk to your customers, and get most of them on board, before you change policies.  

The T-Mobile situation caught my eye because we have a situation analogous to theirs: After BurrellesLuce’s “go green with paperless billing” marketing campaign had penetrated as far as it could, Client Services (CS) began to reach out to each of our clients (much in the same way both our CS and Sales teams  had done a couple of years ago when we launched a “turnkey copyright compliance” program so PR and communications could legally share their online news clips.) Anyway, as a result, in just a few months, the percentage of clients receiving electronic bills has jumped from less than 20 percent to almost 90 percent. Most of the change was the result of dialogue.

What do you think? Could the T-Mobile and Facebook initiatives have succeeded had they been implemented differently?  As a public relations professional, how would you advise Facebook and T-Mobile to proceed? And as a consumer and a citizen, what do you think of the role of lawsuits in changing the behaviors of these companies?

How Do You Bridge the Gap Between LinkedIn and Twitter?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Gail Nelson
A recent Mashable blog post outlined the different ways to apply Twitter and Facebook to your social media strategy and described how the author, Soren Gordhamer, uses each platform. For B2B marketers, though – many of whom have grown up with LinkedIn – that social network remains important.

I started to wonder, with Twitter gaining traffic every day, how do PR and marketing pros balance their use of LinkedIn and Twitter? I ran a quick, one-question poll earlier this week on both LinkedIn and Twitter, and this is what I found:


As expected, the preferences of the 58 folks who answered the question at the time of this post differed a bit based on whether they accessed the Twitter poll or the LinkedIn poll.  For example:

  • More than half (56 percent) of the Twitter poll respondents used both, but preferred Twitter.
  • LinkedIn respondents were more likely to say they used both and found them equally useful.

(For those of you looking to run a poll on these services — perhaps more scientifically than I did — consider using LinkedIn. It has good free tools and, for a fee, the ability to target the right people inside and outside of your network. But for a full-fledged survey, I still like SurveyMonkey. )

For insight into the Twitter versus LinkedIn issue, I asked two successful users of both services to weigh in.  

Kent Huffman, CMO at BearCom Wireless and author of the soon-to-be launched (Twitter: @KentHuffman LinkedIn: Kent Huffman), has built a large community of marketers. Here’s what he had to say:   

“I spend about the same amount of time on Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter has been a great tool for finding like-minded professionals and initiating relationships. By contrast, I’ve found LinkedIn and its associated groups to be ideal for sharing more in-depth conversations and relating on a deeper level. Both forums have helped connect me to some awesome people who have become great colleagues and even better friends.”

Johna Burke, Vice President at BurrellesLuce and Southern Region Chair for IABC (Twitter: @gojohnab LinkedIn: gojohnab ), said:

“I find them equally useful, but my contacts are different on both networks and I use them for varying purposes. There are significant distinctions in how I share and engage on each network. I update Twitter more frequently and send and receive on average 25 direct messages each day. I have an average three emails daily through LinkedIn, but then talk – yes “old school talk,” – to at least a couple LinkedIn contacts each week.

“That said, there is still some industry cross-over in both networks and when there is something relevant I will post an update to multiple platforms via There are other services, but this is the one I have found to be the easiest for me.”

As for me, I have found that as the time I spend on Twitter has accelerated, I check LinkedIn less often.

How do you participate in LinkedIn and Twitter? Are you phasing out one in favor of another? What is the best use of each?

PR Nightmare

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Gail Nelson
Maybe it’s this week’s disturbing news – celebrities dying off in rapid-fire sequence and the economy’s uncertain lurching between signs of recovery and further decline – or maybe it’s seeing some new, unflattering photos of me posted on Facebook (always a downer). But, my thoughts have turned to the dark side. I find myself contemplating the places I don’t want to see my company or its clients’ names. Atop that list:

1. Job Vent: Employees use this website to rate their companies. While some firms score positive ratings, the vast majority do not. It could be worse, though. Do you remember that era invention, ** It thrived by posting internal memos and negative comments, and was far coarser than JobVent. (I can still remember subscribing to ** using my credit card and feeling really awkward listing the service on my company expense report.)

2. Bad Pitch Blog: While Richard Laermer and Kevin Dugan sprinkle plenty of good advice among those embarrassing reprints of ineffective PR pitches, I know I would clutch my heart if Bad Pitch Blog was listed as a source on my BurrellesLuce media monitoring and measurement reports.

What is your least favorite PR nightmare?


From Breaking News to Break-ins: Public Relations, Marketing, Crime & More on Twitter

Monday, June 8th, 2009

flickr_brokenglass_2490896753_fabc3ffd43_m.jpgGail Nelson
With millions of users, Twitter reflects the more of the real world with every passing day. Among last week’s naughty and nice Twitter surprises:

  1. A celebrity baby arrival: Lance Armstrong broke the news of his son’s birth and included a Twitpic (photo).
  2. A big consumer brand comes very late to the Twitter party: Coca-Cola, one of the world’s best-loved brands, has finally launched an official Twitter site. 
  3. A house was burglarized:  A criminal (probably) used Twitter  to find out when the homeowners are out of town.
  4. Intellectual property attorneys have a new place to look for business: Twitter handles may violate trademark law.
  5. The spread of human kindness: See this Mashable link for a roundup of how Twitter is saving the day, all over the globe. My favorite warm and cuddly story of the week is a dog tale. Using Twitter (among other media) Shonali Burke helped Darby, a German Sheppard left homeless upon the death of his owner, find a new family.

And there’s a lot more. Did anyone see this dust-up on tweeting in church

All this innovation has inspired the BurrellesLuce Marketing team to try something new, too. Bypassing our customary wire and paid online distribution services, we used Twitter to distribute our latest news. (Twitter isn’t all we did, of course. We sent our release to our list of journalists and bloggers – something our Media Contacts service helps with. And we published the release to our website.) So far, given the audience for this type of release, BurrellesLuce Vice President Johna Burke will speak at the AMEC media measurement conference in Berlin, Germany – it appears this economical method of Twitter the release is effective. 

Have you seen other remarkable uses for Twitter lately? What can you share about your new Twitter frontiers?