Wednesday, July 29, 2009
No need to fret. Gawker's intrepid media guy Hamilton Nolan, a former PR Week staffer, just posted one PR firm's CEO's words of wisdom on what it takes (via YouTube).
Ahhh. Now we know! ;-) (BTW, here's a post with some links to PR job boards.)
Monday, July 27, 2009
"Does a WSJ hit count in the Twitter era? PR must now embrace a hybrid model...""Hit," "placement," "earned media," whatever you call it, few will argue with today's imperative to take an agnostic approach when weighing the relative merits of which journalists to engage on a client's behalf.
The link from Ms. Breckenridge, who co-wrote with Brian Solis the book Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, backs this "new" hybrid approach.
But I'd venture to say that media relations pros always have taken a "hybrid" approach to finding the "right," i.e., most appropriate outlet. It's just that today's options transcend the wires, newspapers, magazines, local, network and syndicated TV, radio and websites, to include myriad bloggers and microbloggers.
In his Sunday New York Times homage to Walter Cronkite, columnist Frank Rich wrote:
"We’ve heard much sentimental rumination on the bygone heyday of the 'mainstream media,' on the cultural fractionalization inflicted by the Internet, and on the lack of any man who could replicate the undisputed moral authority of Uncle Walter."
"What matters is content, not style. The real question is this: How many of those with similarly exalted perches in the news media today — and those perches, however diminished, still do exist in the multichannel digital age — will speak truth to power when the country is on the line?"Rich makes the point that compelling and courageous mainstream journalists still retain the capacity to make a difference. In other words, a Wall Street Journal "hit" will continue to matter as long as the editorial content has the ability to provoke thought/action. Also, quality reporting from long-established outlets happens to sustain/fuel much of the Twitter and blogospheres.
Notwithstanding, Mr. Rich's body of work shows a healthy disdain for the abuses of the PR profession, if not the profession itself. It's highly unlikely that he views Mr. Cronkite's authority through the same PR prism we use when assessing which journalists have the greatest influence.
Today, influence can be found anywhere along the microcosmic media spectrum. We may have less of a need to reach a mass media audience -- given our ability to pinpoint niche audiences with niche media -- but the value of mainstream media in the overall mix is clearly greater than Mr. Wengroff's suggestion:
"Let's face it: We love to name drop."
Friday, July 24, 2009
“I’m really perplexed. It’s unbelievable,” said [B-M's] Karen Hughes, Mr. Bush’s White House counselor. “They’ve taken his greatest political asset — his gifts as a communicator — and totally diluted them. It’s been especially notable in the last couple weeks.”
“It’s a risk of overexposure,” said Joe Trippi, a political consultant. “If you use it all up on health care, you may not be able to use it on something else. But if you’re going to risk using it all up, this is the one to risk it on.”Well, here's something on which both sides of the political spectrum can agree: President Obama's powers of PR persuasion may be wearing thin given his excessive exposure in the media of late.
Ironically, many journalists who decried Mr. Bush's lack of accessibility during his eight-year rein, are among those questioning Mr. Obama's abundant use of the Fourth Estate to advance his communications goals. Is it because they see these appearances as orchestrated versus naturally occurring news events? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
This past Monday, the White House Press Office even deployed Mr. Obama to enlist a group of sympatico and influential bloggers to take up the fight on healthcare reform. So what is the right balance? When do you bring to the pulpit your gifted POTUS to press the press and the public with your policies? If not for healthcare reform, then what, as Joe Trippi astutely observes.
This blog has written its share of posts on the downside risk of media overexposure - from Jennifer Aniston to the Twitter boys. Selective, or as some PR peeps are fond of saying, strategic exposure typically allows the newsmaker to prevail in the court of public opinion. But it's not only choosing the "right" outlets. Taking a measured approach to the number of interviews a sought-after newsmaker grants can ensure longer-term media momentum.
Some even postulate that shunning the media altogether enhances one's mediability (and bargaining power). Did you see the piece on the media's desperate efforts to land the first interview with that igno-amorous Governor from South Carolina?
Today's New York Times, from which the above quotes were culled, examines the conundrum in which the White House Press Office finds itself over how to effectively use this President's powers of persuasion. Robert Gibbs explains:
“You worry about overexposure maybe very deeply in the back of your mind,” Mr. Gibbs said. “But the way the media is structured these days and the fact that it is so segmented and split up means that in order to get something to go through, you’ve got to do multiple platforms.”Who else beside the President should be deployed to cogently make the case? Joe Biden? Mr. Gibbs and company should be thinking about its bench, and a full-court press. Progressive bloggers are one thing, credible and persuasive policymakers another. (But please don't take the retired general route.) Where are the bigwigs at the AMA, AARP...?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Not only that, the means of engagement is a press release -- reduced to a single line. The cost: $1 per character with a $50 minimum. Yikes! Here's the tweeted announcement:
muckrack RELEASE: Muck Rack launches One Line Press Release Service to make pitching betterBetter? That's a big TBD. They claim:
"Deliver your message to top journalists on Twitter in a concise format they'll read."I noticed that PepsiCo signed on to the service.
"PepsiCo joins Muck Rack 1LPRS as a launch partner to syndicate news from the #BlogHer conference on July 24-25"At a $1 per character!?!
Muck Rack is a Twitterized community of mainstream journalists who keep it vibrant, fun and relevant. I especially enjoyed the #lameclaimtofame feed in which Muck Rack's members shared their dubious dibs on fame. Who knew that New Yorker staff writer @SusanOrlean was a distant relative to William Shatner or that a seven-year-old @JakeTapper's short story got an honorable mention by Cricket magazine?
@PRSarahEvans's #JournChat is another Twitterized service that strives to bridge PR pros with journalists. It takes a HARO-like approach for monetizing that access through the sale of sponsorships to its #Journchat sessions. She too has built a fab database of "Media on Twitter."
I agree that most PR pitches are way too long and frequently awash in superfluous and misguided nonsense. Boiling down the press pitch to Twitter size is a worthwhile exercise, albeit an expensive one using Muck Rack's new service. (Compared to a national news release distributed via one of the big paid wires, at $1000+/- a pop, it may be deal.)
Still, the Muck Rack journalist community, while first rate, remains relatively small in comparison to the total universe of journalists and bloggers. More significantly, the service does not allow PR pros to pinpoint the journalist whose editorial interests most closely match the story pitch. One-sentence releases are simply posted billboard-like on the site.
I think I'll stick with the PR spam-killing search engine I helped co-develop -- MatchPoint -- with its database of nearly 300,000 reporters and bloggers and 4.5 million articles against which one's story query is matched to find the right reporter. A new version, with significant enhancements to more richly engage journalists individually, is about to launch.
Monday, July 20, 2009
On Friday evening, I did find myself in the Twitter flow when The New York Times's indefatigable TV scribe Brian Stelter tweeted Walter Cronkite's passing. It included a link to The Times's "Decoder" blog. My immediate instinct was to RT the (not unexpected) flash based solely on Stelter's 140-character characterization.
@BrianStelter Walter Cronkite died today at the age of 92.I queued it up, but then pulled back. Maybe I should check out the Decoder post first just to play it safe? I did, and there was the validation under the imprimatur of The New York Times. I hit my Twitter update button, edging in my tweet just ahead of Breaking News Online (BNO), and only two minutes after Stelter's first tweet.
8:11 PM Jul 17th from web
The next morning, I learned from @nytimes and @nyt_jenpreston, NYT's "social media editor," via @jennny8lee, how The Times appears to have scooped the entire media ecosystem.
jenny8lee @nyt_jenpreston. @nytimes got Cronkite news out quickly bc clerk, Jen Mascia, took call from son, Chip, directly.In early 2003, the family of former CBS Inc. CEO Thomas Wyman asked my firm to help handle the news of his death. The PR duties fell to me. Working with his son, I finally had an announcement in hand. My first call: the city desk of The New York Times followed shortly by the AP city desk. At The Times, Douglas Martin, who penned Mr. Cronkite's obit, took the lead on Mr. Wyman's. The media universe ran with the news from there.
As I consider Mr. Cronkite's passing, I'm stuck on the question of media validation. Which outlets have the journalistic chops to make it safe for everyone else to publish, post or broadcast a big breaking news story? Should one trust TechCrunch, TMZ or BNO as they would a New York Times, AP or CBS News? It's already clear that many bloggers and most microbloggers don't distinguish. Shouldn't they?
And what are the long-term consequences for getting that first story slightly or completely wrong? Will the "rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated" become a familiar refrain? Will the self-styled journalist crowd eventually correct the first/worst write of history? Where will the guidance come from - influential blogs, the Twitterverse, or those news organizations that adhere to long-standing journalistic standards to get it right the first time.
In a former media age, it was The AP to which mainstream news organizations turned before a breaking story was deemed ready for prime time. And since The AP is a co-op of newspapers, many major dailies had commensurate news-validating power. (The AP also picked up and moved their stories.)
The recent news of another larger-than-life persona -- the circus-like death of the Gloved One -- reminded me how CNN took some heat for its journalistic restraint on confirming Mr. Jackson's death, even as the Twittersphere and a number of mainstream blogs and websites gleefully ran with TMZ's reports. It was an hour after Mr. Jackson's death before CNN reported it, and I think it only happened after a hedging L.A. Times made it safe to do so.
Writing for Knight's Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles offers his thoughts in a post titled "Michael Jackson's death and its lessons for online journalists covering breaking news:"
"News organizations do not need to fall in line behind sources such as TMZ when a report like Jackson's death breaks. The Twitterverse's been wrong about alleged celebrity deaths before. But in this situation, smart news organizations should acknowledge to their followers and readers that they know the report is out there and that people are talking about it, and report where the organization is with its own reporting."Ironically, Bill Carter, in a short, NYTimes.com video vignette on the life of Walter Cronkite, included Mr. Cronkite's hesitation -- by 38 minutes -- to report the news of JFK's death. His green light? An AP News Flash. Those days are over. As Jeff Jarvis tweeted Friday evening:
@jeffjarvis: No disrespect to Cronkite, but I am glad to be past the age of the oracle anchor.On the other hand, to whom will our nation turn its lonely eyes? Harvey Levin?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The perpetrator, buoyed by all those file-sharing fanatics who detested their nemesis, were thrilled to see MediaDefender's intellectual property make daylight. It cost the company dearly in both dollars and reputation.
(I won't date myself by recounting the story of private investigators hired by Larry Ellison to rummage through competitor Microsoft's personal garbage for useful tidbits.)
I'm not sure what I think of TechCrunch's decision to publish some of the internal documents pilfered from Twitter's server and sent to the tech influencer by some randoid named Hacker Croll. TC's proprietor, one Mr. Arrington who's fond of breaking (setting new?) rules of journalism, reviewed the material and decided to go forth and publish those he determined had news value:
"There is clearly an ethical line here that we don’t want to cross, and the vast majority of these documents aren’t going to be published, at least by us. But a few of the documents have so much news value that we think it’s appropriate to publish them."Of course this decision produced a fair share of condemnation to which Mr. Arrington (to his credit) maintained an open dialogue:
"Many users say this is “stolen” information and therefore shouldn’t be published. We disagree.So here's the first TechCrunch post culled from the dubiously obtained documents:
We publish confidential information almost every day on TechCrunch. This is stuff that is also “stolen,” usually leaked by an employee or someone else close to the company, and the company is very much opposed to its publication. In the past we’ve received comments that this is unethical. And it certainly was unethical, or at least illegal or tortious, for the person who gave us the information and violated confidentiality and/or nondisclosure agreements. But on our end, it’s simply news."
- "Twitter’s Financial Forecast Shows First Revenue In Q3, 1 billion users in 2013" in which Mr. Arrington wrote:
"Our negotiations with Twitter (or rather Twitter’s lawyers) over our intention to publish a small subset of the 310 hacked confidential documents continue. We published the first document, a pitch for a reality television show called Final Tweet, earlier this morning.I must admit it's entertaining, if not ethically questionable. I also wonder whether Twitter would find itself in such a compromised, Schadenfreude-driven position if it hadn't cultivated such a high (i.e., hyperbolic) media profile.
Far more interesting, though, is this internal Twitter financial forecast from February 2009."
How the heck was this company hacked anyway???? Geesh.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
"Marketing companies are keen to get their products into the hands of so-called influencers who have loyal online followings because the opinions of such consumers help products stand out amid the clutter, particularly in social media."So in spite of the word-of-mouth industry association's protestations, the FTC is now accepting public comment on its proposed regulations according to The Times:
"A draft of the new rules was posted for public comments this year and the staff is to make a formal recommendation to be presented to the commissioners for a vote, perhaps by early fall. 'Consumers have a right to know when they’re being pitched a product,' said Richard Cleland, an assistant director at the Federal Trade Commission."Some bloggers, according to PBS MediaShift, welcome the regulatory scrutiny of their paid reviews. Others want to stick it to the marketers altogether. Today we learn of one Mommy blogger community that's calling for a week-long "PR blackout." Marketing Vox reports:
Mommy blogger community MomDot has proposed a challenge to mom-bloggers everywhere: to stop promoting the wares of sponsors, PR agents and free-gift-givers — for a week. From August 10-16, the PR Blackout campaign will encourage mom bloggers to go back to basics.The group wrote:
"We want to see your blog naked, raw," wrote MomDot. "Talk about your kids, your marriage, your college, your hopes, your dreams, your house and whatever you can come up with for one week."Personally, I think these mommies' wrath is misguided. Sure, PR people have been known to court influential bloggers with test products and hospitality, but me thinks the real blatant church-state line-crossing resides among tried-and-true marketers who're used to paying for play. Most of the PR peeps I know instinctively know when not to cross that commercial bridge for fear of burning it.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I was asked by my client to try to put the kibash on the rogue Twitter handle. I appealed directly to two of Twitter's three co-founders and...they responded(!) Within 30 minutes, the account was suspended. (I guess if you control the switcher, you own the channel.)
Since that time (and prompted by a lawsuit from St. Louis Cards manager Tony LaRussa), Twitter's powers-that-be instituted a system wherein the most noteworthy Twitterers are anointed with a "Verified Account," which (somewhat circuitously) brings me to the point of today's post.
Did you see that PaidContent:UK story about the London-based web designer Moonfruit's efforts to game the Twitter trending list? This is the list on Twitter's home page of the most popular topics of the day as measured by the number of tweets.
Moonfruit enticed its followers (and their followers and their followers) to insert the hastag (#) Moonfruit to be eligible to win one of ten free Macbooks. The Twitter promotion proved so popular that #Moonfruit usurped #MichaelJackson and #Iran on Twitter's Trending Topics list. It was akin to Skittles transforming its website into a Twitter stream.
Yet, suddenly, mysteriously and without warning #Moonfruit disappeared from the list. Apparently the standards & practices department at Twitter (yeah right!) decided that it's not nice to fool Mother Twitter. The Moonfruit blog took issue with a post titled: "Twitter censors Moonfruit? What does it mean for the future of Twitocracy?" Moonfruit's Wendy Tan wrote:
"So if Twitter had come to us and said, 'guys, enough is enough', then we would have worked with them to limit the campaign, or complied with whatever they were demanding. However, if they have pulled the trending without explanation or communication, this sets rather a different tone."Hey look. It's their sandbox, so they can decide who plays in it, right? Anyway, getting de-trended on Twitter is probably better than getting de-friended on Facebook. The Moonfruit promo gets another 15 minutes.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
My #2 son recently shared (via his del.icio.us account) Steven B. Johnson's take on the "future of news." In the piece, which was first delivered as a speech at the SxSW Interactive Conference this past spring, the brilliant and prolific technology scholar and author (five books and the recent TIME cover on Twitter) cogently described the evolution of technology media, and more recently political media, as paradigms for how other media sectors may ultimately develop.
In "Old Growth Media And The Future Of News" Mr. Johnson writes:
"I think the political web covering the 2008 campaign was so rich for precisely the same reasons that the technology web is so rich: because it’s old-growth media. The first wave of blogs were tech-focused, and then for whatever reason, they turned to politics next. And so Web 2.0-style political coverage has had a decade to mature into its current state.It may be a leap of faith, but returning to the opening questions of this post, I wonder if an industry's degree of "new growth media," as Mr. Johnson terms it, is a reliable barometer of whether that industry is ripe to capitalize on social media's tools and channels. For example, would you, as PR consigliere, advise your accounting or insurance client to rush wholeheartedly into social media? Are their respective industries' media ecosystems sufficiently evolved? Will they ever be?
What’s happened with technology and politics is happening elsewhere too, just on a different timetable. Sports, business, reviews of movies, books, restaurants – all the staples of the old newspaper format are proliferating online. There are more perspectives; there is more depth and more surface now. And that’s the new growth. It’s only started maturing."
A quick assessment of the tech, political, media...sports, entertainment and food sectors quickly reveals media-rich environments with passionately engaged and broadband-connected audiences. It's no coincidence that these sectors have more than their fair share of social media programming successes.
So when a client asks you about his company's appropriateness to engage the social media graph, perhaps you should first examine where his industry sits on the "new growth media" continuum. It's probably not sufficient to only gauge whether a company's corporate culture will allow such a shift, but whether the industry's media ecosystem will accommodate it.
Simply put, not all industries are ready for the full social media monty, though all would no doubt benefit (and learn) by first tipping their toes in the water. (Hint: start by listening.)
Monday, July 06, 2009
Of course I had. Who hadn't? It's so rare that The New York Times visits our enigmatic profession, and with 3000+ words, even rarer indeed.
But I'd say that this fresh treatment of the profession, as embodied and astutely articulated by Ms. Hammerling and others, was long overdue. It was especially telling to those of us toiling for tech start-ups and in industry segments rife with social media-driven influencers that often matter more than holy grail "placements" in Newsweek and People or on "GMA" or "Entertainment Tonight."
Ms. Cain writes:
"This is the new world of promoting start-ups in Silicon Valley, where the lines between journalists and everyone else are blurring and the number of followers a pundit has on Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than old metrics like the circulation of a newspaper.I'm not so certain the "days are gone" when mentions in print and on television or on web sites and blogs are no longer valid. After all, isn't it a newspaper/website that will deliver to Ms. Hammerling's relatively fledgling PR firm its biggest payoff yet?
Gone are the days when snaring attention for start-ups in the Valley meant mentions in print and on television, or even spotlights on technology Web sites and blogs. Now P.R. gurus court influential voices on the social Web to endorse new companies, Web sites or gadgets — a transformation that analysts and practitioners say is likely to permanently change the role of P.R. in the business world, and particularly in Silicon Valley."
Also, any study of what clients crave most will invariably (and short-sightedly?) come back with "mainstream media hits." Publicity generation remains a thriving and still lucrative calling - especially at big, mainstream agencies.
So don't jettison your journalist/influencer engagement skills just yet. Even with new tools and channels, the measure of success for the PR professional remains remarkably constant: to help clients find their voice and parlay that voice into a sustained and positive branded presence in the "media" that produces esteem and/or action. It's the definition of media and those who create that have changed.
A week or so ago, I was poised to craft a reaction to Brian Solis' post in which he reprinted Burrelle/Luce's list of the "top media outlets," i.e., newspapers, blogs, and magazines (though no broadcast). I got sidetracked, but was glad to see him follow-up with a lengthy post on the new influencers.
You see, it's not a matter of traditional vs. digital vs. social vs. citizen media. They no longer are mutually exclusive. It's finding the right mix of these channels (and the right message). We will continue to help clients craft their salient stories/messages so they may more effectively and authentically engage directly with any individual who has a qualified sphere of influence, e.g., readership, viewership, listenership, Twittership.
As Mr. Solis thoughtfully opines on the Miller piece today:
"As the New York Times article leads you to believe, everything in PR focuses on the launch, however, the launch vehicles and the mouthpieces have changed thanks to the socialization of media. But what hasn’t changed is the process of connecting information to people seeking it, when, where, and how they ask questions, learn, and communicate. The only difference is that the tools and the people involved in the decision making process have augmented."He further expounds on the requisite PR skills and mindset to succeed today:
"The eligibility to earn these relationships however, start with a completely new and enlightened state of market awareness, customer empathy, and social adeptness, bound by passion and a clear proficiency in the art and science of influence and community building."I did find one key ingredient missing from Ms. Miller's profile. Her focus was on Ms. Hammerling's network of "friends" each of whom wields influence through their blogs, microblogs and old-fashioned personal networks. I didn't see much on content creation and optimization, and how this essential competency helps clients to build their own followers and, in doing so, advance their business objectives.
Again, [seeding, pitching, courting, engaging] those who have qualified followers is a fairly traditional path. Building a client's authority (and influence) through the creation of compelling text, images and video is where the PR biz seems to be heading.
Here are some New York Times readers who also took notice of Ms. Miller's piece:
- PR Newser (Joe Ciarallo) "Brooke Hammerling on NYT Story: Reporter Did an 'Excellent Job'"
- PR 2.0 (Brian Solis ): "PR Does Not Stand for Press Release: Equalizing Spikes and Valleys"
- TechCrunch (Michael Arrington) "The Reality Of PR: Smile, Dial, Name Drop, Pray."
- PR Week "The Cycle" (Aarti Shah) "NY Times on Silicon Valley PR"
- Twilight in the Valley of the Nerds "Viable Product or Service First, Then PR"
- Scobleizer (Robert Scoble) "Tech execs: how to reach “normal” users with PR and with TechCrunch/GigaOm et al"
- PR Squared (Todd Defren) "The Seven Elements of Good PR"
Friday, July 03, 2009
Enjoy the holiday. Treasure your family. Pray for our soldiers overseas.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
His New Yorker magazine review of the timely tome, which portends an age where all media content shall be set free, prompted many in the Twittersphere to weigh in (mostly in favor of Mr. Anderson's perspective).
Here's a smattering of what the pundits had to say starting with Mr. Gladwell:
- Malcolm Gladwell "Priced to Sell: Is Free the Future" "His advice is pithy, his tone uncompromising, and his subject matter perfectly timed for a moment when old-line content providers are desperate for answers. That said, it is not entirely clear what distinction is being marked between 'paying people to get other people to write' and paying people to write. If you can afford to pay someone to get other people to write, why can’t you pay people to write? It would be nice to know, as well, just how a business goes about reorganizing itself around getting people to work for 'non-monetary rewards.' Does he mean that the New York Times should be staffed by volunteers, like Meals on Wheels?"
- Chris Anderson "Dear Malcolm: Why So Threatened" "So that’s the difference between 'paying people to write' and 'paying people to get other people to write'. Somewhere down the chain, the incentives go from monetary to nonmonetary (attention, reputation, expression, etc).
It works great for all involved. Is it the model for the newspaper industry? Maybe not all of it, but it is the only way I can think of to scale the economics of media down to the hyperlocal level. And I can imagine far more subjects that are better handled by well-coordinated amateurs than those that can support professional journalists. My business card says “Editor in Chief”, but if one of my children follows in my footsteps, I suspect their business card will say “Community Manager.” Both can be good careers.
Malcolm, does this answer your question?"
- Seth Godin "Malcolm is Wrong" "I've never written those three words before, but he's never disagreed with Chris Anderson before, so there you go. Free is the name of Chris's new book, and it's going to be wildly misunderstood and widely argued about. The first argument that makes no sense is, 'should we want free to be the future?' Who cares if we want it? It is.
The second argument that makes no sense is, 'how will this new business model support the world as we know it today?' Who cares if it does? It is. It's happening. The world will change around it, because the world has no choice. I'm sorry if that's inconvenient, but it's true."
- Mark Cuban "Free Versus Freely Distributed" "You can have it for free, if thats how you want it, but you have to come get it where we want you to get it. On our websites. On websites we co produce with Youtube or Hulu or whoever. If you want it for free, you have to go through the exhausting effort of clicking to our website and giving us something in value in return. It may be your attention. It may be your interest. It may be a referral or your email address. We give you something free, you give us something that costs you nothing."