Last night I attended an intriguing event sponsored by Social Media Club Boston, called "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Experiential Marketing" at the Microsoft NERD Center in Kendall Square. Featured speakers Geoff Livingston (blogger, consultant and co-author with Gini Dietrich of Marketing in the Round) and Terry Lozoff, CEO of Antler, an interactive and social marketing agency, engaged in a wide-ranging discussion and Q/A that was essentially a call to action for marketing pros to de-silo the various elements of on- and off-line marketing and brand engagement. Fundamentally, by melting the walls between various marketing and communications activities, an organization can leverage and amplify its message to prospects, customers and influencers.  Cheap and easy-to-use social and mobile technologies are the latest catalysts that lower the barrier to creating a complete "in-the-round" engagement experience -- to borrow Geoff and Gini's title. One of my key take-aways may be largely semantic but, in a world were customers and prospects have so many opportunities to interact directly and indirectly with an organization, every type of marketing is experiential..or can be experiential.  The point remains -- as Terry and Geoff sharply pointed out -- that not enough organizations are cognizant of this fact.  Too many still operate with a fiefdom mentality and possess only a limited ability to think in a 360-degree manner, let alone act in that fashion. My personal add here, as I tossed out last night, was that there are still too many corporate decision-makers who have a limited sense of what "brand" is, or what a brand can be beyond logo, tagline and "brand attributes" that are shoved down consumers' throats. The rapidly diminishing barriers to total customer contact have made it such that everything from customer service to investor relations to corporate social responsibility (PLUS all the usual marketing suspects) are elements that must be considered as part of the brand engagement experience.

That said, I don't believe any company entirely owns its brand any more than we entirely own our personalities as individuals. Brand is the result of the emotional engagement and response between a customer or prospect and a company.  A brand is born and evolves via these myriad interactions.  Companies can go a long way to fostering the conditions -- to building a genuine experience -- that result in a positive and particular brand image.  However, organizations can only do this effectively if they truly understand and account for the ever-growing number of opportunities for communication, conversation and influence that consumers can use to help produce that image. They must then work to cultivate and leverage an interactive exchange between those elements.

Mobile marketing for earned and owned communications is something I am working hard to get my brain around. I envision lots of ideas but not many of a practical nature.  This week's "Friday Five" from PRSA is dedicated to current happenings in mobile marketing. It offers a nice instant survey of current events (successes and works-in-progress) and gave me . I'm only beginning my thinking here but it seems to me that, done well, mobile could be a rich engagement medium...or it could be an utter nuisance. Who are the mobile marketing gurus -- the industry leaders with serious credibility?  Have any individuals or organizations emerged with credible strategic advice and best-practices?  Are there any compelling case histories that show how mobile can be effectively integrated into marketing?  Where's the best data? Who do you trust?  I'd welcome all your suggestions on the topic.

Today's NYT "Bits" column has a brief blurb on WalMart's use of social media as an efficient market research tool, essentially taking to heart one of the main ideas from the  Eloqua's CM Grande Guide that I wrote about yesterday. So, the "Son's of Sam Walton" get it, at least.

One of my favorite blogs on marketing and communications is Eloqua's engaging, informative and well-written offering called "It's All About Revenue." Today, I was especially struck by Jesse Noyes' take in a post called "What You Must Know About Community Management."  The post is a distillation of info and tips from Eloqua's "Grande Guide to Community Management" and highlights a variety of must-haves from those pros who sport "Community Manager" as all or part of their job title. What I like about the take here is the wide-bore point of view that pulls community managers out of the shadows of niche practice and envisions a wider internal communications catalyst role in many organizations.  As I also feel about PR done properly, Eloqua believes that a community manager's brief should be to serve as a two-way conduit for information and insight between a company and its influencers, prospects and customers. I know a few current and former Community Managers who likely agree with this perspective.  I'd be interested in hearing from them, however, just how widely accepted by company leadership this enhanced CM role is today, as social media becomes further ingrained in the communications blood flow of an organization.

Check out the post and let me know what yo think about the evolution of the Community Manager.  By the way, I have zero connection with Eloqua...just a fan of the blog.

Friday is a great time for "Top 10/20/25 List" posts.  So, here's an excellent and thought-provoking item from Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat.  There are a few titles and authors on here that I'd forgotten over the years (Cringley!) and I love Takahashi's "curve ball" with the final two listings from an aesthetic and literary standpoint.  I've read a few of these in the past but will be putting several more on my ever-growing "To Read" list. What do you think?  Any great tech-oriented books you'd definitely add to the list?  Any of these you'd kick off?

AuthorJen Simonson

I was privileged to get to know a few companies that participated in the 2011 Mass Challenge.  I had a variety of conversations with them over the spring and summer of that year about the unique challenges of micro-to-zero budget start-up marketing. I offered my advice and watched them closely as they swept through the Mass Challenge process. Despite knowing the long odds to success for these start ups, I found every one of these interactions inspiring as hell. I was reminded of the very same feeling I got when I first met @markschmulen and @davidlyman, and the rest of the NutShell mail team, in Silicon Valley as I was working (quietly) to prepare to announce Constant Contact's acquisition of their company. I watched the 2012 Mass Challenge launch online this afternoon and I have to say that -- despite the NYC-esque skyline in one video and cringing as Diane Hesson made fun of Mayor Menino's accent -- the event seems to be moving from strength to strength.  I'm having talks with possible participants again this year and, with luck, I'll be able to offer my advice, if not participate fully myself as part of a team.  Again, I think back to wandering around Palo Alto with the Nutshell guys during my fairly brief visit in 2010 and thinking I could feel the start-up vibe in the air. I'd love for that atmosphere to take full root here in Boston and, I think, with organizations like Mass Challenge, TechStars, DogPatch Labs and others we are more than on our way. I'm telling you, that start-up bug is hard to shake once it settles on you, but at least we have a great and growing community in Boston that can help any entrepreneur work out his or her dream.

As I look for ways to put my current experience at Dorchester Academy together with my decades worth of public relations work, I tend to slide back and forth between the academic and business worlds.  I was recently made aware - via the blog of my former colleague Paul Roberts - of an effort by the PRSA to create "a modern definition of PR." Paul's blog, in turn, led me to the blog of veteran (in all senses of the word) PR man Frank Storm, who does an excellent job of dissecting the problems involved in such an effort. I dropped a comment onto Frank's post and he replied with more cogent thoughts on the need to craft a clear definition of public relations as it looks today.  Originally, I'd thought that since -- in my experience -- hardly anyone could define PR, why bother with the histrionics now just because social media has, oh, fundamentally changed the communications landscape.  Easy for me to say, as I pursue my teaching jones in a technologically barren high school in Boston, but I really can't toss 25 years in the high tech public relations world aside so casually. My father is a public relations pro, too, and has a track record in our industry that truly puts him in the "high tech PR pioneer" category.  My Dad and I ran Nahil Communications Group together for many years...and, still, my mother wold have a hard time telling you what either of us really did for a living.

In that regard, my Mom shared much with the legion of CEOs, CMOs and other corporate types who have hired public relations agencies, built internal PR teams and spent millions on the public relations function without much of a clue as to why, and often with skewed perceptions of what great PR could do for their organizations.

So, as I relax a little here during February school vacation, I'm going to assume the burden of responsibility for the entire public relations industry (you're welcome) and try a few iterative definitions of public relations as I know it.  Feel free to pass this post around, to comment with your own take, and to tell me I'm as full of BS as the people who wrote the three "choices" that PRSA has on offer.  Good public relations people create clear and compelling messages all the's the corner stone of what we do, first and foremost. So, let's see what we can come up with.  Maybe it will be the mission statement of Paul Roberts' effort to create the Public Relations Alternative Society.

So, here's Nahil's first take on public relations defined:

Public relations is the function within any organization that drives the creation and execution of communications programs that project the organization's key messaging and positioning to specific audiences. These programs are most often delivered through earned media or owned media channels and, when taken together, serve to build a credible and compelling public image for the organization.

And your thoughts?

An op-ed piece from a fellow Rochester alum, Joseph Ganem who is a physics professor at Loyola University in Baltimore.  Interesting take, given the swirling interest in using student test scores as teacher measurement tools, as well as the burning mania for analytics in all aspects of business.  As a word guy, I've always been more interested in the story behind the numbers but, like anything, appropriately applied and totally understood, numerics can deliver relevant data to qualitative issues. Test scores vs. accountability.

AuthorChris Nahil
2 CommentsPost a comment

The use of social media in the classroom -- especially in a "live" setting, as below -- is something I've been noodlling for awhile now. I've had a number of discussion on this with various people (adults and students), and the responses have been varied. I think there is are ways to use this technology creatively but thoughtfully. I've also heard specific responses to this article that basically view these tools as a crutch and a way for a teacher to abdicate his reponsibility to spark and nurture verbal class participation by all.� Your thoughts?

Students Speak Up in Class, Silently, via Social Media -

via Students Speak Up in Class, Silently, via Social Media -