Archive for September, 2006

Kissing Cousins Created – And, Other Wire Service Musings

Got a note from PRWeb’s David McInnis about the news today that BusinessWire will use the PRWeb/Vocus platform for Social Media News Release distribution and Search Engine Optimization.

"Business Wire will use a private label version of Vocus’s PRWeb press release distribution platform to provide a new search engine optimized (SEO) and social media distribution service. The partnership will utilize Vocus’s proprietary PRWeb press release SEO methods and social media distribution channels to give Business Wire customers maximum visibility on the internet and in social media networks."

First off, kudos to David and his team. This feels like a coup for them. They get to tout BW’s reach and leverage BW’s reputation, while maintaining their distinct brand and cementing their reputation for innovation in the 2.0 era. BusinessWire can focus on other big-picture stuff that affects their business: the Social Media check-box has been checked-off, via this news. A win-win for both companies.

I was also glad to see BusinessWire get off the stick, not once but twice this week. This past Monday the wire service announced support for XHTML. That’s a gobbledygooky way of saying that you can now (finally!) embed hyperlinks in your press release text, include sub-heads, and (hallelujah!) add basic formatting like bold, italics, etc. (I’d point you directly to that release, but BusinessWire’s own newsroom unfortunately is set-up so that clicking on one of their press releases spawns a pop-up window, without a distinct URL.)

In other news, I was contacted today by the fella who runs "The Press Release News Network," or PRNN. Among the services and claims:

"We create a flash advertisement with your release. We provide an audio version of your press release with professional voice talent." And, "We will provide your business over 50 times the search engine exposure than any other service in the world."

I am curious if anyone’s used these guys? I told the president, Kevin Dill, that I’d be happy to chat with him. I’ll report back on that conversation. I admit to being intrigued, but don’t know yet if this is a legit operation.

It wasn’t that long ago that some Social Media advocates were rubbing their chins, pondering the long-term fate of the wire services (as was I). Seems to me that BusinessWire, PRNewswire, et al., can be as viable as ever, if they continue to push ahead in the Social Media arena. The fact that new entrepreneurs see opportunity in news distribution is a promising sign.

WEEKEND UPDATE (10/1): I asked Dave Armon, the big cheese at PRNewswire, about his reaction to the PRWeb/Businesswire pact, and he gave me permission to use his response here:

"The BW/Vocus deal was expected. Without an SEO solution, BW was at a competitive disadvantage. (PRN has) been enhancing all releases that move on PR Newswire’s US1 Newsline with search engine optimization — at no additional charge — since 2004. If BW’s offering works like ours, the news release issuers ought to be pleased with the longer shelf life and insight into what readers are saying about their news online. All good stuff for our industry."

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Second Life: Opportunities for "Cartoonicizing" Communication

Full disclosure: I wish I’d thought about "opening an agency in Second Life" (SL) before Text 100 did. It’s hip. Because I have been an avid gamer since Pong, someday I hope to be a hardcore SL advocate. But, petty jealousies notwithstanding, I just ain’t there yet.

I have been quiet about the blogosphere’s love affair with SL because I’ve been waiting patiently for disillusionment to set in. I am not suggesting that disillusionment has set-in yet, mind you — it is just on my mind because I’ve found that many clients are not yet ready to commit to Social Media (this week, anyway). A chit-chat about Social Bookmarking is hard enough; anytime I’ve brought up SL-style opportunities to clients, unfortunately the response has been negative. ("Who let that wild-eyed Social Media zealot into the room?")

Specific to SL, I think that for now the chat interface is too confusing and anarchic for most people to stay engaged. As Kami Huyse suggested in the follow-up post about her SL meetup of PR folks, "it is very difficult to follow along if 15-plus avatars are ‘chatting’ all at once." Perhaps live voice apps in SL, such as those offered by Vivox (a former SHIFT client) will help — but as Kami also noted, 15 people talking at once can be just as confusing as 15 people typing.

Here’s my quickie analysis on the short-term opportunities for using Second Life for PR purposes:

  • 1:1 interviews between geographically-dispersed people. An "emote" via avatar is far better at conveying tone than email (or even conference calls).
  • Machinima product demos. Imagine creating a mini-movie to demonstrate your clients’ products, using SL avatars as the actors. This wouldn’t work for all clients, but if you stretch your mind, it could work more often than you might suppose.
  • Virtual collaboration. I don’t think it’s possible yet, but certainly we can expect a day when SL avatars can share and edit RL (that’s RL for "Real Life") documents and files, online and "in front of each other."
  • Concept testing. Imagine SL avatars signing non-disclosure agreements in order to access a top-secret "lab" where representatives from consumer brand giants preview their ideas for upcoming products and campaigns, to get the first-time reactions of a highly-educated, tech-savvy audience.
  • Word-of-Mouth Marketing. If avatars are talkin’ about it, it must be cool. I wonder if Linden Labs could (or would) monitor avatar chatter and allow marketers to mine it for buzzwords, trends, etc. I wonder if this could take a dark turn, i.e., when will the first avatar be outed as a stealth marketer? Is it okay to burn avatars in effigy?

There are a lot of reasons to be intrigued by the virtual world of Second Life. Now all we need are real-world clients to forge ahead with budgets & balls.

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The Paradox of Excellence

The "Paradox of Excellence" smacked me upside the head this morning.

A client who has repeatedly told us that "SHIFT is the best agency I’ve ever worked with" called up to voice their concern about a missed editorial opportunity.  (Anyone in the PR realm has felt that sting.  I won’t belabor the details.)

You’d think that after 15 years in the business it would be hard to surprise me, but I confess that I was indeed flustered by how quickly a heretofore blissful client became so disgruntled.  And that’s when I remembered the Paradox of Excellence:

"Many companies discover their improved performance doesn’t translate into higher perceived value.  In fact, it simply shifts the customer’s expectations upward, causing the customer to take the new, improved performance for granted. 

"High-performance companies unwittingly create unrealistic customer expectations that become impossible to meet.  [... This is] the paradox of excellence: ‘the better you perform, the more invisible you become — to everything but bad news.’"

Think that’s malarkey?  How often do you think about your electric utility?  Only when the bill shows up and when the power is out, right?  Your power company is invisible to you except when these two bad things happen.

It’s all about "expectation management."  One of the expectations that I’m going to add to my repertoire for clients is, "It’s rare, but, sometimes, shit happens."

Do The Right Thing

Today is a day in history that ought to be remembered as "Do The Right Thing Day."

On this day in 1776, Nathan Hale was executed for espionage by the British. General Washington had asked his troops for a volunteer to infiltrate the enemy territory, and only 21-year old Hale stepped forward. Today was the day he uttered his famous phrase, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." How many men’s names do we remember from among the hundreds whom Washington implored to take on this task? Only one man; the man who did the right thing.

On this day in 1862, President Lincoln gave his watershed Emancipation Proclamation: the speech that freed America’s slaves and gave new momentum and vibrancy to the strife between the States. What had been a war about "the right of secession" became a battle to do the right thing.

On this day in 1961, President Kennedy signed the executive order that gave birth to the Peace Corps. He envisioned 100,000 young American volunteers spreading out each year to do the right thing for the rest of the world. While the service never reached such lofty subscription numbers, it is still an important (if under-appreciated) part of America’s international goodwill efforts. It’s the better face, the truer face, of the American people.

What are you going to do today?

Hat-tip to NPR.

Pictures Tell a Story

From David Armano, a hysterical graphic that explains a day-in-the-life of a blogger.

And from Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion, a terrific graphic from Stephanie Quilao that explains RSS to the "Oprah crowd." I love the new acronym for RSS — "Ready for Some Stories." Brilliant.

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