Friday, June 16, 2006
Thursday, June 15, 2006
If you're a subscriber via RSS (thank you!), I am told that you're all set. Additionally, I am told that the re-direct we're setting up for this site will automatically direct browsers to the new site (after a millisecond blip).
I bemoan the loss of Technorati rankings (Technorati Rank: 12,109 --- 407 links from 162 sites; not sure how good that is) and Google juice, but it's time to upgrade.
As we depart this Blogger site --- 2 years & 2 weeks since it started --- one milestone I feel good about is the ~1,600 monthly visitors we've been trying to entertain, enlighten & (occasionally) enrage. Hope you'll all join us!
Even though my tech guy assures me that the re-direct will work quickly & seamlessly, I will probably cross-post to this site for a week or so.
Thanks for the memes --- err, memories --- Blogger!
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Social Media Press Releases: Digging Deeper
I've also learned through PR Newswire that almost 700 registered journalists took a look at our announcement.
Meanwhile, almost 80 bloggers have made note of the template, in some form or another, and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
Pretty cool... but, some folks have raised some legitimate objections, so I want to see what I can do to sway them, a bit. To do so, we must dig deeper into the features, motivations and opportunities created by the new format.
The primary objection is best summed up by Susan Getgood: "The focus needs to be on content. Crappy content in a new form does NOT equal a good press release." ... (Special award for snarkasm goes to Brian Oberkirch of Ketchum, who talked about how we were merely "tarting up message points" --- great line!)
I am in whole-hearted agreement with these objectors. Even though the bullet-point format should minimize a lot of the "superlative" bad writing, the Social Media Press Release must be well-written. And, it does not replace the need to participate in on-going conversations.
With that said, please, explore with me. Let's take the time to examine some of the finer points:
As I mentioned at Susan's site, one benefit to the Social Media Press Release is that it could enable the widescale distribution of multimedia content that will be relevant not just to mainstream journalists but to bloggers, as well. Bloggers like pictures, to "tart-up" their posts (thanks, Brian). But that's one of the simplest of its benefits.
Now, think about the digg button on the Social Media release. Maybe no mainstream journalist covers your release, but, a few bloggers "digg" & comment on it --- and potentially a release that would have died on the vine becomes a full-scale meme ... which in turn leads to mainstream coverage! Such a scenario is possible for the first time, now. The Social Media release facilitates this scenario.
Dig deeper: I am increasingly excited about "Pitching 2.0". PR pros can become "stewards of the storyline" ... Rather than just get journalists to subscribe to our clients' pressroom RSS feeds, we might want them to subscribe to a del.icio.us site where we can "build" a story for them via links and our own notes/opinions. Essentially, the PR pro can become the journalists' and bloggers' Research Assistant, via on-going updates to the del.icio.us site. And how do you get the original access to the "purpose-built" del.icio.us page & accompanying RSS feed? In part, through the Social Media Press Release!
More to come.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
San Francisco On My Mind
WARNING: I am fiercely recruiting for Account Managers, Directors, etc., to support our growth. You may find a PR 2.0 chat evolving into a discussion about your career goals!
Big, Happy Surprises
The single biggest surprise to come out of the launch of the Social Media Press Release template?
The ## of clients and prospects that have subsequently raised their hands to say, "Make us your guinea pig."
Heartening. I'm planning to take 'em up on it.
Mistakes will be made!
Sunday, June 11, 2006
"Consumer Generated Media" Starts at Home
But there's another form of consumer-created content, freely available to corporations who want to tap into it, which can provide a goldmine of actionable data.
It's e-mail. The e-mail that flows into a company via its customer service channel.
Most companies view customer emails as "trouble tickets." Fix the trouble, and the emails stop.
But imagine a company that took the time and expended the resources to data-mine these e-mails for trends. Imagine a day when these email trends could be correlated and cross-checked with the data they're scouting for in blogs and the mainstream media.
On Day #1, a new product debuts: The Widget. The mainstream media gives The Widget a warm reception. The CMO is pleased.
On Day #2, a spike of email & phone traffic flows into Customer Service. The Widget's doohickey breaks after several hours' worth of use. Customer Service reps navigate users to a solution that usually works. The CMO is not notified of any of this. He's thinking about how to launch The Widget, 2.0. (From a beach. In Hawaii.)
On Day #7, a blogger who waited for 45 minutes on the phone for The Widget tech support (only to be disconnected) blogs about how pissed-off he is about the doohickey's failings and cruddy tech support. His network of online friends pick up the strand. Other pissed-off Widget owners find out about this conversation via Google and Technorati searches on "Widget problems." They blog and comment accordingly. A meme develops.
On Day #14, a BusinessWeek reporter notices that "Widget problems" is high on the list of searches at Technorati. One user's makeshift "doohickey fix" is among the most commonly saved items on del.icio.us. The BusinessWeek reporter calls The Widget people for comment. The CMO is recalled from the beach. There's no SPF-factor lotion high enough to protect him from the "burn" he's about to feel.
Now imagine if the technologies that marketers now use to track online conversations had also been used to track the emails that flooded into the Customer Service department on Day #2.
The Widget-makers could have blogged about "potential doohickey problems and how to fix them;" and put out a traditional release; and, kept a close look-out for blog postings that they could have reacted to almost instantly, to keep the meme from becoming a "firememe" (like a firestorm, only "meemier").
"Social Media" is about the conversation. If your customers are trying to tell you something, be sure you have the capability to listen --- early & often.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Maybe We Need a Social Media DMZ?
On the one hand I welcome this, obviously. But, it's the first time we've heard from Tom since we launched our template. And meanwhile, Edelman hasn't exactly proven to be an open-source partner on this Social Media stuff. I know Tom sure likes them. (And I admit, that worries me a li'l bit. I'm all for openness, but I also run a business. "Mouths to feed, rent to pay," and all that. We compete on innovation.)
Maybe we could all get together, at the NewPR wiki? --- if competing agencies are going to openly collaborate on this continuing evolution, I'd consider Constantin Basturea's workspace to be an acceptable DMZ.
The net of it is that SHIFT is happy to help out, on a level playing field, to advance the cause. Certainly, the conversation has already started. And we are proud of our role in moving it forward.
For the record, I am not saying anything in this post that I have not already communicated to Tom privately. In addition, his post contains some additional great suggestions about how the Social Media Press Release might be improved. Watch this space.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
It's a Hand-Off, Not a Duel
Look, these types of meetings are never easy. I understand that our competitor lost revenue and prestige when the client decided to take a new direction. But that's business. Win some, lose some, right?
Consider how badly this one dumb move could hurt their business.
- The client will never again consider calling that agency.
- The client contacts present during the hand-off meeting won't ever call them into an agency review, when they invariably move on to their next gigs.
- I will never recommend this agency in instances where we might have a newbiz conflict.
- 50-odd PR people in the Boston market now consider this agency to have a "black mark" against it.
- They won't ever interview there as prospective employees.
- They won't ever think to invite that firm to compete for their business, if they ever take an in-house marketing post.
Burning bridges is bad business.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I Create, Therefore I Market
After all, no one takes the time to envision, craft, and post a piece of content --- of any type --- without hoping for an audience to react to it. Even the gazillions of abandoned blogs that you run across were clearly hoping that their small voice would find a receptive ear.
If we are “all” becoming marketers, it follows that we are all also looking for “distribution” outlets. (Blogger is a lemonade stand. MySpace and YouTube are aggregators – shopping malls. Who’s got the best lemonade stand? What’s the coolest store to hang out in? Who’s the coolest kid at the mall?)
That's not to say that the content creator is marketing for a montary gain, necessarily. In the 2.0 world --- in which, let’s not forget, we are increasingly alienated from real-world communities and instead embrace our screens --- “marketing” for an amateur content creator may just mean that they are looking for validation, for authority --- not a pay-out.
By “marketing,” in other words, I am suggesting that a content creator is actively in search of an audience. If they fail, they try again: they make their content better; they post in a different forum. They are making tactical, thoughtful calculations about how to boost traffic/comments/feedback that validate their efforts. They take action in search of reaction.
Look again at the adorable kid in this picture. She probably spent an hour making those Play Doh sculptures. And I'll bet that she subsequently called out to Mommy to check it all out. She is clearly delighted that Mommy was so impressed that she ran to grab the camera! The li'l gal is a content creator who successfully marketed the value of her effort. With a click of the camera shutter, she closed the sale. Validation!
"Ya Say Ya Wanna Revolution?"
"Maybe I am inexperienced and naive, but why can’t (your ideas) be implemented? As an undergrad majoring in PR, I am completely terrified that while the school’s reputation might add some attractiveness to my resume, my real-world skills will be terribly lacking. Internships only tend to reinforce the concepts that PR intro classes teach (like how to write a press release), but they fall short in terms of providing a meaningful connection with the professional world as a whole.Wow. (Umm, Lindsay - call me 1st, upon graduation! Your thoughtfulness and sincerity light up your comment.)
"So I’m stumped. If I can’t receive much significant in the way of actual, workable knowledge in undergrad, grad school, or internships, then it follows that the people providing the jobs should help cultivate me.
"If the PR firms and departments are dissatisfied with the pseudo-educated graduates flocking in for interviews, why don’t they have a right to work closely with colleges and universities? Why is this such a utopian idea, Todd?"
To address the core question: "Why don't PR firms work closely with universities to ensure that their graduates are up-to-speed on both core skillsets and forward-looking social media concepts?" --- I think it's a combination of factors:
- PR pros at-work in the industry are too dang busy to give the educators any assistance.
- PR educators --- in the past, anyway --- were happy to ensconce themselves in the "ivory tower." They did not bother to reach out to agency employers.
- It was easy for both educator and employer to ignore one another because it was "good enough" for agencies to get raw recruits who had at least demonstrated a legitimate commitment to the trade.
Mostly, I am encouraged by y-o-u, Lindsey. You give a shit. That counts for something. And in all likelihood, the "MySpace Generation" needn't worry much about "grokking" the Social Media phenomenon --- YOU will push US (both employers & educators).
This is how revolutions are born --- through the student population.
Friday, June 02, 2006
PR 2.0 Learning Curves
Many were intrigued and enthused. Some were intrigued but daunted. Some were skeptical. One asked, "Are you sure that this isn't a case of 'ready, shoot, aim' --- will the media 'get' this anytime soon?"
As an agency principal, I admit I'm daunted not only by the amount of time my own staff will require to get up to speed on all this stuff, but also by the amount of time it takes to make & sustain a valuable level of "connectedness." It's probably 3X the work. Will clients see enough value in these new models to boost their retainers? Not by 3X.
On the flip side, I honestly don't know how long it will take for mainstream media to "catch on" to this new paradigm. It very well could be a case of "ready, shoot, aim," into the forseeable future.
But I think that the days of Social Media PR are dawning. I think that if a few innovative agencies effectively execute a few PR 2.0 campaigns --- impressing some influential media via the use of traditional (pitch, relationship, email) and new (del.icio.us, multimedia) tools --- it will create a viral condition. It may take a while, but ultimately journalists will come to expect the higher levels of communication, trust, research, etc., implied by the new approaches.
Hat-tip to Brian Oberkirch at Weblogs Work for the inspiration. He's started a valuable conversation about the challenges agencies are already facing in their embrace (or not) of Social Media.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Among the newfangled tools that's most intriguing for its potential to impact Public Relations practices is "social bookmarking." Putting together the custom del.icio.us page for our template helped enlighten me to the fact that social bookmarks could literally help salvage PR from its critics. This is a place where PR can add legitimate value to the journalist.
"Looks like a bunch of random links to me," you say? Au contraire. Done right, these tools will make the PR pro more strategic, more subtle and invaluable. Let's examine The Old Way & The Social Media Way to pitch the press.
- Craft a clever, custom pitch.
- Convince journalist to take a meeting (and do the bulk of the pre-interview research on their own).
- Offer to help-out with additional materials and "anything else you need..."
- Maybe send a god-awful press-kit in advance of the meeting, knowing full well that there were, maybe, 2 worthwhile paragraphs in the whole kaboodle.
- Follow-up too diligently, until article breaks.
- Ask journalist's editor for an after-the-fact clarification to soothe pissy client CEO.
- Craft a custom del.icio.us page with lotsa links to relevant background info about client execs, market, products, previous coverage.
- Annotate these links with the all-important "WHY," e.g., "this article from 6 months ago did a good job of summing up the market factors that spawned (client's) idea."
- Craft a clever, custom pitch.
- Convince journalist to preview del.icio.us page and get back to you with questions.
- (Convince journalist that the best person to answer these questions is your client.)
- Suggest journalist subscribe to the custom del.icio.us page's RSS feed, until the editorial process concludes, so that they can have 24/7 access to any relevant info that pops up in the meantime (courtesy of the PR pro's diligent, on-going research. ...More strategic!)
- Conduct client interview & follow-up diligently.
- But now, use updates (and associated notes) to the del.icio.us page to tap journalist via their RSS reader --- which means fewer of those intrusive, unhelpful "anything else you need?" emails. ... More subtle!
- The PR pro is now as attuned to the story's nuances as the journalist, and ultimately is far better equipped to pitch new angles on the same story, to additional reporters. ...Invaluable!
- If story sucks, reach out to journalist; but if all else fails and these inaccuracies could hurt the client's business, help the client to blog about the errors --- very, very diplomatically.
But caveats aside - NEW does not equal BAD. NEW is the future. Today, we just get to peek at it. And prepare.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
How Many Downloads of the Social Media Press Release Template So Far?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
The PR blogosphere is very generous. The wisdom and enthusiasm, good wishes and constructive criticisms were amazing.
Most people could care less about "the press release." What they all truly hate is "bad storytelling." I agree. Part of the "Big Idea" is to get rid of some of the PRspeak that has come to take the place of good storytelling, by stripping the news to its core facts. Having said that, I do want to clarify, again: the "Social Media Press Release" was never intended to replace a narrative pitch, nor is it intended to replace a journalist's responsibility to do their own research and write their own version of the news.
The "Social Media Press Release" is more about making the media's job easier than it is about "being social." It makes their job easier by:
- providing multimedia content that they can view (for education) or post (to generate more reader enthusiasm).
- putting the basic facts on display, without extraneous hoo-ha.
- enabling them to keep tabs on related news updates (via RSS).
- putting all speakers' contact info front¢er.
- putting lots of relevant content, in context, and with helpful notes, all in one place (del.icio.us).
It's (not necessarily) too soon for the "Social Media Press Release." Yes, it is bleeding edge; maybe too much so, for many folks in the media, among clients and in the PR world. Yet, as I noted in my last post, bits & pieces of this concept are already working their way into the PR world. I was contacted numerous times this week by corporate marketers and PR agency pros who are keen to try this. It won't happen tomorrow, but it will happen.
No matter how often I tell folks it's spelled "SHIFT," all caps, they'll still use "Shift." Oh well.
It's been an exciting ride. Thanks to everyone at SHIFT and in the PR/marketing arena who helped out with this effort. Time to take a li'l time off to re-connect with the wife & kids.
After a week like this, there's only one place to go. Can you guess?
A Swift Kick into "PR 2.0"
I admitted at the start that this template may well be too bleeding-edge (for now), but frankly I've been blown away by the positive reactions among clients, media and PR pros; the positives far outweigh the negatives so far (and even the so-called negatives have been constructive). My in-box is flooded.
- One journalist told me, "This is cool; there are less things for me to ignore!"
- The director of PR at a billion+ dollar company (not a client) reached out to say, "This is just the kind of thinking that we need."
- The prez @ bitePR let me know they were working on similar projects for their clients.
A key lesson learned from this effort is that if anyone seems truly "unready" for the next-gen press release, it's the wire services. Despite their claims, it seems it's still "horse & buggy" time.
- 24+ hours turnaround, and only during business hours? Responsiveness? - slug-like.
- Very poor knowledge or utility when it comes to Web 2.0 stuff like del.icio.us, Technorati, etc.
- Formatting nightmares.
- The multimedia nature of these Social Media Press Releases = more $$$. This will be a deal-breaker for some clients.
You can argue that this is "bleeding edge" stuff; you can argue that no one's touched the press release format in 50 years ... but, c'mon --- it also ain't rocket science.
Everyone has some hard work to do in this arena, and --- based on the reactions so far --- it seems to be work that's worth doing. Giddyap!
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The "Social Media Press Release" Debuts - Download the Template Today!
This newfangled press release format has been baking since late February, thanks to the rantings of Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher. You can get the template in PDF form here, or at our website.
The template is 100% open to the PR/marketing community. No copyright baloney. We hope it can serve as a helpful guide to kickstart thinking about how we can evolve the PR sector. Maybe it can serve as a talking points memo to show to clients, to convince them to give it a try? Maybe you hate it? Maybe you've got some ideas on how to improve it? Let me know.
Love it or hate it, what is important is that the banal, unhelpful, cookie-cutter press releases of yore have outlived their pre-Internet usefulness.
So, to announce the "Social Media Press Release template" (and to show how it might look in the real world) we also put out what may be the first ever press release to use this next-generation format, via PR Newswire.
As noted last week, Edelman has their own plans in this vein (also inspired by Foremski). We look forward to seeing how their version differs from our template. No doubt that with Edelman's deeper pockets, it will at least have more multimedia components.
For now, we're not so much hoping to impress, as to help. "Victory" will be achieved if our peers in the PR sphere start to download the PDF and tack it to their walls for future reference.
As this concept evolves, it will be tracked at a purpose-built del.icio.us site. Please pay a visit, or subscribe to the del.icio.us RSS feed for the "Social Media Press Release."
UPDATE: Some kind words so far, from the PR blogosphere (thanks)! If you can, please do take a moment to look at the del.icio.us site ... not just to keep tabs on the concept but, more importantly, in order to spur some thought about how a similar strategy might work for your own clients' PR efforts.
Meanwhile, if you want to see how the first official Social Media Press Release looks in practice, click this link to the PR Newswire version.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Edelman + Technorati, Sitting in a Tree
"Technorati and Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm, are announcing a relationship that's all about supporting the international growth of the blogosphere.Certainly, Edelman is to be applauded - imagine the competitive advantage that this brings to the table when they are pitching for a global brand! Large consumer brands operate in a real-time, 24/7, global communications environment, and --- at least until 2007 --- only Edelman can now compete at that level.
"Technorati is accelerating the development of fully localized versions of our service in Chinese, Korean, German, Italian and French. These will be moving through development and testing over the coming months and will be complete, public products in early 2007. (Technorati today can show posts in 20 languages, but so far we've only done completely localized versions in English and Japanese)."Edelman is providing support for this accelerated development effort and will have access to these new sites as they are in development and testing this year. They will be working with their international clients on how to listen to and engage the blogosphere. How to move away from one-way, command and control marketing towards the conversational era we've entered."
I am a li'l troubled by this move on Technorati's part, though. Aren't all PR firms and corporate marketers currently "working with clients on how to listen and engage the blogosphere"?
Giving one agency an early, proprietary lead --- if that's what is happening (it is unclear just now) --- seems to go against the grain of our open movement...
Imagine if the recently-unveiled Google Trends had been exclusively available to Fleishman-Hillard, for a year before its public debut. How would that have made you feel?
UPDATE: More troubling questions about this issue raised at the LooseWire blog, by WSJ columnist Jeremy Wagstaff. Edelman's been keeping tabs on this conversation. But it's Technorati that has some 'splainin' to do, if you ask me. When will the Technorati folks respond to all this, I wonder?
Friday, May 19, 2006
It will make you feel much, much worse.
Don't have time to check the links? Lemme net it out for you (courtesy of this site):
...By means of analogy, we can see that our earth is but a speck of dust on the side of a grain of sand, in a sandbox that is about 20 feet diameter, with the closest sandbox being about 1/3 mile away, and our local group of galaxies would be but a collection of sandboxes in a space about the size of a small city, and that there are other cities with groups of sandboxes as well, expanding out to the whole earth, with billions of other sandboxes each representing other galaxies, each containing billions of stars.Pretty humbling, eh, my fellow bloggers? Perspective is good.
But before you spin into the weekend feeling lost & lonely, alone & insignificant, here's a thought (from the same sitelink above) that may inspire us all:
(Humankind has) been given the ability to attempt to comprehend the scale of it all.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Edelman Pinches The "Press Release of Tomorrow"
releasing a "physical manifestation" of the reinvention of the press release in June. "It’s better to say, 'We’re going to give you a set of info with tags and you organize it as you wish,'" Edelman said. “We’d rather have it in pieces as if it’s a b-roll and let bloggers make the news judgment.”If you just can't wait til June; if you want a physical manifestation of the Press Release of Tomorrow, today, just click this link and then hit "print" on your browser. ;)
I wonder what Edelman's version will look like. I wonder if it will become a new standard for our industry. I wonder what the clients will think.
Seriously, all self-aggrandizing bias aside (it was Foremski who inspired us, anyway), I applaud Edelman's move. I love it that a Big Agency is taking up the cause, and I love it that that Big Agency is an independent firm, not one of the intergalactic "marcomglomerates." If I could pick anyone (besides me) to be the 1st to pinch the cheeks of the "Press Release of Tomorrow" in the delivery room, it would be our industry's leading independent.
Hat-tip to Mike Manuel, and Josh Hallett, where I caught wind of these developments.
When Clients Want Out
It boggles my mind when a client thinks they can disregard the contract. I don't understand how the question even comes up. I somehow doubt that our clients ever ask their lawyers if they "need to actually pay their legal bills?"
When a client doesn't pay their bill for 90 days, we stop work. To many folks, 90 days sounds like too long a time to wait, but, we work with a lot of start-ups, so it happens. We try to be flexible if there is a good faith effort to handle the A/P on the client's side.
On the rare occassion when a client simply refuses to pay, we send them to a collections agency, and usually to court. There's a clause in our contracts that provides a reasonable time period in which the client can dispute a bill for any reason, including (gasp!?) dissatisfaction. If they are not on record within that timeframe (which they signed off on originally, after all), we assume payment is forthcoming.
All of our contracts include a 60 day exit clause, so we assume that we are "always 60 days from being fired." Paranoia is bad for the soul, good for client retention.
In any case, a 60-day clause is seen by most clients as a reasonable compromise: "Let's wrap this up in 60 days." You need that time to tie up loose ends and transition things properly to a new firm or in-house contact.
Thankfully, our retention rate is upwards of 2 years (some clients have worked with us in some form or fashion for 8 years), so these issues come up fairly rarely.