What is ‘IT’?

I just tweeted this:

it’s not about 1:1 anymore it’s about story. it’s not about story anymore it’s about content. it’s not about content it’s about context.

and thought I would draft a post to go into more detail. One of the things that really gets my goat working in social media is how often people try to make it some mystical thing. Whether it’s a social media ‘expert’ trying to make it seem harder than it is or whether it’s a marketing manager who is afraid of it.

The reality is that social media is no different from anything you’ve been doing as a marketing or communications professional. (I know I’ve said this before but it warrants repeating)

Know this – if you’re social media campaign feels like an itchy coat that doesn’t quite fit your brand and leaves you scratching at your arm like a junky it’s probably a bad idea. Social media should be the comfy cardigan you stole from your ex boyfriend in the 90’s – something cooler than you probably are but that fits comfortably and goes with everything you normally wear.

I present a brief history of social media strategy as evidence:

1. in the beginning (like 2007ish) it was about getting buzz and acquiring legions of friends fans and followers

2. WHOOOPS it’s not about mass following and buzz but QUALITY friends, fans and followers! Damn!!! we’ve got a million followers but they aren’t our target audience, whatever will we do?

3. 1:1 (2009ish) – let’s build deep, meaningful relationships with our constituents, let’s pretend we’re having afternoon tea and crumpets and ask them how many tampons they use every month to hone our marketing and drive more engagement which will surely lead to more sales, right?

4. PUT A HASHTAG ON IT! (2011ish) – let’s link all of our new friends conversations with unique hashtags that highlight how cool we are. Now anyone can join the conversation and we’ll even tag our TV spots and print ads with it so we have what is called….INTEGRATED MARKETING! (yay)

5. STORYTELLING (2012) – Social media is not about reaching a mass audience, nor is it about developing intimate relationships with our consumers but rather about telling an inspiring cohesive story across our channels both traditional and social. Oh and mobile mobile mobile, video video video and #instagram it.

6. CONTENT (now) – I am no longer a social media expert, I am a content specialist.

wait a minute — isn’t that the same thing that our creative/copy/brand teams have been doing since the days of Don Draper and Darrin Stephens? I specifically recall an episode of Bewitched where Darrin talked about creating incredible content for Ajax and making it accessible to all of their target audiences through an integrated approach both in-store and in advertising or something .

The moral of the story folks is that ‘it’ is not about something new but rather something tried and true. The tools might get sexier and way more star treky but the concepts are the same. The brand messages may get shorter but the strategy and communications purpose remains true as ever — sell more things, get more donations, provide better service.

These guys lay it out perfectly (and in a tone that expresses my frustration) – Faith No More ‘Epic’, lyrics posted after the jump.

In closing – should you find yourself stuck with an itchy coat or not sure how to turn your tried and true marketing into a social media program, give me a ring.


Can you feel it ,see it, hear it today?
If you can’t, then it doesn’t matter anyway
You will never understand it ’cause it happens too fast
And it feels so good, it’s like walking on glass
It’s so cool, it’s so hip, it’s alright
It’s so groovy, it’s outta sight
You can touch it, smell it, taste it so sweet
But it makes no difference ’cause it knocks you off your feet
You want it all but you can’t have it
It’s cryin’, bleedin’, lying on the floor
So you lay down on it and you do it some more
You’ve got to share it, so you dare it
Then you bare it and you tear it
You want it all but you can’t have it
It’s in your face but you can’t grab it
It’s alive, afraid, a lie, a sin
It’s magit, it’s tragic, it’s a loss, it’s a win
It’s dark, it’s moist, it’s a bitter pain
It’s sad it happened and it’s a shame
You want it all but you can’t have it
It’s in your face but you can’t grab it
What is it?
It’s it
What is it?…

Reblogging myself: Diagnosing content marketing in the healthcare world

Originally posted on PharmaLive

Social media and digital engagement are inherently tricky for the pharmaceutical industry, which lacks specific guidelines for social media—especially regarding how drugs should be marketed in the social space. The beauty of adopting a content-focused plan is that it allows Pharma to concentrate their messages on providing value and disseminating information to a highly defined target without getting hung up in engagement and communications loopholes.

How does Pharma engage without engaging?

By telling a story and providing resources you can become a valuable and welcome addition to your end users’ social media mix without the risk of engaging in touchy conversations. As a content creator, you start the conversation, and you own the message and the moderation. For many healthcare brands, the need to disable comments on social channels or steer clear of two-way conversations in open channels provides a challenge in engaging the right audience. Such brands often resort to proprietary communities or limit their social engagement to blogging.

If you create vibrant content and strategize the right distribution points, you can broaden your digital presence and achieve social scale without navigating the two-way conversation rapids. By thinking about the end user, the stories and resources that the user wants and needs, the brand can become a valuable asset no matter what entry point they take.

You’ve got the science, now get the sexy!

The good news is, you likely already have a ton of content: studies, research, data, insights and testimonials. The challenge is how do you package it so it catches your target audience’s attention? Once you’ve got your sexy on, where do you strut your stuff?

Great listening audits synched with your end user information as well as key terms associated with your drug category will not only tell you where the folks are, but what kind of content they are already consuming. With this knowledge comes power – the power to craft your content into stories, graphics and videos that will truly break through and drive engagement from the right people, in the right manner.

Consider working with digital creatives to leverage these insights to develop unique and sharable pieces of content (e.g., infographics, motion graphics, and patient stories in animations or interviews). You can then distribute this engaging content via Facebook and Twitter, as well as digital ad units, email, and blogs that will have legs beyond your own channels and will be shared with your users’ networks. Of course you’ll need to follow all necessary disclaimers within this content.

“Doctor Recommended” in 140 characters…

Going back to your listening audit you should have a good idea of where your target user is engaging. Whether you have a presence in that channel or not, you can still reach them and get the clicks you deserve. There are a few ways to do this. For Facebook, highly targeted paid ad units are an effective approach as is general sharing of the content from your blog and website. For Twitter, getting partner influencers or medical journals to distribute your content will reach your audience (always noting any relevant disclaimers). Leveraging paid media units like Google CPC and other iAd units that follow your targeting will give you additional scale. Remember to ensure the content is sharable to increase the potential for organic virality once you’ve captured users’ attention.

#Taketwo and tweet me in the morning.

Now that you’ve figured out how to convert that mass of information you have into viable, attractive content AND you’ve distributed it in a strategic way, it’s time to regulate and perfect. What is so amazing about social and digital is that, rather than performing a zillion trials to get the product right, you can immediately change the formula. With real-time insights you can immediately see how your campaign is doing, meaning you can optimize by quickly adjusting your strategy. If your infographic is doing really well on Tumblr but not on Pinterest, you can stop investing as much time in Pinterest and increase production for Tumblr.

The options for the right formula are endless, the prescription for the best results will change month over month, but the baseline diagnoses is that content is king, even for Pharma companies, no matter what your social footprint is. And with that I’ll spare you any more medical analogies and let you start combing your library for content thought starters!

Renee Alexander is Director of Social Marketing Strategies at Rosetta.

Remix it up + Three Tenets of Content Marketing

Yesterday I talked about how there are no new ideas, just new channels. I got a few emails about that post and have been talking with former clients and colleagues about the theme of content marketing. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for analogies (sometimes they rock and sometimes they flop). One of my favorite analogies  is talking about how marketers should take a tip from Hip-Hop and “remix.”

What this means is finding something tried and true:

  • your brand promise
  • your core audience
  • your brand’s key differentiators

and mix it up with something new and fresh that allows you to present the pillars in a new way:

  • a physical event amplified through digital (road show/concert/art event/stunt)
  • a mobile app (always on)
  • interactive content (online, in media,in person)

Problems arise when people throw out the baby with the bath water and end up with nothing. Don’t compromise your brands equity, turn your back on your core consumer or abandon your brand’s values. You do not have to completely alter what your brand stands for to compete in the new digital environment.

The tenets I have been preaching since 2007 continue to ring true no matter what device or methods you tell your story:

  1. Be Authentic
    1. the big difference with these new mediums is the transparency. Unlike the radio show days you have thousands (maybe millions) of digital investigators ready to pounce on anything not accurate or on the up and up.
    2. you have a chance never before to befriend your consumer and be part of their lives EVERY DAY not just for a :30 commercial but for the duration of their digital day…make it count!
  2. Ensure you are ready for the spotlight
    1. do you have great customer service? is your product living up to its promise? can you handle the magnifying glass?
  3. Tell a Story
    1. Make a story (not a fairy tale) out of your brand promise and equity
    2. tell the story of your company, the people there, the reason for being, the values you stand for
    3. Find like brands and entities to tell your story for you

Follow the three tenets, do it in a new way and you’ll be remixin it to win it like some of the best (this is my fave example of old standard meeting new medium):

Content Marketing: Not So New

As I read all these blogs and articles about how ‘Content is King’ and ‘Brands must be Content Creators’ I am baffled that the authors find this so ground breaking. Brands have been creating content since the beginning of brands.

The only things that change are the medium by which the stories get told. Instead of 3 page advetorials in newspapers or pamphlets or branded farmers almanacs it’s now mobile apps and branded video games.


Check out these vintage recipe pamphlets each created by a popular food brand like Jell-O, Pillsbury and even Dove soap (featuring the great Julia Child).

At the height of radio people would gather around their large console radio and tune into shows like the Lone Ranger, Guiding Light and a myriad of comedy hours. All brought to you by brands like Dreft, Super Suds, Borax and more.

Image      Image

And now, 75 years later we marketers think we’re doing some majorly innovative thing by turning brands into creators. Not to sound like a broken phonograph but I’ve been saying for years that there is nothing new about social media and relationship or content marketing.

Perhaps we should instead look to the past to inform our present and lay the groundwork for our future. Stop being so focused on who is the most innovative and rather focus on who is the most productive — who makes the next “Soap Opera”. Soaps are called that because they were sponsored by Soap brands after-all; mini operatic radio dramas aimed at house wives to get them to become loyal to this soap or the other. If you liked Guiding Light you’d be a Tide woman; All My Children and you were more likely to align with Dreft. Having worked on similar brands recently I can tell you the mentality is still there as evidenced in our Mommy blogger programs and TV companion apps during daytime television.

As they say, there are no new ideas…so read up on your brand history, get grounded in the past to propel you to a more successful content filled future!

(you shouldn’t have to) SHOUT!

I recently spoke to a colleague about their desire to spend a massive amount of money on an Olympics social media activation.

“Why would you do that?” I asked. “everyone does, you just have to” he said. I chuckled under my breath and the colleague asked what the problem was.
“Simple…saturation” I responded.

The brand in question was in no way affiliated with sports, it isn’t a travel brand and in fact trying to find any link between it and the Olympics is like connecting Lady Gaga to pest control…actually that would be an easier connection.

Here’s the thing, as marketers our job is to get attention for our brands, right? We are the shiny golden technicolor megaphones that bring eyes and ears to the wonder that is our product or service. We woo them with fireworks then inspire them with how their life is better because our sprockets and wingbats are in their lives.

So why on earth would you invest money in a time when no megaphone on the planet can reach a volume loud enough to even be heard, much less WOW their audience. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re Nike or Gatorade sure the Olympics are your sandbox and you should go for it. But if you have to hold a seance and call on Houdini to whip you up a comm idea that makes sense for you to play in the Olympics advertising arena you may want to reconsider your investment.

A wise person once told me “if you want to be heard…whisper.”  Those of you who know me know that i don’t really adhere to this in my personal life, however i do recommend this in social media.

If you have to shout so loud you lose your voice, you’re doing it wrong. Plan your marketing like a militia–hit them when they least expect it and do so in an authentic way that meets them on your own turf and not in some foreign construct.

Forget Christmas and Super Bowl and Olympics, what can you do in the middle of June to wow a captive audience…what can you OWN???

For the love of ROI, let us marketers use our megaphones strategically and don’t throw your money at gold medals you will never win, leave that to that Phelps kid!

And because I promised to always tie it back to my music loving roots…here you go:

PR/Social “Superfriends”

So if you’ve been following along, you know I have entered the world of PR. I suppose it was only a matter of time when you consider what I’ve done all my life.

Talk about things I’m passionate about… a lot, to lot’s of different folks in a seemingly never-ending manner.

When I first broke into the Social Media world (before it was called social media) it was about promotions and marketing and relationship building and, let’s face it, coolness. As I began to have little successes with non-profit campaigns and later with major brands I was on the speaker circuit exclaiming the virtues of community management from a DIY point of view and actually denouncing PR as the place to go for social.

As the dust settles on this now core communication channel, it is abundantly clear that the world of PR is the best if not only place to house your social media services. PR’s DNA is made up of “Always On”. It’s all about identifying opportunities to create a buzz or a relationship or a moment in time out of what is happening in the real world. More-Over PR is where the traditional media intersects with the people and THEN intersects with the brand.

For the last 7+ months, my work at MSL GROUP has been to grow our business and bring both a vibrant always on approach as well as dynamic activations to some of the biggest names in CPG. It’s been a whirlwind few months aclimating to the inner sanctum of the PR world and watching the melding of this “new” wacky world of social to the venerable practice of PR.

It feels like being part of a DC/Marvel cross-over and I LOVE IT!

On Monday I will be attending the 2012 Matrix Awards communing with stellar women in communications and PR. I’m excited to have elevated what I once thought was a silly techy nerd girl obsession into a viable career that is actually part of a real paradigm shift in communications.

look for updates post awards and hopefully more blogs on this crazy new world I’ve entered…until then, check this crossover out:

Me-Blogged by PSFK

I was surprised and excited today when the awesome guys over at PSFK blogged my responses to a Q&A we did in preparation for the event at SxSW Saturday. Here is the full post, thanks guys!


unicef-renee hamilton-global issues

For our upcoming PSFK SALON at SXSW this year, we’ve invited Renee Alexander to discuss the future of mobile marketing. Renee is Social Media Manager at UNICEF USA. Here are a few questions we asked her in preparation for the event.

What is the most exciting challenge that UNICEF USA is addressing right now?

Challenges are exciting aren’t they? From my perspective it is rejuvenating the brand. Making this historic, venerable organization relevant to the next generation of donor and supporter. This is not to say making it “cool” or “hip” or in-authentic, but the challenge is in introducing or re-introducing the magnitude of what we do and how people can plug in.

Are there any other projects that are currently inspiring your work?

We’re inspired by projects both in and outside of the non-profit world that inspire action and are actually led by the supporters. The social web has spawned a new breed of grassroots activism that has allowed deeper connections to  causes and brands while making taking action and making change easier.

What emerging trend, idea, or technology are your excited to see develop in the future?

Of course mobile is exciting. It’s the always on and always on you connector. Being able to share content, get feedback and inspire people wherever they are is exciting. What’s incredible about mobile is that it has implications across business segments here from fundraising and development which heretofore we have seen with SMS text to give campaigns to in the field projects such as mobile tags on field tents with vital information. We know that even in some of the most destitute developing countries, many families and even children have mobile phones. Imagine the education and community development potential there!

What has been the impact of social media on UNICEF USA’s work?

Beyond communicating information on UNICEF USA’s work in the field, social has really been a prime touch point for younger donors and supporters. To date the use of social has been more management and engagement, in the coming year it’s about pushing the envelope, being strategic and adding  real fundraising goals into the mix.

Article on my recent speaking gig

I recently spoke in Vegas for the awesome Ragan Comunications/PRSA. Here is a follow-up article from @RussellWorking on my presentation.

6 steps to gaining company backing for social media

Start by making your organization’s mission your primary social media objective, Renee Alexander of UNICEF USA tells a Ragan conference crowd.

Having trouble getting buy-in from your company on your social media campaign? Maybe it’s because you’ve set the wrong priorities.

The first bullet point of any campaign should not be to amass Twitter followers or Facebook friends but to restate your organization’s mission, said Renee Alexander, social media manager for UNICEF USA.

Speaking at Ragan’s Social Media for PR & Corporate Communicators conference in Las Vegas, Alexander also urged social media managers to reach out widely within their organizations when building their presence on the Web.

Alexander—who has also worked for a major digital agency representing clients that included Coca-Cola, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, and Kleenex—has successfully used social media to raise donations or boost sales.

Here are some of her tips:

1. Put the company’s goals first.

“Your goals in social [media] should be the exact set of goals of your company,” Alexander said.

That means point No. 1 on the social media mission statement should be a rewording of the organization’s own mission.

“If it’s to grow the business by 15 percent, grow your business in social [media] by 15 percent,” she said. “If it’s to create long-lasting relationships with your donor base if we’re talking nonprofits, that should be your social media mission.”

In adopting this attitude, the social media strategy is no longer how to get out a press release in 140 characters, but how to accomplish the corporate plan the bosses themselves designed.

“They’re going to love you,” she said.

2. Reach out to other departments.

“Social media is not a marketing function,” Alexander said. “It’s not a PR function. It’s not a promotion function. It’s not an R&D function. It’s not a customer service function. It is a business function.”

That is, social media has implications across every single segment of a business or nonprofit organization. Once other departments see the benefits for the work they do, they are likely to buy in.

For example, she said, at one company, employees started griping about their bosses and their shifts and even resigning via Facebook. Suddenly, human resources could see the importance of social media.

The same message can resonate in the research and development department.

“How many times from an R&D perspective,” Alexander said, “have you been able to think about a product and go, ‘Gee, I wonder if our consumer base would enjoy this product? Would they like it better in purple or red?’”

Social media gives companies the ability to try such questions out among hundreds of thousands of people at once, making it integral to product development.

3. Use case studies to persuade the bigwigs.

When corporate leaders seem shy about social media, Alexander brings out case studies about how it can hurt or help their brand. “The best possible thing you can do with your higher-ups is to give them case studies,” she said.

For example, she said the “United Breaks Guitars” song that went viral hurt the airline’s ticket sales, whereas good use of social media, such as Kodak’s, can help revive a company.

Likewise, frustrated customers have begun tweeting about how long they’re kept on hold. So a major call center with 400 employees placed five staffers on Facebook and Twitter watch, searching for comments to address, Alexander said.

4. Listen to customers—and learn from them.

When customers started tweeting that they didn’t like the name of a new Kodak camera, the company launched a social media campaign to rename it, Alexander said.

Other companies have had similar campaigns, effectively enlisting “the people to do your job for you.” This means the social media staff has to figure out where people are and what they are talking about.

The organization must also be prepared to respond. “If customer service says, ‘We know you hate that about our cell phones, but we’re going to fix it,’ you’d doggone well better have engineering ready to fix it—or don’t tell them you’re going to fix it,” she said.

5. Don’t get left behind.

Alexander once compiled a report for a major client who had business interests all over the world. She told them, “Oh, by the way, there were about 3,200 Facebook pages or groups for their brands that they had no idea about, where a district manager or a sales person somewhere had set up a Facebook page or group by themselves…”

They were filling a void left by the company.

6. Take a long-term approach.

In her presentation, Alexander displayed a slide that read, “First comes LOVE, then comes MARRIAGE, then comes monetization.”

It is possible to use social media to increase sales, she says, but it takes time.

“You can monetize,” she said. “You can raise money. You can increase sales. But it’s a little bit longer. It’s not going to be in the back of a Camaro. It’s going to be in a church.”