Yesterday we summarised David Meerman Scott‘s excellent New Rules of Marketing and PR, and today, here’s a summary of David’s latest bestseller – Real-Time Marketing & PR How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect With Customers and Create Products That Grow Your Business Now.

The main takeout is, as you’d guess, speed not size matters in communications today. You need a real-time mind-set, and be set up to respond to real-time to opportunities and threats – in marketing, PR and business.

Real-time is the new prime-time.

So far, so meh – we get the business at the speed of light deal. But what the book delivers – like a much needed slap around the face – is the realisation that all that social media talk around warm and fuzzy notions of engagement almost entirely misses the point. The big news about social media is that it is real-time media, and it is setting some very un-warm and un-fuzzy expectations around instant gratification in the mind of your market. Have a Twitter profile or Facebook page? Then people will expect you to be able to deliver information on demand, in real-time on their timeframe, not yours.

So if you’re the sort of organisation where nothing gets done in your marketing department without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to internal inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters (1), then just give up, shut down your social media outposts, and take up fishing. And for those lucky enough to be in a communications team that is responsive and agile, unless you are empowered to act, as well as talk, you might as well turn off the lights – and go fishing too.

Real-time words need real-time action.

Finally, if you ever come across a social media agency proposing to plan a ‘campaign’ for you in social media – tell them to go away and take up fishing too – because they don’t get the real-time, responsive nature of social media.

So social media = real-time media, and here are our top 9 hot tips distilled down from the 266 pages of Real-Time Marketing & PR that will help you turn that insight into action.

1) If you want to play in social media, your organisation will need to adopt a real-time mind-set that translates into practical competencies

  1. Act before the window of opportunity vanishes.
  2. Revise plans as the market changes.
  3. Measure results today.
  4. Execute based on what’s happening now
  5. Implement strategies and tactics based on breaking news.
  6. Empower your people to act.
  7. Move when the time is right.
  8. Encourage people to make wise decisions quickly, alone if necessary
  9. Make swift inquiries, but be prepared to act.
  10. Quickly evaluate the alternatives and choose a course of action.
  11. Get it done and push it out because it will never be perfect
  12. Respond to customers on their time frames.
  13. Engage with media at the moment they need your input.

Don’t have them, or can’t acquire them? Then forget social media and take up fishing

2) If you want to seize real-time opportunities, you need to be able to deliver news in real-time

    • Knock on doors the media have created (don’t send a press release – submit your news as it happen via apps, forms, and uploads – e.g. Sky, CNN iReport)
    • Use hashtags in your Twitter messages
    • Use your blog or online media room to get your voice heard
    • Use the podium, break news at public event (think Steve Jobs)
    • Send media alerts – a timely, and timed short press release
    • Lives-tream everything public you do (e.g. Burberry ( streaming fashion shows)
    • Check you know how you’d react, right now, if
      • Your company is cited as “the best place to work” by your local newspaper.
      • A customer raves about your customer service on an influential trade magazine website
      • A well-known industry analyst says on his blog that your company is too difficult to do business with.
      • A competitor announces they are lowering prices by 25 percent.
      • Your CEO is fired.
      • In forums and chat rooms, people said your product poses a health risk.
      • A huge company announces its intent to acquire your competitor

If your answer to any of the above is have a meeting, call your boss, rather than seize the moment with decisive action – then go fishing. You are obsolete as a marketer.

3) If you want to profit from real-time social media, you’ll need to empower your staff with a Real-time Communications Policy.

      1. Get initial agreement from stakeholders (senior executives, HR, PR, legal, etc.) that such guidelines are required. Explain the importance of communicating in real time and the need for comprehensive rules governing what can be done at work. Coming to this initial understanding should win you the authority to actually draft the guidelines.
      2. Select a team of about six people to draft the guide. Find people who are active communicators from different areas of the company.
      3. Study any relevant corporate guidelines already in place (e.g., employee handbook) as IBM had with its Business Conduct Guidelines [and build off successful templates (IBM, USAF). Many of the issues to be addressed may already be covered by the guidelines. In other cases, there may be policies that contradict what you want to do (such as some companies’ prohibitions on communicating online without prior vetting from legal, which kills the speed element). Some existing policies may need to be amended.
      4. In creating your guidelines, closely study IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines, New Media and the Air Force, and others like these. Adapt them for your regulatory environment, corporate culture, and marketplace.
      5. Share your draft guidelines with stakeholders (listed earlier) and get their sign-offs. If you started with sufficient up-front buy-in (see Step 1) this should go smoothly.
      6. Incorporate feedback without getting bogged down by process. You don’t want the project to die from endless editing.
      7. Publish the guidelines on internal sites, and if you can, externally, the way IBM and the USAF have.
      8. Communicate the guidelines to everyone in your organization until it becomes second nature.

No policy, no social media. Go get that fishing rod.

4) If you want to win with real-time social media, you’ll need a Real-time Communications Officer

        • Serve as central coordination point across departments for real-time communication strategy and tactics.
        • Be aware of legal, regulatory, and compliance issues within the organisational structure (copyright and intellectual property issues), for example
        • Disseminate knowledge of real-time communication tools, techniques, and philosophies
        • Act as primary contact point and clearing house for breaking issues affecting the organisation on mainstream or social media
        • Ensure consistency of company presence in social media – in branding, update frequency, and permissions
        • Watch for rogue sites springing up using company branding. Initiate action to delete as appropriate
        • Provide advice on social media analysis and monitoring and on measurement tools. Ensure appropriate tools are chosen and properly implemented
        • Ensure that the company monitors and responds to appropriate forums in real time
        • Fill key roles in crisis communication planning and execution
        • Advise, train, coach, and counsel other employees on real-time communication
        • Work closely with staff operating corporate web sites to ensure real-time components are implemented.
        • Lead efforts to publish and distribute real-time communication guidelines.
        • Maintain a list of employees’ work-related personal blogs and make available to the public on the company web site.
        • Be able to work in a cross-functional, cross-cultural environment.

Can’t/won’t recruit a real-time comms officer? Then forget social media and take up fishing.

5) If you want to find value in real-time social media, you need to respond in it in real-time – and that means active monitoring and response.

      • Monthly monitoring reports are about as useful as a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys – as is monitoring without response – you need to a real-time monitoring and response strategy.
      •  If you outsource monitoring, you need a 24/7 hotline to the response team, if that’s not outsourced.
      • Keep monitoring simple and actionable
        • Create a comprehensive lists of search terms relevant to your activities (names of your company, senior execs, competitors, products, issues, plus any relevant buzzwords or phrase)
        • Use Google to set up news and blog alerts for these terms
        • Monitor search terms on Twitter too
      • Reaction time is critical. But you can’t react unties you instantly know and understand what is being said about you – which is why realtime monitoring is key.

Use your monthly social media monitoring report as fish-bait. It’s the only thing it’s good for.

6) If you want to survive real-time social media, you’ll need a Crisis Communications Plan

      1. Assign a crisis comms team, and a lead real-time crisis comms officer (and a backup) – both with full power to make decisions on the spot
      2. Gather the contact info for key people, private numbers
      3. As the crisis situation becomes apparent, gather facts quickly and respond briefly, even if it is just a “we are investigating the situation and will provide an update as soon as we can, but no later than 3pm today
      4. Assign a primary spokesperson who will be the lead communicator
      5. Do not ignore the situation. Never lie. Always be Honest and Forthright
      6. Get information out as quickly as possible – use Twitter, SMS and media alerts (syndicate them to distribution services and publish them on the news area of your site)
      7. Provide continuous updates throughout the course of the situation – be ready to respond 24/7
      8. Remember lawyers are not communicators. The opinion of your legal staff should be considered, but final decisions should be made by competent real-time communicators. Don’t let lawyers dictate your communications strategy
      9. Communicate via multiple channel – web-site blog, Twitter, SMS, Facebook etc
      10. [10. Whatever you do, don’t just issue a press release]
      • Pre-crisis – ensure you reach out and foster relations with industry commentators, analysts, bloggers and journalists
        • Follow the publication and its journalists.
        • Comment on stories and blog posts.
        • Send an e-mail introduction.
        • Follow the reporter on Twitter.
        • Never spam reporters. Never, ever spam, pester, drone on endlessly or otherwise annoy your journalistic contacts.

Sound like hard work? You can always just issue a press release and go fishing

7) A real-time mindset requires a mobile-mind-set

      • Real-time media is social, location aware and mobile. Embrace the possibilities of SoLoMo technology; the desktop is becoming as anachronistic as dead-tree media.
      • Use checkin data to send real-time information when people need it
      • Curate and share on-demand social data to help consumers choose, select and enjoy products
      • Use augmented reality to help make audiences smarter – think of real-time marketing and PR as a value delivery channel
      • Instant gratification – wherever, whenever a consumer wants is a very powerful value proposition – how can you harness it

Are you set up to deliver value with real-time social, location aware and mobile technology? If not, go fishing.

8) A real-time mind-set requires asking not what communication can do for you, but what it can do for your audience

      • Audience-focused communication means delivering value to your audience first, then you.  Are you an audience-first team?
      • In all your communication, think how it benefits the customer not what’s in it for you
Still in promote-and-spin mode? Forget it – and go fishing

9) The biggest challenge in facing up to real-time realities is getting senior management buy-in

Set up a briefing workshop to discuss real-time media and open with these two examples

      • United Airlines: After months of getting nowhere with United Airlines, whose luggage handlers had thrown and broken his $3500 Taylor guitar when unloading a plane in Chicago, March 31, 2008, singer-songwriter Dave Carroll published a parody ad to YouTube called “United Breaks Guitars” recounting the saga. Within 4 days, 1m people had watched the video – a number that would rise to in excess of 10m. Real-time companies were fast off the mark to respond:
        • Taylor Guitars posted a YouTube video, advising traveling musicians how to pack equipment and use airline rules to their best advantage.
        • Calton Cases, a specialist maker of highly durable instrument cases for professional musicians, likewise seized the moment. Within days, Calton had a new product on the market: the Dave Carroll Traveler’s Edition Guitar Case.
        • Dave Carroll made himself available 24/7 for realtime interviews with the media
        • Investors responded fast, dumping United stock – wiping $180m off the share value
        • Customers responded fast – rating UA as the worst US airline.
        • After months of doing nothing, and only when the threat of a PR disaster was upon them, United responded, but with a ‘tweet’ (apologising) – although they ended up offering him less than half the value of guitar back (lesson – actions speak louder than tweet – if your comms teams are only empowered to talk rather than act, shut them down and save the money). Key take-out: Fast talking is not fast-acting.
      • Arab Spring: (our addition) – the power of real-time communication
        • Real-time communication using social media played a central role in a live political debate, framing issues as they evolved providing dissenters with a tool for asymmetric informational warfare – particularly among a young, urban, relatively well educated individuals. Blogs and news submission tools on Western sites were also used as a platform for spreading dissent
        • Real-time revolutionary talk on Twitter preceded revolutionary action and events – social media was used as a tool for insurgents to organise and plan, not simply talk
        • Real-time discussion of democracy and democratic ideals in social media contributed to the cross-border pollination and contagion of the Arab Spring

Workshop Questions:

      • How would we have responded had we been United/incumbent regimes in Egypt or Tunisia?
      • What options did United/the Regimes have when the social media insurgency began? What were the advantages and disadvantages of each option? How well did they handle the situation?
      • Could United/Regimes have anticipated this situation, and if so, what could it have done to minimise the damage?
      • Could something similar happen to us? How are we set up to thrive in a world of real-time communication – where customers not only respond but initiate communication? Are there opportunities for us in world of real-time consumer driven communications?
United Airlines Break Guitars – and its Reputation

Real-time Media and Asynchronous Informational Warfare 


The Need for Real-time Media Guidelines