Posted on



View original post


Public Relations (PR) that gets the best Return on Investment (ROI)

Posted on

There’s no point in PR if it doesn’t make money, being creative is all well-and-good, but it’s the results that matter at the end of the day. Effective PR work should always deliver strong ROI against smart objectives. Otherwise, what was it for? Being results-focused isn’t the enemy of creativity and ambition. Instead, the emphasis should be on original strategies in well-planned campaigns, aligned with the overall client goals and captured in meaningful, measurable objectives.

Having implemented a number of PR strategies I have noted that it is vital to add value, not just deliver a reasonable return on investment and same applies to PR Agencies where the real ambition for a PR consultant today should be to think about not just hitting rational ROI targets, but to look at how to add and create value through PR work. It’s incumbent on the agency to be as smart, ambitious and original in what they do to get the results that make a difference for a client. Going further to add true value is the type of PR work that will always, always deliver the very best ROI.

Not a simple one, but in order to meet, and overshoot targets, first of all you have to work out what these are. What does the brand want to achieve?  What do you (the client) want to change, and how can we make that happen for you? So if a client asks to be in women’s consumer titles or in-flight magazines, and then ask why… trace the brief right back to the ‘problem’ and work out how to solve it simply because  it is important to focus on achieving the ultimate business goal.

Once you know what the message needs to be, the key to success is to broadcast it using the best medium in helping build a brand if it starts off with the right goals; Every client has different expectations, so it’s vital to view and judge each project individually. In some cases brand awareness is the most important factor, whereas in others, it’s that crucial information is widely shared. The key is messaging and it is our role as PROs to identify them and the best means of conveying them. Innovate, innovate and innovate means……..

In his book, The Meaningful Brand, Nigel Hollis describes how strong brands make more money. Here are five principles he lists to help drive financial growth:

1. (Re)-discover and stay true to the brand’s purpose. Sometimes this means finding out what the brand originally stood for and going back to this, sometimes this means changing the brand’s purpose.

2. Critically examine the experience the brand delivers. Profitable brands meet people’s expectations.

3. Make sure the brand resonates. The sweet spot for any brand is found at the intersection of what the brand stands for and the motivations and desires of its target audience.

4. Make a difference. Don’t be different for difference’s sake, but give customers a reason to choose the brand and justify its price premium.

5. Amplify across all touch points. Work to build a consistent impression of the brand across every point of contact between the consumer and the brand.

Drawing from the case study of the highly attended Monitor Publications “Thought Leaders’ Forum” that is a brand for Daily Monitor Newspaper in Uganda under Nation Media Group where corporates are an audience to prominent speakers and having observed three annual events of the same:  Speaker opportunities can be a great return on investment and all PR practitioners can borrow a leaf.

For such events, start by establishing clear objectives for what you would like the output to be, understand the audience you wish to target and then source and brief your relevant company Chief Executive or spokesperson who fits the bill. Many events can be free of charge, yet offer a platform to communicate to potential customers, media and business partners. At Cooperative League of United States of America (CLUSA) International – Uganda, we are always on the lookout for exhibitions and conferences with specific focus on sectors that are relevant to our brand as we want to feature in these spaces.

Having been part of an audience several times, I realize that I want to learn rather than get a hard-sell, so while you plan to present any brand try to be as creative in approach to the presentation as possible. The effort to plan for such a speaker opportunity in this way is necessary if it is to be successful and resonate with the audience. It is important to plan ahead and execute them properly on the day.

Transparency is the most important attribute for brands, says research

Posted on Updated on

Reading insights from  where the evolution of PR is professionally explored it is evident that it is high time brands realize the value of integrity and honesty. Being transparent is the most important factor when communicating to customers. This is according to the Effective Communication Index 2014 by agency MHP Communications, which found that 85 per cent of global consumers see honesty and transparency as crucial if an organisation is to communicate effectively. Gavin Devine, CEO of MHP Communications, says: “Pressure for business to be open and transparent has been growing throughout 2013. This has been witnessed at a multinational level, most notably at the 2013 G8 meetings which focused on clarifying ownership structures of multinationals. Individual regions such as the UK, the EU and the US have seen a push for increased corporate transparency and governance continues to be hotly debated.” You may expect social media to have a key role to play in communicating to consumers openly, but the Index shows that having a social media presence is currently seen to be the least important part of being an effective communicator (39 per cent). However, Devine comments: “Social media is rated far more highly in some emerging markets like Brazil and the hi-tech Middle East, where the traditional media is perhaps not always seen as free or unbiased. The role that Facebook and Twitter played in the Arab Spring shows that social media is a favoured and trusted medium. It is therefore vital in effective communications in these regions.” What makes effective communication in 2014?

  • Being transparent and open
  • Have a reputation as a good employer
  • Strong connections with the community
  • Strong and visible leadership
  • Powerful brand
  • A relevant social media presence

The results also show substantial regional variations around the world and in different industry sectors, confirming the importance of local factors in effective communications. In Germany and the UK, retailers are seen as the most effective communicators, while the United Arab Emirates, often portrayed as a shoppers’ paradise, are in fifth place. Hong Kong residents voted transport companies as top of the crop, whereas in Germany and the US they came in last place. Other key findings of the study include:

  • Three quarters of respondents believe that being a good employer is the key factor in being an effective communicator.
  • 69 per cent say a company needs to have a connection with the community.
  • 66 per cent want to see strong visible leadership.
  • 51 per cent say the key factor for effective communication is being a powerful brand.
  • In a crisis, 58 per cent of people think a quick response is the most important factor in communications. An apology in a crisis situation is more important in the UK than any other country polled.

Methodology Research consultancy Populus interviewed 6,052 adults online across six countries, UK, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, UAE and USA, between 24 September and 6 October 2013. Source: 6th February 2014

Examining the constraints affecting SMES and proposing practical strategies for development. A case study of New Forests Company Uganda

Posted on Updated on

Business profile

New Forests was Conceived in 2004, and operational from 2005 in Uganda, The New Forests Company has rapidly established itself as one of Uganda’s main tree planter with 54,000 acres of forestry land and is emerging as the country’s pre-eminent sustainable forestry company.

New Forest Uganda can be classified under Small Medium Forests Enterprises (SMFE) and its birth is as a result of international attention in forestry as previously directed towards improving the conditions for large-scale forestry.

The company is now operational on three plantations across the country in Mubenbe, Kiboga and the Bugiri district and plants acres of pine and eucalyptus.

The method used to obtain the findings below are through interviews with Dr. Martin Aliker the board of Directors of New Forest Company, Mr Charles Ocici the Executive director of Enterprise Uganda and through literature obtained from Private Sector Foundation of Uganda (PSFU) during the SMEs exhibition held at Lugogo Exhibition Hall from 19th to 23rd March 2013. 

The New Forests Company is:

  • Establishing commercial and profitable timber plantations of fast growing tree species, indigenous and exotic, which have adapted well to Uganda’s environment.
  • Protecting the remaining natural forests that occur along streams and restoring and regenerating those forests that have been destroyed by encroachers.
  • Providing employment and development to rural communities where unemployment levels are very high.
  • Meeting Uganda’s national development priorities for investment in agro-industry, poverty alleviation and rural development.

New Forests hopes that pine and eucalyptus, will supply sawn timber and building and transmission poles. The company is not only planting commercial species on suitable soils, but will also regenerate badly destroyed existing indigenous trees species like Albizia, Melicia Excelsior and Markhamia as part of the bio-diversity conservation goals. This is in order to rehabilitate the heavily damaged water catchment area.
Sustainable commercial forestry and the protection and promotion of bio-diversity is combined with a carefully designed programme of community participation and benefit which aims to create jobs, boost rural incomes, help lower levels of poverty, improve health and develop a thriving local private sector. The workforce is expected to reach approximately 1800 this year.



The New Forests Company as an SMFE will maintain the highest level of conservation and environmental protection of the eco-system, safeguarding and enriching areas of natural and indigenous forest to protect unique flora and fauna and promote bio-diversity. This concept of sustainable forest management will ensure a corporate contribution to the country, its people and our future and maximise the company’s carbon sequestration goals, which help combat global warming.

New Forests’ environmental management objective is to:Promote the re-colonization of natural vegetation and biodiversity through enrichment planting regimes in the remaining natural and riparian forests with indigenous species that are or were found in the local environment.

The New Forests Company recognizes the impact of plantation forestry on the environment and commits itself to mitigating these impacts through improved management practices. Furthermore, the need to develop and conserve natural resources according to principles of sustainable management is supported by The New Forests Company. We will meet the needs of the present generation in Uganda without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need.

It has been noted that SMEs are key in Uganda’s economy due to the fact that they employ over 2.5 million people, constitute up to 90 per cent of the private sector and contribute over 70 per cent to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Uganda. The Uganda Securities Exchange (USE) has introduced an investment segment that will cater for the capital raising needs of SMEs (Daily Monitor, March 19th 2013).

The above is one area that New Forests Company hopes to benefit from to grow its business.

New Forest as an SMFE has advantages over some large enterprises in terms of sustainability of forest goods and services and its contribution towards local livelihoods and poverty reduction are significant.

New Forest notes that there is a currently a forest sector reform as part of Uganda’s decentralization process, Uganda’s forest sector is undergoing reform through the creation of National Forestry Authority which supports the development of a more favorable policy, legal, institutional, and administrative framework overall for SMFE in Uganda.


The general status of SMFEs in Uganda is viewed as the major vehicle for poverty alleviation (Ministry of Finance, 2000). Theory has it that economic growth leads to the alleviation of poverty through employment opportunities, wealth creation and absorption of labour force.

Forests in Uganda are an important source of employment as well as a source of raw material for wood based industries. The level of employment in forest-based activities in the formal sector has been estimated as at around 100,000 people, while secondary processing (carpentry and joinery) and the distribution and marketing of wood products employs an estimated 250,000 people, (Jacovelli and Carvalho, 1999). The formal sector (sawn timber, poles, charcoal, tourism, and non-timber forest products) is estimated to contribute approximately 1.9% of the GDP, while the informal (nonmonetary sector) contributes to 2.75% of the GDP (Sepp and Falkenberg, 1999).

According to Charles Ocici  the Executive Director of Enterprise Uganda,  Over the last decade there have been significant increases in numbers of forestry related SMEs, as the demands for wood and forest products has increased hence new entrants in the business. For example Nile Ply located in Jinja since 1994 partly owned by Uganda Wildlife Authority. Its main operations include plywood and blockboard manufacturing, sawn timber production, flash door production, carpentry and joinery, timber drying, and forest plantation. Nile Ply is engaged in replanting and has replanted 50 hactres in Kifugo, Oruha, Kagom, Lubany and Namasiga forests in Busoga.

New Forests faces both Internal and external Constraints as an SME in the forestry sector referring largely to problems or challenges that are caused by internal failures or weaknesses, such as capacity, skills, technology or marketing as below: –

Poor skills in financial management and business planning undermine the effectiveness of operations. The Company undertakes effective budgeting but the cash-flow projections to maintain solvency and liquidity remain a challenge due to the nature of products they deal in.

New opportunities such as external support targeted at building the capacity and skills for the development of the forestry SME sector is part of the government of Uganda’s Medium Term Competitive Strategy for the Private Sector support to financial services to SMEs is key.

A specific opportunity that supported includes:  Business Development Services (BUDS) facility within the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda (PFSU), Enterprise Uganda (funded by UNDP) and Uganda Manufacturers Association to mention but a few. These hundreds of other SMEs look up to for support hence making it hard for other players like New Forests to penetrate.   

New Forests faces key issues of low uptake of technology by the human resources yet high investments have been made leading to wastage, inefficiencies and poor quality products because local community prefers to harvest using hand operated technology (or sometimes chainsaws).

High levels of wastage are also caused by rigid market standards and slow rates of adaptations. Commonly timber buyers in Kampala do not accept timber less than 14 feet (4.2 metres) in length. Similarly, due to transportation in seven tonne trucks, sizes tend to be standardized. This inevitably leads to increases in waste as well as decreases in efficiency of harvesting and processing operations, which ultimately affects profit levels.

In terms of technical skills, New Forest faces constraints of skills levels in forestry SMEs due to casual employment nature of many staff, limited training opportunities and investments in human capital coupled with limited inputs and low quality of technology, the limited skills base of employees or producers leads to further losses and inefficiencies. To take the example of pitsawyers – the owners of pitsawyers SMFEs are often not involved in the harvesting operations directly – they typically employ temporary labourers – often drawn from Kigezi area of south western Uganda – to undertake the hard manual labour involved in felling sawing and transporting timber to collection.

Also in Mbarara district, many small woodlot producers grow eucalyptus but would also like to diversify into other species like pine or cypress to meet new market demands. Despite expressing their demand to commercial nursery managers and seed suppliers, their needs are not being met.

Marketing, market information and knowledge remains very poor and constrains diversification and innovation. Low product quality reduces opportunities for reaching high value markets locally and abroad. Dr Aliker notes that this is not an issue specific to SMEs within the forest sector – it cuts across all SMEs in Uganda. However, it significantly undermines the bargaining position of many SMEs, as they have limited options when negotiating prices with buyers.

High land rental/purchase fee which is beyond the initial investment budget to enable establishment of planting trees in larger quantities remains a challenge; where plots are leased, the agreement rarely remains formalized and consequently long term investments in fixed assets remains a risky enterprise for New Forest.

Licensing and legality where Lack of transparency coupled with unclear and bureaucratic procedures for obtaining licenses undermines New Forest’s activities and contributes to market distortions. Obtaining of permits to New Forest has led to significant financial outlays and investments.

Below we explore external constraints that New Forests faces exogenously affecting profitability and sustainability such as; nature of the forest sector, land, environment, investment, fiscal, access to finance, markets, external Support.

The Nature of the forest sector aspects exhibits disorganization with lack of co-operation and co-ordination amongst the different ministries who are responsible for forests. Forest management, to varying degrees, forms part of the main mandates for the Ministry for Water, Lands and Environment, Ministry of Tourism, Trade, and Industry (UWA and national parks), and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (in terms of management of private forests, agroforestry, and extension provision through NAADS). Then lack of clarity between what is formal and informal provides ample scope for confusion and continued illegality throughout the forest sector. This has instead presented New Forest an opportunity to acquire hundreds of acres of farming land in Bugiri – eastern and western Uganda to enable them manage their forests.

Few linkages and lack of association for example, the larger Small Medium Forest Entrepreneurs are, to a certain extent, in association, either through informal contacts where most of them are Asian for example Nile Ply and in Budongo Forest there by influencing policy.

Few financial products are available other than bank loans. This undermines long-term domestic investment in SMFEs. There are more opportunities for foreign investors, accessed mainly through in-country schemes and also their behavior is driven by confidence in long-term stability of Uganda, not just by availability of finance, although this is significant.

New Forests lacks access to pricing information resulting in lack of awareness of fair local prices for wood which brings about marginalization . With such New Frest creates a monopoly of supply of its wood to UMEME and Rural Electrification Agency (REA) at its pricing.

Unfair competition due to uniform royalty rates, informal dealings to mention but a few. Transparency and enforcement of rules must be the highest priority for the new National Forestry Authority to rebuild investor confidence as affirmed by New Forest.

No policy determining forestry as preferred land use on private and customary land, which make up 70% of Uganda’s total forest and woodlands area, there is no policy specifically determining forestry as the preferred land use. There is a resulting lack of incentives both for off-reserve forest plantations and for the sustainable use of natural forests.

There is a widespread negative perception that corruption prevails within forestry in different forms and scales, and can affect the profitability, sustainability, and livelihood returns of New Forests and SMFEs in general for example the case of the formed MD of NFA who kept money under the bed and the wife stole it and was convicted in the courts of law.

Macro-economic and political stability are necessary preconditions to attract domestic and foreign investors in general and to the forest sector in particular. Although Uganda has been considered relatively stable since 1986 and continues to develop, there is still an over-riding lack of confidence amongst foreigners as to whether Uganda provides the long-term stability and institutional structure required for forestry-related enterprise. This view is particularly notable amongst New Forests and Asians in reference to the Amin regime – who have dominated the legal forestry business.

Uganda’s poor road, electricity and communication infrastructure poses a big constraint for New Forests in executing its tasks.


Based on the above key internal and external constraints, a number of priority strategies have been identified as below:

Supporting innovation for product and market development of forestry industry over time, demand for higher-quality wood products (furniture, etc) could be fostered to provide a new domestic market for lower-end artisans and carpenters. Small Medium Forest Enterprises cannot take risks to provide new higher-quality products if they do not see a demand for them.  At present, there is limited demand for middle-quality products, due to poverty which continues to promote a demand for very cheap goods, higher-quality domestically-manufactured products have not yet been available at affordable prices hence no demand for them.

How would this support SMFEs? This would support the development of new products and better finishing through fostering new inquisitiveness amongst smaller SMFEs involved in secondary processing (carpenters, artisans, joiners, paper processors).

 In terms of strategy, collaborating partners of New Forests such as The National Forestry Authority would be encouraged to lead in advocating for favorable policy and to help legitimize and set up a convention in collaboration with Uganda Manufacture’s Association to promote high-end agro-forestry.

Improving awareness of economic and aesthetic value of forest resources; current wastage of forest resources is extremely high in many SMFEs involved in harvesting and primary processing of timber. This is driven to a large extent by competition and lack of awareness of the alternative or new wood products, which can utilize off-cuts, or lower-quality soft and hardwoods. Uganda’s domestic production of plywood, parquet and other flooring, veneer products, and high-end wood packaging, to name a few, could be further encouraged, especially as these products are mainly imported. Non-consumptive use of forests in the form of tourism is also an area not yet fully appreciated or explored as of yet, and should be acknowledged and encouraged by NFA as a potential future revenue source.

Shaping SMFEs to reduce more poverty directly employing more local community population of youths and young families to generate income, and formalizing land and concession tenure may be removing access through to the poorest rural communities who largely depend on forest resources for a livelihood.

Encouraging the formation of associations amongst the smaller SMFEs (carpenters,artisans, pitsawyers, for example) may inadvertently remove any control they had over their own business and further marginalize them from a more “centralized” decision-making if these associations are hi-jacked by the more powerful amongst them.

SMFEs can be supported to improve existing working conditions through being able to offer sufficient and reliable income, access to training to improve skills, and comfortable working environment. Links could be fostered with larger SMFEs and companies whose Corporate Responsibility Programmes could benefit from supporting SMFEs. Nile Ply, BAT, Hima Cement, the various sugar works, and Rwenzori Highland Tea Company, for example, could sponsor training programmes in tree planting, plantation development, improving treatment of sawlogs for timber (drying, storage, treatment), and packaging and finishing.

The USE opportunity of availing capital to SMEs with Growth Enterprise  Market Segments(GEMS) that well suited for SMEs to bolter their growth.


In conclusion, Ugandan forestry is in a state of transition, given the extensive reforms underway in the move towards a ‘new public management’. Private forest enterprise is at the centre of the new approach, and is also expected to provide the drive behind revenue generation for the NFA. The profitability and sustainability of SMFEs is therefore fundamental to the long-term viability of Uganda’s forests.

There is a need to fully quantify and qualify the SMFE landscape in Uganda, there is a need to identify and analyze specific linkages and relationships which are required by Ugandan SMFEs.

There is a need to explore direct and indirect linkages between different SMFEs and their contribution to livelihoods and impact on poverty reduction, in the Ugandan context. Identifying viable options for new markets for wood and NWFP which could benefit Ugandan SMFEs of all types





·         Daily Monitor, March 19th 2013

·         Enterprise Uganda

·         Government of Uganda, (2000) The Forest Produce Fees and Licensing Order, Uganda

·         Jacovelli, P. & Carvalho, J. (1999) The Private Forest Sector in Uganda – Opportunities

for greater involvement: a study carried out as part of the Forest Sector Review,UFSCS / MWLE Kampala

·         Land Act, 1998, Law Development Centre, Kampala

·         Local Government Act, 1997, Kampala

·         New Forests Uganda Limited

Setting up a Social Media Strategy

Posted on Updated on

I have learned over the years that once you put your mind to something; the skill and innovation to execute it will flow seamlessly. With the emergence of Public Relations tools such as new media where social media is classified to reach out to our audiences; you need no second thought about exploring new media techniques.

Once you’ve decided that you want your business to have a social media presence, you have to figure out how to best use it to your advantage.  That is where a social media strategy comes in.  Some businesses choose to hire a social media manager to handle it, but many businesses want to do it themselves.  If you are the type who would rather do it for yourself (and there is nothing wrong with that), here are some things to consider when you set up a social media strategy for your business.

 Figure out who your audience is.

Think about who your ideal client is.  Who is your most popular type of customers – moms, businessmen, college students?  Figuring out who your audience is, is the first step.

  Where do they hang out?

Take a hard look at that target audience.  Are they stay-at-home moms who spend a lot of time on Facebook?  Are they business professionals who are on LinkedIn a lot?  Once you decide where your audience is, that is the platform you should start with. If you find they are on more than one platform, start with the strongest and then add in the second one.  There is no sense is being active on every single social media platform if your target market/audience is only on one or two.  You do not want to spread yourself thin.  I suggest concentrating on doing one or two platforms and doing them well.

 If you are targeting teens, you may want to give Instagram and SnapChat a good look – this is where they are going.

 Define your goal in using that platform to connect with your audience.

Ask yourself what do you want to get out of your social media – sales?  Brand advocates?  Increased engagement & relationship building?  How you use your social media will really come from this.  If you want to increase sales, for example, you would want to take advantage of Facebook offers or holding a contest.  If you want to increase engagement, you would want to post questions and images that will generate a response.  Your goal is like your compass.  Everything you do should point you to that goal.

Come up with a plan to get there.

Now that you have your audience identified, your platforms picked and your goal set, now you have decide what you are going to do to get to that goal.  This step goes hand-in-hand with step

  Often these are done at the same time.  You definitely want to be active and post at least 2-3 times per day.  Contests, tips, question & answer sessions and sharing information are all types of content that will help you achieve your goal. You need to ask yourself – how many times am I going to post?  How much time do I/can I invest in this?

Write your plan of action.

This is where all of the previous steps work into a formidable plan.  Take all the ideas you have had and write them down.  Decide on a content (posting) schedule.  Do you want to post 2 times per day or 3 or more?   When do you want to post?  Are you going to run a contest?  If so, when?  For how long?  Are you going to run ads to help with your Facebook page visibility?

I see this step as laying out the road map for your social media marketing efforts.  Having a written (or typed) out plan will help you achieve your goal(s).  Pin it up somewhere you will see it and act on it.  There’s nothing worse than putting time and energy into a plan and not acting on it.

5 Things To Help You Achieve The Lion’s Share Of Press Coverage; The @Steveology Blog

Posted on

A journalist once said “A lot of companies do not understand that reporters have no time to waste. Then, they keep bothering you if you don’t answer”. Below can help us understand how to maneuver;

Understand that readers and the press are in information overload. Reporters want information that helps contextualize news stories. Keep that in mind as your guiding principle.
Know upfront that reporters are not looking to get pitched on an individual story. Your company’s your product or upgrade? It is not a good use of your valuable time or theirs. Those days are dead; a long shot at best.
Focus on internal experts that are interesting. Reporters want access to very smart people who will talk candidly about things that are really happening. They want experts talking about what they know. Not about what they sell, or who spew marketing/corporate speak.
Pitch story ideas at the industry level. A new market, a new technology, a new wrinkle that will become disruptive to more than one company.
Go for the kill. This is your chance to put a check mark in the win column: Reporters want to know: Who can I talk to? What do they know? How candid of an exchange can he have with the expert? In short informative sentences let them know why your expert is a must-interview by answering those questions.

Much more but the above from The @Steveology Blog was worth sharing.

Make Space for Social Media

Posted on

Few professionals were sitting at their desks in 2004, eyeing the empty slots in their calendars and wishing that somebody would just invent a new way of communicating to fill those long and lonely minutes. People’s calendars were already full.
Social media demanded attention. It had to be put into the rotation, but that doesn’t mean we took something else off our calendars to accommodate it. Instead we just added it to the marketing teams’ tasks, challenging them to figure it out until they could make a business case for hiring full-time social media staffers.
Flash forward a decade, and any organization with serious social media ambitions has those full-time staffers. They’ve expanded teams and reassigned resources by eliminating now-deprecated communications channels. (Paper newsletter, anyone?)
For individuals however, it’s harder to expand and reassign resources. What are the rest of us taking off our plates to make room for the time we spend on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook? Not much.
If social media is worth doing, than it’s worth making time for. Anyone who’s spending more than an hour a week on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook has presumably made at least a subconscious calculation of the benefits of participating (or better still, an explicit set of goals for what they expect to accomplish with the time invested in social media usage).
But all too many of us decide that social media is worth doing without deciding what is worth giving up for it. And unless you’re one of the miraculous few who does have plenty of empty space on your dance card, you must give something up in order to make time for social networking.
How do you decide what to eliminate? You can prioritize what to keep and what to retire by answering these questions:
What am I learning from social media? If you use social media as a news gathering, training or learning resource, ask which of your prior news tracking or learning activities can be retired. If you’re now reading 10 blog posts a week on professional best practices, maybe you don’t need to attend that annual training workshop anymore.
Who am I meeting through social media? One of the great rewards of Twitter, LinkedIn and other professionally rich networks is the discovery of new colleagues or the deepening of professional conversations and ties. If you’re consistently expanding your professional network through the time you spend online, consider scaling back the number of face-to-face networking events you attend in order to build out your rolodex (and why don’t you retire the rolodex while you’re at it).
Who am I reaching through social media? Blogs, Slideshare, YouTube videos: social media provides an extensive array of opportunities for sharing your ideas and building your reputation. That may allow you to reduce the other kinds of reputation-builders that formerly filled your schedule. You may still get value from presenting to an audience of a thousand, but are you better off speaking pro bono to a room of 25 people, or writing a blog post that will be read by 250?
How am I replenished by social media? If you’ve made time for social media, it’s probably because you actually enjoy it. So tune into the emotional impact of the time you spend on Facebook or Twitter, as compared to the other kinds of activities or interactions that formerly filled up your leisure hours. What’s more relaxing: watching TV or catching up on Facebook news? What’s more fun: going to a bar, or kibitzing on Twitter? What’s more restorative: reading a blog post or reading a novel? Depending on your personal preferences, you may decide to shelve some of your less-satisfying hobbies in favor of some of your new social media activities.
One virtue of this kind of evaluation is that it not only allows you to evaluate which pre-Facebook activities are less valuable than social media, but also to notice where social media has crowded out professional or personal activities that offer more rewards than you get from spending that same hour on Twitter or LinkedIn. The key is to make these trade-offs conscious and explicit, rather than letting social media take over more rewarding activities, or letting it crowd out the remaining space in your life.
Because you are giving something up to make time for social media, even if what you’re giving up is sleep or (rarer still) empty space. Indeed, that empty space may be what’s most precious, because it’s the margin that ensures that when the next must-do activity appears on the horizon, you don’t go ten years without noticing you need to take something else off your plate.