B2B vs. Superman: PR Storytelling Tips from the Pages of Your Favorite Hero Stories

Some 130,000 fans converged on San Diego this weekend for Comic-Con, a once thinly attended affair reserved for uber geeks talking about funny books that has evolved into a mecca for anyone with a place in their heart for a good hero story.

What makes the tales of Superman, Batman, Spider-man, and now Ant-man, successful is that they incite a passion among followers. These stories then transform these followers into loyalists who become ambassadors. Too often, whether it’s B2C or B2B marketing and communications pros, we tap the wrong sources of information from our clients to use to connect with audiences. One solution – we all should look to the pages of comic books for inspiration.

How do we do that? Let’s count the ways based on the popular story tropes from some of the most famous crusaders.

Lego Hulk

Bruce Banner, alter ego of The Hulk, goes from being the smartest guy in the room to being the biggest, strongest and greenest. Among many other things, his stories teach us that we often should rely on the scientific approach, rather than the emotional, to address the problem. This is particularly apt when talking money.

How did he become Spider-man? A relatable origins story always sells. When you’re launching the brand, get to the heart of the matter by focusing on the people who are responsible for its existence. What makes them special? Is it their decades of experience? Is it their unique vision for a better world? What obstacles existed that they overcame to get to this place? Spidey fans love the web head because many of them were conflicted, but smart, high school kids just like him.

Daredevil used blindness to develop other super senses. There’s strength in understanding a business’s weakness. Identify what value it brings to an audience and understand how recognizing a vulnerability, either in the business or in the marketplace, can lead to innovation. No brand started out great, just like Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, wasn’t born a blind hero of Hell’s Kitchen who also happened to be a lawyer.

Even Superman can’t be everywhere. Know you can’t solve all of the world’s problems, nor should you try. Keep the story focused on the business mission, which shouldn’t be all things to all people. The most successful brands satisfy a need in a specific community. In the best cases, businesses create a need that didn’t exist in the first place. Such innovation isn’t limited to saving distressed female reporters as they fall from skyscrapers.

The mask will work for Batman, but not you. We also can take away from these stories a lesson on what not to do. Disguises, in the business world, don’t work because people trust only who they know. Transparency and honesty is the law: there can be no cape or cowl.

Without the Joker, there is no Batman. You and the problem your company is solving are not so dissimilar from Batman and The Crown Prince of Crime – the problem is separating you and your customers from a desired outcome. Just like in Gotham, a mix of instability or uncertainty can complicate the market. Use this to help create a demand and amplify the client’s importance in the real world.

Now, suit up.


Barclays’ Latest “Kwandry”

Humanizing your Brand is Good Business, Plain and Simple

The Kwan email sent a messageIf recent news reports are accurate, Justin Kwan, the former Barclays analyst who choreographed his own 15 minutes of fame with a tongue-in-cheek email to an incoming crop of summer interns, has departed the firm.

I assume his exit was anything but voluntary. And, if there’s truth to The Carlyle Group canning Kwan before he was slated to start this summer, thanks to “Emailgate,” the poor guy’s a two-time loser in a race few people ever get to run.

While Kwan’s email was an ill-conceived blend of wit and silliness, he clearly meant no harm.

Perhaps that’s why he’ll likely never ascend to the legendary heights of Greg Smith. Smith, you may recall, is the former Goldman Sachs executive director who famously quit his 12-year stint at the storied firm via a vitriolic New York Times op-ed. Some folks, it seems, swing for the fences while the rest of us settle for a life of singles and the occasional double.

Back to Kwan. So, Barclays allegedly showed him the door just days after his email checked all of the boxes on the laws of unintended consequences, going viral faster than news of the stork’s impending visit to the Kardashian-West household. Maybe his departure was performance related, but the timing from the click of the send button to the slam of Barclays’ front door are just a little too close to make this coincidental.

So what can we learn from this unfortunate turn of events? Think twice before hitting “send.” That’d be a good one. Keep your powder dry; that’d be another. How about engage brain before acting? There’s wisdom in that, too. But that’s not the lesson to which I’m referring.

Businesses Like Barclay's Should Show Their Human Side

Businesses should show their human side

Simply put, we’ve forgotten how to laugh at ourselves.

Wake up, Corporate America, when did you start taking yourself so seriously? Did you forget how to laugh at yourself? No one else has, and this sure isn’t going to help. What about making lemonade out of lemons, or turning a frown upside down, or making a mole hill out of a mountain?

My advice to Barclays, if they hadn’t already pulled the trigger, would be this: Your brand is under enough assault in the U.S. to revive The Full Employment Act for your communications teams (opinion, not advice, I’ll give you that).

Instead of heavy-handing your response, take whatever fallout may have come from the email and fashion it into a positive. Publicly celebrate the youthful (if not slightly misguided) intelligencia of your analysts. Leverage it to humanize your brand; imbuing it with a chromosome or two of personality can go a long way.

Why not welcome the summer interns with a public response that heeding Kwan’s advice (#1 on his list), senior leadership has pledged to wear bowties to work on the first day of the internship – men and women, alike?

Let the world know the next generation of Barclays’ up-and-comers, as well as current leadership, has humor and personality, as well as smarts. Laugh at yourself just a little and the account will instantly be relegated to the annals of history. Maybe people will even feel good about your brand and the sporting way in which you handled this episode.

Unfortunately, acting as you did has only served to breathe enough life into the story to sustain it on and off for weeks to come, one embarrassing jab at a time.

And guess what? Kwan’s name will be forgotten by week’s end. Barclays, on the other hand, will be remembered not for its artful handling of an innocent gaffe, but as just another corporate behemoth who bobbed when it should’ve weaved.


15 for ’15: Our Best Career Advice for this Year’s Graduating Class

The first commencement on record was probably in the 17th Century, which means by now we’ve given and/or received the best life advice from the smartest and dumbest people alike. This is why you might say, “Why bother with such a blog post when someone, somewhere, sometime has already said it best?”

Water & Wall Group Best Career Advice for this Year’s Graduating ClassThere’s much truth to that; however, each and every one of us will have a different experience. This is why we at the Water & Wall Group offer our absolute, unequivocal, non-billable, total best and purest (not to mention strategic) professional guidance for this year’s graduating class. Expect a PR slant throughout.

1. If you want to pursue your dream, recognize that there is no such thing as a “comfort zone.” You’ve heard variations of this over the years. Among them is, “anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy.” This is mostly true.

2. Someone can tell you to make mistakes early, and they’re right, but don’t expect to feel good about your mistakes, even though they’re essential to success. Without mistakes, there is no learning and if you make them later in your career, and you will, there’s much more at stake.

3. Style and class is knowing what to wear and when to wear it. Whether you’re in a business casual or jeans-if-you-want-to work environment, always think less Met Gala, where the fashion theme was “mostly naked” for some this year, and more White House Correspondents Dinner. You’ll work with at least one person who ignores this counsel.

4. There is nothing more important in this world than who you know. There is, actually, but this advice deserves a home near the top of the list. Recognize that getting to know people is more than attending black-tie affairs and trade shows. Also, practice doing this face to face. We mean no offense, Twitterati. Got it? Now read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

5. Write well enough to communicate constructively one-to-one with your peers, and especially your boss. Emoji are the best and worst thing to happen to written communication in the last few years. People are forgetting how to convey sentiment on paper without using J or L. Keep “The Elements of Style” within reach. I also like “Who’s Whose.”

6. If you have puppies, put them on the front page. Or cats. The Internet has retaught us this age-old journalistic maxim and you should be prepared to apply this rule where appropriate to make whatever you create in this life interesting to someone else. Warning: We’re not responsible if you take this too literally and actually insert an image of a small animal on a formal business presentation and expect positive feedback.

7. Expect surprises. If you’re passionate about your career, it will be the reason you’re able to weather the storm. We hope you never have to endure a Great Recession, but if you do, we hope you’re among the lucky folks who does what he or she loves for a living. This will help you emerge unscathed. There are more caveats to list here than most would be willing to read, so just take our word for it.

8. There’s strength in knowing what you don’t know.

9. For goodness sake, for your own sake, show up, and not just in person. Yes, be punctual. But also bring enthusiasm. Bring positive energy. If it’s 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., you and the people stuck in that conference room with you will be better for it. This is when caffeine becomes friend and foe. Get to know the difference.

10. Ask questions no matter how simple or trivial they may sound. A question unasked is a wasted opportunity to learn. Bring five good questions to every meeting. Even if you don’t get a chance to ask them. “Good” in this case is defined by doing homework first and then writing down the questions. It helps you develop an opinion, which you should have. Just don’t be opinionated.

11. Be a student of your clients, their industry, and the media that covers them. Be curious. You’ll learn more in less time this way. It can help you be the right business partner and counselor.

12. Status quo leads to mediocrity, which is certain death in any business. You get bored when things get stale, like “How I Met Your Mother” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” Read our recent blog post about keeping things fresh with a client. Then you can challenge clients where it makes sense for their business.

13. Embrace the team concept. This is a collaborative business in which lone wolves seldom succeed. Whether you join a start-up or an international behemoth, know that working with people is 100 percent of the job. You might not like them, but they might also be the people who teach you the most.

14. Be humble and take nothing for granted. This is almost impossible. Be prepared to remind yourself time and again to appreciate what you have.

15. Finally, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)


A Thank You Letter from The Dark Side

“The relationships we have with people are extremely important to success on and off the job”
-Zig Ziglar/ Author and motivational speaker

I recently received a thank you note from a reporter who will remain anonymous. It read, “Thanks for all you do, Frank. Know that you make a difference.”

If you need a moment to let this sink in, I’ll understand.

PR Pros and Editors Share Love/ Hate Relationship

PR Pros and Editors Share Love/ Hate Relationship

Generally, there’s always been a love/ hate relationship between reporters and communications professionals, despite the fact we’re dependent on each other. Reporters need credible sources and story ideas, while PR pros need the media to help them share information about our clients.

The Road to ‘Making a Difference’

Last year I recommended my client submit answers to a reporter’s inquiry which focused on “top investing tips for 2015.” The reporter appreciated our attention to his deadline, thoughtful answers, and our astute understanding of his audience. Over time I developed the relationship to a point where he would contact me directly for help providing commentary about investing topics. Recently, the same reporter found himself in a bind and a panic. He reached out to me desperate for a source for a feature story. My client quickly submitted answers, already with the knowledge of the audience and the reporter’s style. The reporter couldn’t have been more appreciative and felt compelled to send me the personalized 12-word thank you note.

His actions were certainly unexpected but it was a reflection of good, sound media relations.

Why They Don’t Call After a First Date?

What can we, as pr pros, do to ensure we remain valuable to journalists? For starters, think of your relationship with journalists as a long-term investment. It’s like dating and learning to trust each other and be trustworthy. If the date goes well, odds are there’ll be a second and a third. And, that’s good for you.

At Water and Wall Group, we encourage our team to engage face time with reporters. It’s the simple principle of connecting on a more personal level to strengthen that relationship. The more a reporter gets to know you, chances are they will call for help with stories. They’ll also be more inclined to trust you with story ideas.

You must also understand the journalist’s story requirements. Do they love data? Do they look for in-depth quotes as opposed to pithy? Are they a fan of quick calls or insightful, deep-in-the-weeds interviews? Knowing a journalist’s style will help you better match them to a source.

Let me break it down. When pitching a reporter, you should already know the following:

• Deadline
• Story angle
• Audience and distribution
• Publication schedule — does the reporter write for a daily, weekly or a monthly publication?
• The best time to contact –there is no faster way to a kill a story than calling a reporter on deadline

Bottom line, conduct your due diligence. Reporters will see that you did your homework and that will pay dividends down the road.

Another recommendation to building strong media relationships is providing valuable content on a regular basis. It’s not just about sending out a press release. We have to become proactive strategists and identify a trend or lesson that can be of value to your targeted audience – then contact a journalist with that same target audience.

For example, news of a pending market correction has been a hot topic – not if, but when. Think about positioning a client to comment on how to protect investor portfolios from a market correction. This will be far more valuable to a journalist than another product release – even if the product helps hedge a pending correction. Remember, reporters are in the business of telling good, timely stories, not promoting our clients.

Journalists today are besieged with pitches from PR pros. And in a crowded, competitive industry, it’s becoming more and more difficult to stand out. To be a trustworthy connector, we must be creative with solid, proactive content. The more you know about the journalist, the better.

They may even thank you for it.


How to Handle Social Media When You Have a Million Other Things to Do

You're not the only one struggling to find time for social media -- we're all busy bees.

You’re not the only one struggling to find time for social — we’re all busy bees.

In an ideal world you have oodles of time to find or craft the perfect social content, spend only minimal amounts of money to promote it, and then once you post it a rainbow of new followers bursts into your notifications.

But that’s not the world we live in. If you’re like many companies, one day your company decided that it needed social media, and as the youngest/most tech-savvy/least objectionable person, you were chosen for this mission.

Finding or drafting great content is most of the battle, especially if you don’t have dedicated copywriters and designers. Here are a few ways to gather content with haste:

Assess what you have At Water & Wall, like many other companies, we email each other dozens of industry articles a day about media, marketing and finance. Ok, and maybe puppies too.

If your coworkers are chirping about an article, it’s likely worth sharing. Think it’s too fun/unprofessional in nature? Every brand is different, but remember, those who follow you on social are people too, and people love a good laugh. So long as it’s appropriate, this can actually enhance your social profile and help you further engage with your target audiences.

Crowdsource You may be the one in charge of social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If you’re at a company that requires its employees to do any type of research or learning (read: every company), it’s likely that your colleagues are coming across good, sharable content already – they just might not be sending it to you.

Social media is a group effort,

You don’t have to work alone.

Think of yourself as a cheerleader for sharing. Ask your coworkers to send you an email when they come across something interesting during their client or prospect research, even if it’s just the link. Assessing gives you content specific to your industry, but crowdsourcing gives you content specific to your clients. This combination is perfect for social.

It will take time for everyone to get in the habit, and you will need to remind people often. In your reminders, highlight what makes great content, and show them that what they look for to share with clients is the exact same thing you’re looking for. If anything, this could improve their own relationships with clients. Soon, when a coworker comes across a great piece of content, the first thing that pops into their mind should be “I should send this to our social media manager.”

Tag It It may have happened once or twice that a rock star colleague emailed me a good piece of content, but I’m unable to read or make sense of it at that time. Maybe more than a few times. I have a “Social Media Fodder” tag in my email menu, and whenever I get one of those emails, the first thing I do is tag it.

For me, I also include which client. This way, when you do have a minute, you can easily search for emails tagged “Client A” and “Social Media.” For in-house professionals, it might be good to tag the nature of the article (think “evergreen” or “immediate”). Having some starter content always help me lunge forward into discovering and sharing even more.

Not that into email tagging? There are more tech-savvy ways to do this. Buffer allows you to schedule a post to several platforms right from the article itself – and there’s even an overlay for mobile.

You can reuse links on social media

Don’t throw away perfectly reusable content!

Reuse I know it’s hard to hear, but the odds that even one of your Twitter followers have seen every tweet is extremely slim. After all, some people have lives outside of social media (or so we hear). Because of this, it’s ok to reuse the same article, with a caveat.

No one wants to keep reading the same tweet – in fact, Twitter will delete a tweet if you repeat it. Mix up the content and timing for the posting of the same article, but highlight two different parts of the article and post a few days apart at different times of day.

Use Lists Still coming up short on content? Set aside one afternoon to create a Twitter list of the biggest voices in your space. These people likely tweet multiple times a day, so when you’re stuck, you can read a feed of these influencers for ideas on content and engagement.

Don’t Stress Like everything else in life, stressing about a project can often take up more energy than the project itself. Miss a few days of posting? Life will go on. Pick up where you left off. The more fun you have with social media, the more fun your followers will have. And that creates brand loyalty.


Keeping the Relationship in the “Honeymoon Phase”

New York is a miserable place during the winter. This year, we rarely saw days warmer than 20 degrees and don’t even get me started on the snow and my daily commutes in from Brooklyn. As such, many have found a solution to this problem: Miami! Last weekend, my boyfriend and I jetted to the land of beaches and palm trees for some fun in the sun.

Switching up the usual routine in Miami

Switching up the usual routine in Miami

We aim to take one vacation a year, mainly to switch up our routine. Instead of watching Law & Order SVU all day, we laid by the pool or beach and treated ourselves to dinners at fancy restaurants we wouldn’t do on a typical Friday night. Client relationships, similar to personal ones, work best when both parties are contributing. They can grow stale just like personal relationships for similar reasons — time away from each other, too much time with each other, lack of excitement, etc.

And since you can’t exactly shame your client into couple’s therapy, here are a few ways to stay on top of relationships in life and love:

FaceTime. Skype dates aren’t nearly as fun as candle-lit dinners and hand-shakes are substantially better than faxes, but between distance and busy schedules, quality FT can be hard to find. As such it’s important to prioritize this. In-person meetings are easily the best way to keep a relationship fresh. By bringing together both sides of the team in-person, everyone is able to feed off one another’s energy better, as well as read their facial expressions. This leads to better results – whether it’s coming up with creative ideas for next quarter’s marketing plan, or keeping the spark alive after 5 years of marriage.

New Experiences. In relationships, trying something new allows you to connect on a different level. For instance, going bowling on a Saturday night instead of staying in and watching a movie. If the client relationship seems to be getting stale, switch it up! For our clients this might mean that instead of riding the news, we’ll brainstorm proactive story lines or recommend a byline topic for an influential trade publication. While you shouldn’t constantly be in refresh mode (all good programs should have a solid strategic foundation), these new experiences take planning, so make idea creation an integral part of your work (or relationship) flow. A story in a new publication, or an angle previously not explored can reinvigorate a media program.

Skip the email. While a simple email is often the most convenient form of communication, it takes away much of the connectivity and leaves room for ambiguity, like misreading the tone of an email. Phone conversations, while slightly old school, demonstrate tone accurately and can be a great way to deliver news or acquire information. In certain circumstances, a phone call can last two minutes, as opposed to 15 emails back and forth, which wastes not only your time but your client’s as well. Of course, bothering clients with constant phone calls is the easiest way to get back into a stale relationship, so proceed with caution and mix things up as needed. For instance, delivering news of a problematic article is best discussed over a phone call than email.

Relationship maintenance is never easy, but staying in front of the client with new ideas, either physically or digitally, will keep things moving forward. Remember that clients are people too and effort on both sides is needed to keep everyone pleased, ultimately giving way for a successful and long lasting relationship.


In Vino Veritas

Retail Investment Vehicles Seeking Millennials Need to Follow another Booming Industry’s Example

Water & Wall Group Mark LaVoie Gainey Vineyard Santa Barbara

My friend Sofia and I visiting Gainey Vineyard outside Santa Barbara

This month, I went on my second wine tour in a year. As was the case for my first trip, the majority of those on my outing were below the age of 35. Wine is booming, with the U.S. overtaking France as the largest wine market for the first time ever, thanks in part to millennials’ obsession. Even the phrase, “in vino veritas,” is making a comeback after more than a century of vernacular obscurity.

I’ve spoken with a few of my friends about why they love wine. In my very scientific poll, I was told the following:

1) Wine is healthy
2) Wine is sophisticated, yet accessible
3) Wine is transparent – you know what you’re getting

How is this connected to the realm of finance and communications? Let’s start with the misguided assumption that millennials are short-term thinkers.

On the surface, this might seem true. After all, many millennials are unemployed or living paycheck to paycheck. But consider Goldman Sachs’ recent study concluding that millennials are increasingly active, eating smarter and smoking less. Is that evidence of a short-term mentality?


Enjoying wine inside Gainey Vineyard’s tasting room

Although they’re in debt and have less disposable income, millennials are mindful of their future. A 2014 Wells Fargo study is even more specific, concluding that a third of millennials believe they won’t be able to rely on Social Security for their future. Not only that, but 53% of millennials think about their financial future daily, 13% more than their boomer counterparts.

So what can retail investing vehicles borrow from the wine industry to bolster marketing efforts?

Tout the benefits of investing early and regularly – If a millennial is avidly watching their waist line, he or she should be just as concerned about the bottom line of their 401k and other investments. The benefits of a glass of red wine a day may not be realized until retirement. The same goes for that saved $50 a month. Continue to push this long-term financial health message, but over the channels that millennials are using — Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Demonstrate the need to invest without lecturing, showing why your product is the healthiest choice. With this messaging, millennials may enter your ‘wine club’ for life.

Offer accessible sophistication – Nothing is worse at a dinner party than someone bringing over a bottle of Chateau Diana from Walgreens. It’s barely wine and tastes awful; too focused on image rather than quality. For both wine and investing, marketers need to show a savvy, quality product, and a price tag that’s reasonable. Some millennials may want the sophisticated firm that’s been around for hundreds of years and others may want the innovative firm that’s been producing some great risk returns. Either way, earn their admiration by showing true value, not a list or game designed as momentary clickbait.

Explain where the money is going – If the internet and social media has prioritized anything, it’s been transparency. What’s nice about a bottle of wine is that it tells you where it comes from, what year it’s from, and what’s inside. Right off the bat, you can make an educated decision about whether this is a wine worth buying. Investments should work the same way. Despite a fancy title, vehicles like the “Prosperity Fund” are not exactly telling of what an investor is getting into (and the SEC has taken notice – “SEC Adopts Rule Prohibiting Misleading Mutual Fund Names.”) The title should be descriptive and a fund summary should explain the types of investments happening inside. Millennials want to know where their money is going. Just like they don’t want to put garbage in their bodies, they don’t want to invest in it either.


“You Can’t Shake Hands with a Fax”

file0001524506440Many years ago, I represented Marriott Hotels & Resorts, during which time I got to interact a little with Richard Marriott, CEO of the global chain and its “chief brand ambassador.” It was 1993, right around the time of the first World Trade Center bombing. One of the residual effects of that event was that Americans stopped traveling beyond the confines of home and work. Long anticipated vacations were canceled, business trips gave way to conference calls, and hotels, resorts and airlines who relied on Americans’ travel dollars rang with empty echoes.

It was with Dick, during this dark time for his business, that I learned a crucial lesson that’s remained with me for the past two-plus decades.

As a travel industry leader, Dick took to the road, meeting with travel agency leaders, airline and hotel CEOs, and others whose companies’ survival relied on the reemergence of a healthy travel industry. His objective: show would-be business and pleasure travelers that it was perfectly safe to continue with their travel plans.

When asked why he was taking so much time on the road meeting with travel industry leaders, Dick answered, “Because you can’t shake hands with a fax machine.” His point was that in-person meetings have a value well beyond any message that could be conveyed via fax, phone, or in writing. (In that era, the fax machine was pretty much at the top of the communications food chain.)

file0001899888709Today it’s practically effortless to stay in contact using communications advances that have made us more efficient, more responsive and part of what Mark Anderson, chief of the Strategic News Service, termed “AORTA,” — Always On Real Time Access.

This hyper-connectivity notwithstanding, the law of unintended consequences has raised its ugly head, with people less frequently taking action on Dick Marriott’s sage advice.

Communications professionals have a responsibility to keep open the lines of communication with clients, prospects, journalists and employees in other offices. In our personal lives, we have the same responsibility to family and friends, but it’s incumbent upon us to do so, in as much as it’s possible, in person.

    • Make “House Calls” – Plan to see your clients in-person monthly, quarterly at the very least. Out of sight may not necessarily be out of mind, but it’s a quick trip to a bad place if your face-to-face meetings are relegated to keeping the business from slipping through your fingers


    • Schmooze or Lose – Not every conversation requires business-speak. Maintaining relationships requires the gift of the gab, so fill your repertoire with interesting facts, funny anecdotes, and news of the day.


    • Cross Boundaries, Carefully – Clients are people, too. Without crossing boundaries, try and get to know them as individuals separate from the brands they represent. Show interest in their families, their kids’ accomplishments, or where they’re vacationing. Importantly, use your “spidey sense” to make sure your clients are okay with this approach; not all of them will be. If you feel they’re uncomfortable, pull back.


  • Don’t Hate on Ma Bell and Snail Mail – Email exchanges are little more than what used to be phone conversations broken up into a series of electronic submissions. Clearly, email has upped the efficiency quotient for most of us, but it’s also driven the personal element out of communications. Every now and then, use the phone to supplement your emailing. And, if you really want to get something noticed, use the post office to send it. Email has become so ubiquitous that receiving something worthwhile in the mail will make a strong impression.

What to Know about Social if You’re in Finance

Social Media Week has us even more pumped than usual to talk to you about social, content, and digital advertising. In the social media spirit of keeping it short, here is what you need to know about social if you’re in the financial sphere:

Don't let social media be the elephant in the room

You can’t keep ignoring the elephant in the room.

    1. Social won’t come to you. It’s here.

Financial brands, including B2B, are leveraging social in meaningful ways. For finance, LinkedIn and Twitter continue to dominate, but now we’re seeing brands push into Instagram and even Snapchat for talent recruitment.

    1. Listening tools are your friends.

It’s time to tune in. One of the best things to do before starting and while maintaining a social media channel is listen to your customers and competition.
There are a host of tools to help answer your burning questions – Is the competition paying for social media ads? Are people already talking about your brand? Are they already talking about when interest rates are going to rise? There’s a tool for all.

    1. Stop shouting for people to love you.

Have you been on social media lately? Even in a personal capacity, it can be truly overwhelming. So many brands are competing for consumers with waning attention spans and that trend doesn’t seem to be reversing.

What does this mean? You can’t just produce content, you need to produce good content. High quality media, like photos and videos, is more important than ever, and what you dispatch can’t be just about you (*ahem* those tweeting only when you get news coverage).

Think of it like dating: if you want to make a good impression, you wouldn’t go on a first date, talk only about yourself, then text that person 10 times in 24 hours asking them if they like you. Same rules apply for social media.

LOOOOVVVEEE MEEEEE! (Don't be this guy)

LOOOOVVVEEE MEEEEE! (Don’t be this guy)

    1. You have to pay.

Organic reach isn’t dead, but it certainly isn’t what it used to be. Brands need to understand that social media platforms are charging more and more to reach audiences – even when users have already opted in.

This isn’t all bad news. With the emphasis on paid reach, social platforms are stepping up their analytics capabilities. So, while it might be hard to reach someone organically on Facebook, there are now over 100 search parameters about your target individual. And with the testing capabilities, you can quickly build a campaign better than ever before.

Brands are using these avenues to push users into funnels that are more controlled – like email marketing – and seeing big ROI.

    1. It’s not just a number.

We know it’s tempting to put a number on the exact value of social media. How many click-throughs? How many likes? How much engagement? These are all valid questions, but thinking of social in only this way is missing the mark. It’s the same as the ad-revenue matching that traditional PR has tried in the past (a hit in WSJ = $x because an ad in that same place would cost that much). Sure, now you’ve got a number to report to your boss, but it’s missing an important part of the story.

The brands that do social best know that there’s no catch-all way to determine the value. They’re tracking engagement, looking long-term, and testing. Especially for financial brands, which traditionally have long sales cycles, metrics should focus on engagement and branding more than an exact figure.

    1. Good campaigns take planning.

That viral post everyone seems to be talking about? The infographic that just appeared on your feed? They both probably took weeks, if not months, of careful planning. While there are in-the-moment posts they garner lots of attention, what you see is just the tail of a carefully planned message. Analytics. Listening. Messaging. Reach. Audience. The most effective brands are thinking about all of these things when it comes to social, and you should be, too.

Excited? Overwhelmed? Confused? All of the above? We should talk and explore your opportunities together.


PR vs. Social Media: #EnoughAlready

It drives me nuts when I hear people argue about PR vs. Social Media. It’s officially replaced the, “Is the Press Release Dead?” debate in my book, which in its own time was so mind-numbingly annoying that my body practically shook (and still does) when I encountered it.

Traditional PR people dismiss the new breed of digital pros as the hipsters of the marketing world. These communications vets ask themselves, “how can these kids who couldn’t even order a drink during the financial crisis possibly think they know more about the financial services field than I do?” And they’re right. What the next gen of marketers have in tech-savviness they lack in experience. It’s not a knock. We were all young once, but it’s impossible to deny.

fish-388346And the digital crew dismisses their older colleagues as out-of-touch traditionalists clinging to the old ways and not adapting with the times. They ask themselves, “how can these senior level marketing people be so out of touch? Don’t they see the world changing before their eyes? Don’t they want to evolve with the times to ensure they’re connecting with their customers in the best way possible and, hopefully in the process, raise more assets and strengthen their reputation?” Guess what, they’re right too.

But wait…. they can’t both be right, can they? The whole “One Side vs. Another,” headline loses its punch when both sides put down their light sabers and make peace, right?

It may be an anti-climactic ending but guess what… it’s the right one, and it’s one that smart financial companies have known for some time now. Just as brands in the past didn’t completely abandon TV advertising when the internet came around, brands today aren’t completely abandoning media relations to put all of their eggs into the digital basket. Instead, they use a balanced, multi-layered approach that combines the strengths of each platform. You don’t have to choose between the two. You can have them both.

As my colleague opined in a recent post, media brands, both traditional and digital, are doing fascinating things today to analyze the performance data of their editorial content to make informed decisions about what and where to publish. This use of data is allowing them to offer more tailored and timely content to their readers, who in turn are reading more than ever.

This is the financial communications space I love working in. The one where two heads are better than one, where people never stop learning new things, where companies finally stop hiding behind the regulatory and compliance curtain (because trust me, you’re losing money over it), and where brands openly take advantage of all the tools at their disposal.

Today’s landscape is new and challenging as hell (and guess what, within 12 months this post will likely be worthless!), but there’s never been a better time to be a financial comms/marketing pro.

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