Monthly Archives: November 2007

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: John Markoff, New York Times Part 1”

It’s Thursday afternoon and time for another exciting installment of “3Q’s in 3 Min.” Every Thursday, socialTNT channels the spirit of citizen journalism 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. In addition to helping PR peeps pitch these individuals more effectively, the videos are meant to encourage dialog between reporters, PR/communications practitioners and marketers on the future of media.

This Thursday, socialTNT presents our first of two chats with John Markoff, Senior Writer covering Tech in Silicon Valley for the New York Times. In todays “3 Q’s in 3 Min” John tells us specifics about his beat, key differences between NYT and WSJ, and ponders the future of social media.

If you like tech and read the New York Times, there’s a 99.9999% chance you’ve read John’s column; he’s been with the Times since 1988. His resume includes The San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Examiner and two seminal tech magazines: Byte and Infoworld. Broadly speaking, if you have a Hardware or Security client, John’s probably on you list–but don’t pigeon hole him, he writes about what he likes. For a tech geek like myself, the thought of meeting Markoff was a little intimidating.

That anxiety was even more amplified when I realized that getting into the San Francisco Bureau of the New York Times is pretty much like entering Fort Knox; I reckon there is more security getting through to the NYT than there is trying to get into the US Secret Service’s office on the same block. First off, it’s in a nondescript building with a Starbuck’s in the lobby (Yeah…THAT one!). After sneaking past a guard, entering a top secret code on a touch-pad and going through TWO sets of double doors, I really expected to be escorted to John by security guards. Instead, I was greeted by the man himself, who cordially welcomed me into the offices of one of the world’s top daily publications.

Let me state this for the record: John Markoff was one of the most pleasant reporters I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Talking to him before taping reminded me of my favorite college professor: approachable and full of wisdom. I guess that’s why our warm-up interview stretched into a full hour!

For me, it was crazy to hear about the rough-and-tumble days in Silicon Valley, you know: back when Infoworld wasn’t sure if there was enough news to validate weekly coverage. Over the span of his carrier, John has encountered many a chance to analyze the changing ways we communicate, so discussing social media came naturally. He’s currently really into IM and Google Reader, but feels Twitter is just too much.

Fun Facts about John:

  • He lives 5 blocks from me on the edge of San Francisco’s beautiful Noe Valley
  • Has two Mac’s (one is a black Macbook!) and a PC running Vista
  • Is on Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Felt Twitter was information overload
  • Occasionally writes on Bits, the NYT’s tech blog.
  • Moonlighting as an author, Markoff has written several books including one about the take-down of infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick (for the complete details of THAT truly outlaw era in computer history, see this wikipedia article), and another book attributing the 60’s counterculture to the rise of personal computing

Compare this interview with John from 2003 about online media and blogging with the answers he gives in today’s video, and you’ll know that with Tech anyone’s guess can be a winner.

Where do YOU see the future of tech going?

Join us next week for part two where John walks us through the history of PR pitching and gives a few tips to those looking to get into the pages of the New York Times.

[Due to technical difficulties with YouTube, I was unable to post this piece with video until late (pay back for yesterday’s post on future of online video?). Sorry guys.]

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

“Please Standby: Rethinking Online Video Strategy”

Ahhh, what a difference a year makes. Last year, “You” won Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, user-generated content was king, and everyone wanted to create a viral video.

This week, there has been a lot of discussion of online video. The magicians are telling their secrets. And as the magic wears off, it seems many times the Emperor is actually wearing no clothes. Today, we’ll take a look at what the last year has taught us about online video and try to find ways we can make it a conversation.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

This week, two articles came out, both promising to provide readers with tips on viral video making. Let’s take a look at some of the tips and see if they are fully utilizing social media to engage the consumer

The first, a post on TechCrunch by Dan Ackerman Greenberg, felt like I was reading something dirty. He does outline several good specs on the video itself, but it’s the more outreach oriented tips that pose dangerous:

  • “We reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos.”
  • “…kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users.”
  • “We get a few people in our office to log in throughout the day and post heated comments back and forth (you can definitely have a lot of fun with this).”
  • “Also, we aren’t afraid to delete comments…We can’t let one user’s negativity taint everyone else’s opinions.”

Sounds like old-school, one-sided, totally opaque marketing to me. This is truly pushing content at the consumer without caring what they have to say. In fact, it reminds me of a modern day laugh track; the consumer is fooled into believing that others have thought about, commented, and enjoyed the video.

The second article comes from Kevin Nalts in a guest piece for Advertising Age. He offers several of the same specs (keep it short, quality doesn’t matter, proper tags, etc.) but gives brands suggestions that seem more community-focused.

  • “We’ll watch your advertising and even spread it for you — unless you promote gratuitously, insult us or, worse yet, bore us.”
  • “The smarter play is to sponsor popular video creators to create entertainment with product placement. This requires brands to let go of overt marketing messages and trust the instincts of creators to please their audiences.”
  • “Some brands fear running a contest because they don’t want to be ridiculed. But brands will be bashed by disgruntled consumers via online video whether or not their companies dabble in the space. Quietly watching from the sidelines is no insurance policy and certainly won’t grow revenue.”

I think Kevin’s piece gets closer to the idea that social media should engage a community. Considering the user-base and realizing the conversation is already in progress are great suggestions, but can we take it deeper? How can we better engage our audiences?

Turn That Pumpkin into a Carriage

In a NewTeeVee post yesterday from Craig Rubens, the question is asked: “Online Video: Is It Really Interactive?” Although specifically about online entertainment series, what he says can be applied to marketing and PR video campaigns:

Although the online video experience would appear to be this mythical, multilateral, interactive video utopia, the reality is, in fact, quite different. Because while it’s certainly possible for a network of collaborative video artists to work together, online, to piece together a long-term video mosaic of participatory brilliance, the reality has often been more of an ad hoc, trivial mess of mediocrity.

As we awaken from the spell of online video, we have to take it to the next level. I know online videos are entertaining ways to convey messages, but can we use the medium more effectively? It may be a Utopian dream, but we have to incorporate all the features and beauty of social media into our online video campaigns. What can we do?

Contests seem to be the most common approach to getting the consumer involved. Most companies simply have users generate commercial content for the company. But is this really two-sided?

In order to converse with users in their community, we have to learn how those communities work. On YouTube, most people post videos which are then replied to in either video or text form through comments. Full threads sprout and conversations go back and forth.

With that in mind, here are some tips:

  • You’ve got a blog, great! What about a weekly video series?
    • You can create a company channel on YouTube and then embed into your blog.
    • It’s Really easy to set-up. Just buy a digital point-and-shoot camera. I recommend the Canon SD-series.
  • Don’t spam. Offer tips or tricks. Or Industry trend commentary.
    • Make the content valuable, not just forgettable. Give people a reason to share the video and return to your channel.
  • Post casual conversations and interviews.
    • Mini press conferences, these can inform your community or be re-purposed by vertical blogs.
  • Live videocasts of press conferences, company events or trade shows.
    • Set-up a account and do
    • A spokesperson can be a newscaster interviewing other top execs.

Hopefully this infuse some creativity into the use of online videos. What other ways can we jumpstart our video campaigns to engage our audiences and actually communicate with them instead of just pushing content? Or is everything cool in YouTube-land?

Oh, and if you think consumers aren’t creating their own dialog with your “viral video” campaigns, check out this mash-up created by a guy who realized that Dove and Axe are both owned by the same company. Both have viral videos with conflicting messages. Take a look:

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Filed under Best Practices, Community Relations, Enterprise Public Relations, Future of Media, How To, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media, Social Networking, Viral video

“Thanksgiving Leftovers”

Thanksgiving: Four days of feasting, family and football. More than likely you’ll be eating leftover turkey all this week. Just like your grandma, I’ve pre-packaged all the juicy social media news from the holiday weekend and put it into bite size bits. In case you missed it:

Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang Outlines the four qualities of a “community manager”

  • A Community Advocate
  • Brand Evangelist
  • Saavy Communication Skills, Shapes Editorial
  • Gathers Future Input for Product and Services

It’s great that this position is becoming more formalized. It’s already creating some discussion.

Dan Ackerman Greenberg gives advice on how to create a viral video and then tries to save a sinking ship in a follow-up post

Heavily weighted on the commercial angle, this piece seems to promote Dan’s viral marketing firm. Nothing in it is very surprising; it’s just shocking to see it written out and in use.

He gives some good advice on how to optimize the thumbnail and titles plus other basic viral strategy (send to all your friends, post in MySpace comments, etc.). Ultimately, the whole post turns south when he mentions these practices:

“Blogs: We reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos. Sounds a little bit like cheating/PayPerPost, but it’s effective and it’s not against any rules.

“Forums: We start new threads and embed our videos. Sometimes, this means kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users. Yes, it’s tedious and time-consuming, but if we get enough people working on it, it can have a tremendous effect.”

“A great way to maximize the number of people who watch our videos is to create some sort of controversy in the comments section below the video. We get a few people in our office to log in throughout the day and post heated comments back and forth (you can definitely have a lot of fun with this). Everyone loves a good, heated discussion in the comments section – especially if the comments are related to a brand/startup.

“Also, we aren’t afraid to delete comments – if someone is saying our video (or your startup) sucks, we just delete their comment. We can’t let one user’s negativity taint everyone else’s opinions.”

Facebook ruins everyone‘s holiday shopping; Creates privacy issues

A lot of people are talking about this one. I have a lot to say about this. Working on a post. Until then, I’ve joined the MoveOn group on Facebook.

Any comments on any of these stories? They each deserve a full post. I’ve been sick since mid-weekend and haven’t had a chance to write what I’d like, or even catch-up on reading. A full post tomorrow. On Thursday, John Markoff of the New York Times will join us for part one of two special conversations in the “3Q’s in 3 Min” series.

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“Blogboarding: A Blog is Not an Ad”

What do this

Truck Billboard

and this (click to enlarge) have in common?


They are both self-promotion tools advertising ways their businesses can help you “promote” your business. That is not a blog. That is a blogboard, the online equivalent of a billboard.

A Blog is NOT an Ad

I will not deny that a blog is a branding mechanism and promotional tool, but not in the sense of traditional self promotion. By participating in an online discussion and contributing to it, you build your brand’s (or your own) reputation. It’s also about sharing.

Sharing is Caring

Cats sharingAmong other things, social media empowers the little guy to have the strength of big business. There is something subversive when we blog about social media tactics. There is also something honest and liberating about sharing instead of hording.

Take a look at Todd‘s, Kami‘s, Brian‘s, Chris‘ or Shel‘s blogs. Their blogs all give the same insight, strategies and tactics that they charge their clients for. Does blogging decrease the inbound sales for clients? Perhaps, but not likely. What it does do is help a curious, prospective client get a feel for the philosophy of their company. It also helps current clients stay informed.

Blogging also helps increase transparency. When a client knows what I’m doing, they have more faith in me and are more engaged. Nothing makes me happier than when a client discusses something they read on my blog or any blog…if it’s not a blogboard!

Fight Blogboarding! Show us, don’t tell us.

Oh: and NEVER put contact information in the post. Save that for the “About” section.

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Filed under Best Practices, Future of Media, How To, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Rants, Sharing is Caring, Social Media

“Apple’s Social Media Efforts Need to Ripen”

During the last several years, Apple has undeniably been the innovator in hardware design, software and personal consumer tech. They’ve also been on the cutting edge of entertainment by effectively bringing the music industry into the digital age.

Last Friday and Saturday, Robert Scoble wrote two posts that remind me (and others) of Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell rants. When Scoble installed last weeks updates, his computer got stuck in reboot. Here’s what he has to say:

So I restart. And get the same message. I do it five times just to make sure.

And so, now I’m back on my Windows machine.

Screw you Apple and your ads saying you’re better than Microsoft. Screw you. Screw you. Screw you.

His second post discusses the brand promise that Apple makes through advertising and how he sees it flawed. You can read his full list of grievances in the post. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, I agree that Apple will need to change soon if it wants to keep up in the Post-Dell Hell era.

In its current state, Apple has a strong community of devoted users. Do an online search and you’ll find plenty of mac forums and mac blogs. There’s even a fake Steve Jobs blog. The company itself is surprisingly lacking in engagement with this community. In fact, it has actively sued bloggers in the past. In the last few weeks, Apple has even sent a cease and desist letter to a nine year old.

As Apple computers (not just iPods) are purchased by more mainstream consumers, Apple will find itself slowly being pushed into the conversation. Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim sees two situations that will force this change:

  1. It will reach customers that aren’t capable of tinkering and tweaking with their own stuff. Even Scoble didn’t know he could fix his computer by a “start in Safe Boot (press and hold the Shift key at the startup chime)? Starting in Safe Boot forces a directory check, so will verify if there is a problem with your startup disk.”
  2. The Apple evangelists–the ones that have always come to Apple’s defense–will be stretched too thin. They simply can’t jump in to every conversation and defend every forum comment and blog complaint.

So what can Apple do to increase it’s social media marketing and PR efforts:

  1. Create a Community Evangelist position to monitor the Apple dialog on Blogs for negative conversation threads and comment as a human. This helps consumers feel like they are being listened to, while simultaneously allowing Apple to more-or-less steer the conversation.
  2. Be honest. So I said they could steer the conversation…within reason. The users will be able to smell PR spin, so don’t try to incorporate too much messaging. If there is a problem, acknowledge it. Right now the Leopard install has caused crazy bugs that people are talking about in forums. Mac continues to deny it. I’m getting PO-d.
  3. Create a blog. Steve Rubel said it in 2004. Apple is the only large tech company to not have one. I understand corporate secrecy in product development, but come on. Dell’s is a great example. They talk about OpenWorld, Word of Mouth Marketing, Green issues, geeky consumer tech, servers, etc. They also have videos!
  4. Close the feedback loop. Wait, first create a feedback loop! Back to Dell: they have a created the IdeaStorm community to allow users to submit ideas and then other users vote on the ideas. The whole process is tracked with transparency and also shows results at the end. This is key: It lets consumers know they have a voice and that someone is not just listening but also acting as a result.
  5. Instead of suing bloggers for leaking things, show videos of products as they are being developed. Transparency and openness. Of course, you need to wait until you are close to release. If others are going to do it, owning it makes Apple cool again.

Oh, and putting out ads that show this:

When this is the reality:

Is really, really bad. It makes Apple look removed from reality, disengaged with the consumer and, frankly, a little arrogant.

What are your suggestions to Apple? Or are they doing ok? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any Mac Marketing or PR folks wanna speak to socialTNT’s readers? Tell us what’s up!

Before I get flamed: My whole house is full of Mac equipment from desktops, laptops, network gear, etc.

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Related Posts:

“PR to Enterprise: Beam Me Up”

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

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: Mario Sundar, LinkedIn”


Filed under Best Practices, Community Relations, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Sharing is Caring, Social Media, WTF?

“Amazon PR Tries to Dam the River of News; Flood Ensues”

Oh, Amazon, your recommendations know me so well–maybe not so much on the books (I purchased some X-mas presents for my brother one year, now it thinks I like encryption and security)–but music is spot on. I wish your PR department understood blogger relations nearly as accurately.

This evening, Read/Write Web posted an account of their trials and tribulations of dealing with Amazon’s PR. Here’s what happened:

  • A week ago, Amazon approaches RWW with a draft of the release under embargo until November 15.
  • RWW writes post covering Amazon’s news up after 12 AM EST.
  • RWW woke up next day to see emails from Amazon at 11:59 PM EST–one minute before release time–saying the news was on hold.
  • More emails from Amazon saying news was not true and was under embargo.
  • RWW and Amazon PR in discussion throughout the day with Amazon requesting post be taken down.
  • RWW says they will change the post if Amazon sends statement.
  • Amazon sends statement written in first person for the blogger to post. Check it out:

“Since the publication of this post, an Amazon spokesperson contacted me to clarify that no announcement was made in regards to support for Open Social. The Amazon spokesperson went on to say that Social network developers have been using the Amazon Associates Web Service to merchandise Amazon products (and earn Associates commissions) for some time. She indicated that Amazon would continue to provide developers with tools that allow them to choose the platform that makes the most sense for them regardless of the Social networking site they are building on. She pointed out…”

  • RWW blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick (appropriately) reacts with the follow disgust:

I cannot believe they’d send me text written in the first person and expect me to post it under my own name! Not to mention the really uptight language they’ve got that puppet named Marshall using!

Ok, so what went wrong here? Is it really a case of bad blogger relations? Let’s break it down and see what we can learn.

Here are my Amazon Recommendations:

  1. Drafts should never go out. If they absolutely must, then follow-up with the final when it’s available. If you aren’t sure you want it to go out, don’t send it out.
  2. The news cycle has changed–and not just with bloggers. Even traditional pubs will post news online before the print version hits. You can’t pull news by sending an email at 11:59PM and expect compliance. I believe most people will respect an extended embargo, if you make a reasonable effort at timely notification.
  3. Come clean. You made a mistake. It happens. Maybe some miscommunication happened btwn biz dev and marketing or it’s just not ready. Whatever, send a statement or, better yet, post a human comment on the “offending” blog. Don’t hound the blogger to take it off.
  4. (Most important): DONT WRITE A STATEMENT IN THE BLOGGERS VOICE FOR THEM TO POST. Sorry for shouting, but, seriously, you just don’t get it. That assumes SOOO much. And you know what happens when you assume? You make an ass out of u and Jeff Bezos. PR pros should never ever ever tell someone what to write, especially not a blogger!

So, yeah, Amazon will probably cancel my Prime account and I may end up with a horse head in my next order, but if it helps people understand good public relations, then it’s worth it!

Anyone else have any other advice to give to Amazon or aspiring PR folks? Have you ever had to pull news? How did you execute that task and how did it turn out? Love to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Best Practices, Blogger Relations, Public Relations 2.0, Rants, WTF?

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: Adrienne Sanders, San Francisco Business Times”

Adrienne Sanders Happy Thursday and welcome to another edition of “3Q’s in 3Min.” Every Thursday, socialTNT channels the spirit of citizen journalism 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. In addition to helping PR peeps pitch these individuals more effectively, the videos are meant to encourage dialog between reporters, PR/communications practitioners and marketers on the future of media.

This Thursday, socialTNT meets with Adrienne Sanders, Reporter, from the San Francisco Business Times. Adrienne covers Tech, Interactive Media and Entertainment. Even though her beat is localized to the San Francisco Bay Area what she has to say rings true nationwide. In today’s “3Q’s in 3 Min,” she tells us why digital is finally catching on; keys to good outreach in the new media age; and her idea of online personal space.

While other San Francisco publications have declining circ numbers, the San Francisco Business Times has been steadily gaining numbers. That’s why if you have an Internet company of any kind–Widget and startups included–Adrienne is a great addition to your media list. She’s also friendly (read: honest) and very well acquainted with current Tech trends.

Facts about Adrienne:

  • Has a one year old son
  • Does have a LinkedIn page
  • Currently uses Vista
  • worked with Om Malik when they were both at Forbes
  • Doesn’t have a lot of time for social media outside of work, but did recently make a book (of which she is proud) using Blurb.

Adrienne is right: Whether using traditional methods or social media, the best practice is to know your reporter or blogger. She also seeks to clarify the distinction between personal and private space online; something I think we will see more of as the technology evolves.

Where do you see the line between private and personal space? I’d love to know how you handle media outreach when you notice a reporter is on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Filed under 3sdays 3qs In 3 Min, Blogger Relations, Citizen Reporter, Future of Media, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Networking