“Why the Publicity Bubble in PR Begs Popping”

Today’s post was written by socialTNT contributing writer, Marie Williams.

There’s been talk lately about the PR pro’s evolution from publicist to social media strategist. While I wholeheartedly support the increased attention to social media, the underlying message is disconcerting. For too long, media relations and the hot pursuit of “ink” has been our reason for being. Let’s pop that bubble right now.

PR has never meant press relations, but to look at the industry’s widespread propagation of that mantra it would seem that is the case. How is it that we term ourselves publicists, when our true role encompasses so much more? Perhaps if we treated the industry as a more strategic practice instead of focusing on getting a stack of clips, we’d have more seasoned and capable professionals in the field instead of an army of cold callers smiling, dialing, and pissing off droves of journalists and bloggers in the process.

It’s interesting that despite the growth of social media and the decline of mainstream media, the importance of the latter has stayed virtually the same. There’s still a lot of resistance, most of all from PR professionals, to admit that traditional media relations is declining in importance and we live in a brave new world where social media is taking over.

A hit in the Wall Street Journal is a great coup and will no doubt cement the reputation of your brand with your consumers, your business partners, and your competition. But it’s becoming less and less valuable to the bottom line as social media grows exponentially in influence.

One example that continues to blow my mind is when a client of mine was included in a Thanksgiving-day GMA segment – a major accomplishment for our team. The client saw thousands of inbound leads occur as a result and was pleased as punch with the results.

Imagine his (and our!) surprise when a few months later, when we secured the client blog coverage on TMZ – which was still a relatively small celebrity-focused news site at the time – to phenomenal results that blew GMA’s out of the water. When a niche-focused Web site can bring in more bang than a nationally-syndicated morning show, you stop and pay attention.

The Internet tips the scales in favor of social media by making it far easier to track online coverage that leads to site traffic, leads from that traffic that convert into sales, and gauge customer opinions by participating in the online discussion.

Beyond online coverage’s potential for being far more successful than mainstream media coverage, the possibilities for community engagement is endless and gives companies a better chance than ever before of dialoguing with their most important publics: The end user. These direct-to-consumer conversations are arguably the most important for a company, and PR can strategize for and drive those conversations.

Social media provides PR professionals an opportunity to take back their rightful role as big thinkers, strategists and high-touch relationship builders, relegating media relations to a more modest (and arguably more deserved) position with the rest of a company’s key audiences.

It’s no wonder most clients still value the old school “ink” and pooh-pooh social media coverage as a lesser accomplishment when we so poorly represent ourselves as mere media lackeys. Yes, it’s time to expand beyond the publicist role, but in the process, we should realize that we never should have represented ourselves so narrowly in the first place.

Contributing writer Marie Williams also blogs at www.flackette.com about PR and agency life. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

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[The above image, "POP!" by N1NJ4 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Public Relations 2.0

“Safety in Numbers: How to Fight Brand Hijacking on Twitter”

Last week a reporter asked my opinion on the state of brands on Twitter after the Exxon Twitter-jacking debacle.

“As more companies move on to Twitter, how are we to know who is real and who is a fake?” she asked.  “How can a reporter or a consumer know that this person can be a trusted source?”

With Exxon, someone named Janet had claimed to be the Exxon Mobil community manager.  Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang got excited that Exxon was getting involved with Twitter–3 days later, it turned out Janet was a fake.  She hadn’t said anything negative about Exxon, and actually did a great job of addressing people’s questions…but she’d hijacked the brand.  Other big companies might not be so lucky.

Back in the old 1.0 days of the Internet, you could be pretty much anyone–a 40 year old man pretending to be a 13 year old girl–and no one would know otherwise.  In the Web 2.0 world, however, our identities are built on and confirmed by our relationships.

Using Facebook as an example, my identity is more-or-less confirmed by my friends.  Not that it can’t be forged, but by checking my profile, my friends, my work network, etc., you’d be able to make a fairly good guess as to whether I was real or not.

Nope, Twitter doesn’t confirm your identity–but you can still use the network to validate someone.  Jeremiah could have easily searched on Twellow for other Exxon employees on Twitter.  Had their been any Exxon employees (there aren’t), he would have been able to ask them about Janet.  Did they know her? Exxon is a big company, so maybe not…but I bet they have a directory in Outlook.

Companies like Dell, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft all have tons o’ employees on Twitter, making it easy to find a spokesperson. (Click links for Twellow searches).

A couple of steps any company can take to ensure their brand is protected:

  • Don’t just create a XYZCo generic Twitter account, get as many employees on Twitter as possible
  • Add any official Twitter names to the company’s main contact page
  • Encourage employees to mention company name in Twitter profile
  • Create a directory of employees in the company on Twitter and distribute internally
  • Encourage employees to add each other.  Even if they may not work together, Twitter can help strengthen the camaraderie within a company
  • Encourage employees to respond to any Tweets about the company they see — bonus if they search for the company’s name or industry keywords

There you go. Now whenever a reporter, blogger or consumer is looking for a company rep, they can find many to whom they can turn!  Oh, and it might not hurt to claim your company’s name–if it isn’t already taken!

What systems does your company have in place to validate Twitter screen names?  Do you have just a generic name? Do you let employees actively Tweet?

Like what you read? Add our RSS feed! [what’s that?]. Or start your morning with socialTNT in your InBox! Or read Chris 24-7 on Twitter!

[The above photo, "Kids at zebra crossing" by fiskfisk on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Community Relations, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media, Social Networking

“Video Demo: New WordPress ‘PressThis’ Next Tumblr Killer?”

UPDATE: Thanks for joining us for socialTNT’s first live demo.  If you missed it, you can see the full, 3-minute video demo, below.

Let us know what you think! Have you tried PressThis? How do you think it compares to Tumblr?

Hi Everyone:

We will be conducting a live demo of PressThis, WordPress’ answer to Tumblr.  Always wanted to start a blog or looking to ease your idea sharing? Tune in and watch how you can easily add a quick link, some text, a quote, video or photo.

Come back to the page today, September 3rd, at 3PM PT/ 6 PM ET and watch as we demo PressThis LIVE.  The Qik channel should be live, below, or check out this link. We’ll be streaming direct from my iPhone.

I’m still getting the hang of this live broadcasting thing, so it should be fun! ;)

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Filed under Blogging, New Media

“Just Effing Do It: 8 Steps To Writing Better Blog Posts”

For both new and old bloggers, sometimes the hardest part of blogging is the process of taking an idea and turning it into something others can appreciate.  By breaking each part down into unique actions, a daunting post gets digested into bite-sized pieces.  Today, socialTNT shares our 8 step process for writing better blog posts.

1. Look for inspiration

Most of my ideas come to me while I’m at work–a client asks a question or a brainstorm leads to a new thought.  Also, reading my favorite blogs, their comments or a heated Twitter discussion can get my mental juices flowing.  I’ve even had inspiration hit while I’m at the gym. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so carry a notebook to jot ideas down before you forget.

2. Research Your Topic

Choose anidea and research it on Google, Wikipedia and other blogs.  Spend 20 – 30 minutes filling your head with everything there is to know about the topic so your thoughts can pour out when you start writing. Remember: Research can also spawn ideas for future posts.

3. Take A Break

Grab a snack. Walk around the block.  Give your brain 5 minutes to process what you’ve just learned.

4. Brainstorm Post Ideas

Take 10 -15 minutes and make a list of all everything that comes to mind.  Stay positive and don’t judge the ideas while brainstorming. No idea is too dumb, small, big, etc.  Write it all down.  You never know what may spawn something newer and better.  Keep the list–you never know when you’ll need some ideas.

5. Conduct follow-up research (Optional)

The idea you chose after the brainstorm might need a little more research with some tighter search terms.  Email or call a friend, expert or anyone who can help sort out your thoughts or give you deeper insight.

6. Just Effing Write

Choose an idea and write.  Don’t worry about making it perfect.  If you’re like me, then you’re your worst critic.  I used to kill so many posts before they were written by worrying whether they would be too basic or not eloquent enough.  Some of the posts I’ve worried most about before publishing seem to be the ones that get the most traffic/comments–once they get writtenSo don’t let the fear of failure get in the way of creating something great.  Just effing write it!

7. Proof it.  Clean it up.  Give it to a friend

This is the editing phase.  Now is your chance to be critical.  Read it once for grammar and once for clarity.  You may find that you need to write more or cut back a lot. Don’t fret. No one writes perfect posts each time they sit down.  Just write.  If you start to get too critical, pass it on to a trusted friend for feedback

8. Publish that Bad Boy

Your idea is no longer a child, so set it free.  It will mature as comments and discussion grow around it.  Smile! You just shared an idea with the world. You are a part of history!

What steps do you take to keep your blog in shape? How do you fight writer’s block? Let us know in the comments!

[This post inspired by "A Technique for Producing Ideas" by James Webb Young, the 43 Folders blog by Merlin Mann, and "Getting Things Done" by David Allen]

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[The above photo, "Vieja Maquina de Escribir. / Old Writing Machine." by Gonzalo Barrientos on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Blogging

“Chow Down: How to Use Friendfeed for Better PR”

So we’ve held off on posting about Friendfeed for several months.  As adoption has slowly increased, we have started to warm up to it.  While it may be too soon to ditch Twitter and throw all your efforts into Friendfeed, it can be a great tool to add to your arsenal.  Today, socialTNT takes a look at some of the ways Friendfeed can help you build relationships and more effectively reach your target reporters and bloggers.

What is Friendfeed?

  • Friendfeed is a “social aggregator”
  • In non-Valley speak: Friendfeed is like the Facebook newsfeed, except it lists all the actions you do across more than 43 sites, including YouTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg and LinkedIn
  • Also like Facebook, you can share items directly into your feed.
  • Most exciting: Every action in the feed becomes a blog post, letting you comment in a conversation thread

Friendfeed for Media Research

To be the good PR person that you are, you do your due diligence by reading all articles and post by your target journos and blogos–if not daily, then before you reach out to them.

With Friendfeed, you can see:

  • All of their latest posts
  • What they are reading
  • Twitter-feed
  • Pictures of the fam
  • Videos

Take a look at the page from Chris Nuttall of Financial Times (click to enlarge):

You can stay up-to-date with any of the blogos or journos you follow by adding their feed to your reader.  Scroll down to the bottom of the feed and click the RSS Logo:

Get Involved With a Reporter’s/Blogger’s Community

Friendfeed isn’t just a stalking device, it’s a great opportunity for PR peeps to form relationships and have conversations not usually possible.

  • Become a member of the reporter’s or blogger’s community by:
    • Adding thoughtful comments to their items
    • Participating in discussions

Check out the screenshot, below, from Robert Scoble’s feed. The red box shows you where to go to comment.  Click “more” to link to this item or share it with your feed.

Click on “more comments” (as indicated by the green box, above) to see the full conversation thread related to that action’s comments.  Robert even answers comments:

Getting Started with Friendfeed

  • Sign up for a free account
  • Add the info from the sites you want to share
  • Add me
  • Add some Reporters/Bloggers (a few listed below)
  • Join “Rooms” or groups based on your interests or your clients’ industry
  • Share posts, articles, interesting thoughts

Reporters and bloggers on Friendfeed

Just a small sample:

With Friendfeed and Twitter, you have a great non-intrusive way to get to know reporters and bloggers.  You also get the chance to join their community and share ideas.  Go ahead and give it a shot!

Also, check out the new widgets Friendfeed (like a Blogger Badge, Share This, RSS and others) has recently launched. It also looks like they are trying to speed up RSS. Cool!

Are you using Friendfeed? What has your experience been like? Like/dislike? Let us know in the comments!

Like what you read? Add our RSS feed! [what’s that?]. Or start your morning with socialTNT in your InBox! Or read Chris 24-7 on Twitter!

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Filed under It's A Conversation, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media

“Breadcrumbs: Using Curiosity to Strategically Reach Audiences”

Last week, Robert Scoble declared Tech PR useless.  My response, a light-hearted post to shake off the negative energy, called for change within the PR industry.  Many of you emailed me asking about the future of PR and marketing, so today I wanted to share those thoughts.

Changing Landscape

The founders of our industry, in my opinion, did not intend us to be keepers of the keys and intermediaries, but actual creators and facilitators.  The original press release was not an announcement, but rather a creation of compelling content that editors wanted to print.  They looked for stories to tell and then pitched these to reporters.  And it worked, as long as the mainstream media was in control of the information.

Things have changed.  Today, the Mainstream Media is struggling and the walls are crumbling.  The rise of the Internet has moved content consumption online.  Also, thanks to social media, everyone has the ability to create content themselves.  Translation: The Internet is a REALLY REALLY noisy space.

Information Overload

Technologies like search and RSS feeds make information easily accessible–but they never seem to find *exactly* what you want.  Also, social networks and bookmarking sites have added the human element to finding content, but even that isn’t always enough.  With traditional media, reporters distilled the real world into articles.  Likewise, bloggers take information on the Internet and present what’s good.

With decentralized information filtering, how do we make a significant impact to reach our audience, whether they are bloggers, reporters or consumers?

Curiouser and Curiouser

If I understand Robert and the other Tech bloggers, they are finding information through community and curiosity. They listen to what others in their online peer network (whether Facebook, Friendfeeed, Twitter, RSS Feeds, etc.) are saying/sharing.  They also track and discover products and services the same way consumers do: word of mouth and surfing/searching.

What does this mean for PR and marketing practitioners?

  • The goal is to leave breadcrumbs your audience follows to find you as if by magic
  • To do this, we have to think like our audiences
  • Instead of asking “What do we want our customers to think?”, we have to ask “What are our customers interested in? How can we reach them?” and “What can we teach them?”
  • We no longer create stories, we look for conversation
  • We execute strategy to reach audiences where they share ideas
  • We engage in industry wide discussions with our clients as the moderator

We Are The Music Makers, We Are the Dreamers of the Dream

Instead of just producing viral videos, widgets, blog posts and (gasp) press releases, let’s create content people will want to consume.  Let’s build rabbit holes of discussion that our curious audiences can crawl into.

The ultimate goal: Be known for facilitating stimulating conversation around topics related to our clients/services by creating content our audiences will be interested in.

How do you see the future of PR? How do you inspire curiosity and conversation to energize communities and build awareness?

[This post inspired by a conversation with Tim Dyson, CEO of Next15 (the holding company that owns my firm, Text100) and numerous conversations with Todd Defren and Brian Solis]

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[The above photo, "Down the Rabbit Hole" by valkyrieh116 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Future of Media, It's A Conversation, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media

“SHHH! Don’t Tell Anyone.”

Last Wednesday, I joined Text100 as Peer Media (aka New Media) Manager for North America.  Working with Text, I can experience opportunities only available in a global firm.  So far, I’ve already started collaborating on projects with people in France, Germany, China, Spain, Italy and South Africa.  Being able to share ideas with experts from varied cultures will really give me an interesting perspective on implementation of new media tools–I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn with all of you :)

This opportunity would have never been possible without the readership and support all of you have given me over the last year!  When we launched, I never imagined it would take off.  I was just looking for an outlet to pour out all my ideas and empty my head. Thank you!

Best,

Chris

BTW: Release is still forthcoming. In the social media age, it’s hard to keep a secret like this quiet for long.  Since a couple of you smarties figured it out (damn you Facebook and LinkedIn!), I decided to go ahead and spill the beans.  Let’s hope they don’t spank me!

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Filed under Just For Fun