Twitter Interview with Jason Baer

As a lead-up to the PRSA Counselors Academy Conference, an annual meeting of independent PR agency owners (and an event I try to never miss), I interviewed social media superstar Jay Baer (@jaybaer) of Convince and Convert, who is presenting at this year’s confab. He is among a small group of forward-thinking social media strategists and luminaries who are helping the rest of us harness the  power of the social Web.

This is a recap of our conversation, matching the style of Jason’s well known Twitter interviews, on how PR agencies need to think about the practice of social and digital media.  Even if you aren’t with a PR agency, this has noteworthy information nonetheless.  It originally appeared on the PRSA blog, “Comprehension.”

@RAReed: We’re transitioning from thinking and talking about social media to doing and measuring its effect. What are agencies getting right?

  • @jaybaer: Social media is so all encompassing that it’s lost meaning to say that you’re good at social media. There are so many facets to it now.
  • The best break social media into pieces and focus on possibilities and outcomes, influence or outreach, brand community or social CRM.

@RAReed: On the flip-side, what are the biggest missteps agencies are making with social media?

  • @jaybaer: Agencies tend to silo their social expertise where they only have a couple people who are the social media experts.
  • There is too much focus on social outposts like Twitter accounts, a Facebook page or YouTube channel versus opportunities to be social.

@RAReed Larger agencies seemingly have the horse power to get a leg up on social media practices.  Where can smaller agencies catch up?

  • @jaybaer: I think smaller- and medium-sized agencies make the transition from traditional to social-enabled PR much easier than larger agencies.
  • Smaller agencies are closer to customers.  They adopt new services more easily  and can change what they do for the client with less internal friction.
  • Large agencies can dedicate staff to social media but that’s not necessarily good.  But they have clients that can experiment more.

@RAReed: What skill sets related to social media do the majority of agencies still need to develop? SEO immediately comes to mind.

  • Content optimization and analytics in all forms and fashion. It’s being better at Excel instead of Word.
  • Marketing is not a campaign any more.  Think of it more as a river and that changes everything.  Monitor and respond in real time.

@RAReed: What are you out to convey in the pre-con session that won’t be covered in the regular CA sessions?

  • @jaybaer: We’ll talk through the social media planning process to build a sustainable strategic framework around all social activities.
  • I want people to learn how to be social and not just how to do social.  Forget thinking Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.  Be tool agnostic.

@RAReed: What are the three or four most important things agencies can do to differentiate and market their social media offerings?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand the science and math of social media.  There is a lot there that people don’t gravitate toward as much as they should.
  • Know the data and numbers.  There’s a right time to tweet, a best way to update Facebook and the right way to search optimize a blog.
  • Help clients with social media CRM and customer retention more than campaigns or the customer acquisition component.
  • In the end we’ll wonder why we thought social media was good for customer acquisition when it’s clearly a loyalty and retention tool.

@RAReed:  What are the first, most important steps an agency should engage in to build its social media presence?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand what you’re good at, be specific about it and then create and atomize content that supports that supposition.
  • Whether it be blogs, podcasts, webinars, speeches, know where you have to participate in the inbound marketing domain.
  • Embrace giving away info snacks in order to eat a meal down the road.
  • Drive content awareness via search optimization. People will eventually find and recognize you as actually good at that particular thing.

@RAReed:  I need a one word answer to this last question: In 2010, when it comes to social media, PR agencies must _________.

  • I’ll have to give it to you in two words: embrace math.

Apple Vs. the Evening News: Lesson in Re-Defining a Category


There’s a ‘shock & awe’ quote for you.  I use it frequently in client meetings and presentations because it puts the importance of both into a light that many just don’t consider.

Every company markets to one extent or another; but not every company is innovating.

Innovation, especially for legacy organizations, isn’t easy.  Competition on a worldwide scale brings the perpetual better mousetrap. Those that don’t keep up lose market share and eventually go by the wayside.

Not News Directors; “Funeral Directors”

Take the network news shows.  I was amused by a former newsman’s remarks about the decline of network news, and the rise of cable. “News Directors should instead be called, Funeral Directors,” he said, explaining that the viewership decline was due to the fact that the shows continue to broadcast the same thing: the same format, the same programming, that they did three decades ago. 

“They’re no longer relevant.  They’re not managing ideas — they’re not even coming up with any.”

Contrast the networks’ dilemma with the top tech firms – all continually re-defining their categories in one way or another.  With Google’s sudden rise and massive success being first to market with internet search ads (one of many possible examples), Microsoft, Apple and others race to re-define their own services.

Apple – always positioned with that edgy difference – perhaps best exemplifies successful re-definition with the Mac®, the iPod®, the iPhone®, and now, the iPad®.

Apple is admired on many levels.  But what makes it a true bellwether is how masterfully it embodies, and proves, Drucker’s sage words.

 More on Re-Defining Your Product or Service to come in Part 3 of this Series

The Tiger Woods/Nike Ad: Gross Manipulation with Forethought

The new Nike/Tiger Woods commercial is a compelling piece of art.  Nike’s ad agency created a spot you can’t turn away while eliciting a range of opinions about intent and effectiveness.  It’s brilliant.

Tiger’s “called-out-on-the-carpet” expression touches that part of anyone who has struggled with perpetrating a huge wrong.  It got to me.  I recall a subpar semester at college and dreading my mother’s reaction when she saw my grades.  Instead of yelling, she calmly stated “what you’ll get out of college is what you put into it.”  In those few words I was cut down yet made to never forget.

But in my opinion the ad did nothing to help Woods or Nike.  There is no ethical stance from the subject or the sponsor.  With the help of some very creative people, Nike and Woods worked together to create pure manipulation.

Let’s look at this as a process. People developed the concept, consulted on it and then sold it into Woods.  Then more people researched archived audio; shot the footage; edited it, and aired it.  All planned.  We’ll never know what went on behind the scenes with Nike and Woods on how they arrived at the agreement to maintain their relationship.  Maybe in an attempt to justify behavior, Nike knows that it and Tiger are tightly linked.  Over the years, think of all that video footage of Tiger where the Nike logo is present.

I recall a line from the early 80‘s movie, “The Big Chill”. When Jeff Goldblum’s character, Michael, explains why he squanders his brilliant writing ability by penning stories for People magazine, he says “Don’t knock rationalization. Where would we be without it? I don’t know anyone who’d get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.”

I did see a brilliant ad, as well as faux contrition supported by crass commercialism. A pained-looking Tiger reacting to his dad’s words never would have seen the light of day if that conversation actually took place.

20 Things That Happen When There Is No Plan For Social Media

What happens when you don’t plan your use of social media?  The same thing that occurs with any other PR, advertising and marketing communications tactics.  You end up doing the wrong things, at the wrong time, with the wrong focus.

If you don’t plan, you:

  • start doing before listening.
  • think social media is traditional marketing.
  • won’t know how social media fits into your company’s overall strategy.
  • don’t recognize how social media should complement your overall marketing strategy.
  • won’t know who to engage and where to find your audience.
  • can’t know if the bulk of your customers are or are not online.
  • won’t know what it is you want to get out of social media.
  • approach Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as strategies.
  • won’t know the difference between a group page and a fan page on Facebook.
  • believe the here-and-there-post approach to blogging will build an audience.
  • think the number of fans/followers is the only metric that matters.
  • can’t decide who from your company will engage your online audience.
  • fail to determine how much time to spend on social media.
  • believe you control the message.
  • assume that social media tools don’t have a cost.
  • ignore setting accurate benchmarks.
  • won’t hone your message for simplicity and clarity.
  • pass up the opportunity to demonstrate what you know.
  • ignore the fact that social media tools are temporary.
  • expect to only get when you don’t give.

What would you add to this list?