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Preview: Fresh Ground Communications

Media Metamorphosis



As if you haven't noticed, how we interact with information has changed. That evolution isn't over, not by a long-shot.



Updated: 2015-09-16T12:12:38.180-04:00

 



What is to become of this blog?

2009-10-23T09:55:00.512-04:00

Honestly, I really don't know. For the most part my thoughts on media have moved over to the Fresh Ground Blog, so if you want to follow me just subscribe there.

Though, I'm considering simply changing the feeds so you'll be automatically resubscribed. If people have a problem with this idea please let me know, as I don't want to clog anyone's RSS readers with something they don't read.

In the meantime, head over to Fresh Ground and see what the conversation is like!(image)



Breaking Fresh Ground

2009-10-07T09:35:00.183-04:00

So many of you have been asking what I'm working on, and now I can tell you: Fresh Ground!

After many months of planning, talking and researching, I'm happy to announce that Todd Van Hoosear and I have teamed up to launch a different kind of PR firm. Much of this was laid out in my previous post after the Web Innovator's Group panel, but in short, we take a different approach to how PR is done. We start with the corporate story, focus on content and community and then extend that story through the right channels, whether that's a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, trade publications or the Boston Globe.

Traditionally, companies turn to PR to gain media coverage with the idea that broad coverage in top publications will drive traffic, prospects, investors and, ultimately, revenue. Over the past couple of years several top PR firms have added social media capabilities, some doing it quite well.

But for many social media is an add-on to the primary goal of getting coverage. The PR program in that case isn't about building relationships, it's about getting coverage with occasional social media projects thrown in.

Fresh Ground is about long-term engagement with influencer relations playing a key, but supporting role.

Check us out and tell us what you think.(image)



What You Don't Know About PR CAN Hurt You

2009-10-03T15:18:11.535-04:00

David Beisel capped last night's fabulous Web Innovation Night with a panel on how entrepreneurs can do PR without PR agencies. Moderated by Mike Troiano, the panel included Bob Brown of NetworkWorld, Peter Kafka of AllthingsD, Scott Kirsner of his own making and the Innovation Economy column in the Boston Globe and Wade Roush of Xconomy.This was intended to be PR 101 lesson for entrepreneurs who want coverage but don't know how to go about getting it. But the takeaway, as I heard it, was much closer to what Bobbie Carlton says in her blog post:...if I was an entrepreneur, all I would have heard was, “Run away from PR people, they are useless to you. In fact, probably worse than useless because top reporters look down on them as a breed.”There are two main problems here. First, the panel didn't have a good idea of how PR actually helps media relations; but second is the misunderstanding that PR means only media relations. Today's PR is much more than that.On the first issue the panel joked several times about how entrepreneurs will do silly things like send them "embargoed" press releases, or conduct an interview and to call back a day later only to say "the first 20 minutes of that talk was off the record, right?" or try to pitch a "news hook" that is a minor upgrade of a product.Good PR counsel fixes those problems. We guide clients on how to talk with journalists so when you they get their 30 or 60 minutes with Scott Kirsner they use that time effectively, both for them and for the journalists. We guide our clients on what information is pertinent to which audiences and how to best present that information.Peter Kafka made the point that PR firms make a lot of money selling clients on the idea that they can reach him, but the act of reaching him is quite simple. He went as far as to call PR people liars, since they say they know him when they don't.A good media relations firm will never sell you on their contact list since we all know that the contact list is worth the pixels it appears on. The fact that any one of us knows or is known by any journalist only gets us an additional few seconds of consideration. Maybe it gets our email opened when others get tossed immediately. But unless that email or phone call includes a good story, then the time is wasted, so we focus on packaging the story.After the panel, as I approached Wade Roush, I found myself in a very interesting conversation with one of the panel's targets: an bootstrapped entrepreneur whose company is targeting application developers. He had a few questions of Wade that frankly were out of Wade's range. The entrepreneur wanted to know how to talk with specific application development message boards and what impact news and information presented there would have on gaining coverage from Xconomy. He and I then had a nice conversation about communications strategy leading up to his launch. We agreed that getting coverage in the Globe, for example, wouldn't help him reach his audience, but later may be useful in reaching potential investors, a move that affects his communciations strategy. We also talked about his need for a "community manager" who would focus on working with the various application development forums.And that leads to my main problem with the panel: they preached the misguided notion that PR is only media relations.There is a reason that the landscape is dotted with the former co-workers of the people on this panel. Individuals today get their information from a number of sources, many of whom are not professional journalists. Today anyone with a blog has the potential to reach their core audience, provided they hit the right keys. Google is the gateway.Yes, traditional PR is about getting coverage and even today many agencies sell that very thing. In fact, for many companies media relations remains an important component of their overall PR program. But PR is about developing a broad communications program that includes:Building a long-term strategy that establishes lasting relation[...]



This Isn't a Twitter Problem

2009-09-29T09:00:00.553-04:00

My beloved Jets find themselves in the middle of a social networking tempest, though frankly, it's of the teapot variety.This week, Jets Wide Receiver David Clowney found himself benched after he vented his displeasure regarding his lack of playing time during the Jets victory over the New England Patriots.He didn't do this in front of reporters in the locker room, he did it on Twitter, and that's what has the media all stirred up."1 play in the 1st Half, 4 plays in the 2nd half,.... A bit disappointed about my playing time but very happy and satisfied about the win," he wrote just after the game, following it up with "Just time to work harder for next week" and "My team always comes first so I'ma just keep grinding,.. And we gonna keep winning" right afterward.But it's the first Tweet that annoyed Coach Rex Ryan, and rightfully so. As a coach or manager, you never want your team to be airing dirty laundry. That's just part of your overall communications issues within the organization.But Twitter is just the tool. Yes, it makes it easier for this stuff to go public (Clowney tweeted from his mobile phone not long after the game ended) and it's up to Clowney, and anyone using Twitter, to be smart as to how they use it.Basic media training is "don't say anything to a reporter that you don't want printed," the same rules now apply to social media. Don't put it out on Twitter or on Facebook or in your blog if you don't want it to be on everyone's lips immediately.But this isn't a Twitter problem, despite that its gained huge media attention, it's a communications problem.A few years ago I consulted with a company that allowed one of their employees to start a password protected blog for internal use only. One of their major concerns was that employees were cutting and pasting whole internal emails onto this blog and they worried what would happen if a client saw those emails."What's to stop an employee from forwarding those same emails, on purpose or accidentally, to the client?" I asked.They had no answer, and after that we discussed their overall communications issues, not their blogging problem.While I'm laying a lot of blame for this particular incident on Clowney, some may be on Rex Ryan and the Jets. I don't know if the team clearly laid out a communications policy as it also encouraged players to tweet. If it did, then Clowney violated that. If it didn't, then the communications folks still have work to do.What is your communications policy? [...]



A Realistic View of Social Media's Impact

2009-09-17T13:09:39.144-04:00

I attended part of the Marketing Profs virtual trade show yesterday (I'd hoped to attend more, but work and life tend to get in the way). Michael Brito and Becky Carroll led a very good session on keeping customers engaged through social media, both had worked for and with Intel to promote the Core brand of processors.

While the case study was quite interesting, what impressed me most was that they didn't oversell social media. "If your customers don't use social media, then you don't need to spend your time on it," Carroll noted. She also gave the simple advice of asking your customers what they're using. What's more, she pointed out that Facebook and Twitter won't be here forever and something else will come along, if you have a solid strategy you'll be able to move accordingly.

It's so nice to hear this stuff said out loud. I've long been a big proponent of blended programs, where social media plays a role, it's how I advise my clients. The size of that role depends on a number of factors, including the audience.

Brito encapsulated that idea when, toward the end, he said "Social media is one channel, it's not God's gift to direct marketing. It should be used with other stuff."

Amen.(image)



Boston Solo PR Coffee (Re) explained

2009-09-16T09:30:00.445-04:00

I've been getting a lot of questions from people interested in the Boston Solo PR Coffee, what it's for, when it is, etc. So here are some basic facts on the event.Location: Taste Coffeehouse, 311 Walnut Street, Newtonville, Mass.Taste is relatively small, but is perfect for our weekly gathering. The owner, Nik, is known for being a coffee fanatic and is quickly earning a following with people who appreciate a wonderful coffee experience in a cozy, neighborhood setting.Time: Tuesday mornings from 9am until around 11, sometimes later.It's at 9am because I've found that many solos have children and this gives them enough time to drop the kids at school and then make it to Newton for coffee. It's not a hard start, so people wander in around 9:30, 10 or whenever. They wander out when work calls. This is a casual meetup.Purpose: Many solo PR people used to be with firms where we had a community of co-workers who acted as our editors, brainstorming partners and support groups. Now, as solos, we don't have that instant give and take. Our triumphs and struggles are very different when we're on our own, so we need people who understand this situation.The goal of the Boston Solo PR Coffee is to recreate the agency community on a weekly basis, then continue that relationship online. Sure, you'll meet some new people, but this isn't just about networking. It's about building a network of people who you trust and who trust you, people who can become your sounding boards, cheerleaders, pressure valves and colleagues.We have an Eventbrite listing, if you'd like to sign up, but there really isn't a need. Just come by and say hi. If you can't tell which group is us, just ask Nik behind the counter.If you want something to put in your calendar, use the button below. [...]



Speak into the Microphone: Who represents your company?

2009-09-15T16:29:09.523-04:00

During this morning's Solo PR Coffee, Tony Loftis said something brilliant (he does this often, actually).

One attendee was lamenting the issue that I've blogged about in the past, that companies are hiring college interns to handle their social media outreach, the idea being that they're young, so they must understand social media, and they don't cost much. Tony pointed out, as many have, that the social media person is the face of your organization.

"If you don't want that person standing in front of an audience representing you, then you don't want them as your spokesperson online," was Tony's assessment.

It sums things up perfectly.(image)



Key Mistake: Who Are You?

2009-09-15T13:00:02.235-04:00

The fabulously popular CSI franchise on CBS starts with a simple premise, sung by The Who during the opening of each episode: who are you?The job of the CSI team, whether they be in Las Vegas, New York or Miami, is to answer that simple question. Who is the person who did this (crime)?When it comes to putting out your corporate Website, don't make your potential customers and partners turn themselves into the CSI team just to figure out who you are. Tell them, clearly, in the "About Us" section of your site. Put up the bios and pictures of the key officers. Even better, go a step further and provide links to their LinkedIN pages, Twitter feeds and blog posts.But at least start with the basics. Too many companies ignore this simple rule.In the traditional world, corporate sales people get on planes and establish relationships because that's how they close deals. All the marketing is great in identifying pain points, creating awareness and growing the prospect list, but most often closing the sale takes on a personal tone.Online buying changes this slightly in that people buy without a sales person, but that doesn't change the need for a personal connection. That's why companies have instant chat buttons open to consumers and call centers with actual humans. Zappos.com has made a name for itself with this kind of human interaction. Just look at the New Yorker article which talks about the chatty interactions customers have with call center personnel.That's why I'm always surprised when I run across online businesses that don't put names and bios in the "About Us" section. It's one of their key mistakes.I'm not going to link to some of the company's I've found as I don't want to call them out, but it's not just one or two and not just companies that lack social media savvy. Some are actually Twitter-focused organizations.It's not that they're actively trying to hide their identity, a few searches on LinkedIN or even a look through a related blog tell you at least one person behind the organization. But they don't make it easy.I've asked other marketing folks about this and received a number of good reasons why companies don't put up this data:Fear: They don't want their best people poachedControl: Agencies often don't want clients demanding a specific person from the site who may or may not be availableSpin: They believe if they put up the one or two people behind the organization then they won't look big enoughI look at the bios as key in building trust. I like knowing the people and faces behind an organization. In fact, companies like Genotrope use the individuals behind an organization as the basis for helping job seekers finding jobs that fit them. Tom Summit, who started Genotrope, told a Mass Innovation Night audience that this is how recruiters work, they look for personal connections to help find a fit.So by "hiding" your best people, you're not really hiding anything that can't already be found. The same goes for control. As for the spin, even the largest companies have their officers on the site and laws like Sarbanes-Oxley require CEOs and CFOs to sign off on statements PERSONALLY, so even the government wants a face behind the corporation.Your customers want that information too. [...]



Cult of Celebrity and the Personal Experience

2009-09-14T11:04:11.412-04:00

TV Squad writer Brad Trechak today wrote about a bad experience he had trying to take his niece to get an autograph of iCarly star Miranda Cosgrove. Like most adults who wander aimlessly into tween marketing, he was surprised by the number of people who walked away disappointed.

Honestly, how many parents have tried to get Hannah Montana tickets only to realize that they were a) wildly over priced and b) sold out faster the Stones?

Regardless, it caused me to wonder whether the autograph holds the same allure that it once did. I always thought about an autograph as a personal connection to the celebrity. Even if you buy an autograph rather than getting it yourself, the picture that you received was one time in that celebrity's hands.

But I'm not sure that matters anymore when you can follow, say, Ashley Tisdale on Twitter and hear about her life directly from her mobile phone. That's certainly better than buying a pre-signed picture that may nor may not have been signed by her (as opposed to being printed with her signature on it).

So, do we need to have our kids line up at the mall to see the latest teen sensation? Or do we just need to help our kids connect with their celebrity of choice in some other way?

Because as all parents know, you're not going to stop the cult of celebrity.(image)



Don't Leave Your Brain at the Door: Why Twitter is just a data-point

2009-09-09T09:09:00.228-04:00

In high school I took an SAT review course with Princeton Review. The idea of the course was to teach you strategies for taking the test. Under their system, you didn't just know definitions of words and then pick the best answer, but you learned how to eliminate answers and, if necessary, make the best guess.That said, the week before the test the teachers reminded us "Don't leave your brain at the door." That is, if you see something on the test that you know immediately, don't bother going through all the motions, just answer the question!The same rules apply to social media. I'm watching with fascination as people become enamored with Twitter and look to the number of followers as a measure of influence.Sure, it's great to have 500, 1000 or 20,000 followers, but does that translate into real influence today? I'm not so convinced. It may mean something down the road, but today it's just a number.As the Web Ecology Project points out in its report on Twitter influence:In general, the more followers a user possess, the more impact he appears to make in the Twitter environment, because he seems more popular (namely, that users follow him). This statement makes sense assuming that Twitter acts as a successful broadcast medium, where a user publishes a tweet and it is read by every follower. However, this view of Twitter as a broadcast medium ignores the potential for users to interact with the content on the platform.The report takes some interesting approaches to influence, looking not just at numbers of followers and friends, but also in how information is used, retweeted or referenced by other members of Twitters.Of course, the analysis is limited to Twitter and relative only there.Rapleaf also conducted an interesting study and found that there's a growing popularity gap. Meaning, once you're popular on Twitter, you become popular for being popular. During the recent growth surge on Twitter, the more popular people saw their follower number surge at a rate much faster than people who were less popular.Let's look at Newton, Mass. for a moment, if you were to look at the TwitterGrader "Twitter Elite" rankings for my hometown, you'd see that Sean Lindsay (883 followers) is ranked 8th and Software Analyst Judith Hurwitz (2075 followers) comes in 10th. Greg Reibman (224 followers, pictured right) doesn't rank. Yet, he is the publisher of the TAB Newspapers and in this city that carries a lot of weight. People read it, both online and off, and talk about the articles all the time. Greg helps drive the local conversation. Though, that conversation doesn't always spill over onto Twitter, it happens on the phone, in front of schools, at bus stops and over breakfast.Also not on the list is Mayoral Candidate Setti Warren (120 followers) who served in the Clinton administration and was Chief of Staff to John Kerry. Those are some good friends to have.If you were to rely on Twitter and the online tools that measure influence, you wouldn't find these names.If your corporate goal was to influence behavior in Newton you could use Twitter, but it would only accomplish part of your goal. Twitter is just a single data point in a much larger picture.Part of this is Twitter's age, but part is that the tools to measure online influence don't extend to an offline environment. Influence, in large part, remains a one-to-one game, one played by shaking hands, looking into people's eyes and saying "hello." It's not about just adding followers to Twitter.That said, Twitter offers a great use for helping viral campaigns, especially those online. It is a wonderful starting point and can provide some useful and immediate market intelligence. And of course, you need the followers to even start a campaign.But don't leave your brain at the door. [...]



What Role does Google Play in Editorial Decisions?

2009-09-04T21:28:59.571-04:00

The blog at the Nieman Journalism Lab has two seemingly unrelated stories on its site today that I thought actually bring up an interesting question.Today's top story centers around a directive by the New York Post not to credit bloggers or other sources who break stories first. In the case written about in the Neiman article, which is worth a complete read, the reporter, Alex Ginsberg, re-reported the work of a Brooklyn blogger who uncovered a major zoning violation in her neighborhood. (side note: Ezra Butler recently asked if citizen journalism is really working out. In this case the answer would be "yes.")On the blog, Ginsberg wrote in a comment:Post policy prevented me from crediting you in print. Allow me to do so now. You did a fantastic reporting job. All I had to do was follow your steps (and make a few extra phone calls). I won’t discuss at length the policy of not crediting blogs (or anyone else). I’ll just briefly explain that as long as we can independently verify every bit of info, we don’t credit. You will find that the Daily News observes the same policy, but the Times does not. (They often write an explanatory phrase like, ‘The investigation into Mr. Spitzer was first reported in the New York Post.’ That’s not a real one. I just made it up. Although I would note that another Times policy would prevent them from actually printing the name of your blog, presenting them with an unresolvable conflict between two inflexible rules.) Looking forward to “amplifying” more of your good work in the future.There is still a question as to whether this is Post policy or, as the Neiman article calls it, a "marketing goof."Also on the Neiman blog is a piece about what it takes to get on Google News, as spelled out in a Google video. In the list of tips is this gem:It can detect phrases like “the Los Angeles Times reported” in wire stories and promote the original L.A. Times piece among the many other versions of the story.That just makes me wonder if the Post move is more defensive than anything. Not just fighting with the Daily News, but also trying to simply eliminate one thing that may put them at a disadvantage in the eyes of Google.More importantly, is this an effort to make sure that bloggers don't move up the chain and become more respected news sources? Today, Google still makes a distinction between blogs and news, but does that distinction come down if a number of publications say "as first reported in the blog..."? [...]



Getting Big Coverage: Opening the Door a Bit More

2009-08-31T22:53:18.403-04:00

Friend and former client Phil Libin got some great "ink" this weekend with a wonderful New York Times piece featuring his company, Evernote.Despite the fact that I talk about social media quite often, I do believe that media relations remains an important arrow in the PR quiver. The catch, however, is that because of the current environment, getting high-level coverage is more difficult than ever. Fewer reporters means that more companies are fighting for fewer spaces in fewer stories.This particular piece, written by Damon Darlin, focuses on the concept of giving away product for free with the hope of gaining revenue later. It's a concept that's been around for quite a while, but has gained traction most recently thanks to Chris Anderson's recent book Free.In Evernote's case, Phil went into great detail about how Evernote planned to make money, providing the reporter with an inside look at how many people have tried Evernote (1.4 million in 18 months, 4500 each day), how many walk away (75 percent) and how many users remain active (500,000).He then goes on to outline the conversion rate to paid customers (4 percent after a year using the service) and even revenue for July ($79,000).Most companies balk at releasing this kind of information. When reporters have asked my clients in the past about financials, often the answer was a simple "we're a private company and we don't release that information." Most companies have a long list of good reasons for refusing to provide this data, but for a reporter looking for a good story, the details are extremely important. If a company can provide them, the payoff could be huge.This is a case in point. [...]



What do I look like on Twitter?

2009-08-26T17:37:18.404-04:00

"I don't know if that's the right way to market yourself," so said my father after looking at my Twitter page.My dad is no technology neophyte. The IT guy at his old company once commented that he was one of the few executives who understood the computer systems and was eager to embrace new technologies. And he didn't utter the sentence above after looking at my twitter page just once, but after following it for several weeks.But when it comes to Twitter, he's been very confused by what he sees on my page. Not only are their hashtags, retweets (RT) and @ names, but then there are snippets of text that seem to have no context. It's like reading random sentences out of a Faulker novel.On one level, he's right. Taken out of context my Twitter page is pretty hard too decipher. Some of those tweets are meant for "broadcast," some are responses to other individuals and some are parts of broader conversations.This comes from how I use Twitter and my interaction point (Tweetdeck). Tweetdeck lets me create columns and follow just those particular conversations. So I have some people who make my "must follow" list as well as searches for terms of interest.On Monday night, for example, I found myself tweeting during the Jets game and reacting to plays along with other Jet fans. I also annoyed some of those who don't appreciate my fan loyalty.For that evening, I was having a conversation with a specific community. It's also worth noting that many Jets are, themselves, on Twitter and the Jets site happens to have a constantly running feed of the Jets players' tweets. Nice.Yet, at the same time, I was taking part in Journchat, responding to questions and reading responses there. On Tweetdeck these things looked entirely separate to me, yet for someone following my tweets it must have seemed somewhat schizophrenic.Some of that chaos comes from Twitter itself. It's part microblogging, part chat room. And while I use Tweetdeck, I know a lot of people who use the main page as their interface.All that being said, I've met some great people through Twitter, I read many interesting articles thanks to Twitter and I feel I have taken part in a lot of great conversations. So I'm going to continue using it this way.Even if it confuses my dad. [...]



Move Your Conversations Offline!

2009-08-14T14:39:42.323-04:00

"Well, you're just talking with avatars."That's a quote from an attorney I happened to be speaking with this week when we were talking about social networking. In his mind, Twitter and Facebook are not populated by people, but by little pictures.He's not alone in that thinking. In talking with a technology investor a few weeks ago I was told, rather dismissively, that Twitter is just a bunch of people talking about what they had for lunch.What these people are missing is that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed (now owned by Facebook) and all these other tools essentially allow you a search engine for life. How many times have you been in a room looking at all the faces and trying to figure out who would make for interesting conversation? Usually a friend will lead you over to someone and say "you need to meet this person."Or you'll overhear an animated conversation about your favorite baseball team or a good dinner they had recently. Just standing around you can get involved in that conversation and, eventually, it may turn into something more. You find out that this person lives in your area or has an interesting job, suddenly he/she is a contact!Social networking tools, used wisely, offer you the same thing, but easier. Instead of looking at a sea of faces and trying to pick up the good conversations, you can run a simple search and find them. By seeing who your friends follow, you can see who they find interesting and listen in on those conversations. Suddenly, you'll find yourself involved, conversing and becoming the person OTHER people want to talk to.But most important, don't make people just avatars. While Twitter and Facebook are great for connecting with people who are a world away, they are also wonderful at helping find people locally. All the tools are great for helping continue conversations, but nothing beats meeting someone face-to-face.So let's break this down to steps:Join a social networking service -- I'm sure that 95% of the people reading this blog are already on Facebook and Twitter, but if you're not, then do it.Follow someone -- Start with someone you know, a buddy or something. Most services make it easy by doing a quick search on your Yahoo or Gmail accounts, then telling you who of your current friends are already using the service. Start with who you know. Of course, why not follow me? Listen -- You don't have to Tweet, you just have to listen. I suggest trying out Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop, but you can use the Twitter main page too. Run a search or two on something you love, for me it would be photography and the New York Jets, then see what people are saying. It's a start. Want to make it more professional? Throw in some keywords that are central to what you do. Or better yet, ask your peers for suggestions on some industry visionaries who are already using these services. Converse -- I'm sure that after listening for a while you'll have something to say, when you do, jump in. Over time those conversations will blend.Meet -- This is the critical step. Don't restrict your online conversations to just the online world. Get out and meet people. Look for Tweetups or even host one of your own. I've met some great people by just sitting at Taste on Tuesday mornings and telling solo PR folks to come on down!And let me know how you do! [...]



Boston's Algonquin Round Table, um... sort of

2009-07-20T14:42:27.258-04:00

Tomorrow is our next Boston Solo PR Coffee at Taste Coffee House, 311 Walnut Street, Newtonville, Mass.I can't guarantee the types of discussions you may have heard between Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, but Bobbie Carleton is usually there and she's nice. And Tony Loftis had a lot to add to the discussion last week as well. Of course, there were many others.I'll be hanging around Taste starting at 9am, per usual. Feel free to stop in for a minute or an hour. Whatever works.Some topics on my mind this week:What qualifies as a pitch?Mom bloggers have declared a PR blackout and Adam Gaffin asked (again) to be removed from Cision for getting lousy, off-topic pitches. But is it a pitch if it is just a discussion between colleagues? If you run into a person, or speak with them on IM and tell them about your client, does that fall into the "pitch" category in the same way that the mom bloggers are considering? Where is the money?Marketing budgets are drying up, is this a short term reaction to the economy or a long-term change in the industry? Are social media programs going to be handled from the CMO/VP of Marketing position or through other aspects of the organization such as customer service?And more? What questions do you have? Can't make it to the coffee? Then tweet us with a question using the hashtag #bostpr and we'll ask the collective. Last week we helped an AAE better understand the basics of pitching through Twitter.See you then! [...]



The Art of Pitching

2009-07-16T23:00:24.301-04:00

I have only pitched Adam Gaffin once, and rather unsuccessfully at that. Frankly, I wasn't so much pitching him as making him aware of my Boston-based client.That said, I have managed to be referenced on his highly-trafficked Universal Hub blog quite a bit, because over time I've learned how to write blog entries that he finds useful and that, I believe, he'd find useful to share with his readers. If I notice he hasn't linked to something I believe is relevant, I may drop him a quick email to make him aware of the post.That's just Adam. You can send him a traditional pitch, and he may even use it, but you're better off writing on your own Boston-based blog something about the community. Ultimately, that's what Universal Hub is all about.Someone like Robert Scoble is a different story, he's very pitchable if you know how to reach him. He'll listen and tell you if you're full of crap or if you have something he can use.Of course, you'll find none of this data on the database most used by PR people called Cision. I could tell the very first day my blog got listed in Cision, because I immediately got deluged with laundry list of bad pitches, few of any relevance.I could blame this on Cision, but as a (former) Cision user I don't think that would be fair. It's actually user error. I found that a lot of people would do some searching, create a list and then just start pounding away. If they stopped and looked first, reading a few blog posts, perusing a few articles, looking at a LinkedIn profile or two, they'd immediately determine which names on their lists are for real and the best approach for each person.Of course, that kind of work takes billable hours to do, and right now the name of the game is to keep hours low and hits high.So Adam is going to continue to get pitched about "nipple covers for 'moms hitting up the pool.'" Only, with Twitter he can complain about it.But to Cision's credit, Ruth McFarland has been very responsive to complaints, but the fault doesn't always lie with them. [...]



What's on your mind? Boston Solo PR Coffee Tomorrrow

2009-07-13T12:01:30.758-04:00

Solo PR People of Boston, what's on your mind?

Laying out a strategy and need and ear? Maybe want to vent about some odd client demand? How about balancing work and life?

Or maybe you're having trouble with client development.

Come to the Solo PR Coffee on Tuesday at Taste Coffee House in Newtonville, Mass. and meet with other people in your shoes. We'll be there from 9am until whenever we break up, usually between 10:30 and 11am.

I'll be there!


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Good Marketing Isn't Free

2009-07-10T18:12:04.406-04:00

Quick show of hands: how many of you have Word on your computer?

Great, that's just about everyone (if you didn't raise your hand, check out Google Docs).

How many of you used that tool to write an amazing novel?

I don't see many hands.

OK, how many of you wrote your memoirs? Family history? A decent article?

I see a few more, but not many. Why didn't you? Because the tool doesn't make the talent.

Four years ago I did a video about my daughter's adoption. After this 9 minute video that took me hours to produce, distilling 3 hours of video, re-cutting music, selecting other Chinese music and fretting over the order of certain sequences given the audience, my cousin said to me "Oh, so you just need to choose the right music."

Um... right. That and get a graduate degree then spend a decade producing TV news. But sure, just pick the right music and you're on your way.

I thought about this after reading George Colony's recent post referencing a Forrester report noting how marketing budgets are dropping. I've seen the impact of that myself.

A lot of CMOs and Marketing VPs see the free tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and all those other great social media buzzwords and figure "great, we can do this ourselves!" And yes, some can. But in reality, to handle these tools effectively you need someone who can help you tell your story.

Of course, you can always go and work on that novel.(image)



Come for the Companies, Stay for the Company!

2009-07-09T11:26:58.215-04:00

It's hard to believe that this is only the fourth Mass Innovation Night, since it's quickly become a great place to network with some amazing people. It's also cool that it's in America's First Factory. We get a sense of what innovation can do and how transformative it can be.And yes, of course there are some great innovative companies there. Some, like Drync and Web Notes I've seen at other events in town such as the Web Innovator's Group and Mobile Monday, but it's nice to see how they've progressed since then.I also had a fascinating discussion with Andreas Randow, CEO of StudioShare.org, not only about his company but about is own history of innovation. I was also impressed with the passion with which Paul Martin showed me SpaceMAX, as well as the innovations coming out of Intuit Labs. Who knew that the company behind QuickBooks can help small businesses effectively use Facebook? A great example of what happens when you empower your employees to come up with new ideas.But the true value of Mass Innovation Nights is the after-party at Biagio's in Waltham. It's there that I got a chance to talk with Elli StGeorge Godfrey about the issues that entrepreneurs have when they try to shift from having an idea to making it a reality. Her business is in coaching those entrepreneurs. It's also where I get to meet, face-to-face, many of the people I follow on Twitter such as Jeff Cutler, Bob Collins and Ari Herzog.Because social media allows us to easily connect with people who have like interests. Turning those connections into meaningful and profitable relationships takes a little more work... like having a beer. [...]



How much is experience worth?

2009-07-07T08:19:58.229-04:00

Today I was told by a VC that his portfolio companies operate extremely lean and that as an advisor he doesn't encourage any spending on marketing.In fact, those that do anything just do some blogging, and he encourages them to hire a recent college grad--"they're available dirt cheap," he said--to do the writing work. For about $1000 a month you can direct them to write some posts then take what you want and discard the rest. Content for short money.Another startup told me that they hired a woman who had been with an agency for a year to do their PR. One year out of college, one agency job under he belt and she was in charge of getting them coverage. To their credit, they know that eventually they'll outgrow her experience and they will need to invest more in PR.*If you're a startup exec, the numbers person in you is probably saying "wow, that seems to make complete sense!"But let me ask you this: could your college self do the job you do today? My college self certainly coudn't, though he thought he could. Why would you trust your company's image to someone with no worldly experience?Last week I met with someone how commented that he liked reading my blog because my punctuation and grammar are on target. That's a pretty low bar. Though, having had recent college grads writing for me, it's one that is apparently pretty high.Back when I taught a news production class at Emerson College I had to teach the juniors, seniors and master's students the difference between present tense and active voice. Many simply did not know.So, are you now willing to trust your brand to someone with no worldly experience? Someone who doesn't know the players, doesn't know the language and doesn't know how to market?Maybe it's me, but seems like a waste of $12,000 annually._________________________________* Added 7/7/09Just to clarify, I think this is a smart strategy on their part because of their situation. They need a launch right now, it's all they need. They are focued on a tight market and there are just a few blogs and publications that will get them off the ground. Also, as a very small company they have the time to focus on these details. They do understand, however, that this is not a long-term strategy and won't help them to sustain exposure, nor will it help them as their business focus expands. [...]



New York Times: Hey , bloggers matter too!

2009-07-17T08:13:10.991-04:00

The New York Times devotes quite a bit of space today to the changing face of PR in Silicon Valley. Not the whole tech sector, mind you. They avoid talking about the outlying areas like, oh, say, Boston, New York, Austin, Seattle, San Diego and the Research Triangle.Regardless, the piece breathlessly follows PR execs who, shock of shocks, pitch people other than the A-list "journalists" such as the Times itself, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, etc. Instead, the PR folks pitch bloggers and social media influencers.Instead, [Publicist Brooke Hammerling] decides that she will “whisper in the ears” of Silicon Valley’s Who’s Who — the entrepreneurs behind tech’s hottest start-ups, including Jay Adelson, the chief executive of Digg; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter; and Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo. Notably, none are journalists.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.So nice that the Times is now only 2 years behind.The fact is, the new PR needs to be about creating content, not just pushing it. Hammerling touches on this briefly when she points out that when she represented Flickr back in 2004 The Times touches on this briefly in referencing the 2004 PR program for Twitter headed up by Donna Sokolsky Burke, co-founder of Spark PR: "she never issued a press release for it, even when it was acquired by Yahoo. Flickr would publish news on its company blog, a few more blogs would pick it up 'and two days later, BusinessWeek would call,' she recalls."In all, the story paints a picture of PR that's straight out of Sex in the City. Attractive women partying up a storm and hobnobbing with the who's who of influencers. It also talks about measurement in terms of followers and number of Twitter mentions, but gives short shrift to metrics such as "traffic driven" or "conversion rates."In all, the view of PR portrayed in the piece is still about pitching and about having other people tell your story, but less focused on creating a story built on your own content.There is so much more to do in the trenches, even here in the hinterlands. [...]



Do the Blogs = Voters?

2009-07-03T08:26:48.197-04:00

During the recent discussion about whether the TAB should be allowed in to photograph the progress on the new Newton North High School, the Mayor's Spokesman suggested that the opinions expressed on the blogs are but one data-point.

Frankly, he's right on that. Though, as TAB Publisher Greg Reibman points out in the extensive discussion on this post, "neither do public comments at meetings, letter writing campaigns, petitions, protests, or any other forum the public has used over the centuries to communicate with their governments."

So I'd like to call on a few Newton citizens to help me. I'd like to take to the streets and conduct an old-fashioned survey of people walking around Newton's various villages.

The goal is to find out if people feel that the project is progressing well. Also, whether they'd like to see an external group, such as the TAB, photograph the site, or if they feel the photographs and information coming from the city is enough.

I'd also like to show them some of the photos the city is offering up and find out if 1) they've seen the photos before and 2) if they feel the photos give them a good idea about how the project is progressing.

Who would like to help?(image)



What is Twitter? Twitter for Non Tweeters

2009-07-03T08:36:03.100-04:00

Despite all the buzz about Twitter a lot of people still tell me "it's a lot of people talking about what they had for lunch."They're not entirely wrong, but they're not right either. So let me run through a few things to help you better understand what Twitter is and what Twitter isn't.Twitter isn't a Website.The Twitter website sucks. Everyone knows it, even the folks at Twitter. In fact, if you go to Twitter.com and expect to figure it out, you're just going to be overwhelmed and confused. Trying to understand Twitter from the site is like trying to understand your telephone by walking up to one of those huge phone-switch buildings and looking in the windows at the rows and rows of technical equipment. Sure, there is a lot to look at, but it's not going to help.Twitter is a serviceThink of Twitter like your phone company. Just as you use the phone service by plugging in your phone, you are best using Twitter by getting a different application like Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop and Twirl, or even a good application for your mobile phone. That's why most Twitter devotees point out that Twitter is broken into two pieces: the company and the service. Twitter isn't all inane.Sure, some of Twitter is people talking about silly stuff, but if you listened in on every phone conversation in the world you'd find that much of it is people talking about junk. That doesn't mean you're going to throw away your phone for being useless, it just means you're going to pick the right people to talk to. If someone can provide you with useful information, you'll call them (or answer their call). If not, then you don't.Twitter is your customers, partners, friends, relativesThis is where we get into deeper value. Imagine being able to search every conversation going on in the world at any moment and find the people talking about your company or discussing an issue that your product can solve. That's what Twitter offers. One easy way to get into this is by using Twitter search. If you want to go a little deeper, an advanced page on Twitter search lets you include specific terms, multiple terms, eliminate terms and even search by geography. Very useful for restaurants and other companies with a specific geographic focus.Twitter is SEO FriendlyRecently Twitter searches have started showing up at the top of Google results. In fact, many in the search community believe that Google feels the threat of Twitter, since it offers an instant glimpse into information. Google famously provided information to the CDC of people searching on the term "Flu" in order to understand where the flu is spreading in the US and around the world. But with Twitter you can find out in real time how people are feeling in your city. Not how they WERE feeling, but how they ARE feeling, right now.Important for your company, however, is the fact that people go to Google to find out information about products. Often they go with a problem and let Google answer it. Twitter helps them find you. Even more importantly, they're starting to go straight to Twitter to ask their friends and get instant feedback.Ultimately, Twitter is who you followTwitter lets you select the people important to you and talk with them. Sure, you can just listen and see all the stuff your customers, colleagues and friends are saying, but you can also talk with them. Many people will now say "my customers aren't on Twitter," but frankly that's a tricky supposition, you don't know that until you ask. Also, even if the[...]



Mayor's Spokesperson Calls TAB Photo issue "Contrived"

2009-07-01T11:00:21.279-04:00

The sun has finally come out in Newton, but Newton TAB photographers aren’t capturing that light at the Newton North High School construction site, because they aren’t welcome.As Dimeo Construction pours cement, puts up dry wall and affixes windows around the city’s single largest expenditure, the one that will act as the legacy for a mayor who has spent more than 2 decades in elected office, the question remains: does the local paper have the right to photograph the site as it’s under construction? The TAB believes it does, saying that the people of Newton need to see what their tax money is buying, that their photographers are trained to tell a story with their images and that it’s unfair for Dimeo to allow city officials to snap photos, but not them. Dimeo, it should be noted, gave a TAB reporter a tour of the site, but prohibited a photographer from coming along.And apparently most of the people running to fill the soon-to-be-vacant mayoral seat agree with the TAB. Though, the skeptic in me says it's an easy position to take while running for office.Of course, there are photos being taken of the site and posted on the Newton municipal Web site, buried in a not-so-pretty way and offered up with no context or captions. One such image is shown here. When asked about this, Mayor David Cohen's spokesperson, Jeremy Solomon, noted that the city “compelled” Dimeo to offer up the photographs and they’re being taken by someone who has other construction duties. In other words, just a guy with a camera. Solomon believes this is enough to satiate the curiosity of the general public. “I don’t think there’s a huge public outcry about being informed of the progress of the school. Right now Dimeo has its hands full trying to meet a very aggressive construction schedule. It doesn’t make sense to have a construction worker spend even more time to caption photos after he’s downloaded them,” he said. “There are a least a dozen photos published each and every week on the city website. When the construction manager advises that they do not wish to have outside photographers on the site, defying that sentiment we believe does not serve the public interest.”When asked whether the city could request specific photos or ask for additional information about each image, since this has obviously become an “issue” around the city, Solomon shook off the idea that the photography flap is an issue at all. He said the city, and the mayor, are better served focusing on getting this job done on time and on budget, “not on quelling controversies that are being contrived by the media.”Yes, you read that right, “contrived.”“The issue that the TAB is raising here is the TAB’s issue. In terms of informing the general public of the progress, these photographs serve the purpose.”Solomon said that he would only change his stance when he felt public sentiment shift. While the writers on various blogs have been rather outspoken on the topic, Solomon laughed on the idea that these opinions mounted to much. “I read blog traffic, and I take it for what it is,” he said. “I’m not certain advocating to alter public policy based on some blog traffic makes sense.”As for what kind of outcry or feedback he’d deem enough, Solomon would only say: “There is not one singular channel of communication; there are multiple ways we keep in touch with the people of Newton. Mayor Cohen has been doing thi[...]



Come for the Company, Get a Discount on Coffee!

2009-07-01T10:00:09.411-04:00

(image)
We're just under a week away from our first Boston Solo PR Practitioner Coffee at Taste Coffee House in Newtonville.

I've spoken with Nik, who owns Taste and is one of the top baristas in the country, and he's offering a 10 percent discount on any purchase by someone coming for the PR Coffee event.

So if seeing my shiny face in person isn't enough to entice you, about about saving a little on your morning caffeine? Nik is currently brewing some wonderful Intelligentsia espresso.

In any case, if you have no idea what I'm talking about take a look at my original post. If you do, then come on by. If you want to feel that this is formal, sign up over on Eventbrite!(image)