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Well, the annual Cincinnati holiday was yesterday.  Opening Day.  A new beginning.  A rejuvenation.  A rebirth.  All those things and more in Cincinnati.

Of course, in additon to balls and strikes and runs scored (too many by St. Louis for the Reds and its fans), it is also a time to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead … to “reboot” your life and take a look at where you are and where you are going.

Businesses should do the same thing.  Step back and take a look at your company, at your brand, and ask the question, “Does it matter?”

What is your purpose as a company?  Beyond the obvious (being profitable … no margin no mission … we all know that), are you making a difference?

This is the latest focus for most marketers and many, many entrepreneurs.  From former P&G global brand guru Jim Stengel to Trendwatching.com’s recent article about “Brand Butlers: Why Serving is the New Selling,” it’s obvious that what a business does beyond sales matters.

Spring is a great time to ask yourself the same set of questions.  Do I matter?  Does my business matter?  Should we do more?  Can we do more?

Of course, if you’re from Cincinnati, and it is the morning after Opening Day in 2010, you’re hoping the Reds can do a little more today than they did yesterday.

Post by Nick Vehr – 4.6.10

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Will head to a two-and-a-half day professional development experience tomorrow with IPREX.

IPREX is an international partnership of 80+ independently owned PR (strategic communications) firms from N/S America, E/W Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia (mostly Pacific Rim countries).  Vehr Communications is the only member from our region (Cincinnati).

Anyway, we’ll hear from Gary Kebbel of the Knight Foundation regarding new models for community newspapers across the country.  I wonder of they have a tablet reader to share?

Our keynote on Saturday morning will be from Disney’s VP of Communications sharing information about “innovations in PR” as a hallmark of the Disney organization.

Of course, we’ll discuss other things of importance to PR firms.  Am really looking forward to time away (albeit very brief) with CEO colleagues. 

May have some insights to share.  I hope so.

Post by Nick Vehr (3.10.10)

This is pretty self-indulgent, but I am very happy and proud to be celebrating Vehr Communications‘ 3rd anniversary today.  So, please bear with me and these few reflections or observations.

First: It’s all about our team.  Sounds cliche, but it’s true.  For the first year or so I plugged along by myself before beginning to add staff.  Since, it has been infinitely more fun, our work product on behalf of clients has improved, and I take pride in seeing colleagues grow and learn … the same folks who probably don’t realize how much I am actually learning from them.

We’re in the professional service business.  Our only product is the knowledge, experience and integrity of the people who work here.  Spend a minute on our Web site getting to know them.

Second: I am really proud of the clients we have been able to attract and retain.  I believe there is an open niche in this market and we are working hard to fill it.  It really feels to me like we are making progress.  From pure b2b clients to national b2c brands, from treasured community institutions to challenging community issues, our client list grows in size and diversity.  That’s what is so fun about the agency biz.

Third: Social media makes us better as professional communicators.  The options available to us to help clients manage their reputations, maintain and strengthen key relationships and deliver meaningful results are broader than ever.  That breadth, and the speed at which they change, keep all of us on our toes.  It is as scary as it is exciting, and we owe it to our current and future clients to be on top of this game. 

I am sure there is a fourth and fifth and sixth here.  But, I’ll stop … save them for another day.  I will add one thing, though, I really enjoying this blog but suffer high anxiety over my own frequency of blogging.  I try, but I am falling short of my goal (twice a week) because I am so focused on our growing business.  It’s harder than I first thought.  I am not apologizing.  I am not making excuses.  But, I will try to do better.

Post by Nick Vehr (March 4, 2010)

It’s February … the month of love!  So, we thought we’d share some thoughts on “link love” for those still in the hunt.

If SEO (search engine optimization) is important to your Web site’s success – AND IT IS! – then falling in “link love” is why you need to get all prettied-up for the party.

Of course, to fall in “link love” you need a little “link bait.”  What’s a player to do? 

Well, here’s a few ideas:

  • Pick a killer title: Like that little black dress on Saturday night, a good title will lure “link lovers” as Google crawls through and ranks your Web site.  Watch out, though, you can’t be disingenuous.  Make sure your killer title is relevant to your content or you’ll be cast-aside.
  • Develop good content:  Make sure that you provide interesting and relevant content.  You may set the hook with a killer title, but to reel them in you need serious game.
  • Looks really do matter:  Hard to read fonts, spelling errors, overly-digitized photos, and more, can turn suitors away.
  • Leverage social networks:  Curling up at home on Saturday with a book or a movie is no way to make new friends … you have to be out there.  Post to sites like Digg and StumbleUpon and share with your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube networks.
  • “Link Love” is a two-way street: You have to give in order to get.  So, make sure you give a nod to the sites you find interesting and resourceful.

Remember, February is for lovers.  Apply a little of that passion to your online presence and maybe you’ll find true happiness.

Post by Nick Vehr – 2.1.10

Ghost-tweeting.  Ghost-blogging.  What’s a social media player to do?

One of my favorite bloggers for professional communicators (PR-Squared) has just offered his 2nd installment of 7 exploring social media dilemmas for PR firms and their clients.

It is a very thoughtful, revealing and honest online discussion and I encourage you to follow it directly.  Here’s the link: PR-Squared.

Just consider:

  • If your client’s CEO is a full-on Twitter participant, and assuming tweet-frequency is a critical element of Twitter success, is it OK for someone else to tweet for the boss when he’s busy?
  • Is it necessary for “ghost-tweeters” to identify themselves as such in the spirit of transparency and honesty?
  • If a PR professional can ghost-write articles for the client’s monthly newsletter, is it OK for that same PR pro to ghost-blog?
  • Do ghost-bloggers need to identify themselves as such in the spirit of transparency and honesty?

These are great questions and real life  case studies (names have been changed to protect the innocent) are being shared openly by Todd Defren on his blog.  Special thanks to he and his team for these posts!

Please connect and follow these directly.  I find them to be very helpful and incredibly interesting.

Post by Nick Vehr – 1.28.10

Get it? ... "Buzz" (Just trying to stay with the "cute and clever" theme.)

I have to admit that I thought some of these new social media buzzwords shared by Pete Blackshaw were clever and kind of cute.

We all know Pete in Cincinnati.  He’s also quite the social media expert with a column in AdAge.  Here’s the link to his blog post, and his recent article in AdAge, “Top 20 Labels, Buzzwords to Describe Our Curious Stampede to the Social-Media and Mobile Future.”

But, on to the fun stuff.  See if you can connect Pete’s buzzwords with their definitions that follow.  For the answers, go to Pete’s blog post:

  • Mobilenecking
  • Jack Ripper
  • Wiki Wart
  • Oedipost Complex
  • Apptosterone
  • Twitstop
  1. The curious neurosis that compels folks to sleep with their Blackberry or iPhone. The afflicted can’t stop checking — even in late hours — for responses to tweets or blog and Facebook posts.
  2. The alarming tendency to have our necks titled down or shifted sideways — ever glued to our mobile device. This anywhere, anyplace epidemic is increasingly common in cars, airplanes and crosswalks. Closely related to term “Eyevoidance,” where no one looks at anyone anymore.
  3. The device warriors who hog outlets anywhere they can find them — in the airport, via the USB port of a colleague’s computer, even a restaurant reservation desk. They get a charge from a charge.
  4. A bathroom detour from a meeting or conversation in order to check e-mail, Twitter or the latest and greatest via an app. (Swear on the Bible, I don’t do this … but I’m told lots of others do.)
  5. A bad piece of news or an embarrassing brand episode (e.g., an activist protest or a social-media campaign that backfired) that just won’t go away in a brand’s Wikipedia description. PR pros often give false hope to brands of removing the warts, but relentless Wikipedia editors put them right back.
  6. The mojo that fuels intense “mine’s bigger/better” conversation about mobile apps. “Dude, you got Bump, but I’ve got FourSquare.” Marketing techies are loaded with Apptosterone.

Of course, here’s the gimme … the one we all need from time-to-time!

  • Digital Detox: What we all need — at least in doses. As we’ve learned, total digital immersion has side effects. Let’s all pursue a roadmap for balance in 2010. 

Thanks, Pete.  Happy New Year.

Post by Nick Vehr – 1.14.10

I am very happy to paraphrase and pass on a great blog post regarding bad apples in PR. (Note: the headline is in quotes because I am sharing it directly from PR Squared.

Here’s the deal.  The author (Todd Defren) of this post re-shares his frustration (which we all feel as PR professionals) about having to justify/rationalize our existence. 

He laments the few, but way too many, PR bad apples as much as reputable and respectable lawyers disdain the ambulance-chasing, bottom-feeders that led Shakespeare to write, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

The author also has interesting things to say about ROI and its misapplication to our industry. 

My perspective here:  It’s not that we want to be unaccountable or that meeting business objectives is not central to what we do.  It’s more that it is difficult, if not impossible or appropriate, to attempt to place a monetary, bookable value on retained trust or reputation, the crisis that never disrupts the business, or the lead that expresses initial interest while the actual sale is closed by other trained professionals.

It is easy to place lost value on such things (e.g., the value of Tiger Woods lost endorsement deals or Domino’s Pizza sales drop immediately after the online video event, etc.).   

So, please read an enjoy some thoughtful and seasoned perspective.  Any insights you have to add here or with PR-Squared are appreciated.

Post by Nick Vehr – 1.12.10

Out with the old and in with the new.  Popular and populist, especially as it pertains to media.

The truth, though, is that many “internetistas” who think a whole new world was created with the internet are beginning to realize that knowledge of how it used to be done is quite helpful.

Some rules don’t – and, perhaps, never will – change.  Be informed and be prepared – do your homework.  Be responsive and respectful.  Be actively engaged. 

Strategic communications is about developing and maintaining relationships that are important to the enterprise. 

It’s about protecting and strengthening a brand (corporate) reputation. 

Importantly, it’s about enabling or delivering results that move the business forward.

Without question, social media (new media) has created new and faster opportunities (channels) by which to engage and interact with the relationships that matter.

Knowledge of these new and faster channels is vitally important in our Web 2.0 world. 

Of equal importance is understanding what action you desire from your target audience, what message will move your audience to action, and what you need to do to enable the action in the most deliberate, intuitive (read: easy) way.

Check out this case study on Alice.com provided by the folks at Shift Communications.  Old media facilitated the launch of a new online company because everyone involved understood that the two can’t, and really shouldn’t, be viewed separately.

So, old school meets new school and strategic communications still works the way it always has – just a whole lot faster.

Post by Nick Vehr – 12.21.09

In my experience, the true leaders are those who do not assume they have all the answers.  People may expect them to have them all, but they know better.

What does that mean for your business?  Well, it’s pretty straight forward.

A good boss will assume that his or her team have important and diverse insights and experiences that can enhance relationships with key stakeholders … customers, vendors, clients, etc.

That’s right – you have a team of good people working together, so see what they think.  Their different opinions will inform your decision, if you value and embrace them.

Face it, it’s been a while since the boss “owned” each and every customer relationship.  Chances are, someone else knows what’s really going on in that vendor’s head.  What “they’re” thinking may surprise you.

You pay your employees a lot of money to do what they do, so talk with them, listen to them, ask for their advice and help.  They’ll respond, especially if they trust you and know you trust them.

So many answers to business challenges can be solved by asking employees what they think and what they know.  Too few bosses bother to ask.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.28.09

The front page of this morning’s Wall Street Journal (11.23.09) shares an article titled, “Volunteers Log Off As Wikipedia Ages.”

Is it, perhaps, really an article about the settling, or maturation, of new media? 

For cave dwellers, Wikipedia began as an, “online free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”  It began nine years ago and now has about 325 million monthly visitors, according to the article.  I use it regularly for this blog and as a general resource.

The focus of the article is the fact that Wikipedia, in the first three months of 2009, experienced a loss of 49,000 online volunteer editors.  During the same period the previous year, the comparable number was 4,900.

To me, the article represents what I and others think is occuring with new media in general … a settling or maturation.  Here’s what I mean.

We all know the pendulum for hot new products swings way wide before it settles back in.  So, too, for social media. We are witnessing it with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and countless others.  How long ago was it that MySpace was going to take over the world?  Who do you know that is actively using it now?

Does that mean social media – or Wikipedia – is dying?  Of course not.  I think it does mean that it is finding its place, it is settling in, it is maturing as most products and services always do.

There is little question that social media (new media, the internet, Web 2.0 – whatever you want to call it)  has forever changed the way many people communicate.  At some level, it may have even profoundly influenced the way many people manage their personal and professional relationships. 

There is little question that it has forever changed our professional – strategic communications or, what many call, public relations.

But, the pendulum is swinging back towards a point of equilibrium, or at least to a more measureable , natural and sustainable sway.

That’s what I thought when I read this a.m.’s article about Wikipedia?  What did you think?

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.23.09