Daily Archives: March 30, 2013

Book review: The Power of Un-popular

The Power of Un-popular

The Power of Un-popular

Among the various choices of reading material that were presented to me at the beginning of the semester, I chose “The Power of UN-Popular” by Erika Napoletano. I chose this simply because the title sounded more interesting than the majority of the other choices provided. After reading the book, I can confidently say that I learned something from Erika’s writing and am a fan of her outlook on how to establish a brand and develop a community of customers. The material presented throughout the book is directed towards entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business and/or develop a brand.

Why don’t you want to be Popular?

The World English Dictionary’s definition of popular: “appealing to the general public; widely favored or admired.” According to Erika, this is not something a business needs or truly wants because the general public is simply “plain vanilla” that doesn’t specifically suit your business. If you build a business in order to be popular, you’re going to fail because you take the same path as something or someone else; completely devoid of innovation.

One of the most important takeaways from Erika’s writing was the importance of defining your audience due to the potential of wasted resources in marketing towards people that will never buy your product. Some people will never buy your product, whether it’s due to the price, type of service, or general liking to your brand’s personality. There is no need to waste capital on marketing towards such individuals or businesses – they don’t like you and never will.

Targeting an Audience

The process of refining a business’s audience requires a few pieces of analysis to ensure you can accurately identify your customer base. Erika presents some of the more common tools that will assist with developing a plan for targeting an appropriate audience such as competitive analysis techniques and hiring a 3rd party Analyst. Competitive analysis can be done by going through materials that are public – such as your competitors’ public website, press releases, web reviews of their products and services, and peer review materials.

What NOT to do…

There were several things in Erika’s book that are meant to be avoided by an emerging brand. These “brand personality defects” can have a negative impact on the relationship with customers and hinder their advocacy of the brand.

  1. Don’t be “That Guy”: a person that is consumed in their own problems and doesn’t care about the opinions or problems of others. If you monopolize a conversation with customers, they will leave.
  2. Don’t be mean, be positive.

Paths for Success

Establishing a relationship with your customers is important because people do business with people – if they like you personally, they will continue to do business with you. Be approachable to your customers and always ready to assist them with their needs. Creating a consistent, enjoyable experience for your customers will eventually turn them into advocates of your brand.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I thought this book was very interesting and made sense. The concepts were presented in a straight-forward way and embraced common sense. I appreciated Erika’s blunt language because it made the reading more entertaining and made it easier for the reader to relate to the material. In my opinion, her advice is spot-on for establishing a successful brand.

Book Review: Humanize – How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World

When I opened up Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant’s book Humanize for the first time, I had a good idea of what I could expect. The title alone paints a pretty clear picture, right? This is clearly a text full of tips about creating a more people-friendly presence on social media, and turning that presence to your advantage in an organization. That’s not a bad assumption, but it turns out it’s only partly correct. You see, rather than list out a few dozen ways to be more empathetic or share some how-tos for customer appreciation, Notter and Grant take a hard look at organizations and management today, tear the rulebook to shreds, and break down how to reformulate who you are as an organization. Humanizing, it seems, starts at the core of your company, with your internal culture, structure, and mindset.

My main reason for selecting this book was to try to see what I could take from it and apply to my work as the social media strategist/community manager for Syracuse University’s IT and Services department. I’m in a position where we’re all learning as we develop our strategy, goals, and voice, so I like to look for useful guidance whenever I can. We’re an organization in need of “humanizing,” I feel, so I knew this book would be fruitful for my work.

A more social organization starts with the people inside it.

A more social organization starts with the people inside it.

Notter and Grant start their work off with a bit of a history lesson, covering where organizations and management principles came from, how technology has begun to disrupt the status quo, and how sticking to traditional ways of thinking are stifling some great opportunities for truly innovative growth. They take issue with the adherence to the mysterious act of strategic planning, lament at the barriers of communication erected under the guise of process control, and bury their faces into their palms over the stuffy organizational cultures that seem to be revered today. Organizations are broken, and to repair them means regrouping and crafting a new foundation, to create an adaptive, collaborative, learning organization from the ground up.

After identifying the problems at hand, the authors launch into a structured and consistent presentation of their ideas for becoming a more socially-minded organization. Four thorough chapters each focus on one aspect of humanizing: being open, being trustworthy, being generative, and being courageous. These are not mere lists of tips, but well-reasoned explanations of why and how to bring about change, with looks at real-world cases to highlight both the benefits of being more human, and the pitfalls of failing to adapt. The cards are laid plainly on the table, and I couldn’t help but hunger for more with every turn of the page. I didn’t agree with everything that was written, but I can certainly respect the authors’ viewpoints, as they are backed up with reasoned arguments most every time.

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After closing the back cover and reflecting on what I had read, I knew I had some key takeaways to apply to my organization. In particular, I plan on pursuing some of the penultimate thoughts in the book, on being the catalyst for change in your organization. As a student, I’m not in a great position to command or lead an organizational shakedown, but I can still be an influential voice in the department, and I have some incredible advice to assist me now. The delightful part about this is that Humanize wasn’t written with my position in mind – it was tailored for the association industry. But that’s the beauty of the text: it’s clear, poignant, structured, and reasonable, and thus can easily be applied very broadly. Give it a look, you may be surprised at how relevant it is to your organization, and find yourself pondering how to humanize your work as well.

“Earned Media” Means Earned Relationships

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Searching for A Golden Opportunity In the Rubbish

I really appreciate that our readings this week focused so much on the power and importance of relationships between bloggers and product/service representatives (or between PR agents, as idea pitchers, and bloggers.) So much of the spam that I remember getting as an intern and blogger at ShermansTravel.com, a travel website based in New York City, was impersonal, dry (though not for lack of trying, via using lots of exclamation points or big words to describe something unexciting), and not at all engaging. Many were very obviously mass-mailed to as many contacts as the PR company could get its hands on. Most of the time, it seemed like the worst phrasing and pitching seemed to come along with the worst events or offers – like the email blast was such a last-ditch effort for a mediocre product that everyone just lost their motivation and pushed out more less-than-stellar stuff. And the sheer volume of the “garbage” PR spam made it difficult to weed through the bad to find the good opportunities.

In a Perfect World…

The e-book by Evernote frames the creation, facilitation and maintenance of a relationship  between blogger and PR rep as a responsibility that’s largely placed on the PR side. In an ideal world, this is how it should be (ideally, for every single blogger out there in the blogosphere) because it intrinsically means that the blogger’s voice and platform are valued to such an extent that a PR agent is required to devote the energy, time, and sometimes money into convincing them that a subject is worth writing about.

The converse, though, leaves smaller-stage bloggers, with small followings, few fans, and few resources in the dark and unlikely to get a “scoop” about events or new products from public relations firms. As we’ve discussed, it takes a lot of effort and planning to build a reputation and become a “top blogger” – one who receives those quality pitches, with positive relationships attached, from their “suitors.”

The Best PR Rep – Blogger Relationships Will Include:

  • Our readings list a lot of ways that PR reps can demonstrate a blogger’s value:
  • Mentioning them in speaking engagements
  • Following up with “thank you”‘s and feedback
  • Tracking the “outputs” of other bloggers picking up their quality material
  • Engaging and promoting the material as much as possible on social media
  • Compensating the bloggers fairly (and being open about expectations and rewards from the beginning, plus ensuring any material rewards are disclosed in the material)
  • Optimizing the post for search engines
  • Telling a good story, on as many platforms as possible.

Most importantly, I think that the best example with also include an outlook towards bloggers (Ahem. And writers, journalists, photographers, reporters…) as valued partners, who are really in it for the same reasons PR reps are – to produce quality. They are not just a microphone for your message or commodity, and if PR companies appeal to their human side with respect, personal interest and understanding, they can become an invaluable ally and resource.