Friday, September 30, 2011

Social Media: Where Change is the Only Constant

On October 3rd, Facebook will rollout its new ‘Time Line’ interface for all of its users worldwide.  This announcement comes fresh on the heels of the globally maligned ‘mini-feed’ update, which had members inquiring as to why Mark Zuckerberg was making unnecessary changes that rendered his free service difficult and inefficient for many of its users.  Bob Dylan famously sang, “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” which rings especially true in the rapid-fire realm of the Internet, where the environment seems to warp right as it becomes familiar.

Until recently, Facebook was primarily a medium for twenty-somethings and younger people to interact.  Within the last couple of years, the social networking behemoth has undergone a demographic shift that now transcends all ages and generations.  It’s a fairly common cliché that older individuals are steadfastly resistant to change, to the point of outright stubbornness, but the swiftly evolving world of social media has forced everyone to adapt, regardless of readiness or willingness. 

In the business and private sectors, for work or leisure, everyone depends on social networking.  Zuckerberg and Co. have cornered the proverbial market, like great puppeteers in the sky, maneuvering their respective mediums in any way they see fit.  Not a fan?  You can delete your free profile.  Feel the changes are too overwhelming or time-consuming?  There are still 800 million people who will disagree with you (fun fact: if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous in the world.)  Like it or not, the social media bigwigs hold the cards, and we can go with the flow or get left down-river.

Relentless evolution encompasses every social network, but occasionally the changes really do undermine the operation.  Myspace was the end-all be-all of leisure-based social media websites prior to News Corp buying it out and flooding the main page with ads and distractions (which led to the rise of Facebook.)  Fast-Pitch was immensely popular in the business world until an influx of multi-level marketers and spam triggered the mass exodus of its core users.  Myspace went from a value of $580 million when it was purchased in 2005 to a meager $35 million when sold in 2011.  Fast-Pitch has recently undergone a retooling in an attempt to garner users, but remains an afterthought when compared to business networking sites such as LinkedIn.

There is only one constant in the domain of social media: change.  Expect to be inundated with new features, new settings and new ways of interacting.  Frustration comes with anything that appears foreign, especially when you’re of the opinion that things were fine the way they were.  As you should with every aspect in life, greet new experiences and opportunities with an open mind, and embrace and appreciate your presence in the moment where all you can expect is that nothing will remain the same. 

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Handled Correctly, Negative Publicity Can Be A Positive

On Monday, Comedy Central aired the Charlie Sheen roast, officially capping a yearlong Twitter-fueled saga and certifiable personal and public meltdown.  There is absolute truth to the old adage, ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity,’ but there is another massive aspect to this cliché notion: the nature in which you handle yourself amid exposure on negative pretenses is as important as the exposure itself.  Sheen rode the hate-train all the way home, but missed the bank on his departing route.  His multi-million dollar an episode acting role was canned, his image is tarnished, and his career is barely detectable amongst the flotsam and jetsam that became his interviews and Internet rants.  Only if you intelligently maneuver negative publicity can it prove a positive.

Owning negativity means never apologizing for what you believe in.  If your editorial is garnering adverse feedback because of content, that is a good thing!  Countless individuals have made careers based off of the negative; Howard Stern and Ann Coulter immediately come to mind.  Although on completely opposite sides of the social spectrum, they share a common denominator: they’re not afraid to push the envelope.  Doing something new and refreshing often means ruffling a few feathers along the way.  Your constituents may not agree with you, but they will respect you for not wavering in your convictions. 

What Charlie got wrong was gunning full-steam on a non-respectable premise with a colossal side-helping of ego.  Everyone was wrong, he was right: end of story.  Negative publicity fosters debate; Composition 101 teaches you that fashioning a credible argument involves acknowledging the opposition, and then refuting it.  A dose of humility goes a long way.  If scores of individuals find your viewpoints conflicting with their own, presenting them in a palatable manner encourages discussion and provides you exposure.

One glowing example of using undesirable press to your advantage was the way David Letterman handled his widely publicized blackmail scandal in 2009.  Instead of hiding behind his many handlers or having his agent release a cryptic press release denying the ordeal, Letterman stood in front of the cameras on his own show and admitted his wrongdoing.  After a wave of initial backlash, The Late Show’s ratings saw a considerable increase.  Dave’s perfidy became a mere afterthought, and many respected him more for owning up to his mistakes.

‘Grabbing the fan’ is a unique way of looking at it.  Negative publicity has a way of spinning out of control if you don’t conduct yourself in an agreeable fashion.  Stick to your guns in regards to your message, but ensure that you’re not alienating your base or turning off those who might share your views.  Charlie Sheen may have been the subject of a primetime roast, but because of the repugnant way in which he went about his business, it’s his career that’s really cooked.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is The World Revolving Faster Around Social Media?

At the conclusion of every calendar year we are inundated with various ‘top ten lists’ and retrospectives detailing noteworthy events.  Here we are in September, and we’re already recounting memorable moments in 2011.  The common thread interwoven in these stories: social media, and how rapidly the globe seems to spin since we all plugged in to Facebook and Twitter.  The interesting twist?  Nearly every notable news story revolved around social networking and how its inception has ushered in a new era in the way we all interact.

News and current events are now instantaneous and comprised of second to second accounts from various social networking outlets.  At times, the 24 hour news cycle can seem exceedingly overwhelming; all it takes is poor cellphone reception and you’re the last one to know.  Clued in bloggers and beat-writers have become as reliable as contemporary news outlets, and considering the vast amount of red-tape required to verify and publish scoops, they’re faster, as well.   

We’ve entered into a realm of uncharted interconnectedness.  You are literally one mouse-click away from locking down that meeting or scheduling that high-profile speaking engagement.  Taking to the pavement and purchasing advertising time has been replaced with Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter hash tags, conference calls exchanged for Skype conversations.   Unquestionably, every business venture has been streamlined for efficiency and cost-effectiveness via social media.  The world simply isn’t the same.

With three and a half months left in 2011, there is still ample time for your endeavors to go viral.  Every tick of the minute hand marks a new happening somewhere across the globe, and with social networking, you can rest assured that we will all hear about it.  Utilize the tools at your disposal, connect with others so your message is heard, and become the person we read about when we refresh our newsfeeds.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Friday, September 9, 2011

Solitary Confinement: Why One Major Placement Won't Make Your Career

The fantastic film, That Thing You Do!, describes the whirlwind story of a fledgling band coping with newfound stardom after the release of their first radio single.  Hoping to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘one hit wonder,’ the movie depicts the background legwork necessary to advance and uphold a career beneath blinding spotlights.  Although a work of fiction, That Thing You Do! practically parallels the daily operations necessary when cultivating a career.

In our recent blog post we touched on the benefits and detractors to one large ‘splash’ as opposed to many placements in specialty publications.  Every single one of us has contemplated the day our big break comes, and how we will handle the influx of attention and the rapid shift in our lives.  The media is a fickle creature; without a constant stream of publicity, there is a tendency for overexposure on a single topic and a quick career flame-out.  When aligning yourself with the, ‘What have you done for me lately’ crowd, the key is to remain relevant. 

A common byproduct of a solitary placement is an unfortunate pigeon-holing effect.  As a professional speaker, author or expert, you should shoot for the widest audience possible to receive your message.  While you may gain notoriety for ‘that editorial in the Chicago-Tribune two years ago,’ the point is moot when the message no longer matters.  Unfortunately, bragging rights don’t pay mortgages.

Do not let fifteen minutes of fame eclipse the potential for a lifetime of sustained achievement.  It is imperative to stay in the public’s eye and remain a viable go-to source in a variety of media.  A page-long article in TIME magazine is an enormous accomplishment, but many of the publications errantly deemed ‘small-time’ have circulations that reach conference rooms and board meetings across the country, as well.

Everyone enjoys the occasional ‘one hit wonder’ shower sing-along, but no one is blasting ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ through their car stereos at major intersections with the windows down.  Your ability to perpetuate your public image is your lifeblood:   don’t make it THAT thing you do, make it THE thing you do.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Friday, September 2, 2011

What's the Cost of Your Pricing Strategy?

Crime novelist John Locke recently perfected the strategy of ‘going it alone.’  Shedding the conventional methods for success, Mr. Locke became the first independently published author to join the “Kindle Million Club” by selling electronic versions of his books for $.99 through their Direct Publishing Program. nets a profit of $.65 for every copy sold, leaving John with $.34 per copy, or a gross profit of $340,000.  It’s evident that this venture has proven profitable, but what is the measure of success?  Is following Mr. Locke’s ‘flying solo’ approach a blueprint for crafting a best-seller or an archetype for selling yourself short?

On the surface, this particular instance presents a classic case of the ‘chicken or the egg’ syndrome.  Did John Locke’s books sell so many copies because they’re fantastic works of literature with a pre-established audience, or were purchases inflated because of the meager price and massive affordability?  If the first proved true, then Locke may have colossally undersold himself and his profit potential for the sake of autonomy.  If the second theory were the case, then abandoning traditional wisdom was the right path to take.

The truth is: there is no right answer.  Your pricing model all depends on your readership and the breadth of your audience.  A first time author might consider following in Locke’s steps and releasing an eBook at a diminished price for the lack of immediate overhead cost and visibility potential alone. 

What Locke accomplished is truly fascinating and a firm statement regarding the profound differences in the markets of today versus those of yesteryear.  However, another question is raised when considering the circumstances: is there valid career sustainability with one big ‘splash?’  Just like with publicity, large placements are always a wonderful thing, but it is a continuous process with the ultimate aim being professional longevity and relevance. 

Constructing your career model for interminable success is priority one.  With an ever-changing business market, navigating the straights and narrows to a lucrative professional life includes many factors which need to be carefully weighed.  Don’t price yourself out of your demographic, but don’t undersell your potential, either.  The sales and marketing stratosphere can sometimes appear a delicate tightrope act; meticulously consider every decision and opportunity when preparing for your future to ensure maintained success.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations