Michael Litman of Consolidated PR an interview
Tell me about your work?
I work at Consolidated PR, a full service, independent PR agency. We’re 49th in the Sunday Times Best Small Companies 2009 and the only agency in the UK on both COI and Scottish Government rosters. Paul Borge heads up the digital team and I support him as the company Social Media Strategist. We’ve just been recently nominated for a PRCA Digital award for our work with MTV Staying Alive on a campaign promoting safe sex to teens.
What was your first experience of social media?
My first experience of social media in the guise of communicating with others was probably going on various video game forums when I was much younger and a video game nerd. (Ok so I still am, just don’t have as much time to play!)
Sharing tips, experiences and advice on stuff I was either playing or looking forward to with complete strangers yet feeling like you knew some of them better than you did friends was natural to me from a young age. I was always fascinated with interactions with people we don’t know and how we adapt who we are to fit in with the audience. Then I guess the progress was from Bebo to MySpace to Facebook and now Twitter and LinkedIn also. At University I did my Dissertation on ‘Social Networking and it’s Value To Business’ which examined how individuals and brands use social networks for personal / business gain. It was after that, I knew that I wanted to seek a career in this thing we called social media. And here I am!
What is the biggest tip you would give to a newbie in social media?
No one’s an expert when we’re all learning, sharing experiences, best practice and also case studies in how not to act on social media platforms.
If you have a blog, write about only what interests you, your passion will come through in the articles. Pretend to be an expert on something you know nothing about and that will also come through!
Have your own views on current affairs, online news, issues surrounding online tech, social media etc. Don’t be afraid to say what you think but don’t be controversial for the sake of it.
What do advertisers do that you wish they wouldn’t?
I think there’s an inherent lack of understanding, perhaps ignorance at what social media is and how to get the best out of it. Some brands think they can set up a Twitter account and everything’s all magically going to fall in to place. You need to take a more longer term view than that. It’s always best to first think about the objectives of getting involved on the social web, the audience and their interests. What are you looking to get out of it and what would success look like? Also, applying traditional metrics to areas that don’t lend themselves to such measurement is an important consideration. Think about new measurement models which are better suited. For instance, social value can be far greater than economical value. The most well known example of a campaign that couldn’t be measured in economic value was the Obama election campaign.
What do bloggers do that you wish they wouldn’t?
Simple one this; stereotyping all PRs as bad people! I’d like to think I’m a curious hybrid of the two, but I would say that wouldn’t I. It’s definitely advantageous for me to write a blog and get pitched to myself and then be pitching others for company projects.
Where do you see growth in the social media field?
Social media is just a label (and an overused one at that) associated with the online buzz and excitement of the moment online. Brands and agencies have recognised that there’s a pressing need to be listening, involved and part of the conversation. We’ve seen specialist agencies pop up who do just this on behalf of clients. One agency for example who in years gone by previously said that you wouldn’t have time to blog. Now they are actively hiring for social media ‘experts’. The cultural dynamic of agencies is changing.
What new ideas are advertisers coming up with to take advantage of new trends?
A few bold brands have recently dipped their toe in the water with Augmented Reality and I think this is a hugely exciting area that is ripe for further exploration.
I believe that the next ‘big thing’ will be a greater sense of personalisation and location based offerings. We’re starting to see this for example in Foursquare (about which I could talk about non-stop until tomorrow!)
For example, I’d checked in to a well known restaurant chain in Soho on Foursquare and upon checking in, an offer came up on screen for another local restaurant chain. In the offer, it said that when you had checked in to the restaurant twice and become Mayor of that particular restaurant, you’re entitled to a 2 for 1 meal! You’d simply have to take your phone and a friend in with you, show them that you’re Mayor and your friend eats free!
To me that’s utterly mind blowing.
What do you do that is green?
As a company, we have a designated ‘Green Team’. Along with this, each team across the company has an appointed green representative to ensure all practises and elements of the green policy are consistently applied.
Even the smallest of changes add up and are a step in the right direction – from using measuring marks on kettles to reduce water usage and switching off equipment on standby, to motion sensor lighting and ensuring heating controls are set between the recommended 19-21 degrees. More efficient usage and visual / verbal awareness campaigns re: the use of heating devices, filling of kettles and electrical equipment on standby, has led to an overall decrease in company energy usage by 17%.
We’ve won two awards in recent years, for example ‘Most Improved Business’ in the Better Climate for Camden Awards 2008 and in 2009 were Highly Commended for being a company that demonstrated the “Greatest Improvement for Environmental Performance.” at the Environmental Excellence in Camden Organisations Awards 2009
What is one thing about you that not many people know?
I ran my own business for 2 years whilst at college and before I went to University.
What’s your favorite book?
‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ by Paul Arden
What is on your iPod?
A really broad mix, transcending musical genres.
You’ve got everything from Arcade Fire and Basement Jaxx to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Zombie Nation!
I can’t travel on the tube without having my headphones in and music blaring; it takes me to a different place!
What are your contact details (email company, blog, Facebook, MySpace, forums, etc)?
I’m on most places on the web, here’s a few –
Company – http://www.consolidatedpr.com
Blog – http://www.litmanlive.com
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/litmanlive
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaellitman
What events do you go to?
I go to a fair few events because it’s great to be constantly broadening your network and being exposed to people from different walks of life. In London especially, there seems to be a different event going on daily ranging from DrinkTank, Digital Lounge, Cozy Tweetup, Tuttle Club and the London Bloggers Meetup to name a few. Attending events and networking has immense value in developing professional connections, existing friendships and knowledge growth.
How do you prefer to communicate?
An in person chat, email or send me a tweet. I’m fairly accessible on any of the above channels so get in touch if you’ve got any questions at all.
Who would you recommend, and why?
>Paul Borge (@pbizzle)
This is an easy one, my current boss. Some say we’re an inseparable work duo but that’s no bad thing. We’re both complete Apple fanboys and are info junkies, keeping up to date with the latest tech, social media and shiny silver gadgets that serve absolutely no purpose. Also share an unhealthy obsession with good food. We’re both passionate about the work we do with social media, but without taking it all too seriously or doing things on the web just for the sake of it.
>James Whatley (@whatleydude)
Achieving a huge amount in a relatively short space of time, James was the driving force that encouraged me to move to London and find work fulfilling my passions and interests. I reached out to James who was a rock, when I was in a place where I wasn’t enjoying myself at all and had got in a bit of a rut having been told by my then manager that there weren’t any jobs in this thing called social media. He’s got a very rare characteristic of being genuinely friends with everyone, widely respected and a knowledge on all things mobile.
>Jed Hallam (@jedhallam)
He has this amazing knack of pushing my buttons to the point that I get involved in some really long, wordy debate on issues I thought I didn’t have an opinion on. Bizarre. I see him as one of those kindred folks you have a connection with and can go for a while without being in touch and then as soon as you do, it’s as if there’s been no time gap.
>Cate Sevilla (@cupcate)
Cate is doing some pioneering stuff with BitchBuzz and truly forging ahead. Their recent campaign with Magners was a huge success for both parties and showed a greater level of integration on the social web than I’ve seen on many a news site. Establishing long lasting and fruitful relationships with journalists, PRs and bloggers alike she writes with humour, experience, self depracation and knowledge.
>Louise Doherty (@louisedoherty)
Similar to Jed, I see Louise as following a similar career path and I would imagine shares the same every day experiences, battles and challenges you come up against when doing work that enters new territories and changes company process. She’ll be running the show in years to come.
>Neville Hobson (@jangles)
Neville is a figurehead in the online space, a knowledgebase and a valued and respected opinion on communications. Recently appointed as the Head of Social Media Europe for Weisscomm Group, when you talk about an early adopter and influencer, Neville is it. His passion for new and emerging channels and technologies is infectious and knows no bounds!
>Andy Bellass and Shirin Majid (@andybellass) and Shirin Majid (@shirinmajid)
Strategy and creative powerhouses at Splendid, both are successful, dynamic and humble along with being brilliant inspirations during my time there. I sought to learn as much as I could from them. They work around the clock and still have the same levels of enthusiasm for what they do. Andy produces and delivers mesmerising presentations and Shirin sees things that most other people don’t when tackling a project.
>Kai Turner (@kaigani)
Kai has recently gone it alone with Oxidant after most recently being at Agency.com and it looks to be making some waves in the user experience, information design and architecture spaces. A knowledge on the tech scene (and the party scene!) Oxidant will carve themselves out a sizeable niche I’m sure.
> Fernando Rizo (@fernandorizo)
This guy has got some stories to tell. Going from the marines to PR, via New York, impressive! One of the breed of PRs who don’t take themselves or their work too seriously, always has a smile on their face but is a high achiever too and gets stuff done. Gamer, tech lover and cinema buff, great guy.
>Tim Whirledge (@tim_whirledge) / Stephen Davies (@stedavies) / Andrew Vincent (@ATSV)
Originally from more of an advertising background, Tim made the move over to PR and looks to be doing some great stuff, all with a smile. He seems to have this knack of talking about complex stuff but in a down to earth, matey fashion, always good to chew the digital cud with Tim.
Stephen, probably universally known as prblogger.com has rebranded of late and is now at stedavies.com branching out more in to the communications space. Does a killer presentation and again is a knowledgable but personable guy.
Andrew is an interesting chap and has some very philosophical views on the comms industry, strength of connections and the social media world. He’s used words I never knew existed, always good for broadening the mind! He isn’t taken in by all the hype currently being lavished on digital PR and believes that people haven’t inherently changed, neither has their behaviour, just that a bunch of new tools have been invented to extend our reach, allowing digital communities to grow through the sharing of common ideas and interests
What is one thing people can do for you?
Send me an email or a tweet saying hello if you found any of the above useful!