Blog Has Moved!

Hey All,

We have moved our blog to a much cooler domain name, with a much much cooler design. Head over to our new blog at www.mason23.com/blog.

Thanks!

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Is The Social Media Hype Over In 2010?

My job is social media so why would I even bring this up? The reason that I am and the reason that I believe the hype is over is because social media is no longer a buzzword. Instead, it is and should be accepted as an integral part of any marketing strategy.

Looking back at 2009, it is truly amazing how fast the media world changed, and how many new tools and exciting opportunities arose from the transformation. A lot of the new tools are digital and range from Iphone Apps to Ning Communities. These tools are all fun and have been the reason for some interesting and controversial campaigns.

As you transition into a new year (and many of us do our best to surface from this recession), think about what is important to your marketing efforts.

Here are some thoughts:

Accept Social Media – It is here to stay and is a big part of modern media.

Protect Your Brand – Everyone is talking, even your employees. Put together a social media guidelines sheet to protect your brand and your employees (We have one at Mason, Inc.).

Spread Your Budget – There is value in other mediums, social media should just be a part of your strategy.

Public Relations Matters – You and your employees donated $XXX to a local charity. Let a PR firm spread the word; don’t build your profile to always “toot your own horn”. By the way, who is monitoring what is being said about you and looking for articles that can establish your brand in your industry?

Go Viral – Online and offline, creating a campaign with the ultimate goal of going viral is key to your success. I recently read that “content is no longer king”; “customers are king (or queen)” now.

Don’t Waste Anymore Time – Before you know it, January will have come and gone and you are still debating whether or not you want to reach your customers and establish your brand. Don’t waste time; get the ball rolling immediately even if that means getting on the phone with someone that works in this industry!

I want to wish you the best of luck in this New Year. Some people look at 2009 as a tough year. It was, but it is over! So let’s look at the many great tools 2009 gave us, and let’s make the most of 2010!

Small Businesses: Show Customer Appreciation by Recognizing Your Customers Online

Showing appreciation for clients and customers comes in many forms.  Some industries have it figured out, and instead of getting creative, they just follow trends. 

For example, large retail outlets have, “Customer Appreciation Days” that give customers up to 20 percent or 30 percent off their purchases.  Restaurants have customer loyalty cards that give you a free sandwich (after you have already bought say 10).  To most people, these seem like great deals, and in many cases, they are.  If you are a regular at a certain restaurant, then the free sandwich is fun to work towards.  Or if you have had your eye on a specific product that you can now purchase thanks to a double-digit discount, then it is truly helpful.

But what about small to mid-size companies that don’t have the funds to give away free product, or are working on such small margins that a reasonable percentage discount would leave them with almost no profit at all? 

These are the companies that need to take advantage of the network they have built online.

What it means to recognize your customers online.

You can recognize your customers any number of ways online.  These methods include the Twitter “shout out“, an interview that you post on your blog, or even a link on your Facebook Fan Page.  If you are in the B-to-B world, you can write a short note or post about what the client does and link to their site.

They will appreciate it.

Being acknowledged online is an important part of any social media strategy.  The more mentions you get, the more links that go to your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account, the more followers you will get and the bigger your network becomes.

Give and thou shall receive.

Ever heard of #FollowFriday or #FF?  If not, then check out the top-trending topics on Twitter any Friday, and those will be right near the top.  It’s a lot of people giving shout outs to others that they think are interesting or to repay them because they got a shout out first.  Acknowledging your clients will have a similar result.  They will appreciate that you recognized them, and they will let their network know where to look and find their name.

Recognize your customers online regularly- not just when you are trying to push a product or launch a new campaign.  Build relationships with your customers and your fans online, watch how much your engagement increases, and you will begin to realize how beneficial social media really is.

When Is The Right Time To Fire a Client?

Yes, I said it. Firing a client. Sounds completely crazy, especially in this economic environment, right? Shouldn’t agencies cling on to any piece of business they have and take anything and everything that comes through the door? Not really, and I’ll explain why.

First, this isn’t an easy topic to tackle, and for many reasons. The first thing that popped into my head is that we – people who are a part of advertising, marketing, public relations, branding agencies – are often the ones who are lined up in front of the firing squad and are the ones being fired. Agree? With that said, there are also many intricate details and different scenarios involved with individual accounts that we could write an entire book on the topic. For simplicity purposes, as well as some food for starting a conversation, I’m keeing things simple.

To get started, it’s also worth prefacing all of this by saying that I recently had the experience of letting go of a client. After being involved in this industry for close to ten years I felt weird after the experience. Those of you who have been through this probably have shared some of the same mixed emotions I had. Was it the right thing to do? What if this particular client becomes the next mega-brand? Will it come back to haunt me, my colleagues and my company? Will they talk bad about us?  It’s doubtful, but those possibilities do exist and it really doesn’t make the decision or the experience any easier. I googled this topic to death and found all sorts of interesting things. To keep it short, I whittled it down, reinterpreted it and am sharing my personal three reasons. Let’s get to it.

Abusive clients

These are hands down the worst to deal with and are probably the easiest to let go of. There’s nothing worse than a client who is rude, condescending and insulting. More importantly, there’s no excuse to put up with it. It’s demoralizing for your staff and in the end, isn’t worth it. Save yourself the pain and suffering and part ways. You’ll be glad you did.

The bully

We’ve all been there and have experienced this type of client at one time or another. You know the type – the client who sits there and tells you how to do your job. Creativity is central to our world. What’s creative to one may not be to another, and a big surprise here for you, that’s quite alright. I’ve always believed that collaboration leads to the greatest ideas and campaigns. We’re all after the same thing.

Having a bully for a client is dangerous territory to live in. What this person really needs is an assistant who will do everything they say. Falling into this trap results in satiating a person who just doesn’t know any better. Remember this — you hire a mechanic to fix your car because they have the expertise. The same rules apply here. Taking orders from the bully client is no different than working the front lines of a fast-food joint. Do you want to make it a king size meal for just a quarter more, sir?

Maybe it’s time to say goodbye.

The cheapskate who will never see the value

This is a real tricky one because it ultimately leads to the question “why did you bother to hire us?” It’s very difficult to work with a client who just doesn’t see the value in it and, at the same time, wants it all for the lowest price possible. It can be exhausting and frustrating.

As crazy as this may sound, it’s often times the agency’s fault, especially with fee clients. What clients don’t know is that it takes time to learn the client’s particular business, train the staff, learn the process, build the relationship and so forth. More often than not, the agency over-services the client and, again, the client doesn’t see this. That leads to a client who will seek more and more work from you. In this situation, it’s imperative that agencies estimate retainers (or project fees) as close as possible and communicate on a regular basis regarding the amount of time going into the account. If this doesn’t happen, what ensues is a dangerous client-agency relationship involving doing the work for rock bottom prices. Not good.

As I mentioned earlier, it can be exhausting. Going round and round with ideas and wasting everyone’s time is no fun. It’s even less fun when the client thinks it should be free, steals the idea and does it on their own. Shame on them.

If your client still doesn’t “get it”, then it needs to be asked: Why did you hire us in the first place?

So with all of this said, I hope it leads to some insight for you as a professional and maybe something you can share with your own agency staff. I’ve also included a video that I blogged about earlier in the year but it’s worth watching again. Enjoy the show, but for now, let’s start the talk:  When is it time to part ways with a client?

Social Media Analysis: Understanding Your Client

My most recent client project has been to put together a social media analysis. What this means is that I go through a thorough process that helps me to identify the conversations and the influencers online, and then I quantify it.

Sometimes the quantity is comments, sometimes it is hash tags, and in some cases the number is based solely on traffic. Whatever is most realistic, and can represent what the client is looking for will be the focus of my presentation. This post is not about the number I find, or the social media analysis process. This post is about how much I learn about my client’s industry while going through the analysis.

As part of the account team, it is my job to do my research, and learn as much as I can about the client and their industry. The way I typically learn it is through trade magazines and newspaper articles. This is the standard approach, and I read great information, but I also come across a lot of jargon that I don’t always understand. Sometimes this hurts my knowledge of the company or their industry because of the amount of time I spend trying to learn their language.

When I perform a social media analysis however, I am able to learn about the industry, and in some cases, the client on a more intimate level. I get to learn about them from their customer’s perspective. This approach has taught me more then I would ever learn in a trade magazine or any other large publication.

Another major benefit of performing the social media analysis is the fact that I get to ask questions. I can ask these questions as myself, or anonymously. Either way I am able to gain valuable information and feedback without having to waste any time.

Performing the social media analysis, and then putting together a report is going to be a huge help to your client. At the same time though, it will be a huge help to you and your team from a traditional and new media perspective.

This is a prime example of how important it is to recognize that traditional advertising and public relations are not dying, instead they are taking a new form that include social media as both a research and conversation tool.

The Hidden Benefits of Building Your Brand Through Social Media: (Passive) Recruiting

Over the last year the big discussions were around company layoffs. The layoffs were obviously newsworthy and mirrored the state of the economy, and the recession we are in.  During this same time period however, an issue that was not as given as much attention was the implementation of hiring freezes. Though it was most prevalent in the school systems, hiring freezes were occurring across the board, and many companies (even ones that I worked with) had a hiring freeze in place.

It is a frustrating thing, not only for the potential employee, but also for the company. When you stop hiring, you stop aggressively recruiting, and in doing so, you can tarnish your brand’s image.  That is where social media comes into place and can be extremely beneficial to your brand and your recruiting efforts. 

This is a great time for companies to revert back to their social media strategy and goals in order to identify where they need to gain awareness and encourage engagement.  If your main goal was to increase traffic to a landing page that offered promotions and sold a product, you should consider sending people to a landing page that talks about the benefits of working for your company. 

I am not saying you should get people’s hopes up, and claim that you have many open positions, instead I am saying that you should point out the reasons your company is a great place to work.  Talking to people honestly, discussing the fact that you are not hiring right now but in the (near) future you will be, will build confidence in your brand and your company’s image.  While doing this you should ask people to submit a resume and their contact information so that you may contact them when you are hiring again.

Instead of losing the traction your recruiting strategy had gained, you are continuing to build a list of potential candidates that you have connected with on a personal level, and you can reach out to when the hiring freeze is over.

Hospital for Special Care Offers Free Brain Injury and Neurobehavioral Screening for Veterans

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (November 11, 2009) – With Veterans Day approaching on November 11, our thoughts turn to supporting our veterans.  Hospital for Special Care (HSC) is offering screenings for the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  HSC is an extensive resource to veterans and their families on the education and treatment of TBI.

Many veterans may be suffering symptoms of TBI after exposure to bomb blasts, a blow to the head, the head striking an object or lack of oxygen.  However, these symptoms may not be recognized as a brain injury and as a result, veterans may not be getting the treatment they need.

The free electronic TBI screenings offered via phone and through www.hfsc.org will direct veterans to appropriate treatment if warranted.  In addition, HSC has created a package of educational resource materials for veterans and their families.

“This is an opportunity for us to help veterans affected by TBI get on the road to better health,” said Hospital for Special Care President and Chief Executive Officer, John Votto, DO, FCCP.  “At Hospital for Special Care, we understand the issue of TBI in returning veterans based on our experience in treating vets and others with TBIs.  What’s more, we have become increasingly concerned based on our research that some veterans may be suffering potential long-term effects from mild traumatic brain injury and not even know it.”

Traumatic Brain Injury can result in one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A brief loss of consciousness
  • Loss of memory immediately before or after the injury
  • Any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident
  • Persistent post-concussive symptoms such as irritability, headache and difficulty concentrating

If you know a veteran experiencing any of the above symptoms or a family member who wants more information about brain injuries, Hospital for Special care can provide the resources and education needed to gain a better understanding of the injury and its treatment.  Free informational materials are also available to veterans and their families.

To obtain these materials, or get further information, call Hospital for Special Care at (860) 612-6310 or contact via email at vetsoutreach@hfsc.org.

About Hospital for Special Care:

As the only long-term acute-care hospital in the nation serving adults and children, New Britain, Conn.-based Hospital for Special Care is nationally recognized for advanced care and rehabilitation in the highly specialized areas of pulmonary care, acquired-brain injury, medically-complex pediatrics, neuromuscular care and spinal cord injury.  Hospital for Special Care operates inpatient and outpatient facilities serving Southern New England on a not-for-profit basis.  Please visit www.hfsc.org for more information.