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Reflections on 2013

It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow and it’s been a huge year! Here are my highlights…

I conquered my fear of public speaking. I was a keynote presenter at the Social Media Marketing in Tertiary Education Conference in Sydney. It was a tough gig – I was the final speaker on the final day. I was so nervous in the lead-up. But when I got on stage, I actually enjoyed it. I received wonderful feedback about my presentation “Managing organisational change in 140 characters” and now I’m not afraid of public speaking at all.

My son finished school. Forever. It’s been an epic 13 year journey that started at Hilton Primary School in Fremantle and finished at Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne. He’ll go to University of  Melbourne in 2014 and I’ll figure out what the hell to do with myself now my child is raised.

My team won an award. Swinburne achieved the second-highest Facebook engagement in Australia’s education sector in 2013 (Social Pulse Awards 2013).  We also made the top 10 of largest brand pages. Not bad for a core social media team of two – Chris Wong and me. Chris undertook a 12-month Industry-Based Learning placement as Swinburne’s Social Media Officer in 2013. He is a talented, creative and hard-working digital and social media professional. He will complete his degree in 2014 and I cannot recommend him highly enough. Connect with Chris on Linked In or email chriswongstar@gmail.com.

I conquered my fear of performing music in public. Overcoming my fear of public speaking inspired this. A community organisation I’m involved with held a talent night and I took the opportunity to conquer another fear. I played guitar and sung ‘Mad World’ by Tears for Fears and ‘Your Ghost’ by Kristin Hersh, on stage, to an audience of about 100 people. I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but it ended up being fun and I felt elated afterwards. Feedback was lovely – in fact one person described my performance as ‘mesmerizing’.

I launched Sun on my Parade. After several years of wanting to do it, I launched a digital magazine for women celebrating the second half of life. Sun on my Parade is a work-in-progress, but I’m proud of myself for giving it a go. So, this post is also to let you know I’ll be busy building that platform in 2014, so I won’t be blogging much in Summer’s notebook. I’d love you to join the Sun on my Parade community – we’re @sunonmyparade on Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, And if you’re inspired, I’d love you to share a story.

Best wishes for a very happy 2014.

Social-Media-Overreaction

6 reasons PR pros are perfect for social media

In 6 PR and social media predictions for 2013 author Sandra Fathi says public relations will win the battle over which corporate discipline “owns” social media. Hear, hear!

Digital and mobile technologies continue to transform the PR practice. The lines separating PR, marketing, branding, advertising, and customer service are blurry indeed in social media. Do PR professionals have the right skills for the brave new social world? Absolutely—and here’s why.

1. We are experienced storytellers. 

Social media requires us to create, curate, and share engaging and relevant stories. Brand journalism, otherwise known as content marketing, is not new to us. PR pros have always told stories using a range of communication styles and media. Many of us are former journalists. We can turn rocks into newsworthy features (true story). Social media is another way to tell and share our stories.

Just as we have practiced our written and digital communications, we need to develop our skills in social and visual content. Videographers, photographers and graphic designers are having their 15 minutes of fame right now. Businesses have become media companies and talented digital storytellers are essential for social success.

2. We are expert communicators. 

While visual storytelling skills are important, writing skills are essential for social media. Conversations happen in words. Several colleagues have told me that writing was not the focus of their marketing degrees. As a journalism student, I lost 50 percent for every error in my news reports. My copy had to be clean. It only took one zero mark to make me a candidate for Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome.

PR pros are experienced writers, editors, and proofreaders. These skills transfer nicely to blog posts, tweets, status updates, and conversations.

3. We always aim to be relevant. 

Social media is about being timely, interesting, and relevant. PR pros are experienced in creating content relevant to a specific audience. Whether we are pitching to a journalist or producing a newsletter for staff members, our audience determines the type of content we share.

Social media provides us with excellent tools to better understand our publics and communicate with our stakeholders. Become part of your social networks and get to know what your customers need and want from you.

4. We are experienced in relationship building. 

Relationships have always been the focus of PR practice. Whether we are building relationships with journalists or stakeholders, we use communications to maintain good relations. Our professional contacts are often developed via phone and email— and now social media—without meeting face-to-face.

Social media is all about relationships. We are experienced in managing relationships with people we have never met, accustomed to finding information fast, and highly skilled in customer service.

5. We know crisis communications. 

PR pros are trained in issues management and crisis communications. These skills are vital in successfully managing a social media crisis. In my experience, the same principles apply. You need to get your company’s voice into the conversation as fast as possible, respond to any questions, correct misinformation, and be as helpful as possible. Our skills in relationship and reputation management are well-suited to handling viral activity.

6. We have always sought feedback. 

Gaining feedback about our company’s profile and reputation was always a challenge. We would run surveys and focus groups to gain insights into stakeholder concerns and public perceptions. Not anymore.

Social media is like an instant focus group. We can ask questions, gain feedback, and have conversations in real-time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can draw on social feedback to inform future communications, create positive organisational change, and improve our customer experience.

Do you think PR pros are the right fit for social media?

This guest post was originally published in PR Daily: 6 reasons PR pros should manage social media

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Amsterdam

Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media

This article was written for Trevor Young and originally published as a guest post in his PR Warrior blog. Trevor is one of Melbourne’s top new media influencers and is the founder of BlogHUB. You can follow @trevoryoung on twitter or like PR Warrior on Facebook.

PR Warrior blog: Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media

Is your organisation truly social?

This was one of questions raised at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam.

Edelman Digital‘s Marshall Manson presented three models for creating social organisations. The first was the centralised model we are all familiar with. Social media is managed by a central division and provides the official voice of the organisation in each channel.

We like this model because it’s relatively easy to manage. But let’s face it – it’s not very social. Too often social media is seen as a channel for promoting key messages (yawn).

I think the centralised model has become outdated. As Marshall pointed out, we now live in a world where regular employees and ‘a person like yourself’ have more credibility – and therefore influence – than CEOs. So, let’s empower our regular employees to have a corporate voice.

Marshall presented two decentralised models – and it’s this type of model that really intrigues me.

Imagine the central division being surrounded by employees who are building social relationships and online communities. There is two-way flow between central division and these trained brand ambassadors, who are blogging and tweeting and engaging people with the brand in different ways.

Disney uses a decentralised model and Disney Destinations’ Thomas Smith said all the senior managers blog. One manager is in charge of floral arrangements at Disney. So she blogs about flowers. And guess what? She has built a social community of people who love flowers and now engage with the Disney brand because talking about flowers has made it relevant.

What are the benefits of a decentralised model?

1. More brand noise

How does one official twitter account compare with 25 brand ambassadors tweeting? Enough said.

2. More compelling content

With employees blogging regularly about their areas of expertise, your company will produce more diverse, interesting content. Content is still king. With two-way flow between central division and your brand ambassadors, imagine all the fresh, compelling content available for your marketing strategy.

3. More relevance

A decentralised ‘many voices’ model enables your brand to connect with people who may never have engaged otherwise. Relevance is key in the social world. Disney makes a great case in point.

4. More savvy employees

Social media training is critical to this model. Dell’s Simone Versteeg said the company has two types of employees – those who are official brand ambassadors and those who are just plain social. Employees choose what they want to be and there are guidelines and training for both.

5. More speed in a crisis

We no longer have the luxury of time in crisis communications. What happens if the employee responsible for the official account is at lunch when the 140 character news breaks? Your trained brand ambassadors will be monitoring social networks too and can quickly be the voice of your organisation.

6. More feedback

A recent survey found 70 per cent of social media complaints are ignored. Using a decentralised model enables employees to engage in direct social dialogue with consumers. Why do we want to respond to feedback? To improve the way we do business.

7. More innovation

Employees may have very creative ideas for social media. Dutch airline KLM, for example, has introduced an opt-in service enabling passengers to select their seat based on shared Facebook profiles. Imagine all the social ideas your employees have right now that you can experiment with.  

What are your thoughts about using a decentralised social media model?

De Waag in Amsterdam

Eight ways to create refrigerator journalism

This article was originally published as a guest post in the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) blog. I was the only Australian delegate at this international conference, so I wanted to share my key take-outs with other Australian PR professionals. Enjoy.

PRIA blog: Eight ideas for creating refrigerator journalism

I recently heard a term that has really stuck with me: refrigerator journalism.

It was used by Ragan Communication’s CEO and publisher of PR Daily Mark Ragan at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit (SMPR2012) in Amsterdam.

During his opening presentation on brand journalism (aka content marketing) Mark said the Holy Grail is when our content becomes part of people’s daily lives.

If your company is recognised as a respected news source – journalists come to you rather than you chasing them – you’ve made it. @PRDaily is an excellent case in point.

@MarkRaganCEO said our goal as company reporters is to create refrigerator journalism.

What is refrigerator journalism? It is content so engaging you want to make it part of your daily life. You want to share it with your friends. You want to talk about it. You want to take it into your home. It is content so compelling, so relevant and so brief you want to stick it on your fridge.

There were many other useful take-outs from the two-day SMPR2012. Learning about the strategies of global brands like Microsoft, Dell, Edelman and Disney was awe-inspiring. Notes to self: do more planning, more monitoring, more video.

It was reiterated by all presenters that content is still king – in fact, engaging content is more important than ever. So the question I’ll now ask myself each time I publish is simple: Is this content so compelling my readers will want to stick it on the fridge?

So, how do we create refrigerator journalism? Here are my top eight take-outs from SMPR2012:

1. Your new role is Senior Content Creator. Your job description includes content producer, company reporter, conversation starter and community manager.

2. Plan your editorial activities like you run a media company. You own a daily newspaper (blog), magazine (website), TV station (YouTube channel), radio station (podcasts) and a broadcast network (social media).

3. Don’t be afraid to re-package compelling content and cross promote.

4. Great content needs a great headline (hint: readers love lists).

5. Engage your whole company in social media. There are brand ambassadors throughout your organisation who are passionate about their area of expertise. Find them and get them blogging.

6. Social content doesn’t have to be slick – in fact, if it looks too much like an advertisement people won’t share it.

7. If content is king, then listening is queen. But why are we listening? To make changes to the way we do business if necessary.

8. No one is an expert in social media, we are all experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. We are only limited by our imaginations and our creativity.

Coffee

A day in the life of a social media manager

You might imagine that being a social media manager is exciting, glamorous and fabulous. But here’s what a typical day actually looks like… 

7am: Morning alarm goes off. Reach for iPhone and attempt to read mention feed of company’s Twitter stream with sleep in your eyes, glasses off and no coffee. Manage to make out a couple of blurry tweets that need responding to. Decide (wisely) they are best responded to when you can actually see. And have had coffee.

7.10am: Lie in bed trying to picture that awesome piece of content you posted on the Facebook page in your dream last night. It was gold – hundreds of likes, loads of comments and shares galore!

7.15am: Give up trying to remember dream. You’re on your own.

7.20am: First coffee of the day. Good morning!

7.30am: Mentally run through your day. Remember that you still haven’t updated the social media guidelines, reconciled your credit card, or worked out what content you will be posting to support major marketing campaign. Feel mildly deflated.

8.30am: Catch train to work and respond to company’s Twitter mentions. Check email, Twitter, Linked In and Instagram news feeds. Try to check Facebook page but the app is so slow you give up. Post good morning shout-outs to favourite tweeps instead.

9am: Get to work. Second coffee of the day. You’re going to need it.

9.10am: Log on. Open Hootsuite, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, the company website, campaign website and editorial calendar in different tabs.

9.15am: Check your main Facebook page. Notice the Talking about This (TAT) figure has dropped overnight. Feel wave of panic. Immediately decide to boost today’s post.

9.20: Write to-do list to regain sense of control. Delegate as much as possible to junior staff member. Left with customer service, check what content we need for next week, source awesome boost-able image for today’s post, present on your social media strategy at a meeting, update budgeting doc, get Facebook competition set up, develop campaign schedule, edit Tumlbr post, overflowing inbox … start to feel slightly overwhelmed.

10am: Customer service time. Get sense of impending doom – then remember you can assign customer service to other teams now. Happily assign what you can. Think about what a smart, savvy, time-saving system you’ve set up.

10.05am: Then spend 20 minutes drafting perfect social responses to the unassigned comments – corporate but authentic, friendly but polite, informal but professional, intelligent but not patronising. Post. Time is ticking.

10.25am: Reply to one of your favourite tweeps and include #YOLO. Think about how young, cool and hip you sound. Then get distracted by an angry tweet in your monitoring streams.

10.40am: Spot a great post by a competitor in your Facebook news feed. Ain’t nobody got time for that … Feel another wave of panic.

10.41am: Go through editorial calendar to see what’s coming up and what needs doing. Try to spot the social media gold. Decide that funny Friday meme is the one to lift the TAT. Adrenaline kicks in.

10.50: Check in with junior staff member who is working on the meme. Have a good laugh and then start providing feedback. Realise you’ve opened with ‘this meme has to go really well, it’s really important’ and have a vague idea that you might be putting the kid under pressure. Start providing high-level strategic feedback like ‘make the grass greener’, ‘put some more leaves on that tree’ and ‘make the sky more blue.’

11am: Go into a meeting. Try to resist the urge to refresh Twitter mention feed 20 times during the one hour meeting. Fail.

12noon: Need fresh air. Brisk walk to sushi shop and back. Stop and get coffee number three. Instagram it.

12.20pm: Wade through your inbox full of requests for content to go on Facebook and Twitter. Reply to emails and schedule posts in editorial calendar. Spend too long drafting diplomatic email saying no to a request for a Facebook post promoting the new chairs in meeting room 101.

1pm: Wonder if your boss would support you abandoning email and having staff tweet you content ideas instead. Realise your business is probably not quite social enough for that yet.

2pm: Realise you’ve forgotten (again) to update Pinterest and Google+. Hastily post content on both before anyone notices.

2.15pm: Someone tweets that a room has been evacuated and there’s a fire engine. Call Security to find out what’s going on and tweet back.

2.17pm. Someone tweets asking where they can access power boards. Track down answer via four phone calls and tweet. Get shirty response back about there not being enough power boards around the place.

2.30m: Check Facebook page and respond to random comments and one rant on the Wall. Refresh page to see if any new likes appear on today’s post. Feel momentarily smug to see five new notifications. Realise four of them are posts by others on your Wall. Feel deflated again.

3pm: Remember that you still haven’t updated the social media guidelines. Put it on your to-do list.

4pm: Find out the new company videos you want to post on social have copyright issues and can’t go on You Tube. Start trying to solve the issue.

4.15pm: Junior staff member tells you the grass is greener, the trees have more leaves and the sky is bluer. He races off to take a photo of a visiting wombat at the Library. Social media gold – run!

4.30pm: Spot Vine video of wombat in Twitter feed. Watch it and have a laugh. Wonder why there is a wombat at the Library today.

4.31pm: Someone tweets asking why there is a wombat at the Library today.

5pm: Everyone else leaves the office. You get into a conversation on Twitter about the wombat that’s still going at 5.30pm. Someone emails you with questions about the videos that can’t go on You Tube. Leave office at 6pm and continue Twitter and email conversations on phone on train.

7pm: Check company’s Twitter and Facebook. Realise you haven’t thought about your own social media and personal brand. Tweet some links from Linked In.

8pm: Think you really should update your own blog. Start writing humorous piece without your glasses on.

11pm: Post it. Tweet it. Realise your *humorous* post may not actually be that great for your personal brand. Get distracted by sharing other people’s stuff. Eyes are blurry. Feels like 7am again.

Sydney Writer's Centre Best Australian blogs 2012

2012 in review

WordPress just sent me an annual report for this blog – very nice! Thanks so much and happy new year to you too :)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report

Gnarabup Beach in my hometown Margaret River

Bring on 2013

As the sun slowly sets on 2012, I’m taking a little time to reflect on the year that has been. If I had to sum it up on one word, it would be BIG! It has been a year of massive highs and one extreme low for me. You can’t have one without the other, right?

Let’s start with the highlights …

  • In April, I finally went to Europe after wanting to go my whole life. I attended the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam and visited Brussels, London and Paris. The trip was even more wonderful than I’d imagined. Read about my springtime in Paris. I’m now planning my next European adventure to Spain and Italy in 2014. 
  • In June, I celebrated five years of sobriety – a significant milestone and a proud achievement.
  • In July, I got promoted to what is now my dream job. Social Media Manager = awesome opportunity. Read about my new role – and why I love it.
  • In August, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Social Media Marketing in Tertiary Education conference in February 2013. This will be the first time I’ve presented at a major conference. Two years ago I would have said no way, such was my terror of public speaking. Today I see it as a great opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Wish me luck!
  • In September, my beautiful boy turned sweet 16.

And now for the low … in October, my partner of four years and I broke off our engagement and separated. I turned 40. He moved overseas and I flew to Perth on the same day in December. It was a very sad Christmas for both of us. 

But with 2013 only three sleeps away, it’s time to focus on the future. My son will complete Year 12 in 2013 – and I’ll finish paying private school fees. My mothering role is changing every day as my son becomes an amazing young adult. I have more freedom to imagine a different life for myself. I’m getting new ideas about what I might like to study and a website I hope to develop. I want to travel more and learn another language.

So maybe life really does begin at 40. I’ll drink – ginger beer – to that. Happy new year to you and I hope it’s a truly fabulous one.