Wondering Out Loud

Blogging in a regulated industry

Every time I participate in, or attend an event where social media is the topic there is always one – sometimes more – person in the audience representing a company from a highly regulated industry. Most often they are from the financial sector – banking, investments, etc. – and they all have the same question: How can we blog when everything we say needs to be run through an extensive approval process?

It’s a great question. To understand the significance of the question, one need only listen to the disclaimers at the end of any commercial inviting you to invest your money with a particular money manager: Actual results may vary, you could lose some or all of your money, and my personal favorite…you could lose more than you invested. Regardless of the industry there are ways to leverage the power of the web and here is one of my favorites.

In its simplest form there are two sides to the social media coin – join a conversation and start a conversation. For my purpose we’ll look at the second one.

There are two primary ways to start a conversation. The first is to react to an event that is happening in the industry now – President Obama’s jobs summit last week provided a golden opportunity for investment advisors to weigh in with their analysis of the event. When one works in a highly regulated industry there is a certain amount of risk that comes with reacting in real-time, but professionals in these industries can still start conversations with little or no risk to themselves or their companies by creating a calendar of conversations. All it takes is some planning and buy-in from your internal subject matter experts (SMEs).

The first step is to meet with your team and crate a list of issues that are relevant to your audience and that your SMEs can discuss credibly. The next step is to put those issues into an editorial calendar then create content to that calendar. Using this strategy for content creation gives enough time for all the appropriate parties to review and approve the content. Once approved, distribute as normal. Whether to a blog or a LinkedIn discussion page – I prefer both – you have joined the world of social media contributors and have done it with the blessing of your internal regulatory professionals. 

If you’d like to inject some digital steroids into the process take a look at the ed. cals. of the industry publications you are courting and design yours to mirror theirs –  minus a few months. If you can write credibly today about a subject one of the pubs will be covering a few months down the road, you can begin building a case for why your SMEs should be tapped for interviews when the article is being written. It’s a great way to build media relations and, if your offer of supplying expert analysis is rejected, you still have your own content to point your audience to.

I’ll tackle other issue in a later post – reacting as events happen. It can be problematic for any organization, but it can also be done by any.

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Social media: The great mixing pot

Social media is obviously a melting pot, but I’ve been thinking more about how it’s a mixing pot. Social Media, if what I see on Twitter is any indication, has become the place where people are comfortable mixing their personal and professionals lives. But many don’t stop there. More frequently I am finding messages through Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn that openly stake out strong and passionate positions on any number of issues. And I, for one, am surprised that people would take the risk of turning away people they hardly know for the sake of expressing an opinion.

We all have opinions, but is the Internet the right place for your to express them?

On Friday of this week I have the pleasure of recording a podcast with Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners and The Marketing Edge Podcast ,and a Senior Fellow with the Society for New Communications Research. Together we’ll explore how people are mixing their personal and professional lives in ways we could not have imagined just a few years ago. We’ll talk about the right and wrong ways to go about it and the inherent risks of doing it at all.

If there are any questions you would like me to ask Albert about the mixing pot throw them in the comments section of this post and I’ll be sure to cover it with him.

The recording will find it’s way here sometime next week.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wall Street Journal and LinkedIn should be friends

TechCrunch has reported that the Wall Street Journal has LinkedIn in their cross-hairs – or do they – with a something called WSJ Connect. For those keeping score the article points out that this is WSJ’s second attempt at building a social/professional networking site. And the first went so well they decided it was worth another try.

As a supporter of a free market, I welcome competition and am overjoyed when someone invents a better mousetrap, but there are times when I scratch my head. I’m scratching today because I’m trying to imagine what it will take for me to rebuild what I have at LinkedIn within WSJ Connect. By the time it becomes live, and it is still in the concept stage according to TechCrunch, I will be so locked in to LinkedIn it will take something just short of an act of God or government directive to make me start over.

Unless they provide path for data migration, I’m more than happy to stay right where I am. There may be another way to entice me to consider a new beginning – and without data migration that’s exactly what it will be – and that is to include killer functionality that I simply cannot live without. I don’t know what that looks like, but will know it when I see it. 

What I do know is I don’t what the WSJ getting involved in the networking game, at least not as the lead.  I would rather see them stick to their core competency and approach LinkedIn as a partner (or buyer), not a competitor. The sum of the two parts would make a formidable force in the business world and create an unrivaled environment for innovation. How many of you would like to see the latest WJS headlines on your LinkedIn home page?

I’m not a genius, but I do believe I’m on to something here.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , | 1 Comment

Brian Carroll strikes again

Brian Carroll of intouch has given us 6 lessons he’s learned about using LinkedIn for generating leads and I’d like to add one that, while implied in his 6, cannot be reiterated enough:

1. Tread very, very carefully

Above all, LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals. Most use it to find others who inhabit the same industry or professional role as they and are taken aback when they find someone who appears to be there to sell, sell, sell.

Remember that social networking is just that: social. We don’t call it business networking or lead generation networking for a reason. Get to know the folks you’re communicating with before you shove a piece of collateral under their nose. If you shoot first and ask questions later you’ll screw up any chance you have of developing a relationship – personal or professional.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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