Case Study: Ladue News in St. Louis, Mo.
It is only because I am featured in a current article in the Ladue News that the publication’s use of its online presence caught my attention. I worked in PR in St. Louis for more than 12 years; I have worked with the staff at the Ladue News on behalf of clients and employers. They didn’t ask for it, but I’m providing some advice to help them maximize their use of their website and their presence in social media. The advice applies to any small newspapers or primarily print publications that have incorporated an online version.
1. Don’t simply use the print version of an article in the Web version of the same article. Use hyperlinks in the content and in the print version, supply the URLs. For the article about mom bloggers, I supplied several links for the reporter to use, and it was disappointing to see key blog posts referenced without a link to them for readers to easily follow.
2. If you’re mentioning a local business, provide the URL in print and link to the company’s website online. In the current article, my employer was mentioned only as a St. Louis-based PR firm — an interesting approach for a publication with a St. Louis readership. Leaving out the name Standing Partnership was disappointing, and a missed opportunity for the publication to continue to develop relationships with local PR firms and their clients. As a blogger, it’s also true that I write quite a bit for Where Do You Stand?, my firm’s corporate blog, but again there was no link to that blog supplied.
3. Reformat page links. The URL for the article is: http://www.laduenews.com/articles/2010/04/22/living/special_features/doc4bd0b4deae4b9669028191.txt – this is not an optimized link. As an example of a properly formatted link/URL, take a look at my buddy Jay Baer’s link: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/integrated-marketing-and-media/information-as-theater-the-power-of-humanized-description/ Jay (an expert in social media and public relations) does his the right way.
4. Make it easy for people to share articles. Currently the Ladue News has the option to e-mail an article to a contact. But since the publication has a presence on Twitter and Facebook, and so do many of their readers, it would be beneficial to offer a Share This option. With this tool, readers are encouraged to share what they like on social networks, exponentially increasing the reach of your content.
5. If you have a social network, respect it and use it. Now Ladue News is doing a pretty good job with their Facebook presence; it’s fairly new but has more than 600 “fans” or “people who like them” as is the current structure on the site. On Twitter however, the publication’s presence is weak. There are very few followers and LN is only following one user (as of this writing). It’s clear that no one’s managing the Twitter presence or responding to @ replies. This is something I hate to see in companies or publications using social media tools — an account that’s been set up, then left to languish and die. It’s like setting up an 800 number for customers, then never answering it or responding to voicemails. That’s just bad business.
You may have heard something about Real Estate III, now BHG Real Estate III, and its new relationship with Better Homes & Gardens.
You can find a wealth of local news coverage about the arrangement, if Virginia real estate is of interest.
There has been a small social media spanking underway on CvilleNews. Several people pointed the situation out to me as a potential case study for this blog. I’ve written about this kind of digital communications misstep before and how to avoid it, in Five Ways to Avoid a Social Media Spanking. The story, in short, is that Denise Hood, marketing director of Real Estate III endeavored to correct some misinformation about the company’s new franchise/endeavor/relationship with BHG in a way that was, let’s say, not thought through all the way. Read the comments on this post for the full firestorm.
I am sending a virtual hug to Denise Hood. I’ll bet she hasn’t had a worse day at Real Estate III than this one. It’s tough being in communications and having to engage in social media without being given the proper support, training, caution or insight that many of us have gained through years of study and practice in the social media space.
But that’s that. And BHG Real Estate III needs to move on.
Five Steps BHG Real Estate III Should Take Right Now
1. Define and refine messaging around the new relationship so it is crystal clear to even the most casual reader.
2. Conduct message training, not only for the people responsible for BHG Real Estate III communications but for all its agents, employees and other stakeholders. It’s critical the whole organization understand and be able to talk comfortably about the company and how it has changed and will change.
3. Invest, immediately, in social media coaching for Denise Hood and anyone else in the organization who engages in social media or media relations on behalf of the company.
4. Develop a strategic digital communications plan designed to focus the organization’s monitoring of all media, to define the process and guidelines for social media engagement and identify the goals for evaluation.
5. Engage, again, with those who have taken you to task (and yes, Denise, I mean you), by admitting that your initial engagement wasn’t the best, that you were merely being loyal and defensive on your employers behalf, and that you’ve learned from all this. Don’t go away. Stick around. There are people engaged in social media who want to help you be successful and only by developing relationships in the online community will you benefit from that, and by extension, so will your company.
I was pleased that a customer service manager went out of her way to call me and e-mail me to follow up. She even offered to locate the out-of-stock dress for me, which was very good customer service.
HOWEVER, the manager only knew about my issue because of the online chat I’d had with a customer service rep who forwarded it on to “the appropriate department.” Even though I’d tweeted and blogged, tagging the post with Chico’s-related keywords, it was NOT picked up via social media. At all.
This is a cautionary tale to companies who are “on” Facebook and Twitter. Just being there doesn’t count. If you set up these accounts you need to use them – to be responsive and listening to customers. Interaction is critical. If you’re not going to do that, there’s no point in being there at all.