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Mr. Barrett #BaresItAll

Jeff Barrett is a social media rockstar. In his mid-twenties, he has already co-founded a rising PR firm, Status Creative, writes for the Washington Times, has created numerous viral campaigns (my favorite of which spotlights a favorite destination of mine—my hometown—in an epic lipdub), and was recently named to Forbes’ Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers of 2013. He’s done all of this while maintaining a witty sense of humor and an unassuming humility. I had the opportunity to pick his brain about the PR industry and social media tactics—here are some of the highlights.

So let’s start with the big idea. What inspires you? What does the process for your team at Status Creative look like?

It all starts with who the client is, in the sense that we look for inspiration in what is exciting or interesting about their brand and what the possibility might be there: we look for inspiration in things that are happening—trends that are happening right now, for example doing interesting things involving mobile, involving convergence between social media and digital to the physical space—these make social media more social for many campaigns. What we do—we’re PR—we have a slightly different strategy than most firms. We never lose sight of the fact that we’re trying to create awareness for firms, but we need to get people to share content and get involved, so we try to find that one interaction with people that will convert them to brand advocates.

You’ve had some pretty stellar creative concepts. What is your favorite accomplishment in your work thus far?

For me, it’s always the most recent. To me, the most recent thing is the thing I’m most proud of because I know the amount of work and time it takes. I always try to take some time to reflect on how much fun you had and how hard you worked—last year, the Pure Michigan commercial with Chrysler showed we can effectively work with the big brands so that now we’re able to walk into any Fortune 100 brand and say these are the results we have and what we can do. And after 2 years, I think that’s pretty cool. Today, what I’m most proud of is the Forbes list. It’s a personal accomplishment, but a tribute to how we as a company engage, work with people, and take the time to build the right relationships. I hope there’s more good news on the way and more business to eclipse what we’ve worked on previously, but that’s where I’m at now. I’m really excited about it.

How did you develop your following to be as influential as you are now?

It was important to try to continue talking to big brands and big names on a personal basis. I was able to gather a large following from great mentors and influencers where I was able to pick their brain and really learn from.

Tweet chats tend to fade and become information dense: our goal is to inform but also to entertain. I treat it like a talk show. If you work in the field, you understand all the angles. In a lot of ways, it’s an extension of what I do for the Washington Post.
It is important to be perceived to have thought leadership in your field, and you can do that in a variety of ways: blogs, for example. I have chosen this media route as something relevant to me and a channel where you can seek out information about people, but also where you can gain information and continue the conversation with that individual. (And it’s now a top ten trending hashtag, too, FYI)

Implementation is key in all of this. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about how to make your moments most visible? Gain traction and UGC?

Know who your audience is, what motivates them, and what the consumer psychology is: it has to start with who you’re talking to and what motivates them to want to share content. The right piece of content for us might not be the right content for a different group. That’s paramount before anything else. Keep things short enough, simple enough, you want something that can be defined in one sentence, that people can quickly understand and is almost universal. So that people can see themselves in it, even if it doesn’t relate directly to them. Needs to resonate. From a personal branding standpoint, that’s the same way. A lot of people define themselves by their industry or what they do: you need to narrow things down so much that it stands out. Keep it simple. With tweets and retweets: short and sweet is key—even with the 140 character limit.

Paid, owned, earned. We hear so much about earned media these days, and that seems to be your forte. Your energy surrounding creating a big idea resonates, and it seems like something you champion. What are your strategies for capturing earned media, as you begin your process and adjusting as your campaigns are launched?

Before getting off the ground, it is important to make the campaign as flexible as possible. You need to be timely for relations between current information, but leave room to adapt content and have that capacity to change at a moments’ notice. Something that’s been overly emphasized recently has been the Oreo example in the super bowl, but there are so many other events and campaigns that encourage companies to empower their teams to capitalize on the existing situation. Editorial schedules are more structured and do well, but it’s best to remove layers of red tape and have your communications and creative teams ready and able/allowed to respond immediately. From a tactical standpoint, if you use social media in concert with traditional media, it’s a much better thing. None of these things are going away, but you need to adapt them. Regarding press releases: providing information for the media to write is a useful tool, instead of as a means to get coverage—using content excitement and social media traction will sell your piece. You can say, hey, 500,000 people are already talking about this, and that is far easier and far more likely to sell your story—go from having to constantly sell, to a position of facilitating, which is a much easier experience to help share.

We’re seeing some interesting things happening in today’s market, with PR agencies really utilizing lower budgets and creative ideas to catalyze concepts. What are your thoughts on these trends?

We’re seeing a merging of advertising and PR, enabling the two to really work together. This allows them to go in and leverage more of the advertising budget to be allocated to PR, to create the best mix of creating things and being proactive, rather than taking what’s available and trying to make it into something.

Thanks, @BarrettAll, for a great conversation, and for the innovation you bring to the field. Many congrats on your spot on Forbes’ Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, no doubt you’ve earned it.

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To join the conversation, follow @BarrettAll on twitter and check out his tweet chat, #BareItAll, every Wednesday at 2 pm est.

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Category: Brand Strategy, Interactive Marketing, Medill IMC, Public Relations, Social Media

About the Author: Marissa Fellows is a student in the Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. She can be reached at marissafellows2013@u.northwestern.edu.

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