Archive for May, 2010


A voice from the Nashville flood: Social media as a lifeline

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Click in downtown Nashville. She had an incredible story about how people used the social web to pull together amidst the greatest catastrophe in the city’s history and was kind enough to share her story with the {grow} community. If you would like to donate to the flood relief effort, I will match your contribution up to a total of $1,000. Honor system – I trust you.  Just send me a DM on Twitter and tell me what you donated and I will match it.  I’ll post a running total in this spot throughout the day. Current reader donations total $855 + match = $1,710. Here is Laura’s post:

In the wake of the catastrophic flooding throughout Nashville last weekend, social media has proven to be an essential communications tool throughout the crisis. In my experience, the most relevant and up-to-date information came from blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

During last Sunday’s storm, 44,000 Nashvillians were without power (myself included). The only way I was able to receive critical information about the severe weather advisories and the growing flood problem was through Twitter and Facebook on my phone.

In the days following the storm and subsequent flooding, my social media circle has continued to keep me informed about road closures, the need to conserve water and how to volunteer with relief efforts. It has been amazing to see the exchange of important, timely information take place online.

The Nashville flood has proven that you don’t need to be a journalist to share valuable information during a crisis. Thousands of citizens have used social media to share their first-hand accounts of the flood. Simply follow the #nashvilleflood hashtag on Twitter and you’ll see a real-time conversation about where help is needed most, photos of the damage throughout the city and positive stories of people who’ve made a difference.

Social media has also amplified how individuals, groups and businesses have found their own unique ways to help flood victims. While some of these efforts have been covered in traditional media, most groups have used Twitter, Facebook and blogs to get the word out. Here are some great examples of the work being done throughout Nashville that have been heavily promoted online:

  • Web site resource. A group of web developers and bloggers banded together to create Donate Nashville, a Web site where flood victims can request assistance or needed items, and volunteers can find ways to donate time and money.
  • Nashville flood t-shirts & posters. A number of graphic designers have created t-shirts and posters with proceeds benefitting a variety of charities supporting flood relief efforts.
  • Business discounts and donations. Many local businesses and restaurants have donated portions of their sales to charities or offered discounts to volunteers.

If it weren’t for social media, many people wouldn’t know about Nashville’s flood disaster. As other bloggers have noted, it took days for the national media to sit up and take notice. And when they did, I credit social media for getting them here.

Some bloggers have received huge national exposure because they did the leg work before the national media arrived. For instance, a post entitled “We are Nashville” from a local hockey blogger has received more than 900 comments and was even mentioned on The Huffington Post.

If you ever question the power of social media, look at how it has been used to connect people during a crisis.

Just ask the people of Nashville.

Laura Click is a marketing consultant in Nashville, Tenn. You can find out more about Laura at www.lauraclick.com, or by following @lauraclick on Twitter.

Image credit: Nashville Flood Tees

 

Transitioning online contacts into offline friendships

I’ve made many wonderful connections through the social web, but the magic really happens when I’ve strengthened those bonds by turning those online friends into offline relationships. I had some cool experiences last week that I wanted to share with you.

Amy Howell and I have become fast Twitter friends and cemented our relationship a few months ago when she visited me during a business trip to our area. I was able to return the favor last week when she hosted Chris Brogan at a community event in Memphis. While it was great to meet Chris, it was even more rewarding to meet a dozen or so of my other close Twitter friends for the first time like Jeremy Victor, Kathy Snavely, Eric Fletcher, Glen Gilmour, Kent Huffman, Anne Gallaher and Ryan Sauers.  Who knows where new friendships like this will lead?

On my way to Memphis I stopped in Nashville to have lunch with another Twitter friend Laura Click. I was moved by the flooded devastation in this nearby city and Laura’s own personal story.  She agreed to write a guest post about her experiences and we are also exploring ways to work together on some other upcoming projects. I’m sure we would not have found these synergies without taking the time to meet face to face.

After my trip to Memphis, I drove to  Indianapolis to give a speech at the American Public Power Association conference. Yes, I spent a lot of time in the car last week! So I tried an experiment — could I use this time productively to “meet” even more of my Twitter friends?  I sent out a tweet inviting folks to call me during my drive to talk about any marketing topics on their mind.  Not only was this a pleasant way to pass the time, I was able to help one contact with a job lead and another call resulted in a possible consulting engagement for me.

Twitter is such a powerful networking tool but you can really unleash its power by connecting in the offline world too! Have you had similar experiences?

My week in pics: 1) Laura Click 2) Jeremy Victor 3) Eric Fletcher, Amy Howell, Jim Howell, Glen Gilmour, 4) Trey Pennington 5) Amy Howell 6) Kathy Snavely

PR versus marketing: The final battle over social media


ShareLast week Vocus, a provider of on-demand PR management software, announced the results of a survey which found that the turf battle between PR and marketing rages on, especially over ownership of social media initiatives.

Key survey findings include the following:

  • Lines between PR and marketing continue to blur.  78 percent report to the same boss.
  • Turf battles still evident.  34% cite organizational structures, functional silos or turf battles as the single largest barrier to integrated communications.
  • Ownership of social media and blogging up in the air. 43% of PR professionals say they should own it, while 34% make the same claim.
  • The two groups come together on the need for measurement. 56% of both marketing and PR professionals agree that an integrated communications increases overall effectiveness of their programs and 48% cite sales and ROI as the most important metrics.

Honestly I’m weary of this discussion over ownership. It doesn’t matter who “owns” the actual social web communication activities as long as it is clearly and precisely supporting the marketing strategy.  On most big strategy questions, I usually think the answer is “it depends.”  But this is one of the few cases where the answer seems beyond doubt: Marketing should ultimately own the integrated communications strategy. Here’s the logic:

1) A company exists to attract and retain customers, thereby creating shareholder value.  Peter Drucker famously said that the “purpose of a company is marketing and innovation. Everything else is overhead.”

2) While there are many useful PR-related social media applications, directly or indirectly these activities are enabling a civic, political, labor, and business climate to make it easier to manufacture and sell products to customers. If they are not supporting this central goal, the activities should end.

3) Everything a company says or doesn’t say — on the social web or otherwise — affects the brand image, which must be singularly controlled with laser focus by marketing, without question.

I cannot fathom a situation where a communication channel like a corporate blog is not ultimately considered a marketing function … even if the PR department is writing it, which is perfectly fine.

For my PR friends who are feeling testy at this point, I would like to proudly proclaim that I started my career in your worthy field, so I do not have an anti-PR bias. I have an anti-ridiculous-strategy-bias.  And to claim that PR should lead customer-facing activities is ridiculous.   Support, complement, even help devise … yes.  But lead, no.

Further, while this “battle” rages on supposedly, I have not seen one coherent explanation as to why PR should not defer to marketing on overall strategy issues.

Please, can we end this debate?

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