Archive for October, 2006

The Ten-Bullet Objective for Social Media News Releases

One of the original precepts of the Social Media News Release (SMNR), as envisioned both by SiliconValleyWatcher’s Tom Foremski and in SHIFT’s subsequent template, was to weed out the market-speak: to use bullet-points and/or simplified narrative, devoid of "spin," to get the reporter or blogger to the heart of the news.

I think one of the ways we can eliminate some of that spin in the Social Media News Release is to discipline ourselves to limit our "news facts" to just 10 bullets. If you can’t say it in 10 bullets, you haven’t made your audience’s job any easier: you are still asking them to wade through too much jargon and too many factoids to get to the "real" news.

This occurred to me after we made a mistake in this regard on our own, with the first Novell SMNR. It was well-received but I recall having the passing thought, at the time, "This is too much info!" Then I saw more recent efforts like Softalk and Belkin’s SMNRs. Belkin’s is near-perfect, but — although I am an official cheerleader for any SMNR effort — I couldn’t help but think that Softalk’s release was "too-much-of-a-good-thing."

This is still a new area. We’re still learning. One thing I am learning re: SMNRs is to keep-it-simple.

Thus, this clarion call for "The Ten-Bullet Objective."

Let’s all promise ourselves to try to keep our SMNRs to 10 bullet-points. Let’s agree to push-back on clients who insist that every point is mission-critical. Let’s be sure to point out that the SMNR is amply qualified to point to additional sources of information — it need not be the single-source for all data points.

Our audiences will thank us. I daresay that our coverage will get better, too, as we commit ourselves to clarity.

UPDATE!! Two great posts also showed up this week that are worth your attention, if the SMNR is on your radar. Check out this post from Lee Odden: "Why Use Social Media With Your Press Release?" and this one from Brian Solis: "How to Write a Social Media Press Release, Why, and What It All Means."

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Inspiration Comes From All Around Us

This weekend I did not crack open the laptop a single time. It was nice. I spent the (rainy, windy) Saturday hangin’ around with the family — errands, Mall, etc. On Sunday I howled from the sidelines as my son rowed his guts out at the State Finals — the last regatta of the season played out in 40+ mph winds. He returned to shore only to find out that his coach had scratched our team from the rolls, due to safety concerns about the wind: even if my son’s boat won, it wouldn’t count. This news didn’t wipe the smile off his face. He’d come to compete and he’d roared through the coarse at full speed: he’d found his joy in the doing, not the winning. It’s a father’s rare pleasure to be inspired by his son.

I returned to the office today to find myself inspired, yet again, by the hard work of my colleagues in the Social Media sphere. Apparently I was the only fella to keep the computer turned off: everyone else was workin’ at innovatin’.

The indefatigable Chris Heuer, prepping for some Social Media News Release-related announcements at SNCR, still found time this weekend to ramp-up a new blog. Please check it out, add it to your feedreader, and participate!

The incorrigible Scott Baradell of Media Orchard was also a busy boy. Check out Spin Thicket. Add a link. I asked Scott how Spin Thicket compares to the NewPR site and he sagely suggested that Spin Thicket is the Fark to NewPR’s Digg. And if that makes sense to you, welcome back, ya 2.0 geek! ;)

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The Dangers of Sprinting at the Start of a Marathon

A random thought occurred to me as I reflected on events of the past few weeks. It’s been a wild ride lately. Two speaking gigs. Many newbiz meetings. The Edelman imbroglio. The launch of crayon. The launch of PRX Builder. The laborious-but-fascinating process of judging award entries for the upcoming SNCR event in Boston (sign up!). A social media extravaganza.

But in the course of these activities, even as I found myself energized by the next-gen stuff, I also met plenty of people who a) didn’t have a clue, b) didn’t want to be clued-in, and/or c) wanted to be clued in, but honestly were far more concerned with traditional "PR-101" concepts.

Are we "2.0 types" (and you can be a 2.0 type without approving of the 2.0 label) in danger of lapping our PR industry peers, our clients?

"Lapping — to overtake and thereby lead or increase the lead over (another contestant) by a full circuit of a racecourse."

This is one of my bigger fears as I walk the road of Social Media advocacy. If 95% of our colleagues and client stakeholders are still slooooowly coming to grips with "the blogging thing" or "that MySpace stuff," do we threaten to blow their minds by suggesting a "Second Life presence?" Does the Social Media proposition become so B-I-G that it becomes insurmountably daunting to would-be advocates? Could we be moving a little too fast? If we are breathless with excitement now, at the start of the race, will we lose the stamina required to make lasting inroads in PR practices?

I look forward to the day when all PR 2.0 adherents are happily yammering about our "success stories" instead of about our "opportunities."

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"Love Affairs" (Blogger Relations) vs. "Relationships of Convenience" (Media Relations)

Earlier this year I riffed on "How Long Should a Conversation Last?" in which I asked, "[How can] PR practitioners… possibly find the time & energy to create, monitor (and) nurture … the hundreds of relationships that might (or might not) aid their clients?" — This is worth further exploration for agency types.

The premise: Conversations require on-going cultivation; in the blogosphere, that entails at-least a bi-weekly check-in (a comment, an e-mail, etc., as appropriate) with the bloggers of-interest to each client. Contrast this to "traditional" reporters, who really only want to hear from PR pros when they have a good story idea.

  • Challenge #1: If an account exec (let’s call her "Mary") has 3 accounts, she is tasked with tracking at least 25+ top reporters per client. Each of those 75 reporters only want to hear from Mary on an as-needed basis: this could be as little as once a month. But for those same 3 clients, Mary needs to have an on-going dialogue with their top 25 bloggers: each of these 75 relationships require on-going "love." That is a SCALABILITY challenge. It is also a FINANCIAL challenge: will clients be willing to pay for the exponential amount of work (including "listening") implied by a robust "blogger relations" effort?
  • Challenge #2: Let’s say that Mary has a client for 2+ years. In that 2-year period, Mary could be promoted from Account Executive to Account Manager, i.e., she has more management responsibility, and fewer "outreach"-related duties. Can she afford to let those hard-won relationships with the client’s top blogger contacts lapse? Some of these bloggers get a little tetchy; they might not look kindly on any attempts to "transfer" Mary’s relationship amongst different agency representatives. That is a TRUST challenge.
  • Challenge #3: Let’s say that Mary has developed a good rapport with a blogger in the telephony space. She loses her telephony client. Mary has thus lost the financial motivation to "continue the conversation" with the telephony blogger. Can she let it lapse, knowing that she might win a new telephony account in the next 12 – 18 months? If Mary decides she cannot let the relationship lapse, again you are faced with a SCALABILITY issue: how can Mary possibly maintain relationships with the outlandish number of bloggers who might impact her past, present and future clients?

The challenges listed above tend to be less troublesome in the traditional media relations arena: professional journalists (on deadline) tend to be more interested in good ideas for good ideas’ sake — from any reputable source. Journalists also tend to hop around, career-wise: today’s "networking" reporter might soon become the new guy on the "semiconductor" beat at a different publication, and this careerism makes it more acceptable on both sides to form "relationships of convenience" with PR pros.

By contrast, bloggers are typically impassioned and entrenched. They are subject-matter experts and they ain’t goin’ anywhere. PR pros who forget this distinction do so at their peril.

Which brings us back to Challenges #1 – 3.

Hat-tip to Mike Driehorst, who got me thinking about this all over again.

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The Prospect's Responsibility

Agencies expend so much time and effort considering how to improve their service.  That is fitting: we are in a service industry.  From the gentility of our demeanor, to the creativity and effectiveness of our services, to "flowers in the lobby" — the details count.  These characteristics are especially critical during a new-business pitch, during which we are on our best behavior.

But what are the attributes of a good prospective client?  What is their role during the proposal process?  This is rarely discussed.  As the economy improves, it’s a worthwhile question.  During those rare moments in history when agencies have their pick of good assignments, the prospect might want to consider how they can relay the impression that "this could be a great partnership."  Here are a few tips…

  • Be considerate of the Agency’s effort. Even if the agency is flush with business, only a very sloppy firm would approach a new prospect with a half-assed presentation.  Since it is fair for the prospect to expect the agency’s best work, it is fair for the agency reps to expect the prospective client to listen carefully — to wait patiently for the story to unfold, vs. flip ahead in the slide-deck.  When someone has put untold hours into a PowerPoint deck, it is discouraging to watch someone idly rifle through it.  It is similarly soul-crushing for the prospect to stride into the room declaring blithely that the hour-long appointment has been unapologetically cut to 30 minutes. 
  • Be respectful of the Agency’s business. Don’t ask an agency to the table until and unless you have predetermined that they are respected and credentialed enough to win your business on the merits of their presentation.  Challenge their ideas, sure, but not their business model, integrity or industry.  
  • Be mindful of the Agency’s pecking order.  Most agency principals don’t care to negotiate a deal in front of an extended account team.  It’s de-motivating for the hard-charging account reps to come off the high of a well-executed presentation, only to be rewarded by listening to their boss and prospective client contacts fuss over the nickels-and-dimes.  If you loved the Agency’s presentation, feel free to ask basic questions about fee structure, but, leave the deal-making to a follow-up phone call.
  • Smile.  It won’t kill ya.  Maybe you were burned before, but that’s no reason to be antagonistic or unduly wary with a new firm.  You’re hiring a PR agency to be your company’s standard-bearer.  It is an important job.  You want your account team to like you.  Trust me, it helps.  You’ll get better results.

Proud papa Morgan McLintic at LEWIS had a fantastic top-10 list about common mistakes companies make when selecting a PR firm.  If you found this post helpful or interesting, Morgan’s post from April is worth a second look.

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