An Educated Approach to Digital Marketing

March 23, 2011 at 13:07

Petri Laine - Copywriter, Radikal Advertising & PR

In Finland, large industrial companies have been slow to adopt new digital media in comparison to their foreign counterparts. Finnish B2B companies are finally taking the plunge into the world of digital marketing and social media, but in true Finnish form, they are not taking these steps lightly. While many of their American competitors have been active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging sites for some time, this hasn’t meant that Finnish companies have blindly jumped on the bandwagon. They prefer to do their research first.

The University of Jyväskylä (Finland) has received a sizeable grant from Tekes, The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, for its research into digital marketing and communications. The university heads the million Euro research project that aims to increase the digital marketing and communications know-how of Finnish industry. The project is set to delve into the relationship between digital marketing and traditional communications and will work towards creating effective tools to utilise digital channels and social media in sales, marketing and R&D.

Finnish industrial companies are known internationally for taking their promises seriously. Customers consider these companies and their products reliable and high quality. This high quality is also expected in their digital presence and customer communications. “We are especially interested in finding out how the use of new media can help create savings and play a supportive role in sales and R&D operations, while simultaneously improving the quality and frequency of dialogue with customers,” explains Professor Heikki Karjaluoto of the University of Jyväskylä.

The research is carried out by The University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University, Jyväskylä Polytechnic University and Oulu University. There are 13 major corporations involved in the project. The industrial B2B companies represented include the likes of Elematic, Moventas, Rautaruukki, The Switch, UPM, Vapo and Wärtsilä. Radikal Advertising & PR, along with BrandSon, DiVia, Movya, Sanoma and Tieto are also actively taking part in the project.

“In the long run, we wish to develop our customer communications across new channels. This research project offers us a great way to do just that that. We are especially keen to find out about the opportunities that social media has to offer for the B2B sector. We are also interested in finding out how these digital channels will affect the traditional media mix,” says Pirkko Harrela, Chief Communications Officer, UPM.

“This project allows everyone involved to exchange ideas and it will help us develop our digital customer service concepts,” Kimmo Kanerva, Marketing Director of Rautaruukki explains. He continues by stating that he believes: “we will be able to gain a competitive edge through developing faster and more agile operational models.”

The Finnish B2B sector is serious about social media and new digital channels of communication. While it is too late for them to be the fastest to adopt these new approaches, we can expect them to become very efficient in utilising the opportunities they present. We are happy to be a part of this study that will, without doubt, provide valuable information not only for Finnish industrial companies, but also for the global B2B sector in the near future.

For more information:

  • Professor of Marketing, Heikki Karjaluoto, University of Jyväskylä, School of Economics:

  • TEKES – The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation:

Online communications in 2011

March 16, 2011 at 10:57

(Please scroll down for the Dutch version of this post)

A quick look back…

Ruud Kessels - Senior Expert

Robert Hexspoor - Senior Advisor

Hans Wagner - Business Director

What do media, the general public, consumers and organizations all have in common? Their online activity grew significantly last year, in fact 2010 was a memorable year:

  • Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter grew fast intheNetherlands.
  • Facebook became the most visited website ahead of Google.
  • Facebook welcomed its 500 millionth user, Twitter its 200 millionth.
  • The Telegraaf Media Group took over the Dutch network site Hyves
  • Apple transformed the PC and laptop markets by introducing the iPad.
  • Old Spice doubled its turnover and enjoyed a rapid revival of its reputation via the social media campaign with Isaiah Mustafa.

We have 9 months left in 2011. What can we expect? Are organizations able to manage the dynamic social media? Or is social media already passé? Will this be the watershed year for mobile internet? In short:

What’s hot and not in 2011?

Bex*communicatie predicts certain trends and developments  in the coming months. We focused our long list on four macro trends:

1. inside becomes outside

2. minority becomes majority

3. physical becomes virtual

4. small becomes big

Trend 1 – inside becomes outside

Transparency is enforced

The world gets more transparent every day. People expect you to act responsibly and be acountable. If organizations cannot bear the responsibility for themselves, then their customers will do it for them through user generated content via social media channels.

In other words: reputation is identity. Authenticity is more important than ever. What do you believe, what do you promise, how do you behave? Organizations are authentic if these three answers are aligned. Real-time monitoring is important to verify the match between inside and outside.

Over the past years, the Internet has become more of a social and interactive environment. Once the crowd trusts the online channel, sharing experiences, sentiments and reviews will become even more pervasive. Interaction will be more important than sending and pushing information. Both consumers as organizations are working to this end.

Brand loyalty and consistent, approachable contact moments are fundamental to the  growth of brands. In 2011, these contact moments need to lead to specific goals.

Did you checked in already?

Social consumers want to be rewarded for their behavior. They are willing to visit FourSquare, and check in at StarBucks, in exchange for a free cup of coffee. Thanks to Groupon, social consumers join forces.

A mark of this development – say goodbye to privacy. With our online profiles we provide cut-and-dried information. A complex discussion concerning the ethical aspects of online privacy is waiting for us. Wikileaks is only the beginning….

Trend 2 – minority becomes majority

The web connects people with the same minds. They are chatting about their favorite brands and sharing experiences actively on a frequent basis. The opinion of the online community is critical for the creation of a certain image and to consumer purchasing.

Social media makes it possible for organizations to move into multiple networks. These networks activate cooperation, knowledge and innovation.

Also in the Netherlands, partners are founded in a split second

The explosion of blogs, social media postings, ‘likes’ and tweets lead to powerful consumers. Opinions and reviews are everywhere!  In the old days, marketing was about sending a message. Today, it is about making real contact, inclusion and involvement.

For communications we need a new kind of “control”. Be aware: the word control is written between quotation marks. We cannot control an online buzz.  The recent events in Egypt and other countries are clear evidence – but what we can do is listen. Take online monitoring as the first, essential component of a communication strategy.

Trend 3 – physical becomes virtual

Integration of the physical and virtual world due to Dutch Layer

The boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds are fading. With smart phones we can switch easily, for example with QR-codes, FourSquare or Layer. Location bases services (LBS) offer new opportunities to commit customers. And with these platforms, every consumer can become a marketer.

Trend 4 – small becomes big

I am looking for a car that matches my iPhone

Thanks to apps (user-friendly, small applications) mobile internet has exploded. GPS with mobile internet-access appears to be a crucial combination for (the future of) mobile applications.

Apps are making connection with internet, just like the browser. The difference? While the browser is answering your needs indirectly, apps will answer them directly.

Car manufacturers are installing apps that are able to measure tyre pressures, monitor oil levels and manage our favorite music. All these new functionalities become available in 2011.

As mentioned earlier, will be a big success. Groupon combines the large internet network with the strength of social networks, adds regional characteristics and seduces people with interesting offers. It makes people think: “Damn, I made a great deal today”.

The future

The consumer as marketing employee

We cannot end a summary of trends, without looking into the future. At the moment we have phones, laptops and desktops. In the future, these devices will be integrated in our bodies. All this separate equipment is pretty annoying, right? Contacts project virtual reality within real vision. Nano robots guard the health of our bloodstreams. In short: generation cyborg is coming!

Body integration

All this makes it possible to generate hyper local information. This form of hyper individualism is called B2U: business to user. That is the new credo.

In short: generation cyborg is coming and B2B and B2C are old school.

Please, do not hesitate to contact Bex*communicatie if you have further questions about the four macro trends and online communications.

Hans Wagner

Robert Hexspoor

Ruud Kessels

Phone: + 0031 20 – 582 98 29

Online communicatie in 2011 en verder

Een korte terugblik

Media, burgers, consumenten en organisaties. Allemaal zetten ze sterk in op online communicatie. 2010 was het jaar waarin:

  • Facebook, LinkedIn en Twitter snel groeiden in Nederland.
  • Google voorbij werd gestreefd door Facebook als meest bezochte pagina op internet.
  • Facebook zijn 500 miljoenste en Twitter zijn 200 miljoenste gebruiker mocht verwelkomen.
  • Hyves werd overgenomen door Telegraaf Media Groep.
  • Apple de PC transformeert met de introductie van de iPad.
  • #TVOH trending topic werd op Twitter.
  • De social media campagne rond Isaiah Mustafa de omzet van Old Spice verdubbelde en de naamsbekendheid vertienvoudigde.

We zijn nu drie maanden op weg in 2011. Hoe nu verder? Kunnen organisaties mee in dynamische wereld van social media? Of is social media over zijn hoogtepunt heen? Breekt mobiel definitief door? Kortom:

Wat is ‘hot’ en ‘not‘ in 2011?

In deze publicatie geeft Bex*communicatie een samenvatting van de trends en ontwikkelingen die zij voorziet in de komende maanden op het gebied van online communicatie. We hebben onze longlist teruggebracht tot vier macrotrends voor het jaar 2011:

1.       Binnen wordt Buiten.

2.       Minderheid wordt Meerderheid.

3.       Fysiek wordt Virtueel.

4.       Klein wordt Groot.

Trend 1 – Binnen wordt buiten

Transparantie dwingen we af

De wereld wordt steeds transparanter. Er wordt van je verwacht dat je verantwoording aflegt over je daden. Doe je dat als bedrijf niet zelf?  Dan doet je klant het wel; in de vorm van social consumer generated content. Anders gezegd: imago = identiteit. Authenticiteit is belangrijker dan ooit. Wat geloof je, wat beloof je, wat doe je? En komen deze antwoorden met elkaar overeen? Realtime monitoring is belangrijk om te toetsen of buiten overeenkomt met binnen.

Het internet ontwikkelt zich tot een sociale, interactieve omgeving. Het delen van ervaringen, sentimenten en waarderingen wordt algemeen goed naarmate de crowd het online kanaal meer en meer gaat vertrouwen. Interactie wordt belangrijker dan zenden en zowel consumenten als bedrijven doen daar aan mee.

Ben jij al ingecheckt?

Merkloyaliteit en herhaalbare, laagdrempelige contactmomenten vormen het fundament voor de groei van merken. Daar worden in 2011 dan ook concrete doelstellingen aan verbonden.

De social consumers verwachten anno 2011 voor gedrag beloond te worden. Zij zijn bereid om via FourSquare in te checken bij StarBucks in ruil voor een kopje gratis koffie. En dankzij Groupon bundelen social consumers hun krachten.

De kanttekening hierbij is dat we afscheid nemen van onze privacy. Het vrijgeven van onze profielen levert namelijk kant-en-klare relevante informatie op. Over dit ethische aspect is het laatste woord nog niet gezegd. Wikileaks is nog maar het begin.

Trend 2 – Minderheid wordt meerderheid

Het web verbindt gelijkgestemden. Zij willen continu in dialoog met hun favoriete merk en delen hun ervaringen actief. De mening van de community is cruciaal in de beeldvorming en het aankoopproces.

Met behulp van social media bewegen organisaties zich in een veelvoud van netwerken. Deze netwerken katalyseren samenwerking, kennisgeneratie en innovatie.

Medestanders zijn snel gevonden, ook in Nederland

De explosie van blogs, social media postings, likes en tweets leiden tot machtige consumenten. Meningen en waarderingen worden ongevraagd verkondigd. Vroeger ging marketing over het verkondigen van een boodschap; nu gaat het om betrokken zijn en écht contact maken.

Communicatie wordt een proces waarbij een andere ‘controle’ nodig is. En controle staat bewust tussen aanhalingstekens. Want de online buzz valt natuurlijk niet te controleren. Dat hebben we recent gezien in Egypte. Wat we wél kunnen doen is meeluisteren; online monitoring als wezenlijk eerste onderdeel van je communicatiestrategie.

Trend 3 – Fysiek wordt virtueel

Verregaande integratie tussen de fysieke en virtuele wereld dankzij het Nederlandse Layar

De scheidslijn tussen de fysieke en virtuele wereld wordt steeds vager. Onze slimme telefoons maken het wel erg gemakkelijk om via een QR code, FourSquare of Layar over te stappen. Location based services (LBS)bieden nieuwe mogelijkheden om aan klantbinding te doen. Elke consument wordt op die manier een marketeer.

Trend 4 – Klein wordt groot

Dankzij apps (gebruiksvriendelijke kleine applicaties) heeft mobiel internet een enorme vlucht genomen. De combinatie van plaatsbepaling door GPS met mobiel breedband speelt een belangrijke rol bij mobiele toepassingen.

Net als de browser maken ook apps verbinding met internet. Waar je via de browser zelf moet zoeken naar informatie, brengen apps je direct bij datgene waar jij behoefte aan hebt.

Ik zoek een auto voor bij mijn iPhone

Autofabrikanten installeren apps in hun auto’s die bandspanning meten, oliepeil bewaken en onze favoriete muziek beheren. Dit alles is standaard leverbaar vanaf 2011.

Het al eerder genoemde Groupon wordt hét MKB succes. Het combineert het grote internetnetwerk met de kracht van sociale netwerken, voegt er een regionaal karakter aan toe en speelt in op de behoefte van de mens om verleid te worden door aanbiedingen, zodat je denkt: “dat heb ik maar weer mooi verdiend vandaag”.


De consument als marketing medewerker

We eindigen met een blik vooruit. Wat we nu nog doen met onze telefoons, laptops en desktops zal straks geïntegreerd worden in ons lichaam. Al die losse apparaten zijn immers maar lastig nietwaar?  Contactlenzen projecteren de virtuele werkelijkheid op ons iris. Nanorobotjes bewaken onze gezondheid in onze bloedbanen.

Integratie in ons lichaam

Bijkomend voordeel zit ‘m in het kunnen aanbieden van hyper lokale informatie. Deze vorm van hyper individualisme wordt ook wel B2U genoemd: Business to User. Dit wordt het nieuwe credo.

Kortom: de generatie cyborg komt er aan, B2B en B2C zijn uit.

Meer weten?


Hans Wagner

Robert Hexspoor

Ruud Kessels

020 – 582 98 29

What is the true value of social media activity?

November 9, 2010 at 16:06

Anita Papay, Consultant, communication matters

You probably all recognise the following situation: your client is convinced that using different online tools for their public relations and marketing activities is a good idea – but the marketing and communications director is finding it difficult to justify the cost versus benefit of social media activities. Within classic PR, evaluation methods are established, tried and tested, but in the case of social media, the industry is still in its infancy in understanding the value of online communications and searching for adequate analytics and measurement tools.

In the end, PR specialists need to take the matter into their own hands to prevent the interesting field of social media from being dominated by pure media agencies. The very first step is to eliminate the loopholes in the argument at the earliest opportunity and demonstrate the real value of online activities using all of the available information.   The same dilemmas, the same questions, return time and time again:

  • How much is an online campaign worth?
  • How much is a fan/friend or a follower worth?

I would like to share with you one particular idea that I found in a blog ( and which is based on the typical cost, per thousand printed pages, of advertising). Taking the Facebook site of an Austrian city in the Tyrolean Alps — Innsbruck ( as an example – we can start a simple calculation of the value of social media.

What is the value of a newsfeed on Facebook

The city of Innsbruck’s Facebook page has 14,260 fans. If you post a newsfeed, which on average creates 170 interactions such as comments or “I like” clicks, then usually an average of 130 fan contacts will also be notify. This makes a total of 22,100 impressions. If you posted one newsfeed per week, this would create 88,400 impressions per month for your brand.

What is the value of a Facebook fan?

A fan page with 10,000 fans has an audience penetration of 1,300,000. The number of fans rises by an average of 1,000 per month, which means an additional audience penetration of 130,000 each month.

What is the value of a Facebook fan-page?

The price you use for the cost per thousand impressions depends on you, but to simplify the calculation, let’s take €15 per 1,000 views – which is nothing out of the ordinary. That would mean that every newsfeed has a value of €331.50 (or €1,326.00 for four newsfeeds each month). Thanks to the additional audience penetration resulting from fans, you can add €1,950 each month.

In total, this means that every Facebook fan-page creates €3,276.00 worth of advertising each month.  In other words, this is similar to the cost of the gross salary of one employee with nothing else to do than making one Facebook news item every week.

Social Media is better than classical advertising

Compared to classical advertising, social media newsfeeds have an effect for longer. Every time somebody:

  • Comments on your pictures or your newsfeeds,
  • Likes something
  • Evaluates some content on your Facebook page

You are starting a chain reaction of notifications, which can reach an increasing number of people on a daily basis. In addition, the “I Like” notification can be compared to the advice of a good friend, giving it a higher value than that of an advertisement.

This calculation is certainly not the definitive ‘value’ nor the panacea for social media evaluation – simply an attempt to compare like with (almost) like: a methodology used by most media while defending the prices of advertising space and, perhaps, a methodology that is most likely to be accepted by decision-makers.

Some more interesting articles on this topic:

PR – hand in hand with social media

October 18, 2010 at 14:18

Norbert Ofmański, the Chairman of On Board San Markos Group

Norbert Ofmański, On Board San Markos Group  Chairman, goes backstage on “Mate from the past”, the Internationally acclaimed campaign (SABRE, Golden Drum, Epica, Mercury etc.) that brought history to life with an imaginative social media programme created, directed and produced by the Group’s companies.

It’s all about how to make the best communication campaign on a low budget…

Some of the best ideas are hatched in times of repose and relaxation. But why is it that ‘Eureka’  moments so often happen in the bath?  The Creative Director of San Markos (an advertising agency within On Board San Markos Group) was sitting in a bathtub trying to work out how to encourage young people to learn more about the history of Poland.  The seed of an idea became one of Poland’s most awarded PR and Advertising campaigns  – The Mate from the Past. The challenge – how to build interest in Polish history among the younger generation?  The inspiration behind the idea was the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

How to protect momentous past events from turning into dusty cards in the annals of our history? How to bring history to life and make it part of the present? How to create a compelling narrative to keep young people eager for the next chapter and maintain their interest to see what happens in the end – even though they know the final result from their history lessons? We achieved this by using integrated communication tools and developing innovative online campaigns.

The relevance of history?
Celebrating historical events often turns out to be an empty ritual without any real relevance to the present. Even the cruellest events of WWII will slowly turn into a solemn celebration quite meaningless for younger generations. The Warsaw Uprising is such a case. In August 1944, the 63 day-long struggle between the citizens of Warsaw and their German occupiers  represents one of the most dramatic and tragic events in Polish modern history. The average age of those who sacrificed their lives fighting in the  Warsaw Uprising was just 18, and now only those of 80 years can really understand the importance of those events, and they fall slowly into oblivion along with the passing of those heroes in whose memory they are organized. Moreover, as research commissioned by one of the most popular Polish dailies reveals, almost half of Poland’s population describe the events of the WWII as ‘uninteresting’. As the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising approached, the City of Warsaw’s promotional department of was looking for a campaign that which would go beyond the standard memorial celebrations – On Board PTR, together with San Markos, decided to take up the challenge.

The project: ‘Bringing history back to life’
To prevent and protect the momentous events of the Warsaw Uprising from turning into a dusty volume in Polish history, we managed to harness new technologies to bend time and go back to 1944. We came to the conclusion that the stories told by friends and  ‘mates’ are those that are most eagerly listened to, so we decided that the best way to attract the attention of young people is reaching out to them via Facebook. We created profiles of two insurgents: Sosna 24 and Kostek 23, who told their stories of everyday experience s “’ Live’ from the Uprising” on Facebook. We created a virtual diary enriched with images, music and songs of the period and documentary film shot with mobiles.

Passion was the real driver of the project. Our consultants and copywriters are extremely interested in Polish history and because of that, they were able to seamlessly adopt the roles of the insurgents.  Of course, they were supported by historical evidence and sources, but they completely made up the fictional and highly personal stories of Kostek and Sosna. It’s worth mentioning that there were about 30 people from On Board San Markos Group involved in the project, following the issues, driving and managing traffic and building the content.

1944 Live
A rough sketch of the campaign scenario was prepared in advance with the more precise details of everyday events discussed during planning meetings at the beginning of every week of the project. The team had to adjust to the ‘natural life’ of Facebook, which is most often visited during the week rather than at the weekends. At least four commentaries were uploaded every day, together with pictures, songs, links etc. Thanks to the courtesy of Getty Images, it was possible to present young people with some of the most interesting pictures reflecting the everyday reality of those times.

PR activities outside social media
As the action was developing, it quickly turned out that inviting people via Facebook only was not enough. In Poland in mid-2009, Facebook was only just emerging in popularity and we also needed to reach people who didn’t have a Facebook account.  So to do that,  we contacted bloggers writing about historical subjects. One of the most popular Polish bookmarking sites – (Polish version of also offered to promote the project for free. We used traditional PR through media as well, and the story of both of our protagonists was presented several times on prime time (the main news) television and across the most popular Polish TV channels – reaching over five million viewers. The Sosna and Kostek story was also widely reported by all the main daily newspapers.

“Mate From The Past. 1944 Live” was the first project in Poland capable of combining marketing strategy with modern historical education. We used new technologies and the growing popularity of social media to make the events of the past come alive, be more tangible, relevant and more interesting for young people. We managed to immerse them in the story of two fictitious insurgents and, by doing so, taught them the valuable lesson of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Our heroes soon became two of the most popular individuals on Polish Facebook. Together they had over 4,000 friends, who commented on their 800 posts, took part in 1,512 hours of lively debates and discussions about the Uprising. Among them were celebrities, artists, journalists, and most rewardingly – a younger generation who were able to  ‘live’ our history. With the honourable patronage of The President of Warsaw, millions of people found out about Sosna and Kostek through reports and interviews on TV, radio, press and internet and almost 4,000 people experienced the death of one of their friends…

Other results:

  • More than five million TV viewers
  • Almost 85,000 radio listeners
  • Coverage in all Polish dailies, weeklies, consumer and trade press

The entire project was undertaken with no budget – everybody who took part worked  pro bono. Working for free, individuals, organisations and institutions without whom  it would not have been possible to complete the project.  So there are, in fact, few things you need to have to create the perfect campaign: strong, committed resource and passion. And that’s true of all communications.

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The changing role between advertiser and consumer

September 21, 2010 at 13:35

Ruud Kessels - Senior Expert, Bex* communicatie

The relationship between advertiser and consumer is changing leading to uncertainty and curiosity. From both perspectives, incidentally. Consumers, looking for brand clarity, depth and engagement in the “relationship”, are struggling with that changing role. The advertiser on the other hand, is struggling with more mature and more critical consumers. Let’s look a little closer….

How it used to be

Traditionally, the role of advertiser is one of being a ‘sender’. The brand wants to sell something to consumers. The message becomes a slick campaign, where ‘product’, ‘low price’ or another USP attempt to push the consumer into the desired action. Through various channels advertisers disseminate and bombard consumers with their messages. Consumers love the overload of attention and some respond – and act according to the desired behaviour. Objective achieved. Or not?  Once the budget is spent, the silence after the campaign can be deafening. The advertiser is still too often ‘the friend, only there when he needs you’.

This video shows -in an entertaining way- the traditional role between advertisers and consumers:


Where is it going?

In an increasingly complex society, the power structure between advertiser and consumer is shifting. This transforms the way services and products are developed and delivered.
A clearly discernible trend is ‘active participation’. The advertiser is no longer talking about his client, but with his client. About what? Well, for example about their complaints via the webcare team. But more and more about bigger stuff – like product innovation – a phenomenon called co-creation.

Why is this trend so desirable?

Active customers who participate in product innovation are more engaged. Engaged customers are taken more seriously by their brand and become loyal and grow into brand evangelists, ambassadors, and “friends of the brand.” When that stage is reached, aggressive advertising campaigns are not necessary anymore. Instead of the brief ‘advertising contact moments’ during a year, the brand has become top of mind 365 days of the year.

A good marriage = commitment

Creating relationships isn’t easy. And I’m not comparing it to marriage just yet. A relationship is one thing, maintaining it is another. Apple has been doing it with considerable success for many years. And with success, a brand creates a fan base – instead of simply ‘users’. But it requires patience, thorough and well-administered contact management and policy – and, perhaps most importantly, excellence in a product or service – making it worth becoming a fan of.


For your organization this might mean a complete mind shift. Maybe you are already doing this – but the key is combining quick wins with long-term vision. How can a short-term sales target form a foundation for a brand community on the long term? In the future, let’s hope we all can collaborate and share our experiences to help deliver answers – and a true customer experience!

Take a look at this short video. Is provides some clear insights and ideas into the process. Have fun!


Social Media: Every employee can be a company spokesperson

June 25, 2010 at 9:03

The end of centrally controlled communications

Managing Director ECCO Düsseldorf / EC Public Relations GmbH

by Lutz Cleffmann,
Managing Director ECCO Düsseldorf/EC Public Relations GmbH

(Scroll down for German version)

Who is entitled to speak for the company and when? In every well organised company, there’s a clear answer to this question. It can be found in the corporate communications manuals, accompanied by relevant Q&As and media training documents providing advice on what to tell to the press. The person in charge of communications, satisfied with a job well done, sits back and relaxes.

Out of the blue, the journalist calls: your company is deceiving the public with undercover advertising in Internet forums. Critical customers are offended and, to make things worse, some critics have already set up a special web page and forum to discuss this outrageous communications approach.

What happened? Did the marketing department hire one of those dubious ‘Internet enhancement’ agencies? Is a new activist group attacking the company? Are competitors fuelling the discussion? No, none of these. A sales force guy found critical voices in an Internet forum and – eager to defend his employer – reacted fiercely to the critic. But, in doing so, he personally offended the other party.

This case is not a fantasy case study, it is real. Worse still, the company concerned was already in trouble and under pressure concerning a completely unrelated issue.  So unfortunately, this poor sales guy unknowingly delivered the evidence that the company was ‘arrogant’ and ‘unwilling’ to listen.

Believe it or not, social media has put an end to centralised and well controlled corporate communications. Today, every employee has access to a global audience, be it with communities like Facebook and LinkedIn or via one of the thousands of Internet forums. What was once pub gossip can now create a global reaction.

PR officers need to factor this into their communications planning. Social media guidelines are mandatory and you have to consider: these guidelines cannot be implemented simply by ‘giving the order’. Employees have to be convinced. You will not be able to manage with controls and sanctions alone, because you will not always be able to find out who is behind the nickname, the nom de plume or the obtrusive communication. And even if you could, it wouldn’t help much, because – as in the case described – sometimes people think that they are acting in their employer’s best interest.

Managing Social Media is a challenge for internal communications and rock-solid foundations need to be laid; upon which to build a positive image of your company.

Soziale Netze: Jeder Mitarbeiter ein potenzieller Unternehmenssprecher

Das Ende der zentral kontrollierten Kommunikation

von Lutz Cleffmann,
Geschäftsführer ECCO Düsseldorf/EC Public Relations GmbH (GPRA)

Wer spricht wann und aus welchem Anlass mit den Medien? Darauf gibt es in jedem gut organisierten Unternehmen klare Antworten. Sie finden sich in Handbüchern und sind mit Sprachregelungen unterfüttert. Der PR-Verantwortliche weiß alles gut geregelt und lehnt sich beruhigt zurück.

Doch dann kommt plötzlich der Anruf eines Journalisten. Wieso macht ihr Unternehmen unter Pseudonym in Internet-Foren Undercover-Werbung? Außerdem würden kritische Kunden beschimpft. Im Internet gebe es schon eine spezielle Seite, auf der Kritiker des Unternehmens diese miese Art der Kommunikation diskutierten.

Was ist passiert? Ist die Marketing-Abteilung einer unseriösen „Internet-Marketing-Agentur” aufgesessen? Hat sich eine Aktivistengruppe gegen das Unternehmen verschworen? Sind Wettbewerber am Werk? Nichts von alldem. Ein übereifriger Vertriebsmitarbeiter hatte in einem Internetforum kritische Stimmen ausgemacht und – ganz überzeugt vom eigenen Unternehmen – dagegen gehalten. Dabei ist er übers Ziel hinausgeschossen und hat sich dazu hinreißen lassen, den kritischen Kunden zu beschimpfen.

Dieser Fall ist nicht erfunden, sondern tatsächlich passiert. Zu allem Überfluss stand das Unternehmen auch noch von anderer Seite in der Kritik. Prompt wurden die Äußerungen des Mitarbeiters als Beweis für das überhebliche Verhalten der Firma herangezogen.

Mit den Social Media ist das Ende der zentralisierten und kontrollierten Unternehmenskommunikation gekommen. Jeder Mitarbeiter hat heute prinzipiell Zugang zu einer weltweiten Öffentlichkeit, sei es über Communities wie facebook und XING oder eines der zahlreichen Internet-Foren. Unbedachtes „Stammtischgerede” eines Mitarbeiters verhallt nicht mehr an der Kneipentheke, sondern kann zu weltweiter Resonanz führen.

PR-Verantwortliche in Unternehmen sind also gut beraten, diesen Faktor in ihre Kommunikationsplanung einzubeziehen. Richtlinien für den Umgang mit Social Networks sind unbedingt nötig. Dabei ist dann vor allem eines zu beachten: Solche Richtlinien lassen sich nicht einfach von oben herab durchsetzen. Die Mitarbeiter müssen vielmehr von ihrem Sinn und Zweck überzeugt werden. Mit Kontrolle und Sanktionen ist hier gar nichts zu erreichen, denn im Einzelfall wird sich kaum einmal beweisen lassen, wer genau hinter schädlichen Äußerungen steckt – und selbst das würde wenig helfen, wenn sie – wie unserem Beispiel – gut gemeint waren.

Social Media sind also nicht zuletzt eine Herausforderung für die interne Kommunikation. Nur wer hier eine überzeugende Grundlage schafft, wird das Bild des Unternehmens nach außen wirkungsvoll beeinflussen können.

When is “all of the above” not the right answer?

February 24, 2010 at 10:33
All you can eat buffe

Besides when you’re at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, of course.

The answer is when you’re trying to drag your business (or your client) into the realm of social media and/or online marketing (no, they’re not exactly the same thing – but that’s a topic for another post at another time).

Specifically, we’re talking about companies contemplating – or trying to cope with – the following:

  • Blogs
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Private social networks (i.e. Ning or
  • eNewsletters
  • Social Bookmarking Tools
  • Virtual Couponing
  • RSS-driven Content
  • Webinars
  • Social Media Monitoring
  • Blogger Relations
  • Discussion Boards
  • Social Media Releases

… and the list goes on (and on).

If you’ve been there before, you know exactly what I mean.  The game-changing nature of these tools opens up a range of possibilities (and potential) for your business.  And because it’s so easy (and usually so cheap) to get into it, enthusiastic marketing people tend to fall all over themelves on their way in only to find themselves neck deep in a morasse of tweets, posts, updates and more that consumes a lot of time and doesn’t produce much in the way of results.

So, what’s my point?

It’s this:

You have to take time out to figure out a mission for each message and each tool in your social marketing toolbox before you get to work.  Go in with a purpose and some idea of how you’re going to use each of these snazzy new applications to help you get there.

And most of all, don’t be afraid to leave something on the table for later.

I’ve been in a lot of meetings with clients and agencies where there’s interest in a new online service or application but noone has a clue as to where it fits in the mix.  The intentions may be right and honorable, but the execution is doomed to failure unless someone learns how, when, where and why that tool is the riht tool for the job.

If you don’t know what to do with a new technology or a new social media opportunity, you have to either be ready to fail the first few times out of the gate with it or to put it aside to see (and learn from) the mistakes others make.  There’s no lack of “early adopters” in this line of work, so all you have to do is wait and watch and then jump in after the smoke clears.

Making the mission fit the tool …
Key to making social media work for your business (or your client) is making sure you have a good, working understanding of what each piece in your social marketing toolbox can do and how that capability can help tell your brand’s story in a compelling and relevant way.

It should seem obvious, but make sure you’ve spent time figuring out the best way to use Facebook, Twitter and the rest before you test things out on your brand or your client’s business.  Less obvious is the need to narrow the focus for each tool from what it can do to what it should do with respect to your brand’s story.

Just because you can get thousands of followers on Twitter doesn’t make it a good fit for your brand.  If, on the other hand, you’re able to identify key bloggers, writers and industry thought leaders’ Twitter ID’s you may want to consider using Tweets as an easy and convenient way to keep them in the loop and to alert them of new developments.

Taking that line of thinking to the next level, if your team decides you want to maintain several Twitter feeds as a core element of your social marketing program, you need to have some idea of which application will give you the control you need to manage and monitor activity on each feed.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t just go out there and recommend a social media strategy to a client (or your boss) without having tested it out on your own first!

Mike Bawden ECCO USA

Mike Bawden, partner of B&L PR

Knowing the practical application of each social media tool is just as important as clearly defining the story you want to tell with it.  Just as I encourage clients to develop a message matrix – I insist we do the same thing when it comes to developing their social media marketing program.

If I don’t, I run the risk of being the “social media tool” at our next meeting.

How to overcome the economic downturn?

January 20, 2010 at 15:47
Didier Lagae, Founder & CEO of Marco de Comunicación, the most awarded independent PR agency in Spain for the past five consecutive years.

Didier Lagae, Founder & CEO of Marco de Comunicación, the most awarded independent PR agency in Spain for the past five consecutive years.

Talking to some of my friends in the PR industry across Europe the other day, we started comparing notes on the impact the current economic situation is having on our respective businesses. We also talked about how much PR 2.0 is actually being applied in our respective markets.

The economic downturn seems to be a double edge sword. Some agencies have been severely affected, while others, like ours, have gotten away relatively unscratched so far. The effects do not seem to be market specific. There are agencies doing really well and others not so much in any given country. At Marco de Comunicación for instance we enjoyed a stellar year with a 60% billing increase in 2008 following the same growth in 2007. At closure of the third quarter we are actually looking at growth even for 2009, despite a very severe first quarter with plenty of budget cuts.

There does not seem to be a sector specific crisis either. Those with real estate or financial services clients have of course been hit harder, but apart from that it is a quite uneven playing field. Some agencies lost clients or saw budgets being cut in technology and healthcare PR, while others experienced this with consumer campaigns or corporate social responsibility projects. Yet, other agencies have been growing in those same specific sectors. Which bears the question, is it all down to just luck?

Maybe a bit, but certainly not entirely. When having a closer look at the Spanish PR Agency market one can see an acceleration effect. Those agencies that were doing average in past couple of years with slow, flat or negative growth have been hit hardest, while agencies that are making a difference, that deliver great results and award winning campaigns for their clients seem to continue to grow or are at least stable.

There are agencies that actually take advantage of the crisis to invest: in the quality of their teams, in training and development and in fair bonus based retribution. There are agencies that are broadening their horizons, by incorporating PR 2.0 tools in the communication plans for their clients and that believe in multiplatform strategies. Not just in traditional media relations. In short, agencies that are truly focused on stakeholder relationship building, driving sales and building reputations.

In Spain and in the rest of Europe, especially continental Europe, most PR agencies are still entrenched in traditional media relations. At Marco de Comunicación we left that behind a long time ago. Building key relationships with B2B and B2C bloggers, coming up with clever seeding campaigns in social networks and online forums or delivering surprising viral marketing campaigns, managing online communities, these are all part of a communication outreach that seeks to alter, improve or boost brands or corporate reputations. That seeks to drive traffic and / or  sales.

However not all clients are ready for the so-called digital PR. Some clients have never heard of Twitter, podcasts or social network groups. But that’s OK. It is up to their agencies to lead the way. Not by selling stand alone applications, but by incorporating these tools in campaign styled communication plans. It helps to see a clever strategy being implemented across the board. To see campaign ideas that actually create news in traditional and digital media and with the online communities. And of course, to have a great return on investment. This is why communication plans, while ideally having a yearlong ongoing outreach, should incorporate specific short term campaigns. Campaigns that become drivers to achieve specific objectives.

Because frankly, if there are results, if there is a return on investment, budget cuts will not happen so easily. Even more, budgets might be increased by clever clients who see the current economic climate as an opportunity.

Those agencies that get it right, that deliver results, that go beyond the traditional media relations and incorporate online PR in the communication plans of their clients, are the ones that continue to thrive even in these difficult times. Wherever in Europe. Whatever the industry sector

PRs should drive social media conversations

November 30, 2009 at 10:51
Sara Render

Sara Render is the Chief Executive of Kinross & Render Ltd., UK

Too many PRs are still working on the assumption that social media requires an understanding of technology, it doesn’t.  This assumption is one of the reasons that social media programmes are all too often led by web agencies whose real expertise lies in the building of web sites and other information ‘carriers’.  And that’s why most social media programmes don’t work. It’s the skill of the PR that is most critical.

Web site builders work on the basis of ‘build it, get some good content, do effective search engine optimization and our customers and key stakeholders will come’.  Well, yes and no.  People will come if they know that your organisation has something they need or want, but without this certainty you still need to go to them. Furthermore, they will go to a web site to browse and gather information; they don’t go in the expectation of getting good impartial advice and the sort of third party endorsement that lies at the heart of both social media and effective public relations programmes.

Effective social media strategies are about achieving dialogue with key stakeholders in the places that they are, rather than the places you want them to be.  They are not a hard sell, they are not a mere presentation of your wares and they are certainly not a showcase for technical wizardry.   This is why the lead players in a social media strategy will increasingly be drawn from the public relations profession.  Our territory, after all, is the art of conversation, persuasion and corporate social responsibility.  Furthermore, we are the most comfortable of all the disciplines in circumstances where we do not have complete control of the conversation.

Ad agencies also lay claim to the lead role, but their skills of delivering messages in an entertaining and brand enhancing manner are also, like web agencies, only a small part of the picture.  I am not denying that the skills of both are needed within a good social media strategy, but I am arguing that the lead lies, like it or not with PR.

The reason is that most of the mindset and skills required for effective social media are the same as those held for decades by the public relations profession.  Who else manages multiple voices in open public meetings, where many of those present are uninvited?  Who else is trained to pick up threats to reputation arising from rumor, misrepresentation of facts or misunderstandings and to respond fast?  And who else is used to presenting strategies, products and services to audiences, such as journalists and analysts, who will ask searching questions and certainly not be satisfied with flash presentation and one-way monologue?

ECCO has produced a Social Media Guide to help PR professionals to understand that social media is not a black art where you have to be under 25 or a technology wizard to engage in it.  We hope it will help the senior PRs within more than 3,000 client companies around the world to stop backing away from taking ownership of a responsibility that so clearly lies within the PR domain.