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The Arthur W. Page Society is a professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives. Each year, they have an annual conference in which the members, sponsors and new members get together to network with one another, share case studies and present learnings to help strengthen the management policy role of chief public relations officers in the industry. This year’s meeting took place at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia from September 21 through September 23. We (Anke & Lauren) were selected to be volunteers at the conference this year and help orchestrate the meeting. We are excited to share with you some of the key insights and learnings from our extraordinary experience in Philly.

Infusing a taste of W2O into the mix: LiveCube

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As all communications experts know, interaction, integration and engagement are key for success in anything one pursues. That’s why this year, the Page Society Annual Conference adopted LiveCube as an interactive social platform to help increase audience participation and attendee interaction. Housing all vital conference information on the app and enabling attendees to ask questions, comment on sessions and post pictures of the event on the LiveCube dashboard gave this year’s conference a much needed digital footprint that was smart, cutting edge and a major success. We were not surprised to hear that this new addition to the conference was suggested by non-other than W2O Group. Page members enjoyed the app and all its capabilities, and it was fascinating for us to be able to see the interaction between CCOs on various sessions.

The evolving role of the CCO

Although the role of the CCO has seen a substantial increase in responsibility over the last few decades, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to move communications into an even more mission-critical role. Communications has to focus on (re-)building itself from the core to enhance existing roles, such as building corporate reputation and employee engagement, and move into new areas, such as customer service and product development. Leveraging data-driven insights and taking risk with new ideas, needs to ring in a new era where marketing and communications work hand in hand and complement each other.

The Arthur W. Page Society serves as an example of how the role of (Chief)  Communication Officer has evolved over the last few decades and it brings together the best and brightest of the communications profession. The society started with Arthur W. Page, who was the first public relations executive to hold the position of officer and member of the Board of Directors of a major public corporation, and has grown to over 500 members, most of whom have a seat at the executive table. At the conference, there were many case studies presented. We chose two that resonated with us to exemplify the great work being done by other communications professionals.

The American Lung Association: What’s in a color?

If you ask Alana Burns, Vice President, Signature Cause Campaign at the American Lung Association (ALA), a color can say more than a thousand words. These days just about every color in the rainbow is claimed by one advocacy group or another, exemplified by the ribbons worn by its supporters, so choosing a color to promote a cause as important as lung cancer can be a daunting task. Working with some of the best creative minds on the planet, the ALA, wanted to identify a color that represented both the cause and the target audience, women. Turquoise has traditionally been hailed as a bringer of good fortune or a talisman. According to Alana, the color turquoise is the perfect depiction of the “breath of fresh air” that the ALA is hoping to promote by raising awareness about lung cancer and it appeals to females, who are generally the chief medical officers of their families.

In a day and age where “just PR” isn’t enough to reach, and more importantly engage, consumers, the idea of authentic advocacy holds more relevance than ever before. An organic partnership with CVS (that just happened to announce their “tobacco-free” policy and rebranding as CVS Health at the same time the ALA “Lung Force” campaign launched) helped give this cause a voice.

Johnson & Johnson: Care, courage, connection + creativity = impact

Maggie FitzPatrick, Chief Communications Officer at Johnson & Johnson, knows about corporate compassion. As one of the major leaders in cutting edge medical products, her company knows corporate character matters. Maggie shared examples of how Johnson & Johnson is leveraging partnerships and a heritage of transparency to drive trust, engagement and advocacy. Johnson & Johnson uses the idea of “care” to create impact for those that value the brand. She delved into Johnson & Johnson’s belief in doing well by doing good with examples like Operation Smile and their 12-year commitment to its nursing campaign. It was a powerful session that demonstrated the importance and the impact caring, courage, connection and creativity can have on society.

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The ‘So What’

You may say, “All of this sounds great, but so what?” Here are our key takeaways from a long weekend in Philadelphia at the Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference:

  • We need to feel uncomfortable: Asking the hard questions and constantly challenging what has been known and tried, will make us invaluable to the CEOs whom we so often struggle to convince of the need for strategic communications.
  • Employees are the key to long term, sustainable advocacy: Building advocacy from the core by first engaging employees and then encouraging organic growth stemming from passions and commitment to the cause or company is the key to long term success.
  • With more power comes more responsibility: Over the past few decades, the role of the CCO has expanded immensely. With that comes a responsibility to solve today’s complex problems, inspired by a communications-focused approach.
  • The era of communications AND marketing is over: The solution to every problem is not a new advertising campaign. Communications needs to lead the charge in solving today’s large scale problems and work hand in hand with marketing to move from image-driven campaigns to a more holistic approach of building and stewarding relationships.

Overall, we had such an amazing experience at this year’s Page Society Annual Conference. The lessons we learned and insights we gained are invaluable and we are excited to see how communications will evolve in the future. Thinking ahead, we hope to one day be able to contribute our learnings and ideas to the dialog and help continue to grow the role of the CCO.

Best,

Anke Knospe & Lauren Barbiero

Although plenty of studies support the claim, most good marketers just know intuitively that Earned media and WOM (word of mouth) are more impactful marketing vehicles at the individual level than paid advertising…  You are significantly more likely to try something because your friend recommended it than because you saw an advertisement.  The challenge with Earned media is that it’s hard…  You have to rely on someone else (journalists, bloggers, etc.) to buy into your message and convey it effectively.  That makes it difficult and unpredictable.  It also rarely scales like Paid advertising.  Occasionally the story is so compelling that it can scale, with hoards of influential media writing about it.  That’s rare, though.

WOM suffers from the same issue of predictability, but is infinitely more scalable.  While there are a limited number of influencers you can Earn media from, anybody can become a vessel for word of mouth.  Importantly, both Earned media and WOM also suffer from a problem with Measurement.  Whether Paid advertising is actually all that measurable is a debate for another day.  Earned media and WOM are clearly “less” measurable than Paid media.
Enter Shared media.  Shared media is a slight but important pivot on social media, and refers to any marketing channel in which brands participate on an equal footing with their external audiences.  It’s important to differentiate Shared from social media because most leading social media sites have elements of all PESO media formats (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned).  Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the top blogs, you can buy ads, build proprietary apps, pitch top influencers, and also engage on an equal footing with your audiences.

Why is Shared media so important?  Because it finally brings three critical (and missing) components to the Earned / WOM conversation:

  • Scale.  You can have conversations with millions of people in a cost effective way.
  • Predictability.  You can build an audience over time and continually engage with them.
  • Measurability.  The data here is real – not estimated based on circulations or panels.

Many marketers are beginning to understand the value of Shared media for these reasons, however, very few have effectively combined all PESO approaches to leverage the benefits of each.  Below is a chart that outlines the various PESO media formats and their associated benefits.
PESO Media

 

– Paul Dyer

 

November brought a bunch of new updates to social media, with changes spanning over multiple channels. Be sure to share these updates with your clients to keep them aware of what is going on within the social media world and how it will affect their brand. Please let us know if you would like to be featured in the December blog and make sure to Socialize!

What you need to know in November:

  • Facebook Tests Star Ratings Vs. Simple “Like”
    • Facebook is testing out star ratings on Facebook brand/company pages, as opposed to just “Liking” the page. Ratings will be posted on the top of the page and users can see a preview of these ratings in their News Feed. http://w.cg/1cVw78z
    • Why it matters: This new feature will help brands/companies understand how their customers truly feel about their service. Facebook pages will now put an emphasis on customer service, rather than just a page for fans to go and “Like.”
    • What you have to say about it: “From an analytics standpoint, adding company Facebook page star ratings gives an analyst another data point to analyze and draw insights upon. If one is able to eventually export these ratings (via third party platform) it would help paint a better picture, in terms of brand sentiment, and have a greater influence on key findings than a single, inconclusive number of ‘likes.’” Meghan Evans, Analytics Associate, New York, NY
  • Facebook Introduces Autoplay for Videos
    • Facebook began rolling out a new digital video feature that will automatically play videos when users scroll over the freeze frame. This feature will only apply to videos that have been uploaded directly to Facebook or Facebook owned sites, excluding YouTube, Vimeo, etc. http://w.cg/IB6Cjs
    • Why it matters: Facebook is on the road to becoming a one-stop-shop. If brands can upload a video directly to Facebook and watch it without have to go to a third party site, then brands will be more likely to promote their videos, Facebook will benefit in promoted revenue and users/fans will be more inclined to watch the video while it is right in front of them.
    • What you have to say about it: “I think the new Facebook Autoplay function is going to be great for brands, eliminating third parties should really increase engagement. This feature would have been great this fall when we launched 5 videos on YouTube for Sanofi Pasteur’s Fluzone Intradermal FLUgitives campaign. Essentially the autoplay is forcing users to be exposed to at least a little video content if not the whole posted video – this could really mean great things for our clients.” Meredith Crowder, Healthcare Associate, New York, NY
  • Twitter’s New DM Option Pulled
    •  Last month, Twitter announced that users could receive a direct message from any user, not just those who they follow. This month, Twitter pulled the option for some users.  http://w.cg/1cVwbVX
    • Why it matters: This new feature made it easier for brands to connect with their fans. Now, brands will have to revert back to asking users to DM them in order to contact them privately, which many fans do not understand and then the communication opportunity is lost.
    • What you have to say about it: “I think it was a good idea for Twitter to run a short-term test of the new DM option, and then consider the feedback from users and media outlets before making any official decisions. I do think that the DM option would be beneficial for larger brands’ accounts, so it will be interesting to see their next move. On the other hand, a standalone DM app would not be as beneficial, and I assume would be directed more toward users’ personal accounts. “ Amanda Cillo, Consumer Associate, New York, NY
  • Twitter Launches Custom Timelines
    • Twitter launched a new timeline, allowing users to customize and organize their own timeline feed. The customized timelines will cut back on twitter noise and list tweets in an order that is meaningful to the user. http://w.cg/1itGGa7
    • Why it matters: This is a great opportunity to for brands to create content that is “timeline” friendly. Brands will want to be included in user’s customized timelines. Brands too can add competitor brands to their timelines to see what competitors are up to, as well as adding top fans to ensure that posts mentioning the brand are acknowledged.
    • What you have to say about it: “As Twitter has begun to show its capabilities as a real time news source for both global and local events, custom timelines will strengthen this ability allowing brands and consumers to pinpoint their focus of interest in a more clear and targeted manner. By growing beyond simple hashtags, timelines have the potential to increase hyper segmentation as audiences create custom timelines to suit their particular needs and interests, which will likely emphasize the need for brands to create content of interest and value as timelines allow audiences to cut out digital noise. In addition, the timelines support the growing shift towards online and offline integration, allowing streamlined communications from events and conferences into easily accessible and sharable content capsules, providing new opportunities for brands to engage consumers in both planned and organic communication efforts.” Allison Barnes, Analytics Associate, Austin, TX
  • Twitter Advances Search Process with New Filters
    • Twitter announced that it will be adding new search filters to its mobile apps, available on Android and iOS. Users will be able to filter by topic, by followers or by trending events and television shows.  http://w.cg/1hu67qJ
    • Why it matters: Brands want their pages to be easily searchable. This is great for real-time tweeting and campaigns.
    • What you have to say about it: “The new search filters on Twitter will impact how users find relevant content and will get them closer to what they are looking for, more quickly. Active users on Twitter use the platform as their source of news; that is, if a brand is talking about the news, they are more likely to land those search results. The brands that will benefit from this new search function are the ones that are engaging with their audiences in culturally relevant ways. For example, we create content for HP’s social channels that live in that sweet spot of “what’s trending” and brand relevance, and we have experienced higher-than-average engagement on those types of posts.” Kelsey Carroll, Technology and Social Commerce Manager, Austin, TX
  • YouTube Updates Comments With Google+ Integration
    • YouTube has updated their commenting system, integrating thread replies and Google+ integration. Top comments are a compilation of comments from users within your Google+ circle, video creators and popular personalities. Conversation with high engagement will be pushed to the top, keeping comments current. http://w.cg/18W295p
    • Why it matters: Brands will have more engagement on both platforms Google+ and YouTube, due to indirect cross-promotion and sharing comments across both channels. Keep conversation active and current. Also, now is the time to hop on the Google+ train!
    • What you have to say about it: “While it is true that the move has angered some in the YouTube community who want the ability to leave anonymous comments, I think it will ultimately help in two ways 1) Reducing spam and 2) Reducing the amount of hateful/ offensive/ abusive comments that appeared in comment streams in the past. It will take time, but Google has already shown they are committed to implementing new security measures to address new types of spam that are happening since the change, and also adding additional capabilities like bulk moderation. While there are detractors, I think just about everyone agrees that YouTube comments needed to be cleaned up at some level. Ultimately, I think the Google+ comment integration will work. Besides cleanup, I also think it will lead to more engagement, which is especially a good thing for brands.” Lionel Menchaca, Director, Content Engagement, Austin, TX
  • Instagram Rolls Out Sponsored Ads
    • Instagram began rolling out sponsored ads on the site, starting with an ad by fashion designer, Michael Kors.  Many advertisers will try to make ads blend in with other images in the feed; however, the distinction will lie in the “sponsored” label, found in the top right corner of an ad. There is no timetable for when other brands will jump on the bandwagon. http://w.cg/1eJ2lFu
    • Why it matters: This is a great opportunity to promote your brand, especially during campaigns.  Watch out for backlash from users who are upset that ads will appear in their feeds.
    • What you have to say about it: “These ads look and feel very similar to the ads in a Facebook Newsfeed, (which makes sense because they’re the same company now). As long as there are not too many ads at once, I don’t think people will mind them. I’m not sure how these ads actually drive traffic back to the advertiser sites. In Facebook, fans are used to clicking through to a web site or page. That behavior seems to be less common on Instagram, so it’s possible Instagram ads will see lower ROI.” Stephanie Nordstrom, Senior Manager, Consumer, Los Angeles, CA
  • Pinterest Launches First API
    • Pinterest is launching its first API, allowing third-party sites to embed pins, making it easier to post content to the site.  Existing pins will be more useful to sites and brands will be able to track engagement between pins and their site. Multiple additional APIs will continue to rollout in the early future. http://w.cg/IH1ICq
    • Why it matters: Customers will be able to pin directly from the site, keeping them on the page longer instead of having to leave the site, interrupt their shopping/browsing, and thus not returning to actually pin the material. Brands will also be able to better track engagement/traffic between pinning and their site.
    • What you have to say about it: “As a consumer and a frequent Pinterest user, this will change so much! It will definitely increase my pinning and allow me to share more pictures and ideas with my followers. From an analytics standpoint, this elevated engagement will increase the data that becomes available. It will be easier to calculate which sites or brands are generating more traffic that ultimately reflects brand recognition and the effectiveness of campaigns.” Alexia Moustroufi, Analytics Associate, New York, NY

For more detailed information, please view our deck. 

If one thing needs to happen in 2014, it’s that brands must get content right. Content is the lifeline into the digital ecosystem. It’s how we reach consumers, break through the clutter and change their behavior. It’s pretty obvious, I know.

What’s not so obvious though is that we need to elevate the conversation beyond just the content marketing insanity.

Content marketing by nature, is tactical. It can easily be done in a silo. If you work for a large brand, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from creating, aggregating, and curating content and then posting it up in social media channels without having a strategy.

You can hire consultants, agencies, and even third-party journalists and bloggers using platforms like Contently, Skyword or eByline to create content and campaigns on your behalf. And, it’s fairly easy to use valuable platforms like Newscred to help augment your content marketing initiatives.

And guess what? You can do all of this without actually talking to anyone else in your company.

Don’t get me wrong. These platforms are all valuable and very much needed as a part of your content initiatives. But without a vision or a holistic strategy, the content itself might not be as epic as planned or change any specific consumer behavior.

The reason why many of us struggle with content, storytelling, and being able to scale our content operations is because we tend to look at content from a very elementary point of view. Content isn’t a box you check, a bubble you fill in, or a bullet point in a new business capabilities presentation. It’s more than search, more than real-time content and so much more than spitting out buzzwords like “content marketing.” And you can only learn so much about content from clever-link-bait blog titles like “10 Proven Tips to Do This” or “5 Smart Tricks to Do That.”

Content must be considered a strategic imperative for your brand. You must become a content organization if you want to take your business to the next level.

Just as there is an art to storytelling; there also needs to be a strategic and operational plan that can help you create and distribute content; integrate it across paid, earned, shared and owned media; and measure it effectively. As a marketer, brand manager, or small business owner you must move beyond the content marketing buzzword and commit to building a content strategy that will allow you to execute your tactical content marketing initiatives flawlessly and at scale.

Here’s how I see this playing out; and let me introduce 4 pillars of content strategy.

Brand Goals: This is obvious but worth mentioning; and it’s critical. You must decide very early on what your specific content goals are? Are you trying to increase sales of a specific product or change perceptions about your brand? In either case, having documented goals that are aligned to your business/marketing goals and supported by your executive team is kind of an important thing to do.

Brand Narrative: Too many of us jump right into social media channels without understanding the story we want to tell; and then we get frustrated when we run out of things to say. The narrative exercise should be done early on and consider several factors – brand positioning, audience interests and affinities, media/community perceptions of the brand, historical content performance and search. From there, a good narrative coupled with storytelling principles and an editorial framework will give birth to a highly successful “gives-you-wings” type of story.

Content Operations: Believe this when I say that successful storytelling requires a significant amount of operations in order to actually work. Newsrooms create thousands of pieces of content daily and it’s not a free for all. Establishing a content supply chain (workflows that facilitate content ideation, creation, approval and distribution) are needed to build consistencies in brand storytelling and controls to avoid inconsistencies. Identifying roles and responsibilities, internally, are also important especially if you are mobilizing employees to help tell the brand story. Also, building and operationalizing customer/employee brand advocacy programs is a smart thing to do and requires an investment into a technology platform (i.e.Branderati, Dynamic Signal, Influitive).

Media Integration/ Distribution: Consumers need to interact with your content 3 – 5 times before they actually believe it. The concept itself can be compared to the “learning by repetition” theory that was taught by ancient Egyptian and Chinese educators thousands of years ago. And, when you consider the fact that there is a content/media surplus and consumers have an attention deficit, you can understand how difficult it may be to reach them and then make even a sliver of an impact. This is why it’s important for you to tell a consistent story across every channel – paid, earned, shared and owned.

In order to do this, you must prioritize your storytelling principles and content and then map them specifically to various digital channels. It’s also a good idea to deploy converged media models (the integration of paid, earned, shared and owned media) simply by promoting relevant/resonant content on Facebook and Twitter or use platforms like Outbrain and OneSpot that can also deliver converged media models. You can then decide whether or not you want to launch a real-time command center operation in this post-Oreo era to capitalize on news and recent events.  Not critical but it’s an option.

Analytics and measurement will undoubtedly play a critical role in each pillar – determining a consistent measurement framework, KPIs, measuring real-time content performance, audience research and establishing benchmarks that will help you determine when to use paid media to amplify organic content.

Oh, and I am a huge fan of Public Enemy.

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There’s a chapter in the 1983 book Ogilvy On Advertising that I’ve always found amusing as an agency researcher. In this chapter, called “Jobs in Advertising”, Ogilvy goes through all of standard ad agency roles (i.e., planning, account, creative, media, etc.) and he systematically praises the virtues of each and the value that they bring to an agency and to clients. When it comes to agency researchers, however, he launches into a multi-page list of grievances about how research takes too long and how researchers favor precision and unnecessary levels of accuracy over quick, directionally correct, and actionable results. Thirty years later the grievances are, sadly, as relevant as ever.

If you’ve ever worked for or with an agency, you might already know a dirty secret about the research they carry out in advance of pitches or campaigns. The secret is that traditional focus group, survey, and panel-based research takes so long to carry out, synthesize and make sense of, these are often done in parallel with planning. If the research ends up supporting campaign ideas, the campaign is presented as if research drove it all along. If the research doesn’t support the campaign, it’s simply ignored.

This is all changing today. As the publicly available, historical treasure trove of conversational and behavioral online data grows, we’re relying less and less on slower, more expensive forms of marketing research. It’s taking my colleagues at WCG and me matter of days to come to derive the same types of insights that used to take weeks or months. And when we look beyond typical social media data use-cases, which are typically focused on social media marketing and community management, we’re identifying consumer segments, audience motivations/attitudes, and insights that inform a wide-range of product development, branding, creative, and other marketing activities that occur both on- and off-line.

Social Data: It’s Representational Now

The idea that content from social media networks might be a good replacement for marketing research isn’t a new one, but the general consensus among the research community has always been that it isn’t a very good one. A couple of years ago when Joan Lewis, the head of Consumer & Market Knowledge at P&G, announced to the Advertising Research Foundations’ ReThink 2011 conference that they’d be shifting some budget from survey to social media listening, the overwhelming response from the audience (and online) was: “you can’t do that because social media isn’t representative.” To paraphrase the non-believers, the folks who use social media are too young and too likely to only share very select parts of their day-to-day lives (i.e., really great experiences and product complaints). You can’t really understand the real marketplace by assessing the few anomalous people who are into the social media fad.

The “not representational” argument worked a few years ago when social networks were dominated by the young and social media-curious. But those arguments fall flat today. There is ample evidence that you can find just about any group sharing information about just about any topic online in 2013, including these statistics:

  1. 52% of Americans are actively using social networks (eMarketer, 2013)
  2. Adoption has increased across all major demographic groups; even 43% of Americans over 65 who are online, use social networking sites today (Pew Research Center, 2013)
  3. 24% percent of people who use social media, globally, report that they share “everything” or “most things” online (KPCB, 2013)
  4. The distinction between public and private is blurring for the next generation of consumers, meaning they actually will share anything.  53% of teens posted their email address online in 2012 and 20% shared their cell phone number (up from 29% and 2%, respectively, in 2006; Pew Research Center, 2012).
  5. Social media isn’t just a place to crack jokes about the Kardashians. Even when conversational analytics fail to deliver meaningful insights for a product or brand, people’s behavioral data is often very rich. For example, American’s on Facebook like an average of 70 pages (Socialbakers, 2013).

The Social Data Advantage

When you consider that social data is often representative, behavioral (not just conversational) in nature, often candid and can be sampled at the point of experience via mobile devices instead of retrospectively through questionnaires, there’s good reason to believe that it can serve the same purpose as traditional market research. When you add in the benefits of using social data, including the relatively low data collection costs, the ability to analyze the data quickly/automatically, and real-time data flow, I expect that it will disrupt the way market research is done in the near future.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve often thought that the results of social media studies worked best in conjunction with other forms of market research. If two or three separate methods of research produced the same results, I figured that the findings were meaningful and worth acting on. As I accumulate cases where survey research and social data research produce the same types of results, I’m less convinced that it’s always worth the time and budget to use surveys and panels and simply augment those with social data. At least once a month, I’m hearing clients say, “what you just found in one week usually to take us 3 months to discover.” There’s no defensible reason to spend $500k on focus groups and surveys that identify the same groups of consumers you could have identified at a fraction of the cost using social media affinity data.

What this means is that companies that harness social data to answer big questions, not just those related to how you should grow your Twitter or Facebook follower base, will have a huge advantage over those that don’t. For one, they’ll be saving hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dollars each year in research budgets. More importantly, they’ll be much faster at responding to changes in the marketplace since they will have insight into changing trends months, or even years, ahead of the competition.

The abundance of relevant social media data makes for exciting times in the marketing research world. We’re now at that place where data and insights aren’t just a convenient agency add-on when they happen to fit with an a priori strategic vision. Research can move at a fast pace that puts insights ahead of big decisions in every aspect of our work.

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started, and third, Creating Content and Engagement for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, webinars via the links to those posts.

Yesterday’s webinar on Managing and Connecting with your Influencers was an hour long with the first 50 minutes spent addressing key trends, best practices on techniques for identifying and engaging with a company’s influencers. The last ten minutes were spent answering questions. To that end, I’ve included answers to three more questions from the webinar at the bottom of this post.

During the presentation, I (Aaron Strout) was joined by influencer and Syracuse professor, Dr. William Ward. Dr. Ward is a professor of social media at the prestigious Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access slides from the webinar on Slideshare here.

We also mentioned that we would answer some of the questions that we didn’t have a chance to cover during the webinar here. Three more questions and answers from the webinar are here:

  1. Is there one application to help me manage al these tools for the sake of time management?
    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet when it comes to identifying and managing your influencers. However, if you do test some of the light (and free) social influence tools like Kred and SocialMention to identify your influencers, tools like Hootsuite make it easy to follow and track interactions with your influencers across multiple social networks.
  2. Is networking a great way to build your brand?
    Yes, offline and online networking are closely related activities. And if you are doing a good job networking, you should have an easier time identifying and connecting with your influencers. Doing this well will inevitably lead to better brand building.
  3. Can you elaborate on how to identify your influencers?
    Identifying your influencers starts with creating a list of key words (the same words that you might use to optimize your website for search engine optimization or that you might be purchasing as part of a paid search campaign). Try searching on these keywords in places like Kred and even on social networks like Twitter to find people that seem to be relevant and possess some level of reach (reach isn’t synonymous with followers as some people can game the system but often influencers will have a decent number of followers AND a high level of engagement like retweets, comments, shares and likes).

Quick. Word association. What are two words from the FDA that healthcare marketers and communicators almost universally fear and dread?

The answer: Warning Letter (but I’ll admit “not approved” is also at the top of the list!)

For those unfamiliar, the FDA, and in this case the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) issues warning letters when a company or organization insufficiently or inaccurately communicates a medical product or device’s benefits and risks. This includes not fully describing the side effects associated with a product or using language or visuals that imply a product treats a certain condition which the FDA has not approved. A warning letter is what it sounds like; a cautionary notice – “Strike 1” to use a baseball analogy – from the FDA that a company should consider revising its communications to avoid enforcement action.

Of course, Warning Letters can be viewed through different lenses, with the chance for confusion. It’s like the batter who thinks he’s received ball four when the umpire calls strike 3. Different interpretations and views of the information, and the warning letters themselves, in healthcare communications can seriously impact future marketing efforts much like disagreements over the strike zone can affect a game’s outcome.

Luckily, the FDA does not issue warning letters without explanation or allowing for questions. Today at 11:30 a.m. ET, the OPDP will host an Enforcement Webinar that lets viewers directly communicate questions on Warning Letters and Untitled Letters November 2012 through March 2013.

During this time, the FDA issued six Untitled Letters for misleading claims about the efficacy or risks associated with products treating a variety of diseases and conditions.

Here are the three questions that I’d like the OPDP to answer today:

  • Looking forward, do you have a sense of particular areas of concern when it comes to trends you’ve seen with drug promotion? For example, are you seeing more violations in terms of overstating efficacy claims or understanding potential risks?
  • There was only one online letter dealing with a company’s web site and podcast. What are your primary concerns regarding potential violations on digital platforms? Where do you see the biggest risk for sponsors?
  • How do you plan to include the information you’ve used for these Untitled Letters in whatever policy FDA eventually issues regarding social media promotion?

I’ll be live-tweeting tomorrow’s meeting using the hashtag #FDAletters. Please follow along and look for another update on this blog later this week. And if you have additional questions for the FDA, please leave them in the comments section. I’d love to see them.

Speakers at the W2O Social Commerce Summit continue to challenge the audience with new ways of viewing the digital and social worlds in which we interact every day. Keeping the momentum going was David Witt, Director, Global Digital Marketing and Brand Public Relations, The Hershey Company (and 2012 WOMMA Board Chair), who returned again for the pre-SXSW event. Witt provided his thoughts on the evolution of social media from both a consumer and a brand perspective in this presentation.

When Witt commands the room, we’ve come to expect a strong perspective on the the present, a clarified vision of the future, and a whole bunch of quotables … a few of the tops included:

  • Paid practices are (inevitably) leaking into the social space.
  • (Paraphrasing someone else): Someone let advertising agencies into Twitter through the side door. It will be difficult to get them out.
  • Social WILL BE the new CRM (customer resource management).

Do you have a perspective on Social Commerce? As we kick off SXSWi 2013, tell us what you think about this emerging field and the impact it will have on the future of marketing and communications.

Lori Johnson, VP of Online Strategy at Fidelity Investments, addressed the W2O Social Commerce Summit today on the challenges and innovations of social media in regulated industries. Interestingly, while her perspectives are forward-thinking and the activities she’s spearheaded at Fidelity Investments are leading the industry, they maintain a firm foundation in common-sense philosophies.

A key takeaway included a simple breakdown of how Johnson and her team view social media:

  • Guidance and Education: engaging customers in unique ways with the information they need
  • Customer Service: viewing customer service as marketing
  • Enable Dialogue: allowing customers to begin topics of conversation interesting to them
  • Enable Advocacy: helping customers speak on the company’s behalf

Do you have a perspective on Social Commerce? As we kick off SXSWi 2013, tell us what you think about this emerging field and the impact it will have on the future of marketing and communications.