Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Quote to remember

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What is a PR lackey tasked to incent and measure massive viral reach via SPAM emails to do???

Die, hopefully.

- Sean Howard in I am not an influencer and we are not friends (try 2)

Quote to remember

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For 100 years companies have been pushing what they think people are interested in out through one way communications channels. But now that people are redefining the rules of engagement, companies have to rediscover how to interact with people. It’s about unlearning a lot of behaviors and reacquiring the voice that businesses used in the days before mass advertising and promotion in the conversations that occurred between the village storekeepers and the people in the community. It’s hard to do, but by listening to people (remember the earhorn?) and not being afraid to get involved in the conversation, companies can slowly find that voice.
- Marc Monseau in Hanging with Mommy Bloggers

Creative destruction?

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There is a backlash happening against Creative, a company that:

told programmer Daniel_K to stop writing his own drivers for their X-Fi sound cards. The cards still won’t work on Vista over a year after the OS was released, because Creative hasn’t released drivers for them—but by Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s account, Daniel_K is “stealing” from Creative by making the cards work.

Geeky? You bet. Important? See what people say, the intensity and their actions and watch the ‘consumer‘ breaking out of neat demographics and managed spin.

The interesting aspect of this is that the company didn’t do anything that wasn’t their right to do. Copyright, IP, products, support and yet, what they have done stinks to high heaven of arrogance, complacency and of doing something very stupid in the age of the demand side can supplying itself – trying to reclaim their position of old where they are the only ones able to supply what they sell…

As a commenter on the Creative forum thread about this puts it:

Daniel may very well have stepped on some copyright rules, and Creative had the lawful option of doing what they did. Score 100 on the law, score minus several millions for not doing the job themselves in the first place, and putting someone like Daniel in a position where he had to do what he did, just to get the customers of this company happy.

The distinction between supply and demand, especially in the technology/software industry, is fuzzy. You want a community of developers helping your product or market or industry? Watch the edges of your kingdom stretch and flex until there is a kingdom no more and your best chance is to become the first among equals. And understand that is Good Thing.

Obviously, with the likes of Microsoft and Apple we are certainly not there yet. So let me just point out that if your business behaviour gets so glaringly overwritten by common sense, you have a problem.

The communications aspect of this case is equally interesting if not new:

Rule of thumb for bad news in the mainstream media: release it Friday so it’s buried over the weekend. Rule of thumb for the web: don’t infuriate thousands of your customers right before you decide to tune out for 48 hours.

damage-control.jpg
this is
now on the back of my business card as a useful reminder..

via dropsafe

Thin air PR

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Tom Foremski compares PR industry to Wily E Coyote running on thin air. True, there is much money sloshing around PR due to influx of advertising money and the ‘digital’ offering that most PR firms bolted onto their services. They obviously haven’t yet looked down…

PR today reminds me of the Roadrunner cartoons. The times when Wily E. Coyote is chasing the Road Runner and notices he is running on thin air, at which point he plummets thousands of feet to a distant canyon floor. That’s how I envisage the PR industry today–about to plummet from a great height.

Tom concludes that no change happened despite much blathering about transparency, ethics and new ways. My experience confirms that and I do not hold much hope of PR firms changing their ways without some serious pain in their business models.

Change in the PR industry will happen because the old ways won’t be as good, or as cost effective as using new media technologies to publish and engage customers. Traditional PR doesn’t provide the same bang for the buck.

It is when the PR industry feels the same pain that mainstream media is feeling right now, a kick in the pants to its core revenues, is when change will happen. But without pain, no change.

My prediction of PR business model demise is based on other reasons. Paying for PR is like sending a proxy to a party. Instead of going yourself you send someone all dressed up, well spoken and polished. It is fake but when everyone does it, it’s sort of accepted. But now when people start going to parties themselves, such proxies stand out. And not in a good way.

I keep running across Silicon Valley companies that have spent no money on PR or marketing. Zero dollars.

Slide.com, for example, has managed to attract millions of users for its online apps on Faceback and MySpace for no dollars.

There are many smaller startups who have done the same: zero dollars spent on PR and marketing. They have gotten incredible results from the viral nature of their products, services, and their personal abilities to establish though leadership through blogging and other online engagements.

Theoretically, PR firms could have taught people within companies how to do that but they are not really best qualified to do that. It is like an old dance master, with a repertoire and polished routines trying to teach his own generation how to break-dance or do rap so they can hang out with the youth. Yes, it’s still dancing, just different era, different vibe. An excellent dance-master could manage such a feat but it is a rare individual who can do that successfully. Most will just look ridiculous – out of step and out of date.

But no pain, no change. And given that PR is awash with money right now, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any soon.

via Teblog

Bonus link: PR is a solo voice, a blog is a choir

A message to marketers

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A worthy post by Brian Solis of PR 2.0 summarising what has become obvious some time ago thanks to blogging:

Attention PR and practicing Social Media professionals, step away from using “messages” to target “users” and “audience.” They are no longer filling the theaters, stadiums, and auditoriums to hear from marketers.

The implications for communications and marketing are profound and joint, they both need to take note and no longer define themselves by company processes or departments.

Discussing marketing in terms of audience and users implies a one to many approach, whereas focusing on people begets a one to one communications strategy – shifting from monologue to dialog.

Brian also has rather sound advice that does go a bit further than the ‘you-can’t-market-as-you-used-to’ meme:

When we look at groups of people respectively, we’re forced change our migration path to them. Each group is influenced, inspired and driven by unique channels and communities. Figuring out who we want to reach, why they matter to us, and why we matter to them, is the ante in order to buy into this game. Then we reverse engineer this process of where they go for their information and discussions to learn about how to reach them. And, while there may be several horizontal mediums that overlap, the vertical avenues are dedicated.

When you want to have a conversations with someone you do these two things – listen to the other person/people and try to say something of interest or of use to them. Otherwise you become unpopular and people will avoid you. Why on earth PR and communications departments can’t get that simple truth right and still blather on about messaging?!

Let’s go ahead and eradicate “messages” when discussing customers and people. They don’t want to hear messages, they want to hear how you can help them do something better than how they do it today or how this is something that they couldn’t do before, taking into specific account, their daily regime.

Messages are not conversations and there is no market for them.

Amen.

Messages_fuck_yourself

Bonus link: There is no market for messages

‘Tis but a press release by another name…

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Sony Electronics Blog:

The first is the annual Harris Interactive poll released this week ranking American’s choice for the “best brands.”  For the first time in eight years, Sony came in second place behind Coca-Cola. For the previous seven consecutive years, the company was ranked as the best.  And while I’d have liked to have held onto that No. 1 position for yet another year, I am still constantly impressed and very proud to work for a company that has a brand so well regarded by the American public.  Behind us in this poll of 2,372 people chosen to represent the demographics of the nation were such companies as Microsoft, Apple and Dell, along with Toyota, Ford, Kraft, Pepsi and Honda.

Words that PR killed

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Dan Santow of Word Wise has a highly relevant post on words over-used by PR and communications people. A candid admission prefaces the list:

The power of words comes, in part, from their meaning and from their
placement within sentences and phrases. It also comes from the
integrity with which they’re being used. In public relations,
advertising and marketing, we’re especially susceptible to latching
onto of-the-moment words and using them and using them and using
them until they’re used to death (their meaning and power dies). Half
the time we use these words it’s because we have no idea what the heck
we’re talking about in the first place.

Apropos, our company is the industry-leader in innovative utilisation of words, strategically leveraging their unique value proposition to uphold its position as the world-class communications solutions provider with unmatched, seamlessly integrated and robust best practice. Turnkey is out, revolutionary is in. Being proactive is the only way to be empowered. Let our highly-seasoned people who can turn the paradigm-shifting and the revolutionary into organic growth, facilitate your transition to the next-generation challenges. A win-win solution, surely.

RIP

hat tip Marc

Swag bag bonanza

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This is marvellous – a chance to watch detailed reaction to contents of ‘goodie bags’ given out at conferences. The swag wonks can see what happens to their carefully selected, overpriced promotional tat. Or they could for something tells me that they wouldn’t necessarily know where to look for Rafe Needleman’s video. Not all of it is bad of course, a geek can make use of most things, but note the items that get a positive reaction. They are all useful or related to something he already knows or likes – storage drive, Jason Calacanis start-up Mahalo, YouTube tube socks etc. My particular favourite useless bit is the Sports Illustrated themed mp3 player, pre-loaded with some music (not clear what kind). I can just see a meeting room full of young virile PR executives thinking this is what counts for ‘cool’. Sigh.

Measuring online conversations

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TechCrunch on yet another services that will monitor what blogs are saying about a brand/product/company. This time PR Newswire partners with Umbria, in creating a product called “MediaSense
Blog Measurement”.

Why do PR Professionals need a service to find out what bloggers are saying about their clients by a third party?

Media monitoring services still play an
important role in supporting PR, but this old school model comes from a
day before the Internet where national media monitoring via a third
party was essential, simply because there wasn’t an alternative, and in
many cases, for print, radio and TV there isn’t an all inclusive
alternative today. And yet blogs and consumer generated media are the
children of a new age, an online age where information is accessible
online anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.

This is what  I think whenever I see an announcement for such a service. I guess it is low hanging fruit for those who know how to use live web search. It’s not difficult to set up feeds of selected words searches and configure RSS reader so it’s easy to monitor them.

Occasionally I come across proposals from such agencies to my clients. I always show them how to do it themselves. That’s the whole point – disintermediation can work for companies too, not just individuals. Go figure.

All in one place

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A report from the corporate front with the internet open communications. If you detect a hint of frustration or god forbid sarcasm, it’s just my impatient nature. Obviously.

  • The benefits of decentralised communications and human conversation are explained to people within corporations – PR, marketing, communications, executive types, you named it – anyone who’s interested and would listen.
  • They see the point, even get excited, add their two cents and…
  • …after a few months embark on a cautious attempt to think of a ‘project’ that would achieve ‘decentralised communications and human conversation’ as a deliverable and with appropriate metrics.
  • After many back and forths regarding details, scenarios, possibilities, objections, identifications of risks (e.g. an errand asteroid hitting the earth) and occasionally opportunities, the ‘project’ proceeds at a snail pace.
  • A flurry of meetings, conference calls, emails with grown-up attachments ensues punctuated with conversations that restore some of the passion for the idea.
  • A first practical implementation appears – like a snowdrop on a barren ground with grey patches of old snow.
  • After a few more pushes and rays of sunshine from the outside (i.e. competitors embarking on something similar), the people involved are spurred to further action.
  • The finishing line is nigh, but compliance/legal/IT/little green men magically appear on the scene raising more objections than a lawyer in a discrimination case.
  • A killer objection is suddenly identified by the people who have been involved from the start and supported the idea. Example: We can’t talk openly about the problems we face and put our side of the story because that would look too negative. We need to be more positive and talk about our achievements and opportunities and rephrase our ‘about section’ or re-purpose our strategy/objective/perspective.

Arrrghh.

I have heard a similar argument several times by now and last night a friend of mine faced the same objection to a project that is brilliant and almost up and running. His frustration was palpable.

It eludes to some people that the internet is already providing the ‘one place’ where others can find anything about anything. Pretending that the bad stuff is not out there is no way to protect someone’s image. Or pretending that the image the world sees is the one they are presenting of themselves. Image silos are down just as much as the communications silos. Credibility is a function of several things – transparency, speed of response, expertise and authentic voice. By admitting to mistakes or addressing others’ mistaken perception of actions, companies can demonstrate two things – confidence in their own identity and respect for their audience by not shoving anodyne and watered down versions of it. Otherwise, others will do it for you.

Regret_the_error

But let’s not be beastly, let’s be positive and practical. A few tips for those who find themselves in a situation where the organisation is their worst enemy:

  1. Don’t try to change the system from within – i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated processes.
  2. Find people inside the organisation who understand both how important and good such change is and the original reason behind processes that are stopping it.
  3. Increase their knowledge and understanding of what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas, frustrations.
  4. Gradually connect these people in a network that will amplify their ability to make things happen ‘under the radar’, i.e. bypassing the dysfunctional processes and in effect creating alternative ways of doing things.
  5. Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible and ossified processes.
  6. Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps but once already feels good.
  7. Wave good bye to ‘business cases’ and say hello to ‘case studies’ i.e. ‘this is how we have done it and all we want is to enable everyone else to do something similar if they wish’.

Good luck.

The Top reasons you need a PR Firm

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Head Lemur explains why companies still need PR. A must read in these turbulent days. My favourite is:

You make shitty products.
Face it, whatever you thought you were doing that put you into business
in the first place, you have discarded that ideal, and have compromised
yourself to profitability over satisfaction.
PR will be happy to help you.
"Yes the Oil Spill covered 100 miles of coastline, But there are 250,000 miles of coastline that are still clean"

Priceless.

 

Social media is a buzzword – reason #148. Oh and press release is dead

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Stowe Boyd on ‘new media press release’ (for the record, I find the idea of social /new media press release laughable):

To the participants: Please, please, please don’t talk about audiences
when you are theoretically promoting social media. As Jay Rosen has
suggested, we are the people formerly known as the audience. Blogging
is not just another channel for corporate marketing types to push their
messages to markets, eyballs, or audiences. Social media is based on
the dynamic of a many-to-many dialogue between people. Yes, people:
that’s the word that should have been used. Not audience. If you’d like
to make a distinction between a company and those outside the company,
just remember: they are not an audience for your messages, any more
than you are an audience for theirs… Companies don’t blog, or converse: people do.

Indeed, something that corporate communications doesn’t understand – if you want to communicate with individuals you can only do that as individuals not as a collective entity. So spare us the pretence and put real people behind (or in front of) ‘corporate communications’. That way you kill two birds with one stone – get through to other individuals who just might care about what you have to say and give your employees the visibility and recognition they deserve. To that effect, I say to any senior executive who finds that his company’s employees are also blogging – lucky you, you have real people lending their voice to the company that lost its own somewhere between the management and your comms department.

Incidentally, I know the people on the panel and have had conversations or arguments at some point with most of them. Stowe puts it well and the only thing I would add is that PR is dead as in the era of distributed communications I cannot see its role. Press release is a relic of another age characterised by channel scarcity and corporate bullshit. So I cannot but agree with Stowe and Scoble on this:

I could similarly howl about the disembodied third-person voice of
press releases, which also does not translate into social media.
Everything is written by someone, or a specific group of people, but
press releases read like the stone tablets that Moses brought down from
Mount Sinai: written by the omniscient hand of God. Likewise the
excessive hyperbole and surfeit of superlatives of press releases is
distasteful at the least, and demeaning at the most.

and

Various comments made to my complaints about the gradual change going
on in the world of PR make my head hurt. It’s bullshit. And it’s
painful to see leading lights in the new PR era acting as apologists
for large, slow-moving, risk averse companies who continue to get it
wrong.

Amen to that.

As for press releases a good start would be to stop pretending that any self-respecting journalist is going to use the carefully crafted writing, the chiselled meaning and empty style. The only practical use of a press release is facts, so let’s cut the crap and have a list of bullet points about what happened or supporting information to those who will be doing their own commentary anyway. I always say, the blander a press release, the easier it is for the journos to put their own spin on it. The more explanation and transparent causality is contained in any communication, the harder it is to spin it around someone else’s agenda.

To change the ingrained corporate comms and PR habits is possible. The tools are simple, communication is natural. The processes and
systems can be serious bottlenecks, I admit, but never has been an
alternative to entrenched methods so easy to see and apply.

For those interested, Stowe has a follow up post addressing all the responses to the one I am quoting above. I read them all, not much that would interest me. Seems like PR echo chamber and a lot of vested interests by various people who threw their lots in with social media. There is a fundamental shift under way, re audiences -> users -> people kind and that’s is far more important to me than some PR flack’s desperation to save their skin (and business models).

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