Inside This Issue:
Social Media burst on the scene several years ago and is still shaking up how we communicate. As it evolves, social media has remained an important item in the cable communicator’s toolbox.
“Over the last five years, I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution from online message boards to blogging to tweeting/FB,” said Howard Mortman, communications director, C-SPAN Networks, during ACC’s November 8 Online Chat: How Cable Communicators Are Using Social Media Today. “It seems like every new platform gets easier to use, better suited for engagement and connection to our audience.”
Social Media clearly offers communicators many opportunities to tell cable’s story and achieve business and communications goals. Some of the ways it can be used are to promote programming or events, to interact with and engage your customers, and to provide content. At the same time, the speed of growth on the major platforms, changes in what platforms are most important, and the sheer number of platforms can be challenging to manage. Earlier this week, several cable communicators participated in ACC’s latest online chat and discussed how social media is a part of most if not all of their communications campaigns.
“We integrate social media into most of our P.R. plans now,” said Melissa Sorola, communications director, Time Warner Cable Texas Region. “We have it right in there with the strategy part of our plan. When we’re really, really good, we even have pre posts written out for Twitter, Facebook. Part of the planning for social media also involves doing some research as to who we target and we spend some time researching Twitter handles of media, bloggers.”
Several cable communicators no longer ask whether to use social media or traditional media but rather how best to use both. “For us, it’s not really one or the other,” said ACC board member David Blumenthal, senior director, corporate communications, The Weather Channel. “We will use both for a show or product launch.”
“All of our media and marketing campaigns use both, complementary,” added Mortman. “I can’t think of any 'PR push' we’ve done that hasn’t combined both elements. Both sides bring value in their own ways, and good PR efforts will combine strategies for both.”
Another way social media has affected communications planning is that it has changed how cable communicators can research and develop relationships with reporters. “I think social provides a great window into what reporters care about,” said Blumenthal.
“It’s good to find out what the reporter is following and also writing about to see if you can approach them to become part of a story they’re working on,” said Sorola.
In addition to offering research opportunities, social media can offer more opportunities to communicate with reporters or bloggers. “I’ve developed most of my outdoor blogger relationships because of Twitter,” said Michelle Scheuermann, director of communications, The Sportsman Channel. “I just comment on their tweets, or RT a few times and then suddenly, you have an ongoing relationship. Of course, it helps that we can talk about something in common – like hunting or fishing!”
Some reporters prefer to be contacted via social media platforms. “We have a more constant conversation with reporters via twitter, regular interaction with many reporters,” said Mortman. “That sets up nicely for pitching them offline, and some reporters prefer to be pitched via twitter direct message.”
Social media also offers cable communicators ways to communicate directly to their audience and skip over reporters or other middlemen. “Social media does let you have fun and interact with your audiences,” said Sorola. “I know I have to remember that too. It’s about conversations.”
It’s best to go to where your customers are, and this can help cable communicators decide which platform to use. Where is your audience? A lot of the time they are at Twitter or Facebook, and they are still the two most dominant social media platforms.
Cable communicators see Twitter and Facebook as very distinct entities with different uses. “Neither is more important, in my opinion. Their uses are distinct though,” said Mortman. “We use both, in slightly different ways. Facebook is better for getting comments on issues we’re covering on our networks. Twitter is a better way to quickly get out information about our news-driven programming schedule.”
The parameters of the social media platforms dictate how you can use them. The 140-character limit of Twitter prevents much depth or length, so long posts are much better suited for Facebook or other platforms. “We use Twitter more informally, like giving shout outs to people, or asking off the wall q’s,” said Scheuermann. “I’ll post stories not only from our industry, but also business related stories that get RT’d quite a bit. We don’t post anything other than Sportsman-centric articles on FB.”
Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms can increase engagement with your audience. C-SPAN runs trivia contests on its Twitter account. The Sportsman Channel holds giveaways on Facebook and successful Facebook chats with their programming hosts while Weather Channel uses Storify, a live chat tool that is a content module on Weather.com, to allow their meteorologists to post updates and answer questions during big events.
Recently, Time Warner Cable Texas made some changes to their Twitter efforts to increase engagement and maximize resources. “We used to have three handles in Texas for our North Texas, Central Texas and South Texas areas,” said Sorola. “Earlier this year we consolidated our Twitter efforts and launched a handle for Texas @TWCable_TX.” This increased their reach, helped them gain additional followers and made them more consistent in their messages and customer interaction. “My coworkers G’Nai and Ryan and I manage the handle. When we’re really busy and have events going on throughout the state, which happens often, I like how it shows the scope of our involvement in Texas.”
As anyone who has paid attention to social media knows, new platforms are introduced regularly and your audience may move from one platform to another. Cable communicators with social media responsibilities work to stay ahead of it all.
“We’re in the early stage of Google plus adoption,” said Mortman. “Always curious what the new tools are, looking down the road.” The other experts are exploring this new platform as well. “I’m using Google + right now to get to learn it more and how we can use it,” said Sorola. “I do like the ability to target 'circles' with specific messaging.”
A new platform that was even more popular than Google + with the cable communicators who participated in Tuesday’s chat was Get Glue, which Scheuermann defined as, “Foursquare for TV shows,” and helps to promote programming. She added, “I just read somewhere that Get Glue is THE social media tool for 2012.”
Before Get Glue, there was Foursquare. C-SPAN has had success with Foursquare “because many of the events we cover have distinct locations that we can tie to our foursquare efforts,” said Mortman. “We even have a C-SPAN Badge!” Sorola added, “My coworker G’Nai used Foursquare recently for an onsite event at the State Fair of Texas. People checked in and they won prizes. It was nice goodwill.”
Some of the older social media platforms are still very helpful. C-SPAN will use YouTube, “when we think something might go viral, to use a 2007 term, and for when we want to use a platform that everyone in the world knows,” said Mortman. “Otherwise, video can be shared from our Video Library online archives and from our Web site.”
Are blogs still important? Many social media experts believe blogs might have started it all, and cable communicators find them helpful. “We have our corporate blog Untangled that Jeff Simmermon does a great job of running that for us,” said Sorola. “It allows us to tell stories differently as opposed to a traditional press release. Also lets us showcase some of our employee viewpoints on new products, services, programs, etc.”
The social media platforms that the chat participants mentioned Tuesday included Foursquare, Get Glue, Blogs, Storify, Pitch Engine, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, and Yammer, and there are many more that were not mentioned. How do you stay on top of them all? Where do you start?
Several people mentioned the advice that social media journalist and content specialist Jeff Cutler gave at FORUM 2011 to approach it in blocks of 10 minutes. “You really have to pick and choose what’s important to you at that time,” said Scheuermann. “It can get overwhelming, but you need to break it up into smaller segments.”
Finally, if you are new to using social media in your cable communications efforts, Twitter is the best place to start. “I wouldn’t say Twitter is the most important, but it’s the easiest to set up and get yourself involved in social media,” said Scheuermann. “And it doesn’t have the rules that FB does.” You also should consider trying out the platforms first in a personal basis before you use them professionally, but do remember that whatever you say on your personal accounts will stay on the internet and may be held against your company.
Integrating social media into your cable communications efforts and managing it all were just some of the topics explored during the November 8 ACC Online Chat: How Cable Communicators Are Using Social Media Today. To learn more about the other topics covered, please review the chat transcript posted online in the members-only area of the ACC Web site. To log in, remember that typically your username is your work email and the password is your last name all in lowercase letters. Please contact ACC at 202-222-2370 or email email@example.com if you need log-in assistance.
Did you miss one of the FORUM 2011 sessions and wonder what was said? Would you like to hear NCTA CEO Michael Powell’s take on how to tell cable’s story or social media journalist and content specialist Jeff Cutler’s advice on how to manage your social media communications efforts? Podcasts from all of the sessions during FORUM 2011: Communicating Cable’s Future are now available in the ACC online education portal while short videos from two general sessions are posted online in the FORUM section of the ACC Web site.
These podcasts are exclusive to ACC members and free of charge as a benefit of membership. You may access them via the association’s online education portal in the members-only section of the ACC Web site by clicking on the link to FORUM Sessions.
You must be logged into the members-only area to access this portal, and you can log in through the member log in box in the left-hand corner of any page of the ACC Web site. Typically, your username is your work email address, and the password is your last name all in lowercase letters. Please contact ACC at 202-222-2370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need log-in assistance.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Wednesday that a coalition of cable Internet Service Providers, equipment manufacturers and nonprofit groups will support the Connect-to-Compete (C2C) initiative to address major barriers to broadband adoption, digital literacy and the employment skills gap by providing discounted broadband Internet service and access to low-cost computer equipment to eligible, low-income households.
Increasing broadband adoption is a key priority of the FCC. Studies have identified the reasons why a third of America has not yet adopted broadband at home. The barriers to broadband adoption are a mix of issues with digital literacy, perceived relevance of online content and access to low-cost computers and internet access.
At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, C2C partners will offer nationwide $9.95 per month high-speed cable Internet service, a free rental or low cost purchase of a cable modem and an option to purchase a $150 refurbished computer to households with at least one child receiving a free lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NLSP). To date, the cable broadband providers that have committed to C2C or similar broadband adoption efforts are: BendBroadband, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast (via its Internet Essentials program), Cox, Eagle Communications, GCI, Insight, Mediacom, Midcontinent, Sjoberg’s Cable, Suddenlink and Time Warner Cable. C2C may give millions more students the tools to do homework at home and to develop the skills they will need to find a job in the 21st Century economy.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) estimates that there are more than 10 million NSLP free-lunch students in approximately 5.5 million homes that currently do not subscribe to broadband. One Economy is forming a new nonprofit C2C organization to collaborate with other nonprofits and private sector partners to publicize this offer and to work to maximize the adoption by eligible households. The cable industry will work with partners to publicize C2C by airing local public service announcements (PSAs), community outreach and direct mailings.
Discovery Communications recently announced the expansion of its Discover Your Skills public affairs job skills program with new resources and programs to support veterans in locating and accessing the training and resources to translate their military skills and experience into civilian job opportunities. The veterans-focused initiative includes new training and resource information specifically for veterans on www.DiscoverYourSkills.com, as well as on-air public service announcements (PSAs) on Military Channel, featuring Lou Diamond Phillips of Military Channel's Officer and a Movie, to direct viewers to the new resources.
Additionally, as part of the effort, Discovery is expanding its previously announced partnership with Montgomery College to launch career development programs for veterans. The programs, launching in spring 2012, will include workshops on resume writing and interview techniques, group and one-on-one mentorships with Discovery professionals, and internship opportunities at the company.
The Discovery and Montgomery College partnership to support veterans is being developed and carried out as part of Montgomery College's Combat2College program, which provides academic and social opportunities and support services for veterans and active/reserve service members. It also includes support and participation from the Discovery Veterans Group, an employee resource group composed of Discovery employees who served in the military.
The new PSA will air on Military Channel and can be viewed online at www.DiscoverYourSkills.com beginning on Veterans Day. It is part of Discovery's Discover Your Skills initiative, a multimedia public affairs campaign designed to provide unemployed and underemployed Americans with access to critical resources for obtaining marketable job skills and expertise, and to raise awareness of career opportunities in industries such as aviation, manufacturing, health care, energy, technology and construction, among others.
The initiative includes www.DiscoverYourSkills.com, an online resource providing links and information to help educate, prepare and advance entry to the workforce. Beginning today, DiscoverYourSkills.com has added resources and links specifically focused on assisting veterans in identifying career opportunities that match up well with their military experience and locating employers looking to hire veterans. The resources incorporate links to information on salaries, apprenticeships, and other related education and training programs.
Additionally, as part of Discover Your Skills, Discovery Education will introduce a community college service for the 2012-2013 academic year designed to provide curriculum-based content to support post-secondary institutions and prepare students with the skills necessary to compete in today's job market. Discover Your Skills is part of Discovery's Impact programs, which leverage the power of Discovery's brands, businesses and employees to give back and make a direct impact on the communities in which we live and work.
Now is the best time to encourage your peers to join ACC. The association has a “test drive” trial membership initiative that allows prospective members to participate in the association’s various programs and professional development activities on a trial basis for six months free and without further obligation.
ESPN is honoring veterans and troops across on its US media platforms via the initiative, America’s Heroes: A Salute to Our Veterans, culminating with the first-ever men's college basketball game to be played on the deck of an American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. President Obama is expected to attend the game that matches Michigan State University (MSU) against the University of North Carolina (UNC) Friday evening, November 11.
The network has scheduled interstitials that connect sports with military service and pay tribute to current and past veterans. Additionally, during the week, ESPN has carried messaging to drive donations to the USO to support active duties service members, their families, families of the fallen and wounded warriors.
During the week, vignettes have included Tom Brady (New England Patriots), LeBron James (Miami Heat), and Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), sending their best wishes to current and retired troops, and MSU and UNC coaches and players talking about various aspects of the Carrier Classic. For additional information contact Dan Quinn via email at Dan.Quinn@espn.com.
ESPN is also collaborating with The Walt Disney Company’s military and veteran’s initiatives, including support of the White House’s Joining Forces project, a national initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to give service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Joining Forces PSAs are being carried on ESPN media. For more information, go to www.joiningforces.gov.
Oceanic Time Warner Cable sponsored Military Appreciation Night at the University of Hawaii football game last Saturday, November 5 at Aloha Stadium. Bob Barlow, the president of Oceanic Time Warner Cable, joined with local dignitaries to honor eight spouses from the Outstanding Military Spouse Awards Program and nine, representative Wounded Warriors, armed force members who have been wounded in combat. Other dignitaries who participated in the award ceremony included Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, Major General Darryll Wong, Brigadier General Kevin O’Connell, Navy League President Melvin Ing, UH Athletic Director Jim Donavan and State Representative K. Mark Takai.
Congratulation to Melissa Sorola, communications director, Time Warner Cable Texas Region! She is the winner of an Amazon.com $100 gift card for completing the FORUM 2011 post conference survey. Sorola’s email was randomly drawn earlier today by NCTA’s Vice President of Research Greg Klein. Enjoy shopping, Melissa, and thank you to every ACC member who completed the survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and extremely useful as the planning for FORUM 2012 begins early next year.
Due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the next CPR Facts will be published on Friday, December 2. Happy Thanksgiving!
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