Posts Tagged ‘New PR’

Brands in 2009

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Looking ahead, as many are laying out plans and budgets for the year in front of us, I thought it’d be important to revisit two major realities of today’s digital world:  the big-picture role brands play online and the truth behind engagement, participation, etc.

One “old” post I constantly find myself going back to is David Armano talking about brands being facilitators online instead of, traditionally, broadcasters.  Using this thinking often during brainstorms and client meetings, the point here is that as the communication landscape changes – so must a brand and how they react, participate and work with their audiences.  From David’s post:


Brand As Facilitator

This means that like any good facilitator, they get off center stage, move over to the side and let others do the talking. But just like any good facilitator, the brands who succeed in this direction need to master it as an both and art and science. Good facilitators know how to actively listen, how to create environments which stimulate productive conversations and interactions and most importantly they add incredible value even though they may come across as the least vocal in the group.

Another truth to be mindful of in 2009 is the reality behind participation. As marketers, we like to think every audience we try to reach is 100% engaged and digitally active. Sadly, as Jake points out, that isn’t so.


Most of today’s web community falls into those three buckets.  The large majority being an audience who never really engages themslves, taking content and moving on.  A small percentage of people actually mold and adust what is out there  - but only what is out there, nothing comes from them directly.  Finally, the 1% who actually create and drive activity.

A great stat that Jake provides to back-up the 90-9-1 principle:

Just 0.16% of all visitors to YouTube upload videos to it, and 0.2% of visitors to Flickr upload photos.

Even if you’re a “creator,” think about how many photos or videos you upload in a day vs. the amount you passively digest from links found online or passed on from friends.  I’d bet that ratio supports the principle behind Jake’s great single-serving site.

In 2009, we should focus on changing both of these realities for the better. The opportunity is there to level the playing field and for brands to become better transparent, active participants with not just the media but their customers and the digital world as a whole. In doing so, hopefully we’ll see the facilitator model be more popular and the 90-9-1 percentages begin to adjust themselves, moving closer and closer to the 100% “participation nirvana” we’re all seeking.

What do you want to see happen in 2009 for the world of PR, interactive marketing, etc.?

Chris’ Social Media Bookshelf

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Inspired by Joe Thornley’s list of social media-themed books he keeps around I thought I’d do the same. Like Joe I find incredible value in books and the freedom books give their authors to go in-depth and provide context on subjects. As I said in my review of Now is Gone, I may not always agree with the arguments made in these books, but I don’t always agree with stuff people post on their sites either. And I just love reading books. So there’s that.

So here’s what’s in the bookshelf above my desk right now.

  • The Age of Conversation (various): Where else are you going to get 100 bloggers to chime in in one place? Each piece on the current state and future of new marketing is a good read. Lots of familiar names and some new ones but a consistently good interesting book.
  • Blogging for Business (Holtz/Demopoulos): While other books focus more on strategy and *why* you should start a blog for your business, BfB walks the reader through the process of actually doing it and throws in plenty of rational and strategy to remind the reader they’ve made the right decision.
  • The Long Tail (Anderson): One of four books I’ve read that have just completely blown my mind in terms of changing how I think about all aspects of marketing, distribution and a list of related topics in a wired (heh) world.
  • Grapevine (Balter/Butman): Dave Balter is the founder of word-of-mouth marketing firm BzzAgent and the book, while interesting in spots, often reads like too much of a sales pamphlet for his own company than a general best-practices piece.
  • What Sticks (Briggs/Stuart): Not really about “new” marketing so much as about making sure you’re making well-informed decisions with your marketing strategies. What I most got out of this one was the idea that there needs to be set goals for success before starting a campaign, with everyone working toward that goal, no matter what it is.
  • The Tipping Point (Gladwell): The second of the two books on this list that really changed my thinking quite a bit. I know it’s become cliched to cite this one, but there’s a reason why it’s on everyone’s list of books to read.
  • BuzzMarketing (Hughes): Like Grapevine, the author spends a bit too much time talking about himself and how brilliant he himself is but there are some good stories in there. Not so much a thought-provoker as it is a series of self case studies.
  • Life After the 30-Second Spot (Jaffe): The third game-changing book on my list. Not only is there some indispensable advice in here, but if you read it with Jaffe’s voice in your head the book is 25% more engaging and 40% funnier.
  • Beyond Buzz (Kelly): A collection of very convincing case studies on word-of-mouth generating efforts as well as how to leverage that buzz. To my mind a very good resource to have on hand if a C-suite exec asks for precedent before executing that idea you just had.
  • Now is Gone (Livingston): Meant as a wake-up call for executives procrastinating on creating a social media strategy, Now is Gone doesn’t so much show them how to do that but kicks them in the butt and points them in the right direction to figure out what will work for them lest they be left in the dust of their competitors.
  • Citizen Marketers (McConnell/Huba): Ben and Jackie make a strong case for why companies need to embrace – or at least not squash – the enthusiasm of the everyday people that love their brand or their products. That’s especially important with online tools that allow people to congregate in communities and share their stories at the press of a button. >li>
  • Naked Conversations (Scoble/Israel): Open up and just be authentic is the gist of the book, though it goes a little deeper than that. Certainly dated in its reference points now but still a great place to start and get your feet wet before diving into weightier tomes.
  • Word of Mouth Marketing (Sernovitz): I stand by my original statement that this is the book to throw down on your C-level exec’s desk if he ever asks you why you would ever want anyone to talk about your company without marketing’s approval.
  • Can We Do That? (Shankman): This one isn’t so much about changing your strategy as shaking up your thinking. Shankman spends a lot of time encouraging people to break free of the office and live lives that inspire more creativity, something that then has a positive impact on clients or your company.

Yes, the information and stats in some of these books is a bit dated, and was so approximately five minutes after it went to press. That’s inevitable. But taking the time to read them is not just about reading their content. It’s a way to get a deeper perspective on the issues we’re seeing fly before us every day as well as the authors themselves. It’s also valuable, I think, to slow down and pull out a book every now and again and not get caught up in the current of the social media world. Reading a book is a deliberate act, one that opens your mind a bit.

Book Review: Now is Gone

Monday, November 26th, 2007

When I got back into the office from a trip to The Garden State a couple weeks ago there on my desk was a package. Hmmm, I thought. I’d already gotten this month’s Bloggers Gone Wild: Spring Break WOOOO!!! Edition VHS and everyone I know had already tried to assassinate me. So I was curious to see what was inside.

To my pleasant surprise I found it to be a copy of Now is Gone by Geoff Livingston with Brian Solis. The book purports to be a “primer” for executives to acclimate themselves to the new media world and figure out, if they already haven’t, how to create effective marketing relationships in that world. Livingston places heavy emphasis on the idea of relationships, saying time and time again that they are what needs to be focused on and not traditional marketing. Not only because doing so allows you as a marketer to know what people are saying, but it gives the people formerly known as the audience the sense that they are participating in the success of a company or product that they feel an affinity for.

The strongest point Livingston makes in the book is that it’s not enough to just take your existing marketing and put it on the web. It needs to be high-quality, appropriate for the people you’re trying to reach and delivered on a platform that they are already using. The combination of those three things may not insure your marketing efforts will be successful, but it gives those efforts a better chance of not blowing up in your face.

If there’s one thing that I took issue with in Now is Gone, it’s Livingston’s tendency to paint things as definitively right or wrong or to characterize the social media world as if it operated with a single collective conscious. At one point Livingston warns public relations practitioners that if they send out a heads-up to bloggers and that pitch does not result in the story being written up then it’s a failure and they need to scrap the entire program since it’s obviously not adding value to the larger community.

While I agree that PR people should approach bloggers carefully (that’s why it helps to have someone who knows the community and that language) and that pitches need to be individually crafted to make the story as valuable to the blogger as possible I don’t think failure to achieve pick-up is a sign of a bad program. I get pitches all the time that aren’t that attractive to me, but sometimes that’s just because I’m in a bad or just funky mood. Since blogging is so highly personal – even if I’m not blogging about personal matters – sometimes I just can’t get excited about a story that would normally be right up my alley. Bloggers are moody, something that occasionally renders any hard and fast rules about engagement moot.

Considering that Livingston is aiming at the higher levels of the org chart with who he’s trying to speak to the book does succeed more often than it doesn’t at making its points. Marketing in the social media-powered world of 2007 is not like marketing as few as 10 years ago. The rules are different because the balance of power is shifting, the risks are higher and the demands even more demanding.

While there are points of view in Now is Gone I don’t exactly agree with, it is worth picking up and reading. It’s just like reading anything else. There are things I completely agree with and others I don’t, but when it’s all been tallied up it does add something to the conversation. I’d rather read something and disagree with the author than read something and have no opinion. I think that can be said of just about everything in my RSS list as well as my book shelf.

I’m not as think as you drunk I am

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

In downtown Wheaton, IL – not too far from where I both grew up and where I currently live – there’s a little store called The Popcorn Shoppe. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s little. The store is deep from the sidewalk but across it’s about five feet. Long, but narrow.

At the Popcorn Shoppe you can get a variety of candy, as well as popcorn. Bins are set up along one wall with everything from pre-packaged candy like miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to open candy like gummy worms that’s priced by the half-pound. So you go in, squeeze through the other customers, use the little shovels that are in each bin to grab a little of a whole bunch of stuff then do more squeezing to make it to the cash register and maybe pick up a bag of popcorn while you’re there. It’s a quaint, fun little place, but one of those places only the locals really know about.

The Popcorn Shoppe sprung to mind when a meme started yesterday about how many of us are, apparently, drunk on the Web 2.0 juice, a concoction stirred and served up on virtual street corners by many of those currently decrying the situation.

When I think about the variety of Web 2.0 applications, features and tools available in October of 2007 it can sometimes seem overwhelming, much like the wall of the store. I look at them and can’t imagine using all of them but I know that there are a few that I definitely want to pick up and use. Others seem like a good idea at the time but when I try them out I’m disappointed and regret the time/money I spent on something that didn’t live up to my expectations.

For those of us who work in online public relations it’s important that we evaluate the tools that debut seemingly every day not only for ourselves but also for how they might benefit our clients. Not everything is going to be for everyone and we need to not be so enraptured by the shiny object the just flitted in front of our eyes that we lose all perspective. ‘What does this do?” “What need does this meet?” “What gap does this fill?” “How does this increase connections/engagement?” These are just a sampling of questions we need to be asking ourselves whenever the latest thing debuts.

These questions can often only be answered by trying them out. TechCrunch’s descriptions and write-ups only go so far. You have to dig in and see what sticks. Once you do that you gain perspective and then can rationally and more accurately opine on the topic to both the public and, for PR practitioners, your clients.

When PSAs fail to be PSAs – on YouTube

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Following the Chris Thilk-inspired LOTD from earlier today, I’m taking that same tack.

I had forgotten to post a link to this key item from the Bad Pitch Blog from last month, when Kevin Dugan posted a short quiz for PR folk to take before pitching bloggers. Thankfully, the excuse to do so quite late showed up on my doorstep, er, in my office, this morning. When asked why they clearly hadn’t taken the quiz, at least one firm told us to step aside, because we clearly underestimated their ability to get bloggers to “place [this] banner and Public Service Announcement pro bono,” on their blogs.

Our own Allison Blass brought this “situation” to my attention a few minutes ago while having a brief meeting, and I’ve gotta say that I wouldn’t exactly be happy with the outreach efforts so far if I were the PR people at LifeScan. Do PR people really think that just because a group of individuals happen to post on a health related topic that they would automatically post a “public service announcement” that isn’t exactly a piece of video I’d run around sharing with bloggers, of all people, or put up banners on their blogs, “pro bono,” that are promotional to a product or service? Sure, there’s a contest involved, and I get that, but clearly people have too much confidence in their pitches if they think that something self-serving is going to get the same feel-good action that a firm reaching out to diabetics about a banner for World Diabetes Day – even on behalf of a for-profit corporation – is going to?

Sometimes I really wonder if public relations firms don’t want to truly explain the dynamics of working with bloggers – that is, when they actually appear to know about them – for fear of “turning off” a client. Someone at the firm responsible for pitching this “PSA” should have known what kind of reaction it would get from the bloggers being reached, but instead it went ahead full bore.

Coming out and saying that your product has cool colors and that’s an improvement over what might have previously been seen at boring is perfectly valid. Coming out and saying that since your product now has cool colors, that people with a medical need will use it more often isn’t necessarily the case, especially if the tone of the commenters on Diabetes Mine can extrapolated across the masses. When I bought the Product RED iPod, it didn’t make me use it more, it made me feel like I had a cool product. Color might add value to your feelings towards something such as a blood glucose monitor, but is it going to make you use it more? For an industry that’s full of disclaimers and “oh, we didn’t actually say THAT,” this is a big jump off the wrong diving board, IMHO.