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I was an avid viewer of LOST for six seasons (yes, even season three).  And for six seasons, I grappled with electromagnetism, smoke monsters and tropical polar bears in both fascination and frustration.   The day after a new episode, I read blogs and articles that attempted to explain, predict and understand the show (special thanks to Washington Post’s excellent dueling analysis).  I was patient, and, when the series finale came to a close, I was disappointed.

As has been well reported, answers to many of LOST’s questions went unanswered.  For years I had been relying on the wisdom of others to explain the show’s biblical, mythological and philosophical references and the scientific aspects, so I turned to those same sources to gain greater understanding of the finale.

My quest for information and resolution felt vaguely familiar.  As I scanned blogs, Twitter, and columns, it felt a lot like my search to understand social media.

Social media, like LOST, is a complex and mysterious island that reveals itself only incrementally.  To be meaningfully on this island, you have to want and try to get there.  Once you’re there, every breakthrough of understanding is confronted with new questions.  And, just when you think you’ve got it pegged, a new tool is introduced.

I was able to make peace with LOST (thanks in large part to Lauren J. Rivera’s insightful perspective).  But social media has no finale, and I accept and appreciate that it will be a continual learning process.

Much like LOST, the joy of social media is in the journey and, ultimately, that journey is about people.  I have become a part of countless communities, established connections that would have otherwise been impossible, and found “teachers” who help me with everything from professional development to a firm grasp of celebrity gossip.

My advice?  Become a Social Media Island castaway.  I promise, no smoke monsters.

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive (@katiefoxdenis)

The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.

Social Media.jpgI was an avid viewer of LOST for six seasons (yes, even season three).  And for six seasons, I grappled with electromagnetism, smoke monsters and tropical polar bears in both fascination and frustration.   The day after a new episode, I read blogs and articles that attempted to explain, predict and understand the show (special thanks to Washington Post’s excellent dueling analysis).  I was patient, and, when the series finale came to a close, I was disappointed.

As has been well reported, answers to many of LOST’s questions went unanswered.  For years I had been relying on the wisdom of others to explain the show’s biblical, mythological and philosophical references and the scientific aspects, so I turned to those same sources to gain greater understanding of the finale.

My quest for information and resolution felt vaguely familiar.  As I scanned blogs, Twitter, and columns, it felt a lot like my search to understand social media.

Social media, like LOST, is a complex and mysterious island that reveals itself only incrementally.  To be meaningfully on this island, you have to want and try to get there.  Once you’re there, every breakthrough of understanding is confronted with new questions.  And, just when you think you’ve got it pegged, a new tool is introduced.

I was able to make peace with LOST (thanks in large part to Lauren J. Rivera’s insightful perspective).  But social media has no finale, and I accept and appreciate that it will be a continual learning process.

Much like LOST, the joy of social media is in the journey and, ultimately, that journey is about people.  I have become a part of countless communities, established connections that would have otherwise been impossible, and found “teachers” who help me with everything from professional development to a firm grasp of celebrity gossip.

My advice?  Become a Social Media Island castaway.  I promise, no smoke monsters.

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See that guy?  He’s right over there with the coffee stain down his shirt.  That’s the most important guy in the room.

Why?  Because he has a smartphone and he’s reviewing your café… right now.

Consider all the things that you, the business owner, couldn’t possibly know about our coffee-stained friend:  he has more than 853 friends on Facebook; 1,231 followers on Twitter; he’s a top-rated reviewer on Urban Spoon; and, in the time it took his friend to go to the bathroom, he’s posted his review to all those sites.  You can only hope that coffee didn’t burn his tongue.

It’s a smartphone world out there – Blackberries, iPhones, Droids.  With an estimated 45 million users in the U.S. alone and an expected 80 million users by 2011, this is technology that your business can’t ignore.  Good communication with your employees and your customers is and has always been foundational, but the rise of mobile illustrates corresponds to the growing risk of negative interactions as well as the potential for positive experiences to have a ripple effect on your business.

Think about this.  Just a few days ago, mobile location-based application Foursquare hit its 40 millionth check-in.  Just five weeks prior, the company reported it had hit 22 million check-ins.   The mobile phenomena is growing and growing rapidly and you can’t afford to miss its opportunities.

Oh, and if you’re asking what the heck a check-in is, take a minute to read up on Foursquare and similar site Gowalla.

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive (@katiefoxdenis)
The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.

Today marks LinkedIn’s seventh birthday (siete años on Cinco de Mayo), making it older than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even relative relic MySpace.

Happy birthday, LinkedIn.  Now let me tell you why I hate you.

  1. I already have an active Facebook and Twitter account. What I do not have is lots of spare time to dedicate to another social media application.
  2. Trolls. On Twitter, I’m delighted to get a follower who I do not know.  It pleases my ego that someone wants to read 140 characters of my innermost thoughts.  But on LinkedIn, I’m unnerved by strangers looking to connect (and more often than not, sell me something).
  3. I am not in the job market. (Though I freely acknowledge this is a down economy and could change at any moment, in which case I would be championing LinkedIn.)

But don’t despair, LinkedIn.  There is a silver lining.  I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I may be wrong about you.

For starters, LinkedIn is valued at $1.3 billion.  Considering that I’m worth decidedly less, it seemed only fair that I spend some time determining what it is that’s so great about LinkedIn.  After all, it was just last week that I came around to the value of Twitter.  I’m nothing if not malleable when it comes to social media.

It turns out, there are some compelling benefits.

  1. Referrals. I’ve often found myself searching for vendors with no prior knowledge of the field.  Typically, I’ve sough referrals from people I know and trust.  LinkedIn performs that function, helping me find good vendors, and, even better, allowing prospective clients to find my company.
  2. Increased Visibility. LinkedIn is typically on the first page of my Google search results if I’m looking up an industry, company or person.  If LinkedIn boosts my website’s PageRank, I’m interested.
  3. Recruitment. I want the firm I work for to be successful, and that takes the best talent.  LinkedIn can help find and compare talent, as well as tell you if there are mutual connections.

Ultimately, I’m not sure these benefits are enough to make me a believer, but they’re enough to make me want to keep my profile active and updated.

What do you think?  LinkedIn has more than 50 million users, so please post a comment and tell me why I’m wrong.  My opinion is fluid.

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive

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

Two seemingly unrelated references in the past several days and it feels to me like back to the future : Google and China; and, Twitter and the telegraph.

Google & China: Some are predicting that Google will leave China (Reuters article) in a few weeks rather than continue government-required although apparently limited filtering of certain news (see today’s WSJ).  The war of words has picked up by Chinese government officials, usually a precursor to government action.

I’m not sure what’s all involved here.  What I am sure of is that it all feels like backward movement.  Google is confronted with a non-option … limited censorship.  Imagine Google being expected (or required) to be an active participant in limiting the free-flow of information.

In short, Google is being asked by the Chinese government to turn back the clock … to do what can’t be done.  They are being asked to limit news-sharing after Chinese citizens have tasted a freer flow of news.  This is going to become very interesting if, indeed, Google leaves China and Chinese people react.

Twitter & the Telegraph:  A fascinating discussion over the weekend with Gary Kebbel, director of the Knight Foundation Journalism Program at a recent IPREX Meeting.  Interestingly, Kebbel, a former newspaper editor, shared that he will be leaving his Knight post to become the new dean of Journalism at the University of Nebraska.

Also in the discussion was Mike Griffin, the new VP of Communications (Public Affairs) for Walt Disney World, also the former managing editor of the Orlando Sentinel.

In a free-ranging dinner conversation about the challenges facing journalism today, mostly brought about by technology advancement and advent of online citizen journalism, these two hard-core journalists were lamenting the dimunition of good, crisp, journalistic writing and the lack of discipline apparent today in capturing the lead and reporting from there.

Kebbel interestingly added that tight, focused, journalistic writing was inspired by the advent of the telegraph and the need to get news from the “wild West” back to the eastcoast establishment.  Telegraph outlets were very limited and reporters stood in line to dictate to fast-fingered telegraph operators.  Out of fairness, reporters were limited to one paragraph of dictation – about 140 characters or so – and then they had to move to the back of the line.  They learned to write their lead and fill in more later.

Kebbel, Griffin and others in the discussion all agreed that Twitter was forcing many to tighten-up and write right, at least from a journalistic perspective.

Interesting, isn’t it?  China seeks to control the news flow and Twitter is making the world better at getting to the (news) point!

Post by Nick Vehr (3.14.10)

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)

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