Posts Tagged ‘Boston public relations’

Creative PR Pitches Are Both The Means & The End With New Media

March 16, 2009

Seth Godin, one of my personal marketing Sherpas, opined in one of his recent blog posts on “The difference between PR and publicity”. As with most of his insights, the post elicited plenty of views and comments as he decided to characterize the distinction between publicity as merely end-game media coverage and PR as the comprehensive story crafting and scene setting about a particular company, product, or trend. The oft-badmouthed PR, in effect, is actually more of a science than it’s given credit for being.

 

Godin, as usual, is spot-on. Gaining publicity, especially in today’s cluttered media environment, can be experiment in futility. On the other hand, everybody (and every client) has a story to craft, develop and share regardless of who ultimately publicizes it. Some of these stories are hundreds of times more interesting than others and some might be a lot more controversial than others, but everybody’s got something to add to a conversation. As Godin writes, almost everyone has a PR problem – a problem conveying that story effectively enough to get attention (or the right attention).  

 

The distinction that Godin draws creates an even greater justification for the merits of inbound marketing. With every effective inbound marketing campaign comes a hefty dose of creative, responsible and engaging storytelling and content creation – whether in the form of blogs, online videos, or social media profiles. Ultimately, marketers now have additional outlets for their stories besides the traditional media.

 

PR pro’s can focus on their storytelling by creating content that is engaging enough to stand on its own (without gatekeepers) and virally spread to the right audiences and potential prospects. Does a little outbound, traditional PR pitching help the cause? Absolutely, but any PR pro worth his or her salt knows that now, more than ever, companies can be well served by having a creative story (or customer, product, employee or event) that ultimately sells itself through new media channels, with little interruption or traditional media communication.  

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Using Social Media To Weather The Recession

March 13, 2009

One of the most adverse domino effects of our current economic situation has to be the distressing troubles currently afflicting the advertising and marketing industries. Because of companies’ fiscal obligations and their deteriorating bottom lines, executives have shown little restraint in slashing their ad budgets and downsizing any of their prior plans for monumental, traditional campaigns.

 

The situation is incredibly dreary for most marketing professionals, who are now left with the difficult tasks of justifying their worth to their clients by developing, or pitching, campaigns that are explicitly responsible and cost-effective. 

 

So…how should marketers weather the recession? 

 

The answer is quite clear; move the pivotal focus of your campaign onto the web and harness the power of social media.  Social media, particularly over the past year, has proven to be an inexpensive, but lucrative tool for online lead generation, providing a positive return on your client’s investments. Amidst the current market, and with marketing budgets slimming to a shoe string, social media presents a more personal and engaging option that can correctly target the proper demographics and audiences in a word-of-mouth fashion.

 

Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs allow users to connect and share and publish their most personal ideas, thoughts and opinions with old friends or even perfect strangers. The beauty of these interactions lies in the implicitness of the information to appear creditable because of its word-of-mouth nature. Social media users recognize the messages they receive to be more relevant and natural, and not stretched or warped by the stigma of paid advertisements.

 

But social media users still need to gain the trusts of their peers. Once this goal is attained, the passing along of communications becomes socially accepted as useful, helpful and credible.

 

The power to share information on these sites can help to bolster a company’s profile, if it is accomplished in a responsible and trustful way. By managing many of the social media channels that they have at their disposal by dedicating the right resources and employees, corporations will recognize the ability of social media to serve as a next-generational inbound marketing tool. Over time, connections made, like in the real world, can generate new leads, clients, and revenue without any of the costs of more traditional business lead generation methods.

What the Heck Is SEO?

March 12, 2009

If you own a business you probably have a website (if you don’t, get one…fast!). If you have a website, then you have undoubtedly heard the term “SEO”. Well, what exactly is “SEO”? It’s a question I ask people regularly and I am still amazed at the myriad answers that I receive. The simple answer is that it’s an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”. Most people get the search engine part; it’s the optimization part that usually has them stumped. Regardless of their level of understanding, the typical response is “I’m not really clear on how it works, but I know I should be doing it.” And they’re right! If you’re not optimizing your website for search, you’re missing out thousands of potential business leads!

 

So what is it? SEO is a unique, and highly effective, approach to internet marketing that aims to improve the quality of leads driven to a company’s website via search engines. More technically, SEO is the strategic and thematic alignment of specific keywords with content and HTML code. The goal is to increase the relevance of keywords within the text copy so that search engines will view it as pertinent and easy to index. Put a bit more simply: it is the process of making a website more attractive to search engines. The more attractive it is, the higher the rank.

 

seo1As an inbound marketing strategy, SEO takes into consideration two things: the nature of search engine spiders and how they crawl the web, and the way in which a potential consumer will search for services. Research shows that people are inherently drawn to the top five entries on the first page of a search result. The higher the search rank the more credible the source is perceived. Imagine if your company’s website came up first when a potential customer searched for the specific services you provide or the products you sell. Your company would be perceived as the best, most relevant source for whatever it is you sell or provide.

 

The purpose of any company’s website is to attract online users and business, and numerous studies have shown that the majority of online users find what they are looking for via search engines. This means amazing possibilities for business lead generation! In today’s Web 2.0 world, people want to find information on their own and be engaged by it. They do not want to pick up the phone and listen to a sales call when they can search for the information they want, when they want to search for it. As a business, that means that you want to be front and center whenever a search is performed on your particular services. Let your customers find you on their own – which they happily will – and when you ask them how they heard about your company, don’t be surprised when they say “Google”.

Beer goes well with anything… especially the internet!

February 20, 2009

You know that commercial for AT&T, where the salesman tells the brewer “You sure can brew it,” and the brewer responds, “yeah, but can you sell it?” Great spot. But that’s probably just because I love beer, and I’m generally excited about anything relating to the selling, marketing and promoting of beer.

 

And I’m not alone. Beer lovers are typically fanatical about their beers, particularly home brewed craft beers, and everyone loves those excellent beer tastings at local liquor stores and festivals. Hop fanatics love to mingle with other bar flys and argue about the best India Pale Ales and German Lagers out there. Most of them even brew their own beers at home. Heck, even Kid Rock’s now in the game:  http://tinyurl.com/cy4tdh

 

Nowadays there are hosts of ways to get the word out about your beer online; sites that help promote where you can find it, how you should drink it, and why you should try it. Mashable put together a great list last May of the “13 online tools for beer lovers,” http://mashable.com/2008/05/26/13-online-tools-for-beer-lovers/

but the possibilities are really endless. Today’s online environment is dominated by social networking sites, and ensuing online social interactions. What better way to lighten the mood or get the weekend rolling than by starting a conversation about beer? A quick scan of TweetGrid found close to 35 mentions on “beer” on Twitter in just a 10 minute span. A Twellow search pulls up over 1,850 Twitter users who have the word “beer” included somewhere in their Twitter handle or bio. 

 

Clearly, there are some serious connections to be made, and conversations to start, if you are trying to shop your beer around the internet.

 

Some breweries, like Boston’s Harpoon, do an excellent job capitalizing on both traditional and new media tools on the web to help grow their business. Leveraging an excellent website and a free, inbound marketing-style “friends of Harpoon signup-program”, the brewery engages current customers with e-mail blast promotions of tastings and other events, a detailed Facebook page, a host of YouTube videos and a Twitter feed—all with the intention of spreading their message of rapturous beer consumption as quickly as possible to generate sales and expand their market. If it’s any indication that it’s working, the brewery’s Facebook page is littered with requests from users in cities like Dallas and Savannah, asking when, and how, they can start stocking up on Harpoon in their hometowns.

 

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But I feel that we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg here when it comes to what the power of the internet, and particularly new media, can do for beer makers. Beer, and alcohol in general, has always been an innovative industry when it comes to developing advertising and marketing campaigns (think of all those great Budweiser campaigns), so it wouldn’t be farfetched to guess that they’ll be one of the leaders as we delve further into the era of new media communications.

 

Just think about if for yourself. I challenge you to come up with an engaging way to leverage a new media tool to promote a beer. You should find that it might take up some time, but that it isn’t too hard to come up with a concept.

 

But be careful. As with any form of communication, you probably won’t want to drink and tweet.

Are you on the right track?

January 26, 2009

So why would you use social media to market your products?  Is it because it’s what the cool kids are doing? I hope that’s not your rationale.  If that is your reason, then you’re probably not using it to its full potential.

Granted, the cool kids ARE doing it, but that’s not the point.  Social Media Marketing is an incredibly effective tool with a reach that is ultimately beyond being truly quantifiable.  Nevertheless, there are techniques to track many of the results of a Social Media Marketing campaign and use those results to determine ROI.

It’s not always easy, but it is absolutely essential to running a successful campaign.  More to the point, it’s essential to get your client’s CFO to sign off on that campaign.  We all understand the profound value of Social Media Marketing campaigns, but the reason we’re successful is because we know how to communicate that value to the campaign’s beneficiary.

Here is a quick primer on some of the more basic ways to track a Social Media Campaign:

1. Site Traffic: If the goal of your campaign is to increase brand awareness, then benchmarking and measuring spikes in traffic to your website and blog or numbers of followers on Twitter can serve as a rough indication of how a campaign is driving brand impressions.

2. Conversions: Similar to what you might do with an SEO campaign, having your Social Media Campaign tied to specific conversion goals on your site can provide you with very specific success benchmarks in the form of highly-qualified leads.

3. Backlinks: If the goal of your campaign is to build a general following, then you should be measuring increases in backlinks to your Website, blog, wiki or whatever happens to be the epicenter of that following.  They can be easily tracked with Google and give you a great feel for who’s taking you seriously enough to link to you.

There are much more involved techniques that we use, but these represent some simple ideas to start with.  I’d love to hear feedback and suggestions for other basic techniques!

What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side”

January 22, 2009

I read an interesting blog post yesterday entitled “What all PR people should know about journalists”, written by Rohit Bhargava on his Influential Marketing Blog. The post had been “re-tweeted” by someone I follow on Twitter. As a former journalist who came over to the PR “Dark Side” 12 years ago, I was naturally intrigued. Mr. Bhargava listed six lessons that he has learned that “most journalists know and many PR professionals are blissfully unaware of.”

The six lessons are as follows: 1) Your BS is obvious 2) Timing trumps all 3) Reputation matters 4) Features are not as important as an angle 5) Speed and contactability make the difference 6) Peer pitching works. The writer expounds on this list here: http://tinyurl.com/7s3vxj, but if you’re a successful publicist, Mr. Bhargava’s insights will fall into the “duh” category. If you are a PR professional and this list is eye-opening, then you are either right out of school (you get a pass) or you really suck at your job and it’s people like you that give us flaks a bad name… But I digress.

My reason for writing this post is not to knock Mr. Bhargava’s blog post – he writes a very successful and generally insightful blog – rather, I’m tired of always hearing about what reporters think about us “annoying” publicists and how WE can do a better job. It’s about time we PR professionals enlighten you journalists about what we think about you and how YOU can do a better job. As someone who has worked on both sides of the phone, I have some lessons that I have learned along the way that, to turn Mr. Bhargava’s statement around, “most PR professionals know and many journalists are blissfully unaware of.”

Here’s my Top Ten List of What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side” (in no particular order):

1. The “Dark Side” is not that dark. I know it’s hard for many reporters to believe, but for the most part, PR folks are not evil like Darth Vader. OK, so Lizzie Grubman didn’t do us publicists any favors when she ran down a crowd of people in the Hamptons with her Mercedes several years ago shouting “F**k you, white trash”. That was really more of a “class warfare” issue anyway. Regardless, I can name plenty of reporters that have given the Fourth Estate a bad name. Does Jayson Blair ring a bell? So, please cut us some slack. We don’t look down on you, so please don’t look down on us. We’re just doing our job.

2. We don’t think you’re stupid. Contrary to what you may think, we’re not out to dupe you. There are some reporters out there that I’ve encountered over the years that truly believe that every pitch they receive is a ruse. We understand that if we don’t have an existing relationship that you’ll need to be more thorough in vetting the pitch, but trying to pull one over on you is not in our best interest or the best interest of our clients. Our reputation in this business is all we have. If a publicist loses their credibility, then they’re all done. Most good publicists understand what’s newsworthy and won’t waste your time overselling a great story about our client’s “new coffee flavor” for instance! We’ll save that story for when you owe us one.

3. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need us as much as we need you. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no need for query services like PR Newswire’s ProfNet or Peter Shankman’s HARO. You need sources and story ideas and we have them. What’s more, a good PR agency contact can be a direct conduit for multiple sources – one stop shopping!

4. Some day we may represent Bono or Bill Gates. OK, so we don’t always have the sexiest clients, but just as you may start out covering selectmen’s meetings for the Carlisle Mosquito and end up a columnist at The New York Times, we could some day represent a client you would desperately want to write about. Keep that in mind when you’re pooh-poohing our pitch about the new coffee shop that opened on Main Street.

5. We are just as busy as you are. You’re busy, we get it. So are we. Please don’t always act like you’re in the middle of breaking Watergate when we call. Just as you have editors riding you, we have clients that expect the cover of Time magazine. When we call, it’s usually just a quick follow up on something that we sent you. You can spare 60 seconds. Now, if we call you with a stupid question at 5:00 p.m. when we know that you are on deadline, please, feel free to blast us.

6. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. If our client is on the hot seat, we will unequivocally do everything we can, short of lying, to protect our client’s name and reputation. This is what they pay us for. At this point, all friendships between reporter and publicist must be suspended. We understand this and so should you. Getting the dirt and deciphering our “spin” is your problem. There is nothing unethical about putting a spin on the truth. Understand that we all carry the labels “Flak” & “Spinmeister” proudly. When the dust settles, we can be friends again.

7. You can’t always expect an exclusive. Just because we also gave the story to your cross-town rival, doesn’t mean we screwed you. While there are some stories that may deserve an exclusive for various reasons, most of the time it’s not a big deal if the other paper runs the same story on the same day. If you write for The Boston Globe, your readership isn’t reading the Boston Herald anyway. It’s safe to assume that if we don’t say ahead of time that we’re giving you an exclusive, then we’re not.

8. Please don’t call our clients directly. There’s a very good reason why our clients hire us, please don’t cut us out. We make our livelihood by publicizing CEOs and their companies. If they had the time and expertise to do this effectively, then they wouldn’t need us. When you go directly to our clients, it either really annoys them and we hear about it or they begin to wonder what they need us for – even though we’re the ones who initiated the relationship. Please call us if you want to talk to them.

9. Just because you didn’t think about it doesn’t make it a bad idea. PR professionals are a pretty creative bunch. One of the best methods of garnering press for our clients is to lump them into a larger trend piece. When we bring you an idea for a trend piece, please don’t turn your nose up at it. You can take credit for the idea. If you do decide to use it, just please include our client prominently in the story.

10. Don’t make us do your job. Please don’t send us interview questions for our clients to fill out the answers to. Some PR folks may disagree with me on this, but from my experience, this interview method creates more work for everyone involved and the answers to the questions are never as good as if the reporter spent 5 minutes on the phone asking the questions themselves.

Well, that’s my list. I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who read this who will disagree with some of my points. Conversely, I’m sure there will be others who feel I left out some critical insights. Either way, I welcome your feedback!

Twitter Breaks News While Traditional Media Sits in Midtown Traffic

January 21, 2009

When a major news event occurs, naturally, news stations and websites are often the first place readers go to get the latest information. With society and technology changing, however, social media has taken a step ahead of traditional media and has proved to be a reliable source for breaking news information.

When U.S Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the icy waters of the Hudson River last week, witnesses watched from their high-rise buildings, trying to decipher what had just taken place. The jetliner with 155 people on board had lost power in both engines after hitting a flock of birds’ shortly after departing from La Guardia Airport. Now national hero, Pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger, landed the plane safely (miraculously) in the river avoiding a disaster and saving the life of every passenger and flight attendant on board.

News of the crash spread instantaneously over the micro-blogging site Twitter, by New York City-based users witnessing the crash live. They were sharing pictures and first-hand accounts well before any TV networks were on-site. The first Twitter feed was a post by Janis Krums of Sarasota, Florida who had arrived to the scene on ferry just a few minutes after the jetliner had plunged into the Hudson. He had posted a picture on TwitPic (a tool that allows you to share photos on Twitter) just ten minutes after the crash, with a caption reading, “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” It was one of the first photos posted about the incident and has now been viewed by over 90,000 people.

Janis Krums' Photo of US Airways Flight 1549 in The Hudson River

Janis Krums' Photo of US Airways Flight 1549 in The Hudson River

The power of social media continues to connect people, media and technology. By embracing this power, sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming an essential part of modern society and communication, and are playing a role in the diminished usage and relevancy of more traditional media outlets.

The Hudson crash is yet another example of social media out-performing traditional media.

It’s Not (Just) Your Kid’s Facebook Anymore!

December 5, 2008

I recently reconnected on Facebook with the majority of my 6th Grade classmates from P.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, NYC. I graduated from Mr. Domingo’s class in 1986 and, for the most part, have not spoken to these people since then. Facebook has illuminated old faces and rekindled a whole mess of great memories that had been filed away in the far recesses of my mind. We’ve now posted funny stories on each other’s walls, shared old photos, and simply caught up on where life has taken us since we last spoke. There is no way this would ever have happened if it wasn’t for Facebook.

What started out as a place for college kids to share drunken party photos has become a real-time reunion for 30, 40 & even 50-somethings. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook over the past year is the 35 to 54 age group. This segment has created profiles six times as fast as the 13 to 34 group and now represents roughly one-fifth of the site’s 120 million users and rising.

Technically I still fall into that…ahem…younger demographic, but while I was an early adopter because of the business I’m in, it wasn’t until this past year that I fully realized the power that Facebook has for enabling the reconnection of old friends.

As more and more of my old acquaintances join, the more people I receive “friend requests” from and vice versa. Over this past year I have reconnected with people from every period of my life – grade-school & high school classmates from New York, guys I played football with in college in New Hampshire, and old rugby buddies living around the world in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. It’s been a phenomenal experience. In some cases I’ve discovered that old friends are in the same business that I’m in – including publicists & reporters. I even recently placed a story in the Nashua Telegraph for a client, which was written by an old college buddy I reconnected with through Facebook

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1993 Plymouth State College Football Team

The best part of reconnecting via Facebook is the non-committal aspect of it all. You can decide the level of reconnection that you want and you can do it when it’s convenient. The worst part of high school & college reunions is the fact that you wind up telling your “life after school” story over and over again and feel compelled to talk to everyone in the room, when maybe you really just want to hang out with your close friends or an old flame. On Facebook, you can catch up with people on different levels – it can be simply accepting a “Friend Request” or posting a note on a friend’s “Wall”. If it’s someone you were close with, you can send them a personal message and maybe plan a time to grab a beer when you’re both in the same town (Facebook will never replace a hug an a handshake).

While Facebook will always be a place for teenagers to share party pics and plan road trips, the real power of the application is people staying connected with everyone they have met along the way. Never again will Jack opine, “I wonder what Jill is up to these days?” He will already have pictures of Jill’s kids climbing up the same hill they climbed when they were kids.

Black Friday Gives Way To Cyber Monday

November 26, 2008

Who wants to get up at 5 am on their day off? That is the attitude many Americans have embraced since wiping Black Friday off of their schedules. But thanks to the fast paced technologically advanced world we live in, consumers no longer have to cut coupons and set alarms to receive the best deals on their Holiday gifts. The consumer driven world is based on instant gratification and marketers have developed a plan that adheres to all their demands

Over the past two years, retailers have morphed their infamous shopping day into a new tradition: Cyber Monday. According to Fast Company, “Cyber Monday sales totaled $687 million” in 2006. Since the majority of consumers’ online purchases are made during business hours anyways, retailers learned to apply this trend to revitalize our holiday shopping experience.

We now have the best of both the materialistic and affectionate worlds during the holiday season: we can enjoy quality time with our family and friends and still purchase our “must have” items. The only fall back is that consumer’s now spend Monday scanning the Internet at work looking for great gift ideas instead of focusing on their normal everyday responsibilities and tasks. Crossing our fingers that our boss won’t catch us! But this change in pace has also caused a seismic shift in the advertising world. Budgets for print and broadband ads are being redistributed into interactive/digital campaigns. The alteration in distribution channels has clients fighting for their banners and skyscrapers to run during this crucial timeline. But marketers have embraced this change. The interactive switch gives them the in the opportunity to create promotional campaigns that will generate a larger database of qualified sales leads and a more accurate account and understanding of their target market.

Consumers shopping habits are evolving and simultaneously, the advertising world must follow suit. Seasons greetings from new media!

New Media Expedites The Demise Of MTV’s TRL

November 19, 2008

This past Sunday, MTV bid farewell to one of the most iconic programs the network has ever produced over the course of its near 30-year history. “Total Request Live,” or “TRL”, officially signed off the air for one last time, marking the end of the road for a show known just as well for launching the careers of “diverse” pop stars like Kid Rock and Christina Aguilera, as it was for it’s steadfastly devoted audience of teenagers (whom either spent after school hours glued to the TV set, or frolicking outside MTV’s studios in Times Square).

But whether you liked the show and what it stood for (obsessive admiration over artists, actors, and other “hip” figures getting their 15-minutes of fame), you had to respect the fact that at the height of its popularity, TRL symbolized the power of MTV to shape mainstream American culture.

That’s because while neither Limp Bizkit nor the Backstreet Boys were creating anything of transcendent quality, the appeal of these groups to the young masses, coupled with TRL’s unparalleled ability to let fans vote for their favorite videos and display their popular musical allegiance, did transcend the way viewers consumed music and supported (or gave “props” to) their idols. In essence, if fans kept voting for them, TRL’s most (in)famous host, Carson Daly, would provide viewers with immediate access to their favorite videos and frequent live appearances from the artists themselves. And, over time, fans began to demand this instant access. Band’s started building elaborate websites, albums came loaded with interactive media, and the music video continued the climb (that began with innovative videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer“) to its perch as the most defining aspect of the pop-oriented musician’s brand. That’s right, TRL was transcending the way we interacted with music, while at the same time, was serving as a band’s primary branding tool.

Admittedly, when I was of high school age I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was a lot more concerned with aligning myself with the brands of such “alternative” rockers as Staind and Papa Roach. Did I think they made great music? Probably not. But I wanted to disassociate myself from the “boy bands,” so I went to war on a weekly basis (ok, maybe daily) with legions of teenage girls to support my side of the musical aisle. MTV, and the bands I supported must have loved me. I watched the show, voted for the bands, bought the albums, and even purchased the shirts to spread my allegiance, the old fashioned way.

So if TRL was the ultimate pop-culture, brand-building machine, why did the network just host their last show? I’m think it might have to do with the stunning proliferation of new media. Music fans no longer have to rely on TRL to see their band’s favorite videos; they can just as easily go to YouTube. Want to support your favorite band as manically as possible? Join their Facebook group. In a cluttered media landscape and a constant state of information overload, people have tons of different mediums through which to align themselves with, and enjoy, b(r)ands.

Undoubtedly, MTV came to this realization themselves. These days, music fans are just as likely to track a Twitter feed to discover a new band, and then download their video or podcast, then they are to spend a whole hour of their day watching TRL.

Information is moving at breakneck speed and for musicians and the music industry, hopefully this means that quality and skill will win out over the mass marketing and pop culture spin that defined the TRL generation (for better or worse).

Besides, it’s a lot easier to link to your favorite band then it is to buy their T-shirt.