Valerie Chernek PR & Social Media –

val and bon

Dedicated to Bonnie Raindrop for her tenacity and incredible knowledge. The earth is a much better place because of you.

Sometimes you need more than 140 characters to get your message across, but often times short bursts of targeted messages to the right people at the right time can champion a cause or product launch into a raging Twitter storm.

This powerhouse social media channel demands focus, brevity, succinctness and pursuit of your ideal community.

Like any marketing campaign, Twitter storms do not happen overnight. Relationships require leadership, coordination, alignment with PR, social outreach, crazy good graphics (don’t forget to brand them), consistent, relevant hashtags and acute timing. Hire a social community manager to coordinate your Twitter strategy, even before an active campaign begins. It takes a while to identify and tap into energetic people and followers who later become your rainmakers.

#BeeSafe Twitter Storm Campaign

Recently, I took part in a statewide campaign to pass the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act. This grassroots initiative was aimed at important environmental legislation to ensure that non-essential bee-killing pesticides are taken off home and garden store shelves. One of the campaign leaders was my colleague Bonnie Raindrop, courageous beekeepers, activists, and 70 organizations known as the Smart on Pesticides Coalition. They fought monumental odds against big pesticide companies who had lots of bucks and brawn, yet, their strategy worked brilliantly.

bee protest

#BeeSafe messages held layers of passion, statistics and pleas to compel legislators to pass the bill. One message said, “Don’t make your garden a killing field for pollinators.” Another states, “Sharp increase in hive collapses. Maryland lost 61% in 2015, and 50% in 2014. Numbers leapt from 20% hive loss in 2013.”

The Twitter community wrote to state legislators and Maryland’s Governor. They signed petitions. They talked to press. They stood in protest and united with persistence. They worked tireless hours, weeks, and months to educate citizens and businesses about toxic neonicotinoid chemicals.

I am a concerned citizen and an avid gardener, yet I was ignorant to these horrible chemicals that contaminate our vegetables and flowers and kill critical pollinators that sustain our food supply and plant world.

How to Orchestrate a Great Twitter Campaign

Twitter storms happen when a community cares deeply about a cause or issue. Commercial entities can be quite successful too, with authentic strategies that carefully discuss real benefits of products and services that solve problems.

  • First, make sure that your social media manager is busy identifying specific target audiences by name.
  • Build a profile and a special list of those who share common interests.
  • Identify a compelling story and unfold it across the Internet.
  • Involve your company employees.
  • bee protection

    #BeeSafe Twitter Campaign Image

    Use compelling graphics for your calls to action. These will be your drivers to landing pages and websites. We all want more visuals and less text.

  • Pay attention to your followers and their followers’ followers. Know your heroes!
  • Use Twitter’s direct message function to communicate.

The Beauty of a Twitter Storm

Maryland’s #BeeSafe campaign was a potent Twitter storm example. It shows how caring citizens can win using social media, even against billion dollar corporate interests. When organizers posted that the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act bill had passed the Maryland General Assembly, the message had reached over 750,000. In one quarter, more than 2,877 tweets were online by 1,228 contributors.

bee chlidren

#BeeSafe for Children Tweet Image

Now, it is up to Maryland’s Governor to take the final step to allow the public’s and the Maryland General Assembly’s will for the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act to become law. One that would ensure that these tiny creatures (bees and butterflies) will be protected and that the health of our food chain, citizens, and most importantly children will be preserved for centuries to come.

P.S. Bonnie Raindrop and the #BeeSafe community are some of Earth’s all-time heroes.


hand_bizInspiring brand trust is an ongoing challenge for smart content marketers. Why? Because we do business with people we like. We rely on real experiences before we buy. We listen closely when we hear a good story. We like reality TV! And, we like different social media channels. Circulating customer stories is a marketing best-practice. Where do you begin to build credibility and brand trust? Here are thoughts, please add yours!

Website: Invite a relationship. Define your customer for your customer.

Case Studies – Press releases: When I hear someone say, “We don’t have any news to write a press release, I wonder if their company or product is dead. If you don’t have customer successes, what have you got?

Social Media: Invite your rainmakers to join the conversation. (Crowdsource)

Sales: Give them customer stories to be excellent at what they do for you.

Newsletters: Get to the point. One theme. Let testimonials make a case for you.

Announcements: Think of gimmicks, fun images, quotes, occasion-based events, creative mash-ups that will surprise prospects using a customer success.

Blogs: Be authentic. Carve out a theme. (Anticipation)

Webinars: Draw participants in with customer stories they can relate to. Confirm why they signed up. We are only half-listening at this point. (Guilty!)

Events: Invite customers to speak on your behalf. (Reality Sells)

Voice Mail – Hold Messages: Record customers telling their story. (Awesome!)

Annual Reports – Industry awards: Show real people behind the numbers.

Employee orientation: Employees deserve to hear about customer successes.

Smart content marketing practices revolve around customer stories. Yes? What do you do to build credibility?

It’s Not About You!


Smart Content Marketing is Not Always About You!

Smart content marketing isn’t about you so much as it is about your customer.  Today’s savvy customers want you to:

  • Speak to them as people instead of prospects.
  • Romance, educate, and empower them.
  • Fully understand their pain point or goal.
  • Take time to develop a relationship.
  • Make it easy to try out your product or service.
  • Train and support them for the long haul.
  • Hang out with them on social channels they frequent.
  • Produce brand advocates to validate you and your product.

If your marketing doesn’t do a good job of the points above, use the questions below to turn traditional marketing assumptions on their head and improve your competitive advantage.

  1. What Does Your Sales Cycle Look Like to Your Best Customers?
  • Can everyone in your company name characteristics of your ideal customer?
  • Can your sales team tell a good story about your top 5 customer successes?
  • How long does it take from a prospect’s first inquiry with you to a sale?  Is there a pattern?  Can you document and discuss this with all employees?  Can you make the steps more user friendly? Can you shorten the lead time?
  • What are the top publications, blogs, list-serves, Linked-In groups, google hangouts, etc. that your customers frequent? Are you maximizing your reach into these touch points?
  • Do you have brand advocates or rainmakers?
  1. Does Your Website and Social Channels Make the Grade?
  • Use this Hub Spot Marketing Grader to see how you stack up.
  • Get critical feedback about your site from someone not familiar with it.
  • Do the images on your site tell a good story or are they too randomly placed?
  • Do you use infographs?
  • Is it easy for visitors to request a demo or materials? Or do you have a LONG FORM that strangles visitor’s precious time?
  • Can customers easily write a review of your company or product?
  • Are you maximizing stories and testimonials with your customers in the spotlight?  Create a simple process to capture stories by giving employees incentives. Add this responsibility directly into an employee’s job description.
  1. Is Public Relations a Key Strategy?

The act of writing a press release can be an excellent process to orchestrate messaging and earn media coverage if you can tell a good story, plus it’s much less expensive than paid advertising.

  • Do you leverage your online news room? Read the research that documents 90% of reporters use an organization’s main or corporate website as their top source.
  • Do you have a list of keywords that define your customer, product or service? Keywords with consistent messaging improve SEO and drive prospects to your base.
  • Reporters love evergreen stories!
  1. Do you Streamline Social Media Tasks?

We work so hard to socialize, yet our precious tweets and posts get churned up in a sea of communication noise.

  • Team up to maximize your efforts! I’m surprised how often the job of social media falls into the hands of inexperienced staff. An experienced marketer should give direction.
  • Use a scheduler like Hoot Suite to save time and plan a clear and consistent strategy.
  1. Do you Give Employees an Easy Way to Participate in Content Marketing?

It’s disappointing to work with companies whose employees don’t know the big picture or the value of a great customer story. Too often, sales teams don’t know what marketing is doing.  Customer service teams aren’t given the opportunity to give input into corporate messaging and no simple process for any employee to identify or uncover customer content.  Urgh! This task is easy to do.

  • Use an online editorial calendar, like Google docs, to provide employees with a living marketing plan.
  • Enable everyone to view it and invite input. Ask for content that you need.
  • List important activities, events, trainings, conferences, launches, and goals.

The days of shotgun approaches and “it’s all about you” marketing are gone! Planning long steady strides of multichannel marketing with smart content will land you more loyal and repeat buyers and give you the best return on your investment.  Take that to the bank! you_rock


Here’s an excerpt of a 2014 Business Wire Media Survey that will help you to better understand how journalists cover your organization in today’s digital and social world.

With knowledge of these results, professional communicators, like me, can identify the latest preferred content sources and online newsroom needs, and then act to produce and provide content that will enhance your media relations programs.

The survey shows that journalists have specific content needs and turn to trusted sources for corporate news.  They use metrics to evaluate their stories, providing PR pros with a road map to more effectively develop, distribute and share content.  More than 50% of journalists said the number of page views was a chief metric for their stories, along with 42% saying social media activity and 24% the comments they get.

Demonstrating the enduring value of press releases, 89% of journalists surveyed used a press release within the last week. Nearly 75% preferred graphics or infographs in the release and 70% wanted photographs.

Reporters also turn to newswires regularly, with 70% identifying Business Wire and 66% identifying PR Newswire. Conversely, reporters overwhelmingly don’t want to be pitched on social media, with negative responses to pitches hitting 90% for Facebook, 88% for Google+, 83% for Twitter and 75% for LinkedIn.

Online Newsrooms

According to the survey, more than 90% of reporters use an organization’s main or corporate website as a top source, with nearly 80% using your online newsroom ahead of social media networks, blogs, trade publications and other sources.

2014 graphic by Business News Wire depicting the percentages of places journalists go to find your company news.

2014 graphic by Business News Wire depicting the percentages of places journalists go to find your company news.

While press releases are the preferred content type by nearly 90% of reporters surveyed, fewer than one in 10 want press releases to appear in only PDF format, with more than half preferring HTML/text format.

Reporters also want access to archival content and the ability to search one to five years of historical news. More than 60% are also receptive to brand-published content.

Survey: 2014 Business Wire Full Media Report –

For more smart content marketing articles, visit Scoop-It.

Whether you write content fImage of an ocean and a big waveor a local boutique, a non-profit or a national brand, choosing the right social mix can be a million dollar strategy. Riding the wave of social media, however, takes time and a mindful approach.

Too often, I see marketers hammered by the real-time demands of social media. Its staggering to watch a busy in-house marketing team try to keep up with the buzz and then fall flat by letting complaints go unnoticed, missing rainmakers, or not cashing in on customer testimonials and product feedback. Feedback that would give their company high-exposure (free PR) or ideas that could help to uncover the next big product development feature.

In this ValTalkBlog, I’m outlining some key considerations to spark your process. These are points that I wrestle with in my sleep and certainly in the shower, as I’m pondering my client’s best options.

First, know the basic human needs of the big social media channels 

Twitter – I am important. I have opinions and want recognition.

Linked-In – I have skills. I can do the job.

Facebook – I’m showing you ‘‘who’ I really am.

YouTube – I want to learn or teach. (Note: captions, image descriptions and accessibility for persons with disabilities)

Blogging – I have stories that you will relate to.

Pinterest – I am creative. I want to inspire you.

As the world gets more digital, your customers’ individual preferences shine through social media, like never before—that’s valuable real-time intel that doesn’t cost a focus group.  So, your online company persona speaks volumes about “who you are” as a company.

Yes, we humans like to hide behind our computers and smartphones, but make no mistake: We’re alive and want action. We want to belong and to be known and we’re checking you out on social media.

Carve time out to talk with your marketing team about these 5 questions:

#1. Should we do a blog instead of, or in addition to, expanding the website? (consider breadth, depth, time, impact, good writers)

#2. Is our company persona or “voice” fun, professional, technical, trendy, quirky, or something else? Define it.

#3. List the common characteristics of your best customers.  Read know your best customers before embarking on a social media strategy.  Where do your best customers hang out in social media today? Do the research.

#4. What content do you have now to leverage in social media? Who will be the content sources in your company? (value, inform, resolve, provoke, inspire)

#5. Who, on your team, is the best person to convey your company persona? Do they have the time, flexibility and skills to do it consistently on every channel? Or just one or two channels that your customers use most frequently?

Once you launch into the surf of riding social media waves, get ready for ebbs and tides. Social media has transformed consumer behavior, but one point remains pivotal in smart content marketing, your customers want to be heard and responded to. They want to feel as though they are partnering with your company and that they know “who” you really are – your persona.

Lastly, have a back-up team member because real-life happens to all of us and time marches really fast in social media. This knowledge will help you build a vibrant online presence across the vast oceans of online communities. With the right strategy, you’ll be targeting the right people in your best company voice and you’ll be keeping those traditional lead generation programs and sales efforts humming in the background.

Wise Virginia Woolf said, “If you don’t tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about others.”

comic of the big bad wolf looking in the a mirror.Admittedly, my blog speaks to something I truly believe.  As a social media gal who hangs out online observing others’ activities and talking their talk – days, nights and weekends, I can confidently say that consistent and honest engagement via social media is a valid marketing strategy.  Why? Because savvy customers and prospects want real conversation and the VIP treatment, whether they purchase a car, a subscription to your online learning tool or a designer suit.

Social media enables you to connect with your customers in “niche ways.” It gives them a glimpse of the people behind your company, what you stand for and how being in a relationship with you can add value.  Customers want emotional interaction, so when you plan your next marketing strategy, really think about a balance of information that meets their needs and turns prospects into new users, new users into experts and great customers into long-time fans. How can you make each of your social media channels play a role in the customer life-cycle and sales process?

Seekers of Information and Validation

The Internet has turned us back into “hunters and gatherers.” We want to do business with you, but we want something in return. We’re anxious for you to make us laugh, teach us something, do good works or tell us about your social cause. We want you to touch our hearts, make us angry or passionate–after all it’s a crazy world!  (I’m writing this on the 16th day of the U.S. government shutdown). Your customers (CONGRESS this applies to you) and constituents want respect, face time and to feel valued. If you do this now in social media, you are reaching tipping points in your marketing program that your competitors may not.  If you just spew information out, please stop and regroup.

Community Engagement – Dive In!

Community engagement is personal, subjective and real-time. You can build a quick profile of your target audience using characteristics, demographics, social media preferences, publications and more. Profiling allows you to tell good stories of why you’re great – not because you say it, but because ‘like-minded’ customers prove it.  Social media invites you to sync and leverage smart content messages within a well thought-out sales and marketing funnel. It’s a delicate balance, the tight-rope you walk over a customer life-cycle.  Remember, it’s authenticity that wins people over!

In your marketing campaigns, do you evoke emotion that drives customers and prospects (two distinct audiences) to relevant touch points? This can be done by a compelling landing page dedicated to the new user – maybe to watch a demo, schedule a chat, download a white paper.) You might reserve your blog for best-practice stories.  Your PIN for only great visuals or infographs that spark emotion. Your Scoop-IT to build credibility or Linked-In to strategically start a conversation.  On Facebook, when you ask questions, what do you do with the responses?Ask others to address the point? Or let the comment go by? People give opinions. If you don’t respond, they don’t like it!

What Will Your Next Digital Marketing Campaign Be Like?

Try this smart content marketing experiment! Run an entire campaign based on one emotion: “trust,” “fun,” “fear, “excitement,” “inspiration.” How might this be radically different? Fun is the new call to action.  Take the plunge and, if you need help, you know where to find me.

PS — Read my blogs on Raising the Power of Emotional Intelligence, What’s the Value of a Lifetime Customer, and Follow Your Rainmakers.

kite in the windA few years ago, I wrote an article for the National Center of Technology Institute about three amazing women. They were a technologist, an educator and a disability coach, and were highly competent in their respective fields. And they were champions of disability issues. Each had a common goal: to develop a simulation program that would revolutionize how children with cognitive disabilities learned social skills.  My interview was based on the “Art of Collaboration” and it focused on how these women had the keen insight to develop and leverage mutual trust and respect for each other’s talents. Today, this insight is coined Emotional Intelligence. 

Fast forward to 2013 and this cutting-edge topic is popping up in popular books, (think Daniel Pink) discussed in leadership trainings (think Adizes), and ranks high in relevant conversations among executives in the board room to employees in the lunch room.  Why? Because smart leaders and individuals realize that they not only need to transform the workplace but also the workforce to keep up the pace with an ever-changing world.

Emotional Intelligence (EI), often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), describes an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups. In 1995, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist from Rutgers University, introduced his first book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books). This book discusses human competencies, such as self-awareness, self-discipline, persistence, empathy and trust, as being as important, if not more important, than a person’s traditionally-defined IQ. Since that time, he has written a series of books on the topic that have enhanced the concept and its application to various endeavors.

Trusting Talent

Today’s start-ups need to find substantial funds to develop a product, launch it and keep it alive in the noisy digital world.  This is not an easy task, but the women I interviewed made it look easy. In our conversations, we talked about how emotional intelligence factored into their collaboration. They identified similar success traits to those expressed in Goleman’s theory:

  • a journey of passionate stakeholders who strive to bring out the best in each other
  • great amounts of empathy and a high degree of respect for individual talent
  • a true desire to leave a lasting imprint on a person’s spirit

Really, in the workplace of today, leaving a lasting imprint on a person’s spirit?  Has this happened to you recently?  How did these intelligent, compassionate and fun-loving professionals rise above their competitive egos? They saw a calling, a purpose, a social good and wanted to dive in, tackle the problem and solve a need.

At their first encounter, one of them said that she was in awe of the other’s professional accomplishments. They knew little about each other’s values and character at that time and, although in awe, trust is not something easily earned. During the project, each woman contributed various talents and resources.  They “breathed” teamwork and trust and believed that they possessed the right combination of skills, knowledge and fortitude to accomplish their mission. They were an undeniable force that kept moving forward in a positive direction.

A Moving Force

Each time the project changed directions, so did they.  A great sense of humor helped them get through the hard spots. They let down their guard and allowed information and ideas to flow. They brainstormed and revised their plan to hold tight through the glitches. Without their EI qualities, their challenges might have seemed insurmountable, but they held to these 6 ideals surrounding their unique perspective:

  1. Vision creates the project’s framework; passion holds it together.
  2. Collaborators use humor and stamina to carry them through.
  3. Collaborators know what they don’t know and what they need.
  4. Collaborators chip in when the reality of tasks become burdensome.
  5. Collaborators rely on living discussions to keep projects flowing.
  6. Above all, mutual respect and trust outweigh unsettling moments in time.

Through the activities of these early edtech/disability pioneers, who believed reliance on each other and mutual trust was the genesis to a successful project, they achieved great things.  They understood synergy. They respected each other’s knowledge, character and commitment. They produced a valuable contribution to society while creating lasting friendships.

These are the individuals that any company, organization or community would want on their team. How can you raise more awareness about EI in your workplace or for yourself? I welcome your comments!