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New Media, New Influencers
and Implications for Public Relations
                       A Research Study by the

Preface        ...................................................................................................

Finding Our Tradition in the Nontraditional
by Frank Ovaitt
President and CEO, Institute for Public Relations


    This research study was conducted by a team of Society for New

Communications Research Research Fe...

New Media, New Influencers
and Implications for Public Relations
by Paul Gillin
Senior Fellow, Society ...
strategy to managing social media
     Table 1:
     What best describes your industry (or the primary industry you repres...
own social media campaigns,
                                         Table 3:
the researchers were surprised           Ple...
customer awareness of program
Table 7:
                                               What criteria have you found valuable in defining the influencers ...
communications; computer hardware             Table 9:
                                              How likely do you bel...
                                                                                   TO CASE STUDIES
by Greg Pe...

Vignettes: A roll of mints, a jug of cola and “Wow!”
by Paul Gillin                             ...
in MediaPost, “The Bellagio Fountain video was downloaded 20            of projects,” Grobe says, while tinkering away at ...
                                                                                          M/A/R/C Research


A viral video sensation
by Paul Gillin                                                       blen...
second of television advertising.                                          as long as it’s in front of the right people, i...
   Quicken Loans

Social media adoption at Quicken Loans
by Richard Nacht                                    ...
Quicken Loans created a persona for Yahoo! Answers: the           be an influential website, such as Yahoo! Answers, which...
                                                                                                    Mayo Clinic...
he expects to collaborate with large industry associations like the   and the increase in traffic to the Clinic’s website ...
  Process Management

Using Social Media to Enchance Influence
at Emerson Process Management
by John...
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations
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New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations


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New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations

  1. 1. New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations A Research Study by the Society for New Communications Research With the Support of Institute for Public Relations & Wieck Media SNCR PRESS © 2008 Society for New Communications Research All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. 3
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  3. 3. CONTENTS Preface .................................................................................................. 7 Acknowledgements .................................................................................... 9 Executive Summary and Survey Results ..................................................11 Case Studies Introduction to Case Studies ................................................... 17 EepyBird ................................................................................. 19 M/A/R/C Research ................................................................. 21 BlendTec ................................................................................. 23 Quicken Loans ........................................................................ 25 Mayo Clinic .............................................................................. 27 Emerson Process Management ............................................. 29 American Red Cross ............................................................... 31 Union Gospel Mission ............................................................. 35 About the Research Team ........................................................................ 37 About the Sponsors .................................................................................. 39 5
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  5. 5. PREFACE Finding Our Tradition in the Nontraditional by Frank Ovaitt President and CEO, Institute for Public Relations New media and new influencers speak to anything but tradition. Nevertheless, the Institute for Public Relations’ support for this work by the Society for New Communications Research reinvigo- rates a tradition of research going back to the mid-1980s. That’s when we published New Technology and Public Relations, a book that included an early look at the Internet’s impact on our profession. We returned to this overall theme in 2006 by launching a new research program with Wieck Media, the Institute’s online technology partner, whose funding made this SNCR project possible. Our goal is to build rigorous knowledge regard- ing the impact of digital technology on public relations and corporate communications practice today. As an independent nonprofit dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™, the Institute for Public Relations bridges the academy and the profession, supports research and mainstreams this knowledge into practice through education. “New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations” connects with all of these elements of our mission. The Institute and Wieck Media salute the Society for New Communications Research for its groundbreaking work in an area that is essential to understanding this profession and its future. 7
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  7. 7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This research study was conducted by a team of Society for New Communications Research Research Fellows and was made possible by a grant from the Institute for Public Relations and Wieck Media. The research team for this study was comprised of five SNCR Fellows: Joseph Carrabis, John Cass, Paul Gillin, Richard Nacht and Greg Peverill- Conti. The Society for New Communications Research thanks these individuals for their work on this study. In addition, the Society thanks the many participants in the survey and case study portions of the study and extends its appreciation to the Institute for Public Relations and Wieck Media for their support of this important research. 9
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  9. 9. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations by Paul Gillin Senior Fellow, Society for New Communications Research Marketers and public relations professionals today are confronted with an astounding array of new communications channels. Internet-based social media tools like blogs, podcasts, online video and social networks are giving voice to the opinions of millions of consumers. While mainstream media continues to play a vital role in the dissemination of information, even these traditional channels are increasingly being influenced by online conversations. The “new influencers” are beginning to tear at the fabric of marketing as it has existed for 100 years, giving rise to a new style of marketing that is characterized by conversation and community. Marketers are responding to these forces with a mixture of excitement, fear and fascination. They’re alarmed at the prospect of ceding control of their messages to a community of unknowns. Yet at the same time they’re excited about the prospect of leveraging theese same tools to speak directly to their constituents without the involvement of media intermediaries. The Society for New Communications Research set out to conduct an examination of how influence patterns are changing and how communications professionals are addressing those changes by adopting social media. The goals were to discover how organizations: • Define new influencers; • Communicate and create relationships with them; • Use social media to create influence; and • Measure the effects of these efforts. Another goal of the study was to use these discoveries to offer a set of recommendations to professional communicators. Methodology The study utilized a web-based survey created in Qualtrics. The survey was conducted from September 2007 - November 2007. The survey focused on “social media power users,” i.e., communications professionals with a deep knowledge and heavy usage pattern of social media tools including blogs, podcasts, online video, social networks, and other new and emerging communications tools and technologies. The Sample Of those organizations surveyed, 78% use blogs, 63% use online video, 56% use social networks and 49% use podcasts in their organization’s communications initiatives. The total sample size for the survey portion of the study was 297 communications professionals: 37% of whom were public relations / marketing communications professionals working within an agency, 35% of whom were in-house public relations and corporate communications professionals; 22% were public relations and marketing communications consultants; 4% worked for media companies and 2% were advertising and/or brand marketing professionals. Respondents represented a wide range of industries including aerospace, arts, banking, chemicals, communications, computers, drugs, education, electronics, energy, financial services, food and beverage, government, health services, insurance, internet, manufacturing, media, non-profit, real estate, retail, telecommunications and utilities (Table 1). The respondents’ roles and responsibilites ranged from determining 11
  10. 10. strategy to managing social media Table 1: What best describes your industry (or the primary industry you represent if you work for programs. an agency? Case Study Component In addition to the survey component of the study, seven in- depth case studies of organizations utilizing social media were gathered via telephone-based interviews by the SNCR Fellows with a wide variety of organizations including BlendTec, EepyBird, MARC Research, The Mayo Clinic, Quicken Loans, the American Red Cross, Emerson Process Management, and the Union Gospel Mission. Social Media Channels Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that social media tools are becoming more valuable to their activities as more customers and influencers use them. Twenty- seven percent reported that social Table 2: Which of the following online tools has your organization used in at least one campaign? media is a core element of their communications strategy. Only three percent stated that social H+>24# media has little or no value to their :9+590#<5?0># communications initiatives. 7>65.+#90;D>1B4# While blogs, online video and G>?6.4,92# social networks were ranked as the G8>;>#48.1592# most popular social media tools, respondents spread their activities C0D421>*-4EF>1*34# across a wide range of channels. =5B54# Podcasts, newsgroups, photo- 7>65.+#A>>B3.1B592# sharing sites and wikis have also @94;.9;#3044.2592# been widely deployed (Table 2). <51;*.+=>1+?4# The respondents indicated an overall high satisfaction level with :;801# the media they’ve used and no )*456#78.1592# one tool emerged as a clear top )*+,-+./01#2.304# performer. In fact, the variance in perceived effectiveness among the !"# $!"# %!"# &!"# '!"# (!!"# five most popular tools was so small as to be statistically insignificant (Table 3). Turning to the metrics that the respondents use to evaluate influence generated by their 12
  11. 11. own social media campaigns, Table 3: the researchers were surprised Please rate your perception of each tool’s effectiveness toward achieving campaign goals to find that standard Internet (1= not at all effective; 5= very effective) measures like search engine ranking and web site traffic were F6.)6:"()1:0" perceived as being more useful in determining their organization’s E.072" own influence and success than @:A27*0,B2CD0*,92" audience awareness or bottom-line results. The popularity of these ;04)-."@:+A0*=2" quantitative criteria was particularly >014-2?67" intriguing because the benefits of conversation marketing initiatives >50+0"25-*)67" have been widely touted to be brand awareness and customer /)=)2" satisfaction. ;04)-."<00=9-*=)67" One explanation is that “awareness” is difficult to measure 862+-6+"9:22-7)67" and changes slowly over time, while 3,2)4"25-*)67" immediate improvements in search engine rankings offer quicker ()*+,-./0*.12" gratification to campaign sponsors. Another is that lack of industry !" #" $" %" &" '" consensus on measurement criteria for social media initiatives forces PR and communications professionals to fall back on those Table 4: In evaluating the influence of your organization’s social media initiatives, which criteria do metrics that have worked in the past you consider to be the most important? (1= not at all effective; 5= very effective) (Table 4). When asked to rate their >5.-/F"579@75"-.70@79" criteria for assessing the overall performance of social media )"*+"F@,2=?7@H?5"B@2@,*-2" initiatives, though, respondents G.-95,5:".?:@57/5".6.-57522"*+"8-*9-.;" cited awareness and engagement C<*9"25.-/F"579@75"-.70@792" factors ahead of hard metrics (Table E7/*;@79"<@702" 5). C*D*;"<@75"@7/-5.25" Criteria for Assessing A*2@4B5=759.4B5"7.,?-5"*+"1<*9"8*2,2"*-"/*;;57,2" Organizations’s Influence and )"*+"3>>"+55:"2?12/-@15-2" Success with Social Media Initiatives )"*+"/*;;57,2"*7"1<*9=8*:/.2," Fifty-one percent of 3.4*"15,6557"8*24792".7:"/*;;57,2" respondents are formally measuring )"*+",-./01./02" the effects of their organization’s social media initiatives. The metrics !" !#$" %" %#$" &" &#$" '" '#$" (" (#$" they value most are enhancement of relationships with key audiences, enhancement of reputation, 13
  12. 12. customer awareness of program and comments/posts relevant to Table 5: organization/products. Close to Which metrics do you consider to be the most important when measuring the effectiveness of your overall efforts in comunicating with the “new influencers?” the bottom of the list for measuring social media impact was traditional media coverage of those efforts. M1<;15-*-17#02#,-9;C01.</+.#L/7<#=->#;4A/-15-.# M1<;15-*-17#02#,-+47;C01# Criteria for Determining the H-;,5<#-1:/1-#,;1=/1:#02#>04,#0,:;1/K;C016.#L-?./7-# Most Influential Bloggers and I4.70*-,#;L;,-1-..#02#+,0:,;*# Podcasters Interestingly, there was no clear I9/5=J7<,4.#70#0,:;1/K;C016.#L-?./7-# agreement among respondents on I0**-17@+0.7.#,-9-E;17#70#>04,#50*+;1>#0,#+,0A457.# the best criteria to use in determining H05/;9#*-A/;#50E-,;:-# influence. A wide range of factors F1/G4-#E/./70,.#2,0*#/134-15-,.6#./7-.# were cited as being important, ranging from difficult-to-measure B,;A/C01;9#D-A/;#50E-,;:-# criteria including: “Quality of content” )1?041A#9/1=.# to highly measurable factors, 890:#.-;,5<#-1:/1-#,;1=/1:#02#>04,#?90:@+0A5;.7# including page views and search )*+,-../01.#2,0*#/134-15-,.6#./7-.# engine rank. The top three criteria for determining the relevance and !"!!# $"!!# %"!!# &"!!# '"!!# ("!!# potential influence of a blogger or podcaster are: quality of content on the blog or podcast, relevance of content to the company or brand, and search engine rankings. Surprising Table 6: to the researchers was the fact In evaluating the importance of a blogger or podcaster to your PR or marketing that criteria that measured online communications programs, which criteria do you consider? (1= not at all important; 5= very engagement for blogs and podcasts important) were among the least important to F/7B*,>#18#512,42,# the respondents. The researchers P4B70=*,>#18#512,42,#,1#>1/-#513972># were surprised to find that intangible O4.#+47-56#42<*24#-72M*2<+# criteria were at least as important N734#-451<2*012# as quantitative data in this regard. DB1<#+47-56#42<*24#-72M*2<+# (Table 6). K-4L/425>#18#91+02<# I7<4#=*+*,+C@*,4#J4,4-#J4,-*5+# Criteria for Defining Influence H,64-# In Social Networks and Online F/1,4:#1-#*2,4-=*4G4:#*2#,-7:*0127B#34:*7# Communities D/+*24++C34:*7#7EB*7012# Confusion was also evident in A#18#513342,+#12#.B1<C91:57+,# respondents’ ranking of their criteria ?12,42,#@>2:*57012# for determining influence within ;12<4=*,># social networks such as MySpace, )*+,-*./012#345672*+3#81-#91:57+,# Facebook and Flickr. In fact, “other” was their number one choice, atop a !"!!# $"!!# %"!!# &"!!# '"!!# ("!!# list of 11 response choice. Where respondents did specify a preference for measurement criteria, their choices mirrored 14
  13. 13. Table 7: What criteria have you found valuable in defining the influencers that matter to you the standards that they applied to blogs within social networks? (1=not at all valuable; 5=very valuable) and podcasts. Their top three criteria for evaluating influence reflect the importance J>1*.# of online engagement: participation level, :/.;<40/;,5#3*=*3#,F#<,++?54>@#+*+8*.# frequency of posting by the community member and name recognition of the H.*I?*5<@#,F#0,9;5-#I?*9;,59#/57D,.#.*90,5745-#>,#749<?994,5# >,04<9# individual. G/+*#.*<,-54;,5# The principal difference between these social network metrics and those G?+8*.#,F#,>1*.#0*,03*#>,#B1,+#<,++?54>@#+*+8*.#49#3456*7# for blogs and podcasts is that many social )*+,-./014<#0.,23*#,F#<,++?54>@#+*+8*.# networks are gated and so don’t show up on search engine results. Therefore, the C?945*99D+*74/#/E34/;,5# quantitative metrics that communicators A?,>*7#,.#45>*.=4*B*7#45#>./74;,5/3#+*74/# favored were more aligned to the number :/.;<40/;,5#3*=*3#45#,>1*.#<,++?54>@#94>*9# of connections an influencer has within a network and the overall level of his or )*+,-./01#0.,23*#3456*7#+*+8*.9# her activity as indicated by questions and !"!!# !"$!# %"!!# %"$!# &"!!# &"$!# '"!!# '"$!# ("!!# ("$!# $"!!# comments (Table 7). Vertical and Demographic Perceptions regard to specific vertical industries and perceived as being well ahead of the age groups. The results here were not pack in terms of their ability to use social Finally, respondents were asked a surprising. Industries that have led the medial tools to enhance their influence. series of questions about the application way with social media, including media, Respondents cited the following sectors: of changing patterns of influence with entertainment and technology were arts, entertainment and recreation; Table 8: Which industries’ customers, employees, suppliers, etc. do you believe would be most likely to be influenced by social media? Q.@71" N/8+O".*8./817*-.*8"P"/.6/.1I)*" M*8./*.8" ()--,*761I)*" ()-5,8./"4)LJ1/." =@,61I)*" K.7+,/." ()-5,8./">1/@J1/." F)<./*-.*8" H.3.6)--,*761I)*+" C)*5/)D8ECFG" ;))@"1*@"A.<./1B.+" >.138?"4./<76.+" =3.68/)*76+" :.8173" ;7*1*6713"4./<76.+" 45.671389":.8173" ()*+,-./"0,/123.+" 0 !" 15% #!" 30% $!" 45% %!" 60% &!" 70% '!!" 85% '#!" 100% '$!" 15
  14. 14. communications; computer hardware Table 9: How likely do you believe the people in the following brackets are to be influened by social and education. media? (1=not at all likely; 5=very likely) Those industries that were perceived to have the lowest likelihood of using these tools to enhance their $2*%(# influence were principally heavy manufacturing, materials management /01-.#$2# and construction (Table 8). %)*&(# Similarly, social media were perceived to be more effective when +,-.#)(# targeted at younger age groups. It’s interesting to note, though, that the &)*'(# Myspace-savvy under-18 group actually came out in a close statistical tie with the ')*((# next two oldest demographic categories, 18-25 and 26-35. In fact, respondents ()*)(# perceived people under 45 to be about equal in their willingness to use and !"!!# $"!!# %"!!# &"!!# '"!!# ("!!# )"!!# be influenced by social media (Table 9). And in terms of household income, respondents stated that they believed that those in the two middle income for determining the relevance and still struggling to find effective metrics brackets ( i.e., $50,000-$70,000 and potential influence of a blogger or for deciding who are the most influential $70,000-$90,000) would be the most likely podcaster are: Quality of content, players. These findings reflect an groups to be influenced by social media. relevance of content to the company ongoing debate over the applicability of (Income brackets choices ranged from less or brand and search engine rank; conventional metrics to new media, and than $30,000 to $100,000+.) however, new metrics are emerging the lack of clearly defined best practices and these criteria could quickly for measuring social media. The question Conclusions change. of metrics will probably remain fluid until Based on these findings, the • The top criteria for evaluating the industry settles on some broadly researchers arrived at the following top-line a person’s influence in online agreed-upon standards. It is our hope that conclusions: communities and social networks are this study helps to move this debate and participation level, frequency of activity discussion forward as we work together • Social media is rapidly becoming and prominence in the market or as an industry to determine the most a core channel for disseminating community. relevant criteria for determining influence information. Fifty-seven percent of this • About half of the communicators and measuring success in this new media group of early social media adopters are formally measuring the effects of sphere. reported that social media tools are their social media initiatives. Their key becoming more valuable to their goals are to enhance relationships activities, while 27% reported that with key audiences, improve the social media is a core element of their reputation of their businesses, drive communications strategy. customer awareness of their online • Blogs, online video and social activities and to solicit customer networks are currently the most comments and feedback. popular social media tools, but PR and corporate communications In short, social media are clearly professionals are using a wide changing the way we think about variety of means to reach audiences, media and influence, but even as more depending on their unique situations. companies adopt social media, they are • Currently, the top criteria 16
  15. 15. INTRODUCTION TO CASE STUDIES by Greg Peverill-Conti Quicken Loans amples, Emerson’s Experts blog is another 2006-2007 Fellow, Society for Quicken is the country’s largest online demonstration of how an organization can New Communications Research mortgage lender and is constantly seek- enhance its influencers within its industry ing new ways to reach and engage with by sharing its knowledge and expertise While the survey data illustrates how customers old and new. To accomplish this through new media channels. individuals are thinking about social media, Quicken stepped up its online activities to the following case studies demonstrate include an employee blog, integration with American Red Cross how individuals and organizations are Facebook and a number of “blue sky” proj- An organization as large and influen- actually using social media and different ects. One of the most important things the tial as the American Red Cross attracts ways that influence is understood. company has learned is that the customer a lot of online attention. Hundreds of experience rarely begins at QuickenLoans. comments appear every day and the Eepybird/Coca-Cola com. Recognizing this fact, Quicken has organization recognizes that any and all Despite some initial misgivings, Coca- established a presence online. One of the of them can carry weight. To understand Cola demonstrated its appreciation of the most successful examples is on Yahoo what is being said, Wendy Harman, the role on the new influencer by its willing- Answers. Here Quicken created the organization’s senior associate for new ness to embrace and support Eepybird in “Home Loan Guru,” which provided clear media integration, reads all the posts and its ongoing videos showing the effect of responses to questions. This proved to be comments she can find. Even those with mixing Diet Coke and Mentos. Created by so successful that Yahoo invited Quicken few readers or limited engagement are two independent artists in the woods of to become a Yahoo Answer Knowledge important because many of those are writ- Maine, the Eepybird videos have gener- Partner. This demonstrates the types of ten by people who are as passionate about ated billions of impressions and illustrated opportunities created by building influence the organization as anyone; and all of them the power of the new influencers. through sharing expertise and providing have influence with someone. guidance to customers and the public. M/A/R/C Research Union Gospel Mission Merrill Dubrow, the chief executive The Mayo Clinic The 76-year-old Union Gospel Mission officer of M/A/R/C Research represents Working with social media and the in Seattle is dedicated to helping people another face of influence. His blog pro- new face of influence is easier in some who are struggling get back on their feet vides him with an opportunity to be himself markets than others. While the Mayo Clinic and get themselves heading in a positive and to express his thoughts on any topic has been an enthusiastic adopter of social direction. Sharon Thomas-Hearns, the that interests him. Rather than being solely media – particularly podcasts – it is just director of public relations for the Mission, focused on professional issues, Dubrow beginning to consider how it might engage monitors what is being said online about writes about what is happening in his life with new influencers. Because the Clinic the Mission. Thomas-Hearns uses the – personally as well as professionally. The has a strong reputation (as evidenced content she finds – often in the form of result is a fun, informative and quirky blog by the popularity of its podcasts), it now blog entries – as an opportunity to engage that has attracted a growing and engaged plans to work with similar organizations to and influence a far larger audience than following. It has also led to more and more provide quality content to the public. The she can by contacting members of the opportunities for Dubrow to speak publi- Mayo Clinic envisions a day where experts traditional media. While this engagement cally, write and exercise his influence. within their organization, at other institutes is important and growing, it isn’t yet clear and even non-professionals will be able to Thomas-Hearns that it has the credibility Blendtec to work together to provide accessible and the influence of the traditional media. Like the Diet Coke and Mentos videos, answers to people’s heath care questions. the “Will it Blend” videos by Blendtec had Regardless of how mature or savvy become a genuine online sensation. While Emerson Process Management these various organizations may be in Coke benefitted from existing user-gen- Emerson Process Management has a their efforts to apply social media thinking erated content, Blendtec recognized the number of experts in the areas of industrial and techniques, all have become active potential of using new channels of influ- automation and manufacturing control sys- because they recognize the changing face ence when creating their popular videos. tems. As is the case in so many industries, of influence. Each of them has recognized They also considered the pitfalls, but given potential customers are looking to new that direct communication – in a conver- the no-cost/low-cost nature of the program channels to learn about the challenges sational voice – supported by real people decided it was worth a chance. Not only they may face and how they might be with an independent interest – can make a have the videos themselves become a hit, solved. Emerson recognized this trend and huge difference in the way people under- but Blendtec is now regularly approached started a blog of its own to give its experts stand and interact with their brands. by other companies with products to be an opportunity to share what they know if a blended. less formal and more natural way. As with the Mayo Clinic and Quicken Loans ex- 17
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  17. 17. CASE STUDY EepyBird Vignettes: A roll of mints, a jug of cola and “Wow!” by Paul Gillin with an object that causes bubbles to form. AudioBody added a, metallic backbeat and Senior Fellow, Society for Their experimental media of choice were the three-minute clip ended with Voltz and New Communications Research bottles of Diet Coca-Cola and a brand of Grobe choking on an over-carbonated vic- breath mints called Mentos, produced by tory toast. Buckfield, Maine isn’t the place you’d unit of Italian confectioner Perfetti Van It was funny as hell, but neither per- normally expect to find a world-renowned Melle. People had known for years that former was ready for what came next. entertainment team. The town of 1,723 dropping Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke inhabitants, which sits astride the unof- caused an impressive geyser of foam to Inside the Tornado ficial border between eastern and west- shoot several feet into the air. But Voltz On June 3, Voltz posted the video on ern Maine, has one pizza parlor, a small and Grobe had taken the concept a step a website they named after grocery story and no stoplights. Its largest further. By tinkering with the aperture of the a fictional character created by a friend. industry is a maker of wooden dowels. Coke bottle, drilling holes in various places He sent off a single e-mail a brother in San But Buckfield also has the Oddfel- in the candies and using an assortment of Francisco, asking him to take a look. The lows Theatre, a small playhouse that has other tricks, they had achieved geysers of brother notified, one of the top won a following throughout New England 15 feet or more. linklogs on the Internet. Within hours, thou- for its eclectic mix of offbeat fare. It was sands of visitors were swamping Eepybird. Oddfellows that brought together Stephen com. The videos were a viral phenomenon Voltz and Fritz Grobe, two men who would the likes of which had never been seen create one of the greatest viral marketing before. Over the weekend, staffers at Late phenoma of the Internet age. Night with David Letterman learned of the Voltz and Grobe were both perform- video from a blog in Australia. By mid-day ers by nature. As a boy growing up in San Monday, Voltz and Grobe had invitations to Francisco, Voltz, now 50, had learned to perform the experiment on Late Night and juggle and eat fire, and had performed on the Today Show. street corners near Fisherman’s Wharf. In Everything’s been a blur since then. later life, he had put his circus ambitions The pair scrambled to pull off twice in two behind him to become a successful trial days on national television what had they Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe’s “ex- lawyer in the Boston area. periments” redefined Coke marketing and only accomplished once before, and with The 40-year-old Grobe was that rar- spawned hundreds of imitations. barely any preparation. But the TV ap- est of all artists: a professional juggler. In pearances went well. “There were articles 1993, he won the International Jugglers in The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone Festival individual championships, one In June, 2006, the pair decided to called us ‘wizards’, The New York Times of five gold medals he accumulated over show the world their results. Armed with said we were ‘hilarious’…we were even several festivals. He now made a living a single video camera, 101 bottles of Diet in GQ,” says an account on the Eepybird working with circuses and performing at Coke and 523 specially prepared Mentos, site. “We were on Mythbusters twice, and parties and business events. they recorded a display of carbonated we even went to Las Vegas to do a live In addition to their love of entertain- wizardry that would rival anything Las performance at Caesar’s Palace for HBO’s ment, the two men were born tinkerers. In Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel could produce. The The Comedy Festival.” the summer of 2005, they had started ex- synchronized eruptions of dozens of Coke Perfetti, which was struggling to make perimenting with a chemical phenomenon bottles was all the funnier because the two a name for itself in the crowded US candy known as nucleation. That’s the scientific performers, clad in white lab coats, un- market, jumped all over the publicity, carv- term for what happens when a liquid that’s corked them with such matter-of-fact disin- ing out a chunk of its homepage to show super-saturated with gas comes in contact terest. Music by the techno/pop/funk band off the experiment. According to an article 19
  18. 18. in MediaPost, “The Bellagio Fountain video was downloaded 20 of projects,” Grobe says, while tinkering away at other “cool stuff” million times and more than 10,000 copycat mint-soda videos they aren’t yet talking about. were posted online, which created a multiplier effect: Mentos What Eepybird hasn’t done is go big-time. “We’re two guys tallied a staggering 215 million mentions of its product in TV, print in the woods of Maine exploring things off on our own, and that’s or radio stories over the past nine months, and estimates the free what we love doing,” Grobe said. And they think that genuineness publicity was worth $10 million to the company - half its annual is part of the viral videos’ appeal. “I think that’s what people like marketing budget.” Sales climbed 20%. seeing: something that’s made by real people for them,” Grobe At Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, though, the mood adds. wasn’t so exuberant. Coke lawyers fretted about liability problems The pair has resisted offers from studios to film their stunts from amateur chemists trying to duplicate the experiment. When with professional crews. Voltz explains that the amateur feel of the Journal called for comment, a spokeswoman said the “crazi- Eepybird’s work is one of the secrets of its success. “We want to ness with Mentos ...doesn’t fit with the brand personality” of Coke. make production values as high as they need to be to tell a story, “We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try but no higher because that can get in the way of the story,” he experiments with it,” she said. says. The experiments continue to be filmed with a single off-the- But Coke’s interactive marketers saw a gold mine. Sales of shelf video camera. Diet Coke, which had been flat for some time, spiked between five Home-brewed production doesn’t mean skimping on prepara- and 10%, the company’s interactive director told MediaPost. In tion, though. Voltz and Grobe can spend months preparing for a August, they contacted Eepybird asking how they could help pull new experiment. As accomplished performers, they understand off more experiments. Voltz and Grobe, who were tired of buying that their deadpan looks and personal chemistry are essential to out the local grocery’s stock of soda, were happy to accept. In the package. That’s why Voltz recommends involving profession- October, they recorded “The Domino Effect,” involving 251 bottles, als in viral video campaigns, even if the production values are more than 1,500 candies and a network of tripwires, pulleys and anything but. nozzles that sent choreographed foam spewing in every direction. The duo also fight to keep branding subdued in their experi- The Internet ate it up. Google and Yahoo featured the clip on ments. “We actually had a lot of discussion with Coke about their video home pages. Voltz and Grobe personally contacted branding,” Voltz says. “Our concern wasn’t for Coke but for our dozens of bloggers who had helped along the first experiment, own viewers. If we started using typical TV commercial product encouraging them to link to the latest video. Eepybird was flooded shots, our audience would tune out.” with traffic, more media outlets called and offers began coming in Grobe adds that the experiments’ success testifies to the from casinos and corporate events departments asking for com- power of viral promotion. “Having worked in theatre for 20 years, mand performances. you understand how important word of mouth is,” he says. “It can Coke supported the experiment with unlimited supplies of carry you right to the top.” beverages, ad buys on Google and a sponsored contest with Voltz and Grobe as judges. Coke got 1.5 billion ad impressions from the stunt. Coke’s Change of Heart Coke was convinced. Traffic to the Coke’s video home page doubled and, while Coke didn’t disclose sales figures, Perfetti’s report of a 15% jump in business can’t have been far off the mark. In February, 2007, Voltz and Grobe put on a command performance before thousands of wildly cheering employees at Coca-Cola headquarters. By summer, Coke had relaunched its corporate website around an multicolored logo showing a geyser erupting from a soda bottle. In September, EepyBird broke the world record by triggering more than 900 geysers at a demonstra- tion in Holland. By December, Voltz estimated that the videos had been downloaded more than 40 million times. The success of the viral videos has made it possible for Voltz to set aside his law practice and for the two men to pursue Eepybird full-time. They’re talking to Coke about “a wide range 20
  19. 19. CASE STUDY M/A/R/C Research The CEO blogger by Paul Gillin blog, whose rather prosaic title is The every day. Make sure you have the Senior Fellow, Society for Merrill Dubrow Blog, “is stuff about life. It’s systems and the time to respond to New Communications Research Seinfeld-esque,” he says, citing the hit TV reader comments. show that was about nothing in particular. • Have an objective in mind? Are you There’s nothing predictable about Dubrow and his associates are seri- trying to promote a book? Get a job? Merrill Dubrow’s blog. In 10 days time, his ous about measuring response, though. Generate business? Tell the world topics included the best date movies of all In addition to standard Web metrics, the about your vacation? Your content time, an interview with the president of a company measures the average length of strategy starts with your goal defini- leading market research firm, his painful comments (106 words) the total number tion. experience taking a Bikram yoga class, of comments (1,700 in a little more than • Don’t go it alone. Have a partner to and a roundup of his favorite board games. 18 months) and the number of people who brainstorm topics, proofread copy and It’s not the kind of material you expect have contributed more than four comments help with technical glitches. to read on a CEO blog, but it works for each (115), among other factors. Dubrow Merrill. It works very well. also tracks his performance on Google For executive bloggers just starting The numbers are respectable: about searches, keywords and RSS subscrip- 900 unique visitors a week. But what’s tions. out, he recommends: remarkable is the comment activity: an The ROI? It’s uncertain, but the value • Be creative. Look at what is work- average of 47 comments per week. Some in name recognition and reader affinity has ing for other bloggers and adopt the posts draw 40 or more comments. The been well worth the modest cost, he says. techniques that are most comfortable feedback energizes Dubrow, whose The CEO takes a disciplined approach for you. president and CEO of MARC Research, a to his task. He posts new entries on Mon- • Be personal. A blog should reflect 100-person market research firm in Irving, day, Wednesday and Friday and generally your personality and give readers a Texas. keeps them under 400 words. He actively sense that they know you. The more “It’s led to speaking engagements, encourages visitors to comment and has you personalize the content, the more new hires and proposals for work,” he used marketing tactics like a stock market successful you’ll be. says. “When I’m at a conference, 10 or 15 guessing game and a book club to stimu- • Do what comes naturally. Dubrow people will come up and comment about late repeat traffic. Tried and true topics doesn’t speak on many webcasts the blog.” like a face-off between Yankees and Red because he likes to engage with an Conventional wisdom says you Sox lovers are guaranteed hits. Offbeat audience interactively. He loves get- shouldn’t run a blog this way. Blogs are subjects like his skydiving experience also ting comments, and so structures his supposed to be focused and professional, work. He frequently crafts his content in blog as a conversation rather than a full of insight on topical issues. The reason the form of questions to the audience. “If lecture. That won’t necessarily work Merrill Dubrow can get away with his ap- you love to watch people, where is the for you, but whatever you choose, proach is that he’s, well, Merrill Dubrow. best place to go?,” asked one recent entry. it should fit well with your style and “I’m a connector;” he says. “I know a Twelve people told him. voice. lot of people, and I’m extremely visible in It’s not all just fun and games, though. the market research industry. I help people Dubrow leavens his content with discus- connect with each other.” sions of new trends in market research, Dubrow says the power of the blog He’s also got a style that people find profiles of industry colleagues and inter- never ceases to amaze him. It hits him ev- appealing, and the blog reflects his person- esting findings from his company’s own ery time conference goers say they came ality. It’s an approach to blogging that can research. This is, after all, an executive to his session because they’d read his be enormously effective if you have a voice blog. blog and felt compelled to meet him. “Your to make it work and you’re not afraid to Some secrets that Dubrow has words are very powerful now,” he says, hang it out on the edge a little. learned from more than 18 months of ac- “more powerful than they’ve ever been.” Dubrow describes his voice as tive blogging: “Sincere. Opinionated. Goofy. Crazy.” The • Start slow and don’t try to post 21
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  21. 21. CASE STUDY Blendtec A viral video sensation by Paul Gillin blended the chicken with a whole can of Coca-Cola to make a Senior Fellow, Society for New Communications Research concoction he dubbed “CoChiken.” In the video, marketer Wright can be seen sampling the concoction and declaring, “That’s good The idea sprang from a pile of sawdust on a laboratory floor. CoChiken.” The team whipped up a little music, added some title Fifteen months later, it had transformed a company. slides and uploaded the five videos to YouTube, at the time a It was the fall of 2006, and George Wright had been market- fledgling video-sharing site. ing director at Blendtec for just a few months. Blendtec was a The rest is viral marketing history. Blendtec had no budget small, closely held appliance maker based in Orem, Utah that built for big-market advertising, so employees were asked to spread blenders for commercial food service companies. The company’s the word about the videos to their families, friends and custom- flagship products have a reputation for power and durability. The ers. Wright’s small department submitted URLs to social news founder and chief engineer, Tom Dickson, would have it no other sites like and alerted a few bloggers who specialized in way. cooking supplies. Viewers did the rest. Blendtec had a good commercial Within a week, the videos had logged business, but it wanted to get into the millions of downloads on YouTube. consumer market, where cooks were Suggestions began pouring in from increasingly demanding commercial- viewers for other items to submit to grade appliances. Wright’s job was to blender oblivion. execute on that strategy. The question Blendtec obliged, and in the was how? Blendtec had a small market- months that followed, its CEO ground ing department and budget, little name up items ranging from the ordinary recognition outside of its commercial (coffee beans and credit cards) to the stronghold and plenty of well-known bizarre (a Furby and Guitar Hero III competitors. How could it break game). Each spot featured the same through all the noise? format: a grandfatherly Dickson smiling That’s when George Wright noticed benignly at the camera while annihi- the sawdust. lating some unfortunate tool or piece CEO Dickson was a hands-on guy, of sporting equipment. When the and he routinely put the company’s carnage was complete, Dickson would products through their paces. Often pour the smoldering remains onto that involved grinding all kinds of stub- a plate and offers a wry wisecrack. born objects in the blenders to see if Viewers couldn’t get enough. they would break Dickson had been Blendtec had a hit on its building blenders for 15 years. He was hands and it went with the flow. Video passionate about creating the most powerful and durable product segments showing an Apple iPhone exploding into a cloud of on the market. Stress-testing them with household objects was black ash logged over 5 million downloads on YouTube and Rev- part of his routine. On that particular day, he was grinding 2-by2 ver alone. It also satisfied thousands of requests that Blendtec pine boards had received for an iPhone event. That barely put a dent in the To Wright’s trained marketing eye, the sawdust was a pile of inventory of suggestions, which still numbers over 100,000, Wright gold. He persuaded Dickson to videotape some of his tests. Next, says. he dropped $50 on a few household items: some ice cubes, a bag Less than 15 months later, the Will it Blend? series was leg- of marbles, a rake, a rotisserie chicken and a McDonald’s Value endary. Dickson had appeared on national prime-time television Meal. Blendtec’s staff video producer rigged up a simple set and and been featured in nearly every major newspaper in the country. the group recorded five videos, each less than two minutes long. Marketers no longer had to promote the publication of a new Each video showed Dickson, dressed in a white lab coat and video; an army of enthusiasts spread the word. And sales were safety glasses, nonchalantly pulverizing items from Wright’s shop- up fivefold. Wright had expected that the series would do well, but ping bag. not this well. “I was blown away,” he says. As of the end of 2007, Dickson reduced the pile of marbles to powder. He then the series had logged an incredible 70 million downloads without a 23
  22. 22. second of television advertising. as long as it’s in front of the right people, it’s a successful The Blendtec videos are perhaps the closest thing to a per- campaign.” fect viral marketing campaign that you’ll ever see. They’re short, • Don’t get fancy - The dime-store set and home-video quality funny and easy to understand. They’re simple and inexpensive of the Blendtec videos are by design. Viewers actually like the to produce and the stunt can be easily recreated for conferences grainy authenticity of many viral videos and react suspiciously and trade show demonstrations. They’re also easily repeatable. to programs that look too slick. Video quality also has to be “As long as there’s something people want to talk about, we can harmonized with the limitations of Internet delivery. Files throw it in a blender,” Wright laughs. have to be small enough to be e-mailed. More importantly, the videos are on message. Every time • Get creative with promotion -- It was a no-brainer to market Dickson fires up an appliance, he reinforces the image of Blend- the Will It Blend? videos to cooking enthusiasts, but the com- tec as a producer of powerful, sturdy products. The company has pany’s marketers went a step further. They notified golf blog- even given tacit blessing to the hundreds of knockoff videos that gers when Dickson ground up golf balls and football writers enthusiasts have submitted to YouTube, although they caution when the Super Bowl special was planned. Targeting these admirers to keep their experiments safe. “There are people who tangential markets drove plenty of traffic. take their mother’s blender and put their sister’s Barbie doll in it • Plan for success - When Will It Blend? took off, the company and upload the video to YouTube,” Wright says. “Whenever they was ready to exploit the program’s success. That meant do that, they mention Blendtec.” clearing the decks for mainstream media coverage and And there’s been one more surprise: the video are profitable. public appearances. It also meant ramping up the production Companies have paid Blendtec to produce custom versions of the scheduled to provide more videos faster. videos to promote corporate mergers. A radio station commis- sioned the company to grind up CD’s to celebrate a new blend of Today, Will It Blend? has transformed the company. Blendtec music programming. Each month, the video-sharing site Revver. has become a household name without spending any money on com sends a commission check for ad revenues that the series mainstream media advertising. Moreover, the quality proposi- generates. tion hammered home by the video series carries over to future All this has been a windfall for Blendtec. But its success products. “I could show you equipment in our engineering depart- wasn’t entirely an accident. Wright offers the following secrets: ment that would make your jaw drop,” says Wright. “We’re now perceived to be a high quality player. That makes it much easier • Have a plan - Although the magnitude of Will It Blend?’s to launch new products.” popularity was surprising, the campaign’s success wasn’t. Wright created a marketing plan before the first video was shot, outlining a sequence of programs and strategies to promote them. The objective was never to generate millions of downloads. Rather, it was to find the right customers. “I wanted to find something that people who are in the market to purchase a blender could enjoy and help us to promote our product,” Wright says. “Whether it’s 50 views or 5 million, 24
  23. 23. CASE STUDY Quicken Loans Social media adoption at Quicken Loans by Richard Nacht ods had to “follow the same tone and the same kind of advice and Senior Fellow, Society for New Communications Research information (as) any of our public relations,” said Closson. Since the end goal was to ensure the message was consistent no matter Matt Cardwell is well aware of the benefits of Internet to the where the conversation was taking place, this meant that the web mortgage process. As director of e-commerce marketing for team had to work closely with the public relations team. Quicken Loans, Cardwell harnesses the power of the web to offer Additionally, Closson discovered that social media tools were clients improved customer service and faster closing times – two really tools of public relations, and Cardwell observed that the areas that often fall short in customer satisfaction in the traditional new social media tools inherently changed the dynamics of public mortgage process. Cardwell believes these product and service relations. Although it was important to Quicken Loans that the improvements have elevated Quicken Loans to the country’s message was consistent, Cardwell and Closson were aware that No. 1 on-line mortgage lender With just a few brick and mortar attempting to hold on tightly and trying to control the conversa- locations across the country, Quicken Loans primarily generate tion around the brand would be too much of a challenge due to leads and services customers on-line. The goal now for Cardwell technology and online tools. and web content manager Clayton Closson is to see if and how Ultimately, both the duo and the company had to acknowl- Quicken Loans can take advantage of the new Internet tools not edge that there was no longer any barrier to entry for people to only for product and service improvement, but also for media and talk about their brand to many more people than ever before. public relations. Anyone with a negative experience could create a blog and start Cardwell and Closson are responsible for QuickenLoans. the criticizing. This required the web team to work closely with the com, as well as many other sites, blogs and other online offer- public relations team to decide how to address and communicate ings maintained by the company. Cardwell’s team supports the with those people. Cardwell concluded that companies that under- media team responsible for purchasing search advertising on stand the evolving realities of public relations due to new social Google and Yahoo. Quicken Loans is metric and analytic driven. media tools would fare better than those who didn’t. For example, the company can track a lead from its beginning in a Google ad through its maturation in a closed loan client. Social Media Technology and Communities Cardwell says the company strives for continual improvement Quicken Loans’s first step regarding a new media initiative and interesting and innovative ways to extend what it’s doing on- was the creation of the “diff blog” ( The line. Such goals is what makes social media of particular interest blog’s purpose is intended to put a human face on the organiza- to Quicken Loans. One of the company’s earliest online marketing tion, since the company and its employees are found primarily methods, search engine optimization, now requires a great deal in the virtual space. The diff blog would enable visitors to get a of online content in a variety of places to be effective. Thus, even sense the company’s people and their interests; thus the tag line, though Quicken is a retail company, they have to be in the busi- “searching the world for things to make a difference.” ness of creating content to drive solid search engine results. To keep the focus on its people, Quicken Loans was careful Closson adds that the goal in creating content on sites other to avoid having the blog be about financial services. They also left than was to reach the long tail prospects. By the blog open for reader comments. creating content on a variety of sites with keyword phrases such Live for about a year, the diff blog grew out of an original as “Detroit jumbo loan mortgage” or similar phrases, Quicken intent to use it for recruiting purposes, says Cardwell. And, while Loans can communicate and connect with prospects with that par- he perceives that it still serves that purpose by allowing prospec- ticular need. By pushing content projects out to multiple sites, a tive employees to learn about the company’s culture, it also offers synergy is created that enables Quicken Loans to be found on the prospective clients an opportunity to learn about the company’s web, which is critical for a company who does not have terrestrial employees and working environment. offices in local neighborhoods. Quicken’s next foray into social media was Yahoo! Answers. Knowing that the vast majority of people looking for home financ- How Social Media Changed ing did research on the Internet, Closson felt there was an oppor- Quicken Loans’ Public Relations tunity for the company. His research disclosed that approximately As Quicken Loans evolved its online messaging, the need 35 mortgage-related questions were being asked each day. He to integrate new media and new methods of public relations with also discovered that most of the provided answers were either existing branding became evident. The new information and meth- poor or nothing more than mortgage salespeople pitches. 25
  24. 24. Quicken Loans created a persona for Yahoo! Answers: the be an influential website, such as Yahoo! Answers, which provides Home Loan Guru. The company was transparent that the Home validation for Quicken Loans. Clossonalso notes that there are Loan Guru was from Quicken Loans and never promoted Quicken many inbound links to the diff blog, and when other bloggers link Loans in their answers. Instead, they simply provided information to the blog or otherwise says something positive, he will visit that and answers to the questions asked. person’s blog to comment or email. Quicken Loans was complimented by the marketing director The Yahoo! partnership was particularly beneficial. While not who launched Yahoo!Answers, who said, “What you are doing planned, it turns out that Quicken Loans put itself in the right place is exactly how we envisioned companies getting involved.” As at the right time to partner with a significant online influencer. As a result, when Yahoo! Answers launched a beta program called a Knowledge Partner, Quicken Loans’ answers are endorsed by “The Knowledge Partner Program,” Quicken Loans was invited Yahoo!, resulting in the company’s ability to leverage Yahoo’s to become an official Yahoo! Answer Knowledge Partner. This influence. partnering resulted in the termination of the Home Loan Guru, as the questions are now answered by Quicken Loans. Social Media Success Metrics and Results The Knowledge Partner Program was intended to improve The diff blog was described as an experiment “in trying to the quality of the answers being provided in Yahoo! Answers. As a articulate (some) of the excitement of what goes on in the walls result of implementing this program, Cardwell says Yahoo! has a (for) recruiting, and if clients saw it, it would be all the better, said great focus on this program, as it is the fastest growing area of the Cardwell” . The company tracks inbound links, quality of com- search engine right now. ments and SEO results for the blog, all of which can be consid- Quicken Loans is now making ready to launch Quizzle. ered metrics of success. However, it was not able to measure the com. Quizzle is a “blue sky project,” where users can go to learn ROI . This is a common conundrum for evaluators of new social about investing in homes, their credit, and their neighborhood and media tools. utilize a variety of financial-related online tools and other offer- Nevertheless, Closson said the blog helped Quicken Loans ings. Quicken Loans intends to rely on the Quizzle audience for learn how to be real and experiment with tone of voice . As a feedback and ideas about the site. Quizzle will likely integrate a result, the company is now integrating those types of communica- variety of social networking components and the company hopes tion into its own website and other initiatives. One lesson here is to integrate Quizzle with Facebook. According to Cardwell and that evaluating the success of a new media tool may lie in things Closson, the intention was to create a community where people other than dollars and cents. If creating the diff blog taught Quick- could interact with each other andfind valuable information about en Loans how to better communicate in the new online world and mortgage and other home-related tools, all resulting in leads for as a result, the brand is perceived as open and honest, then this Quicken Loans. is a strong asset for the organization in the current mortgage lend- ing environment. Identifying Key Influencers According to Closson, when Quicken Loans changed their According to Cardwell, due to changes resulting in the Inter- Yahoo! Answers persona from the Home Loan Guru to its own net’s popularity, Quicken Loans has adopted a philosophy that moniker, there was a significant increase in the number of com- they need to meet their prospective clients wherever they may munity members who joined the network. Closson perceives be. This means that there needs to be an emphasis beyond driv- this increase to be one of the metric successes of the company’s ing traffic to the Quicken Loans website. The Quicken consumer participation in this new media activity. Quicken Loans tracks the experience doesn’t start at to the degree it visits to their answers and can determine how many mortgage may have in the past, says Cardwell. Now, a prospect begins their applications have resulted from them. experience of looking and searching for a loan a long time before “It’s a lot more than we thought,” said Closson. they hit a company’s website. Therefore, Quicken Loans believes the new influencers are the new online environments where people spend time. It could 26
  25. 25. CASE STUDY Mayo Clinic Social media adoption at the Mayo Clinic by Richard Nacht How Social Media Changed those who know someone with the illness. Senior Fellow, Society for Public Relations at the Mayo Clinic This realization led the Mayo Clinic to cre- New Communications Research Lee’s team decided to repurpose the ate 15- 30-minute specialized podcasts, radio content and take advantage of some focusing on heart health, cancer, bones The Mayo Clinic is an internationally- of the new media technologies to build “a and muscle, men’s health, women’s health, renowned medical practice based in Roch- more intimate, direct relationship with con- and children’s health. These podcasts ester, Minnesota, USA, integrated with sumers who at some point may become provide useful expert content to patients, hospital facilities and a medical school. patients.” The first step was to put these something that is wanted and appreciated Mayo Clinic evolved from the frontier recordings on the Mayo Clinic website as by consumers. Lee commented about the practice of Dr. William Worrall Mayo and podcasts, making them available directly initiative, “What we are taking advantage his two sons, William James Mayo and to interested consumers to listen to at their of is the fact that people target themselves. Charles Horace Mayo. The Mayo Clinic is leisure. The goal was to have people learn They are actively looking for information most famous for developing an integrated more about the clinic and become more like this and if you can package it appro- patient care practice. engaged. Visitors to the site could listen priately and make it findable for them, they Lee Aase is the manager of the Mayo to the podcasts that were of particular will find it.” Clinic national media team and new media. interest to them. The podcasts generated Lee also discussed the monitoring of Lee joined the Mayo Clinic in April of 2000 approximately 900 downloads per month. Facebook and blogs, acknowledging the after a career in local, state and national Lee then created a feed for the podcasts concern of the healthcare industry regard- political media relations. According to and made them available via iTunes. He ing the content on these kind of sites be- Lee, market research conducted by Mayo considered this a “stealth project,” and cause of the privacy concerns and HIPAA. revealed that people with serious illnesses Mayo Clinic did not publicize it in any way. He notes that one of the good things that have a great deal of respect for the Mayo The goal was simply to test how to “do” a can happen is that people post and share Clinic, and would consider going there for podcast and get it distributed without any good information about medical issues; treatment. Surveys conducted by Mayo additional production or resources, and to but that negative or inaccurate information have “continually shown that the most gauge what the interest level would be. can be shared as well. But when Lee first important reason that people have this The Mayo Clinic’s podcast series signed on to Facebook he discovered that opinion of the Mayo Clinic is “the word-of- quickly became very popular. Soon it was 1,100 of his co-workers or students from mouth of other satisfied patients.” Lee’s chosen as a featured item on iTunes, and the Mayo medical school were already team closely monitors what is being said ranked 29 in the top 100 podcast listings Facebook members. This prompted Lee about Mayo Clinic in the news, on and and downloads. From August 2005 when to fully embrace the reality that people are offline. With the introduction of Web 2.0 Lee first posted the podcasts on the clinic’s engaging, sharing information and creating tools, he saw an opportunity to begin to website to October 2005, the podcasts relationships using social media tools. monitor what people were saying in social had increased in listenership from 900 to Lee and his team monitor Facebook, media as well. 74,000. This led to significant increased blogs and MySpace for mentions of the Lee notes that the Mayo Clinic’s 100- traffic to the Mayo Clinic’s website and Mayo Clinic and related experiences, and year-long reputation of excellence provided several thousand subscriptions to the pod- they occasionally comment if they see a great foundation for adding social media casts. something that is interesting. The focus so as a component of the clinic’s commu- Since the launch of the patient story far has been to stay away from medical ad- nications strategy. His team focuses on podcast series in 2005, the Mayo Clinic vise and instead to focus more on general monitoring social media to identify patients’ has created some longer informational information about the Mayo Clinic; in what stories and sharing them with the news podcasts focusing on in-depth information Lee calls a “friendly kind of conversational” media. Previously patient stories were about particular diseases or illnesses. Lee manner. shared via 60-second daily radio spots. realized that the 60-second spots were de- However, Lee recognized that social media signed for the traditional broadcast media, Identifying Key Influencers provided the clinic with an opportunity to for the mass audience, and that podcasts The Mayo Clinic is in the early stages reach an even larger audience with more allow for more in-depth, compelling content of experimenting with social media and has detailed and targeted information. that can be targeted to specific groups of not yet implemented an outreach program people — those with the specific illness or to reach new influencers. Lee notes that 27
  26. 26. he expects to collaborate with large industry associations like the and the increase in traffic to the Clinic’s website generated by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, podcast campaign. and patient support groups to determine how best to engage their Lee’s theory that the Mayo Clinic’s long and excellent audiences. He foresees that the Mayo Clinic staff, even non- reputation provided a launching pad to maximize the benefits of professional communicators communicating online could answer new social media communication tools has come to fruition. The patient questions in a more proactive way. And, by partnering with Mayo Clinic provides a good example of how an organization can associations and patient groups, they will also by able to present successfully incorporate social media into its communications themselves as the key influencers and experts via providing this processes to share the stories of its customers and advocates information to their access to their members online. and the knowledge of its experts, as well as to build community — thereby enhancing its influence. Social Media Success Metrics and Results The Mayo Clinic has used traditional online measurement metrics for tracking the success of their social media efforts to date. As noted, they have measured the increase in the number of people that downloaded podcasts, that subscribed to podcasts, 28
  27. 27. CASE STUDY Emerson Process Management Using Social Media to Enchance Influence at Emerson Process Management by John Cass to monitor his industry’s community. He publications. Founding Fellow, Society for has set up searches on industry-related However, social media has not New Communications Research keywords so that he is aware of conver- replaced traditional media relations; it is sations surrounding the topic of process used as a complement. Jim and the tradi- Emerson Process Management pro- management. He comments on sites, links tional media relations person at Emerson vides automation technology and services back to the Emerson blog and also invites monitor the important RSS feeds within the for process control and asset optimiza- Emerson’s experts to comment on other industry. This allows them to respond to tion. The company manufactures complex blogs. developing stories. RSS feeds allow them control systems that require a great deal of Internal blogs are also bringing the to discover what is happening within the support to customers for proper installation experts’ knowledge to light within Emer- industry quickly. And the two-way nature and management. The company launched son. The Emerson experts are encouraged of blogs allows Emerson to comment on the Emerson Process Experts blog (http:// to share their expertise on internal blogs, stories and receive comments back on in 2006 which are searchable using an internal their ideas from the community. Jim be- to raise the visibility of Emerson’s process search engine. Emerson’s internal blog- lieves this type of monitoring via RSS has automation experts. Emerson identified ging community has become a valuable provided Emerson with an early adopter blogs as a communications vehicle that resource for the company’s global sales advantage. could enable the company to provide in- force — an easy and efficient way to find Jim also follows the blogs of editors formation and support to customers using answers from the experts, supplement in the automation space very closely, and search engines to look for answers to their their knowledge, and increase their value writes blog posts that build upon those questions online. These customers would to their customers. ideas and offers an Emerson expert’s then find experts at Emerson who could perspective. He asks his experts for their help them. How Social Media Changed opinions, who in turn provide him informa- Jim Cahill is the marketing communi- Public Relations at Emerson tion he develops into a blog post. As a cations manager for the Process Sys- The development of the Emerson result, writers and editors of trade maga- tems and Solutions business of Emerson Process Experts blog has enabled the zines often communicate with Jim or his Process Management and self-proclaimed company to reach more mainstream media colleagues about those ideas. Such a re- “Chief Blogger.” Jim writes two to three editors, and thereby to spotlight the abili- lationship would often not have happened blog posts a week, primarily focusing on ties of Emerson’s experts in industry news in the past. In fact Jim believes that it is how one of the Emerson experts helped a more easily. The stories and articles that because of blogs that he has been able to customer solve a problem. He writes his Jim features on the blog are read by more build many such relationships, participate posts by contacting an expert within Emer- traditional media journalists and generate in his industry’s community, discussion and son, interviewing them, and then authoring more interest than pitching these stories add to its knowledge base. stories and articles. Reader comments and via traditional media relations activities questions often lead to future post topics. would garner. The blog has changed and Identifying Key Influencers However, few readers of the Emerson blog extended Emerson’s relationship with the Social media tools are already being post their comments and questions on media, because now reporters and editors used by many of the influential people the blog. Rather, many readers send Jim have something they can subscribe to on within traditional media in Emerson’s emails or call him directly. Jim believes the Emerson website. This means that the industry. The use of blogs and other this is because the process manufacturing problems process manufacturers face are social media technologies gives Emerson industry is rather conservative and not yet more easily discovered and can lead to Process Management opportunities to de- comfortable sharing their problems and story ideas. Editors often read a blog post velop relationships in a way that it was not questions online via a blog. and wanted more information immediately. able to in the past, and to understand the In addition to authoring the Emerson They contact Jim who connects the expert development of stories and themes within Process Experts blog, Jim also subscribes with the journalist. In this way blog posts the community at a much earlier stage. to other blog and website feeds in order have led to feature articles within trade Reporters and editors who are using blogs 29