In his book,”The Thank You Economy,” Social Media Champion and Wine Library entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk makes the case for engaging customers through authentic conversations in social media. I just finished it and it is a fairly quick read. Some of the book’s key points might be considered “no-brainers” to seasoned marketing/public relations and social media pro’s. However, some professional business people still fail to see the benefits of the two way conversation that the new economy provides.  Vaynerchuk calls Chapter Three “Why Smart People Dismiss Social Media, and Why They Shouldn’t.” He outlines 11 excuses company’s use for not taking part in social networking. Do you see anyone you know in any of these excuses?

1- There’s no ROI– Gary argues that because word of mouth is so strong all companies should be thrilled at this opportunity to gain advocates.

2. The metrics aren’t reliable– Actually the tools for tracking success are getting much better and sure beat the old ways of advertising (remember throwing against the wall and hoping it will stick?)

3. Social media is still too young– “The longer you hesitate the more you will struggle,” says Gary who compares diving into social networking with his 11th hour decision to gain friends in high school senior year. He says the students who started out making friends freshman year were more popular and had more invested.

4. Social media is just another trend that will pass– As Gary points out that’s what they said about radio, TV and oh, yes the internet too!

5. We need to control our message– As he points out companies rarely sink under the weight of one Facebook post. Ongoing customer service is the key.

6. I don’t have time to keep track of what every Joe or Jane says, and I can’t afford /don’t want to pay someone else to do it. Gary says do not dismiss any customer or what he/she says because the power now rests with them.

7. We’re doing fine without it. Really? How do you know?

8. We tried it; it doesn’t work. As Gary says, social media is a long-term commitment and requires patience, commitment and strategy.

9. The legal issues are too thorny– He says that a company “should reflect the DNA of its leader, not its lawyers.”

10. It takes too long to pay off– He calls social media “a marathon” and says you cannot reach the finish line “without patience and determination.”

11. Social media works only for start-up, lifestyle, or tech brands. Gary says regardless of the size of your business social media allows you to “take your business to its fullest potential.”

Do you know people who still dismiss social media without seeing it as a valued communications strategy? Or do the business people you know see it as an ideal way to communicate and thank  their customers for their business?

As a side note Gary Vaynerchuck is scheduled to speak in Greeneville, Tenn. in June. If I’m in town, I will definitely be there!

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P.R. pro's are welcome in a Crisis. Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I worked in marketing for a large law firm I remember my husband’s response to all of the lawyer jokes and kidding. “Just try going into court without one.” The same could be said for a C.E.O. turned loose in a crisis storm without a good Public Relations consultant to provide guidance. Major crises are in the news daily. Behind those giant companies and institutions are the P.R. firms consulting with them.

Crisis communications is a specific niche within the public relations field. Ideally every company should have a crisis communications plan in place prior to the crisis occurring (it’s not just a matter of if one will occur, it is when!)  I remember routinely rehearsing crises at one large defense company where I was employed as a communications specialist. Look at most of our schools today. Drilling and preparedness is routine for these students.

A good P.R. pro will weigh the pro’s and con’s of given media strategies and help to formulate an overall communications plan to deal with a crisis. This year I was called in to handle a client crisis involving a potential hostile takeover attempt. On very short notice I was working with the board chair, the chief executive, the general counsel and the media! A good P.R. Pro knows how to handle the top business executives and how to speak their language. I read with interest Stacy Blackman’s article in U.S. News and World Report, “Why B-Schools need to teach P.R.”  While the language of business is key, it’s the well strategized and crafted communications message that forms the bridge from business to the receiver. It’s ultimately this ability to speak “bilingually” when needed that gives a P.R. pro a seat at the corporate table. In my client’s case the self-described “white knight” was turned away thanks to a sound communications strategy that took into account the client’s business and communications needs. It would behoove M.B.A.’s to learn public relations in school as eventually most CEO’s will end up working with a Public Relations professional. Does your company have a crisis communications plan for 2012? These days social media must be an integral part of any plan. Here are some excellent resources to get you thinking.

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