Author Archives: Marie Williams

“Why the Publicity Bubble in PR Begs Popping”

Today’s post was written by socialTNT contributing writer, Marie Williams.

There’s been talk lately about the PR pro’s evolution from publicist to social media strategist. While I wholeheartedly support the increased attention to social media, the underlying message is disconcerting. For too long, media relations and the hot pursuit of “ink” has been our reason for being. Let’s pop that bubble right now.

PR has never meant press relations, but to look at the industry’s widespread propagation of that mantra it would seem that is the case. How is it that we term ourselves publicists, when our true role encompasses so much more? Perhaps if we treated the industry as a more strategic practice instead of focusing on getting a stack of clips, we’d have more seasoned and capable professionals in the field instead of an army of cold callers smiling, dialing, and pissing off droves of journalists and bloggers in the process.

It’s interesting that despite the growth of social media and the decline of mainstream media, the importance of the latter has stayed virtually the same. There’s still a lot of resistance, most of all from PR professionals, to admit that traditional media relations is declining in importance and we live in a brave new world where social media is taking over.

A hit in the Wall Street Journal is a great coup and will no doubt cement the reputation of your brand with your consumers, your business partners, and your competition. But it’s becoming less and less valuable to the bottom line as social media grows exponentially in influence.

One example that continues to blow my mind is when a client of mine was included in a Thanksgiving-day GMA segment – a major accomplishment for our team. The client saw thousands of inbound leads occur as a result and was pleased as punch with the results.

Imagine his (and our!) surprise when a few months later, when we secured the client blog coverage on TMZ – which was still a relatively small celebrity-focused news site at the time – to phenomenal results that blew GMA’s out of the water. When a niche-focused Web site can bring in more bang than a nationally-syndicated morning show, you stop and pay attention.

The Internet tips the scales in favor of social media by making it far easier to track online coverage that leads to site traffic, leads from that traffic that convert into sales, and gauge customer opinions by participating in the online discussion.

Beyond online coverage’s potential for being far more successful than mainstream media coverage, the possibilities for community engagement is endless and gives companies a better chance than ever before of dialoguing with their most important publics: The end user. These direct-to-consumer conversations are arguably the most important for a company, and PR can strategize for and drive those conversations.

Social media provides PR professionals an opportunity to take back their rightful role as big thinkers, strategists and high-touch relationship builders, relegating media relations to a more modest (and arguably more deserved) position with the rest of a company’s key audiences.

It’s no wonder most clients still value the old school “ink” and pooh-pooh social media coverage as a lesser accomplishment when we so poorly represent ourselves as mere media lackeys. Yes, it’s time to expand beyond the publicist role, but in the process, we should realize that we never should have represented ourselves so narrowly in the first place.

Contributing writer Marie Williams also blogs at www.flackette.com about PR and agency life. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

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[The above image, “POP!” by N1NJ4 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Public Relations 2.0

“With Our Powers Combined:Xobni and LinkedIn Join Forces”

A couple months ago, we reviewed Xobni’s Outlook tool, and it has proved an invaluable tool for day-to-day work. Since its already a killer app for us marketing and PR folk who make a living by the volume and management of our contacts, it’s no surprise that Xobni has become even more useful with a LinkedIn integration.

A simple, yet significant, improvement

We also put LinkedIn’s Outlook toolbar to the test. While we still think LinkedIn’s Outlook app is worth it for the grab function alone (makes creating new vCards a breeze), Xobni has engineered a seamless integration that enhances usefulness with the addition of pictures, current job information, and other pertinent tidbits that help make the most of your network.

As a PR pro, I already trust LinkedIn as one way to make sure I have all the right info on my contact, including their geographic location, job title, and place of employment. The volatile nature of the media industry requires that you do your homework before you hit send, and Xobni makes it all the more simple with the addition of LinkedIn’s data.

One thing Chris and I noticed when looking at the toolbar is that sometimes the contact information pulled directly from e-mail conversations isn’t 100% accurate. These inaccuracies have been consistent with Xobni since day one, which is why I tend to ignore the contact field, saving the nuts and bolts contact info for my vCards in Outlook. That said, it would be nice to have a greater level of trust for the information automatically generated by the program.

Another problem is that many people don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet (I know, collective gasp!) and even if they do, they probably don’t take advantage of features such as picture additions. While the integration is clearly useful, it’s not evident on a large scale yet. As LinkedIn and Xobni grow in popularity and scope, these kinds of issues should improve, making an already useful service completely indispensable.

If Xobni, for one reason or another, doesn’t boot up with my Outlook, it’s a crisis. It’s just so easy to find what I need quickly and easily. I really don’t think I could live without it after experiencing its utility.

So GO, download it now if you haven’t already, and join the other savvy marketers and PR pros who are using it to streamline their communications. You won’t regret it

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Contributing writer Marie Williams also blogs at www.flackette.com about PR and agency life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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Filed under Beta breakers, Marketing, Product Review, productivity, Public Relations 2.0

“3Q’s in 3Min: Sarah Lacy, BusinessWeek”

Today’s post was written by contributing writer Marie Williams.

It’s a heat wave in San Francisco, and today’s “3Q’s in 3Min” guest is guaranteed to turn up the heat.

Every Thursday, socialTNT channels the spirit of citizen journalism by putting bloggers, reporters, PR pro’s or anyone with something to say about social media in front of the camera for a short, three minute interview. In addition to helping PR peeps pitch these individuals more effectively, the videos are meant to encourage dialog between reporters, PR/communications practitioners and marketers on the future of media.

Sarah Lacy on Sarah Lacy by Brian SolisA couple of weeks ago socialTNT attended Girls In Tech‘s Femme-Power roundup, a gathering for professional women and female leaders. While there, we had the pleasure of speaking to BusinessWeek’s Sarah Lacy. In today’s “3Q’s in 3Min,” Sarah shares her thoughts on issues affecting women in the business world, and explains how women are selling themselves short.

Today marks a huge achievement in Sarah’s career, the publishing of her book on web 2.0 moguls, “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0.You can find Sarah in her “Valley Girl” column in BusinessWeek or as a co-host on the recently launched Tech Ticker spot on Yahoo! Finance.

Sarah also achieved brief notoriety last March from her now infamous–and highly played-out–Mark Zuckerberg interview at SXSW. Whether you like her or not, Sarah is an important female figure in the tech industry and provides invaluable insight into the conundrum many of us face as professional women.

When it comes to the workplace, Sarah says women don’t believe in themselves enough and should be more aggressive and self-promotional. As a woman, I tend to agree with her. I often struggle with tooting my own horn or spotlighting my capabilities. Sarah sees this as the reason why women don’t have as large a footprint in most industries.

Take the PR/marketing industry. Long considered to be a woman-dominated profession, but when you look at the loudest voices in the blogosphere, women make up a much smaller percentage. Off the top of my head, I can list 5 well-known PR/marketing blogstresses: Kami Huyse, Susan Getgood, B.L. Ochman, Yvonne Divita, and Lauren Vargas. On AdAge’s Power 150, Kami Huyse could only find 20, as she points out in a post highlighting the “top 20 women” on the list

Kami’s post, written nearly a year ago, found that of the Power 150 in 2006, only 13 percent were women. No offense, fellas, but that number is a tad disconcerting. In an industry with approximately 70 percent women, men take nearly 90 percent of web-based thought leadership. This highlights the need for events like Girls in Tech to help encourage and nurture the growing confidence of the female workforce.

In the video, below, Sarah explains how the tech industry hasn’t changed for women during her 10 years in journalism, and discusses her difficulty finding stellar women in the tech/business world.

Do you think women need to be more aggressive? What prevents women from becoming more powerful in the boardroom? Will women ever step out of mens’ shadows to play a larger role in business? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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[The above photo, “Sarah Lacy on Sarah Lacy” by Brian Solis, is used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under 3sdays 3qs In 3 Min, Citizen Reporter, Social Media, Video Interview

“Our Modern Lives: Tune In or Turn Off?”

Today’s post was written by contributing writer Marie Williams.

With Blackberries and iPhones keeping us constantly connected to an online IV stream, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to disconnect. As of late, discussion around the problems of our “always on” lifestyles seem to be popping up everywhere. Last month, the Churchill Club held a panel on the issue of information overload. And, even more alarming, The New York Times recently chronicled the health problems–and two deaths–resulting from the demands of round-the-clock blogging. While not as severe as those tragic cases, I recently came face-to-face with my own info-addiction.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited my sister for a week holiday in Seattle. The whole time I was there, I was either checking my Google reader or Twitter on my phone. I was so plugged in that I somehow managed to catch some major coverage of a client before my team even had a chance to see it. Yeah, I know: I was supposed to be on vacay. Don’t judge me!

The topic came up again a few nights ago when Chris and I met up with Twitter friends Paull Young and Christi Eubanks. After discussing some geeky, social media PR theory, the topic turned to being always plugged in. Neither Paull nor I could ever imagine completely unplugging from the Internet; Paull said (and I agree) that there are just too many important relationships that would be lost in the disconnect.

Chris and Christi weren’t as game to the idea, both affirming that they could see themselves easily wanting to escape their online life. Then, Chris asked a very interesting question: What if the Internet no longer existed? What if some major event happened and the Internet went kaput as a result? It’s almost a little too scary to think about.

No blogs? No Twitter? No Facebook? No way to always know any and all details about your friends? Is such an existence possible?! It must be; we’d all led an Internet-free life before, right?

What would I do if the internet no longer existed? I guess I’d probably just spend time doing more of the offline activities I already love, like reading books, hiking, sharing more one-on-one time with friends, and reconnecting with the earth (yes, I know it’s hokey, but its true). In fact, some of my most memorable times include patches with no phone reception or lack of access to a computer. Go figure.

This past Monday, Stacey Higginbotham over at GigaOm wrote a great post talking about her over-connected life. After discussing the stresses of being continually plugged in, she pointedly says: “I’m choosing to turn off my computer now.”

It’s a difficult balance, but I think Marshall Kirkpatrick from Read/Write Web says it best in a post discussing RSS feeds last week: “I don’t know why people feel obligated to read every item in every feed they’ve subscribed to. Get over that and you’ll already be a far happier person.” The same can be applied to our online existences. We shouldn’t feel obligated to be in the know all the time about everything that’s going on in the cyberworld. Maybe if we just dip in every now and then and we’ll be happier! I know it works for me. :)

What about you? Could you or do you ever completely disconnect? How do you prevent information overload?

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[The above photo, “Streeter Seidell, Comedian” by Zach Klein on flickr, is used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Future of Media, Social Media, Social Networking

“LinkedIn’s Outlook Toolbar Grabs You By the vCard”

Today’s post was written by contributing writer, Marie Williams.

LinkedIn Logo

Whether Journalist or Public Relations professional, your contacts are your currency. Last month, socialTNT gave TechCrunch40 darling, Xobni, a test spin. This month, the socialTNT BetaBreakers team put popular professional social network LinkedIn‘s Outlook Toolbar through our rigorous testing process.

All You Ever Need to Know: The “Grabbing” Function is Magic

  • By far, the best thing about the toolbar is the “grab” function. It makes it devastatingly simple to transfer contact information seamlessly into your Outlook contact list.
  • How it Works: When you have an e-mail open from the person you want to add, highlight their signature block, click on the little grab button on the top right-hand corner of your menu, and voila! All the contact information is entered in the appropriate boxes. Sometimes fields get switch, such as “company” and “title,” but it’s a small inconvenience that doesn’t detract from the feature’s utility. Check out the screenshots below for a visual:

[Click to enlarge]
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  • Just do it: If your contact list is key to your business success, you cannot be without this amazing resource. Go download it. NOW. :)

There’s No Place Like LinkedIn Home to Manage Your Networking Savvy

  • Your LinkedIn home page can be easily accessed through your Outlook, and the interface is clean and aesthetically pleasing. It’s easy to track your inbound messages, friend updates, profile views, and all the other features that LinkedIn provides.
  • Bottom Line: If you live and die by your LinkedIn network, you will love how simple it is to manage your connections without ever leaving your inbox.

Don’t Press That Button! The Danger of the Dashboard…

  • The toolbar’s “Dashboard” feature lets you see contacts to invite to LinkedIn, contact information updates for your LinkedIn friends, and keep-in-touch reminders. It’s a hybrid of your e-mail and your LinkedIn account homepage.
  • If you press the button, it takes anywhere from 2-5 minutes to load, which is a long time for us ADD techies accustomed to split second satisfaction.
  • Why you should pass: Xobni’s search function is way more intuitive and lightning fast. The utility of the information on the dashboard is negligible and more easily found via Xobni.

Hello Promo!

Beyond the uber useful grab tool, 85% of the LinkedIn Outlook toolbar is clearly a promotion of LinkedIn’s contact management services and will only work for you if you’re a) already an avid user of the network or b) think you want to start becoming more involved in that community.

That’s a Wrap

Our overall impression is that while Xobni reigns supreme when it comes to inbox add-ons, LinkedIn’s grabbing feature makes it more than worth the download. Think of Xobni as your full-service inbox search solution, while the LinkedIn toolbar provides some “Ah ha!” features you’ll come to rely on. If your a LinkedIn Junkie, download it NOW!

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Filed under Beta breakers, How To, Product Review, productivity, Social Media

“Jealous, YouTube? Find Your New Video Platform Valentine”

Today’s post was written by contributing writer, Marie Williams.

Let’s face it: When it comes to online video, YouTube may be your main squeeze, but that shouldn’t keep your eyes from wandering. Ever wonder what hot, new online video service is waiting in the wings to sweep you off your feet?

Today, socialTNT gives you the rundown of most eligible suitors. Let’s make YouTube a little jealous this Valentine’s Day by checking out your options:

Viddler: The girl (or boy) next door
Viddler has a great selection of organic video content created by people like you and me. The coolest part: You can comment at various time stamps in the video. Viddler even has the heart of online lifecasting and social media queen iJustine (she’s even featured in the “How To” video on the site). C’mon, if iJustine thinks Viddler’s hot, isn’t it worth a try for you? Check out iJustine’s original music video, “Lifecaster.”

Revver: Good for a short-term commitment

The content on Revver is well-produced and slickly packaged. The site is also endorsed by iJustine. The plus for Revver is its revenue sharing programming, splitting the revenue 50/50 between Revver and publishers. I have to admit: The ads running across your screen are a bit annoying, but it’s still a great place for short n’ sweet clips like this one by Mike Burk of Cupid dancing on a stripper’s pole. Dance, Cupid, dance!

Blip: Content Casanova

Blip, currently in beta, will charm you with its sleek design and professional-grade content. Billed as a TV alternative, it has a lot of cool, well-produced serial shows by publishers like Alive in Baghdad and Wallstrip. Like Revver, there is a 50/50 revenue sharing. Yes, there are embedded ad captions, but, due to Blip’s spacious screen, the ads appear less intrusive than on Revver.

With so much amazing content, you’re guaranteed to find something you like, and may even want a second date (or a third, or a fourth, if you get hooked on one of their original shows). Here’s a video by WatchMojo for you singles (and possible V-day haters):

Metacafe: You hafta get to know ‘em first

With reposted television advertisements and promo vids taking up prime real estate on the splash page, Metacafe initially seems devoid of original content. After we scratched the surface, however, we came across a huge cache of technical videos–perfect for Geek Love!

Metacafe’s publisher rewards program and well-organized interface make it great for distributing content. The below video, from KentChemistry.com, helped them earn a whopping $9,299! But ads BEFORE the videos are SUPER annoying. Who wants to watch a full-on spot for Jack in the Box before you get to the goods? Total deal-breaker. Our reviewers are not giving it a second date.

Now that you have some newbies vying for your heart, tell us: Is YouTube still the top dog, or are you finding yourself attracted elsewhere? Who’s your online video sweetie and what’s your fave place to create and view content? Tell us in the comments!

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[The above photo, “._* { Sometimes I wish my life was a movie, I can puase, rewind and forward when ever I want or need to !! } *_.” by Adoodi , ™ in Manchester <3 , on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]

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Filed under Just For Fun, New Media, Product Review, Social Media, Video

“Review: Xobni And The Pursuit of (E-mail) Happiness”

Today’s post was written by Contributing Writer Marie Williams.

Last November, we heard rumblings of a possible game change from both Google and Yahoo that would marry social networking and e-mail into “Inbox 2.0.” Since then, whispers of a revolution have gone quiet. And with a Yahoo merger possibly on the horizon, it remains to be seen when–or if–the concept of Inbox 2.0 will ever see the light of day.

In this age of four hundred Facebook friends and the ever-increasingly crowded inbox, how can you sift through the clutter to find your most important peeps? While we wait for the search giants to figure out Web 2.0, content yourself with the impending promise of Xobni Insight.

Xobni–pronounced Zob-nee or “inbox” spelled backwards for you word wizards–is an Outlook application that wants to help you keep up with all your BFFs. After receiving an invite to the closed Beta, socialTNT decided to take Xobni Insight for a test drive. Here’s our review.

Why Xobni rocks:Xobni screenshot

Snapshot to your (Inbox’s) soul

  • Direct from the widget, you have all your friends’ contact information.
  • Like a true social network, Xobni let’s you see a friends list of shared contacts.
  • Quick and easy access to all of your e-mail threads or files you’ve exchanged in the past.
  • Xobni scrapes your Outlook calendar and puts free time into an organized list, allowing you to send your schedule to any of your friends–very cool!
  • To help you get a better idea of when it’s best to contact your friends, Xobni even graphs times during the day when you most frequently exchange e-mails with each person–sweet!
    • Check out this screenshot (right) of Chris’ Xobni profile. He’s typically active on e-mail in the AM, at noon, and in the late afternoon.

Super search capabilities

  • Need to find a contact quickly? Search their name and you get a Xobni profile and a list of relevant e-mails mentioning and/or from that person.
  • Looking for an email about a certain topic or conversation? Xobni gives you instant access to the top Yahoo Web results, as well as any recent emails with that topic.
  • The best part: The e-mail results highlight the exact portion of those e-mails that is relevant to your query.

Plays Well With Others

  • If you are actively using it, Xobni folds out on the right-hand side of your Outlook. This helps you search and navigate your inbox without a lot of distraction.
  • When minimized, Xobni shows contact info or upcoming calendar appointments relevant to the email you’re viewing.

How Xobni could be even better:

Slow Children at Play
  • After downloading Xobni, we noticed other applications seemed to run quite a bit slower…major bummer when you’re trying to streamline your e-mail flow.
  • We uninstalled and re-downloaded and that seemed to help, but Outlook’s still not as nimble as it should be with the Xobni add-on.
Make It Personal
  • In its current state, you can’t store additional information beyond Xobni’s pre-defined categories. Add a personal e-mail or cell number? Nope. Note their birthday with reminder to send a thoughtful card? Uh-uh. Add notes about an offline-convo? Sorry.
  • User definable fields would add significant value to Xobni’s already helpful service.

Data Checks In, But Never Checks Out

  • Data Portability is a hot topic this year. LinkedIn and Outlook both allow export of contact information. Xobni should, too.

With the rise of social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, e-mail may eventually go the way of the DoDo bird. Be on the lookout for socialTNT’s review of LinkedIn’s Outlook toolbar.

Want a chance to check out Xobni Insight for yourself? socialTNT has some Xobni Insight Beta invites and wants to share. Send an email to marie [at] socialTNT.com and tell us why YOU need Xobni to fulfill your pursuit of e-mail happiness.

Already a guru at the networking game? How do you manage your connections? Let us know in the comments below.

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Filed under Beta breakers, Product Review, Social Networking