Guest Genius of the Week: Lindsay Lebresco

On Thursday, we’re happy to turn over our blog space to a Guest Genius, someone who can give a fantastic and fascinating perspective about making word of mouth work. 

This week’s guest genius:
Lindsay Lebresco
Public Relations Manager, Graco

Graco has done amazing things with word of mouth, especially through corporate social media. The Graco Blog is receiving rave reviews as an appropriate, effective way to communicate with customers. Graco Public Relations Manager (and Blog Council member) Lindsay Lebresco talks about the strategies behind the blog… and you’ll find many WOM-worthy elements are involved. Lindsay will talk about Graco’s social media efforts at BlogWell: How Big Companies Use Social Media.

The Birth of a Blog

9 months sure feels like an eternity to a 38 week pregnant woman a swollen belly and swollen ankles to match, but to the public relations, marketing and legal teams at Graco, 9 months seem to fly by in a wink. Funny enough, 9 months is how long it took the Graco corporate blog, and greater social media strategy, to come to life. 

In that time there were [sometimes painful] meetings with legal, deep, introspective meetings with my boss, the Global Vice President of Brand Marketing, meetings with the larger brand team, meetings with our social media agency, Converseon, meetings with would-be blog contributors, and even a thousand “meetings” with myself (those were really just reminders on my outlook calendar to take my head out of the blogosphere). Believe it or not, while we were doing all that meeting, planning, debating, strategizing and talking, we were also listening. And that listening, coupled with a shift in the way we would approach “PR,” was the catalyst that helped Graco to dive headfirst into the world of social media and corporate blogging. 

Before we started, we needed to identify what we hoped to accomplish for the brand through social media. We knew that first-time expectant moms often turn to other experienced moms or parents for advice, so we knew that we wanted to enable advocacy of the brand to happen from parent to parent. We also knew that within the baby product industry, trust in a brand is paramount. The Graco brand is over 50 years old and we are fortunate that our brand has a very high level of trust with parents, but we wanted to make sure we maintain that level of trust as well as build on it. And the final thing we needed to accomplish was to understand the needs of our consumers even better. That is the fundamental shift we took on from “doing public relations” to quite simply “having a relationship with the public.” 

We would accomplish these goals in 3 ways: Listening to, Engaging with, and Participating in the online conversation. 

We would continue to monitor the online conversation about the brand as well as listen to what parents were talking about — to see what was going on in their lives and take stock in what was really important to them. We also heard that consumers were ready to have a relationship with the Graco brand (because of the high level of positive sentiment for the brand we found looking through conversations in the online space). 

That understanding helped us to put together a plan where we could engage in conversations with our consumers — whether it was providing some information about a newly launched product, correcting some misinformation about the brand, or most importantly, chiming in with nuggets of parenting wisdom about soothing an infant or potty-training a toddler (all via Graco employees personal experience — no expert advice here). We also knew that online relationships can be made that much stronger by personal meet-ups so we started a series of Graco Get-Togethers where we would host a group of regional parenting bloggers at a venue (which ranged from swanky hotels, to nice restaurants, to a bloggers’ living room) thus enabling conversation about the brand (and hopefully advocacy) and building relationships. After that it was quite simple — social media is all about relationships, and that’s what we wanted to continue to build on. 

The third part of our entrée into social media was the launching of the Graco corporate blog. We wanted to participate in the online conversation. It was important for Graco to have a voice and have an opportunity to introduce ourselves and highlight the fact that we, the employees of Graco and the contributors to the blog, are parents too. “We get you, we’re in this parenthood journey together.” That voice, the one of a parent, is the voice you’ll hear most frequently at the blog. Of course, we’ll throw in an occasional post about a new product or program launch and we’ll talk about what it’s like behind the scenes at Graco, but what you’ll hear most about is tales of toddlerhood from our Commercialization Manager, Melissa Parlaman, or what happens when toddlers turn teen from Jon DeHart of the Car Seat Product Marketing team, or Parent’s Dirty Little Secrets from Kim Lefko, Vice President of the Global Brand team — I’m even willing to share the fact that my potty-training 3-year-old son has very poor aim which is evident in close inspection of the shower curtain, bath mat, or wallpaper. And that’s how we’re connecting with bloggers and online influencers, our readers, our consumers, our friends — and even our fellow employees. 

So when people ask about our strategy and perhaps hope to take away some pointers on how they might get started, I almost feel guilty telling them to simply: “Keep it real, be authentic and be fully engaged.”

Learn more from this Genius: 

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