Friday, June 16, 2006

You are Being Re-Directed to the NEW PR-Squared - Please hold a sec!


Shouldn't take more than a second... ... ...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bye-Bye, Blogger!

This is the last official day on the Blogger service. We're moving to www.pr-squared.com. Let me know (over there!) what you think of the blog's new look. We're goin' for "edgy."

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

So far, the ## of downloads for our Social Media Press Release template hovers at approximately 3,500.

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

I'm making an impromptu visit to our San Francisco office this week (Wed - Fri). The schedule is fairly light right now, so if you are a "PR 2.0" blogger/PR pro/zealot and you want to grab coffee or something, drop me a line.

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

To most pundits, "Consumer Generated Media" (CGM) means user-profiles at MySpace; karaoke videos uploaded to YouTube; bajillions of blogs; Flikr slideshows; etc. Every PR pro worth their salt is advising clients to "pay attention" to the crushing wave of brand-altering substances spilling out onto the Web.

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.

Example:

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?

Yesterday, Tom Foremski previewed today's SVW post in a note to me, Richard Edelman, Bob Angus (now @ Edelman) and Giovanni Rodriguez of Eastwick, among others, re: creating a group wiki to further the cause of the Social Media Press Release.

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

We recently took over an account from a competing agency. There was a "hand-off" meeting as part of the transition. I wasn't at the meeting, but my agency colleagues --- as well as the client contacts who were present --- were shocked by the displaced agency's graceless lack of professionalism.

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.
It gets worse. We talked about their poor attitude in an HQ staff meeting:
  • 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.
All because some agency VP got pissy about turning over a few memos and databases.

Burning bridges is bad business.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I Create, Therefore I Market

One of the tenets of the "2.0 wave" is that consumers are creating their own content. Does it follow that if we are all becoming content creators, we are all also becoming marketers?

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?"

This recent question by a PR student named "Lindsey" was too wrenching to let fester in the Comments section of a months-old post about "Fixing PR Undergrad Programs." The topic seems relevant all-over-again, with the increased industry-wide interest in "PR 2.o" themes. (Lindsey's comment has been edited for length):
"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.

"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?"
Wow. (Umm, Lindsay - call me 1st, upon graduation! Your thoughtfulness and sincerity light up your comment.)

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.
It's starting to change, though. I was encouraged when Boston University's Professor Edward Downes, of the prestigious College of Communication, started to teach our Social Media Press Release to his students. I am encouraged by Auburn University's Forward blog and by the work of Robert French, also at Auburn, who plans to "have (his) students create samples (of a Social Media release) in a wiki over the coming weeks."

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

Yesterday I gave a "PR 2.0" presentation to about 40-odd PR pros, of various experience levels. I talked about the Social Media Press Release Template. I talked about "Pitching 2.0." About how the "one-too-many" approach to PR had become a virtuous loop between brands, consumers, and new/old media; about how each stakeholder is now interconnected, and (for the first time) equally impactful.

Heads exploded.

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.