PR Niblets

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Party Like It's Advertising Week

Like most PR women my age, I was introduced to the world of PR through the character of Samantha on the TV series Sex in the City. As a powerful publicist who went to the hottest parties and organized the coolest events, Samantha was my idol. I eventually came to my senses and realized I didn’t want to spend the first few years of my PR career stuffing swag bags (no offense) and decided business-to-business (B2B) PR was the way to go. B2B may seem less glamorous than consumer PR, but every now and then a killer event or party comes along that makes you remember why you LOVE this industry.

Last week was Advertising Week; everyone was buzzing about the AOL Opening Gala, the YouTube Battle of the Ad Bands, the Facebook Wrap Party, and so on. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated. Our team had been planning a client event for three months for the first day of "The Week" and I couldn't focus on any kind of celebration until the day was over. Like most events, it had come and gone in a flash and three months of planning, strategizing, coordinating, writing and pitching was over in what felt like a few seconds.

With the long (but good) day behind, I began to focus on the rest of what the week had to offer. How was I going to keep up with all the parties? Should I go to all of them? Which ones are worth staying till the very end? Who will I network with? Besides bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel, what's going to get me through the next day after a late night of partying? All of these questions started running through my mind. In the end, I remembered to "breathe twice" and before I knew it, The Week was over, and I walked away a different person with an Advertising Week under my belt and some new lessons learned:

  • For an industry that took a major hit this year, advertising is on its way to making a major comeback
  • Advertising is at the forefront when it comes to the evolution of "green" and innovation of technology
  • Spending time with clients outside of the office is a great way to develop lasting relationships
  • NYC is and always will be the Mecca of advertising
  • Bloggers can be like celebrities to some (i.e. Steve Hall of Adrants)
  • Don't be afraid to make new friends (but bring old friends with you to make networking easier)
  • If you are the Vlasic pickle guy, people will love you
  • It's OK to dance center stage
  • and finally...RELAX, it’s just Advertising Week and if you're at an agency you'll probably have (insert: CES, Internet Week, SIFMA, etc.) to look forward to in the near future
A wise PR Newswire exec told me, "The key to event planning is to work like a mad woman [or man] before the event so that the day of you are just sitting around and waiting for it to happen." And I have to agree, event planning (whether you’re Samantha Jones or Feintuch Communications) is a huge part of PR and it takes a well-oiled PR team to pull it off and keep on trucking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

There Is No "Steph" In Team

After Henry Feintuch and I worked together for the first time 12 years ago, I went on to have several other PR gigs. Most of my time was spent working from a home office for my financial services PR consultancy. I represented companies based all around the world but worked mostly on my own.

In the beginning, I felt like a crazy cat lady. I was convinced that clients would assume I was at yoga or having my nails done if I didn’t answer the phone and I would keep the occasional telemarketer on the line because I needed human (if merely telephonic) contact.

In a word, I had turned into a wacko.

Over time, I became more relaxed about my situation and after comparing notes with my buddies at traditional day jobs, I learned I often did more in a day than they did in a week - even with a noon yoga break – because I didn’t have the distractions or the chatty colleagues that come with a communal work environment.

When we started Feintuch Communications in January I had a "lone wolf "work style that needed to be modified if I was going to make an effective team member. Used to taking total responsibility for both my successes and my failures, it was a completely foreign concept to have people to bounce ideas off of or share my work.

In June, my industry’s largest trade show came around. I had two major clients with big announcements and way more work than one woman could handle. I was forced to delegate editor and analyst calls that my colleagues would have had to pry out of my cold dead hands in the past. And, I even relied on them for some sensitive strategy decisions.

As far as I was concerned, the end was upon us. I was positive we were going to be fired by everyone as soon as the show closed …

On the contrary - and typical of having dedicated and talented colleagues - everything went swimmingly. Clients were happy, editors and analysts didn’t hang up on the Steph Johnson imposters who called them and the world continued to spin on its axis.

Steph Johnson ... a team player?

Baby steps, my friends … but at least I’m making progress!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ageism in Social Media

Social media is perceived to be a young person’s game, part of an arcane techno-geekdom attended by those who were raised with computers and the internet. There’s an implied temporal Mason-Dixon Line that lies somewhere in between Generation X and Generation Y, and if you’re south of that demarcation, common wisdom dictates that you kind of missed the boat.

But the facts don’t support this perception. Recent studies have shown middle-aged groups to be among the fastest growing segments in various social media channels.

In July, Nielsen released a report measuring Twitter’s growth by age group. The fastest growing group by far was the 25-54 segment. Most surprising, though, is that the 55+ group outpaced the under 24s (20% compared to 16%).

Also in July, an analytics company called iStrategy Lab examined the demographic statistics from Facebook ads. The number of overall users between the ages of 18 and 24 grew by an unimpressive 4.8% whereas the number of users over 55 grew by an astonishing 513.7%. In other words, young people may have hopped on the social media train first, but older generations are on the streetcar behind them.

In spite of the rapid adoption by older generations, there is still this perception (not shared by all but by enough to call it a trend) that older people are not privy to something; that the youth possess some mysterious quality: a certain quiddity that can’t be defined or emulated. By default, older generations defer to their more “with it” counterparts, resulting in the birth of an occupation predicated on ageism: the social media manager.

I concede that there is something to be said about the facility that comes with growing up with web-based technology, but the advantage is not as great as some might contend. Social media is young enough that no age group really has a distinct advantage over another, especially with how changeable the landscape still is.

As a person that straddles the line between Generation X and Generation Y, I’d like to send a message directly to any social media unsavvy middle-aged person (and older) reading this: We know less about social media than we think we do, but, more importantly, you know more than you think you do.