PR Niblets

Monday, June 22, 2009

My New Cult

They were everywhere. I saw them in banks, in cars, walking down the street, in meetings, at Starbucks, in elevators, at lunch, in bars, at conferences and at work. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers: First, I noticed a few of them acting curiously. Before I knew it, the world had been overrun with shells of former people thumbing furiously at their BlackBerrys.

Although PR requires you to stay up to date, I never felt at a disadvantage. I did my job; I worked hard and excelled; but at the end of the day, I was able to disengage from work and put my personal life in a non-contiguous compartment. Initially, I was put off by these mindless creatures, this cultish Blackberrati (As you can see from today’s feature story in The New York Times, I’m not the only one: They were slaves to their electronic extensions, unable to extricate themselves from the ever expanding web of digital communication. I felt sorry for them. Then, I got one.

As part of my employment package at Feintuch Communications, I was supplied with a new BlackBerry (I opted for the Bold). In a matter of days I went from mild curiosity to rabid support, likely to sacrifice non-immediate family members if it were necessary to save my 9000, my preciousss.

This weekend, I was swallowed up by a vortex of texting, BlackBerry Messenger and App World. I lost track of time, like a Native American on a Peyote-induced vision quest, only to emerge on Sunday, realizing that I was texting, BBMing, Gchatting and emailing a childhood friend of mine all at the same time in order to work out the logistics of meeting up for lunch. When I realized what I was doing, I closed all my applications and, with the unsteady hand of withdrawal, called my friend up. We settled on a place in ten seconds tops.

My body is snatched. I already feel it. I am one of them. I am part of the Blackberrati. But while I already see the enormous potential this device has to support my professional development, I will do my best to remember that sometimes you need to pick up the phone to get the job done.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black Ink is the New Black

My career path has spanned a wide range of journalism and communications endeavors -- on-air newscasting for several radio stations; the assignment desk at WCBS-TV in New York; several public relations firms; and even a stint as head of corporate communications for an international telecommunications manufacturer -- in total nearly 30 years.

I've been priviledged to launch and build several hundred companies, take many of them public and support several multi-national organizations. The body of work has spanned numerous industries from trucking to tech; for-profit and not-for-profit to highly unprofitable; and domestic and international.

Despite having worked for so many entrepreneurs and consulted for so many other organizations, nothing quite prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions and milestones related to the launch of my own business.

December 2008 was filled with lawyers, accountants and real estate agents (oh my!). Friends, colleagues, recruiters, clients and other insiders lined up with often conflicting advice.

On Jan. 2, 2009, our fearless team of four launched Feintuch Communications. Three days later, we incorporated. The first months were filled with serving our early clients -- 3rd Dimension, GAIN Capital, Marketcetera and Tervela -- while at the same time, moving, naming our entity, creating our corporate identity and brand, hiring staff, developing systems and creating a corporate culture. All this while trying to figure out the straightest line to black ink -- a formidable task in the heart of the greatest recession in decades.

My wife, Alice, a geriatric social worker and care manager for the Westchester County chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, went from second income status to primary breadwinner. We all tightened our belts to settle in for the long haul to give the new business as much runway as possible.

In April we launched our website and added new services. We disseminated our own launch press release and announcement cards went out. News articles began appearing. And slowly, things began to click. Referrals started coming our way from our ECP Global international network and our network of hundreds of friends and business colleagues from around the world. While we sadly observed many of our friends' firms contract and downsize, we slowly added accounts. Bluenog. Moire. AccelerOptics. The Linux Box. Hanger Network. RadMD.

Last Friday, half way through our sixth month, the lastest chapter started unfolding. Word from an advertising and marketing prospect that we were hired. More good news today from a life sciences company. And so now, as the clock strikes midnight on the east coast, and as I prepare to take my wife to dinner and Broadway to celebrate our 25th anniversary (June 17), the red ink dried up and turned black.

The adventure continues -- staff hiring, new business meetings, launching our new clients, hustling to satisfy our longer-term clients and preparing to speak at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego. To our clients, friends, supporters and families -- thank you. We hope to continue earning your trust... and black ink.

Monday, June 8, 2009

If My Mom Can Tweet, So Can You

When Twitter first came on the scene, I knew that I needed to learn how to tweet. It’s a new form of media and my work revolves around media, so it was a pretty obvious connection. I’ve been tweeting mostly to stay connected and send and receive news, not to talk about what I had for breakfast. Where I kept falling down in the social media/PR connection was explaining to clients why they should be tweeting. "Because everybody is doing it," was not the right answer. So last week I attended a "Twitter 101" workshop presented by Sandra Fathi, @sandrafathi for the Twitter-savvy.

What I took away from the workshop was invaluable and helped me view Twitter as a tool for the business world. What client wouldn’t want to have their company in a publication that reaches 20 million people globally? That’s one reason to tweet. Some other reasons we discussed during the workshop include: to generate awareness; to seek and create new media opportunities; to foster customer loyalty; to promote products and services; to network with customers; and to monitor trends and breaking news.

The problem is there are some turnoffs and misconceptions. I've heard everything from, “I’m so overwhelmed by email alone, I can’t do anything else” or “the churn rate is so high, it’s just a fad.” Those are completely reasonable worries, but there are solutions. If you can't find the time in your day, how are companies like Southwest, Dominoes, and more all jumping on the Twitter bandwagon? These companies have realized the impact of social media and are allocating either internal or external resources to manage the efforts. Their successes with social media are talked about constantly and have even attracted coverage in traditional
media. For those that say, "it's just a fad, Twitter will be forgotten about in a few months," they probably haven't taken the time to try it yet.

I believe everyone is looking for something at all times and when John or Mary is online Googling “thingamajig” and Company X is twittering about their shiny new thingamajigs – a connection is made and everyone gets what they want. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out but you do need the initiative to try it.

The bigger issue I noticed is that people are reluctant to change. In the business world, you have to embrace change or your company won’t grow. Technology is constantly evolving and the business world relies on new technology to survive. As a young PR pro, I know I’m light years away from the professionals that "back in the day" used to fax or snail mail press releases to journalists. And I give credit to those pros that today are trying their hand at Twitter or that have Facebook pages (even to their kids’ chagrin).

My mom is a partner at a family-owned real estate company in New Jersey, and despite the tumultuous market conditions, she is taking the initiative to try new online networking tools that most of the professionals in her industry aren’t. With the economy slowly making its way back into the black, it's people in the service industry, like my mom, that don’t sit and wait for business to pick up again, they get out and network either in-person or through social media outlets.

So for those that don’t know how to get started with social media or are too overwhelmed by the thought of it, I say, if my mom can tweet so can you! Take the first step and spread your social media wings. Once you get started, you can count on me to be a follower!