Jul 02, 2012

#ConnectChat Recap: The Dawn of Agile Engagement

In an era when multimedia content is constantly streaming back and forth between brands and their audiences, PR and marketing professionals must continuously listen, create, curate, target, distribute, and engage their audiences in order to rise above a cluttered landscape. And, with the real-time nature of social media, speed matters more than ever.

In our latest #ConnectChat, Ted Skinner, vice president of data intelligence at PR Newswire, discussed how agile engagement – which breaks down the communications process into smaller, more manageable pieces – can help communicators engage authentically with a wide range of stakeholders across multiple channels and devices. [For more on agile engagement, read PR Newswire’s white paper, “The Dawn of Agile Engagement.”]

Following is a recap of the chat:

ProfNet: Welcome to #ConnectChat! Today we’re talking about agile engagement. I’m pleased to welcome Ted Skinner (@TedSkinner), vice president of data intelligence for @prnewswire, as our featured guest. Ted oversees the development of PR Newswire’s traditional and social media intelligence platform, Agility. He is also the former vice president of eWatch, which allows users to track print and online media coverage. As some of you might remember, Ted was my direct manager at ProfNet. He’s a sharp guy, so this should be really interesting. Hi, Ted. Thanks so much for joining us today!

Ted Skinner: Thanks. I am glad to be here. I’m looking forward to some great discussion.

ProfNet: Let’s get right down to it. What is agile engagement?

Skinner: Agile engagement is about breaking down the communications process into smaller, more manageable pieces. It allows you to be more efficient in the ongoing cycle of real-time communications.

@MorganCarrie: Agile engagement is about flexibility — effective communication, having answers at your fingertips, giving real value. such as integrating customer call-center staff into the social media team, integrating CRM into marketing = customer-centric.

ProfNet: Ted, can you give us an analogy?

Skinner: It’s like using a GPS for your near-term communications and a map for things happening later as they’re sure to change. It’s based on listening to your audience, the news cycle, internal developments and much more. You have to be ready for anything.

@Hoovers: How can agile engagement (breaking things down into smaller pieces) be achieved in an age of convergence via the Web?

Skinner: Agile engagement is about giving each of the individual components the attention they deserve, knowing they are interconnected. Agile communications is about managing authentic interaction across multiple engagement points. That’s why it is so important for marketing and PR to work together in today’s connected world.

@MorganCarrie: Not just PR and marketing, but IR (if appropriate), sales and customer service – as conversations require.

Skinner: Great point. The whole organization should be ready to engage when needed. This involves new skills for some organizations.

@Hoovers: The “components” of the agile communication process are interconnected, but the execution is decentralized?

Skinner: While some components may be decentralized at different organizations, collaboration between departments is a must!

@Hoovers: Agile communication (interactive, incremental) sounds like a fertile ground for experimentation and continuous improvement.

ProfNet: What are the components (or cycles) of agile marketing?

Skinner: Listening, creating content, targeting, engaging, distribution and measurement. Here’s a great infographic that explains it: Agile Engagement.

@OGPR: Can you give an example of agile engagement in practice?

Skinner: It’s too much for 140 characters, but there are good customer examples in this white paper.

@Hoovers: Brand streaming = always-on, multimedia, cross-platform, cross-channel.

@MorganCarrie: How to be agile with engagement in a “silo” corporate social media environment? It’s very challenging!

Skinner: It’s about listening to conversations across many social channels and responding with tailored messages accordingly. It involves breaking down existing walls in many organizations. Communication is key!

@Hoovers: A scrum + sprint combo!

ProfNet: Yes! That analogy is exactly what helped me understand the concept.

Skinner: Yes, it is very much like the agile development process used in software creation — small, fast and incremental. This blog post explains the comparison between agile development and communications in more detail: The Impact of Agile Marketing on Public Relations

@Hoovers: Is it possible to have an agile “plan” (or maybe framework) for responding to change?

Skinner: Yes, you always need a plan, but you need to be able to adapt on the fly to constantly changing conditions.

@Hoovers: That makes sense. Just as content flows across channels to audiences, so does it stream right back in to the brand.

ProfNet: Ted, you mentioned six components (cycles) of agile engagement: listening, creating content, targeting, engaging, distribution and measurement. Let’s break them down individually. First up: listening. How can brands listen better? What are the benefits of listening?

Skinner: Brands can listen better by really studying their market and choosing the right search terms to gain insight into the market. Active listening is where agile engagement takes shape. It is the market giving you a clear unfiltered view into their needs. Sophisticated platforms can help extract insights and related topics in online conversations, allowing time to engage.

@AgilityAtWork: Listening is key, because it allows you to keep the customer experience top of mind.

@Hoovers: Listening to conversations lends insight for content development — trending topics, influencer interests, brand perceptions.

ProfNet: That’s a great segue into my next question: How important is content creation and customization for agile engagement?

Skinner: One of the most important steps: Take what you learn from listening and create content your audience wants to read and share. Customizing your content for different audiences makes it more relevant and shareable — think pictures, video, infographics. Too often, brands are only trying to sell a product, rather than providing relevant content for their audience.

@KristofferHowes: Content generated must be relevant and remarkable if you expect your audience to comment/share with their friends/followers. And, above all, it’s about socializing, not selling.

ProfNet: Exactly. Creating content for the sake of creating content won’t cut it. It must be something your audience can use.

@Hoovers: How do you define “engagement” within the agile taxonomy/framework?

Skinner: Engagement = continuous communication with relevant and channel-specific content for your audience.

ProfNet: You also mentioned targeting. Isn’t social media viral by nature? Why is targeting necessary?

Skinner: People will only share what they are interested in, so you need to target individuals that are most likely to share your content. It is important to identify your key brand ambassadors and build a loyal relationship with them and not just sell. Don’t forget traditional media when targeting, as traditional media can extend the reach of your message.

@Hoovers: Targeted agile communications sounds likes good PR outreach, plus ongoing, real-time “tweaking.”

ProfNet: The third component is engaging. What are companies/brands doing wrong in the way they engage on social media?

Skinner: Brands need to be authentic and provide information their audience can use. The trust will eventually lead to sales.

@Hoovers: Some blunders: not listening, too much pushing (not enough pulling), failing to close the communications loop.

Skinner: I completely agree. Avoid those at all costs!

@AgilityAtWork: You must find the right blend of influencers for you. Context and relevance are more important than numbers.

ProfNet: The next cycle is distribution. What do you mean by distribution, and why is it important?

Skinner: Distribution is widely defined as reaching your audience: tweetable press-release headlines, blog posts with RSS, etc. Traditionally, distribution was one way – outbound. Now it is all part of the agile communications cycle with push/pull. The more discoverable your content is, the more likely it is to be shared, increasing the social amplification and SEO.

ProfNet: Is there a way to really measure the success of a PR campaign?

Skinner: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for this answer. It depends on the type of campaign. Make sure your team defines metrics first. Once the key metrics are agreed upon, make sure you use the insight gained from them on your next campaign. It used to be measuring the amount of likes or shares, but that typically doesn’t correlate with business success metrics.

ProfNet: Ok, last question: If a company wants to move to agile engagement, what are some of the things it needs to consider?

Skinner: First, make sure there is cross-department communication and collaboration. All members of the larger team need to be aware. They also need to be prepared to learn along the way and embrace what they learn. It is not a failure just because it doesn’t follow the plan. The different components are all interconnected — only listening will give just one piece of the puzzle. This takes time.

@Hoovers: Realign decision-making and development/execution processes to support faster, agile approach.

Skinner: Speed is more important than ever. There’s no time for several meetings for a response. Make sure team is prepared to handle it.

@Hoovers: Yes, and individual team members need to be empowered to act.

Skinner: You’re right, and sometimes that is the hardest change for an organization to make, unfortunately.

ProfNet: Wow, I can’t believe our time is up. Thank you, Ted, for an incisive and informative #ConnectChat, and thanks to everyone who joined in!

Skinner: Thanks for having me and for everyone following #ConnectChat.

ProfNet: We now return you to our regularly scheduled tweeting. #ConnectChat out.

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations for ProfNet, a service that helps connect journalists with expert sources. To read more from Maria, visit her blog on ProfNet Connect at http://www.profnetconnect.com/profnetmaria/blog/

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