Thursday, September 23, 2010

Something You Should Never Say to a Reporter

As most of you know, in addition to my ‘day job’ as a media trainer, I’m also Program Director of our town’s TV station, Darien TV79. It’s an unpaid job, but I love it and believe deeply in open government. (I’m also an elected official and serve on our Board of Ethics).

Our TV station does gavel-to-gavel coverage of board and committee meetings… exciting stuff in a small town of 20,000. But we also do some evergreen programming about how town government operates under the title “Inside Town Hall.” Guess who the host is.

In my media training work I can be pretty tough during interview role playing. Think Bill O’Reilly. But on this town TV show, I try to be more like Brian Lamb of C-Span. I have no point of view. I’m only there to ask the dumb questions, like…

How did you become Chairman of the Board of Finance. How long is your term? What are you professional qualifications? What powers does the Board have? To whom do you report? How often do you meet? Etc, etc.

I even send my “guests” questions in advance so they can prep. Again… it’s supposed to be informative, not confrontational. Until two weeks ago.

Our town is preparing a collection drive for unused, unwanted prescription drugs. Citizens will drive up to a collection point, hand over their meds, which will then be sorted and properly incinerated. Why is the town doing this? Two reasons.

First, to keep drugs out of the hands of teens who have a record of abusing them, mistakenly assuming that, because they are Rx drugs, they are safe.

Second, to keep the drugs out of our environment… including our water supply.

That’s why this drug collection effort is being sponsored not only by the town health department but also a local anti-drug abuse group and Aquarion, our local water company.

But when it came time to interview the sponsors for a show promoting the effort, I hit a professional and ethical roadblock. One of the questions I wanted to ask the water company rep was, “Do you test our water for traces of prescription drugs? And if they are there, does you filtration system remove them?”

In other words, is our water safe? Pretty basic question, right?

But the Aquarion guy said “Don’t ask me that question.” And the town health department guy asked me not to piss off an important sponsor. Even the gal from the drug abuse group told me not to ask the question.

Why? Well, because Aquarion doesn’t test for these drugs because they don’t have to. The water company rep even linked me to a statement on their website. But he said the TV audience of his customers wouldn’t understand. So don’t ask and I won’t have to tell.

The AP did a five part series in 2008 about prescription drugs in water supplies. Doesn’t Aquarion think local residents read and remember such reports?

When I volunteered to be Program Director of this town TV station I didn’t check my ethics at the door. I don’t answer to town hall, but to my fellow citizens. I’m a volunteer. But I’m also a customer who wonders if his water is safe.

Bottom Line: Never say to a reporter “Don’t ask me X.” That’s not your job. Important questions should be asked. If you can’t or won’t answer, let the audience interpret that as they will.

As ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson once wrote: “It’s not the questions that do the damage, it’s the answers.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

Media Training Techniques for Social Media Success

by Amy Fond / Cameron Communications

Be honest - how often are you on the web surfing social media sites? A quick tweet here, an hour on Facebook, a new friend on Linked-In, that viral video everyone's watching on YouTube. No surprise that according to socialtimes.com - consumers are spending an average of over 5 hours PER DAY on social media sites.

But can these sites be more than just ... social? Can you use social media sites to market your message to clients? Here are a few simple techniques from our Media Training workshops that can translate to a successful social media campaign.

1) Match the Message to the Medium: One of the first things we teach in Media Training is to know your audience. The same principle applies when interacting via social media sites. Know where your clients can most likely be found. What sites serve them best? Twitter, Facebook, Live Journal? A common mistake is thinking the broader the better - but why waste manpower and money marketing your message on Facebook when your clients are tweeting?

Last year the world’s largest computer manufacturer, Dell, Inc., sunk all its energy and time into marketing via Twitter. After extensive research Dell realized 30% of Twitter users are under the age of 25 – just the demographic it wanted to hit. So Dell started Tweeting its latest news, coupons, give-aways and more. And it paid off. Dell can now attribute more than 6.5 million dollars in revenue directly to Twitter.

2) Make them Care: The more personalized the message, the greater the impact. And what do people care about the most? Themselves! So offer them value in your message. Cut through the clutter with coupons, promotions, even tips and advice. Something your audience wouldn’t normally have access to that directly affects them.

The Home Depot has it nailed when it comes to social media marketing. The mega store devotes its YouTube site to publishing free educational content on Do-It-Yourself projects around the house. From “How to tile your bathroom” – to – “When to transfer potted plants.” The videos aren’t flashy, fast paced or viral, but they offer practical knowledge and money saving tips. By giving value to its YouTube viewers with content consumers want to see, The Home Depot also establishes itself as a trusted expert.

3) Keep it Current: In our Media Training workshops we teach you to find the news-hook, the angle that’s going to keep your message fresh and topical for TV or print. But Social media is even more fast-paced and timely. Facebook boasts some 700 new status updates every second! And during the World Cup, Twitter shattered a record with more than 3,280 tweets per second! Successful social media marketing campaigns are updated every week, every day, even every few hours.

You don’t have to have a huge budget, or unlimited time to create a fan base and keep them hooked. The start-up clothing company AKA NewYork just created a Facebook page, quickly landing hundreds of fans. Aside from showcasing its latest line, it added a new twist - a Summer Friday Freebie Contest where it gives away one of its latest trends to a lucky fan each Friday. AKA NewYork also offers a top trend tip of the week. The contest and tips not only keep fans coming back weekly, but also help ensure the site has fresh content for consumers.

So whether you want to cut through the clutter via traditional press or social media sites, connect with your audience. Know who they are, where they can be found and know what they want. Then keep them coming back with new content. But, remember, unlike with TV and print, you can get immediate feedback from social media sites. So don’t forget to stop and listen!

Take it from Nick Ayres, New Media & Content Manager at The Home Depot: “The most important lesson to remember about social media marketing is that it’s about creating relationships. And, like any relationship, that means give and take. Listen to what people are saying, and you might be pleasantly surprised at what you hear.”