Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is Online Networking Replacing Offline Networking?

I want to make each blog post meaningful and offer advice others can learn from. That’s why I chose the topic of networking. Networking is an important part of doing business. This post shares the story of a couple of networking groups specifically for communications professionals and describes their mistakes and successes.

Most of us have heard the phrase: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” So when I first started out as a self-employed public relations consultant, I joined networking groups. At the time, there was no Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

However, there was a local independent group of professional communicators based in Princeton, NJ called the NJ Communications, Advertising and Marketing Association (NJ CAMA). It was there that I met colleagues with whom I could network, find vendors (photographers, printers, designers, etc.), and make new friends. From having hundreds of members in the 1990’s to being on the verge of folding today, the story of NJ CAMA shows how online networking (coupled with a bad economy) pushed a once-strong networking group to the brink of collapse.

During my time on NJ CAMA’s program committee, we brought in some amazing experts to speak – George Gallup, Jr. (, Malcolm Forbes, Jr. (, Seymour Chwast, Mike Quon, Lois Geller, Nancye Green, Cheryl Heller, David Carson, Patrice Tanaka, Martin Pedersen, Jack Keil (McGruff the Crime Dog), Don Middleberg, Landon Jones,1809,ljones,00.html, Andy Cooper, Bernard Flanagan (, Stuart Elliot, Matthew Boyle, Brad Aronson, Steve McKee, Jeff Tobe, and Shelley Spector, to name a few.

How could a group that brought these amazing luminaries to Princeton, NJ over the past 20 years be on the verge of folding in 2009?

Online networking may have drawn members away from “real world” meetings but NJ CAMA did make mistakes that hurt them just as much as the advent of social media for networking. The group continued to hold monthly lunch meetings, while the economy forced people to work longer hours. We didn’t have time to leave the office for a long lunch. It was also a time-consuming task to get “big name” speakers to come to Princeton and present to an independent group. Sometimes it was easier to book the local printer or local paper distributor as a speaker. However, those types of events don’t tend to draw much of a crowd.

Bill Petzinger, current president of NJ CAMA and one of the forces behind its resurrection says, “Online networking has impacted offline networking groups. For example, one reason attendance went down considerably at NJ CAMA's monthly networking events was folks couldn't commit to a three-hour event when you factor in travel. Most individuals prefer to network online because they can accomplish more in a few hours spread out over a week at their convenience versus what may take months. Offline groups can't compete with the efficiency of online networking. That said, you still need face-to-face networking, which is vital. So offline networking still has its benefits. I think the most successful networking groups are those that have the right balance of online networking and off.”

During the past couple of years – while NJ CAMA was on a downward spiral – I helped found a small networking group about 20 miles away, The River Communications Group Much smaller than NJ CAMA, the group meets about 3 – 4 times a year, does not charge membership dues, and brings in great speakers like Peter Shankman It was Mr. Shankman, in his talk on social networking, who suggested that the River Communications Group start a Facebook group.

Through Facebook (, about 135 members post job listings, share information, and network. One of their most instructive real world meetings was the recent “Free and Low Cost Tools for Creatives”. Presented by three members of the River Communications Group, the panelists described design, animation, typography, color and podcasting software, brainstorming, text editing, screen capture, web testing, and collaboration tools and plug ins. Their presentations can be found here,

As social media becomes a popular networking tool, we take what little spare time we have to set up professional profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Sometimes it’s easier to stay at our desks and network than to go out in the real world and meet face to face.

But in order to be successful, we need to do both, network online and offline.

According to blogger Kyle Lacy (, “The sharing of information and idea generation has always been a staple in the increased support of social media. I started using social media as a way to gain more insight into technology, entrepreneurship, and the overall aspect of viral marketing. What I have found is (while all the information is great) there is a point where a person stops and wants something more from a relationship or an acquaintance.”

According to Renee Lemley’s Gray Matter Minute blog, “If you enjoy your time talking with people online, imagine the reward of talking with those same people offline.”

John Jantsch posted an informative article about online and offline networking back in 2008,

Here are links to some professional groups you can join online. If you would like to recommend others, please add them.

On LinkedIn
Social Media Marketing,

Communication Arts,

Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators

On Facebook

Creative Writing

Graphic Design and Adobe Photoshop

Facebook for Business

On Twitter, I follow

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lessons Learned, Part 1

I appreciate all the many wonderful and wise people who have offered me good advice and tactics for being a better communicator. In a recent pitch, I made the mistake of not approaching each person individually and then compounding it by using the “standard” list configuration from my Internet host provider, which enabled everyone to “reply all” because the list name was placed in the To: field, rather than the Bcc: field. I hope everyone who received multiple emails from me will accept my apology. To those who received my personal apology via email or an apology on your blog, here’s another “I’m sorry.” I hope you’ll forgive my mistake.

Moving on, this incident has given me insights on more appropriate ways of communicating and inspired me to share what I have learned from many positive people.

Thanks to Steve Lubetkin, for his suggestion: Instead of jumping all over the person who made the mistake, how about some practical blog entries about things to be careful of and traps you might fall in that will make bloggers want to dishonor you?

Here’s a sampling of tips.

Lessons Learned

“When it comes to fixing mistakes, if you’re not quick, you will get flack. Hopefully you will never make a mistake but it you do, make sure everyone knows it was honestly unintentional.” Beth Brody

“Admitting a mistake and pledging to move on is always the best course of action.” Abigail Alger

“Tell it all, tell it early, tell it honestly.” Dave Van de Walle,

“Don’t send mass communications from your regular e-mail client. Use an e-mail sending service. They will make sure that each person gets their own copy of the mailing (removing any possibility of this CC/BCC issue) and can even provide statistics on mail open rates and link clicks. There are many companies providing this type of service. As an example, the one I use can be found at and starts at just a few bucks a month.” Scott Isaacs,

“Try to avoid blast emailing a press release, pitch or any type of correspondence to members of the media without first customizing and tailoring your pitch to targeted journalists and bloggers.
Always keep in mind the differences between “blind copy” and “carbon copy” when sending an email to more than one person.
If something goes wrong don’t wait it out or deflect blame (not saying Ms. Brody did so in this case, but it is important to note). Immediately grab hold of the situation, take responsibility if necessary and even apologize if that’s the best course of action.”
John Sternal, Understanding Marketing

If you do get spam:
“I could have set up a rule in outlook to delete anything with the subject header and I never would have seen any more emails past the first four or five.“
Mike Bawden,

“Public Relations firms, more than anyone else in the industry, should recognize the impact of unsolicited emails and the importance of permission-based communication in this world of spam.” Douglas Karr

The PR 2.0 landscape- heck, the marketing 2.0 landscape- is evolving and changing every minute and everyone is trying new things and making their best efforts to adapt. Cydney Wuerffel

“While kids can be mean to one another, they can also very forgiving. So too, I hope, are adults.”
Frank Strong,

Here are some links I found helpful:

About crisis communications,

How to avoid common mistakes

Social media templates

How to write an apology

How to work with bloggers

Let’s Whine Like it’s 1999

As this is my first blog post, I appreciate any constructive feedback you have. I hope this will become a forum for people to share their “lessons learned advice” with others.
Beth Brody