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Shannon Paul – The Twitter 20 Interview on Social Media and PR

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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social-media-strategy-shannon-paulShannon Paul burst onto the social media scene like a runaway freight train. Her blog is a must-read, and she’s transformed the social media stylings of the Detroit Red Wings, and most recently the innovative financial services company Peak6. Shannon’s insights on attaining internal alignment around social media, and the new role of public relations are highlights of this sweeping live Twitter interview, conducted April 23, 2009.

(photo by David Alston, social media guru whom I interviewed here. He took the photo at SXSW, where I first met Shannon.)

1. @jaybaer: How do you define your “personal brand”? What’s Shannon Paul all about?

  • @shannonpaul: The whole notion of personal branding makes me a little uncomfortable. I’m just me — the anti-brand. 😉

2. @jaybaer: You have one of the best blog titles around: The Very Official Blog. Where did that come from?

  • @shannonpaul: Why thank you! It was a bit of a fluke – a place holder. I thought it was funny.
  • Plus, is already taken — it’s a site for Russian Tea Cookies.

3. @jaybaer: I’ve heard that Chris Brogan encouraged you to start the blog. What’s that story?

  • @shannonpaul: I met him when he came to Detroit.I had already taken a pretty deep dive into social media and was asking a ton of questions.
  • He told me he thought I had great ideas and that I was interesting — just really encouraged me to do it, so I did.

(Note to readers: Jason Falls, Chris Brogan and Michael Gass were among the earliest supporters of this blog. Thanks guys.)

4. @jaybaer: A lot of people (like you) blog personally, and also for a Co. Difficult? How do you balance topics and readership?

  • @shannonpaul: For me, the topics have always been a bit divergent, so it’s not as difficult. For me, the workload is the toughest part.
  • I guess I didn’t really answer that question. Answering everyone can be challenging, too. I tend to put work first.
  • I also stress the importance of my blog @ work. I remind people that my blog is why they wanted to hire me in the 1st place.

5. @jaybaer: You used to be social media guru for the Detroit Red Wings. Does pro sports have it easier or harder re: SM?

  • @shannonpaul: In some ways it’s easier. Fans are actually hungry for marketing stuff unlike in other businesses.
  • In other ways it’s more difficult from a culture perspective. Sports = Player-centric whereas Social media = Fan-centric.

6. @jaybaer: Do you see hockey players jumping into Twitter and video blogging and such the way music, film, and NBA stars are?

  • @shannonpaul: I’m sure it will happen eventually, but the culture issue is one that needs to be addressed. If it does happen, I think corporate sponsors will need to step up and introduce it as activation in a sponsorship program. Incentives will help.

7. @jaybaer: Now you’re at Special issues working in the financial services industry? Isn’t B2B SM harder?

  • @shannonpaul: It’s ALL hard. The outward facing part of social media isn’t difficult to me, it’s all the internal bridge building.
  • Also, in some ways, B2B is easier for me because the relationships are much more specific.

@jaybaer: Let me rephrase that. is a B2C company, but it’s a regulated industry. Tough to cut it loose in SM?

  • @shannonpaul: Ahh, yes, federal regulations do add an extra wrinkle with social media and investing. People can actually go to jail.
  • However, finding creative solutions excites me. I also think it’s cool for SM peeps to see things like Fed disclaimers.

8. @jaybaer: Ahh. The internal bridge-building for SM (h/t @ambercadabra). How are you doing it? How are you building out a team?

  • @shannonpaul: Ignoring regular department lines, while cc’ing everyone to death on internal communication.
  • Also, I feel like I can rock out in a way b/c I understand the web better than most comms people and vice versa.

9. @jaybaer: Is one of the ways to build support for SM to get people aligned on success metrics, or is that not a concern yet?

  • @shannonpaul: I think having the conversation around ROI too early confuses things. I quietly prepare for that discussion…
  • … and wait for the question to arise. If we talk numbers before they understand the paradigm shift, confusion sticks.
  • Besides, pointing to other peoples’ use of communication tools doesn’t mean I know how to use them.

10. @jaybaer: So when is the time to talk ROI? When you know you’ll win? 😉 Do you benchmark vs. others, or look at your own data? (h/t @michaeljbarber)

  • @shannonpaul: It always depends. I like aligning things in terms of business goals – trending. Hits are meaningless, really.
  • I like benchmarking when it makes sense, but it doesn’t always. Metrics to me should seem natural, not like stretching.

11. @jaybaer: You said they ~hired you for your blog. How do you feel about social capital being personal and loaned to the brand?

  • @shannonpaul: I think social capital has always been a factor. That’s why networking is more effective than searching ads.
  • The difficult part is getting the employer to understand that the blog is essential for networking and NOT a personal zine.

12. @jaybaer:  You’re a reformed PR gal. Do you have PR counsel you work with at What’s PR’s role in SM now?

  • @shannonpaul: I’m still very much a PR girl. I think the “what it takes” has changed in PR and some refuse to evolve.
  • I will be very active in the PR role at P6. I actually consider social media to be a natural extension of PR.

13. @jaybaer: What does the ultimate social media-aware PR firm of the present look like to you? What do they offer clients?

  • @shannonpaul: They think in terms of foot-to-the-ground relationship building and how to think beyond hits, DON’T charge by the hour.
  • Soc-Med-aware PR firms charge by project and do what it takes to serve. @spikejones said “small is the new big” 🙂

@jaybaer: I agree re: hourly bills. Must stop charging to pound nails, and charge based on knowing where to pound.

  • @shannonpaul: Yes! It’s absurd for an industry that builds “relationships” to charge to maintain the “relationship”. We’re not lawyers!

@jaybaer: I’d argue that many PR folks haven’t been in the relationship business, they’ve been in the distribution business.

  • @shannonpaul: Yes! And herein lies the rub. In many ways, social media is a return to origins of PR. More human, less mechanized.
  • Although I must confess as an information junkie, I like watching how information gets distributed 🙂

14. @jaybaer: As enthusiasm builds internally, how do you prevent the “tactics goldrush” mentality of “Get us on Facebook NOW”?

  • @shannonpaul: I really resist that, but I think the HOW to resist it varies. I phrase other social networks as being outposts….
  • Then ask how why we think we need an outpost in this particular place and how we plan to use it.

15. @jaybaer: Speaking of Facebook, I’m seeing more cos use it as a social media home base, as much as the corporate site. Viable?

  • @shannonpaul: As long as Facebook exists,maybe. I feel like the Sphinx always saying “it depends” but it depends on biz goals/objectives.

16. @jaybaer: What’s your take on Twitter changing? For the better, or for the worse? Not sure @aplusk as #1 is a great sign.

  • @shannonpaul: As far as Twitter is concerned I just feel like I’m along for the ride. I just can’t wait to see where this all goes.
  • Although I’m not crazy about the whole @aplusk frenzy either, but I think it proves that the old ways don’t work anymore.

17. @jaybaer: You rock the conference scene on occasion. What’s the formula for the perfect conference these days?

  • @shannonpaul: People always make the conference great, but I really like having longer hands-on sessions in addition to panels and such.

18. @jaybaer: You were lucky to have done some blog studies in school. What’s your advice for students looking for a SM career?

  • @shannonpaul: I actually created the blog studies in school. 🙂 I proposed it and they let me do it as an independent study project.
  • My advice for students looking into SM careers would be to use SM. Start a blog or engage in some other meaningful way.
  • Blogging in a way is like Internet school. You learn how the Internet works from an information/relationship standpoint.

19. @jaybaer: You’re moving to Seattle with Peak6 soon right? Are you going to wear plaid and eat shellfish? What’s your plan?

  • I love shellfish –plaid? I did learn to dress myself during the grunge era – I still don’t understand how to match outfits.

20. @jaybaer: Last one. You’ve got one tweet to help people use social media effectively. What do you say?

  • @shannonpaul: Recognize that the Internet is a social place and that avatars represent real people with real hearts and minds. 🙂

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