Monthly Archives: October 2007

“How Media Relations Got Its Groove Back”

Bummed about recent media relations lovers’ spats? As with Mr X and Ms Y from the break-up email, sometimes the relationship between reporters and PR flacks can be on-again off-again. In any healthy relationship, communication is the key. You have to listen to your partner, try to get to know them, prove you have listened and then show them you care.

Here are a few pointers on how to get your blogger groove back:

  • How often does your wife get upset if you forget your first date? Bloggers/reporters care about that, too. Did you meet them at a MediaBistro or a Lunch 2.0 party? Follow-up and stay in touch, but stay respectful and professional.
  • KNOW YOUR BLOGGER. Know what they cover. Look them up on Facebook. Get an RSS feed and eye it throughout the day. Seriously. You wouldn’t (or maybe shouldn’t) book reservations at an Indian place if you knew your spouse’s stomach couldn’t handle curry, so don’t send a video game pitch to a network security blogger.
  • You don’t tell your partner you love them just on Valentine’s Day. Maintain your relationship, not just when you have news. It also doesn’t mean just through email. You can respond thoughtfully on their posts and participate in the discussion.
  • Wow, a teddy bear that says “I love you!” So cliche. Don’t just send a blogger a press release. The best way to get heard is to remain clear and concise. Fluff-free writing and bulleted summaries serve that purpose best. Better yet: blog it!
  • Like making a date, you have to be clear on embargoes: When and what time?
  • Sometimes when your lover is ready to go, they are ready to go and you have to jump in bed at moment’s notice. Since blogs and online news run on a different cycle, you have to be available for quick follow-ups or briefings.
  • Ok, so maybe you can’t find Mr/Ms Right. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Don’t limit yourself to Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. Look at tier two and tier three bloggers. Maybe their beat is more closely related to your product or pitch.

Traditionally, PR professionals would build relationships with reporters: meet for coffee, have the occasional social phone call, send thank you notes, etc. Today, we don’t have to have those offline, real world relations to build reporter rapport. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn we can see casual sides, share interests (music, movies, hobbies), and engage in thoughtful conversation. But, you still have to do your homework.

We are all learning this together. Hopefully, too many witches won’t have to be burned before we get it right.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Filed under Blogger Relations, New Media, Public Relations 2.0

“The Scarlet Letter”

I’ve been out sick for the past few days. When I get back, all heck has broken loose on the Internets.

Within the last week, a few bloggers and reporters have gone on rampages against “bad PR.” Does the punishment fit the crime? Is this a wake-up call? I’m not looking to stir things up, I just want to analyze the situation and see what we can learn from it.

The Times They Are a Changin…

Have you ever read an email, gotten really angry, hammered out a reply and hit send? A day later (or maybe 3 seconds later) you may have felt remorseful, but it was too late. Or what about those break-up emails that get circulated around? Each time I read about Mr X and his demeaning affair with Ms Y, I learned to wait a little bit longer before sending an email. This was part of the process of socialization as we grew into the Internet Age.

W ell, the times they are a changing. Now it’s socialization round two, but this time it’s not just email. It’s learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the three social networks that have sprung up since I started typing this post. As in round one, there will be some blunders, some embarrassment, but when is it justified?

The Scarlet Letter

We’ve all done it: sent a reporter a bad pitch. Sometimes, not sure which particular reporter to pitch, we email an editor. Or maybe a boss made you use a pitch you weren’t happy with, but, HEY, it’s a job, right? Or sometimes you just miscalculate what a reporter will cover. It’s part of professional growth.

Well, some reporters are mad as heck, and they aren’t gonna take it anymore. Some get bad or poorly-focused pitches. In their blogs, reporters have posted full names and email addresses–or a name, Facebook address and picture. It suddenly feels like colonial times when criminals were forced to wear a letter or be shamed in a town square.

Ok, I’m not a super-star blogger, but I still get pitched. To those that are WAY off, I’ve emailed back “too commercial” or “not the focus of my blog.” It gets annoying, but I don’t want to humiliate anyone; they gave it a shot and they were wrong. In my mind, there are several unethical PR practices that deserve to be exposed and maybe shamed, but sending a bad pitch?

In my professional life, if I write a bad pitch, I hope the reporter lets me know. If I make a mistake, I’m sorry. We all have bad days.

As a blogger, I put myself out there to the world. People can email me, contact me through Facebook, repost my blog or talk about my bad grammar. By standing up to speak in a public forum, I expose myself. Even though this blog is a “hobby,” I put myself out into this forum and, to some extent, I become a public figure. I have given consent. Other PR professionals, however, are just doing their job.

The Internet has now become a record with pages being cached for years. It has also become a great place to stalk people. When you put someone else’s information online, it will be up there and available to anyone for a long time. Not everyone signs up for that.

Reporters and Bloggers: We value your feedback. We really do!! We listen and we adapt. I understand the impulse towards public outing may seem fulfilling, but just imagine if all your mistakes were broadcast to the world in perpetuity.

There are a few sites that expose bad pitches in a constructive manner without exposing personal information. They are quite effective. I read them weekly and have listed them in my blog roll. Your posts have just as much strength without calling specifics out.

In the words of Jerry Springer: “Be good to yourself…and each other!”

PS: Thanks to Marshall for apologizing and responding thoughtfully to comments and trackbacks. 🙂 Proof that people actually do engage in a conversation.

[UPDATE: Read my follow-up piece on blogger relations!]

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Filed under Blogger Relations, Citizen Reporter, It's A Conversation, New Media Masters., Rants

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: Chef Liz Bills, California Table”

It’s that time again, folks! That’s right: “3Q’s in 3 Min!” Every Thursday, socialTNT turns citizen journalist by putting bloggers, reporters, PR pro’s or anyone with something to say about social media in front of the camera for a short, three minute interview. Lately we’ve had some high profile reporters/analysts. Today, I wanted to change it up a little.

One of the purposes of this blog is to really make sense of all the social media technologies in an effort to understand their PR/Marketing applications. Admittedly, I’m so far out in my high-tech PR world, that I forget what it’s like on ground zero. With that in mind, today’s “3 Q’s in 3 Min” takes a step back to look at how people outside the tech bubble are using social media to promote their businesses.

Today, Chef Liz Bills from California Table tells us why she started blogging, the challenges she has encountered along the way, and the successes she has seen as a result of engaging in social media. Her experience resonates with anyone who has started or is looking to start a blog–from personal blogger to corporate blogger to small business owner–or anyone embarking on their journey learning social media.

Liz, a former Kitchen Manager at SF hot spot NOPA, recently started her own personal chef/cooking class business. A confessed technophobe and computer novice, Liz felt she had to get her story online in order to compete in the tech heavy San Francisco Bay Area.

Liz’s blog focuses on the importance of buying local and organic food. It also helps to brand Liz’s company by offering up cooking suggestions. As she explains in the video, it has proven to be an invaluable piece of PR and word-of-mouth marketing.

One of her biggest challenges was learning how to use blogging software. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, all the emerging technology can be pretty crazy for me and I deal with it every day. Liz’s advice: “You just have to force yourself to learn, especially if you want to stand out.” Hat’s off to you Liz for trying!

Take a look at what Liz has to say. (PS: There was apparently some audio glitch in my camera. She wants to let everyone know she does not have a lisp!)

How have other new bloggers solved the content problem? Has blogging helped your small business? I’d love to hear success or challenge stories!

Thanks, Liz, for sharing your experience with socialTNT. It’s great that you are so intent on trying new things.

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Filed under 3sdays 3qs In 3 Min, Citizen Reporter, Marketing, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0

“Future View”

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Alvin Toffler

This week has really been crazy. Exciting developments with my clients and in my personal life, coupled with big tech news this week, have me reflecting on the past year and thinking about the future.

The last ten months have really brought some incredible advances in technology. It feels like we are on the crest of a new boom. With all of the changes occurring around us at such a fast pace, one of the most important skills is adaptability. For some companies, it’s easy to stay in the comfort of “what’s always worked” and ignore the world changing around them. However, the companies or individuals quick to learn how best to utilize innovation will ensure a smooth transition and come out on top. Are you ready?

Where on the above chart (courtesy of Satir Institute of the Southeast) do you think PR is now? Marketing? The Internet?

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Filed under Future of Media, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Rants

“PR to Enterprise: Beam me Up!”

In PR, it’s often difficult to determine how to use social media tools for our Enterprise clients. Also difficult: how to use social media tools for internal PR.

Last night, at a Social Media Club event, the topic of the evening was “Enterprise: Moving Forward.” The panel for the evening was moderated by “Naked Conversations” writer Shel Isreal. Panelists included Dave McClure (500 Hats, Graphing Social Patterns), Jeremiah Owyang (Senior Analyst, Forrester Research), Jennifer Jones (host of “Marketing Voices” on PodTech Network), Eleanor Wynn (Enterprise Architect, Intel), and Bob Duffy (Community Manager of Intel’s community, Open Port).

I tried to Twitter-cast the event, but even on a T9 predictive text enabled phone, it was tedious. For those interested in watching the 119 minute discussion, Ustream.tv captured the whole evening here. Lots of great ideas presented. Here are a few things that I brought back that could apply to PR and Marketing professionals:

Internal Communications:

  • Blogs hosted on a company’s intranet can boost internal communications
    • Remember: Allow an open forum
    • Leave comments enabled and respond respectfully
  • Internal Wiki’s can increase team collaboration
  • For large, multi-national companies, an internal social network can really help bridge the distance and increase team rapport
    • Allow tagging of photos and interests
  • Close the feedback loop
    • Show employees what suggestions have been implemented
  • If you really want to shake it up:
    • Digg-like voting on suggestions
    • Video, video, video!

External Communications:

  • Look to existing conversations and communities before implementing your full-strategy
    • If your product is a finely-focused niche, there may not be a community. That’s your chance to facilitate the conversation with your brand as the moderator!
  • Company blog makes a HUGE impact in the enterprise space
    • Position spokespeople as thought leaders
    • In addition to your products, discuss current and future trends
  • Enlist community managers to comment on other blogs and address negative conversations threads in a thoughtful manner
  • Create communities where company reps ask questions about product development or allow users to suggest new products/changes
  • Go Geek!
    • Many companies (incl Intel) have gotten heavy traffic by using their sites/communities to publish White Papers, behind-the-scenes videos, production notes, demo videos, etc.
  • Once again, close the feedback loop:
    • Show customers that their thoughts count and have been implemented
    • This helps establish a realm of trust that opens dialog. Instead of pushing your message, you allow many voices into the discussion about your product/brand
  • Feeling bleeding edge: Customer/Company Wiki’s blur the line between intra- and inter- nets
  • Bottom Line: It’s all about a conversation with the customers
  • Check out Intel’s Open Port or Dell’s IdeaStorm [my earlier discussion of Dell’s social media tactics here]

Has your company used social media internally? Have you implemented social media tactics to help build a community around your Enterprise product? I’d love to hear about it.

Also, feel free to comment on any of these ideas.

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Filed under Enterprise Public Relations, Future of Media, Internal Public Relations, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0, Social Networking

“Dell Hell Freezes Over: A Great Example of Turning Lemons into Lemonade”

Last week, BuzzMachine‘s Jeff Jarvis wrote an article in BusinessWeek discussing Dell’s reversal from social media nightmare to social media maven. It’s been a pretty amazing adventure and, to me, it feels like the last chapter has finally been writtern. Let’s take a look at a few of the practices Dell has put into place to turn around its online image.

[For the full “Dell Hell” archives in reverse chronological order, click here.]

It all started on June 21st, 2005, when Jeff published a post entitled “Dell Lies. Dell Sucks.” To Jeff’s surprise, he amassed hundred of sympathetic comments and thousands(?) of trackbacks. Not necessarily a good form of publicity, but Dell’s “look, but don’t touch” policy didn’t respond to bloggers.

This interview with a Dell spokesperson from 2005 really represents the old notion of one-sided communication that still exists in most big companies today. Houston Chronicle Tech Blogger Dwight Silverman caught the contradiction:

“With our direct model, we feel like we already have a good, two-way communications channel with our customers,” Davis said.

Of course, it depends on what you do with the incoming communication. A two-way conversation only has value if you take action on the problems you’re hearing about.

Finally, Davis asked an interesting question: Did I know of any companies that do actively go out and respond to blog and forum postings?

In 2005, it was rare. Today, the idea of corporate blogs is not so innovative, but companies still have a hard time with blogger/community relations.

In April of 2006, Dell reached out to disgruntled bloggers in an effort to resolve their issues. In July 2006, Dell launched its Direct2Dell blog. These words from a post in November of 2006 on the Dell blog starkly contrast the above comments:

Every day, we receive reports from a search string in Technorati and other blog search engines, and we meticulously analyze the results. When we find someone who has an unresolved issue with their Dell computer or our services, we reach out to offer assistance.

Ok, great, a corporate blog and customer service people who listen. Where’s the innovation? Well, it gets better. Last April, Dell launched the IdeamStorm community.

IdeaStorm allows users to make suggestions and then vote (in a digg like manner) whether to “promote” or “delete” an idea. But this voting isn’t hollow. Dell then provides results, closing the loop with consumers by informing them what user-initiated ideas have been executed and what suggested items are forthcoming. One major result of the IdeaStorm community was the decision to package Linux on consumer desktops and laptops. I know of few companies that allow such active consumer input.

The biggest success, to me, was a change in corporate thinking. Look at these words from CEO Michael Dell:

“These conversations are going to occur whether you like it or not, O.K.? Well, do you want to be part of that or not? My argument is you absolutely do. You can learn from that. You can improve your reaction time. And you can be a better company by listening and being involved in that conversation.”

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. The conversation is going on without you. People are tired of not having a voice. Now that they have quick and easy tools through which they communicate, they are gonna make their own messages. Isn’t it better to be a part of that discussion and perhaps steer it, rather than let it explode into a “Dell Hell”-type wildfire?

Lessons learned:

  • Read and Respond
    • Know what is being said and thoughtfully reply in a timely manner, especially to complaints
  • Talk to your customers as a real person speaking to other real people
    • It might not hurt to have a full-time blogger-relations person
  • Create a forum through which customer’s can provide idea/feedback
    • They are gonna do it somewhere, why not on your site?
  • Allow customers to vote on feedback
    • Collaboration and democracy increase loyalty
  • Report on results that come from feedback
    • Show them their voice has been heard and that their input is utilized

In the future, Dell plans on creating wikis that users can edit together [not sure if these are more techinical, knowledge-base type wikis or more customer-comments style wikis, both will be interesting to watch]. I’d also love to see a page that aggregates everything that is being said about Dell in the blogosphere. Maybe it could be tagged and then quickly sorted so that customers could see the full-spectrum of the discussion.

What do you guys think? Did Dell pull it off? Do you know of any other companies that user similar collaborative techniques? What could Dell do now to improve/enhance its current social media campaign?

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Filed under Citizen Reporter, Marketing, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: Jon Fine, BusinessWeek”

[Due to technical difficulties, this post is going up a day late. Sorry.]

Live from the Web 2.0 Summit, it’s another installment of our regular Thursday feature, “3Q’s in 3 Min.” In the spirit of citizen journalism, SocialTNT puts bloggers, reporters, PR pro’s or anyone with something to say about social media in front of the camera for a short, three minute interview. In addition to helping PR peeps pitch these individuals more effectively, the videos are meant to encourage dialog between reporters and communications practitioners on the future of media

This Thursday, socialTNT met with Jon Fine, Media Columnist from BusinessWeek. Not just covering big conglomerates, Jon’s column also focuses on the convergence of media and advertising. In today’s “3Q’s in 3 Min,” Jon tells us a little more about his beat, opines on the decline of traditional media and very honestly explains his view of PR.

After the jump, see the video and learn more about Jon…

I love reading Jon’s column. While other Media columnists at traditional pubs only cover, well, other tradtional outlets, Jon is always willing to hear what’s going on in the emerging media and music, especially if there might be an ad/marketing angle involved. Not a big surprise, since he used to write for Advertising Age.

I met Jon in the lobby of the Palace Hotel, the venue for the 2007 Web 2.0 Summit. Total New York (read: adult Williamsburg), he was rocking a pair of neon blue Nike SB Dunks, a pair of Gucci framed-glasses and some skinny jeans–not too surprising considering his blog post bashing Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s “Adidas man-sandals.” Jon would later tell me in our warm up interview that he was even technologically very New York; he doesn’t jump to the latest and greatest trend-tech and is too private to use Twitter. After my emphatic explanation of the applications beyond the “What are you doing?” aspects, he may quickly become a member of the Twitterati. 😉 He’s also been putting off incorporating RSS feeds into his reading habits.

Facts about Jon:

  • He’s married to MediaBistro founder, Laurel Touby
  • So deep into punk rock, he has his own band
  • HUGE politics fan (religiously reads The Kaus Files)
  • Typical daily media consumption
    • MediaBistro, BuzzMachine, Kaus Files, NYT (print version) , WSJ (print version), New Yorker, New York Mag, Advertising Age, Drudge, and Fortune (never Forbes)
  • He, too, is a member of the Jeff Jarvis fan club
  • He is on Facebook and LinkedIn
  • In addition to his column in BusinessWeek, Jon has a blog

When watching the video, keep in mind that Jon says he’s more of a traditional media reader. I don’t completely believe it, but it is nice to hear an East Coast perspective on Media. Pay close attention to Jon’s last couple of statements, he offers a completely candid opinion of PR industry and its future.

To me, Jon is absolutely right. There are more tools in the toolbox with less attention to go around. By utilizing these tools effectively, we can gain more attention. Isn’t that what our clients pay us for? The idea of attention economy is something I’d like to explore in a future post. Charlene brought it up in last week’s interview.

What do you think? Is the media slowly declining, or will it be a fast death? Is PR headed for the same doom?

Thanks for a great interview, Jon!

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Filed under 3sdays 3qs In 3 Min, Citizen Reporter, Future of Media, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Video Interview